Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Everyday Hero

Another playdate at the park. My girlfriend and her two, me and mine-- we were having a great time. The children had eaten lunch and were climbing in the thick, gnarled rhodedendron bushes, strong enough for them and at a perfect height for the comfort of mothers. It was relatively quiet, the boys were happy and nearby a younger man was walking with an older man who seemed to have some sort of disability, a caregiver and his client, out for a stroll. Over our chatting, I could hear an  unseen voice from the dog off-leash area, just through the bushes and across the path and a bit beyond more bushes. The voice was calling for their dog, but I paid no mind--until a brown four-legged creature tore through the bushes and ran up to my girlfriend's young child. 

The dog wasn't fierce, but it was moving fast toward the child and heck, the kid did what most people would do when faced with an animal their own size-- he screamed. To me, this is a natural reaction-- heck, when dogs bound out of the bushes and run at me, I yell.  And so, even though I could hear that voice calling for their dog, I did what many a mom would do-- I yelled "You need to get your dog!" The dog turned around, ran at me, growled and then bounded off. "Come get your dog!" I called out again.

I couldn't see what was coming, or I never would have yelled. Bursting through the bushes was a furious man, who began screaming at me. He seemed to think we were the problem-- us. Was he on drugs or out of his mind? Mental health issues? I had no idea, but there he was, shouting at me.  I was incredulous and told him not to yell at me in front of the kids. He continued anyway, because "you're yelling at my dog." Then he was just raving, screaming at us that we were in the wrong because we were "near the off-leash area" and rambling.  I could see there was no reasoning with him-- when my girlfriend spoke calmly and reasonably to him, he just kept shouting angrily. She said later that she didn't think he could even differentiate that she and I were two entirely different people. 

Fortunately, fortunately-- he left. I was scared half out of my wits, but had mostly been watching to make sure the kids were okay and that the dog was going away. And then, I heard the angry man again, talking heatedly. I didn't look over, but my girlfriend could see what was happening-- the young man had stopped this incredibly angry man and was telling him he was wrong. He was standing up for us-- women and children he didn't even know--and helping us stand our ground from over 30 feet away or so. Eventually, the angry man took his dog back up to the off-leash area and the children continued their play--other than the littlest, who'd  been terrified and then comforted, the kids hadn't seemed too upset. Nonetheless, I was pretty rattled and my guard was up. For the rest of our time there, I kept an eye out and saw the dog and another running around everywhere as they pleased, in and out of the off-leash area. When we finally walked back up to the play park, we passed a picnic bench where the angry man was pointing us out to his friends and talking loudly.

I really hate these sorts of goings on. I hate having this sort of weird experience at a place I've always felt a sense of community ownership of, a place where my neighbors and I can call ours. My girlfriend says she considers this park somehow like Times Square or New York City... there's all kinds, living--usually-- around each other, aware of each other, but not necessarily in each others faces, contentiously. Perhaps that's true--our city's homeless population has nowhere to go during the day but the parks. While downtown is busy patrolling and pushing the great unwashed out of the business district, so as not to bother shoppers, these unfortunate folks end up where women and children gather. It's amazing that we, the more vulnerable population, is far more tolerant of those who are mentally ill than those who have more power. 

What struck me so deeply afterward, however, was the one young man who stood up for us. He was caring for another individual and was vulnerable too, just because of that. He could have looked away, walked on, concerned that his client would be upset, but he didn't. He stayed and stood our ground for us. The park was ours, not the bully's. We had the right to be there, we weren't the problem. Thinking about this last night brought tears to my eyes. Things could have gone much worse than they did, but this brave man was willing to be a witness, to call out the wrong when he saw it and not let it go any further. 

We didn't ever have a chance to thank him. Maybe I'll go put up a sign in the park this weekend, I don't know... but his kindness and true valor won't be forgotten. It takes more guts to stand up to those who would yell and intimidate than it does to do the yelling and intimidating. So, thank you so much, those of you who take a minute to defend those more vulnerable, even if it's through writing a letter to an official when you notice injustices or signing a petition to right a wrong committed against the innocent. This is what we want to cultivate and nurture in our children, isn't it? A sense of what's right and the conviction to live that belief.   We don't always have champions like this young man, but our everyday hero gives me hope that what's good about our town, our community, isn't going to be lost anytime soon.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Moving on Up... A New Season to Grow

This long weekend has been a blessing for us, well-timed and much needed. 

Memorial Day comes to us as the school year is winding down, and I am noticing how aware Kiddo is of this reality. About a week or two ago, I began seeing what I privately call "baby tears"'s that beginning of a fake cry which is meant to express the kind of surface--and easily fixable--upset and dissatisfaction with life's goings-on. At first I chalked it up to some regressive behavior, triggered by the presence of the six-month old we've been caring for on Mondays. To me, that made sense.

Fast forward a week or two and I'm slowly beginning to interpret these tears-- and the actual quickness to real tears, too-- not as side-effect of the baby's presence, but as an expression of the emotions he can't begin to know how to discuss. Preschool is ending, and a very loving, safe and happy time in his life--something so known and predictable--is coming to a close. Although we've been very careful not to talk "Kindergarten" to him or mention it too much in conversation with others, it's impossible to keep it out of his face. His peers are discussing it, especially those with older siblings who have seen this transition and have their own excitements and fears to voice at preschool. It's also pretty difficult to keep the rest of the world from starting that conversation with Kiddo when we're out and about. He now looks old enough to be in school and so we get a lot of questions about "Which school do you go to? Oh, so you'll be starting kindergarten next year-- a big kid!" This is well-meant, however, I'm tempted to have a tee shirt made with "Please don't ask me about Kindergarten"  on it for him... and then to have six more made, so we've got one for each day of the week, just in case.

Here's the thing, at this point, Kiddo doesn't want to be a 'big kid' all the time. He wants the love and safety and comfort and company of those  he loves and knows. He wants to be little and slightly dependent and to stay in the familiar for a bit longer. Some kids do happily outgrow preschool, but Kiddo's not there... yet. 

Who's to say when he's going to embrace the idea of kindergarten? Frankly, I'm not expecting it to happen before the school year starts. Knowing Kiddo, he'll slowly warm up to it and feel more and more comfortable with elementary school by going each day, experiencing the new routines, developing a trust relationship with his teacher and meeting the new children who will be his classmates. After all, how can he embrace what he doesn't know? Adults have the opportunities and knowledge of going into a new or unknown situation and coming out of it with a good experience. Our children, on the other hand, aren't capable of reflecting on big life changes in this more-objective way, and so here, temperament plays a big role. I could take the approach of 'talking it up', but frankly, it just seems a disrespectful dismissal of his own unknown fears and sadness at this huge change in his life.

What we're doing, instead, is to support him in healthy ways. We stay a little closer, do more things side-by-side instead of just sending him off to take care of his responsibilities. When he wants company while putting on his clothes, we don't put the clothes on for him, but will sit and talk with him if he's attending to the task. We've kept our weekend low-key, so that we can be around each other in pleasant ways. Yesterday we drove out to the Columbia Children's Arboretum. I was having one of my deep needs to be in trees without seeing loads of people (ah! nature!) and Kiddo had loads of space to run around, to walk under huge cedars and pines and gaze up at their massive trunks going higher than we could fathom. There were the concrete ruins of an old building which created a neat place to explore, to sit and snack and find wildflowers to press. The variety of trees was engaging to me, the quiet and peace of the park was what we all needed. We spied hummingbirds sipping at a brightly-flowered shrub and a slim necked, elegant brown mourning dove, which I've not seen in town before. What a quiet treat.

We are keeping him close. Nightmares are often a manifestation of those fears we cannot name. He's had so many lately, and so I know that deep within, something is stirring for him. Instead of asking Kiddo to rise to the occasion and 'be a big boy' , I've decided that it's better to do what we do with our little ones-- to hold out a hand, down at their level, for support, and to allow him to let go and run off when he needs to. Much like a toddler who needs an adult to sit on the floor, so they have a safe lap to return to, I'm trying to keep myself accessible to Kiddo for those times when he needs me, needs the reassurance of his place in the world of our family. A new insight creeps in, too-- the incessant 'whys' could also be a search for sameness, for confirmation that the reasons for things aren't changing although life itself is. Some things stay encouragingly consistent in our world, and he can take heart in those same, steady rituals and realities. Just as I take strength and cheer from the promise of the season's cycles and what I know to be consistent in the world, I realize that Kiddo needs more consistency now than ever. This means, too, that our meal and snacktimes are upheld, that our regular daily rituals are honored, that our lives stay respectful to his need for downtime, rest and socialization and that these are balanced thoughtfully. 

Our language, too, is steering clear of describing his more mature and well-thought-out actions and skill advancements as "big boy", instead giving gentle encouragement and feedback for the specific actions themselves. This morning Kiddo worked in a coloring book and his improvement is obvious, the color stayed specifically in the areas he'd intended. I remarked that he'd stayed close to the lines. "What does that mean?" he'd asked. "It means that you have more control of your crayon than you used to." 

So, the see-saw of growth and need continues on. I wonder what the summer will hold. As a nanny, I've seen some kids really withdraw from life outside the home right before kindergarten,  sobbing in their strollers that they "don't want to go to the park" while the rest of their siblings were clamoring to do just that. Those daily, usually-manageable situations which offer plenty of variables, such as the park, can seem huge when a child feels that they have no control of what will happen next. Being aware of this, I'm going to keep my eyes and heart open, and let Kiddo lead in the little ways that matter. 

Speaking of the little things, check out this Top Ten list. Thanks eternally to sis Amanda, who always sends me good links of things that remind me what's important and what I need to know.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"At Least..."

I'm trying to keep my sense of humor, but boy, has this been a *bleep* of a day.

I had a hard time falling asleep last night, and an hour after I had fallen asleep, Kiddo woke us up, crying and calling to us from the bottom of the stairs. Another nightmare. I knew five was the age for this, but did someone send out a gold-plated invitation or what? Nightmares have been showing up at our house at least once or twice a week lately. Because I am the one who doesn't have to report in at an office every morning, I'm the default parent on duty. So, down to Kiddo's bedroom I go, and fortunately, he goes back to sleep pretty quickly.

I, on the other hand, do not. Nor do I stay asleep, as Kiddo does bed gymnastics on my head. Or maybe it's some sort of pro wrestling, sleep style. The Back Crusher! this move involves grinding one's head into Mama's back, hard. The  Tete-a-Tete Threat! This is where one little cranium drills into the bigger cranium. Aim that up right and hey! instant trepanning party and we'll forget the whole thing! The Kick in the Ass... well, I'll bet you can figure it out. At six in the morning, I trudge upstairs, 15 minutes before Joe's alarm clock is meant to go off. "You're on duty" I grunt-grumble and fall into our bed for one thick, uninterrupted hour of sleep. 

When I wake, what follows is a foggy march through the morning to Get To Preschool. We do that and I walk to the store, feeling buzzed on air and nothing, just so tired. I get the groceries and walk home, playing one of my mind games I'll call "At Least.."

He woke up with a nightmare--but at least it wasn't night terrors.

It was a tough night--but at least he was able to go to school today.

The weather's been a pain--but at least it's not raining, yet.

It was a rough morning--but at least I made it out of the house with a shower and breakfast.

Oh, rats! now it is raining again-- but at least I packed my little purple umbrella.

And then, a lunchtime spectacular, when the sandwich I was toasting in the oven did a face-plant and landed on the heating coil on the bottom and began to burn and smoke-- at least I kept my head, pulled out the  hot racks (while muttering shit!shit!shit!shit!shit!), threw them on the sink and got the bread out before it got worse!

I'm on the fence about having a cup of coffee before going back to preschool to fetch up my little cutie pie, who bears no fault for any of these things.  At least there are two coffee shops in the neighborhood....

Monday, May 21, 2012

On Self-Expression, Sandwiches and Hard Bargains

It's a three-fer for parenting wisdom (or is it folly?) today...

Last week Wednesday, Kiddo and I were having an afternoon snack. We'd had a  great morning at the park with friends. All seemed well until suddenly Kiddo looked at me and said "Mom, I don't like myself."

Stab.  Twist

This is probably one of worst things a parent can hear a child say about themselves. 

I did what most super-responsive moms do: I wanted to fix it. Let's make a list of things you think you do well. Things you like about yourself. Is there something you want to learn? Is that what's troubling you, a sense of incompetence? Fortunately, I decided not to press the topic too much (admittedly, after making the list). However, the worry stayed with me as these sorts of worries do, dancing around like a crazy person in the front of my brain instead of hanging out in the back of my mind. 

So at night, after some stories and a nice cuddle, Kiddo was smiling again. "Are you feeling better?" I asked him.

His face changed. "I still don't like myself."

Oh, dear. "Well, what is it you don't like?" 

He paused and then sounded so bummed out. "Mom, I really don't want sandwiches anymore. I don't like when the teacher tells me to eat my sandwiches."

That was it!? Really!?

"So, if I said you never had to have sandwiches again, would you like yourself?"


It just goes to show you that they might be verbal and actually pretty good at self-expression, but they're still learning, aren't they? And Kiddo's getting a ploughman's lunch (bread and butter, hard boiled egg, cheese, celery or carrot and apple/fruit) for the rest of the year.

Days like today, sometimes a little proactive bargaining via small, sporadic incentive can help immensely.

This is Week No. 3 of our taking care of Cute BabyGirl on Mondays. Cute BabyGirl is almost 7 months old and is a kick. She is also the cause of a bit of jealousy and hard times with my little guy, who sometimes uses arguing as a means to engage when I'm busy. 

This little routine started up again this morning, and so I got a piece of paper and drew ten small circles on it. Then I showed it to him. 

"There are ten circles on this paper." I pointed and counted each of them. "Each of these circles is worth one penny. Every time you argue with me, I'm going to cross off a circle. However many circles you have at the end of the day means that you can have that many pennies for your bank."

At first, it seemed that he was testing me, perhaps. We crossed off two circles in a couple of minutes. Then another. Then, I asked him to do something and he asked why. "It sounds like you are arguing with me, " I pointed out. "No, I'm not, " he replied, but he began doing the opposite of what I asked.  

"It looks like your body is arguing with me, so we cross one off." Mama's not budging on this one.

Overall, Kiddo made it to keeping five out of the ten pennies. The afternoon has been pretty pleasant. A couple of times I've just asked him "Oh, are you arguing with me?" and he's moved on quickly. 

After BabyGirl went home, we took ourselves up to the pizza parlor for a snack as a special treat for making it through a very challenging day.  Kiddo asked me for a quarter for the crap toy in the gumball machine. I've started a new practice of saying yes to him, but also suggesting that if he wants to keep the quarter instead to put in his piggy bank when we get home, that's also okay. It might be a better choice to save that quarter for something you really want. The last time we went, he put it into a machine that didn't give him a toy because it was mostly empty. That was just "oh, that's too bad" and I didn't go up to the counter to refund the quarter. He didn't ask me to, and I didn't offer.  Today, he tried the machine and got a crap yo-yo which he grew bored with almost immediately. I'm hoping these small lessons, a quarter at a time, will slowly grow on him*. He earned forty cents on Saturday, scrubbing a small patch of  moss off our neighbor's sidewalk.  Joe and I agreed that if he does go above and beyond with little jobs the neighbors might have for him, we'll happily subsidize this at a kid-reasonable rate. 

With all of this written out, of course, it occurs to me he's growing up too fast. Money-aware and getting depressed about sandwiches... all this makes me grow as a parent, too.

*Especial thanks to my sister Amanda, who turned me on to the idea of allowing our kids to make small, contained choices with their own spending money and to let them suffer the small disappointments of the poor choice now, instead of controlling their purchases. We've had some good choices too which he's been happier with. The one-dollar a week allowance is working out pretty well for us!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Comment Away, Friends and Readers!

If you've ever wondered at my proclivity for all things antique (especially appliances), my explanation is simple: I'm an idiot in this modern world. Chances are, I'll be the old lady who can't set the clock on her microwave and decides to cook on the griddle of the woodstove  instead. And yes, the woodstove has a griddle...

People have complained at me for quite a while about their inability to post comments. It turns out that when fabulous Google did an overhaul of Blogger, my settings were lost... and stupid me, I didn't bother to recheck them. This is one reason why I'm not on Facebook, by the way; I don't have the brain space or smarts to keep rechecking settings. I figure my settings are set, right? 

In any case, now if you have a bone to pick or want to tell me how brilliant and insightful I am, go for it. I'll only edit them if they're a little too blue.  And thanks for taking the time to give me your thoughts. I appreciate any feedback!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Smart Info about the Idiot Box

I'll admit it: I love television. If you've been keeping an eye on this blog, you'll know that I have some great, silly shows I indulge in weekly. 30 Rock. The Office. Community. Parks and Rec. Bones. Burn Notice. Masterpiece Theater or Mystery... the viewing isn't always high-brow, and some nights I'll tune into Charlie Rose or Tavis Smiley or Bill Moyers, just to feel like my brain isn't rotting away on the sugared-up candy that is most television.   I watch tv to relax, but know I need to turn it off a while before going to bed for a truly good night's sleep. So come ten o'clock on most nights, hello good book: there's nothing better than reading myself to sleep...

That said, I rarely, rarely watch tv during the day. Occasionally home alone, I might indulge in a cooking show while I fold laundry. If Kiddo's home,  maybe a nature documentary. Sometimes, Joe might also 'indulge' in a Yankees game or watch a Trailblazers game on the weekends.

And Kiddo, sweet boy, really seems disinterested in television these days. Honestly, if I didn't offer him the "SuperWhy/Dinosaur Train" combo pack on Wednesday mornings, I'm not sure he'd even care. These days, he'll only watch the D-Train, and would rather play Sequence Junior anyway. 

I'm tempted, some days, to pop a video on, because he's talking at me incessantly, asking me every 'why' question in the book and treating me to a wealth of stories, which oftentimes aren't labeled as stories but told as matter-of-factly as any other daily happening. However, this really won't help him, because he's doing these other things as a way of connecting and growing, and it's my job to nurture, reflect that connection and help him re-conjugate his verbs while retelling his story back to him...

Today I was cruising around on Mama's On Call and happened across this gem of information about 'background tv' exposure.  Having media on in the background may not consume a child's visual interest, but it still interrupts mental tasks. Unlike older children, teens and adults, the brains of youngsters aren't capable of multitasking, and aren't able to attend to several discrete activities at once. And once again, there are concerns that the barrage of meaningless stimulus may interfere with language development. 

Of course, there will always be kids who excel no matter what their setting, but it's worthwhile to keep in mind this question: what sort of environment are we trying to create? Can you imagine going in to work with a television left on and trying to check email, have meaningful conversations with clients, learn a new skill or strategize or plan a project? I can't. However, this is exactly what babies and youngsters are doing...well, not the emailing, but you get my drift, right? They're trying to learn about their world, learn and attempt to communicate with their caregivers, learn how to manipulate objects and to make them do what they want them to do. They're at work!

Let's give our little ones a peaceful office space, so to speak. Some good music can keep us company. Turn the tv off when you are done checking in on the weather and traffic in the morning. Turn it off when they're done watching their show. Even our bigger kids need some peaceful moments--play is their work, and our homes are their workplace. A calm and friendly atmosphere makes for a more pleasant time for everyone.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wild, Wild Week (so far!)

What a week it's been, and it's only Thursday~

Sunday: Where There's Smoke...

Kiddo and I were taking a walk Sunday morning, toodling around the neighborhood. We'd stopped in at a cafe; small latte for me, he chose a croissant to share with a friend later, and we headed back out to wander through the neighborhood. 

It was one of those glorious Sundays, sunny, gardens a-bloom. We passed a church and heard the singing of worship and praises to God. We saw lots of people walking along outside, enjoying the morning air. Kiddo chose our route and as we hit the other side of our block, we passed a house that was noisy with incessant BEEP BEEP BEEPs alternating frantically with each other. 

This was unusual. There was no car in their driveway, and nosy me, I thought something just wasn't quite right. After instructing Kiddo to stay on the sidewalk, I walked up to the house. Their curtains were open and the inside of the house looked hazy, even with the  sunlight. I rang the doorbell twice and then noticed that I could smell smoke.  Not seeing any flames, and seeing the neighbor's car was in the drive, I decided to see if we could contact the homeowners first before calling the fire department, because that was next. 

When the neighbor couldn't get her neighbors on their cell phones, I did what you're supposed to do: dialed 911 and called it in. Then I called Joe and asked him to come pick up Kiddo, who was getting noticeably anxious. Since Joe was still in the shower and I had to leave a message, I did the next thing I was supposed to do: reassure the little fella that things would be fine. "No one is in the house, the family is safe, there are no flames, and the firemen will come and take care of this." I had a feeling that this smoke was one of those "small potatoes now, but could be big potatoes later" sorts of things. I reminded Kiddo that we might hear a loud siren, that we might see the firemen in their uniforms (which can look scary to kids sometimes) and that, if the firemen were asking questions, this was a time to let Mama talk so they could do their job quickly.

I'm happy to say that everything went relatively fine. No one seemed to notice the loud beeping or us standing outside the house, but as soon as the fire truck came to the house, the neighbors came out quickly!  Joe came in time to help get Kiddo home before too much adult fuss reached his ears. We have a very histrionic neighbor in our midst, and I'm glad he didn't have to listen to that. Funny, but I think that having been there for the time I was and even with the adrenaline I was experiencing, I was calmer than a few of the people who rushed over.  The firemen were so very careful in breaking the lock to the home and sure enough.... a pan of eggs set to boil that morning had boiled dry, the eggs (I learned later) had exploded... 

Later that evening, I told Joe that I felt awful for the family. "This poor family has to come home to a house that's going to need serious cleaning and their lock's broken." Joe brought it down to earth for me: "Honey, they still have a house. Don't feel bad about it." Joe always has good advice, so I decided he's right and relaxed a bit. Kiddo asked me later "Why did you know about the smoke?" My answer: Baby, your Mama pays attention. (This is one of those times when being hyper-vigilant is actually a good thing!)

Monday: Want a Sibling, Kiddo? Here's the Reality....

No, I did not go and get myself pregnant. I got myself a job taking care of the Cutest Bit of Baby you've ever seen. BabyGirl is six months old and I'm helping her mothers out for a few Mondays by watching this little sweetheart. Kiddo's been wishing for a brother or sister, and the reality is simple: ain't gonna happen. But when this job came up, I took it, knowing it would be a good experience for us.

BabyGirl and I got on very well. We get each other.  I knew she would need some heavy-duty bonding with me, so she spent much of the day on my body in the Ergo carrier. Kiddo spent much of the day playing second-fiddle. BabyGirl sleeps in half-hour cycles, and I really did try to make sure that Kiddo got a lot of love and snuggles, but I could see the jealousy manifesting itself. He'd take her toys away, wanted to lay in her cozy nest of pillows (to fall on if she toppled over while sitting up) so I suggested he bring out his sleeping bag. We took her out for a nap walk and I did what many moms do, bent the rules and got him a little Special Treat--- a mini scone. 

It was our first, and longest, day we'll be doing together. The next time, mom can come pick up sooner. Kiddo did pretty well until dinnertime. We'd already planned to go out for pizza when Joe got home. Kiddo was playing outside and bounced into the house. "Mama! When we go to pizza, I'm going to get chocolate milk!" oh dear. That wasn't happening. It's not a matter of principle, either, it's the fact that when he has the chocolate milk, he turns into a child I want to sell to the circus for peanuts. It was now up to me to burst his chocolate milk bubble...

His face got all sad, his eyes huge and his mouth turning large into a wail of anger and disappointment. I decided that he needed some say in his day... some sense of not being A Victim to the Adult Plan, so after acknowledging  his disappointment and how much he really wanted that crazymaking brown milk, I suggested that perhaps we could go up to pizza early and order breadsticks while we waited for Daddy? Would he like that? He nodded and wiped his eyes and brought me a few books to take up to the restaurant. This was a good compromise. We snuggled up close in the booth. I read him the chapter "In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump" (his favorite story lately) and we were glad to see Joe not too much later and eat our slices of pizza, two with anchovies, one without...

Tuesday: Things That Go Crash in the Night

It's about eleven at night. I can't sleep. ugh. Laying in bed, reading Anne Lamott's newest book "Some Assembly Required" and finally, I turn out the light. It's then I hear a snap-snappity-snap sound, a crash, and then quiet.

Really? I go downstairs, wondering what the *bleep* Joe's doing this late. As usual, it's not him. (I say as usual, because the last time I heard noise and thought he was doing something crazy, it was a small earthquake going BUMP!) Also, as usual, he's not the least bit curious. I make him put on his pants (because I'm hardly dressed for success in my underpants and tee shirt) and he goes outside. Returning, he tells me that the next door neighbors are standing outside talking-- because the house across the street had a tree fall into it. I got dressed and went outside too, asked if any help was needed and then just got out of the way. Fortunately, the family in the house was all okay, and spent the night with friends. As I type, the tree is being removed carefully. There's a hole in the house, and I am thankful the weather's been good enough to hold off the rain. 

Returned to bed with a small sherry glass of brandy to help me sleep. What the heck is going to happen next in this neighborhood?


All I have to report is an awesome three hour park playdate with an awesome friend who has awesome kids.  And having nothing else to add to this is also awesome... 

The garden calls. I want to restructure my rock garden and get my carrot seeds in soon, so out into the sun I go....

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Force Field, Activate!

This afternoon I'm washing dishes when Kiddo asks me: "Mom, what's a laser?" I give him my simplest answer first, reminding him of Venus the Cat, the kitty who lives next door and who loves to pounce on a little red dot of laser light. When we take care of Venus, this is Kiddo's favorite way to play with her; he's figured out how to point the laser right at the end of a rag rug, so whenever Venus runs to catch the light, she skids quite hilariously a few inches. One of those 'real life is truly better than tv' moments.

This explanation isn't enough. "Is that all lasers do?" I am remembering  a conversation he's mentioned from a day or so ago, where a couple fellow preschoolers invited him to play the way preschoolers usually do: "We are robot police and you're the bad guy and we will shoot lasers out of our eyes and kill you." Naturally, he declined the opportunity to be exterminated by the sci-fi killer cops and found another buddy to go play with.  However, hitting on this memory, I expanded the laser conversation, mentioning that sometimes doctors use lasers to help people correct their eyesight or as a tool when they are doing their work. Then I added (thinking of Dr. No all the while) "And sometimes, in movies or on tv, there are stories where people use lasers to shoot or kill, but that's just pretend. Those stories aren't real and real people don't do that."

Then, I decided to teach him a secret it took me until the ripe old age of eight or so to learn. "You know, if someone is playing that they are going to hurt you with lasers, just tell them you have a force field."  I said force field like it was the coolest, most awesome amazing thing ever. Like it was something everyone would want--that is, once their older brothers told them about it. Don't have an older brother to tell ya? Awww, ain't that a shame. Too bad your mom isn't cool like me and doesn't know about force fields....

Seriously, though, this post isn't about Kiddo being invited (so often, these days!) for dungeon duty or being given the chance to be the bad guy... this is really about me. 

I want a force field. A freakin' huge force field. 

I want one that can shield me, first and foremost, from complaints. An optimal force field, set on maximum strength, would make it so I'd be seeing lips move, but no sound. Nothing. No griping. If it worked for the radio, even better! Can you imagine how much better NPR would be without all the cranks? Tales of plight and woe from a war torn country--I can tolerate that. That's not griping--that's just another reason to be thankful for how good I've got it. But some of the rest of what I hear these days, even out of the mouth of my own babe: Force Field!

I'd also like some Responsibility Rebounding Capability, please. Such as: "oh, no, don't put that off on me, that is not my responsibility, that's yours, now take it and make it so." All the little jobs that people I love somehow want to place in my lap.... right back in yours!

How about a simple setting for "Quiet, Please" which could put the entire world on mute, no matter what the content? This morning I was getting the eye--and lots of talk--from a rather, ahem, unusual woman at the bus stop. It was bordering on very strange and all I could think was "if it wasn't raining, I would so walk home with this big bag of groceries because this is not worth it". I like a little quiet when I'm out and about; I like the anonymity of no one needing me Right This Minute or wanting me to focus on them or fix their dinosaur house or wipe their nose or bottom. Understand--I am an introvert for the most part, and that includes most of the minutes my kid is in preschool.  Extroverts see social opportunities as a wonderful thing. I do not. It's worse than just social anxiety ("I want to talk to people but feel so awful") , it's anti-social anxiety: "unhhhh-- I'm gonna hafta talk to people--gawwsh"* in the same way one would talk about other unpleasantness. Like, say, swallowing a box of thumbtacks or a plateful of snakes. I'm out of my Mom Domain, so if you don't know me,  Quiet, Please. 

If it worked for the olfactory system, that would be great too. How about a "I Can't Smell Your Funky Stink" setting? I'd pay big bucks for a force field with that capability, especially when I visit the library these days. Last weekend the entire dvd section in the Fiction Library smelled like a locker room... a very stanky locker room with week-old cigarette smell. Instead of having to breathe through my mouth, the Force Field activates and a bubble of pleasantly nothing-smelling oxygenated air is supplied.

I could go on, but I believe my Force Field is reaching comic-book proportions, so enough already. But just remember, when your little one comes to you with complaints of playmates trying to invite them to play, but only if they'll be the vilified 'bad guy' who comes to pretend harm-- Force Field! If that doesn't work, or the trash talk gets too tough, then there's always that other standby to fall back on: "I am rubber, you are glue...." 

*And just in case you were wondering, no, I do not despise talking to everybody. If you are my friend, don't get paranoid now. I'm not talking about you-- it's just those horrible Small Talk/Large Groups of Strangers gatherings that make me want to fake cramps and run on home, and those forced conversations borne of circumstance or a crowded bus shelter... can't we all just get along, silently?