Archive for January, 2016


The Boo has always been reluctant to tell us about school. If we ask him directly, “What happened at school?” he will make a game of saying “I don’t know” or “It’s a secret.” Even when I try to be sly about it and ask open-ended questions like “Who brought snack?” or “Who was class leader?” he will often dodge or shrug. Ah, the joys of being four. You have so little power that you get very creative about wielding what little you have.

But last week, something changed. We were having lunch at home and I had been talking about something that was sad (I think). Then he looked at me with the Face of Seriousness and said, “I cried at school today Mama. For real.”

A miracle occurred and I kept a straight face (the Face of Seriousness is somehow very funny to me). Then I said, “Really? Tell me more about that.” (Yes I really did speak like a therapist — it was the first prompt that came to me and I was desperate to keep the conversation going.)

“Tinkerbell (not her real name) told me to stay in the house.”

“Huh. Why did she say that?”

“She had to go shopping. I wanted to go with her but she said to stay in the house and that hurt my feelings.”

Here I should explain that Tinkerbell is his best buddy at school, and the first kid he has had a deep connection with. They are so close that people make jokes about them getting married. For real.

We talked a bit more about the House Incident, finished our lunch, cleared our places and had time to play before rest time. Then he piped up again, with another Serious Face.

“Mama, I’m worried about kindergarten.”

“Why are you worried, sweetheart?”

“I don’t want to be away from you for a long time. And I won’t be able to be
with Tinkerbell.”

Yikes. A year and a half of radio silence and now two big emotional bombs in the space of an hour. I guess this is what They refer to as growth happening in fits and starts.

“Well honey, you won’t go to kindergarten for a long time. And it’s true you probably won’t be with Tinkerbell, but you can still play with her sometimes and be her friend. The other thing is, you’ll meet new kids, and some of those kids will become your friends. ”

He thought about that for a bit and asked, “Will my teachers be there?”

Lordy. He really is taking after me in the emotional attachment department. “No, you will have different teachers. But I bet they will be really nice just like your teachers are now.”

We continued in this vein for a while, with him worrying and me reassuring. I guess he’s making up for lost time — and on the whole, I’d rather have a kid who talks to me than one who clams up.

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imageDuring my years in the advertising industry (and yes it was exactly like Mad Men, suckers!) I picked up the phrase “pay yourself first.” I’ve adopted it as one of my Mama mantras, though in my world the payments are made in time and energy instead of money.

Case in point: I just quit one of the best bands I’ve ever been in. It was the perfect setup for me: someone else running it, two rehearsals or so a month, gigs 3 or 4 times a year. But even with that low level of involvement, I felt like I was scrambling to find the time to learn my parts. Shows were stressful because I never felt as prepared as I wanted to be. And since little kids don’t sleep in, I spent two days recovering from staying up past my bedtime.

So when the first “let’s rehearse” email of the year came through, I spent a few days pondering what to do. I loved rehearsing with the guys. All interesting, great musicians and lovely people. But that, I realized, was all I really loved about it. And meanwhile, projects I’ve been meaning to start have gone untouched. So I called the band leader, explained my reasons, and quit.

I pay myself first in small ways, too. One morning when the Boo woke me up at 5, I was feeling particularly harried. I set a ten-minute timer and told my kid I needed some privacy until the timer rang. And then I locked myself in the bathroom.

After my three-minute makeup routine, I set about filing my nails. Seriously, they were ragged. A couple of times, I heard him call for me from his room. I went on filing my nails. He came and knocked on the door, saying he needed me. I said I would be out soon. He went away, came back, knocked again. I repeated myself.

The timer went off soon after that, and it turns out my son had knocked because he wanted me to play a new, particularly silly game with him. So I did, wholeheartedly, which I wouldn’t have been able to do had I not paid myself first.

It’s impossible to say whether quitting the band will lead to me publishing my first book. But I know that taking even small bits of time for myself gives me the energy reserves I need to be a better mom. And obviously I can’t always pay myself first — no one can/that’s just life/suck it up.

But that’s why there are cartoons, darlings! And venting sessions with other parents! And wine!

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 Sunday morning, as most mornings since Christmas, you ask me, “Do you want to build a power circuit, Mama?” You mean you want to play with your Snap Circuit set, undoubtedly your most favorite toy ever, and the first plaything that has held your interest for long stretches. 

Naturally, I say yes. I would love to build a power circuit, which one do you want to build?

Sunday afternoon, as always, is prime bath time, but lately you’ve been resisting the whole getting clean in the tub thing. So I have a strategy in place. 

“Would you like to clean your bath toys?” 

You are excited about this idea because it involves a spray bottle. I fill it with Special Bath Toy Cleaning Liquid (water, a squirt of Dawn, plus the “magic ingredient” of a few shakes of salt). You quickly decide you should be naked for your task. Once that’s achieved you set to work, then shift to running experiments (you’ve been watching a lot of Bill Nye the Science Guy and listening to Here Comes Science by They Might Be Giants pretty much nonstop.). 

Later you decide that you should  step out of the tub, put a towel over your head, and yell, “chemical reaction” over and over. Eventually, we wash your hair and body, and I still have to coax you away from your toy cleanin/science experiments over an hour after we started. 

Monday morning brings a big decision: what to bring for Show and Share. You had settled on your baby monitor because you wanted to see what would happen if you turned it on at school. At the last minute, you switch to a Lego-like vehicle you call “Katy” after the protagonist of Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton, your current favorite book. 

Afternoon snack time at home is a good time to slyly extract information about your school day. I inquire about Show and Share and you tell me your friends asked if Katy was a storm trooper. Then you tell me you said yes.

Tuesday morning school prep goes off without too much strife, though I have to turn off the giant piano you got for Christmas to get you to put your socks and boots on. I consider relocating the giant piano. 

We read The Lorax before your rest time. You love the part where the sludge from the Sneed factory goes into the pond. I decide not to press the point that this is a very bad development for the humming fish, because you love the book so much. 

You emerge from your afternoon rest time in a state I can only describe as highly emotional. You are whiny and want me to carry you everywhere and burst into tears when you have trouble selecting a cartoon. I am flummoxed. Grammie texts me about coming over early for book club and I say yes please, now would be great thank you.

As I prep to host what you call “the ladies” you hang out with Grammie and “help” me make brownies and spinach dip. When I change from loungewear into real pants and a more presentable Tshirt/sweater combo, you declare that I look great for the ladies. 

Daddy puts you to bed as the ladies arrive, but summons me when there is a crisis involving a crying jag. It turns out that Katy, the Lego-like toy you took to Show and Share, is missing a part. This is a crisis because you sleep with Katy and she has to have the right parts to protect her. You are also begging to come say goodnight to the ladies. I locate the part on the floor and fix her up for you. You beg again to come downstairs. I say no, again, knowing how a trip downstairs will rile you up, and promise that you can meet them another time. I give you bunches of kisses, and Katy blows kisses to me as Daddy starts reading the Katy book to you.

One of the ladies brings a play tent her kids have outgrown. I set it up in your play area after the ladies leave. In the morning you immediately crawl in and declare yourself to be the queen of the castle (maybe because it’s pink and purple?). Later you refer to yourself as the Prince of the Morning Pajamas. Then you take the tent poles apart and collapse it so you can “get into the attic.”

We have time before school to read the Lorax, which has knocked  Katy off the current favorite book pedestal. We pause for a discussion about why the brown Bar-ba-loots have crummies in their tummies and what it’s like to not have enough to eat. 24 hours after hearing the book for the first time, you listen to the pollution messages with a look of concern.

And that, my friends, is what life is like with the Boo. 


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  You had your third Christmas. 

You were introduced to the idea that you can ask Santa to bring you specific things. 

You once again gave Santa a wide berth at the mall, gripping Mama’s hand tightly and saying “I don’t want to look at him, Mama.”

You wrote Santa a letter (using Mama as a scribe) for the first time. You asked for a lava lamp and a water gun. You added a “please” after Mama suggested making it a polite request. 

You had a young house guest to play with. You got on beautifully together, which made the adults very happy. You did a lot of painting with her, vying for space and smearing a glue stick over her creations. Now that she’s gone, the easel is feeling neglected. 

You were sick for about half your holiday break, so you watched more cartoons than usual, introducing your houseguest to Totoro.

You spent tons of time playing with your cousins, disappearing with them into Grammie’s basement for long stretches. 

You did a great job taking turns opening presents with your cousins – it was the first year you had to do that.

You went on the Polar Express train ride with the whole family. You rejected the hot chocolate in favor of water, but you loved the cookie. You and Mama both found the music to be shockingly loud. But Mama was even more shocked that you peeled yourself away from her to get up and dance with your cousins.

You received a Snap Circuits set, which you were instantly and intensely fascinated with. It has taken up permanent residence on the dining room table. Even two weeks later, you still ask to build a “power circuit” almost every morning. 

You received Here Comes Science by They Might Be Giants (CD and DVD set). It’s currently in heavy rotation in the car and DVD player. Your favorites so far are “Meet the Elements” and “Electric Car.”

You received several Junior Legos sets, which you are surprisingly adept at putting together. 

You mentioned missing a classmate (only one, your best buddy) exactly one time. 

You were delighted and amazed that Santa came through with the gifts you requested. 

You went to the science center as a gift from your uncle – and you’ve been asking to go back ever since.

You were not excited about the idea of returning to school. 

You had your third Christmas. It was your best one yet. 

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