Friday, December 25, 2009

In the St. Nick of Time

Merry holidays! I was going to send out physical cards this year, but with the economic downturn, it seemed like a showy display of excess, so I’m back to email. Let’s just jump right into things.

This year Harper turned 3. She spent a lot of the year avoiding the potty (STILL) and depositing fecal matter into any public pool that was made available to her. I will need therapy to get over the trauma of some of those diapers, and I don’t believe for one second that any of those “accidents” were truly accidents. She finally decided to use the potty about 14 minutes before she started at a new school that required potty training; just to prove a point, I’m sure. Harper also spent a lot of the year being petulant, stomping her foot, looking sullen, and screaming at her brother. As a result, Harper spent a large portion of the year in her room in time out.

To nobody’s surprise, she also gave us our first broken bone from the kids. We took Aaron out for his first soccer practice late in the summer, and within 15 minutes, Harper had fallen on a soccer ball and broken her arm. Over the next 8 weeks we went through 3 casts (pink, purple, and blue), one arm re-setting, and extensive eardrum damage to anyone in a 50 foot radius at the orthopedist’s office. She still has a weird bend in her arm, which they assured me would correct itself over time, but honestly, I think they were just sick of her screaming. She’s actually sustained a lot of injuries this year- most of the spring was spent with a good portion of her nose missing after she face planted on the pavement. It’s not so much that she’s accident prone as she’s kind of insane and has no idea what the words “be careful” mean. A week after she broke her arm, we looked over to find her 3 feet off the ground, scaling the nets on the soccer goal (pink cast and all). Harper’s favorite activities include asking for junk food all day long, making messes, stealing things from Aaron and lying about it, watching television like it’s a religion, and playing on the computer. If she’s not on the computer or in front of the TV, she is adept at making your life miserable enough to just give in and turn on a movie to keep her quiet. She has demanded for the past few months that we call her “Pink Ballerina”, has walked on tiptoes for 6 months straight, and can be found dancing in any place where she hears music (or not) (my apologies to the Panera patrons who were subjected to the 3 year old performing some sort of wildly age-inappropriate Solid Gold tribute). She is obsessed with princesses, fairies, pink, glitter, and weapons of any sort. When she’s not being awful, she’s actually, well, asleep.

Harper pretending she's not evil

Aaron turned 6 this year and started first grade. First grade has been a dramatic improvement over last year. Even though there are still plenty of issues, we’re well into the school year and have yet to get a phone call from the principal or a note from the teacher asking us to have a conversation about keeping his private parts private. In my book, that’s a success. When Aaron isn’t hitting Harper, flicking her in the head, or telling her to “SHHHHHH!”, he finds really creative ways to spend his time. These include building any imaginable object out of paper and tape, reading, writing dozens of books, and building objects out of Legos that are more complex than my car. When I can’t figure out the DVD player, Aaron is the person I ask to make it work. In an effort to make sure I use my children to benefit me, I’ve decided this mechanical affinity is best served by learning how to work the washer and dryer, and with each new chore he gets, my life gets a little bit easier. I need to find a lightweight vacuum cleaner. He remains annoyed at our bumbling incompetence and ridiculous rules, but seems relatively content to live here until he figures out a better plan. When Aaron’s not drawing or writing, he likes to spend his time refusing any food that isn’t a chicken nugget, coming up with moneymaking schemes (losing teeth, setting up a toll booth on the street, etc.), or asking questions. Oh, the questions. I tried to write them all down one day, and I am not even kidding when I tell you that by noon I had already filled up an entire sheet of paper. The questions range from the banal to the existential, and more often than not, my answer to them is “I don’t know”, “it’s magic”, or “because God made it that way”.

Aaron being pensive

In July of this year we had to put down our 13 year old lab, Storm. That was awful, of course, but our remaining dog, Babe, has really enjoyed being an only dog. She’s now the bus stop mascot and considers it her God-given right to climb into the back of my car for any possible errand. If she’s not allowed, she takes advantage of our newly non-baby gated home to climb into our bed and shed on the pillows. She’s a black Chow, and our sheets are white, so it’s not like she’s even trying to hide it.

Jason and I are same old, same old. I started work early this year working for a defense contractor, which is a far cry from drawing buildings, but really interesting. Jason is still working “drawing pipes”, and we both love our jobs, so what more can you ask for? In our spare time, (haha! Spare time! Good one.) I lift weights and run, mostly to accommodate my bacon habit. Jason runs, mostly to get away from the insanity that is our house. I also still enjoy coming up with new house projects, purchasing all of the supplies, drawing a few details, and then giving Jason a deadline. It’s been working for 10 years now, so why mess with a good system? In fact, as I write this, it’s 6:30PM on Christmas Eve and Jason is frantically sawing, hammering, and drilling to complete Aaron’s big Christmas present, a loft bed (and Harper is yelling at him to hush it, because she’s trying to watch a movie. Isn’t she God’s most precious little angel?) I bet right now Jason’s wishing we had just gone to Ikea. I think we’re going to have to leave out some Red Bull and No-Doz for Santa tonight.

This letter is pretty indicative of our life this year. Down to the wire, completely slapdash, and just kind of getting things done, although maybe not as well as they should be done. I’m still in awe of how much time and energy (and MONEY!) two little kids can suck from two grown adults. Here’s the obligatory “but we wouldn’t have it any other way”, mostly because the offers we’ve gotten for them on eBay won’t even cover the cost of shipping them.

We really hope all of you are having a wonderful holiday season and have a great 2010. As a shout out especially to people in design and construction; this past year (and a half) has been a terrible one for our field, and our thoughts are with every one of you- and anyone else who has had a rough go of this year. I don’t know a single architect, designer, or contractor who hasn’t been negatively affected by the economy, and we’re hoping and praying that the industry (and the country) sees a little more life next year. I know it’s not just building that’s getting hit hard, and I hope that things look up for everyone.

Thanks for putting up with us for the past 12 months and we hope to see each and every one of you sometime in the next 12!

Much love,
Sara, Jason, Aaron, & Harper (and mangy Babe)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Haha! Right. Like a summer at home with The OCD Perfectionist and The Bossy Diva could count as a vacation.

I have a stack of post-it notes that I've been collecting all summer year, and now it's so overwhelming to write an individual post about each of them, that I'm going to have to just condense a few. I try to write these thoughtful posts, but then I remember that I'm keeping this blog for my kids, not for an audience. And when I say "for my kids", I mean "when they come to me in 25 years and say all they remember of their childhood was mom screaming a lot, I can show them this blog and say 'but do you see how BAD you were?'"

This summer we went to the pool a lot, because it's a free way to spend the day, and the kids love it. Harper spent one too many times pooping in the pool, so she got put on pool banishment until she became the boss of her own poop. And then mommy relented, because there's not much worse than sitting at the pool with a 3 year old who whines the entire time about wanting to get in the pool. Measure that misery against a poop-filled swim diaper, and it's kind of a wash. Eventually Harper seemed like she was becoming the boss of her own poop, and I foolishly gambled and took her without a swim diaper. As I'm watching the kids splashing around, I see Harper at the edge of the pool looking into her bathing suit bottom. I know exactly what happened, and I run at breakneck speed to get to her. As I'm walking up, she says "Hi! I pooped in my pants", and then I tried to hold my head underwater until I blacked out and hoped by the time I came to, someone else would have dealt with the whole thing. I grabbed her in a death grip and marched her back to our chair, at which point brown water is starting to stream down her legs. I wrapped her up in a towel and shoved her under one arm, grabbed everything else with the other arm, and hissed to Aaron to get out of the pool now, we had to go. Mercifully, the locker room was empty and supplied with plastic bags, which were used to scoop out, well, you know, from Harper's pants as I showered her and hoped that someone came by quickly with a spray of bleach. We got home and I gave her a proper shower, and then proceeded to freak out on her with a ferocity she had never before seen. In the 2 1/2 weeks since that freakout, and she hasn't had a single poop accident. I was telling my sister, and she said "didn't you have success with that method with Aaron before?", and was reminded that yes, the Super Parental Freak Out was the last (due to success) method in a long succession of methods in trying to get Aaron to stop swearing a few years ago. Which leads me to believe that my children are kind of dumb. I mean, you know I'm going to freak out eventually, and now that I know it's the only thing that works, I'm just going to get there that much faster. Wouldn't it be easier to save us all the trouble and just listen one of the first eight hundred times I ask you something? (Their answer is "it's easier, but not as much fun").

On one of those many, many trips to the changing table in a locker room, Aaron was watching me change Harper and I saw him do a double take, and a very concerned look came across his face. He whispered to me "hey, mommy?", and motioned me over. I leaned over to him while holding onto Harper and he whispers in my ear, while looking at her diaper, "Mommy, where is her PENIS?" How he has lived and bathed with this child for 3 1/2 years and never noticed that she has no appendage between her legs is beyond me, but I'm sure it's somehow a failing on my part for not teaching him. (Although, really, didn't he notice that I call her private parts something different than hers?)

Harper is much more interested in anatomy. A couple of months ago, she and I were showering together and I looked down to find Harper standing up, but bent in half at the waist.
"Harper, what are you doing?"
"I'm looking at my tootie!"
"Well, good grief, how closely do you need to look at it?"
"There's something in there!"
"What are you talking about?"
"What is IN there? Look! There's a button right in my tootie! What IS that?"
And I hemmed and hawed and mumbled something about the proper name, and said the button's supposed to be there, and it's all okay, and no, you do not need to see mine, and then I got out of the shower and wrote out a post-it note.

I wrote it on the same post-it where I had written a reminder about this summer when I was using the restroom, and Harper, as she is wont to do, barged in. I know this is entirely too much information, but she was simultaneously horrified and fascinated by what was going on. "What IS that?! Is that blood? Are you okay? Is your tootie hurt? What is THAT? Is that a bandaid for your tootie?" To all of the people over the next week who had to hear Harper tell them "My mommy has a bandaid in her tootie, and when I'm a mommy, I'll have blood in my tootie, too!", I apologize. And also to any of you who had to read that who are kind of squeamish. (Although if that makes you squeamish, you should probably never have children).

Good grief, every story in here has been about bodily functions! That's gross, and also embarrassingly indicative of how I spend my life.

Just a couple more little post-it notes that I want to make sure I don't forget (sorry, I can't make them all stories. Some are just little things that make me and Jason laugh and I want to be able to tell my kids when they're grown).

Jason has been biking with the kids over to a pond nearby and they'll feed the ducks and watch the turtles. Harper asks regularly "can we go to the turtle ocean?", and for some reason that's really precious to me. I guess it does look like an ocean to her.

Last one. At the YMCA, there are water slides the kids can go down, one red, one yellow, and one blue. The kids wait at the top of the slide, and the bored teenage lifeguard mumbles "red, yellow, blue" when the kid on the appropriate colored slide can go. One day when Harper was on Pool Banishment, I saw Aaron, "gobbles" still on his eyes, having an in-depth conversation with the bored teenage lifeguard. It involved lots of arm and hand gestures on Aaron's part, and a lot of leaning over and polite nodding on the lifeguard's part. That night when I was making dinner, I asked Aaron what he and the lifeguard had been talking about, and got an answer that summarized my boy perfectly. "Well, I was telling him that instead of saying 'red, yellow, blue', that it would be a better idea to have a light that all the kids could see, like a stoplight, but instead of red, yellow, and green, the lights would be red, yellow, and blue. Then instead of having to say the names of the colors, the lifeguard could just press a button and the right light would light up. I've been working on it in the office since we got home". I haven't seen it implemented yet at the Y, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time.

So, it really has been a good summer, if you ignore the arguing, screaming, bickering, crying, and tantrums. The kids took a vacation with Daddy and my mom to see Jason's mom. They got to pet horses on the beach (because my mom is a rebel and ignores the rules). They've spent a lot of time at the pool and are turning into great little swimmers. They've been spending a couple of days a week with my mom while I work, where they've been spoiled rotten with countless trips to the movies and play places, and more ice cream than they have had in all of their previous years combined. They got to go to a neighborhood fireworks extravaganza that was beyond impressive, and surprisingly not interrupted by any police officers. They had to say goodbye to an old friend, our dog Storm, who was ready to move on over the Rainbow Bridge. They got to take a vacation with all of us- including our dog Babe, to visit friends in Hilton Head, where we got to shove 5 children in front of a TV instead of our usual 2. Overall, it's been a really great summer! And I cannot wait for them to go back to school.

Thanks to Mama Sharon for the pictures!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Back in the saddle. Or potty seat, as it were.

Remember this post? Ha! What a joke. Unfortunately, the joke is on mommy. Since that post, almost a year ago, Harper has managed to make zero progress, unless we really want to be honest and assess negative progress, in which case her progress has been impressive, indeed.

Oh, I'm sorry. Harper just walked in and told me she pooped in her underpants. Hang on.

(I swear on Baby Jesus that she really did come in and say that when I was typing that.)

So I don't know if Harper has inherited my distaste for public restrooms (which borders on an actual phobia), but if that's the case, then it wouldn't make sense that it would carry over to home, too. It also wouldn't make sense because despite never using a potty for anything other than dropping plastic toys into, she still wants to visit and sit bare bottom on any public toilet she sees. I think that part might just be so she can get me to face my fears, because as I hiss a constant refrain of "DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING! Do not TOUCH that!", she does things like put her hands right on the toilet seat, drags her hands along the walls, shoves her hands in the toilet paper dispenser, and asks (via demonstration) what that funny box is on the wall next to the potty, and is that for those band-aids mommies put in their pants? This is all while I'm cursing myself for being duped into yet another unproductive trip to a public restroom and wondering if it's appropriate to carry a spray bottle of bleach with me for exactly these moments.

If that's not enough to make you refill your birth control, then this most certainly will be, and if I had a tag of "Too Much Information", it would absolutely apply to this post, so I highly recommend not reading this if you're settling into a meal of any sort.

Last week we went to a birthday party at what can only be described as a VERY SWANKY country club. We walk in and get handed our towels, walk past the restaurants and main pool, walk past the outdoor bar, and then down a terraced lawn to the secondary pool, which is absolutely amazing. Slides that are three stories tall, beach entry, gorgeous lounge chairs and umbrellas and outdoor fans, and teenage lifeguards that look marginally less bored than the ones at my YMCA. We're playing in the water for a little bit, and then Harper decides to throw a big fit and refuse to do anything other than sit in my lap and be sullen to anyone who tries to speak to her. (This is partially because, I'm sure, that the party, held from 12-2PM at the VERY SWANKY country club, decided to provide us with the Very Swanky nourishment of water or tea, which was delivered by waiters, but without a side of chicken fingers, so tempers were starting to flare). About 1:30, Harper decides to get back in the pool again, and is playing happily, probably because she needed a few minutes in the Very Swanky pool water to really get her bowels moving. She walks out and happily announces to anyone in earshot (Ha! I typed "earshit" until my browser corrected me) that she had pooped and needed someone to clean her up. Nobody else volunteered, so I ended up gritting my teeth and walking Harper to the bathroom to deal with not only my hatred of public restrooms, but even worse, a dirty swim diaper. I'm surprised nobody had a clown in there, or maybe my 10th grade Biology teacher, just to really top things off. Maybe if I could have driven over a bridge to get to the bathroom, I could have completed my trifecta of Things I Hate the Most.

Once we get in the bathroom, even I, veteran of dirty swim diapers, was astonished at the mess confronting me. I honestly had no idea what to do. It was EVERYWHERE, like she exploded or something. I had a pack of wipes and her towel, and those were my only tools. After I had exhausted the wipes, with no noticeable improvement, I went to paper towel after paper towel, soaked in the sink, wipe, throw away. (And even in the midst of this, I was thinking 'thank GOD that I got a single bathroom unit, so I have access to the sink and nobody is here to bear witness/ call the Very Swanky country club police.") Finally I remembered that right outside the bathroom was a water cooler with a supply of plastic cups, so my final effort was to stand her up naked over the floor drain and pour cups of water on her, which seemed effective enough.

I washed her suit out in the sink, and balled it into some paper towels. I had one diaper with me, so I put it on her, and then balled up the Very Swanky towel so that only the clean part was showing, all 14 square inches of it. I wiped up the bathroom as best I could, cementing forever in my head that public restrooms are the most horrid places on earth. And then I held Harper's hand and walked out of the restroom, carrying my disgusting load of, well, crap, and towing a three year old dressed in a diaper and crocs (fake crocs, at that!), which is about as un-swanky as you can get. I found a towel bin, and disposed of the Very Swanky towel, although it was better served going into an incinerator, but I figure (hope) that they probably use some (a lot) of Very Swanky bleach when they wash those things.

The rest of the party had left by this point, kindly taking my bag with them, so I got to extend our walk of shame through both pools and into the restaurant where I could get my hands on Harper's cover-up. (And as I'm putting it on, I notice there are still flecks of, well, you know, down her back, and wonder if there is any limit to the amount of shame one person can feel). I assume at this point that even if I had an extra $60,000 laying around to pay my initiation, that I have probably guaranteed I will never get an invitation to become a member, because Harper is obviously swank-deficient.

We washed our hands again and then sat down to 10 cupcakes for the 8 kids. I guess the 12 adults were supposed to split the other two cupcakes, but I gave up my share because my appetite was pretty much gone.

We finally left and Harper declared it a wonderful party, but I think the moral here is clear. If you have a party at a mealtime, you should feed people, or someone might poop in your $60,000 share of your pool.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Aaron has decided that non-stop talking doesn't really cover his bases as far as how much he wants to communicate with us. I mean, there are always those times where he wakes up while we're sleeping, and there is likely something on his mind that needs to be shared RIGHT THEN and not one second later, so what's a boy to do? Until recently, what he would do was march himself into our room, regardless of the hour, to share with us the important information of the minute, which might be something as urgent as wanting to make sure he got an orange vitamin the next day, because he's had 3 days in a row of a red vitamin, and he would really like to switch to orange.

For Christmas, one of the presents he got was a small whiteboard and markers, and he has really taken advantage of using these to make sure Jason and I stay on task and stop acting like mindless, forgetful buffoons. Or maybe he uses these to express some brilliant idea he had at 3AM. Here's a sampling of what we've found propped outside our bedroom door.

"Dad, I know what Sharon would like from you. A blanket."

What a helper! Jason was wondering what he could get his mom (Sharon) for Christmas, and Aaron had it all figured out. In the middle of the night. Better to wake the whiteboard than us.

"Yay! Yay! New year is here! In 2009, we want to make a party!"
This was what we woke up to on (well, duh. You can figure out the day.) Something about the grammar seems weird, like he hired someone with a rudimentary understanding of English to translate it for him. Probably because he was engrossed in the details of the festive confetti drawn around the word "prtty" (party). You may not understand the words, but the graphic design conveys everything you need to know.

"Dear Daddy, my clothes go in the CLOSET. Remember."

And yes, the "remember" was more of an order than a nice reminder. I don't know how Aaron puts up with our incompetence. Daddy was explicitly told that we're not laying Aaron's clothes for the day on the chair in his room anymore, that now we're going to put them on his closet shelf. If daddy wants to disregard the new order of business, that's fine, but don't think it goes unnoticed. (And another illustration to help make his point. "See the CLOTHES? Do you GET IT?" I have every reason to believe he was rolling his eyes when he wrote this. I shudder to think of how daddy's annual review is going to go.)

"Daddy, I am downstairs".

At least he didn't want us to worry. And just in case one of us woke up unable to read, there's an illustration to help clear things up. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. Or three words, in this case.

A couple of weeks ago Aaron lost his first two teeth, one on a Tuesday and one on Thursday, and he left us a really funny whiteboard message to show us what the tooth fairy left him, but he erased it before I got to take a picture of it. (And I'm only mentioning it so I can let you know that Aaron has lost his bottom two front teeth and looks so stinkin' cute.)

This one isn't a whiteboard message, but another new hobby of Aaron's. He's learning how to tell time, and is understanding the difference between AM ("at morning") and PM ("past morning"). Since my watch and most of our clocks don't provide any clues as to whether we're in AM or PM, Aaron has taken it on as his duty to be the keeper of the meridian. He updated our refrigerator every morning and afternoon for almost a week.

Aaron's looking over my shoulder and wondering where the picture of AM is. Sorry, kid, I missed that shot. But these other ones I got are a great reminder for me of how fun it can be to live with an almost 6 year old boy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Dear Aaron:

Last Friday was the last day of school before a two week Christmas break, and I'll be honest, I wasn't necessarily looking that forward to it. I wasn't exactly sure how to keep you entertained for two solid weeks of mostly bad weather, and I was dreading the arguing that you and Harper have elevated to an art form.

On Monday, I woke up shockingly late. I looked at the clock and jumped out of bed, because it was far later than either you or Harper ever sleep on your own, and Daddy was at work. I went into the hallway upstairs to find you trying to cram yourself into a straw laundry basket, and you looked up at me and whispered "hi!" When I asked what you were doing, you replied that you were trying to make a "Jesus bed", imitating the nativity scene that's quilted on your Christmas tree skirt. I asked why you didn't come wake me up, and you told me that you thought I needed to sleep in (and you were right). I asked if Harper had been crying, and you told me yes, she had, but you had gone in and read stories to her, and then put her back to bed. I asked what stories you read, and you kept listing book after book, and then told me you had offered her either five books or ten books, and you were glad she had only chosen five, because by the last book you were getting really tired. Then you gave Harper her paci, told her to go nitey-nite, and proceeded to fashion a manger from a laundry basket. By the way, Harper slept until 11AM that day.

On Tuesday, I woke up and found you in Harper's room, reading to her again. I stood outside the door and listened so you couldn't see me. She started talking through your reading, and you stopped reading. After a minute, you calmly told her that if she wanted to continue being silly, then you wouldn't continue reading. Later that day you got a video email from Santa. He mentioned your name, told you he'd be bringing you a musical instrument you'd asked for, and even showed you his picture in his book! You sat on my lap, trembling with excitement and telling me to shush. When the video was over, you cried and asked me "did you see if I was on Santa's good list? Because it was going so fast, and I didn't see, and I want to make sure I'm not getting coal!" I assured you you were on the good list, because Santa is clearly very forgiving. What you didn't know is that your Daddy then spent hours going to every Target and WalMart in a 15 mile radius looking for a guitar without Hannah Montana on it, because we didn't know Santa was going to throw us under the bus and flat out tell you he was bringing an instrument. You spent the rest of the day making presents for everyone in the family. You spent hours drawing hundreds of Christmas trees on paper to wrap your presents, and making all of your labels yourself. I have a feeling I'm getting an apple, and I have a feeling you picked a red one because you know I like the red ones more than the green ones. You told me "thank goodness I had this day off school! I had so much to do to get ready for Christmas, and I never would have gotten it done without working on it today!"

This morning we got up at the same time, both ready for the man who was coming to appraise our house. You got really worried when we mentioned an appraisal, as if you've had a former career in real estate or something. You kept asking us and making us promise that we weren't selling the house, that we weren't moving, and that we would still be close to Nonnie and Kara and Grampa Jim. I have no idea how you made the leap from "appraiser" to "moving", but after we explained refinancing to you, I'm starting to wonder if you could just complete the paperwork yourself. When the appraiser came, there was a ridiculous orchestra of trying to keep the dogs quiet (because -story of your life- Harper was sleeping), but also out of his way. You were trying so hard to be a grown-up, letting the dogs in this door and out that door, and I got angry with you, because while you were doing what was logical, you didn't understand what the man was trying to do, and you were causing me more work. I wish I had just taken an extra minute to sit down with you and calmly explain to you what was going on, and why I needed you to do something different than what we normally ask of you. You're only five, and were trying your hardest to be helpful and conscientious. On any other day, all of your decisions would have been good ones. I'm sorry I forgot that you can't read my mind, and thank you for trying to be such a help.

This afternoon you wanted to deliver the presents you had made for the kids who live next to us. You very kindly gave them their gifts that you had nicely wrapped. The brother and sister accepted their gift graciously, and the other little boy was most ungracious indeed. But you handled the situation with surprising agility, and I was really proud of you. As the four of you were riding bikes afterward, Daddy came home and we were both watching the way you dealt with the bickering and infighting, and we were so proud of you we could have burst. In a way, I'm envious of how simply and easily you deal with so many situations that I tend to worry about.

Eventually the little factions developed, as they always do with this group of four, and the other three left you, which always stings my heart. When they came back, they had opened your present to the brother and sister, and rudely gave it back to you. It was one of Harper's Peek-a-Blocks- one of those toys that almost every child under the age of 3 has, and that probably never get played with. The other kids told you it was a baby toy, and that they didn't want it, and said some other unkind things that I hope I forget as soon as possible. You were trying so hard to be gracious, but I could see your face starting to break, and I knew you didn't want the humiliation of crying in front of them, so I shooed them on. I was so angry for you, and so outraged. I wanted to push them all off their bikes and take away their Santa presents and wrap you up into a little ball with my arms around you. I explain to you how we can't change other people, we can only change our own actions, and that at the end of the day, someone else can be awful, but that doesn't mean we should be awful, because then we'd be the same as them! I don't explain to you that I feel raw, pure hatred for people who hurt you in this way, and that I want to inflict the same pain on them. I have a feeling that if you ever have children you'll understand exactly what I mean. My mom tells me that nothing hurts her more than her children being hurt, and I understand now.

After we put you to bed tonight, with visions of sugarplums, etc., I saw your returned present laying on the washing machine. I looked at the bag you addressed and had to throw it away immediately, in the outside trash, because to look at it makes my heart hurt. I know you probably won't remember any of the altercation a few days from now, but it's seared on my brain- another minute of lost sleep worrying about you and if I handled the situation okay, and if this will affect you in any way. And if it does, will it make you a better or worse person? And did I make the situation better or worse? Before I threw away the bag, I took out the block, and sat outside looking at it for a while. At first glance, the kid was right- it is, without question, a baby toy. It's found in the baby section of the stores, whereas the "real" blocks are at least in the toddler section. But tonight I really looked at this block. There are moving parts and interesting patterns that change as you tilt the block from side to side. There are colors that shift as little plastic plates rotate on hinges. In my opinion, it's far too intricate for a baby, which probably explains Harper's complete disinterest in those blocks. And with her disinterest, as a grownup, I certainly didn't pay any attention to it- I just thought of it as another piece of wasted plastic, even thought I never actually *looked* at it. It took a thoughtful 5 year old to span that bridge, to ignore the label of "baby toy" and actually look at the object which is, even as a grownup, fairly interesting. All of us assumed that this was worthless junk- except you, who simply looked at it with different eyes. Aaron, I'm sorry that it took you being hurt to make me stop and see the subtleties of what you saw- the minute details that make this block more than just a baby toy.

I'm going to keep this block as a reminder that your perspective is a valuable one, and as a reminder that sometimes I just need to take half a minute and see things from your point of view. I'm sure I'll fail countless times at this before you're grown, but hopefully if you read this one day, you'll know that I'm trying very hard to emulate the grace you're already showing. So thank you very much for the gift, and I guess I should say thank you to the kids who discarded it, because otherwise I wouldn't have received it.



PS- Please don't make me crazy with the guitar Santa's bringing you.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Joy to YOU, 2008

Each year I write a Christmas letter, because it's a lot easier than buying, signing, addressing, stamping, and mailing a bunch of cards. Here's this year's.

It’s Christmas letter time! And a happy holiday to everyone who celebrates other holidays this time of year, although I’ve been living in the suburbs for 10 years now, so I don’t know anyone who celebrates anything else. Diversity isn’t one of our strong suits out here on the cul de sac. We also don’t have charm, large trees, or short commutes, but we do have a Target right down the road, and at this point in my life I’m grateful for cheap diapers within a mile radius.

I was all set this year to send out real cards instead of some lazy-person’s holiday email, but what with the economy and all, I took the money I’d otherwise spend on stamps and cards and sent it to your very favorite charity in your name. I’ve also been notified “wow, you sure have a lot to write in your Christmas letters” so I’ll try to keep it brief, but I’m not making any promises. I figure if you get sick of reading it, just delete it and you don’t even have to worry about wasting paper.

Jason is still working at the same job “drawing pipes”, as Aaron puts it. He did not get a 5-figure bonus, stellar promotion, or new company car. He did get a year of enjoyable work at a company he likes that treats him really well, and you know what? You can’t ask for much more than that, especially these days. In his free time, he’s been running a lot, which worries me because he’s getting to the point where he could just run to a new city and not come back, and at times, it’s got to be tempting. He also continues to churn out any home improvement project I come up with, and has really gotten good at not rolling his eyes when I mention whatever new idea I’ve come up with.

I am not putting in much time “drawing buildings”, as Aaron puts it. Being a contractor in an industry tied directly to the economy doesn’t lend itself to a lot of job security. I’ve gone back to working much more part time, and as a bonus, got to spend the summer hanging out with the kids at the YMCA pool and weaning Aaron off of his terror of water (which is going remarkably well, and after only 293582309 hours of swimming lessons!) I’ve been really lucky to keep marginally steady work, but have (mostly) enjoyed getting to spend more time with the kids, although am chagrined to have to rein in my Target sprees. I’ve been running a lot, too, but whereas Jason runs for health and enjoyment, I run for one reason only, and that’s vanity.

Aaron, age 5, started kindergarten this year! This was highly emotional for mommy for the first 2 weeks. Then mommy just got embarrassed by being on a first name basis with the principal, and annoyed that school is closed a lot more often than daycare ever was. Aaron had what can only be described as a “difficult transition” to kindergarten, and it’s a real crap shoot as to how his day is going to end up. We recently had a week of really great reports about Aaron’s behavior at school, and Jason’s mom remarked “oh, I’m so happy that Aaron seems to have gotten over his hurdles”. Jason noted to his mom “yeah, don’t get too excited. It was only a week ago that he was showing off his penis to the other kids in class”, so that should give you some idea of what we’re dealing with.

If I were writing a personal ad for Aaron, I would include that he likes reading, writing, drawing, crafty stuff, and creating games from whatever he has left after we take his toys away because he’s behaving miserably. Aaron will frequently lose access to the playroom for behavior, but when you turn around 20 minutes later and see him setting up markers and a coffee can to play a game of bowling, you can’t help but be impressed with his creativity. (And lest you think I’m bragging, let me refer you again to the penis-showing incident. And the fact that I can identify his principal’s voice from the words “Mrs. G?”)

Harper has stayed very busy this year. She’s spent most of the year avoiding the potty, fibbing about whether or not there is poo in her diaper, cutting her own bangs in a style that is best described as “avant-garde”, and yelling at everyone. If you were to walk in our house right now, she’d yell at you “HI! What is your name? I’m Harper. I’m two and a half. You need to take your shoes off! Do you like Beauty and the Beast?”, and then she’d probably ask you to sing a few verses of “Gaston”. If you did, she’d interrupt you to demand something else or maybe scream at Aaron for breathing or looking at her or something. People usually remark how much she looks like Jason and acts like me, but I would like it to be known that nowhere in my memory have I walked up to someone and said “Big ups to all my haters!”, the way Harper did recently. I didn’t even know what it meant. Harper’s hobbies also include being sassy, enjoying time outs, and being politely disobedient (as in “Harper, please pick up your toys”, and her response is “No, thank you. You do it. I’m too busy playing”). She will watch TV until her eyes water, or Jason or I feel like we should actually parent, whichever comes first. Everything about her is exuberant and over the top, and sometimes I wonder if she’s actually a 16 year old trapped in the body of a two and a half year old.

Our dogs, Babe and Storm, have spent most of the year being stinky, barking at everyone, and shedding (regardless of season). The shedding is ridiculous. You start vacuuming (and by “you”, I mean “Jason”), and I am not exaggerating that by the time you finish with the downstairs, the place that you started has got clumps of dog hair laying around. I’ve been trying to train the kids to pick it up and throw it away when they see it, but Harper has developed an irrational terror of dog hair, and Aaron’s developed selective memory, so it’s not really working out. (Yet).

As always, we hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, and a great 2009. We’d wish you a peaceful 2009, but we don’t even know what that word means anymore. Thanks to all of you for being part of our lives. Our friends and family are more important to us than anything, and the older we get, the more we realize how blessed we are to have so much of what matters most.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Maybe don't read this if you're pregnant. Or trying to be.

Aaron's performance on his class Smiley Chart lately can only be described as lackluster, and fading fast. In addition, he's recently been coming home with his Color Chart showing he achieved Uh-Oh Yellow or even Problem Pink. For a while there, he was doing really well, with a number of days on Brilliant Blue and even Magnificent Magenta, but those days are, apparently, over. It was nice while it lasted. All three weeks of it. He's currently confined to his room, not because he's in Time Out, per se, so much as Banished From Mommy's Sight, Because She's Really Over His Crap. And that's where that stands.
Harper, in an effort to make sure she's never ignored, has developed loads of fun new phobias. Some of these include terror of anything that might be floating in the bath water, like, say, lint that got washed out from between her toes, or maybe a hair from her head. Hysteria ensues when I open the drain for the bath; from what I can tell while she's screaming, I think she's afraid of being sucked down the drain. That might be part of her panic at the sound of a flushing toilet. If anyone's been in the bathroom at my Target recently, I swear I'm not mutilating a child in the stall, just preparing to flush the toilet. (Not, of course, that Harper's sitting on it. Using the potty was nice for that photo op a few months ago, but since then, she only does it if she wants an M&M.) The most problematic phobia she's embraced is an unbridled fear at a tumbleweed of dog hair floating around on the floor. In case you don't know, we have two 60 pound dogs, one Lab mix, and one Chow mix, so you do the math on the amount of dog hair that's shed. Also, I am a lousy housekeeper, so dog hair tumbleweeds in our house are more common than a homecooked meal. (Actually, I'm not a "lousy" housekeeper, so much as I "hate housekeeping"). Do you know how many times in the past week I've come running in a room at top speed because of Harper's bloodcurdling screams, only to find her freaking out over a little pile of dog hair? I mean, hysterical, screaming, jumping up and down, sobbing and pointing at dog hair. Which totally ruins the plans I had to train her and Aaron to pick them all up so maybe I (Jason) would never have to vacuum.

I can't figure out if I'm jaded, have really bad kids, or other people are just not being honest. I mean, my girlfriends are honest. Their kids suck a lot, too. The ones who don't have kids have probably already gotten lifetime birth control based on my stories. But good grief, how did I never know how unrelentingly hard this is? Before you judge (I mean, you can go ahead and judge, I don't care, but just hear me out before you do), it's not like I freak out the first time one of these things happens. The first time my kid sings "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", I'm overwhelmed with mushy-ness and think it's precious. I ask them to sing it a couple of times, and put them on the phone with Nonnie or Gramma Sharon and have them sing it. After about two or three thousand times, I'm kind of over it, and trying to wean them off. By the 3280384573094th rendition of "That Frigging Ballgame Song", I'm ready to stab myself in the eye with a spoon by the word "Take". So it's not so much the issues, it's the sheer volume and repetition of the issues. Even great sex would be annoying after a few months of 14 times a day. When you're starting with something that's much less fun than great sex, it takes virtually no time to wear out it's welcome. And when you're starting out with another little "quirk" to add to the already interminable list of quirks, it becomes really kind of a perpetual pain in the ass.

I should find a happy way to end this, but for the life of me I can't think of one. I'm too annoyed right now.

Um. So, everyone have a great weekend! Here's a picture of my little angels! Aren't they precious?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Trick or..well, whatever. You know what's coming.

Behold one cat (that I had to make slightly more manly by making him into a Panther), and one dog (that looks a little bit like a cow, and kind of sort of like a bunny.) Harper is at that age, and I remember Aaron doing this, that she assumes anyone opening the door and offering her candy is giving her an invitation into the house. She kept messing up her lines, and when the door would open she'd say "thank you!", and on her way down the sidewalk she'd yell "trick or treat!"

Aaron was so cute I wanted to eat him up with a spoon. We passed a friend who had her 2 year old with her, and when we stopped to chat, her toddler went up to all of us saying "trick or treat!", because Pavlov wasn't making this stuff up. Aaron complimented the little boy on his costume and then pulled a piece of candy out of his bag to give to the little boy, which made me so proud, until I realized he had given up a Reese's peanut butter cup. For heaven's sake, he couldn't have given away the Necco Wafers? I'm all about being altruistic, but let's maintain our sensibilities here! Clearly I have more parenting to do.

Jason and I spent most of Halloween night in a passive aggressive argument that required so much energy in asserting my passive aggressiveness that it left me little energy for much else, so
after trick or treating, we hung out in the cul-de-sac with the neighbors, had a couple of drinks by the fire pit, and called it a night. Today we elevated our argument into just plain "aggressive", but I think tensions are cooling now, so I feel better writing about it. If I had waited another couple of days, I'd be happy to detail how right I am and how wrong Jason is, but you'll just have to trust me.

Now I'm packing away the skulls and jack-o-lanterns, because it's full steam Thanksgiving! Ugh. Walking into Target today (to settle myself, of course. It's like yoga for me.) and seeing the Christmas displays only makes me feel kind of tired and drained, instead of all Christmas-y. Until I have to deal with that, I'm still on a cat & dog high.

(Also let me add this, because you know I couldn't let this go without a snarky bit or two. My crappy neighbor behind me let their kid dress up as the Scream character. Fine, call me a prude, but I have to wonder what a 6 year old is doing dressing up as the murderous character in an R rated slasher flick. I post this only so I can have you appreciate that this is the family I'm dealing with. And that they truly suck.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dress Up (?)

It's that time of year again! The time of year when Aaron comes up with something obscure and weird and impossible to buy off the rack as his chosen Halloween costume. The first year I got to choose, and I went with Appropriating Mommy's Indian Heritage as the costume choice.

Year two he still didn't have an opinion, so I went with a borrowed lion costume from a friend. That year it was about 84 degrees on Halloween, and the lion costume would have given him heatstroke before his Snickers bars melted in his sweaty little fists, so I brought out the indian costume again.

Year three was when he started getting really adamant about his costume choice, and settled very firmly on being a bagel with cream cheese, and I am not making this up. I did not encourage this costume, and tried my hardest to switch him to a pirate or maybe a hobo, but he wasn't having it.

Year four was surprisingly traditional, and he went with being a pumpkin. That was Harper's first Halloween, and she went as a lobster, which I thought was hysterical. That opinion was shared by nobody else, including Jason, who just kind of looked at her in costume and rolled his eyes. Not like it mattered, she decided within 14 seconds of being outside that she was over and done with this Halloween nonsense, and she was going to make everyone flat out miserable until we took her home and put her in bed.

Year five was when Aaron decided he was just going to see how far I'd go, and he wanted to be a garbage truck. He and Jason would brainstorm this costume, coming up with all sorts of great ideas, which sounds really neat-o until you consider that the costuming department consisted of precisely one person, namely Mommy. In fact, I was not only in charge of Costuming, but also Candy Procurement, Staff Photographer, and Set Decorator. Jason, until that point, had mastered the role of Candy Taster, and that was about it. So I told Aaron that his garbage truck costume sounded great, and I would paint it to look like a garbage truck just as soon as Daddy built the costume. I thought Jason would work overtime trying to talk Aaron back into that awesome hobo idea, but instead, he spent his energy trying to show up my previous years of costume creation. He built Aaron a real "working" garbage truck with a moving hopper, so when people put candy in the front hopper, Aaron could raise the hopper and dump it in the back of the truck. Show off. (I am taking painting credit, though).

Harper was again too young to care what she was, so I went with a cavewoman, which she again hated. Not a fan of dress up, that one. (She had pants and a shirt on under her costume when we went out. I wasn't going for "slutty cavewoman". I find that trend alarming even on grownups. It makes me uncomfortable to see a woman take a normal costume and tramp it up within an inch of it's life, and I think we can all safely say I'm no prude. It somehow seems wrong to be dressed up as "sexy cop" or "sexy Little Bo Peep" or whatever. When did grown up costumes become basically a giant fetish?" Okay, back on topic.)

This year they each chose their costumes, and they're both sticking to their decisions. I went and bought all of the stuff to make costumes , and this week am planning on figuring out how I can hobble these costumes together in two hours or less from an assortment of bath towels, sweatpants, and felt. I was making great headway last night on Harper's costume when I got into an altercation with the sewing machine, and the machine definitely came out the winner. (Skeeve alert!)
Since sewing bath towels is apparently only for experts, I got my middle finger caught in the machine, where the needle went through the nail and out the other side. And while the needle was coming back up, I yanked my hand out of the machine, 'cause that mofo HURT, and you can just imagine the ick factor. I will say that wine and a Spongebob bandaid (and milking the story for all the sympathy I can get) are remarkable medicine. (And in case you're wondering, I didn't have to cut a stitch from my hand, which I was surprised and maybe a little disappointed about. Not that I relished the thought of cutting a machine stitch from my finger, but I think it would have made for a much more interesting anecdote).

Their costume choices weren't anything out of the ordinary this year, but I found the irony delicious, since they each chose their costume on their own, without knowing what the other one had picked. So when Harper told me she wanted to be a dog, and Aaron told me he wanted to be a cat, all I could do was laugh at how ridiculously appropriate it is for them to be dressing up as their own alter egos. Cats and dogs, indeed.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ahoy There!

Aaron takes Uncle Bill hostage on the Sandbox Cover Schooner. Rowing rapidly with his lacrosse stick.

Right before or after this picture was taken, I forget which, Aaron was inside getting in trouble for something or another. Let me tell you, it is a fierce person who can keep a straight face while scolding a 5 year old who's looking miserably repentant and wearing a pirate hat. A more fierce person than I.