Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"When I found out that Sam had called Cassidy a butt again, I 'bout fell outta the tree I'd climbed."

Yes, we were there today:  One of them in a tree; the other one in time out for name calling.  Okay, so Husband was there ... at preschool pickup.  I was at work cranking out student retention stats because "the state has decided to pull the funding" on all ESL classes, and the VP of the college wants my colleagues and I to come in on Friday and "discuss our options."

Yesterday, Sam called Cassidy a butt.  Today, same thing.  

When I asked him to explain, he just said, "Cassidy knocked my art off the table, so I just called her a butt."  

Which is way better than the standard question "Why did you ... ?"

And standard answer: "Because I did."

Unfortunately, when John discovered this tidbit, he happened to be with his friend Quinn, and their reaction probably sealed the deal for poor Cassidy, who (by the way) has just become a big sister to a little brother.  Irony of ironies.

Let's discuss siblings for a minute, shall we?  

Sometimes I think that all of my problems in life could've been solved if I had had an older sibling to pick on me.  The picking allows children to practice reactions to all sorts of real-life situations (e.g., someone is being mean to you, someone is calling you names, someone is making you feel guilty about something you did, someone has blamed you for something for which the outcome is way above your developmental level of reasoning ability but you must still come up with a reasonable response).  

Clearly, I've had an easy life.

But anywho, I would just like to say I'm still, after 3.5 years, getting accustomed to having two kids, which, by the way -- sorry, I may have said this before -- is WAY more than just double the work. 

Here's the thing about having more than one child:  You cannot just give one of them a box of cereal and say, "Y'all eat breakfast and then get your shoes on."  

The one to which you give the box is going to taunt the other one with the contents of the box.  The other one is going to run to the fridge in retaliation, grab the milk, and play some strong defense.


Next, there are chocolate rice krispies all over the floor, and they're both real sorry.

This is when you say something inspirational like, "Y'all are no fun at all.  We cannot even just have breakfast without y'all making me want to double up on my meds."

After that, one of them will get the broom and wave it around in the air, attempting to clean.  This will send you into a worse state because the only allergy you have is to the dust bunnies which camp out on the broom.

Finally, someone will sit on the floor and eat all of the spilled chocolate krispies so that the other players are put out of their misery and can attend to other morning duties.

At some point, all kiss and hug goodbye, and you go to work, where there are more needy people, and a Vice President who is questioning your entire role at the college and who seriously thinks that unleashing about a thousand non-native English speaking immigrants onto English Comp I instructors is going to be beneficial to the college's bottom line.

Note:  I know that this post would be way better with cute, distracting pictures of my angelic children.  But alas, I've been so busy crunching numbers that I haven't had time for that.

One thing that I wish I had documented photographically is the end of John's baseball game last night.  We played a team who had clearly decided that we were their arch enemy.  And the appropriate subject for the verb "decided" is the Grown.Men.Coaches who, upon the winning run, ran onto the field and belly bumped while simultaneously making that, "Wooooooo-Yeahhhhhhhh!" sound that men seem to think is masculine when they do it in honor of an athletic victory.  It's even more macho at a random MONDAY night game in the little-league schedule.  I mean, it's almost  forgivable on Saturdays in May during the championship tournament.  But at this point in the season I fear that it's jealousy, feelings of insubordination, and desire to achieve all of one's long-lost childhood dreams ... incarnate.  

All I could say to my 8-year-old witness to this behavior was, "Their spirited celebrations are nothing but a compliment to your team."  

All he replied was, "Why were they singing?  I really don't think they were any better than us."

Which is really all one needs to know about life -- no one is any better than us.  We are all just trying to win something: the art-on-the-table battle, the fight over chocolate cereal, the war against allergens, the rage against the Brentwood Knights, the machine, or oneself.

So here's where I share some quotes that help me to keep my chin up because sometimes I get all depressed when my job is at stake and the little league team is having a bad week:

  • “April is the cruelest month, T.S. Eliot wrote, by which I think he meant (among other things) that springtime makes people crazy. We expect too much, the world burgeons with promises it can't keep, all passion is really a setup, and we're doomed to get our hearts broken yet again. I agree, and would further add: Who cares? Every spring I go out there anyway, around the bend, unconditionally. ... Come the end of the dark days, I am more than joyful. I'm nuts. ”                               ― Barbara KingsolverAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle

  • "Here are some questions I am constantly noodling over: Do you splurge or do you hoard? Do you live every day as if it's your last, or do you save your money on the chance you'll live 20 more years? Is life too short, or is it going to be too long? Do you work as hard as you can, or do you slow down to smell the roses? And where do carbohydrates fit into all this? Are we really all going to spend our last years avoiding bread, especially now that bread in America is so unbelievably delicious? And what about chocolate?" Nora Ephron -- "I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts

  • Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.” 
    ― Pema Chödrön 


Sunday, April 14, 2013

The answer to the question is a puzzle.

The Subway-sandwich monster
For 8.5+ years now, I have been searching for an activity that John and I can do together that doesn't result in someone crying.  When he was really little, all he wanted to do was, "play trucks."  This involved both of us lying on our bellies pushing around small trucks of various sorts.  At some point during this activity (some point being about 28 seconds), I would collapse fully and try to watch him without getting caught sans truck.  On bad days, he would whine and nag for me to PLAY TRUCKS AGAIN NOW!  But on good days, he would take advantage of the six-foot long highway that I had effectively built -- zooming his trucks over my finger tips, up the slope of my arm, and onto my flat back, over the mountain of my butt, and down the backs of my legs, again and again, while I did nothing but lay there.  Beautiful.

This was taken on the day that our OLD car's AC went out and we had to take it to the shop where the NEW car was waiting to be fixed.  Note the relatively stress-free facial expression of our oldest.
Say it ain't so, but the lovely easy fun lying-on-one's-belly days are few and far between.

See, the thing about kids is that they want you to actually play with them.  This is not what God intended, but they do not know what God intended, which is the whole reason we have to drag them to church after attempting to scrub their knees clean.  I have decided that scrubbing my children is the equivalent of scrubbing my soul -- in fact, it may be a metaphor for just that -- it feels awful in the moment of it all, what with all the screaming and punching and wanting to stay dirty, but when it's all said and done, isn't everyone the better?

John and I are an odd couple.  We want to hang out -- we really do!  Both of us have good intentions, and we make grand plans ... but ultimately, we clash more than we mesh.  He likes to take his baseball bat and swat at wasps out in the hot sun.  I like to sit on the cool porch and paint my fingernails under the fan, where the nails dry quickly, and there are no balls or wasps flying anywhere near me.

Let's take, for instance, the recent "Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan!" debacle, for which I not only purchased tickets, but paid extra to sit in the sparkly-fairy-dust-sprinkle zone.  Naive me -- thinking that because Peter Pan is a boy, and because there are pirates and crocodiles, fighting and flying -- assumed that this was the best way to introduce John-John to musical theater.  I even invited my mother up for the occasion thinking that this would be a grand moment for her to witness ... drum roll ... Motherly Kimberly bathes the child in culture and inspires him to achieve the unthinkable by forcing the poor thing to put on a collar shirt at prime playing-outside time, drive downtown, search for parking, and ultimately, watch a 60-year old woman, pretending to be a boy, attached to wires, swing and flip about the stage for nearly 3 hours.  During the first act, when Peter Pan comes swinging in for the first time, John caught the first glimpse of the wires which allow her to fly, and said loudly and to the dismay of children all around, "I KNEW THERE WERE WIRES!  NOBODY CAN FLY WITHOUT WIRES! IT'S LIKE FISHING LINE! SHE'S FLYING ON NOTHING BUT FISHING LINE!"

Then at intermission -- which comes just after we discover that Peter Pan is half-dead and stranded on an island -- John stretched and yawn-yelled, "Man I'm glad that's over!  Let's get outta here before the traffic is too bad."

John-John as a reluctant Huck Finn on "Book Character Day."  It was either this or Greg Heffley.  Can you tell that I put my foot down?
Luckily the second act was a titch better, and he was even inspired enough to persuade my mother to purchase not one but two styrofoam swords that were each equivalent to our housepayment.

OK.  Maybe they weren't that much, but still, he convinced her to buy two:  The extra one for the smaller child I have, who was not allowed to attend because I didn't want his 3-year-old self to ruin my John's experience.

So anyway, in an effort to steer this ship back on course ...

Tonight it was John's night with me.  (I have developed a new system of alternating bedtimes with the boys ... this deters fighting to some extent, and greatly expands my free time by reducing the bedtime duty load by one half.)  Usually when it's John's night, we read his Action Heroes Bible (which by the way -- FABULOUS! -- especially the OT section where God is telling the Israelites to take over all of the other "-ites" land, and they do, and there's very gory fighting and plagues, debauchery, murder, people in lion's dens, whale's mouths, and I don't what all), but tonight he wanted to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and I just couldn't bear it, so I pulled out a forgotten Santa Claus present that I had stashed atop my closet shelf and re-discovered recently while cleaning.  It was a 200-piece Diary of a Wimpy Kid jigsaw puzzle, and we set out to conquer it.

I'm sure you can't imagine this one being anything but innocent.
We started with the side pieces, of course, since that's what all good jigsaw puzzle strategists do.  It took me us approximately three days half an hour to separate all of those pieces from the middle pieces.  During this time, John alternately helped me and/or bit his toenails and watched/provided commentary about Kyle the Albino Corn Snake slithering in and out of the terrarium school bus.  At one point, we argued bitterly about cheerfully discussed the fact that Sam was screaming, "I DON'T WANT DAD, I WANT MOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" and banging what seemed like grenades hard-backed books against his closed bedroom door.  (Meanwhile, Brian calmly and coolly read Dino Basketball in classic sports-announcer voice), and John murmured, "I really do not like that brother," and I responded, "You're not supposed to as far as I know.")
This is me, holding Kyle like all good moms hold snakes named Kyle.

After about six grueling hours had past awhile, we had gotten about half of the frame of the puzzle completed, and I had realized a major breakthrough in navigating my relationship with John.  PUZZLES are not competitive.  No one wins at the feat of completing a puzzle (and thus there is no loser, no winner, and consequently no one has an emotional breakdown).

As Nora Ephron once wrote, "One of the bedrock tenets of the women's movement was that because so many women were entering the workforce, men and women should share in the raising of children; thus, the gender-neutral word 'parenting', and the necessity of elevating child-rearing to something more than the endless hours of quantity time it actually consists of." (my emphasis)

Why have I not thought of puzzles before?  I have tried miniature golf, bumper cars, amusement-park rides, ping-pong, swimming-pool-bottom tea parties, regular tea parties, cooking, cleaning, Wii, Monopoly, Sorry, Chutes & Ladders, baseball, basketball, football, swimming, not swimming, running aimlessly around the house, reading, writing, unabashed bribery, and many more (unfortunately) forgotten activities with this child.  But nothing has been as successful as the collaboration we encountered tonight while working to assemble Greg Heffley's family and friends in a black and white 200-piece jigsaw puzzle.  

The good Drs. Jekyl.

The Evil Misters Hyde.  
Cue the harmonic voices of angels!

If any of y'all have already discovered puzzles with your uber-competitive kids and not shared, then I'm gonna be mad at you, so you may as well keep your mouth shut.

Otherwise, feel free to post a comment about what a mind-boggling mother I am.


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Breaking news ... this just in ... Competitive Sports Enjoyable to Watch.

We had a weekend full of John's baseball and Sam's soccer, which inspired me to write this post ...

Last night I watched an entire game of college basketball. On TV.  I didn't know anyone on the team, nor did I care about the teams because of other loyalties.  Somehow, I was just interested.  

I know some of you are thinking that I may have finally just matured in general, but others of you (namely, my mom and dad) realize that this is huge.breaking.news of the sort that Fox is all over.  

Even though I "cheered" (yes, that is an acceptable verb in this example), I despised sports for most of my youth.  I was terrible at actually doing them (in a throw-the-bat-cuz-you're-angry-that-Karmashay Moore-struck-you-out sort of way), and I had zero interest in watching them even though in my small home town, I knew everyone in every position on every team in every sport.

Today I realized that I have turned a corner.  In fact, I have not only turned a corner, I have embraced the corner.   Mark this day down in history y'all:  I love the competitiveness of sports.  Hello fun, delightful corners everywhere: I will never snub you again. 

When we got to the baseball tournament at the reasonable hour of 7:20 a.m. on a Saturday, I was skeptical of the significance of it all.  But then, my kid’s team started playing, and suddenly I realized that every team in all of the history of world sports is made up of people's kids. 

Hello!?! Who missed her calling as a rocket scientist?

Here is an important photo which I attempted to crop with my new phone.  It ended up pixellated and midgetized and I ended up mad.  But despite all of that, here is John up to bat in Game 1 of the tournament.

John-John has the privilege of being on an awesome baseball team. Nevermind their white pants; the coach is moonlighting for OxiClean.  They are such fun to watch, and I swear I'm not saying that because I heard an NPR story in which major league players confessed that the most important things their parents ever said was that it was fun to watch them.

Side note: I'm writing this as I'm watching the NCAA basketball championship.  Those players have fingernail-less mothers who are thrilled and terrified right now, and who will probably never have to mop again because within 24 hours, their children will have signed multi-million dollar NBA contracts.  Another reason to embrace sports! Those moms at the Murfreesboro, Tennessee Little League Tournament with the super-annoying coke cans full of dry navy beans abruptly became remotely forgivable.  Poor things just had the wrong team in mind. 

Here's a tidbit for you, in case you are still suffering in the darkness of a who-cares-about-sports mindset (bless your heart):  


They deserve to be excited!

And here's one more tidbit:  


John is really into the plaque.  
The players admire their hard-won plaque.

John-John receiving his tournament trophy
The 1st place team
Two of the team's players, seconds after the big win.  Their mothers are beyond  proud.

Key players (3rd baseman, catcher, left fielder, and half of the first baseman) listening attentively during the awards ceremony.

Sam B examines the trophy/plaque and simultaneously discovers the meaning of  envy.

And with that, another athlete is born ...