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We don’t need a hose repair kit, we can fix it with epoxy.

It’s been precisely calibrated.

I’m flying an X-wing. You’re in the Millennium Falcon. Is your rear gun charged?

What day is it?

How many days until the next holiday?

How many minutes until it’s 6?

Can I watch YouTube since you’re down here with me?

Have you seen the key for my tool box lock?

Mom! Mom! Mom!

I was reading about BB-8 on the bus.

First grade is EASY!

The librarian said I need to practice reading on my own since I’m in first grade.

I don’t! Need! A shower!

I didn’t do it! I promise! I’m honest!

I don’t want any of that. How about Cheerios?

It isn’t fair!

You’re the WORST!

I love you.

You are six years old.

You have lost two teeth, and three more are loose.

You believe in the tooth fairy, but are a little uneasy about her coming into your room while you’re sleeping.

You are not sure if you believe in Santa, because “flying reindeer just don’t make sense.”

You know about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., segregation, and miscegenation.

You are super into your Ninja class, and get really excited when you watch American Ninja Warrior clips.

You love playing Uno and Uno Attack; you often ask to play with Mama before school. And before bedtime. And before and after supper.

You want to play with just one or two school friends. That doesn’t surprise Mama, as she was the same way. And still is, pretty much.

You’re a great reader, though you prefer to have Mama and Daddy read to you at home. Writing has been a challenge, but is going better since your teacher asked you to write about Ninja class. You love math.

You recently decided to ride the school bus, much to Mama’s surprise and delight. You get on with a neighbor buddy and say that the number of stops is “not too bad.”

You enjoy watching “Moana,” “Sing” and “Frozen,” and sing the songs from the movies, usually while doing something else.

You refuse to try fish sticks, chicken nuggets, cheese pizza, mac & cheese or hot dogs.

You think you are still too young to watch “Star Wars.”

You have learned how to make yourself burp. You swear you’re not doing it on purpose.

You have become interested in WWII because of a documentary about what’s hidden under London that you’ve watched three times because “it’s SO good.”

You LOVE ice skating but don’t want to take lessons.

You still react badly to unexpected changes in plan.

You yell at Mama if she tries to help with your math homework.

You celebrated your birthday with the usual assortment of family plus a few preschool friends. You helped pick out the decorations (red-and-white check) and plates and flatware. You insisted on making your cookie cake from scratch.

You enjoyed opening presents so much that you kept asking for more presents.

You had a half day of school on your birthday, so after Mama helped your celebrate at school, you decided what to do with your afternoon. You wanted to see the babies that were born on your birthday, so we went to the hospital where you were born (we only saw a few babies; they must all stay with their moms now). You also wanted to see the NICU (where you spent 12 hours as a precaution), and the office where Mama went for her checkups. We visited your old preschool, and got to see your teachers and check out recent changes to the space. We also went to Mama and Daddy’s office, where you met some of our work buddies, saw our workspaces, and drew on Daddy’s whiteboard.

You are six, and every day, you live up to what we say about you: “he’s five going on 50.” Though now it’s six going on 60.

This morning I realized that none of us took any photos of the Boo opening presents. I also realized that I am not sad about that.

All three of the adults in the house were sick, or recovering from sickness, on Christmas morning. I woke up with vertigo, so it was all I could do to hang on to the walls as I shuffled to and from the couch. My mom took care of the Boo (and me) while he opened presents and Daddy slept off yet another day of The Flu That Would Not Die. Then I went back to bed when the Dramamine sent me spiraling down to La-La Land. But because I had almost literally dragged myself to the couch, I got to see the Boo open presents, which was enjoyable even with waves of nausea and a spinning head. So I don’t feel like I missed all that much.

It’s true that on occasion we like to go back through photos of past Christmases. But we do that so rarely that I’m not sure I’ll miss having photos of this particular Christmas, the particular wrapping paper and presents and reactions (and with an iPhone camera, we usually miss the best shots). And it occurs to me that relying on our memories may be just as good, or even better, in terms of conjuring the feelings we get when we look at photos. That’s what we’re after anyway, right? Recapturing those pleasurable moments of seeing and experiencing the joy of family members receiving gifts?

And here’s another bonus: Without having a phone in front of our faces, scrambling for the perfect shot, we were really there, fully present and feeling everything. Without photos to focus on, we will talk to each other, our faces reflecting the shared experience, and maybe amplifying it.

So yeah, I’m not sad about not having photos from Christmas 2017.  I may even make it a new family tradition.

Galloping

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With my great grandmother during my pre-galloping phase.

Since I started an office job, I feel like I am galloping toward a finish line that keeps moving farther away. Sometimes I can see the finish line, sometimes I can’t. But always, I am galloping. Or trotting, or if I’m lucky, walking. But I’m always moving, always feeling like I will fall behind if I rest.

A month after my son started kindergarten I went back to working outside the home. (I won’t say I became a working mom – that’s a bullshit term, because we all know every mom works.) It is a perfect job situation for me, which is why I said yes please, I want to wear a badge that must be visible at all times and fight traffic every morning and afternoon. I will endure the pain of shopping for office pants because it means I get to write and use my brain and think about new ideas and talk to grownups about these new ideas and have them be happy I am there with my ideas.

After I drop my son at school, I go to the office. When I leave the office, I go to pick up my son. Sometimes he plays on the playground after school, and I sit on a bench and watch him and his friends and think about when it will be time to start galloping again. Or I chat with another mom (not being sexist – it is almost always another mom, or a nanny) and many times we talk about what kind of galloping we need to do when we get home.

When I get home, the galloping starts. Unpack the lunches, start or move laundry, look in the backpack and think about what needs to be turned in tomorrow. Is there an overdue library book under a bed somewhere? Man, there are a ton of dishes in the sink. Load the dishwasher, start it, change into loungewear, start a load of laundry, explain to child that I cannot take him to the playground in my house pants, text husband about supper, start cooking noodles for the little boy who will eat little else or try to talk him into eating one of the three other things he will eat. Prep lunches for tomorrow, check lunch supplies and if we’re low on fruit, cut up half a dozen apples and maybe rinse and portion out some grapes. Take time to play with or read to my son, maybe put on real pants and walk to the playground, then home for supper and the galloping toward bedtime.

Bedtime is its own kind of galloping, sometimes full of negotiations so insane they warrant their own post. But it’s always sweet at the end, that last kiss, that one more hug please Mama. Yes honey, I will gladly give you one more hug, because I love you to bits and I know one day you will stop asking for them.

After bedtime, there may be more galloping if I didn’t get lunches prepped or laundry needs to be moved along or or or. Really, I would like to watch something with stunning cinematography or great writing and pretty clothes, preferably set in England or France, but that will have to wait for a night I have insomnia. I need to talk to my husband about half a dozen things, and if I am lucky I will remember half of them. Do we want to go to the school benefit or just write a check, oh hey the chimney sweep finally got back to me, did you call the plumber? Damn, I forgot to call the pediatrician/pharmacy/trash company. We’re out of peanut butter/bread/frozen waffles again, I’ll make a Target run tomorrow. Hm, wonder what else we’re out of, let me look. Chips… the other kind of chips… Goldfish…Oh god the babysitter never texted me back I’ll ping her right now. I’d really like to have a date night/get together with my mom friends/catch up with my aunt up in Michigan, maybe I should make a list of calls and emails for tomorrow. Pen. Pen. Where’s my favorite pen? Did that kid run off with it…oh yes here it is on his desk along with my favorite Sharpie… with the cap off. Add that to the Target list then and make a note to HIDE THE NEW SHARPIES.

Then bed. But first I must read because that is my thing and this is one time I can do it without interruption. Reading before sleep, until everything gets very heavy. Pure bliss, even when I am reading something horrifying.

Morning. Up at 5 a.m. so I can have a cup of tea, do some yoga and shower before the boy wakes up. This is my time before the galloping begins, and making sure I get it makes me a better mom, so I peel myself out of bed and pray my son will stay asleep for another hour and a half. Breakfast, coffee, good morning sweetheart, kiss the top of a five-year-old head, toast some waffles, here are your vitamins, yes you have time for one show, it’s time to get dressed, brush teeth, please put on your socks and shoes, if you want a lunch it’s sitting on the counter please put on your socks and shoes, socks, please. Socks. And then shoes. Where’s your lunch honey?

School drop off. Drive to work. Work. Drive to school, drive home, unload the 88 bags and random things and maybe groceries. Time to start galloping again. The finish line is still moving. Oh shit, the finish line will always be moving. I will never cross the finish line. I will always be galloping.

Run, Boo, Run!

We signed the Boo up for a series of kids’ have fun/be healthy races, and the first one was two weeks ago. Friends, that one race alone was worth the entire registration fee, because little kids running equals Super Hilarious Fun Times. 

It’s a very sweet organization, staffed by very sweet college students. Prior to the race, the kids are split into their age groups and go with a set of coaches for warm-ups. We walked the Boo over and he said goodbye to us happily — a positive side effect of having a month of kindergarten under his belt, perhaps. 

From afar, we could see him doing what he was told, or trying to — we haven’t taught him how to do jumping jacks, so that was giggle-inducing. Red light/green light was no problem, though.  He spent some time holding the hand of one of the female coaches, and soon it was time to line up for his age group’s race. 

A few younger groups ran before the Boo’s group, and again, super entertaining. If you’ve never seen three-year-olds running a race, you haven’t lived. Or laughed. 

The distance for the Boo’s age group is a quarter of a mile, which turns out to be once around the soccer field, plus a tiny bit more. He lined up with the other boys (girls run separately) and was looking off to the side somewhere when they said, “ready set go!” so he got a late start. We think he was expecting them to say “on your marks, get set, go” like we do at home, but it’s also possible he was just spacing out because a) late afternooon goofiness, and b) he’s kind of distractable. 

He smiled and waved at us going into the first turn. He seemed to be flagging about halfway through, but a coach running with the stragglers (of which he was one) encouraged him and he kept plugging along. 

He went off-course coming into the home stretch. 

He finished second from last. 

He was beaming after the race and said he had a lot of fun. 

Mission accomplished. 

You started kindergarten. 

You enjoyed the poem and magic sleep confetti the teacher sent home the day before school started, but asked if it would really help you sleep or it was “just silly.” (You put a few pieces under your pillow anyway.) Mama said we’d have to see in the morning, and then put some under her pillow too. She woke up at 3. You slept like a champ. 

You said you were nervous when Mama asked how you were feeling at breakfast. When she asked what you were nervous about, you expressed concern about how soon you would get to visit the playground. Mama told you to ask your teacher. 

You also said, a bit later, that you were worried you would miss Mama and would cry. Mama told you it’s fine to miss her, and fine to cry. Then she said she would miss you too, and even if it was a tough day, she knew you could do it. 

You were distressed that Daddy couldn’t walk in with us (he had to park the car super far away). But Mama convinced you to go in without him by promising that he would catch up with us. 

You put your lunch in your cubby, found your name tag on one of the tables, put it on, and sat down. 

You were so involved in chatting with a classmate that you didn’t notice daddy come in. 

You were happy to do the special kindergarten goodbye with Mama, (three hugs, three double high fives, “Let’s do this!” and “I love you! Bye!”) You did not get upset when she walked out. 

You said you had a “medium-ish good” day at pickup time. This was due to some kind of misunderstanding about washing your hands at lunchtime. Later you upgraded the day to “great.”

You said everyone was really nice, and that you made a best friend. 

You wanted to play on the big kids playground after school, so we did that, and then you ate voraciously in the car on the way home. 

You were pretty goofy between suppertime and bedtime, but nothing out of the ordinary. 

You started kindergarten, and we are very proud of you. 

Kindergarten. It’s coming. Less than two weeks from today in fact, in the middle of August, because that’s how they roll where we live. The start of school feels like an overlord, dictating much of what we do during the last few weeks of unstructured time. There are supplies to buy and preschool buddies to meet up with a few more times and fun stuff to do to distract my kid from the pain of what’s coming. Herewith, ten snapshots of living with the Start of School Overlord, because I tried and tried to come up with some clever metaphor for how these weeks are going and feeling, and it just didn’t work.

1. The Boo has been to his new school half a dozen times, and I’ve told him as much as I can about what to expect. But still, he is afraid. He keeps saying he doesn’t want to go because he wants to stay with me. Then the other day he put a twist on it, declaring tearfully that he wants me to stay with him at school all day.

2. I took him to pick out a new backpack because his preschool one is too small to fit a file folder — oh my God do kindergarteners do homework?! Anyway. He was interested in anything but the backpacks, unresponsive when I asked if he liked this one or that one. He’s in denial, I thought, and I patiently put a couple of reasonable choices right smack in front of him. He chose one with outer space stuff all over it. Inside, on the part that will rest on his back, it says “I am invincible.”

3. I keep thinking about the sand at the Boo’s preschool. Sand in a massive area on the playground, sand in small boxes on the play terrace off the classrooms. Sand that would not stop coming out of his shoes no matter how viciously I smacked them on the blacktop. It blanketed the carpet in my car on the many days I forgot to dump it out of his shoes before he got in. Even when I did dump it out, it would fall out of his socks and drop from between his toes as he gleefully cleaned them on the way home, giggling and tickling his own feet. It was everywhere, it drove me nuts, and midway through his final year at the school, I began to realize how soon I’d be free of The Sand. There is no sand at his kindergarten. And then I realized there will probably always be sand in the carpet of my car, so part of his preschool will be with us as long as we have this car. And then I started crying.

4. Ugh, my dreams, all variations on the theme of not being able to find or help my kid. Sometimes I can see him, sometimes not, but I’m trying to get to him, and failing. Once I dreamed that I took him to one of my college classes with me but didn’t bring anything for him to do or eat. Thanks, subconscious, for the subtle hint!

5. I asked the Boo about a month ago if he wanted to go shopping for a special outfit for the first day of school. He said, “Why would I want to do that?”

6. One day at a park the mother of a toddler asked me, “What’s it like getting ready for Kindergarten?” and I just started laughing.

7. The Boo has regressed a bit, mostly in terms of how he handles being upset and being told no. One day he screamed at me because I went up the basement steps too far in front of him. Yikes, I thought, is my kid possessed? Around that time a Facebook friend posted an article on ways redirect and defuse temper tantrums in three- and four-year-olds, and I’ve been using the techniques with some success. And sometimes I just have to let him spin out for a while. It’s exhausting.

8. We met one of the kindergarten teachers at the school during a play date event. Just after we introduced ourselves, the Boo was hit on the head by a water bottle being tossed around by a couple of older kids. The teacher calmly but firmly told them to cut it out. Later when I asked the Boo what he thought of the teacher he said, “She’s nice! She was even nice when she was telling those kids to stop throwing the bottle!”

9. The Boo knows about homeschooling and he’s pretty sure he wants to be an engineer. The other day he asked me, “Can I do homeschooling and still be an engineer or will I still have to go to college?”

10. Yesterday afternoon, after we ran through our Kindergarten goodbye ritual, the Boo asked me to pretend to be all his teachers in turn. He got the list of teachers we keep on the fridge and I went into the closet to transform into each one. I did a one-minute mock gym, art, music and Spanish class, then turned back into myself and said, “How was your day?” “Good!” he said. 

I'm over 40. I'm raising a first grader. Hear me roar.

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