Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Perspective

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.

Love,

Mommy

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.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nine

We're just going to ignore my spotty posting in the last month, because it's all just excuses, anyhow, right?

Nine years ago today, I was at an awesome party at the beach with all of my family and friends, talking and eating and dancing and drinking until 5AM. And that day, my very best friend of all became my husband.

Fast forward to tonight, our 9th anniversary. I'm sitting at the computer typing this up, the kids are in bed, Jason is at Lowe's picking up wax rings for a leaky toilet, and he and I together have consumed enough sudafed in the past few days to start our own meth lab. My, how times have changed. The time we used to spend running together, or going out to bars, or watching movies has been replaced by reading assignments from kindergarten, following through on punishments, coaxing filthy children into a bath, picking up dog hair tumbleweeds, folding tiny laundry, and thinking that The Daily Show comes on entirely too late for normal human beings to watch.

It wasn't a gradual transition, either. It was like slamming on the brakes, turning the wheel hard enough to fishtail, and then gunning the engine to race in the opposite direction, over the course of a very defined 9 months that ended right around the day of Aaron's birth. We had given thought to being parents, but not any real defined thought, more of that montage of pictures about how it might be with kids. You know, like images of yourself taking your hypothetical child to Disney World to meet Mickey Mouse, without ever considering the trauma (and expense!) of traveling with little children, the inevitable meltdown upon meeting a 7 foot tall rodent, the need to interrupt the day for naptime while you and your spouse sit in the hallway of a hotel hoping your kids stops screaming; that sort of thing. Or maybe picturing yourself going on walks with your hypothetical kids, without considering that 50 feet from your driveway you'll already be sick of telling junior to get out of the street, get the earthworm out of his mouth, and good grief, it's 100 degrees outside and you've only gotten 4 hours of sleep the night before, and when is naptime, for God's sake?

That was a tough transition for our marriage to make. I wasn't sure we'd make it to Aaron's first birthday without retaining lawyers, and Jason will say the same. It's hard to even look back on it and make light of it, because it was so difficult. Between your life shifting at it's very core, and post partum depression, and the financial worries that go along with new parenthood, it's a miracle anyone (namely, us) makes it through intact.

But we did. I'm certainly not going to paint a picture of nonstop bliss since we went through that mess of early parenthood, but I think is was part of the fire that steeled who we are together. Since now our roles as parents tends to overshadow everything else, it's hard not to end a crappy day with your kids without feeling like a little bit of a failure. It's difficult to end a week of fielding phone calls from principals and watching a 2 year old sit on the potty for hours a day and remember who you are as a spouse and best friend.

At the center of it, though, Jason and I are in this mess together, and while sometimes it's difficult enough to bring us to the brink, for the most part, it's become really apparent to me that we complement each other extraordinarily well. We remind each that there's fun involved in all of this, and when one of us is barely hanging on, the other one steps up to whatever task needs to be done. We are each other's perspective and best friend, and at this point in our lives, it might be the most valuable thing we can offer one another. There's obviously more to our relationship, but who wants to read the icky details? Certainly not our parents, I'm sure. Suffice to say, I'm grateful and honored every day to be married to someone I respect so much and adore without end. I'm so thankful that I'm married to someone who weathered this transition with me so well, and I'm looking forward to the rest of this story.


Also, he's a really good kisser and has arms and shoulders that make my pulse race. (Ack! Sorry. I had to.)

I love you, sweetie. Happy anniversary.


Sara & Jason, 9 years ago today

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Jesus loves YOU. And you, too.

I know, I know. Consistency isn't my strong point, which is why I'll probably never be the Ultimate Survivor. Or the Top Designer. Well, consistency, and the lack of actually applying. And hating bugs, as well as most things that dwell outdoors, like humidity and cold and whatnot. Whatever.

Since my last blog, I've been pretty busy with work, which I am not complaning about even a teeny tiny bit. But the real reason for my non-posting is because I'm so consumed with Aaron, and it's really weighing on me. He's having what could only be described as a difficult transition to kindergarten. In addition, the neighborhood politics of the 5-7 year old set are becoming more and more apparent to me. Unfortunately, Aaron obviously inherited my disdain for being political, so he's not earning any points for himself that way. Without going into too much detail, because I'll either sob or light my neighbor's house on fire, I can say without question that being the one bullied/ left out ('cause I've been there) isn't one tenth as bad as watching it happen to your own child. It bothers me that at 36 years old, my mood can be so affected by a 6 year old who doesn't even belong to me. It should come as no surprise that my issue is with the child of the man I don't think highly of that lives behind me, and that's as diplomatic as I can be right now. Bless his heart. I'm feeling not at all bad about Aaron dropping his pants and pooing on said neighbor's lawn a number of months ago. (Cross my heart, that happened.) At the time, Aaron was made to pick it up and apologize, but at this point, I might encourage him to bag it, set it on the front porch, and light it on fire.

I really need to grow up.

Anyhow, I'm trying to just get back into blogging, because it's like medicine for my head, so here's what Harper's been up to. It seems a shame to know my mind and heart is really preoccupied with Aaron right now, and still bring out a Harper story, but she's pretty much a living anecdote. Where Aaron is complex and intuitive, Harper is like a little butterfly landing on your nose at the most inappropriate moment, and the two of them together are what makes our family, well, family.

So, Harper is completely convinced that the world revolves around her, and any evidence she sees to the contrary she quickly yells into submission. Lately she's been nixing the nightey-nite song and asking to say "pears" instead. We have our conversation with God, which involves Harper telling God to be thankful for her. I started singing "Jesus Loves Me" to her, but Harper's version is taking entirely too long. I'll start "Jesus loves me..."
"And Harper."
"Oh, sorry. Jesus loves me and Harper..."
"And Daddy."
"Right. Jesus loves me and Harper and Daddy..."
"And Aaron. And Babe and Storm. And Nene and Miss Marilyn."
"Of course. Got it."
"And Eeyore and Kiki, and Kara and Miss Nancie. And Jake."

By the time I make it through this song, including all of the relevant characters in Harper's life, I'm pretty sure I could have just sung Don McClean's "American Pie". But it's nice to know that no matter what you might think, in Harper's world, Jesus loves us ALL. Maybe even the kid and dad who live behind us, although I remain unconvinced.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Problem Child

So, I was embracing our new routine, all ready to start on the next few years of Aaron being in school while Harper's at home, figuring out how to spend our time. I was thinking of what I'd write for blog posts, maybe something about how I got totally immersed in teenage vampire love stories, or how I got even more immersed in reading bloggers who summarize teenage vampire love stories. Maybe I'd write about my new goal to perfect the application of self tanner, so that my friend Cindy doesn't look at my streaky ankles, shake her head, and sigh.

But then, after a solid three days at school, I got an email from Aaron's kindergarten teacher. Here's an excerpt:

Im sorry to bother you on a Tuesday evening, but I wanted to bring something to
your attention. As we are transitioning in the building (mainly as we are coming
in from playground) Aaron i having issues keeping his hands to himself. On
Friday we had a minor pushing incident and today Aaron was pushing and hitting
the boy in front of him. When i speak with him he can tell me that his hands
belong to himself but he struggles with doing so. Can you please speak with him
about this? I don't him or anyone else to get hurt.


Isn't that nice? And in the two days since that email, Aaron has contined to not only push and hit other kids, but he's escalated his desired target number, since today I asked how many kids he hit/ pushed, and his estimate was "probably ten". And it's not like I'm not addressing it; short of medicating him prior to getting on the bus, I am at a complete and total loss, to say nothing of being so angry and humiliated I could scream. He's currently sitting in his room while I grit my teeth and try to take deep breaths.

Kindergarten is totally kicking my ass.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Day!

So, Aaron's First Day of School. It only took me a week to recover.

Let me just say, this whole First Day of School thing hit me way harder than I thought it would, because it's not like I've never been away from the boy. He's been in daycare part time for the past three years- I thought I'd breeze right through this thing and do cartwheels all the way back from the bus stop because I don't have to fork out a mortgage payment in childcare anymore. Instead, I became a completely unhinged mess.

I'm blaming this on outside factors, though. We woke up on First Day of School day and it was pouring rain, so I figured not having a raincoat for my kid was as good a reason as any to berate myself and feel crappy about how I was sending him off into the world. I tried to recover by letting him take his umbrella, until at the last minute I tested him and realized he didn't know how to open or close his umbrella on his own, so all I could picture was this pitiful image of him standing on the bus, unable to get off because his umbrella was permanently opened. Or standing in the pouring rain, shivering and sobbing with an umbrella stuck in the closed position (a little dramatic license there, since it was about 88 degrees outside). I was starting to list my other worries that morning, and realized I might just overload Blogger if I detailed all of them, so suffice to say I found anything and everything to worry myself about, and I worried well.

So we walked to the bus stop where one of my neighbors asked Aaron "which room are you going to?", and I had a panic attack right then and there.

"He's supposed to go to a specific room? Am I supposed to know that room? Was I supposed to tell him what room? I don't remember seeing anything with a room number on it. When did you get this room information? Was it in official correspondence? Should I run back to my house right now and look through my meticulously documented file of official school correspondence?"

And Linda, my awesomely relaxed neighbor (who just today decreed Friday Bus Arrival as our new happy hour), realized I was in the middle of a meltdown and put on her happy relaxed voice saying "No! No. I'm sure it's fine. There are a million adults all over, they'll tell him exactly where he needs to go." So I sat there adding to my panic while I see Linda quietly ask her 3rd grade daughter "Hey, Grace? Can you watch out for Aaron and make sure he gets to where he needs to go? Walk him to his class or something?" And all I could hear was the unspoken "Because Sara's such a dolt that she didn't manage to give her kid an umbrella or a rain jacket, so how could we possibly trust her to make sure her child finds the right room at kindergarten, and clearly an 8 year old is far more trustworthy than this imbecile".

Anyhow, Aaron got on the bus just fine and was thrilled, and after he left you can't find any witnessess that can verify that I left the bus stop a sobbing mess. And I may or may not have driven past the school, circling the perimeter to make sure he wasn't wandering around outside in the rain. And I may or may not have hunted down a raincoat for him to have on hand in a city that's had about a 10 year drought.
After school, he was telling me about his day as I lured him with sugar so he wouldn't leave me and go out and play, and I asked (because I've been his mom for a long time now) "Did you get in any trouble today?"
"Just one time out!" (Seriously, he was proud of it)
"Time out!? On the FIRST DAY?! What happened?!"
"Well, the teacher kept asking me to stop yelling." (I TOLD YOU SO, internet! See? Even trained professionals can't get through the day!)
"She asked you to stop yelling, and then what?"
"So then I told her 'I'LL GIVE IT A NICKEL TRY!'"

Of course. I mean, of COURSE that's what he said (yelled) in response to someone asking him not to yell. I blame this on Jason, because I like to avoid accepting any blame for anything at any time. Jason finds these weird documentaries on TV and Tivos them for Aaron, including a recent one named "Tougher In Alaska" or something like that. I don't know what it's about, just that it involves trains (and tough things. And Alaska, duh), and that since Aaron's been watching it at least twice a day, his voice and cadence have kind of changed, so when he starts reciting monologues from this documentary he's a perfect imitation of the narrator, who sounds exactly like Hulk Hogan crossed with a stoned surfer. (I know you can't fathom what that sounds like, but if you saw it, you'd say "that is EXACTLY what that guy sounds like!") Anyhow, that's where he got the "nickel try" thing from, and even though it's actually used as a cheerful affirmative in some tough(er) part of Alaska, unfortunately for Aaron, his teacher is from Pennsylvania, where that crap (apparently) just doesn't fly. Especially at his volume.

Anyhow, he did great last week, and I was a basket case of nerves at both him going off into the real world and realizing, for the first time in YEARS, I have a real, actual schedule to keep in the morning. Like, hitting the snooze alarm just cost me 30 minutes in missing the bus and dropping Aaron off at school, as opposed to "feh, I'll just call daycare and have them hold Aaron's breakfast, and I'll work through lunch or whatever". Ack! Then add in all of the open houses, volunteer requests, schedule coordinating, homework, lunch packing, and bus-meeting, and I'll be honest- Aaron is totally prepared, but I can't vouch that *I'm* mature enough for kindergarten.



Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunrise, Sunset

Harper got her final lab results back, and the results are that she's apparently won the staph lottery, and that her two boils in 6 weeks were just sheer dumb luck, and not MRSA, which is somehow really good news.

But do you know what happened today? Well, I mean aside from us all being in the car and Harper sagely yelling, apropos of nothing, "Everyone has nipples!"?

I got a pop-up on my Outlook. (I use a PC. Don't be a hater.) And my pop-up was kindly reminding me of Aaron's first day of KINDERGARTEN, on TUESDAY, which I am clearly not prepared for. I mean, he has all of the gear. It's stuff that can be bought at Target- of course he's prepared in that sense. But I don't understand how this little monkey that I'm still getting used to is ready to go out and start the world kind of on his own. I feel a little Tevye, and can't believe this is the little boy at play. I didn't really comprehend how quickly all of this was going to happen after I gave birth. I feel like I never even mastered infant carseats; how can we be on to teacher assignments and school bus schedules? This is all going by entirely too fast and I can't keep up.

I am willing to admit that part of me is very, very ready for him to start school. He and Harper are like gasoline and a match together, and I'm looking forward to some one on one time with the little diva. I mean, Aaron and I had three exclusive years together, and I haven't ever had that with her. Similarly, I haven't had any alone time with Aaron since Harper's been born. But since she's in daycare a few days a week, that means once he gets off the bus on those days, he's all mine, without any sibling rivalry to contend with. (And I'm not even going to mention the huge cut in our daycare bill, which has, for the past couple of years, been significantly larger than our mortgage.)

But another part of me realizes that this is it- this is the start of the greased slide that is childhood. I've listened to other parents- I know it just goes faster and faster, and while I can't see that at all when I'm in the thick of it, I recognize how quickly these 5 1/2 years have gone, and know I'm rapidly closing in on him not being my baby anymore. Right now he gives hugs with gusto and abandon, kisses us on the mouth, and does everything he can to be close to us and emulate Daddy. Just this past week he decided he wasn't going to sleep with a shirt on anymore, because Daddy doesn't. I tried to remind him that Daddy also eats broccoli and chews with his lips together, but Aaron's picking and choosing which parts of Jason he's going to try on for size, and broccoli doesn't seem high on the list. He's really divine. You can see him have his internal struggles with how to behave, and he clearly knows right from wrong, and the clincher is that the behavior that makes me most insane is when he's obviously imitating...me. He's a mouthy kid, but he came by that honestly.

I was talking with Jason's mom (Hi, Sharon!) a couple of weeks ago about digital cameras. She recently switched from film to digital, and part of her was a little disconcerted at the idea. I was trying to sell her on it because of the immediate feedback- you take a picture, you know what worked and what didn't, and you can readjust. And the hardest part of this parenting thing is that I have no idea of what the result will be. I don't know if my parenting will turn him into a serial killer or a sweet, kind person. There is no adjusting for poor exposure. There is no immediate feedback on whether your shot is accurate and clear, or if you've gotten everything horribly out of focus and framed everything entirely wrong. Getting the film back on this will take years- decades! At that point the film's been taken, and there's no going back, so I really hope I'm doing this right, because I'm completely winging it. But for one last day, he's still my little baby.


Aaron, 4 mos.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Boil Watch 2008, Redux

Just briefly, I talked with a nurse today about Harper's lab results. Her new abcess came back as a staph infection, but apparently not MRSA (thankyouJesus). The nurse was far less informed about the difference between staph/ MRSA than I was; you'd think she didn't have Google or something. So in addition to that being the only information I got from her, I also got no viable information regarding whether this was just a freak coincidence (two boils in a month and a half? Come on!) or a sign of a more serious problem, or what. There is another culture I'm waiting for to come back tomorrow that will give us more information as to this being MRSA vs. staph. I don't know why, since the woman I talked to was so clueless, but for some reason I got a good feeling that tomorrow wouldn't show anything unexpected. Maybe it was just because she was so happy in her cluelessness that it gave me a happy feeling, too. If I didn't have Google, I'd be happier, too, and not the boo-hooing mess one might have seen yesterday as I was Googling "toddler MRSA".

So keep thinking happy thoughts and keeping crossables crossed. Her abcess now is definitely under control (at least, it sure looks that way), so I've got that going for me. And if she'd stop erupting, I could even move on to Aaron's last day of daycare (today). Poor Aaron.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Writing this blog has taught me how completely formulaic my life is. Each day is basically a limited multiple choice.
"Today we:
A. went to Target.
B. went to the doctor.
C. went to the pool.

While we were there, my kids:
A. behaved miserably.
B. did something funny or particularly cute and poignant.
C. humiliated me.

And at the end of it, :
A. I felt kind of depressed about being a parent, and that this job is harder than it should be.
B. got a funny anecdote to share with the internet and use to embarrass them in the future.
C. learned a valuable lesson about myself which I will hopefully grow from."

See how easy it is? Just use the above formula, and you can either write my next blog post, or maybe make bets with yourself about which of the above scenarios will play out on any given day.

Today?

Today we went to the doctor. While we were there, my kids behaved miserably. At the end of it, I felt kind of depressed about being a parent, and that this job is harder than it should be.

It wouldn't have been *that* bad, but Harper has been feeling lousy and has bad memories from her boil experience, so she kind of freaks out now. So now that she's developed another boil (abcess) in her leg that they had to drain in the office, it was pretty much a downhill slide. They're culturing it to see if it's just a regular staph infection or MRSA, and I should know in a few days. I don't have any great way to sum this up, I'm just worried and feeling badly for my little bunny. If you're the praying type I wouldn't mind if you sent a few out her way.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bathing Beauty

I read somewhere once that if your kids don't humiliate you at least once a day, then you're not getting your money's worth. There is no question that my kids were a bargain in that department, because if we leave the house, I'm guaranteed at least two public humiliations, and that's on a slow day.

We were at the pool today and the kids were fine, but the longer we're there, the sassier Harper gets. Eventually she was spending an average of two minutes in Time Out for every one minute she was in the pool. While she was sitting next to me right by the pool edge, she was amusing herself doing whatever; I wasn't really paying attention since I was watching Aaron. At least, I wasn't paying attention until a little girl about 6 or 7 walks out of the pool, looks at Harper, and makes a face that would lead one to believe she had seen something unpleasant. And I look at Harper and realize that she has barfed up the gallon of pool water she had consumed, as well as the lunch she had eaten shortly beforehand. And it's all down her stomach and crotch, all over the chair, and all over the pool deck.

Hoo, boy, let me tell you, you haven't LIVED until you get the opportunity to wrangle a towel out from under your soggy (and, of course, dirty diapered) toddler and get on your hands and knees wiping up vomit from concrete, calling over your five year old because you have to get out of there RIGHT NOW. Because as other pool moms know, when someone barfs in the pool, the entire thing is shut down for an hour and everyone has to get out, which makes you not very popular at all. Since no barf had actually gotten into the water, I don't know how it would have been handled, but I didn't particularly want to find out. So I wiped up the barf and took Senorita Soggy Stink and Captain Yell and hightailed it out of there and didn't notify a single authority, because the only thing that could have made this more humiliating was me having to tell the perpetually bored and annoyed 17 year old lifeguard that we had a vomit issue that needed to be addressed.

At least let me defend the dirty diaper- I didn't *know* it was dirty, it must have happened while she was in time out, maybe in the midst of all of puking (that I wasn't paying attention to. Where's that mother of the year application again?) Clearly, though, that wasn't the time to deal with it; we needed to make a speedy exit, not get caught in the locker room where we would have potentially been lynched if the pool was, in fact, closed. Thank heavens we live just a couple of miles from the pool, because by the time this diaper got home, I was hanging my head out the window and gagging, and I rationalized that while I had committed a parenting sin by running out on public puke, my penance was addressing that diaper (and I'm not going to go into details, but any parent who has dealt with swim diapers should understand the mechanics of the nastiness I was dealing with).

So, you might want to wait until it rains to visit our pool. Or at the very least, wear your shoes on the pool deck. I'm sorry for the situation, but I know if I had to do it over again, I'd make the same coward choice, so my apologies to anyone who runs into my kids and their blinder-wearing, rationalizing mother.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Milestone

Well, lookie-loo. Seems to me if I put enough Pop-Tarts on the bottom shelf of the pantry, I'm done needing a babysitter, right?



So that she knows one day when she reads back, I made the same ridiculous fuss for her that I did for her brother. Never have my children been so happy to hear me scream. And do a tinkle dance. And offer jellybeans. She's so Harper she actually told me "Mommy, you say 'Way to go, Harper!'" And I promise I did. With a song and a dance, and lots of squealing and clapping. And maybe a little mental spending of my current diaper money.

Selective Memory

Last summer we had a severe drought, and trying to be a responsible eco-citizen, I told Aaron precisely once "if it's just tinkle, don't flush it". Once! I realized as soon as the words came out of my mouth that it would create more problems than it was worth to save a few gallons of water, so I told him "nevermind that, just flush every time". He hears "please keep lips together when you chew" forty times a day and hasn't mastered it, but he sure clung to that "don't flush it" suggestion.

My apologies in advance to whatever you might find in our toilets if you should visit.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Safety Dance

To Whom it May Concern:

I am writing to submit this video clip, filmed in the spring, to accompany my application for "Mother of the Year". This is to prove completion of the "Provides Safe Play Activities Not Including Television" subcategory. Additional qualifications will be submitted as completed.

Sincerely,

Aaron & Harper's Mom


video

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Rude Awakening

Jason and I went on vacation last week, and it was decadent. Our itinerary included eating, drinking, and sleeping. If we got to see some of the city we were visiting, that was fine, too, but mostly we wanted to enjoy being kid-free for a minute. Just driving there and having silence in the car was relaxing beyond measure, and it got better from there.

While we were there, I told him "I can't imagine what I'm going to write about when we get back. Nobody humiliated me or infuriated me, I didn't yell at anyone, I didn't have to deal with anyone else's fecal matter, how deliciously boring!" (To which he replied "The weekend's not over yet!")

And then we got home and picked up the kids. Before we even left my sister's house, where they had been staying (thanks, Kara!), there were at least 3 fights between them. By the time we got them to the car, it was pure chaos, and we hadn't even gotten home and started the unpacking yet. Jason's and my vacation bliss melted away rapidly under a steady barrage of crying and bickering among the littles.

When Jason and I started dating, like everyone else, we were in "put your best foot forward" mode. We were probably in our first year of marriage before he became aware that my toenails don't naturally grow out shiny and pink, and maybe the second or third year before I decided that shaving my legs every day during the winter was far more effort than shaving them once a week (or less). Everyone's been there- you just get more comfortable with your partner, and let down more of your guard about what a real slob you are underneath it all. When I got pregnant with Aaron, I was a little embarrassed about the new issues that pregnancy brings up that aren't exactly modest, but Jason was always fine with everything, or at least he pretended to not be horrified by my constant burping and chewing on Tums and the sixty-five pound weight gain (thanks, Dairy Queen!) The only thing that was really making me nervous was the actual delivery. I mean, if you have a shred of dignity, I think we can all agree that you can package that up and throw it right out the window when it comes to giving birth. In the end, of course, everything went fine. He was not traumatized by the sight of our children being born (so he maintains), and it just became another experience that we shared. We thought that was it- that's as bonded as you can get, right?

What I did not realize at the time, is that your partner seeing you give birth isn't nearly as revealing as your partner seeing the way you parent. I think that's when the real guard comes down; the last frontier of facade is destroyed. Giving birth is just biology; any grownup involved knows you don't really have any control over it. Yelling at your kids, or getting fed up to the point where a bedtime story is just more than you feel like dealing with, or putting them in front of the TV all day because it mutes the arguing- those are real tests of who you are, and I fail those tests more frequently than I'd like to admit. They tell Jason a lot more about me (and vice versa) than me admitting that I'm perfectly happy to use the dryer as my clothes closet to avoid folding anything.

When Aaron was first born, that shock to our marriage was so difficult to deal with that I wasn't sure we'd make it to Aaron's first birthday together. But we did, and while I can't say that parenting has gotten any easier since then, our marriage certainly did once we realized that we're a team. Sometimes one of us has to come in and relieve the other one when we're at a breaking point. We spend a lot of our time on the weekends separately running errands with one kid, our "divide and conquer" method. We sit on the porch at night and commiserate about the day, or laugh about the funny stuff the kids did. We're starting to figure out how to work with each other's strong points, and when the other person needs help. By no means do we have this perfected, and it's been a long road, to say the least. But there's no question that there's been a lot of soul-baring in the past 6 years- some of it I'm proud of, some of it not, that we would never have had to reveal to the other person if we hadn't had kids. I didn't know half of these things about myself before becoming a mom; I can only imagine how surprised Jason must have been.

At this point, the only secret I've got left is my natural hair color. I'm keeping that one until I think he's ready for it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Code Harper

Thursday afternoon Aaron came home from daycare with a fever of 103 something. Friday morning, it was up to 104.7, and he was really out of it- confused, disoriented, talking nonsense. That freaked me out, so I called the pediatrician and they told me what to do, what to look for, and what would warrant a doctor visit. So I drugged him up all day Friday and we hung around the house. Saturday morning he woke up, another 104.5 fever, drugged him again. Sunday morning, more of the same. Once he hit 72 hours with a fever, we needed to go to the doctor, so this morning I took his temperature, and again, 104.6. Called the pediatrician, got an appointment, and rushed getting Harper up and in the car, throwing a pop-tart and some milk at her to keep her quiet. Nothing like keeping her on a healthy diet to keep *her* immune system up, right?

Aaron was kind of enjoying this attention- the breakfasts in bed, the back scratches, the limitless popsicles, and finally a doctor visit that revolved all around him. Once we got to the doctor, he changed his mind about enjoying his patient status once he realized there was going to be a needle involved. My ears are still ringing from the hysterics.

I should note that at this point I'm going moderately insane. I've been stuck in the house with the kids for three solid days, and the best I can tell, they're training for the Screaming and Arguing Olympics, in which they would surely take gold. With each new chorus of "NO, I'M NOT!", "YES, YOU ARE!", I can feel my brain liquefy just a little bit more. I was tempted to withhold the Tylenol and ibuprofen from Aaron just so he'd get all feverish again and maybe calm down.

At the pediatrician, after swabs and questions and bloodwork and an hour and a half of keeping the littles occupied in an 8x10 room, we had no answers as to what is making Aaron so sick (although miraculously not lowering his volume). I was given a prescription for an antibiotic, off to Target we go.

Of course the mindnumbing bickering starts before I even get them into their carseats, and driving to Target I felt like I was in a fog, and starting to really get depressed that my role as a parent seems to involve nothing more than fixing meals and saying "stop it. ignore her. come back here. leave him alone. be quiet." Waiting for the prescription confirms this, because as I spend approximately 60 seconds talking with another mom, they manage to get unruly to the point of literally dragging each other around on the floor by their arms and running behind the counter at the snack bar. (And, of course, screaming. Always the screaming.) By the time I go to pay for the prescription, I'm absolutely numb. So numb I feel like I barely even registered the shock of how much the antibiotic cost. But I must have been somewhat shocked, because for a half second I apparently gave all of my attention to the ridiculous number on the register at the pharmacy. And when that half second was up, I looked up, and Harper was gone.

Aaron said "she ran off! she went down this way!", and I start looking down aisle after aisle, calling her name louder and louder each time. Within a minute, I'm calling so loudly and frantically that the Target employees (whom I like to think of as family, I'm there so much) figure out what's going on and I hear them call through their radios that there's a CODE YELLOW, and I can hear it echoing through all of the radios around me. Other customers are coming up to me and telling me they just saw her, she went that way, so I head that way, and someone tells me they saw her go the other way, and it seemed like everywhere I turned someone was telling me they had seen her somewhere else. At this point, I am in full on panic, and halfway afraid I'm about to black out. I'm screaming her name and hysterically crying, to the point that when someone asked what she looked like I couldn't even speak, except to choke out "she's little, and she's got a little ponytail on top, and she's without me". I'm just walking down the aisles, sobbing and yelling her name at the top of my lungs with Aaron running next to me asking why I'm crying, and a Target employee right behind me, assuring me we'll find her. I hear crackles over the radios that "we've found her in the men's department", and then "she's in electronics", and then "oh, wait, now she's in the infant section". If you're as familiar with Target as I am, you should know how far those sections are from the pharmacy, and part of me is absolutely horrified at how far she got in that short amount of time, and some little tiny part of me thinks "yep, that's definitely her". I finally walked up to infants and there is a human dragnet of Target employees trying to corral her. When I saw her I went from hysterical to absolutely mortified, although way in the back of my brain I was thinking "see? you guys had a hard time pinning her down with 12 of you! do you know how hard it is with just one of me?"

Harper was thoroughly annoyed that her adventure was over. I picked her up and carried her out, still crying (me, not her), embarrassed at how hysterical I had gotten, and sobbing out thanks to every Target employee I saw. (And at this point they're all still ridiculously nice, offering me help, offering to get me a cart, patting my shoulder and telling me it's okay. I should send them all a Target giftcard.)

We walked out to my car and as I'm tightening the straps on Aaron's carseat, I realize he's been silent for almost 5 minutes, which is unheard of. Probably because no matter what that poor kid does, Harper manages to steal the show.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Nipped in the Bud

Harper has all sorts of "skeeter bites" on her legs and arms. She spends time counting them and showing them off to anyone who will look. The other day she was sitting on my lap with no shirt on while counting her skeeter bites, and looked at her chest and tummy to see if she had any there.

I should add here that I hate the word "nipples". When I was in middle school we had to read out loud in health class, and I got the section where I had to say- in front of a class of 7th graders- nipples. I hated the word before then, but I think that really sealed the deal.

So Harper looks at these two unusual patches of flesh on her chest, and asks "what's that? what is that on my chest?"

Maybe because of my disdain for the word, and my reluctance at hearing it come out of the mouth of a two year old, I couldn't decide if I actually wanted to tell her what they were. I've never been a parent to use proper terminology for body parts with little kids. I'm sure I'm harming them in some way, but I don't really care, because I don't want to hear anyone other than a gynecologist say "vagina", and even then it makes me uncomfortable.

So I asked her "hmm, what do you think they are?"

And she thought for a minute, and said "I think it's schmutz. One, two schmutz", and I laughed out of relief that I got a cute story as opposed to having to say the word nipple.

The next day we were at the pool, and I'm watching Harper from a few feet away have a conversation with one of the dads that was sitting in the pool. She was looking at him pretty closely, and as I walk over to stop her from interrogating the poor man, she leans over and pets the man on his tummy, which is already weird and bordering on inappropriate.

And as I'm a step away, she reaches up and grabs his nipples, and tells him "Look! You got schmutz, too!"


Monday, July 21, 2008

Mea Culpa

I'm a very good apologizer. If Jason were standing next to me right now, he'd shove me off my chair and type in here "NO, SHE'S NOT! DON'T BELIEVE HER! YOU CAN'T WRESTLE AN APOLOGY OUT OF HER WITH A CROWBAR!", but that would just be him being dramatic. Because when you hear an apology from me, you can be sure that I am 100% sincere in my apology, and really feel badly about however I've wronged you, and I am owning up to my own culpability. And if you don't hear an apology from me, well, you can figure out how I feel from that, too.

A couple of months ago Jason and I were getting into one of those hissing, clenched teeth arguments. As usual, it was entirely because we were in a public place and our kids were acting like complete fools. We were tripping over ourselves in embarrassment at our kids' behavior, trying to contain them, trying to make the people around us comfortable (or rather, "less uncomfortable") by not arguing in front of them, and convinced that the other person was handling the situation poorly (me being the correct one in that assertion). After enough hissing and sneering at each other, we separated the kids and got them calmed down, which dissipated all of the anger between us. He came up to me a few minutes later and said sweetly "I'm sorry", to which I responded "thank you".
"'Thank you?' Your response is 'thank you'?"
"Well, I appreciate your apology."
"You don't think an apology back is appropriate?"
"No, because I'm not sorry."

And really, I wasn't, and even though I don't remember what the argument was about, I remain steadfast in my conviction that I was in the right, and therefore didn't need to deliver an apology. I told him thank you, and ended by telling him that I was glad we were finished arguing and that I loved him. And he gave me a kiss and smiled and rolled his eyes at me, and that was that.

A few weeks ago, we were all driving to a friend's house when (of course) the kids started acting like crazy people. Jason and I were already tense from rushing to get out of the house, the kids' screaming and arguing compounds that tension, and then I made a fatal mistake: I let him drive. I am certainly not what ANYONE would call a reckless driver, but letting Jason drive is like letting your nearsighted grandma drive. If that grandma were from a country where they drive on the other side of the road. His driving ability (or lack thereof) is one of our favorite arguments to hash out every few weeks, and always ends with him saying to me "THEN WHY DON'T YOU DRIVE?!", which always wins that argument, because it's not like I shouldn't know this after spending the last decade complaining in the passenger seat. He definitely has a point.

So the car ride over consists of everyone getting increasingly hostile, what with the bickering kids and Jason and me scolding them and my increasing frustration with Jason's driving. I try to bite my tongue regarding the driving, but it's really just building up pressure, and eventually we start sniping about that, too. By the time we're unloading our family from the car, we're flat out arguing; hissing snotty comments to each other while barking at the kids to stop hitting each other. We walk into the party and plaster smiles on our faces, and after a few minutes of pointedly ignoring each other, Jason comes up and gives me a kiss and quietly says "I'm sorry". And I said "thank you for apologizing. I don't want to argue".
He smiled and raised an eyebrow and said "Thank you? Seriously? You don't think you have anything to say 'sorry' for?"


"I'm sorry I let you drive".


Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Aaron and I went last night to pick out his backpack and lunchbox. For him to start kindergarten. Next month. Pass the valium, please.

It took him almost 3 entire seconds to select his backpack.




Behold.



Then on to the lunchbox aisle. Big decisions to be made. What to choose?

Of course.



He was supposed to pick out a thermos, until I found out that they cost $15, and I imagine it would get used precisely twice before it was left behind in the cafeteria, or inadvertently tossed into a trash can. So instead of a thermos, he picked out an ice pack for his lunchbox. In the shape of? Lightning McQueen. This kindergarten preparation has been brought to you by Target and Disney-Pixar.


And maybe a few Kleenex for mommy.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Finest Care That Money Can Buy

We have Really Great Medical Insurance through Jason's work. If you don't believe me, you can ask our insurance company, because just last month when they had their annual meeting to explain why our rates are going up for the 5th straight year, they told Jason that our insurance ranks much higher than average in customer satisfaction. Then they offered a few ways to try to keep health insurance costs down, which namely includes not ever getting sick. Or pregnant.

I mean, sure, we've had a few issues. Like, we have a $500 cap on how much our insurance will provide for wellness benefits. So you have to prioritize whether you want a pap smear or the mammogram your physician recommended, because you can't have both in the same year. Well, I guess you can, but you have to ante up the money for it. It was problematic when Aaron was born, because by the time I was wheeled out of the labor and delivery room, he had already used up far more than his allotted $500 in well care. So to get those pesky immunizations or well-baby visits, you had to go out of pocket. Or you could do what I did, which is to take him down to the county health office for free vaccinations, where all the poor people go that can't afford the Really Great Medical Insurance that we have.

When Harper was born, I came up with a detailed schedule of well visits and immunizations to coincide with new insurance allowances. This schedule relied very heavily on begging her physicians to code her well visits as sick visits, or creating ridiculous excuses to have a sick visit. "She seems to be blinking a lot. I'd feel better if a doctor could see her", and then I'd ask "Oh, while we're here, could you measure her head and growth? Check her anatomy and see if you see anything unusual in her movement or reflexes?"

But those kinds of things are expected, even with our Really Great Medical Insurance. I probably wouldn't have given it a second thought, but since the complication-free, surgery-free delivery of each of my children left us with a bill of $1,800 (per child), I needed to get that paid off before I piled on more medical bills from my healthy kids.

Maybe next year in the cost cutting lecture the insurance company gives, they should mention that a great way to save some cash is to not allow anyone in your family to get boils on their butt, because those suckers are pricey. Of course, it wouldn't save the insurance company any money, because the ER visit is coded as something that our Really Great Insurance doesn't cover until I've met some requirements that I don't completely understand, but I'm fairly certain it involves mortgaging our house. I'm also fairly certain I could have flown with Harper on a plane, gone to Disney World, and bought her a Mickey Mouse doll from the source for less than the bill we just got for that boil. But still, it would be good information to get out there to the masses- save on your health insurance by not getting sick or pregnant, and by all means, remain boil-free.



Thursday, July 10, 2008

Do they have scholarships for this?

Let me preface this post by saying that I have never been concerned about Aaron's physical development, meaning his (in)ability to pick up on sports. I never played any team sports and I feel like I'm moderately well adjusted, so as long as he eventually learns to do things like swim or ride a bike, I couldn't care less if his athletic prowess lies somewhere along the lines of George-Michael (fast forward to 2:45 to see the clip I'm referring to). That being said, I do feel a little badly for the kid when his friends come up showing off trophies from baseball, soccer, etc. Aaron has shown zero interest in playing sports, but does seem a little envious when his friends get to show off their little statues with the miniature golden soccer players. Unfortunately, the pursuits Aaron has chosen don't exactly lend themselves to trophies. Nobody's giving out a trophy for reading, or the most creative use of a pile of Lincoln Logs and Legos. The kid can get onto toy websites, download instructions for how to build a forklift, print the instructions, and build the forklift, but toss that kid a football and I'm not entirely sure he could identify it, much less catch it. I think Jason is a little bit surprised at Aaron's complete and utter disinterest in physical competition, since Jason is the very definition of a "team player", but hey, that kid's half mine, and the apple's going to fall close to one tree or another, right? Since I have no desire to plunk myself down on a bleacher watching sports, the fact that Aaron doesn't play any suits me just fine.

So while other parents clap and cheer for goals or homeruns or baskets, I find other developments far more exciting. Like last year when Aaron learned to lie. Obviously it wasn't something I encouraged, but when I noticed him starting to lie, it always made me chuckle, because frankly, I think it's just so smart. A kid who lies is someone who understands right from wrong, understands consequences for making the wrong choice, but figures he's found a loophole in the "consequences" part by employing a few easy fibs. Feel like whacking Harper over the head? Just do it, and when Mommy asks, say with sincerity "no, I didn't hit Harper", because it's not like she could speak well enough to refute him. All the fun of being bad, minus all the icky punishment! Obviously we disciplined for lying, and he's growing out of it (or he's getting better at it), but I still thought it was so interesting to watch those wheels turn in his brain.

That should explain where I'm coming from with this recent development I thought I was noticing, and was confirmed by Jason today.

My boy is sarcastic.

A couple of weeks ago we were sitting at my desk coloring, and he got to a dried out marker that had the cap only partially on. He looked at the marker a little bit in disgust, and said sweetly "Oh, I'm so happy that the marker's all dried out now. That was really nice of someone to not put the cap back on", and he picked up a new marker with a little eye roll at the same time, and went about his coloring. No dramatics for my benefit, no looking to me for approval, he just truly felt that sarcasm from his soul and let it out.

Last night, Harper was in rare form, and after what seemed like eons of her screaming at the dinner table, Jason took her upstairs to give me and Aaron a break. We could still hear Harper hollering in another room, but our eardrums were appreciating the relative silence. Aaron swallowed a bite of his dinner and said to me with devastating sincerity "boy, Harper's really in a great mood, huh? She's a lot of fun to be around when she's like that, isn't she?", and looked directly at me with a raised eyebrow, waiting for my response. I looked at this unbelievable delivery, the deadpan on Aaron's face, and I burst out laughing and couldn't stop. Uncharacteristically, instead of getting into hysterical laughter himself, he just flashed me a sly smile, satisfied that I had gotten the joke, and went back to eating.

Nothing could please me more. I'm absolutely elated over this development, whereas Jason brought it up to me almost as a cause of concern. Aaron and Jason had been driving home last night when a guy braked to let Jason into his lane. Jason, being Jason, explains to Aaron that it was really nice of that man to let them in their lane, and how it's good to be kind and considerate to others, and basically turned this random act of traffic into a life lesson for Aaron. Aaron said to him "You really mean that the man was nice, don't you? You're not kidding." Jason's story had me even more intrigued, because it shows that Aaron not only understands sarcasm, but is quickly figuring out that Jason is incapable of delivering it. So his little 5 year old brain is receiving "Mommy= read between the lines, Daddy=absolute sincerity".

I have to say I'm more than a little proud that my boy's trying out being a smartass. At least, I'm proud for the time being; I'm sure it'll drive me nuts eventually. Now I need to find him a trophy.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Right Before My Eyes

Just when you're ready to drop them off at the nearest bus station, they go and do something precious. Big day for a little man.






Again, just when you're ready to drop them off at the nearest bus station...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

This one goes to eleven

If volume was any indicator of health, I could have told you by Wednesday afternoon that Harper was feeling right as rain. A physician confirmed this morning that Harper is, in fact, fine, and everything's healing nicely. (And when I made my comment about volume to him, he replied "I don't think that's a good measure. She didn't seem to have any problems creating some volume the other day.") More importantly, he gave me clearance to send her back to daycare, and I practically peeled out of the pediatrician's office to get her there, pronto, since my ears are bleeding from 6 straight days in her company.

Her level of loudness is really only something that can be appreciated if you're around her. And it's not like Aaron is a shrinking violet, so the two of them combined are absolutely deafening. I have yet to meet a daycare teacher, babysitter, family member, person in line at the grocery store, etc. who doesn't comment on two things (and it's the same two things with both of them):

1.Wow, you've got a talker, huh? (And when I say sadly "no, I have two talkers", I always get looks of sympathy. Which I appreciate.)

2. Whew! Nobody's going to ignore that one!

Which means not only is it THAT LOUD, it's THAT LOUD- ALL THE TIME.

We have a friend who comes to visit regularly who wears a hearing aid. It's a really nice hearing aid; it adjusts to the ambient noise in a room automatically and resets itself regularly to recognize new volume levels. I am not kidding when I write that he can't wear it when the kids are around- they're so loud that his earpiece starts giving feedback, and doesn't know what to do- adjust to typical room noise and adult voices, or the frequent screaming and yelling that's as loud as a jet engine? After 5 minutes in their company, the hearing aid just tilts and shuts down, essentially saying, "let me know when normalcy has been restored". If I were him, I'd just take it out entirely while the kids are awake. I think they'd be much more palatable that way.

This should give you an idea of how loud they are: we have motion alarms set on the sofa. When they're disturbed by a dog jumping up on the furniture, they give off a high pitched alarm that sounds for a second or two, to scare the dogs away. Occasionally if the dogs (2 sixty pound mutts) start on a barking frenzy (which only happens when something really awful occurs, like another dog dared to walk on the street by our house, or the postman had the nerve to actually leave mail in our mailbox), the alarms might go off once or twice from the sound. Harper sets those alarms off with her voice a minimum of 6 times a day. Even our 7 year old neighbor, the 3rd loudest kid on the block, dropped her jaw when she realized that. I could see the defeat in that 7 year old's eyes when she realized she couldn't ever hope to achieve the earsplitting shrillness my 2 year old has mastered (having spent the past 28 months being tutored in loudness by her older brother).

A couple of months ago a friend of mine took me to a shooting range to teach me how to use a handgun. He let me use his ear protection, which was a fancy set of headphones that had a microphone worked into it somehow, so when he would speak to me, I could hear him perfectly. When anything louder than a speaking voice sounded, the microphone cut off automatically, so that gunshots were muffled. I can't stop thinking about those headphones lately. I crave them. I need a pair to wear around the house. If they sold them at Target, I'd already have them (and in fact, I'd be wearing them right now). It was the first time I had ever shot a handgun, and I think I did pretty well (and I hope he doesn't post here and contradict me). I'm convinced it's because compared to a day in the company of my children, a room full of weapons firing is relatively soothing.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Boil Watch 2008

Disgusting.

Regardless, Harper went to the pediatrician this afternoon and had her packing removed. She screamed herself hoarse, although this time it was Jason on duty. Mommy's nerves needed a break. Oh, note for the future: tylenol with codeine does not equal automatic naptime for Harper, which is really depressing. She refuses to let us take off her "blace-lek" (the hospital bracelet). Fine, suit yourself, I'll do anything to keep her from screaming and crying any more. We're not even going to discuss what her diet's been like the past couple of days.

She had no fever at all, which is definitely good. The doctor said it looks better, but still pretty bad. He didn't replace the packing. She has to go back in Thursday morning so (his words) "we'll have time to get a surgeon Thursday afternoon before the weekend if we need one". Yikes.

Her wound bleeds like crazy as soon as you take the bandage off. We have to sit her in a warm bath to soak it a few times a day, and I spend most of the bath on a stool with my head between my knees trying not to lose consciousness from the sight of it.

I try not to think about how much therapy she'll need in the future to overcome this fanny trauma.


Whirlwind

This is how Sunday started:





And this is how it ended:








And it all started with a pimple, which Harper has been happy to tell everyone.

"Hi! I have a pimple on my bottom. (insert dejected martyr voice here, and downcast eyes with a pout for days) But I'm okay."

This little pimple on her fanny from last week developed into a massive boil, and by Sunday evening, Harper had a raging fever. We called the pediatrician and they told us to go to the ER, so we now have "first hospital visit" off our list of stuff to do. I'm exhausted and don't feel like writing much, but the summary is that I had to hold her down while they cut her bottom and packed it open, and she screamed the entire time. At the end, she got a popsicle and a new Mickey Mouse doll (which she hasn't put down), and they didn't even offer me a shot of whiskey or anything.

She's still going to the doctor every day to monitor it and change the packing, I have somehow been elected the Person In Charge Of Changing The Grody Bandage On The Screaming Child. I'm hoping and expecting this to just resolve over the week, but I'm still pretty worried and stressed.

I will say that the worry and stress about this big zit has me in absolute awe of any parent with a chronically ill or special needs child, or the parents of children who have had to go through real surgeries or hospital admissions. Hats off, and hearts out.