Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Ark of the Convenient

This past week the students in my Communication Skills class gave their first speeches of the semester. This is the class that precedes Comm 1010 (College Speech). It helps ESL students learn the conventions of giving speeches and also provides an opportunity for them to work on pronunciation before being thrown to the wolves.

One of my Ethiopian students was making a presentation on the Queen of Sheba, and she had a lovely PowerPoint presentation to accompany her talk. About halfway into it, I noticed that throughout her PowerPoint was the phrase "Ark of the Covenient." Of course no one else noticed this, so I let it go.

But I can't help but wonder what the Ten Convenient Commandments might look like ... though I fear in pondering that (or -- worse -- posting it on the Internet) might be breaking the one about not using God's name in inappropriate ways. Especially under the current situation in our country, where end-time prophecies are dangerously close to fulfillment, one wants to remain as chaste as possible.

In other news ...

It never fails that if I post something about improved behavior then we have a bit of a setback. Is setback the right word? Maybe not, since it implies going in reverse to a past time, and though I often dream about that during every new turn of the growing-up dial, I don't think it's that. It's more like a new committment on the part of my child to find different and innovative ways to torture me. Yes. That's more like it ... it's not the same old tricks. These are tricks in their infancy, developing daily into quirkier patterns, threatening what little sanity remains.

How to name this? Hmmm ...

The phrase wild screaming comes to mind.

As does unrequited thrashing & demonic writhing.

I'm usually threatened in a way that precludes a sticker, an M&M, or some cheetos. As in, "Mom, if you don't stop that, then you're not gonna get a treat."

Most of this errant behavior occurs around bath/shower time and the subsequent outfitting that follows.

For three nights now he has howled for the entire duration of the shower and/or bath. Sometimes there is an injury that is being exacerbated by the soapy water. Other times he just doesn't want some certain body part washed. And then there are the issues of tile destruction through splash damage. One night I even stooped so low as to tell him that he was decreasing the value of our home by messing up the ONE bathroom. He just smiled and dumped another cup of water onto the bathmat.

After we wrestle him out of the tub, he proceeds to plunder through his underwear drawer in search of "4s" underwear. We only have one pair of 4s underwear, so this is often disappointing.

Underwear issues are oft followed by bottoms drama and long parental diatribes wherein Mama waxes philosophic about the dangers of wearing clothes out of the hamper, the importance of cleanliness, and the positive qualities of pajama bottoms (as opposed to jean shorts).

Thanks to the grandmothers, we now have enough jean shorts to make it about four days, so Thursday nights are usually rough in terms of clothes selection. As he attempts, post-bath, to find an outfit which he will sleep in and wear to school the following day (his own ritual, not mine, though BRILLIANT in terms of saving time in the a.m.), there is sometimes trouble. A suitable outfit can only consist of some combination of the following: basketball shorts (of which we have 3 pair), soccer shorts (1 pair), or blue jean shorts (4), paired with a shirt that has either a number, a race car, or a large piece of dangerous machinery. These are the only options.

And in case you're wondering, none of this is convenient. And come to think of it, a lot of it isn't really honoring me. But that's another issue.

And finally, there is the matter of Spearmint Gum Puppy. SGP is an alter ego that appears during snacktime, demanding puppy treats to be served in a puppy bowl on the floor. Even the neighbors enjoy snacking in this manner.
Snacktime for SPG

And with that, dear friends, you've earned dismissal.

Onward, upward, sideways, and backward,

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Letter to My Son on his 4th Birthday (2,102,400 minutes)

Dear John,

Happy 4th birthday spearmint gum puppy! No offense bud, but I have to say that I am thanking goodness the year of the “threes” is now gone. You never were a Terrible Two, but Three has been difficult. Some kind of light switch was flipped ON (I’m sure it served some beautiful developmental purpose), and try as I may to embrace it, I haven’t yet been able to.


October 2007

In addition to your burgeoning, um, independence, there were lots of big life events for all of us during this year that haven’t made things any easier. During your year of being three, we survived the following:

  • Mom returning to work full time

  • Dad changing careers (rightfully)

  • The purchasing of our first home

  • Two new/different schools for you

  • The discovery of your asthma

  • The decision to expand our family
still posing
November 2007 (Note that the shirt is the same. This is an important 3-year old trend.)

I know that it could’ve been SO much worse, and I thank God everyday for all of our blessings – the biggest of which is YOU.

December 2007

All of these events have helped me to come to grips with something that all parents must face at some point, which is that I cannot make your life perfect or easy, no matter how hard I try. No matter how much I attempt to make decisions with your best interest in mind, you are an individual person, separate from your parents, who must make your way in the world just like the rest of us: learning through experience, realizing that good and bad times come no matter what, and personally experiencing the economic principle of opportunity cost (for every option in life, there is a corresponding price). I have tried to help you learn these life lessons easily and with minimal confusion, but this year has taught me that ultimately I can only lend a hand here and there and be a model, for you must learn to accept the consequences of your actions (whether natural or doled out by grown-ups) be they rewards or punishments, fair or unfair. And that, my son, is very difficult for a parent to watch.

wedding digs
January 2008

One thing I can say about you with complete confidence: You are not a spoiled child. At least not according to the current American standard. In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite situation going on here. You have spoiled your parents. We are accustomed to a child who is smart, cute, funny, and actually doesn’t mind going to bed. You say “yes ma’am” and “no sir” and you use your manners almost without fail (except when Spiderman is on). When I hear other people talk about you glowingly (like teachers or babysitters or friends), I am reminded of how hyper-critical I can be, and I am often humbled and grateful in a way that nothing else in my life could precipitate.

Tennessee Chainsaw Massacre
February 2008

And when you say grace ... boy, when you say grace!

Angels sing "Ahhhhhhhh" in perfect four-part harmony right there in our dining room. A halo appears above your head just as you get to the part about "watch over Macy & Grandaddy and Nanny & Grampy and my tractors."

soccer star
March 2008

Throughout this year of Three, I have often told people that you are not a “difficult” child, but rather, that you are “intense” or “challenging,” or “God’s answer to my prayer for learning patience.” If nothing else, you are a lesson in patience, understanding, and a vision of how everything comes back around again. And now that the light of Fourdom is here, I can finally see the fruits of our labor.

Ready to kick it in
April 2008

This morning on the way to school, you wanted the “Flea on the Track” song, not the “Wheels on de Bus” (Dafe Womack is a new fave), and so, in keeping with three-year old tradition, you shrieked, “NOT THE WHEELS SONG, IWANT THE …” and then you stopped, took a breath, and changed your tune (pun intended): “Mom, could you please put on the 'Flea' song instead?”

juice box grin

May 2008

Again, the angels glorious harmony. This time, in the car. All around me.

cheesy beach guy
June 2008

So elated was I at this self-correction that I pulled over and dug up some chocolate from the crumby zippered pocket of my purse and we had a second breakfast in the car.
Creek Water

July 2008

John-John, we are still cleaning up from the damage of the Category "3" Hurricane that came and has now gone this year, but of course there were some things we NEEDED to clean out. Like, for example, my quick temper, or my negative attitude, or how about my lovely proclivity to always feel that there is something that could be better ... something that just isn't right ... something to call an expert about. Yes, all of those things -- while not being completely eradicated -- have definitely been called into question during this year.

Because really: Can one family need an expert 5/7 days a week? Oh! If only I would expose myself to more smart, independent, happy, energetic children! Then I would see that all of you is perfectly normal and normally perfect in just the way that only my son could be. Hurricanes are good for showing you what really matters.
Friday's Attire

August 2008

For most of this year I have been completely convinced that there was nothing we could do to curb your "bad" behavior. And now all of a sudden, just as you're turning four, I see progress. I see wonderful, beautiful YOU shining through the developmental downs, the medicated moods, and the awful parental practicalities that have complicated this year for you. And I can't help but love you even more. FOUR TIMES MORE than I ever have before.
September 2008

You are my teacher, and my shadow, and my buddy. And just like I tell you every night:

I love you very much.

Nothing you could ever say or do would make me stop loving you.

I hope you have sweet and long dreams.

I'll see you when you need me.

If you need me, call me.

I'll be right here.

I love you THIIIIiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiissssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss much,


Birthday Boy

The party went off without a hitch! There was playground activity, ball games, creek splashing, and dinosaur cake. Some people even got half naked and ran around high on sugar and good times. A lot of people actually. Little people, that is.

We had the party early, so he's not quite four yet, but more power to those who think they could convince him otherwise.





splashing in the creek

Nothing but a bow

dinosaur bites

Click here for more.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Monday, September 08, 2008

The New Cheese

This is what happens when you tell an almost-four-year old to pose:

Poser 1

Poser 3

I swear we feed him.


Another early birthday present arrived from ... a John Deere cup, plate, and bowl set. Pray he doesn't break them. We're considering replacing all of our everyday pattern with this lovely, rustic, and low-key green and yellow design.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Guess Where We've Been!

When there are tractors in every picture, you can bet we've been in Mississippi. It was a great long weekend trip involving nearly unlimited access to large farm equipment and early birthday presents. Click here to see it all in photos and videos. Happy Short Week!