Please Tell Me They Deliver Margaritas

Who? Who, who, who?? WHO are these… these… these PARENTS who take their sick kids out in public so that my kids lick, inhale, absorb and catch EVERY SINGLE VIRUS ON THE ENTIRE PLANET??!!

(Deep breath.)

That’s right… I was back at Seattle Children’s Hospital tonight (for those keeping track, that’s twice in ten days; quite the average*), this time because the 21mo had a rash around his mouth and behind his legs that was spreading, oozing, and getting worse as the day went on.

Okay. The story starts a couple of days ago. The 9yo and 5yo were home from school for parent-teacher conferences**. The rain was coming down in a steady downpour that didn’t let up for two days. And the toddler came down with a fever. Yes… this is what I call a PERFECT STORM.

After two days of the kids literally bouncing off the walls and furniture (Me: Liam, you’re hurting the furniture! If you bounce on the couch once more you’ll have to sit on the floor for the rest of the day! Liam [momentarily standing still, staring at me in awe]: The couch has feelings?? Me [Eyes rolling like a 14yo teenaged girl]: I. Give. Up.), I – I mean we – were SO looking forward to this morning’s Opening Day Jamboree for the 5yo’s T-Ball season: hours and hours of fun outdoor time just perfect for burning off some wickedly crazy amounts of excess energy. I’m pretty sure the only reason I didn’t give in and buy an indoor trampoline (other than the fact that I have no idea if such a thing exists, that I have no room for such an apparatus, and that I know it’d just lead to more hospital visits) is the belief that I could last – I could! – until the Jamboree.

Which was cancelled because of rain an hour before it should have started.

In desperation, and in fear that I was about to stick the fork left on the table by my 9yo (who was apparently on a hunger strike, so at least it was a clean fork) into MY TEMPLE, my husband suggested taking the kids to the zoo. In the rain. Hey, why not?? But first, he asked, had I noticed that Broder’s rash seemed to be spreading?

“I’ll call the doctor’s office,” I said. It was 12:30pm on a Saturday. Guess when the doctor’s office closes?? That’s right. Noon.

So I left a message for the nurse hotline to call me back.

An hour and a half later (that’s honestly how long it took to wrestle our three kids into their socks, rain boots and coats), just as we pulled up to the zoo, my phone rang… Right?! I described the symptoms to the nurse as we crossed the street and headed toward the main gate… The kids were running full speed ahead, on a mission to see the fruit bats (for some reason, these are the critters they are obsessed with as of late)… And instead of handing over our membership card for inspection, we turned everyone around and headed back to the car. The nurse thought I should take Broder in to the Urgent Care at Seattle Children’s Hospital to make sure it wasn’t chickenpox. Chickenpox?!

So, how many of you guessed that the kids started crying? Mm-hmm. Well, you’re only partially right: the 5yo was beside himself; he had his heart set on seeing those fruit bats. The 9yo, however, was quite content stomping her foot on the ground and insisting (yet again) that she’d be going to the hospital with me: “that’s my baby brother!” How do you argue with that??

Having some experience with how slow the hospital can be (just a teensy-weensy, itty-bitty, little bit of experience), I returned first to the house to pack a bag full of snacks, water bottles, and books to read. And off we went, again on the 30 minute drive to Children’s. They SO have to open up a branch closer to my home…

And Broder promptly fell asleep (he’d been so fussy that he never had settled down for his usual 3 hour morning nap). Poor kid!

Broder on the way to Urgent Care

Broder (21mo), totally crashed out on the way to Urgent Care.

But of course, he was pretty cranky about being woken up to be poked and prodded by nurses…

THAT was fun.

Turns out, he does NOT have chickenpox. Yay! He has Hand, Foot and Mouth disease. Say what?? Yeah, apparently it’s a very common viral infection. It lasts 7-10 days. There’s no treatment. And Broder’s fussy because he has a rash IN HIS MOUTH, too. That can apparently be quite uncomfortable. YOU THINK??

There’s NO TREATMENT.

Ugh!! We headed back to the car… Paisley was quite upset because she “didn’t learn anything new” (she thinks she might want to be a doctor when she grows up, and was expecting to see something as cool as the “hair stitches” Liam got last week at Children’s), and Broder was hungry. It was past our usual dinner time. As I drove us home, I was SO VERY TEMPTED to pull into the parking lot of a Mexican place to order us all up some well-deserved nachos. And, duh, a margarita for me.

I turned around to tell the kids the plan. Just as I was about to say “Nachos” (though only thinking “Margarita”), I looked at – I SAW – Broder’s cute little face.

Covered with spots. Contagious spots.

And realized that he’d be sitting in a highchair. Where another child would sit after him.

And I’d be one of THOSE parents.

All sorts of swear words passed through my mind…

HUGE SIGH. Fine. Fine, fine, fine! I turned right and headed home.

Someone really really REALLY needs to create a margarita delivery truck. I’m just sayin’…

 

* Yep, just last week we were in the ER because my 5yo split his head open. It was a blast! If you like blood and gore, you can read the whole story: Not What it’s All Cracked Up to Be (Or, I’ll Take My Eggs Scrambled, with a Side of Stitches).

** The parent-teacher conferences had me craving a margarita, too: Of War Hawks & Love Doves.

Of War Hawks & Love Doves

Oh, the things you learn about your children at parent-teacher conferences…

When my daughter first started preschool, I would actually get butterflies in my stomach as I walked into the school to discuss her progress with the teacher. My hands would shake. My voice would quiver… Of course, she was THREE. What on EARTH would I have to be nervous about?? For crying out loud, she was going to a Montessori school, with a mission dedicated to nurturing the whole child. What did I think I’d hear?? “Oh, yeah, Jill… Sorry, but there’s just no way your daughter will be getting into early-admission at MIT next year. Maybe when she’s five?”

It took a couple of years of incredibly pleasant meetings with her teacher, Jan (she had the same teacher throughout her four Primary years – ages 3 through Kindergarten), before I realized that parent-teacher conferences were ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC. It was the only time I ever heard what Paisley was actually doing in school; indeed, I distinctly remember being shocked at how quickly (within two weeks of starting school) my usually loquacious child learned to bluntly respond, “Nothing” to my queries of “What did you do today at school, pumpkin?” Any information I did manage to coax from her usually involved what she ate for her snack (turns out she’d happily eat broccoli at school, but never at home – what gives??).

Now in 3rd grade, and in the Elementary classroom (1st-5th grades), my 9yo daughter’s reticence to share the details of her schoolwork continues to this day. My 5yo son, in his Kindergarten year in the same Primary classroom Paisley was in, and still with our beloved Teacher Jan, is willing to share just a few more details about his day than his big sister, but prefers to tell me about the intricate spy and superhero games he and his buddies play at the park during recess. So I was looking forward to yesterday’s parent-teacher conferences; I couldn’t wait to hear all about the work my kids are doing, the lessons they’ve had and most enjoy, and what milestones I should be looking for as we near the end of the school year…

You spotted that “was looking forward to” reference, I see.

Okay, to be fair, both teachers reported that my kids are doing great. They’re exactly where they’re supposed to be… No, what caught my attention yesterday was nothing that really caught the teachers’ attentions, the behaviors being so normal, everyday, and pervasive that they were hardly more than off-hand comments…

Paisley’s conference was first, and my eyes grew very wide as Sonya, her teacher, hauled out a massive pile of work for me to peruse and take home (and eventually store? where would I find the space??). As Sonya expressed joy in my daughter’s abilities to always find such diverse and interesting topics to write about (pastas of the world, fungi, suckermouth catfish), like the next report on owls that she would be writing with another classmate, she off-handedly let slip, “They work really well together. Paisley says that’s because she has a crush on [Name withheld to protect the innocent], and that [Name withheld to protect the innocent] has a crush on her, too.” SAY WHAT? A CRUSH?? Where did she even learn the word??* As Sonya continued (somehow missing my white-knuckled grip on the desk between us) to explain that Paisley was becoming so adept at writing reports that she’ll next be receiving lessons on how to create topic sentences and how to summarize her arguments (as compared to just listing out facts about appearance, habitat, and life-cycles), I was distracted by the coos of the class bird and couldn’t help but wonder: what was I going to do about my little LOVE DOVE??

Paisley at the Park

Paisley, my little Love Dove.

Still trying to settle the tic in my eye, I headed downstairs to Liam’s conference. Turns out, my son is just as engaged in writing reports as my daughter, covering topics as diverse as great white sharks, skinks, cobras and ninjas. As I flipped through the pile of 13 reports that my son had written and illustrated (this is in addition to the 26 (!!) reports he’d brought home about a month ago) – apparently he and his friends dedicate their entire afternoons, nearly every single day, to writing reports and then drawing pictures at the top of the lined paper they use – Jan off-handedly noted, “Yeah, I think I’ll have to put out the paper that doesn’t have the drawing space, since I can’t convince the boys to do pictures of the report’s topic; they just can’t stop drawing pictures of guns.” GUNS ?? And then I finally noticed that the report I was reading about hawks was indeed illustrated with astronauts (??) in jet packs (??) SHOOTING at birds. At least the one bird looks rather sad to be shot at… Though I’m not sure this was intentional. And every single other report was the same thing: dashed lines representing bullets shooting every single stick figure that could fit on the page. The tic in my eye worsened… I confess, I’m personally not okay with my son being a WAR HAWK.

Liam's Report

Liam's "War Hawk" report (translation): "Hawk. It is a bird. It has talons. It lives in rainforests." Please note the flying bullets...

You see, I don’t even let my children have water guns; I’m just not so okay with them “practicing” shooting each other. Of course, this doesn’t keep them from making guns out of any object they come across (my mother almost blew a blood vessel in her brain trying to hold back her guffaws when one day she witnessed, as a passenger in my car, my then 4yo daughter shooting at me – “Choo! Choo! Choo! – from the back seat with a BANANA); and though I truly don’t care what other families do (I grew up in Montana, I took gun safety, I understand that some folks have no issues with giving their kids toy guns – that’s all cool), I’m just personally not comfortable with guns. Even toy guns. Or drawings of guns killing stick figures. But easy fix: at the dinner table I repeated to Liam all the wonderful things Jan had said about him and his work, and explained that we both agreed that report illustrations should no longer include guns. Me: “Hawks don’t have guns. Sharks don’t have guns.” Him: “But ninjas have weapons!” Me: “Not guns.” Him: “Ooo-kay.” Really? That was easy…

But how to handle Paisley’s “crush”? Just as our family has a rule about no guns, our family has a rule that there will be no dating until the age of 16 (age 18, if I had my way)! So, still at the dinner table, I crossed my fingers and hoped I could repeat the success I’d just had with Liam: I repeated to Paisley all the wonderful things Sonya had said about her and her work, and explained… explained… explained… nothing. Because that’s when I realized that there was nothing to explain. She’s NINE. I don’t even think she knows what a “crush” is – she just knows that it means she thinks that person is really great. And [Name withheld to protect the innocent] IS great. So are ALL the kids, boys and girls, and sometimes more than one at a time, that she has plotted to  marry ever since she first heard the word; this is how she lets people know that they’re her BEST FRIEND: she doesn’t yet know how else to express that she wants these wonderful people to stay in her life FOREVER. And that’s pretty great.

So though I’m sure this is not the last time I’ll hear something about my children that causes my eye to twitch (guns?! a crush?!), I think I will continue to look forward to parent-teacher conferences, and learning all about the crazy things my kids do and say when they’re not at home with me.

And though I’m sure I’ll someday (sooner than I wish, probably) have to remind my little War Hawk to stop with the guns and bullets, and I’m sure I’ll someday (sooner than I wish, probably) have to remind my little Love Dove that there are other words she can use to express her admiration for others, I hope I never have to remind them to keep spreading their wings… and flying high.

 

* Wherein I blame books: On the Dangers of Raising a Child Who Reads.

Who Needs a Stinking Gym Membership, Anyway??

I just realized that I haven’t worked out in a gym in A DECADE; I let my last gym membership expire in the spring of 2002, when I got pregnant with my daughter (morning sickness was so not conducive to lifting weights and pedaling a stationary bike, at least not in my world). This feels rather pathetic on my part, as I used to be fairly fit. Heck, I even managed to run two marathons before I had kids… Not fast, mind you, but I did run (and, shockingly, finish) them. But now? I think the only formal “workouts” I’ve done in the last ten years are the prenatal yoga classes I took during each pregnancy. And though great for stretching sore muscles, I’d hardly call prenatal yoga a workout…

No, these days, my workouts are relegated to a more circuit-style training regime. Take yesterday, for instance…

I started the day out by vacuuming the house, quickly working up a sweat just trying to get ahead of the 21mo who was preceding me, room by room, happily pulling all the bins of toys he could reach off the shelves and oh-so-not-helpfully dumping dinosaurs, cars, and puzzle pieces out into the puffs of dog and cat hair that I hadn’t yet quite managed to suck up.

I moved on to the laundry room, where I did at least thirty sprints between the dryer (where I was folding the 5yo’s clothes in double-time) and the cats’ litter box, trying (thankfully successfully – this time, anyway) to keep the curious toddler from playing in the in-house sandbox. I know: it looks like fun! But no no. Gross…

Next up was stairs: always a killer. A 25lb weight on one hip (aka, the toddler), and a full basket of clean and folded clothes on the other hip, hauled all the way up two (very long, as it turns out, very, very long) flight of stairs to the toddler’s bedroom, where…

I do more leg work, rocking the equivalent of a medicine ball (aka, the toddler) back-and-forth, back-and-forth, back-and-forth, until sleep takes over. Takes over the toddler, that is – there’s no rest for this weary Mama; there’s still cleaning to do that only naptime will allow. Do you have any idea how much fun a toddler thinks it is to walk on your still-wet, freshly washed wood floors?? Or worse yet, how much fun a toddler thinks it is to splash in the toilet you’re trying to scrub?? Ewwww!!! No, as much as I’d like to take a breather, naptime is the only time for certain chores.

So, let’s call the cleaning session that followed endurance training, shall we? (And still there are dust bunnies in my bathtub!! They are stronger than me; I think they’re on steroids.)

Just as I sit down to refuel my rapidly tiring body with some lunch, the baby awakes. How do kids always know when you sit down with hot food???

More stairs, then finally a quickly-inhaled, now-cold lunch (really, I should just stock up on the Gu energy packets I took with me on my long marathon-training runs; the chocolate ones aren’t sooo very terrible), and then on to playtime with the toddler. Or, rather, what’s usually playtime with the toddler… Yesterday, clearly annoyed by the persistence of a cold he’s been fighting, Broder just wanted me to hold him and snuggle. Which was totally fine by me; I love snuggles! Especially when it involves sitting my weary bones down on the soft, cushy couch hours and hours before I usually get to sit my weary bones down on the soft, cushy couch (after the kids are all tucked into bed for the night). But, no… for whatever unknown reason, Broder had no interest in the couch; the only time grumpy tears weren’t flowing was when I was snuggling with the little guy – while walking around the house. Around and around and around and around the house.

Thinking that my arms needed a break and that the toddler would benefit from some exercise of his own, I packed us up and headed off to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, a perfect place to run around and take our minds off stuffy noses and aching muscles (do you have any idea how sore your upper back muscles can get, carrying around a 25lb toddler all day??). And my plan worked! For all of five minutes. At which point Broder insisted on being carried again. Through the entire zoo. Of course! He did have fun, though (no more grumpy tears – yay!). And hey, I just kept reminding myself what a great workout is was, speed-walking to the next animal while holding a toddler who was way cuter than any set of ankle weights I could use to up the fitness factor. I totally earned each and every one of those Girl Scout cookies I’ve been inhaling – I mean eating (and in a very lady-like manner) – lately. Right? Right?!

Broder at the Zoo

Trying to catch the penguins! (One of the very few times Broder let me put him down while at the zoo, yesterday.)

So, yeah, after yesterday’s workout, I’m thinking that no… I don’t really need a gym membership. I mean really… who needs a gym membership when you have a toddler??

I’ll take a zoo membership every time.

My Roller Derby Queen: Seeing Life Through Orange-Colored Glasses

My 9yo, representing her Orange Crush.

Spring Piano Recital 2012: Paisley (9yo)

Yesterday was my 9yo’s Spring Piano Recital. She played an original composition that she wrote, entitled “Orange Crush.” She wore orange-and-black-striped tights to visually represent her “Orange Crush.” On her feet, she sported her well-worn, black-and-white, skull-and-crossbones-with-orange-piping, custom-designed “Orange Crush” Converse All-Stars, rather than the black ballet flats I suggested (she’s only worn them once – for her last Spring Piano Recital). I anticipated an epic battle when I insisted that she may not, under any circumstances, wear her neon-orange “Orange Crush” hoodie (it’s a piano recital; even in Seattle, where dressing up means tucking one’s t-shirt into one’s jeans, I have my standards), but the day turned out warm and sunny, and she left her beloved sweatshirt at home.

Our family’s life has become permeated with all things “Orange Crush.” And I’m not talking about the retro-cool soda pop.

You see, my 9yo daughter’s roller derby team is called the Orange Crush. She is head over wheels in love with her new sport, and now views the entire world around her through orange-colored glasses…

It all began innocently enough when one of her best friends asked if she wanted to take a roller derby camp over the summer. I had almost no exposure to roller derby at the time, only knowing of the popularity of Seattle’s Rat City Rollergirls – and the hip, if fairly risqué, pin-up fashion sensibilities of said Rollergirls – from afar; I’d never even been to a bout, but knew it involved lots of bruises inflicted from knocking each other off the track. With a touch of trepidation, I agreed she could take the six week session (every Friday night for six weeks), in spite of the lateness of the practices (6-9pm – Paisley’s bedtime is usually around 7:30/8pm). I figured, if anything, the skating practice would make her a better skater and she’d have more fun at the annual roller-skating trip her school took (which represented her entire roller skating career up until this time).

And though I worried a bit that she’d learn to body-slam some unsuspecting classmate and I’d have a call from the principal, I never expected that we were actually making a lifestyle choice.

So, we took a trip to Fast Girl Skates (the first roller derby storefront in the country is here in Seattle!) to get Paisley geared up for camp: a new pair of skates, a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, and a mouth guard.

Paisley's first day of New Skater Camp

Paisley (then 8yo) on her first day of New Skater Camp (Summer 2011).

Then, off to The Rat’s Nest (the industrial-style warehouse where the Rat City Rollergirls and their Junior Division, the Seattle Derby Brats, practice) we went. Gear on, and off she skated… falling, literally, every five feet. I’m not kidding. I cringed and winced every time her little body slammed into the ground. But even when her head bounced off the track (really – thank goodness for helmets!), she just kept popping up like popcorn. Falls meant nothing to her. Which is good. Because there’s LOTS of falling in roller derby. Lots. Especially for someone who was on skates for only the THIRD TIME EVER.

We were back at Fast Girl Skates the next day buying her “butt pads.” Butt pads cushion the falls. Who knew??

She couldn’t wait until her second practice, but did request one wardrobe change: instead of the leggings she was wearing, could she “maybe skate in some tights?” And, because “it was so hot” (there’s no A/C in the Rat’s Nest, and it does get rather warm in the summer months; not that the skaters ever notice such trivialities as personal comfort), her “coaches had said” (yeah, right!) that she “should probably have some of those tights with the holes in them, to help keep cool.”

Uh-huh. It turns out, my eyebrows actually can touch my hairline.

Somehow, in the moments between picking herself up from all the falls, my then-8yo daughter had (of course) observed that some of the older (read: teenaged) girls who were helping the coaches run the camp, wore FISHNET STOCKINGS under their butt pads (recall the pin-up style of roller derby).

(Deep breath.) I was quite impressed by how calm I was when I let her know that, actually, the coaches had emailed me (and all the parents) suggesting new skaters wear comfortable LEGGINGS. Leggings were fine. And I stopped there, not feeling obliged to tell her that I’d buy her “fishnet stockings” roughly NEVER.

I didn’t see her skate again until her fifth practice, and in spite of being hindered by leggings, I was totally BLOWN AWAY by the progress she’d made in such a short time. She was still falling, but less often. And she was getting fast! But mostly, she had this… this… this incredible ENERGY, this DRIVE. She was just so determined, so focused, so absolutely thrilled to be there. Bill and I have never seen her so taken with ANYTHING, not with ballet or soccer or Aikido or Jiu-Jitsu or swimming or piano or art or zoo camp or theater camp or any other activity she’s asked to do. Her passion for roller derby was RADIATING from her little body. She skated up to me during a water break, a huge, beaming smile on her face, and told me (no, she didn’t ask, there was no debate here) that she couldn’t WAIT to try out for the roller derby team!

Oooh boy. She was such a new skater, and her skills so under-developed, we worried that she’d be devastated by not making the team… But we showed up for tryouts a few weeks later anyway, and to everyone’s surprise (except Paisley’s), her enthusiasm and dedication-to-improving earned her a spot on the youngest division, the Tootsy Rollers (ages 8 through 11 or 12). After the initial shock of realizing we were now locked into Friday night practices for the entire school year, we were immediately faced with the next big challenge: coming up with her derby name. This was WAY more difficult than the fishnet stocking conversation…

You see, each skater in the entire world has their very own, unique roller derby name, most of which incorporate puns or plays on words (and most of which are completely inappropriate for an 8yo child). After weeks of agonizing over names and checking them against the international database of roller derby names (yes, it exists!*), feeling like we were naming our “unborn baby” all over again, our little ball of energy came to be known as LYKA LIVEWIRE (Ha! Don’t you LOVE that??). Her derby number: 100 Amps (contrary to popular opinion, it’s not the volts that’ll kill you; it’s the amps – and 100 amps is more than enough to do the job.). Can you tell we had fun with this?!

After several weeks of training together, the Tootsy Rollers were broken up into two teams in order to hold scrimmages and bouts (the youngest skaters don’t travel or compete with visiting derby leagues). The team divisions are completely arbitrary and all the girls skate and practice together as “one team,” but Paisley was quite thrilled to be assigned to the Orange Crush (as opposed to the Turquoise Terrors), and has slowly adapted her entire wardrobe – and even mine – into shades of black and orange in solidarity with her new team (Me: Paisley, you need a new rain coat. What color do you want? Her: Orange. Me: They don’t have orange. Her: Then black. Me: I’m getting a pedicure today! What color should I paint my toes?? Her: Neon orange. Me: Really?! Her: Duh! Please note: Yes, I painted my toes orange.).

Lyka Livewire

Lyka Livewire leads her team, the Orange Crush, on their victory lap at her first big roller derby bout! (December 2011)

And even though orange is perhaps not my favorite color of the rainbow (I’m a Spring, not an Autumn), I must admit, I, too, have an “Orange Crush.” I’ve grown to love roller derby and Paisley’s all-encompassing fervor for all things orange. I never expected roller derby, of all things, to become such a positive influence on my daughter. When she falls, she gets right back up and keeps going. That, in itself, would be enough of a life lesson for me: if she can just adapt that same attitude when confronting any challenge that life throws at her, then mission accomplished! When any skater gets hurt on the track, everyone takes a knee, and waits with baited breath until their teammate gets back up again; at which point they all applaud and cheer. Even the older, teenaged girls, in all their fishnet stocking glory (though, to be fair, those stockings are usually worn over a fun-colored pair of opaque tights – they flash very little skin), are also incredibly polite. I know, crazy, right?? But, really: they look the grown-ups around them in the eyes with confidence, not cockiness; they call each other out when they hear name calling or disparaging remarks about other girls; and they actually say sorry and move when they notice they’re in your way or blocking your view (!!). These are the kinds of role models I want for my daughter, even if pink- or red-dyed hair come with the bargain.

Yes, before I know it, Paisley will be old enough to transition from the Orange Crush to either the pink-themed Poison Skid’les or the red-themed Evil Angels. And our orange-tinted world will go the way of her Princess Phase…

Oh…

Know what? If she wants to wear her neon-orange hoodie sweatshirt to her next piano recital? So be it…

But fishnet stockings?? It ain’t gonna happen.

*After perusing the International Rollergirls’ Master Roster, I’d love to hear what your roller derby name would be!  

Not What it’s All Cracked Up to Be (Or, I’ll Take My Eggs Scrambled, with a Side of Stitches)

Liam (5yo), in good spirits, waiting for the doctors to stitch him up.

Liam (5yo), in good spirits, waiting for the doctors to stitch him up.

My week started out sunny-side up… I got the kids to school on time. They were in clean clothes. I put together the week’s meal plan and the attendant grocery list for that morning’s visit to the store. I even drank my coffee and ate my toast at home, rather than rushed in the car, for the first time since Daylight Savings Time scrambled up my morning schedule.

I was feeling good! That was probably my first mistake…

Yeah, so… I returned from the grocery store with the week’s worth of groceries; that’s a lot of bags, right? So, I decided to bring the 20mo inside with the first load, rather than leave him strapped in his car seat while I finished moving the rest of the bags inside…

BAD IDEA. BAD.

When I returned with the second round of groceries (I swear, it only took 30 seconds!!!), I found the little monster already on top of the kitchen table (of course!), having a very merry time SMASHING an ENTIRE CARTON’S WORTH OF EGGS, one by one, onto the floor (six eggs). Or the table (four eggs). Or in the other grocery bags (two eggs). Organic eggs. Not one egg survived.

Broder (20mo), helping unload groceries.

Broder (20mo), helping unload groceries. You can't see them in this picture, but there are six cracked eggs on the floor. And the four on the table? They're cracked, too. As are the two eggs he split between the two bags.

The best part? When he saw me come back in, he started to put the broken eggs back into the egg carton (!!). Honestly, I couldn’t tell if he was being cunning (“She’ll never notice the mess if I’m fast enough!”) or helpful (“Mama’s back; I guess it’s time to put the toys away!”).

Well, I suppose it could’ve been worse, I reminded myself; I could’ve brought the wine bottles in first…

Thinking that just might be the low-point of the week (bahahaha!), Tuesday arrived, and I figured, “Hey! It’s early enough in the week to start afresh.” I did the dishes, cleaned the house… Okay, so the baby refused to take a nap – no big deal. I used the extra time to run an errand. Picked the kids up on time; had their favorite snack ready. Headed home to start preparing dinner, and our dear family friend, Jeanette, came over to visit.

The kids LOVE Jeanette. And, of course, so do I! Having her over for dinner was like icing on the cake – or if you will, (keeping with the egg-theme), like caramel on the flan…

Literally bouncing up and down in excitement (honestly, I could’ve named all my children Tigger, and it would’ve been totally appropriate for each one), the kids quickly hustled Jeanette to the play room for fun and games while I returned to the kitchen to save the onions from burning in the pan. Just as I finished putting the veggies in for the stew that would eventually become dinner (but not for several more hours, mind you, but I’m getting to that…), I heard a loud CRASH coming from the playroom, quickly followed by a scream – no, a WAIL – of pain. The kind of scream you know is FOR REAL. This was no “I’m so insanely angry you took my toy that I haven’t played with in six months, I’m going to scream like a banshee since I have no idea what words to use that would make you properly suffer for this outrage, you dirty cur!” kind of scream. This was the kind of scream that made me sprint down the hall…

To find my 5yo son howling from his spot on the floor, the back of his shirt absolutely COVERED in BLOOD. Kicking toy garbage trucks and balls aside to get to him, I brushed his small little hand away – the one that was tentatively trying to feel the extent of damage – and put my own hand to the gnarly 3-4” GASH on the back of his head. As I started to apply pressure to the cut, I literally felt SPURTS of hot blood against my palm, matching his little heartbeat.

At which point I FREAKED OUT. As calmly as I could, of course.

Picking him up, I frantically rushed to the linen closet to grab a towel to cradle my (in my mind: tiny, little, helpless) son’s head, all the while watching in horror as drops of blood splattered the floor as I looked for the “fucking telephone to call 911” (yes, I’m sorry to admit, I dropped the f-bomb in front of all three kids and my guest; I’m hoping they either didn’t hear me or will forgive my deplorable lack of manners – I usually reserve my sailor-mouthed ways for the minute right after tucking all kids safely into bed), and thought of every grisly scene of every scary movie I’ve ever seen where a severed artery spews blood across walls and the faces of innocent bystanders, the life force of the victim quickly ebbing away in an Oscar-worthy death scene (and, why yes, I am indeed thinking specifically of the over-the-top bloodshed of King Arthur hacking off the limbs of the very resilient Black Knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” – that’s just where my brain goes, okay?!).

Within minutes the fire truck was in front of the house (so fast!), and four (very nice) EMTs came to my rescue. Turns out the bleeding had stopped, and all my melodramatic, hyper-imaginative fears of imminent death were for naught. They did, however, agree that the cut was bad enough that I didn’t overreact by calling 911, and recommended an ambulance ride to Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Seeing the look of panic in my son’s eyes (he doesn’t remember his first ambulance ride, when he was only 10mo – a story for a future blog post – so didn’t realize that it’s not such a scary proposition), I asked if I could drive him to the ER instead. They thought that was fine, and outfitted him with a gauze pad held to his head with a white wrap, reminiscent of every movie-set soldier in every movie-set hospital I’ve ever seen (perhaps I should watch fewer movies??).

Liam, looking like he just returned home from 'Nam.

Liam, looking like he just returned home with a head wound from 'Nam. I stopped using black and white for awhile after this!

Carrying Liam to the door, feeling very grateful that Jeanette would stay with the 9yo and the baby (can you imagine trying to keep a toddler out of trouble in an ER?!) until my husband got home from work, I was surprised that Paisley had other plans: she was coming with us. Ignoring my protests, she stomped her foot (really – she did!), declaring, “I’m going to take care of my little brother and you can’t stop me!” Well, how do you argue with that?

It took 30 minutes to get to the hospital in 5 o’clock traffic. Several times, waiting through a stop light for the third time, and listening to my wounded child bellow in pain, I thought that I should’ve insisted on that ambulance ride. But then Paisley came to the rescue, starting to tell Liam every factoid about “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” she could remember learning from the playground. As Bill and I adamantly refuse to let the kids watch anything other than the original three “Star Wars” movies (on the grounds that the “new” three are complete rubbish), Liam was completely mesmerized, and we made it to the ER with no need to call 911 on the way. Paisley is the BEST big sister, EVER.

Her performance was well compensated, however… While waiting for the numbing ointment the doctors put on Liam’s cut to work, the nurses gave the kids goldfish crackers and apple juice (their favorites) and turned on a cartoon that used the words “stupid,” “dumb,” or “idiot” in every other sentence – the kind of cartoon I’d never, never ever, let them watch at home. They were SO content.

Paisley (9yo) & Liam watching cartoons.

Liam and his Best Big Sis (waiting for the numbing gel to kick in) totally fixated by a cartoon that I'd never, not ever, let them watch at home!

Well, at least Liam was, up until the “stitching” started. Or rather, the “hair twisting” started… Turns out that, instead of stitches or staples, the doctors twisted little bits of hair on each side of the cut to create a sort of string (kind of like working with wool, the doctor described), then twist the two strands together a few times, laying the ends against the head and gluing everything down into what I call a “Hair Band-Aid.” I’m not sure Liam thought it was as cool as I did, but he was a trooper, watching snippets of forbidden cartoons through the doctor’s arm, only crying at the very end that he “wanted to go home!”

The good doctors using Liam's own hair to tie together the gash.

The good doctors using Liam's own hair to tie together the gash. The glue they use will dissolve in 5-8 days, and his hair will be fine.

After three hours (I know, right??), we finally did make it home. Where I immediately poured myself a glass of wine (my theory is that I deserve at least one glass of wine per hour spent in the emergency room) and went to the playroom to see what on EARTH was in there that could actually slice open one of my children’s heads?? The kids joined me and animatedly acted out the disaster. Seems that Liam was sitting on something that wasn’t a chair (the little piece of wood that locks down in order to keep the art easel open, if that makes any sense), and tumbled backward into the Fisher-Price Little People Farm that resides under the art easel. I still have no idea what sharp something-or-other he caught on his way down, but basically…?

Yeah, basically it turns out my son pulled a Humpty-Dumpty.

Fortunately, the good doctors at Children’s managed to put his sweet, little egghead back together again (which is more than I can say for the dozen eggs that Broder humpty-dumpty’ed on the dining room floor).

Liam, put back together and ready to go home!

Liam, put back together and ready to go home!

So, though the first two days of the week weren’t all they were cracked up to be, today is looking up: the sun is actually shining, the baby took a nap, I got the blood out of Liam’s shirt (and though I haven’t started on the playroom rug or my jeans, I’m optimistic), and just to prove there’s no egg on my face…

I actually found another carton of eggs in the refrigerator. Know what that means? I’m serving FRITTATA for dinner tonight, baby! And it’s gonna be DELICIOUS.

“And Don’t Come Back Unless You’re Bleeding!”

Paisley, Liam & Broder

Getting some much needed fresh air: Paisley (9yo), Liam (5yo), and Broder (20mo).

When I was little, and was too stir-crazy or wild to be confined to four walls and a roof, my mother, perhaps with just a note, just a hint, of exasperation, routinely threw me and my brother outside with the words (the warning?), “And don’t come back inside unless it’s dinnertime – OR YOU’RE BLEEDING!”

And ALL the other mothers in our neighborhood did the same to (for?) their children, so I always had good company. In lieu of putting up padded walls, or turning to tumblers full of vodka to cope, the parents of my generation knew that their kids just needed to get the h-e-double-hockey-sticks OUTSIDE.

I was reminded of this parental coping mechanism just last Sunday, as my children, as cute and squeezably-adorable as they are, decided that the only game they wanted to play was seeing which one could successfully make the other one cry and scream the loudest.

They are VERY good at this sort of entertainment.

Not able to handle their grating, chalkboard-scratch-like screams anymore, in desperation, I went to open the back door to shout my mother’s demand, and just as the words, “And don’t-” left my mouth, I remembered that my backyard is a mud pit… Crapola.

Of course, I knew that my backyard was a mud pit. It’s been that way since the start of last summer, when my husband and I decided, after receiving several (insane) bids from landscape builders that equaled the amount of a college education (or two!), we could do the dang work ourselves. (Now, now, I can hear you snickering!! That’s not very nice. Even if it is justified.) So, we spent 4th of July weekend (yes, I said last year – stop rubbing it in!) excavating what I had been calling our “forest restoration” project (really, our backyard did look like a jungle, with poisonous hemlocks growing and everything) and turning the space into a lovely… lovely…. well, lovely spot of dirt. We planned on doing more work during the rest of the summer – we really did! – but then we decided we should transplant a beautiful paper bark maple we wanted to try and save… And of course, that means waiting for the tree to go dormant… In the fall… Or the winter… Or the following spring. Hey, we’re patient people! So, our lovely spot of dirt has become, with the addition of the monsoon season we call Spring in Seattle, a lovely… spot of mud.

Not relishing the idea of my kids tracking mud into the house, a new plan needed to be formulated. And quick!

Luckily we are blessed with an abundance of outdoor possibilities. Seattle, it turns out, has over 400 parks and open areas to explore, and though I have no citation to back up the claim, I’ve often heard that that’s more than any other city in the country. So, even if it was raining (and occasionally snowing) on us that day, we packed up the cute and adorably-squeezable little trolls we call our children and went to the park.

Little did I know that the park we picked would become my new favorite park in Seattle.

Kubota Gardens

My new favorite park in Seattle: Kubota Gardens.

Kubota Gardens, in the Rainier Beach area of the city, is truly one of the prettiest parks I’ve seen. The kids had a blast following all the paths that just demanded – in the nicest way possible, of course – a full-speed sprint to see what was around this corner or that bend. During a rare moment of calm (who knew?!), we even watched rain drops form concentric circles on the still ponds. I could well imagine countless hours spent dropping leaves and twigs in the meandering streams and watching them go over the little waterfalls spread throughout the park. There were a countless number of perfect little spots for laying down a blanket (on a warmer day, of course) and spending the afternoon eating a picnic and napping in the dappled light of a cherry tree. Okay, okay, I know I’m letting myself get carried away – can you imagine my children napping under a tree?! Bahahaha! – but the idyllic setting of the Gardens just invited daydreams of such peace and tranquility that I can’t wait to take the kids back for another visit soon.

Which way should we go?

"Which way should we go?"

I'm going this way!

Paisley: "I'm going this way!"

I'm going this- wait! Look at this rock!

Broder: "I'm going this- wait! Look at this rock!"

I think I'll stop here for a moment.

Liam: "I think I'll stop here for a moment."

Wow. This is way better than making each other scream.

My imagination: "Wow. This is way better than making each other scream."

The fun came to an abrupt halt, though, when the 5yo took a tumble and came up with half a pant leg dripping in mud (I thought I could get away from mud-tracked-through-the-house why exactly??) and tearfully claiming that he was incapable of walking, though having no discernable wounds and definitely lacking any of the prerequisite bleeding to warrant re-entry to the house. We were, however, coming up on that dinner-time thing, so off to the car we returned.

And though I love discovering new favorite parks, I must admit that after surviving 30 minutes of soul-cringing tantrums and snippy little comments exchanged between the two oldest children, I did reflect on how nice it would be to actually have a backyard (that was more than a mud pit) where I could relegate the cute and squeezably-adorable little terrors until dinnertime – if for no other reason than it was SIGNIFICANTLY CLOSER to the dining room. I guess it’s time for me to break out the gardening supplies…

It took Mr. Fujitaro Kubota 35 years to transform the five acres of logged-off swampland he acquired in 1927 into the gorgeous American-Japanese garden it is today (he finished it in 1962, when he was 83 years old). I figure I’ve got ¼ of an acre to work with; if it took him an average of seven years to finish one acre, that gives me… (excuse me while I bring up my Calculator App) not quite two years to complete my own garden. Even if I count the ¾ of a year it’s taken to “transplant” the paper bark maple (you know that’ll never happen, right?), that still gives me plenty of time to get my hands dirty, attempt to turn my brown thumb green, and build a space where my kids can go explore and run when they become too wild or stir-crazy to be confined to four walls and a roof.

My own (currently mud-filled) backyard will never be as grand and peaceful as the Kubota Gardens, which I’m sure will remain my new favorite park for years to come. But I do longingly look forward to the day when, finally, I can open up the back door and scream repeat the VERY WISE words of my mother: “And don’t come back inside unless it’s dinnertime – or you’re bleeding!”

Though knowing my children? They’ll probably be bleeding long before dinnertime…

On the Dangers of Raising a Child Who Reads

Nobody ever tells you, when you first become a parent, that teaching your child to read is dangerous business.

Nobody ever tells you that, by encouraging your child to read, you’ll end up with a bowl of pasty, icky, gooey-goo, with half a stick of butter (no, I’m not kidding) floating in the middle, on your front porch for five days and counting.

The 9yo attempts to find a brownie.

The 9yo's gooey-goo on our front porch, hidden behind a paver she painted last summer in honor of her favorite Harry Potter character, Hedwig - two little mementos of her love of books.

I used to DREAM of the day I’d see my daughter sitting quietly on a chair all day long, lost in a good book. I wanted this for her, because I loved reading as a child (and still do). And, I confess, I also wanted this for her because I wanted it for me: I figured if she was content reading, then I, too, could sit quietly and read,… rather than play yet another round of Mama and Baby, where I always had to be the Baby, pretending to nap on a too-small blanket on an uncomfortably hard floor.

But reading, it turns out, is fraught with peril.

Take, for example, the time when my then-5yo daughter – just learning to read, mind you – asked me, oh so innocently, while we were in the car and stopped at a light (read: with ample time for practicing newly acquired reading skills on nearby, not-necessarily-child-friendly or even G-rated billboards and store signs), “Mama, why is that place called –” wait for it… “The Love Zone?”

Yep. My mouth literally hit the steering wheel. For crying out loud! We were running late for her Aikido practice. We were in a CAR. I had not done the research yet on how to have “The Talk” with my children. I was NOT PREPARED for this kind of interrogation!! I had nothing. Nothing.

“Uh. ‘Cuz… Uh. Uh. ‘Cuz that’s what they decided to call it?”

Shockingly, she was satisfied with this lamest of answers. And with a huge sigh of relief, the light turned green and I zoomed away from the danger zone. Later, when I told my husband what happened, he told me I totally copped out. And I did, too. I admit it! But, yeah… That whole reading thing was looking to be highly overrated; it would just have to wait. Until she was, like, at least fourteen. We would just focus on math work for a little while…

But then came the peer-pressure to read the Harry Potter books. She swore that “all the kids in her class” were reading Harry Potter. I’m not so fond of doing something – anything – just because everyone else is doing it, so I resisted her desire to join in the trend (only the second time I’d seen a fad sweep through all her friends, the first being the Silly Bandz craze). But that was only a partial reason for my refusing to let her read the books. I personally thought Harry Potter was a pretty sweet fad, all things considered, and I had no problem with her reading the Harry Potter books, per se (indeed, I love the books). However, I wanted her to LOVE the books when she read them, and I thought that required her to be just a little older to really understand the moral dilemmas that the books engage. Also, I worried that her reading skills weren’t quite there yet. So… I told her she had to read all five of the Percy Jackson & The Olympians books first.

Which she zoomed through. Of course.

So… on the first day of summer vacation before she started 3rd grade, I let her start reading “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

Danger!! Danger!!

She opened the book, with much delight, while eating breakfast. I, too, was reading a book (while nursing my coffee), as was my then-4yo son (though still safely out of the dangerous reading period, he enjoyed “reading” his favorite books from memory). The 11mo baby was toddling around, eating Cheerios that had dropped to the floor. All was peaceful and idyllic. I let myself sigh in contentment, thinking that this summer was going to be absolutely blissful.

You’d think I’d know better by now not to let my guard down like that!! Go ahead, and imagine me smacking myself in the forehead.

All was bliss until… I looked up and met my daughter’s eyes, hoping to share this moment of serenity, only to see her quickly drop something to the table with a look full of panic and guilt, instantly putting my Mama Instincts on red alert. Clearly, this adorable child of mine was up to no good.

Yeah… So… She’d gone ahead and drawn A LIGHTNING BOLT on the BABY’S FOREHEAD. In orange marker.

The dangers of raising a reader.

The upside is that the baby seemed quite happy to have his big sister draw on his face, and said sister was quite happy reading all SEVEN of the Harry Potter books before the summer even ended (!!).

Reading "Harry Potter"

A nest of pillows and a good book. I'm pretty sure this is the definition of "bliss."

After which, she devoured all 13 of the A Series of Unfortunate Events books, and all eight of The Spiderwick Chronicles books.

It’s this last series that raised it’s dangerous little head last weekend…

Our family loves loves loves the Friends of the Seattle Public Library book sale, where there’s about a gazillion gently-used books on sale for very little cashola (usually 50 cents – it’s crazy). We usually come home with BAGS of books, mostly children’s books. The other week, the 9yo found her newest greatest treasure: “Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You.” She hasn’t put it down for days, bringing it in the car with her, and reading it while she eats breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner.

Saturday morning, Bill took the boys to the park, in hopes of wearing them out before the10am Tar Heel basketball game (Hahahaha! He’s so cute. Wear them out??). It was just me and Paisley, who had opted out of getting some fresh air and Vitamin D in order to read her book while eating breakfast at the dining room table. Which is where I (presumably safely) left her when I went upstairs to get dressed…

When I came down, she proudly presented me with a small little bowl of icky, gooey-goo with half a stick of butter floating in the middle. Apparently, the “Field Guide” said this crazy concoction of flour, milk, sugar and butter would lure a brownie to our home (sadly not the chocolate kind), a kind of fairy-like creature who would then delightfully do chores for our family in return for random scraps of food and bowls of milk. She was “doing this for me,” so I didn’t always have to clean up after everyone; the brownie could do it!

Which is really very sweet of her. So I didn’t make a fuss about the mess in the kitchen or on the dining room table, or about the waste of expensive, organic butter…

I just cleaned up the spilled flour and sugar, and I put her little bowl of goo into the refrigerator to wait until the evening. Apparently brownies only come out at night? I thought she’d forget, but she didn’t, carefully putting the bowl out on the porch after having a minor meltdown at the initial problem of not being allowed to leave it out on the kitchen counter or dining table where the cat could eat it (and subsequently vomit). And then she went to bed. Happily.

I briefly contemplated treating the goo the way I would Santa’s plate of cookies, staging the bowl to look as if the brownie had eaten the little treat left by my daughter. But I quickly abandoned that idea when I realized she’d then think we had a brownie to do all the chores that I would then be responsible for, in order to maintain the charade (Me: “Please clean up your playroom.” Her: “Oh, the brownie will be happy to clean up for me. I’ll just leave him an extra pat of expensive, organic butter!”).

So, it was with dread that I waited for my daughter to wake up the next morning and discover the uneaten gooey-goo on the porch. I worried about tears, and the disillusionment that books aren’t real. And oddly, I worried about her no longer embracing the dangers of reading – of falling in love with characters and worlds that don’t exist outside of our imaginations, and our desire for them to be real.

But, I needn’t have worried… After a brief quivering of her lower lip, she quickly blamed the dogs for scaring away the brownie. Duh! “See,” she said. “The spoon moved! The brownie was clearly about to eat my treat when Papa came home from his walk with the dogs.” And she went to the table and opened up her “Field Guide” and set to eating her breakfast…

With plans to make more gooey-goo that night. And the next night. And the night after that. For five nights now.

And though I sigh with exasperation as I chip the cement-like floury goo out of another little bowl this morning, I do also realize that, ultimately, it’s perhaps more dangerous to raise a child who doesn’t love to read, or worse yet, a child who never even learns to read.

So, I guess I’ll just have to embrace those innocent but awkward questions (I still don’t have a good answer to why they call that place The Love Zone, though, so feel free to leave your advice in the Comments section!), the pressure to read books that look particularly tantalizing before I think she’s ready (Harry Potter and Twilight* being just the beginning, I’m sure), and the occasional bowl of pasty, icky, gooey-goo, with half a stick of butter floating in the middle, sitting on my front porch for days and days and days.

But how on Earth am I going to handle her dejection when she doesn’t receive an acceptance letter to Hogwarts on her 11th birthday???

 

* You can read all about how I somehow managed to keep myself from going all “Fahrenheit 451” on all books in my house after finding my copy of “Twilight,” under the 9yo’s pillow in Creative Consequences.