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“I think it’s a preemptive strike for starting Kindergarten.”

My husband gave me a doubtful look. All three of us were snuggled on the bed, with the Boo nestled as close to me as he could get. He’d been tearily bemoaning this week’s summer camp experience: There are different teachers! Different kids! I really missed you Mama and then I was just really sad! He told me he was sad until they went out to the playground. That’s two solid hours of sadness. He told me he couldn’t stop crying and I cringed as I told him I still remember how scary that felt to me as a kid. 

His deluge of emotion took us by surprise because he’s going to summer camp at the preschool he’s attended for the past three years, and he has several close school buddies there with him. But then I thought, maybe he’s practicing for Kindergarten by going through all the same mechanisms he’ll need to cope with that sea change in a few months. Kind of like anticipatory grief, a recognized syndrome that I experienced when my dad died, slowly, following a massive stroke. 

The Boo is keenly aware that his school days are on the horizon — he enjoys looking at the calendar to see what’s already happened and what’s coming up, and his first day of school is already marked in red Sharpie. We’ve visited the school for his skills assessment (!) and we drive by to say hi to the building every now and then. 

When I told him they have a preview day so he can meet his teacher and find his classroom, he said, “Why would I want to do that?” When I asked if he wanted to shop for a first day of Kindergarten outfit, he shouted “No!” in an offended tone and then asked why I had suggested it. 

Thinking back, these are telling reactions, and classic kid strategy: If I hide my face, you can’t see me. If I refuse to acknowledge the idea of starting school, it won’t happen. I can’t hear you, LA LA LA! Kindergarten starts in roughly eight weeks, and there’s so much he doesn’t understand about it that it may as well be a trip to Mars. But summer camp is happening right now, providing a handy proving ground for What To Do When Things Change. 

My child’s strategies this week have consisted mostly of what I think of as the Velcro Goodbye. On Tuesday morning he begged to stay with me; I nearly had to drag him out of the car. In the classroom, he needed at least a dozen hugs and snuggles and kisses, asking for “one more” over and over through near-sobs. I wiped his tears away and then put a tissue in his pocket in case he needed it later. The whole process took about 15 minutes (whereas last week he turned to play 30 seconds after we walked in). I managed to hold it together while I was with him, but fell apart as soon as I walked out of the building and spent the rest of the day wandering around in a headachey daze.

Wednesday morning was better, but he was still teary and wanted me to stay in his classroom to cuddle with him and then give him umpteen hugs and then wipe his tears and then give him a tissue to put in his pocket. 

Thursday morning, I had to scurry back to the house for an appointment, so I prepared him for a shorter Velcro Goodbye. He wasn’t happy about it, but he did it. No tears, maybe five minutes of cuddling and five hugs (we counted them down together) and then he turned to play with another boy as I was leaving. 

All week, I’d been giving the Boo pep talks and telling him I know he can handle this challenge. I was honestly a little frustrated that my brainwashing wasn’t working. But now, because he did the grunt work of getting through it, he knows he can handle it.

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Last week I went to the Boo’s school open house, a lovely event where parents talk to teachers and learn more about what their kids have been up to. One of my favorite things about the evening is seeing the kids’ art, so I eagerly scanned the walls. This year, they’re doing self portraits. Here is the Boo’s:

As I saw it next to depictions of fully articulated hairdos and facial features, disappointment washed over me. We all stood around saying nice things about the drawings, and about the Boo’s, someone said, “Oh! Those are nostrils! That’s great!” So kind, really. I muttered something about my kid not being interested in drawing. Then one of the teachers said he’d been very willing to try. It was awkward, at least for me.

The morning after the open house, I asked the Boo a few open-ended questions about his self-portrait, and he answered them in a matter-of-fact way. Turns out that parent was right, those are nostrils. I sat there thinking about how nice it is that he’s cool with his drawing skills, and my mind wandered to the things he does well.

He can explain how an electric circuit works. He tells me (often) when I’ve skipped a word in a story he last heard a month ago. He is proficient with a screwdriver. He knows the French words for head, nose, eye and bottom, and most of the words to a Japanese children’s song.

And here’s the deal – I know that my child is mainly interested in drawing as it pertains to practical applications, like watching me sketch a diagram of a three-point turn:


Oh look, my little apple fell right next to the tree.

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Down the Rabbit Hole

The title of this post is where I’ve been for the past few weeks. See, when I was asked to helm fundraising for my kid’s school this year, I came up with this great idea. A wine tasting, I told the board. It’ll be fun, and we should make a decent amount of money, I told the board. And no one will have to buy or sell wrapping paper, I told the board.  

And then the board said go, my child, and make it happen. 

And then I realized how much work it was going to be. And I gave thanks for my hastily assembled committee, who stepped forward in playrooms and parking lots, with full-time jobs and eight months pregnant with Number Three. Volunteers, like me. Moms, like me. All willing to spend hours cold-calling for donations, like me. I don’t know if they’re losing sleep over it like I am, though. I want it to be a great event. I want to be able to put it on my resume and talk about it with pride. 

Now, a mere month after I sold the board on my idea, we have a decent number of auction items. We have strategized while sitting on the benches outside our amazing little school.  We’ve sold half the tickets. We have parents who are excited about coming out to sip (and hopefully spend). We selected the wines yesterday, and they are dee-licious. It’s all pretty cool. And none of it would have happened without the efforts of my committee. 

My friends, countless schools, places of worship, hospitals, libraries, and golly knows what else are supported by the efforts of (mostly) women like us. We may be delaying getting back to the workforce to help out, or we may be volunteering on top of working and momming. Either way, we are donating our time and energy and smarts and earning potential. We are donating ourselves.

Go, my children, and thank a volunteer today. Better yet, become one. 

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A few nights ago we had a hellacious storm roll through at 3 a.m., a grand finale to three days of pouring rain that brought cooler temperatures and skyrocketing mold levels. It is exceedingly rare that the Boo wakes up during a storm, but this time the thunder shook the house and he emerged from his room, agitated and wide awake. 
I crawled into his bed with him and once the thunder subsided, kissed him and left. All was well until the next line of storms came through about half an hour later. He did try to go back to sleep on his own, but the continuing light show and his anticipation of more thunder was too much. Also, he suddenly became pregnant with two small bears, and who can sleep in that last trimester, right? And then he got hungry – a syndrome I understand, having eaten more than a few bowls of 4 a.m. cereal during my own sleepless nights. 

And so down we went, Cheerios for him, Honey Nut Cheerios for me, nearly silent, bathed in the glow of the dimmest light in the kitchen as the rain beat on the windows. It was peaceful and simple, and as much as I wanted to be sleeping, I looked over at my boy, planted a kiss on his head and thought, “Remember this. This is a Moment.” Days later, I realized why: the light, feeding him, the wee hours all took me back to his newborn days. Four-ish years ago, and four nights ago, the simple acts of cuddling him and feeding him brought deep contentment and satisfaction. 

We finished our cereal and the Boo fell asleep about an hour later, shortly after declaring, “I can’t rest because there’s nothing for me to do.” We were both a mess the next day, but that sweet kitchen moment kept swimming up to soften the rough edges.

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You are four and a half years old. 

You asked, very casually, about the box below, “Why does it say ‘go’ on there?” 

You are in heaven when your Daddy takes apart something electronic for you. Usually this happens on weekends. 

You enjoyed summer camp, though you declined to go in the sprinkler even on super-hot days. 

You inherited a floaty from a good friend, and now you are plunging into the pool, intentionally dunking yourself, asking Mama to dunk you, and opening your eyes underwater. These are new developments in your swimming career.

You have recently discovered U2 (Daddy), Green Day (Mama), Blondie (Mama again), and Fleetwood Mac (the car USB on shuffle).

You started having bad dreams, or at least started talking about them (but only a bit because you believe talking about them will make them come back). The most recent one involved a bad car, a house alarm, and the inability to run or talk.

You are newly afraid of the dark, and require your chair to be draped and your closet closed at bedtime. 

You sleep through fireworks and thunderstorms. 

You clipped your own toenails last week — and did a very decent job, without drawing blood. 

You still wear a diaper at night, and have told Mama that you pee in it as soon as you wake up. 

You have expanded your diet a tiny bit and are now willing to eat cantaloupe, green beans and nutritional yeast, which Mama plans to use as a gateway to cheese. The big shocker was your request to try a fish stick, which you didn’t like, but agreed to try another day with lemon. 

You have lost your zest for scrubbing toilets, but you still enjoy helping Mama vacuum and view working with cleanser as a privilege. 

You are continuing your love affair with My Little Pony, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Peg + Cat. Justin Time and Ready Jet Go are new discoveries, and you’ve circled back to Word World and Octonauts. Most days, you still watch less than two hours of TV.

You traded your long-neglected easel for a “science table” which tends to be heaped with whatever you’re fiddling with. Right now, it’s egg cartons, scissors, a screwdriver, two rolls of blue painter’s tape, empty water bottles completely wrapped in painter’s tape, paint stir sticks intermittently wrapped in painter’s tape, and bits of string and drinking straws you decided to cut into very short pieces. Mama’s just happy you’re using the space and enjoying yourself. 

You are trying out stronger ways of asking for what you want, e.g., “Mama you have to get me a snack NOW!” Mama never tires of finding new ways to say, “Would you like to rephrase that?” Her hands-down favorite is the raised eyebrow. 

You recently visited a farm, where your favorite thing was turning the electric water pump on so you could test all the sprinklers. Your second favorite thing was the robotic vacuum cleaner, or maybe the waffles the lady of the house made.

You are four and a half years old, and you are still very snuggly, just with pointier elbows. 

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We picked out a card we knew Daddy would enjoy — it referenced heavy metal and made lots of buzzy noise. He loved it. 

We went to take care of Grammie’s yard before it got too hot. You loved it. 

We went to the grocery store to pick up a few of daddy’s favorite treats, and you picked out his favorite juice. He loved that.

You woke Daddy up with a sweet “good mornin’ Daddy!” right after Mama asked you to quietly blow him a kiss. He loved it. 

You helped Mama make Besitos de Coco, and you stuck with it long past the point where you usually wander away (right after you taste all the sweet ingredients). Mama loved that, mostly. She’s a Virgo. She has issues with messes. She’s getting better. 

You filled up (and popped) a bunch of water balloons with Daddy. You loved it, Daddy loved it but got a bit overheated. 

You smashed your face into the only hard part of the couch during a game of “keep the balloon off the floor”. Nobody loved that. 

Your front left tooth (the same one that needed a root canal a few years ago, of course) was bloody and wiggly. Nobody loved that. 

Your dentist called Mama roughly three minutes after she left a message with his weekend service. She loved that. 

Your dentist said the tooth was probably okay but to call the office first thing Monday to schedule an X-ray. Nobody loved that. 

You decided you still wanted to help Mama make Daddy’s favorite cakes (yes, plural — warm caramel cakes) even though your tooth was bugging you and you were worried about the X-ray appointment. Mama loved that. 

Daddy didn’t realize we were making his favorite cakes until after his Father’s Day nap. We all loved that. 

Your dentist’s scheduler called Mama 15 minutes before the office opened on Monday, and said we could come in later that morning. Mama loved that. You did not love that, but felt better about it once Mama explained there would only be an X-ray and a quick exam.

Your hygienist told Mama you did great and kept asking what was next. She loved that, and told you there was nothing more for you to worry about. 

Your dentist told us your tooth is going to be just fine as long as you don’t chomp down on anything hard for about a week. We all loved that. 

Your dentist’s cashier told Mama that insurance will cover everything. Mama and Daddy loved that. 

You helped Mama with the weekly Target run, and she got you several treats (nothing sugary!) to celebrate the good news. You loved that. 

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The night before the Boo’s last day of school, as I was leaving the house for book/wine/kvetching club, the hubs asked me, “Why is the ice cream so soft?” In a rush and already mentally out the door, I said, “I don’t know, it’s been in there since this morning.”

By the next morning, it was clear that is was time to call Ye Olde Sears Repair Service. They gave us the first available appointment. For the next day. So I spent days throwing food in the trash. Food I had just bought, food I had forgotten about, food I wasn’t crazy about but had kept anyway because, get this, I hate throwing food away. It makes me feel like a wasteful, overprivileged bourgeoisie. 

I was in such a black hole of a mood I snapped at a friend who asked if we wanted to join her at a super fun play place. 

And then we dusted off the coolers and bought a few perishables and ice, none of which is my idea of fun. It was, however, the Boo’s idea of fun. Ice! Bags and bags of it with no end! Coolers to use as a personal fridge, as step stools, as fun new chairs. It helped, somewhat, seeing him so entertained.

It also helped to remember a saying a friend had taught me: A problem that can be solved with money is not a big problem. I tried to lean on that thought as we plunked down a shocking amount of money for a basic fridge. A fridge that would be delivered in a week, because there is apparently no such thing as next-day fridge delivery (note to big-box stores: GOLD MINE!).

Faced with the prospect of a week of daily ice runs and cooler-draining, I put an appeal for a dorm fridge on Facebook, not really expecting much. But several friends said we were welcome to borrow one. And one friend offered to bring hers over. SOLD! 

So now, hours away from the arrival of the new fridge, we are plotting happier things, like what kind of cookies to make as a thank-you to the friends who brought us their mini fridge-freezer. 

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