On Dropping the Ball….of Floss

First things, first.  My kids are not whiners.  Okay, so we do have a bit of “She did that,” “He looked at me!” BUT they don’t whine about the big things.  We play a game at dinner called “Rose and Thorn” in an attempt to get the kids to talk about their days to us.  Your “rose” could be anything good, and then of course, your “thorn” is the frustrating/bad thing.  Simple.  Except, my son never has any thorns.  Never.  I’ve tried to point out things to him that could be considered thorns, like how he said he didn’t get to play four-square at recess, or that he and his sister had a big argument that ended with solitary cooling off in their rooms.  He listens and nods, and then says, “No,  I don’t have any thorns.”

My daughter is also not a whiner, but like me, she dwells and holds onto small slights for a looooong time.  “What was your thorn today, honey?”  “Zero thorns!  ‘Cept that Alice was naughty that one time at ‘chool.”  “You mean when she put rocks on the slide back in September?”  “Yeah.  Some kids need a long time to learn not to be naughty.”   Okay.

So, we have it great.  I mean, really great.  (In so many ways.)  The trouble comes when they don’t whine about important things.  Like say, their teeth hurt, or they must have seeing that we’ve had six cavities filled and two crowns put on our six-year-old’s teeth in the last three months.  That is correct.  TWO CROWNS on a six-year-old’s teeth because the damage was almost down to the root.  We’ll go back in two weeks to fill two more and put on one last crown.

I’m still blown away by this.  How did this happen?  Well….we took him to the dentist when he was two, and it was so, so terrible.  He was mostly non-verbal at this point, and terrified.  And even though the two-year check up is utterly ridiculous and in fact its main purpose is to get little kids comfortable with going to the dentist, we were unknowingly in the hands of a sadist.  The dentist came in and the hygienist says, “Q here is a little worried,” (he’s crying and trying to climb out of my arms).  So the dentist pulls a chair over, grabs Q’s mouth, yanks it open and checks teeth like being screamed at by a child and his mother is totally normal.

So we never went back.  I mean, we brush his teeth and what more do you need to do?  They lose all their baby teeth anyway.

We finally found a dentist with not just a modicum of humanity, but one who is actually a genius at working with kids, does a whole song-and-dance so that kids feel like a million bucks when they leave.  And the check-up shows so, so much damage.  Really tightly spaced teeth, no fluoride rinses and four years without a checkup will do that.  Or really poor parenting.  (We actually never brushed his teeth and would rub them with a sugar cube just before sleep.)

Don’t worry.  I’ve suffered my punishment of watching my son go through three hour-long dental appointments and used his college tuition to pay for it.  The first appointment was misery for me…and yet Q was totally fine.  They turned on some kids movie on the ceiling and he zoned out and they could have pulled all of his teeth right out.  I relaxed and the second visit wasn’t as bad (for me)….but today was just wretched for everyone.  For the first time, he felt the needles when the gave him the nerve block and the Novocaine.  And he cried.  And I almost vomited.  Then that stupid squirrel from Ice Age did something and Q laughed and laughed and we stayed to finish the appointment.  Sigh.

You know what is great though?  Not once has this tough little guy said a word about how scary and painful that appointment was.  All he had to say was “Can we watch Ice Age at home some day?  It’s really funny.”

Silver crown
Bionic transition, step one. Now go brush your teeth of the chocolate I just gave you.

To 5K….?

It is possible I have given up entirely for the day.  Evidence of this is that the kids are watching Octonauts nonstop in the other room, my husband is across town at the only Walgreens that has any stock of the migraine medicine I need and the cat is licking up dinner from the plates abandoned on the table.  I’d throw a pillow at him, but I’m afraid I’ll break a glass and have just one more mess to clean up.  Oh, and there is something in the microwave that I am too tired to retrieve (tea? a hot pack? I can’t remember), so it beeps at me every minute in reminder.

I had to register my four-year-old for school in the fall today.  It was only step one, as we go in to the school with all the right papers the first week of February.   Consider yourself lucky if you haven’t had to listen to me hem and haw about what to do for school for this one.  See, she’s four and she has a birthday two weeks after the official cut-off date for enrollment.  In the fall, since she will be four on September 1st, she is slated to attend 4K.  (Yes, yes, we’re doing the traditional schooling thing.  If I wanted to home-school or un-school like all the cool kids we obviously wouldn’t be having this discussion.) There is also the possibility of early admission to five-year-old kindergarten.

For quite some time, it has been obvious to everyone that staying the course and doing four-year-old kindergarten in the fall would be the best choice.  She’s a delicate flower.  She doesn’t speak to people if she doesn’t want to, and she never wants to.  She’s a true koala, a beautiful barnacle, who never leaves my side.  Except that now she’s blooming.  And, oh my heart, it is amazing to see. Suddenly, after almost a year of going to a nature class, she says “hi” to her teacher for the first time.  She sings the welcome song.  She runs up to the door, sticks her head in to yell “Bye, Mommy!” and drives off with her friends to a live concert without so much as a backward glance. (Okay, so this is David Landau performance at the pizza place with our good friend and her daughters, but still.)  Those of you who have witnessed it and celebrated these big steps with her, (and me), I am so grateful.

So…here we have a little girl, who is now ready in every important way to go to school in the fall…and a mom who isn’t.  We’ve heard this story before.  Everyone survives.  In fact, if my six-year-old son, our first fledgling, is any indicator, everyone thrives.  I’m telling you, though, you fill out those forms that begin the launch sequence and tell me if you’re in any better shape than I.  See, I went to the store and bought a chocolate-covered Rice-Krispie bar and ate it in my car and am now motionless on the sofa, getting a migraine, clutching my laptop and waiting for someone to stop the microwave from beeping, kick the cat off the table and shut down the video glut.

All the small stuff is just going to have to wait while I figure out the big stuff.  The way forward and the best choice for her will come to me.  Just give me a few days.

Finger heart in pink princess gloves
I ❤ you too, my Bean


I met a mom the other day who was going through that awful phase of trying to “sleep-train” her child. Okay, so, no, we never did that. It never made sense to me, and I could never, ever do it. This mom was having a rough time adjusting to her nine-month-old not sleeping and needing her during the night not just because it is exhausting, but also because her first child was “a sleeper.”

Huh.  What does that even mean?

I know I’m not alone in having children who still, at the ages of six and four, get up at least once and often more every night. My aunt told me when my son was little and I was a zombie from months of getting up four and five times a night, that her three boys didn’t sleep through the night until they were eighteen, and then probably just from the beer. Heh.

Just before Christmas, my four-year-old daughter became very concerned about Santa and she needed deets, man!  “Mommy.  Does Santa check all the rooms?”, “Um, why?” “Does Santa check all the rooms to see if anyone is unsleeping?”  Aaaand, yes, since that is so adorable and far more delightful than “being woken up”, I am unsleeping these days.  As always.

I distinctly remember the last time both of my children slept through the night: It was after a day of driving, all-day, and one child had thrown up all over the van. I cleaned up her car seat in the bathtub of a motel room, and then we all slept like the dead for seven hours. It was glorious. That was ten months ago.

Right, so on to why I never get to sleep a full night….

  1. Someone needs to be woken up to go to the bathroom or she’ll pee the bed.
  2. Someone pees in her bed.
  3. Someone pees in my bed.
  4. Someone pees in her bed, gets cleaned up, goes back to sleep and then pees in my bed.
  5. Someone has a leg cramp.
  6. Someone else also has a leg cramp.
  7. Someone had a bad dream.
  8. Someone’s dream-catcher is not working.
  9. The cat was snoring and woke someone up….who had to wake me up to tell me.
  10. The cat bit someone’s foot…who had to wake me up to tell me.
  11. The cat was not sleeping on someone’s bed and her feet got cold.
  12. Someone misses the cat who died in the fall.
  13. Someone doesn’t want to go to school in the morning.
  14. Someone was cold.
  15. Someone was worried about being cold at the bus stop in the morning.
  16. Someone heard an owl.
  17. Someone heard a wolf.
  18. Someone is upset about the lampshade I broke two years ago and replaced with the wrong one.
  19. Someone is upset because I turned off the light in the hall.
  20. Someone “wants to ‘nuggle.”

***None of these reasons include vomit, fevers, sore throats or coughing jags, but we all know they are there too.***

Ah, well. Such is life. Sometimes you sleep, and sometimes you unsleep.

Asleep, with toys
May the topography of your bed be just right.

A First-Grader’s Homework

Something new this year, that I was, and still am, totally unprepared for is homework.  My six-year-old has homework.

Do first-graders need homework?  My gut reaction was no, AND, this is so great, I got validation from this one article citing research that doesn’t correlate homework with academic success, especially in elementary school.

So what does that mean for the worksheets my son brings home?  It means we do them.  Of course.  I’m just a tad bitter and overwhelmed by them.  Which brings us to Parent-Teacher conferences….and I’m embarrassed to say that he now has MORE homework.  Sigh.

Turns out his teacher is very driven and of course has a classroom full of students she is trying to bring up to a certain level of literacy and math abilities by a certain day, just like teachers all across this country.  I love that she has high expectations, and that she deliberately put my son in a reading group just above what he is comfortable with, because I know him and I know he will (and already is) responding well and growing into this challenge.  What she didn’t understand, or chose not to do, was to explain this to my son.  So I did.  I told him that both she and I thought he was very capable and that we knew the group he was in would be hard, and that we knew he could handle it.  “Oh.  Okay,” he said.  (Love that kid!)

Then, I broach the topic of homework at the conference. (Actually, I don’t as we have fifteen minutes on a timer and I don’t actually get a chance to speak as she has so much she wants to tell us.)  His teacher mentions that he is a hard-worker, very focused and diligent.  And slow.  So…would it be alright for him to bring work home to finish?  Of course!  I don’t want him to be rushed and this way I could see more of what he’s up to.

The next day he brought home an entire stack of work to finish and my mouth fell open.  We waded through it together and he got to listen to me talk about what is important (working on reading, spelling, math) and what is ridiculous (cutting out little pieces of paper to paste on other pieces of paper, coloring).  He didn’t believe me at first, because, bless him, his teacher told him to color in the sheet so he had to do it!  Yes, yes, my love.  Do it. But don’t spend all your best work and time on it.  Crank out the crap, kiddo!  Use your precious time on the big stuff.

See, now we’re into life lessons and I haven’t even figured out if we’re supposed to be doing math flashcards yet.

A Home to Build In

Take a look at a small piece of my heart, believed to be missing until today: Handmade unfinished dollhouse Interior handmade unfinished dollhouse

My grandparents were building this together as a hobby many years ago, then gave it to my mother to finish.  I inherited it today.  I didn’t realize until my mother brought it down how much I had missed it.  As a child I dreamed about finishing it, but had no idea how.  Well, let me tell you, the boxes of craft supplies and dressers full of fabric I have amassed over the years in my basement have been waiting their whole lives for this moment.    The house comes with a dusty box of materials, and a few miniature furniture building kits.  Maybe it is because I had a migraine last night and I’m always a little maudlin and profoundly grateful afterwards….but, oh, this house is a treasure.  Oh, my heart.

IMG_1645 IMG_1644 IMG_1649 IMG_1648 IMG_1643 IMG_1651Look at this little gem!  My grandparents made this and I love it so!

Dollhouse grandfather clockAnd I’m not the only one…..A certain little girl found me and her grandma sorting through dusty boxes in the basement and is more than ready to fill up the rooms of this amazing house.

dollhouse room, with bedsIf you need me, I’ll be elbow-deep in my long-lost love.

Problem Solving

Here is my dilemma:  Child A needs to go to the dentist at 12:00 and Child B needs to go to the first day of ballet class at 1:00.  Said dental appointment will maybe last longer than an hour, and then Child A may or may not go back to school. How will I do both?   This is not a life-ending problem or anything approximating it, but it has taken me three days to figure out how to make this work:  Call the ballet studio and have Child B do a make-up class on a different day.  Right?

Or just skip it because she’s four and ballet class is a perk. Right.

See.  Not that difficult.  But it took me three days to sort it out in my head.

It happens all the time now.  I’ll be grocery shopping, with a detailed list from extensive meal planning no less, and suddenly I’m looking at noodles and am crippled by having to choose wee little tubes or wee little tubes shaped into spirals.  Whole wheat or um, regular.  Blue box or tan box.  Fine, fine.  Just make a choice and move on.  And I do, only to have to choose between local eggs and organic eggs.  What about local AND organic?  White or brown?  Regular or extra-large?  Phil’s or Yuppie Hill or Organic Valley?  Wait!  Now Phil’s eggs comes in pink boxes AND gray boxes.  Are they different?  Why are they different?  Is pink the new tan?  I just want some eggs!!!!!

I’m calling it right now that someday soon we’re going to hear the term “grocery rage” or “market madness”  where overwhelmed shoppers (okay, probably a mom with kids in tow, but really, it could be anybody) take out a whole aisle of eggs and run screaming from the store.

There is advice, of course, about how to deal with so many choices.  Something like, make a well-informed decision once and then just choose the same thing or do the same thing every time.  And yet there are more choices every time, or they rearrange the eggs so you can’t remember, or more likely the choices are so similar as to be non-existent and purely taking up shelf space and your brain is overtaxed and you can’t remember if you get large or extra-large eggs because they’re bleeping eggs and who the hell cares?

Of course I can’t distinguish any longer which is more important, a dental appointment we made two months ago or a ballet class we got into yesterday.  Everything is presented with such urgency, and I’m not just talking about the whims of a four and a six-year-old.

Sigh.  Makes me want to break some eggs.