Saturday, May 24, 2014

I love you more than fruit snacks

Probably doesn't sound like much to write home about, but then, you don't know what fruit snacks mean to my kids.  Sugar makes my six year old go bat-S crazy, so they hardly ever get it, and if they do, it is usually in fruit based forms, like juice or a popsicle I made myself.

The "fruit snacks" in question are those neon colored, fruit flavored (not necessarily derived) chewy gels that masquerade as a healthier type of gummy candy.  They usually are not.  So they are sandwiched into the "candy" category around these parts, and usually off-limits.  We are stuck at a hotel for a few days while workmen overtake our home, and going on day seven, I'm trying to keep throwing new exciting stuff at them to keep their spirits up.  At Walgreens, replenishing our toiletry supplies, I wandered down the clearance aisle to see what I could scare up on the cheap.  Tucked back on a shelf were a pile of cellophane wrapped Easter baskets, pre-filled with sexist offerings and candy, for those who want to skate through the holiday without much effort.  These are those huge, obnoxiously bright ones, that cost $25 when the market was hot over a month ago.  Now, they have a fat stack of price reduction stickers plastered on them, and go for a mere $1.75.  Ding.  They are still chock full of treats and Hotwheels and sparkly jewels (depending on the navy blue vs. pink/purple vessel), and purchasing these trinkets separately would have cost substantially more.  I presented them with great aplomb, and the reception was loud on many levels.  Between the screeching crackling of the cellophane, the excited shouts of discovery and the need to talk over one another in their disbelief of fortune, I decided to deliver one more bit of good news to blow their minds before they could ask.  "You may each eat one sugary treat.  Just one.  Don't ask for more or I will let daddy devour the rest."  Silence rained down as the only sound was frantic sorting, and then the stillness as they appraised the small stack of single serve packages.  They both chose the fruit snacks over other offerings such as M&Ms and Skittles.  My six year old son looked at me with one eyebrow cocked as he paused before tearing it open, to make sure this was really going to happen.  "Go ahead," I smiled.

"These are soooo good!"  "I love fruit snacks, I wish I could eat them all day long!"  "Fruit snacks are like, my favorite kind of candy!"  "These are just so yummy!"  It just kept coming and coming.  Yeah, yeah--I know.  I also know the sugar-fueled kind of crazy I am setting myself up for.  That's okay.  I'll turn em' loose in the side parking lot on their scooters and watch them burn it off.  Then Wyatt surprised me.  With a mouth full of unnatural colors still sloshing around, she said with a blissful look on her face, "Momma, I love you more than fruit snacks."  I let the admonition of talking with her mouth full go, for once. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wear. The. Life Jacket. Already.

Hotel pool.  Four and six year old children drawn to it like a siren song.  I have no problem with that, as we are currently displaced while workmen overtake our modest home, and it gives a sense of "vacation" to an otherwise tired situation.  My children have been in swimming lessons for over a year, but I would solidly stand by the fact that they cannot swim yet.  Making grand strokes (ha!) towards that goal, but I do not think that they can swim any more than I think they can drive.  That said, I want to support their self confidence and feeling proud of their accomplishments poolside thus far. 

Flash forward to this afternoon, when it is our (hopefully) "last day in the hotel", checking out while kids are at school tomorrow.  Last chance for the pool!  My four year old daughter dutifully puts her life vest on in the room, and solemnly carries her pink pool noodle down the hall.  Thomson lets me haul the gear as he cartwheels (literally) down the hall, singing a song about swimming at the top of his lungs.  We arrive at the sorry, steamy indoor pool area, and stare longingly at the outdoor pool, seen through adjacent windows, just being filled up for the start of the season today, and only about half full.  We go over my rules, again--booooring and repetitious, yet I feel, required at these ages.  The usual--no running, life vests on in the pool at all times, I will allow them off if you are in the Jacuzzi or just sitting on the side of the pool, or just on the steps with no intention of submersing.  At some point Thomson asks if he can stay in the shallow end, with the vest off.  We go over where the boundaries are, clearly marked with the depth numbers, and I remind him that although he is doing a really good job swimming lately, that he tires quickly, and needs to be arms reach from the edge, even though he is in less than four feet. 

I think I knew I was going in, as I randomly decided to change from jeans and a blouse and sneakers to a floaty, short sundress right before we headed to the pool.  I thought it was because of the stifling humidity in the indoor pool area, but enh.  Thomson was not more than four minutes into his vestless shallow stint, when the noodle floated out of reach of "arms length from the edge", and he panicked and chased it, and forgot how to use his limbs constructively to maintain afloat.  Sigh. watching him sink, I put my computer aside and jumped into the pool, scooping him up as he sputtered and clung to me wild-eyed.  "You're okay, buddy."  I said.  Then I said the wrong thing.  "See, that's why I say you have to wear the vest.  Always." as I set him down on the edge of the pool, coughing and scared silent.  I know I just reacted.  As soon as the words escaped my mouth, I regretted them.  I was so scared in that moment, it turned to anger at the situation.  There was ample time to echo the lesson later, after he was less than scared to death.  It just came out.

He sat in a tiny ball in the Jacuzzi for the next half hour, not talking, just responding to me with muted head movements and downcast eyes and slumped, bony shoulders.

I was so proud when he quietly got out, cast his eyes sideways at me, and tiptoed over to the pool, kneeling down down at it's edge, hugging his knees.  He watched his sister mess around, chasing her noodle, chittering away making up songs and stories as she paddled this way and that.  Finally, he got up and edged towards his life vest, where he had abandoned it less than an hour before with such bravado.  He slowly put it on, deliberately, checking the zipper, Velcro, and crotch clasp.  He eyed me warily as he wordlessly walked to the pool stairs, and descended into the water.  Within two minutes, he was happily echoing his sister's chatter and giggles as they splashed around in a tag game.  So proud.  Don't let fear take away your fun.  Get back up on that horse.  That's my little man.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Congratulations!

It's Teacher Appreciation week at Putnam Elementary.  Every day, we are encouraged to engage in an activity designed to boost the faculty's morale.  This morning, we were given boxes of sidewalk chalk as we walked our kids in, and asked to draw/write an appreciative message to our beloved staff.

Of course, we were running late.  Between Wyatt crashing on her newly training-wheel free bicycle, and Thomson refusing to wear shorts for today's projected 85* weather, we are behind schedule, yet again.  As we rush the front doors, we are all distracted by the rainbows of scrawled words and drawings, lovingly depicted, many of the letters backwards, some of the drawings painstakingly rendered, all roughly chalked into the broken sidewalks in front of the school.  Thomson wanted to add something, even as the final bell tolled upon our arrival.  I let him.  What about today is he going to remember?  That he made it to assembly on time (barely) yet again, or that he took a minute to share his appreciation for his first "real" teacher?  I, and the Putnam staff assigned to "greet" the daily arrivals in the courtyard watched Thomson as he labored to quickly add a giant star colored in as many chalks as he could find, with "Kehm" (his teacher's name) inside.  Wyatt squatted next to her brother, watching, and upon his finish and hastened goodbye, turned to me and said "I wanna do somefin'."  Preschool starts five minutes after regular, so we had a minute or two.  I figured she would draw a squiggle, and be done.  No.

"I want you to help me write somefin.  Congrapu-layshons."  I chuckled, and explained what "congratulations" really meant.  Umm.  Not exactly fitting for this occasion.  "I know.  I want my teachers to know."  Okay.  We found a spot on the sidewalk that could accommodate such a word.  I painstakingly spelled it out for her, letter by letter, and was as proud as I was impressed that she could place each letter from memory, prompted only once (darn g's!) how a letter looked, and only two were backwards.  Not bad for a kid who has one more year of preschool before she hits kindergarten.  She got up with a grunt, brushing herself off from the chalk dust.  "There.  Congratulations.  On being my teacher." 

When I think about how bright she is, I can't help but agree.  (but thanks to them.)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hanta Virus

I love going to the playground.  I love being off the hook to constantly stimulate and entertain bored children.  Especially in the last few hours of a weekend, on Sundays, before dinner.  One of my favorite playgrounds is huge, and always has at least 30-100 kids running every which way, engaging my children in their play.  Sweet.  Wyatt usually attaches herself to a girlfriend who is a couple of years older than she.  I'm not sure if this is because she is used to playing with the neighborhood kids, who are 8-10yo girls, or if this is a natural thing for four year olds.  I watched her and her new friend exploring/running all over the playground and surrounding park, and then I watched everything come to a full stop.

She and her new friend were staring down at SOMETHING, in the dirt.  It kept their attention long enough to cause the other girl's mom to get up and wander over, as she was steps away.  I am not a helicopter parent, so I watched, and allowed the space for whatever advice was being given to play out.  I kind of believe that a mom is a mom--what she's saying is very likely to resemble what I would have said.  Unless I prejudge her to be a predator or crackhead or something, which did not seem to be the case this time.  The three of them stayed like this for a couple of minutes, and after a while, I couldn't stand it anymore.  What were they all staring at?  I head over, and find the two girls huddled together over a tiny mouse, quivering in the grass, obviously hurt/dying or else it wouldn't be just hanging out, exposed to the whirlwind of activity of its surroundings.  As I approached, I overheard the mom suggesting that the girls find something else to do, as they might be scaring it with their proximity, that maybe if they gave it some room the mouse would crawl off to a more protected area.  The other little girl was whining that she wanted to pet it, and the other mom and I were avidly against that idea, reiterating that the animal was obviously sick/hurt/diseased and should be left alone.  Both girls were disappointed, and begrudgingly got up and slowly backed off at our urging.

"I touched it," my daughter announced, holding up her index finger and grinning ear to ear.  What.  I looked at the other mom, and raised an eyebrow--did she see it, or was Wyatt telling stories again?  "I think she did," the other mom confirmed, "That's what made me come over to see what they were poking at."  Startled into action, I grabbed my daughter by the shoulder and spun her around, explaining that we needed to go wash her hands immediately, as that dying mouse could have gotten some serious disease on her hands.  Of course my purse with the sanitizer in it was out in the car, and the bathroom was closer.  We just had to get there, now.  I hustled her across the giant playground, as I continued to illustrate further why petting strange wild animals was never a good idea, and the diseases they might carry.  I look down at her as we push our way into the restroom, just in time to see her stick her finger in her nose.

Of course, that finger.  That same mousified finger.  Of all of your digits, you choose to stick THAT one up your nose.  We are now three feet from hot running water and soap.  Of course the mouse poking finger has to be the nose picking finger, too.  Sigh. We got so close.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

They Really Are Only This Age Once

As a fun surprise, I announced to my preschooler over lunch that we were going to watch "Frozen" again at the second-run movie theater today.  She was suspect.  "What?"  She eyed me warily over her ham and cheese omelet and applesauce.  It's a random Monday.  She went to preschool this morning, but the afternoon is wide open until we go collect her brother at 3:30.  I know that this movie is a favorite, and bound to be gone in a week,  Why not now, today? 

I cannot tell you how amazing these random moments can be.  She was so excited, she was literally vibrating, asking every three minutes if we could go yet.  We went.  She could hardly stand watching the previews, and then quietly asked if she could "be on me" to watch the movie as the house lights went out.  Aww.  How many of these do I have left?  Of course, sit on my lap.  Please.  Too soon, you will be purposely trying to distance yourself from me.  I want to hold you and whisper about what is going on.   I would not have been surprised if she fell asleep during the movie, snuggled on my lap under a jacket, her little eyes blinking over the top at the screen.  But she watched the whole film, singing along to "Let it go" and a couple of other songs I didn't know she knew, as we had watched it just one other time, months ago.  When the credits rolled, the song amplified, and she jumped off my lap and started dancing by her seat.  Since there were only two other parties in attendance today, I encouraged her to dance out in the aisle, where there was more space and it's not like she was blocking anyone from filing out.  As the song swelled, her movements became grander.  Soon she was spinning, leaping, twirling and running up and down the aisle, singing along.  One group soon left, and I assumed she and I were alone after a few minutes.  I was delighting in watching her, her joy so pure from something so simple.  I let her go as long as she wanted, which was all the way to the end of the second song, when the trademarks came up on the screen, dark and silent.  She presented in front of me a big finishing pose, and abruptly grabbed my hand and said "Let's go, momma!" as she pulled me out of my seat.  As we turned up the aisle, I saw the third party still in hers.  A gentle grandmotherly-type woman was regarding Wyatt, smiling.  "I couldn't stop watching her.  They're only this age once.  Blink, and she'll be all grown up." she said.

Don't I know it.  I'm holding on tight.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Love notes

Kindergarten is amazing.  I dropped this kid off in September last year, and he knew how to write his name and maybe the word "truck", but he couldn't read yet.  All normal.  As this is my first school aged child, I don't really know when a lot of these learning milestones are supposed to happen, beyond the vague "around the time they start to lose their teeth, they learn to read."  Um, okay.  I noticed that right after he went back to school following a very long Christmas vacation, that all of a sudden he was bringing home simple little books every night to read to ME, as well as the book that he brings home every day for me to read to him.  We read a lot of books at our house, anyway.  Our weekly trips to the library always end with a stack of 25-30 piled up on what is affectionately known as "the library book table" in the family room.  When Thomson started venturing out beyond the sight words and would "read" a book in the beginning, it was a book that we had often read together, so I wasn't sure he was in fact "reading" it as much as he was remembering it. 

Then the writing started to go out of control.  After months of the grownups patiently spelling out words for him in response to his inquiries, he started just sounding them out on his own and carefully laboring to print them letter by letter all by himself.  He would still ask for clarification on words like "combustion" or "transmission" (kid likes all things vehicular), but largely he would get some sort of phonetic representation down on paper.  In the beginning, it was mostly truck-related.  An elaborate picture of monster trucks accompanied by "I like trucks", or "trucks are kool", or "toy trucks are fun".  Occasionally a picture of something else (usually from school) that would say "I like roses because they are beootifull." or something.

Then, in the quiet moments after dinner and before bed, when the kids are encouraged to color, read, play with dolls or legos quietly to wind down, Thomson appears next to me on the sofa.  He hands me a piece of paper that he has labored to draw, write on and trim to size.  I had noticed him working on something feverishly for awhile, and looked at what he gave me, expecting some sort of truck.

A picture just for me.  He stands there silently, grinning ear to ear, watching me.  Two figures, and "I love you mom.  oxoxoxoxox"  A secret love note.  Just for me.  Thank you, Mrs. Kehm.  I am grateful.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Leaps

"Thomson wants to play soccer.  Can girls play soccer too?"  My sweet four year old daughter wandered into the bathroom while I was getting ready, and idly started playing with makeup brushes as she looked up into my face with concern.  "Of course.  Anyone can play soccer.  Do you want to?", I answered, surprised as she had never mentioned it before.

"No.  Can Chinese people play soccer?  And people in wheelchairs?", a rapid-fire litany of different types of people and whether or not they would be allowed to play soccer came spewing out.  I can only remember a handful, as I was just trying to keep up mentally, to answer her honestly--as horses and mermaids sadly, cannot play soccer as well.  Then, it was one of those moments that makes your heart glow and feel like maybe you are doing something right, after all.

"It's because of 'Marthur King' (MLK), isn't it?  Anybody can play soccer because we are all the same.  Because he decided it wasn't okay to be quiet about people being mean and making bad choices.  I can do the same things as a boy, and so can people with dark skin and people that can't talk like me because they are from Italy."  (?), Um okay.  Well, she's right. 

By the way, I never had this talk directly with her.  Months prior, I was talking to my kindergartner about what MLK day meant to him, (other than a day off from school).  I had been impressed that he was able to articulate (at 5) enough about Martin Luther King to convince me that he actually understood just a little of the impact he imparted on our world as we know it.  Wyatt was listening.  And she chose to share her understanding two months later, out of the blue.

Makes a momma proud.