His First Tea Party

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Tonight was the Mother’s Day Tea Party at my son’s (sweet, adorable, fantastic) preschool. I am feeling SO full of gratitude and love at the moment (and the 2yo is SO full of cookies and tea!) – please remind me of this moment next time I mention he threw a tippy cup at one of his sibling’s HEADS because they didn’t share this toy or this book…

School Daze

The 2 1/2 yo and his trusty backpack, ready for the first day of preschool.

The 2 1/2 yo and his trusty backpack, ready for the first day of preschool.

My head has been in a total fog all day… I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around the fact that my youngest child just started school. Okay, granted, it’s just preschool, and it’s only two mornings a week, but, still… I have three kids who are all old enough to be IN SCHOOL. Which means, I finally have (hold on, let me get my fingers out… that’s one, two, three hours each day… times two days a week, that’s…) SIX WHOLE HOURS A WEEK WITHOUT KIDS. My head is spinning…

Now, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t sign my 2½yo  up for preschool just so I could finally get rid of all my kids at the same time (not that I either judge or begrudge any parent who does so just to get some alone time!). Indeed, I worried a bit that he’s still too young; with the other two kids, I waited until they were a bit older before enrolling them in school, and I really do prefer (most days anyway) having them home with me while they’re little. No, I decided that Broder, who absolutely adores his 10yo sister and 6yo brother and does absolutely everything they do – regardless of whether or not he’s old enough to, say, walk out the front door without a parent (oh yeah, he pulled that one over the weekend… while I was oh so conveniently downstairs folding laundry; luckily, Liam saw him head out and chased him down the sidewalk (he’s fast!!), dragged him back in the house kicking and screaming, and then quickly tattled on him – that’s what I call a goooooood big brother) – could benefit from some time with kids his own age, and engaging in a bit more of, shall we say, constructive play than oh, I don’t know, beating on his (very influential older) siblings with a Jedi sword or two (and I haven’t even let him watch Star Wars yet!).

So last week we went to visit the small Montessori preschool where three of his friends already go. It’s nothing big or intimidating, just the daylight-basement of his teacher’s home; very inviting and comfortable, full of fun toys and pet fish and various projects and happy kiddos going about their work. He seemed enthralled, and explored the place like he’d been there every day of his life, happily eating some goldfish crackers right out of one of his friend’s bowl (naturally!). So far, so good…

But having gone through two “first days of school” already, I had enough experience to know that it wasn’t going to school that’d be the issue. It would be me leaving the school that could potentially bring on the drama-slash-waterworks. So, all weekend I reminded him that I’d be saying “bye-bye.” Was he going to be okay with that? And every time I asked, he’d happily nod his consent. Hmm. I’d believe it when I saw it.

I woke up this morning, his first day of school, both excited and a bit conflicted; I knew preschool would be good for him, but I am really (really really really really) sad that my baby (my baby!!) is “leaving home” already! Broder, on the other hand, was only excited when I brought out his backpack. NO nerves there! He put it on right away, and ran downstairs to – very proudly – show it off to his big brother and sister, turning for them like a model on the runway (I’m not kidding, he even sashayed!). They, of course, being very smart siblings, applauded and cheered for him, and he quietly beamed with pleasure. Bill left with the 10yo to take her to school (recall, Paisley has an 8:30am drop off time), a few minutes before our own scheduled departure, and Broder stood at the door, with his cute backpack on, staring outside, ready to go. I gulped down – I mean, delicately sipped – the last of my coffee and hoped his positive attitude would last…

Broder leading the way to his new school. He's running, if you can't tell. RUNNING. What a tease!

Broder leading the way to his new school. He’s running, if you can’t tell. RUNNING. (What a tease!)

We arrived at the school and were the first ones there. He walked in like a boss, ready to own the place. It was awesome. I literally had to hold him down to get his coat off, and then had to chase him down again to get his shoes off (which, by the way, his papa had put on the wrong feet – I only mention this in retaliation for some text messages said Papa sent my way this afternoon; I’ll get to those in a minute…). His enthusiasm didn’t wane as some of the other kids came in. I chatted with his teacher for a few minutes, and all looked very promising for an easy drop off (Wait – did you just snort with laughter?! Not nice! Not nice at all…). As he darted by me on his way to the next shiny item that caught his eye I said “bye-bye” – and watched him stop as abruptly as if he’d hit a brick wall. Oh, dear… He spun around on his little sock-clad heel and walked to the door, ready to go with me. His hand was on the door knob when I reminded him of all our conversations over the weekend and how Mama had to say “bye-bye” and take Liam to school (recall, Liam has a 9:30am drop off time – Broder’s drop off is 8:45am; and yes, I want to stab myself in the temple with a fork whenever I think of trying to juggle three different drop off times – and three different pick up times – at three different schools for the next several months). Apparently he didn’t remember us having these little talks. “Me go,” he claimed. “Me go, too! Go go go!!” And his “Go go go!” just kept getting louder as I pried his sweet fingers off the door handle, gave him a kiss and passed him off to his (thankfully very calm and been-there-done-that) teacher and walked out the door…

And listened to his “Go go go!” all the way down the sidewalk…

Feeling like the WORST MOTHER EVER.

Of course, I’d felt this same truly terrible feeling twice before, on my other kids’ first days of school, but when it comes to saying good-bye to your child (whether they’re crying or not) for an extended period of time, well, let’s just say practice doesn’t make perfect. The first day of school (or daycare or nanny-care or any length of time that will persist for several days a week for what feels like eternity) is ALWAYS HARD, for everyone involved. I felt so bad for Broder, and for myself!, and I don’t even know how I got Liam to school; I can’t remember which route we took or how long it took. I do know we got there on time, and that I actually deposited my child in the right place (thank goodness!), because as the final bell was ringing I had a total mini PANIC ATTACK (yes, yes I did) as I looked around for Broder, my suddenly missing constant companion, before I remembered that he was at his own school. Heart still racing, I was in a total daze by the time I walked through the front door after dropping off both boys.

At which point, realizing I didn’t have a child to feed, entertain, or put down for a nap, it finally dawned on me that I had THREE WHOLE HOURS (okay, really two and a half, given the driving time to and from, but still!) without any kiddo interruptions. W. O. W. What to do, what to do??!!

What I should have done is gone upstairs and jumped on the bed in excitement (though as I’d already made my bed this morning, this might have been quite the psychological struggle, and I confess, I don’t think I could have done it had I thought of it); or have called a friend to meet up for coffee (there must be someone I know who doesn’t have to work or take care of their kids… though, I can’t think of anyone right now); or gone grocery shopping all on my own (truly, as anyone who’s taken three kids – or heck, even just one kid – grocery shopping can attest, shopping all on your own is a little slice of Heaven on Earth); or gone shopping-shopping (wow, what a novel concept: actually browsing in a grown-up department store, where I can find clothes in my size, and without getting bashed in the face, over and over again, by the free balloon from the kids’ shoe department – which for some reason I’m always carrying, what’s up with that?! – the balloon which I freely admit I use to bribe my child/ren with whenever I attempt to shop with any of them in tow; it’s a stupid idea shopping with your kids, I know, but sometimes it must be done); or just curled up in my big comfy chair with a big delicious cup of coffee and a big thought-provoking novel (I’m thinking it’s about time I actually managed to finish a book for Book Club again; just a thought …); or, if I wanted to go the responsible adult route (I know, I know; who wants to be a responsible adult?! Boo hiss!), started on some of the large-scale work projects that are lurking on the horizon (like a complete web site redesign; can we say “hours??”); or even tackled some of the pesky “spring-cleaning” (okay, fine, “year-round”) tasks around the house (all of which feel rather Sisyphean in nature, but at some point I actually *do* need to sort through all the kids’ clothes and shoes – as I’m pretty sure my 10yo hasn’t worn the size 4T dresses still hanging in her closest in, oh, you know, a couple of years – nor is my kitchen pantry going to rearrange itself into a more useful organizational system no matter how many times I beg it to); or (perhaps the very best idea), just TAKEN A NAP (sigh… doesn’t that sound ridiculously decadent??)

And I would have happily done any and all of these should-have-dones (well, I wouldn’t have happily started organizing my kitchen pantry – that just sounds horrible – but I would’ve at least enjoyed the satisfaction of having an organized kitchen pantry…), IF my brain wasn’t still with my baby boy… Three measly miles away. So, instead, I cleaned the breakfast things from the table while fretting about whether or not my little guy was still crying; and constantly checked my phone to see if the ringer was on; and checked again that the ringer was turned up loud enough so I could hear it in case Broder’s teacher needed to call me and tell me to come pick up the UNHAPPIEST CHILD ON THE PLANET right away; and texted my husband when the phone didn’t ring (which totally didn’t help comfort my jittery nerves, as he simply said that Broder would be fine, if maybe a bit mad at me, and reminded me to not forget that Broder likes to throw things – like his very hard plastic tippy-cups – at those unfortunate souls who do make him mad, and maybe I shouldn’t turn my back on him this afternoon; thanks for that, honey – really, thanks! – kisses!!); and basically watched the clock slowly slowly slowly tick-tick-tock its way toward the time I could get back in the car and drive to the new school and pick up my little sweet pea and hug him and hug him and hug him.

And then come home and put him down for his nap.

So I could finally get some work done! Assuming that my brain would no longer be in a worried fog…

I was ten minutes early picking him up. I tried to stay in the car, but I had a hard time concentrating on people’s Facebook posts on my iPhone… so I gave up and went inside…

To be told by my love bug, my youngest child who had cried and cried and cried and WAILED and broke my HEART into itty bitty little pieces when I left that morning, that he didn’t want to go home.

Are you KIDDING me??

What a stinker!!

And that’s when my brain finally started kicking in (well, what’s left of my brain, anyway; after 10 years of parenthood, we’re not talking Mensa-quality here, but, hey, it’s all I’ve got). Well, fine! Two can play at that game…You had fun? Fun?! Now it’s Mama’s turn…

That’s right, baby. Time to take a nap (sigh…). Time to read some (what I call) Bad Mama Books (yeah, you know the ones; the books, sanctioned by Book Club or not, that you can’t put down even if your kids are clubbing each other with a baseball bat you mistakenly forgot to put back in the too-high-to-reach-even-if-they’re-standing-on-a-chair-hiding-spot while in the same room in which you’re sitting and reading). Time to email the graphic artist and web programmer (done!) about that new web site design and skip off to Nirvana, aka Nordstrom’s shoe department (I’ll even take a balloon for myself, thank you!). Time to forget about getting this house in shape (because, like, that’s going to happen!) and even forget about going to the grocery store and head off, instead, to find the perfect Americano.

So, who wants to meet me for coffee? I’ll see you on Wednesday morning…

Right after I get done jumping on the bed.

Sanity is Totally Overrated

I am not kidding: put me in a straightjacket. This house is now, officially, a loony bin.

Not that you didn’t know already that our family was crazy, but after the decision Bill and I made the other day, it’s clear that I am unequivocally and certifiably CRAZY. Like, straightjacket crazy. I need to be committed.

Okay, so… School started about two weeks ago. This year, Bill and I decided (for various reasons which are rather complicated and not very amusing, so I won’t bore you with the details) that the 9yo and the 6yo should attend public school rather than returning to their beloved Montessori school, where we’ve been attending for the past seven years. Obviously, this was a huge decision, and very emotional, as we adore the community of parents and children and teachers at our old school; but, it’s a decision that we feel needed to be made, and we are at peace with the decision, and everyone, quite shockingly, seems to be quite content with the whole thing…

Crazy is as crazy does?

First day of school, first day of school! (Please notice: my kids do crazy WAY better than I do…)

Except for maybe me…

It’s not that I don’t love the new schools – I do; everyone is so nice, and the teachers are fantastic, and I love that the schools are so close to our house that we can and do walk back and forth (well, until the rains start again – I might like living in wet Seattle, but I’m not that hardcore). And it’s not that the kids are having any difficulty adjusting to their new environment or classmates or homework schedules (okay, well, nobody likes homework, but the grumbling is to be expected and hasn’t reached nuclear meltdown stages… yet… so I’ll take what I can get); heck, both kids still run – RUN!! – into school every morning, and not because they’re late (who knew this much excitement about school was even possible?!).

No, it’s the fact that there are schools involved – schools with an s, plural schools, as in more than one. And schools, plural, is, well, crazy-making, at least for me. And here’s why: because the 4th grader goes to school (a 15-minute walk south) from 8:30am-2:35pm, and the 1st grader goes to school (a 10-minute walk west) from 9:30am-3:35pm. Okay, I know that’s a lot of numbers, but did you catch that? That’s two different drop-off times, and two different pick-up times; each drop-off and pick-up time AN HOUR APART. Let that sink in… Now, you might think, if you have to do two different schools (and I don’t, but more on that in a moment), then having the exact same drop-off and pick-up times would be infinitely harder, as being in the same place at the same time is, to say the least, rather challenging (okay, fine, have it your way: impossible); which is true. So I’m glad we don’t have the exact same drop-off and pick-up times. But… an hour difference?! On each side?! I did the math (and double checked it with a calculator, so you could feel confident in my reporting, here, because I’ve been more than honest in past posts about how rocky my math skills are…), and I effectively lose TWO HOURS of my day with this new schedule (being the parent primarily responsible for getting the kids to and from school, as I’m the parent who works from home). And in case you were wondering, I don’t HAVE TWO HOURS to lose (you know, because of that aforementioned job thing, which, it turns out, takes TIME; go figure…).

“But, Jill,” you’re thinking to yourself (because talking out loud to your computer screen might make the folks around you suspect you’re the one in need of the straightjacket), “Why not just have your kids go to the same school?” Well, I would say, you are VERY SMART. And that’s why I like you… But… that’s why I am need-to-be-committed crazy…

Mm-kay… Are you ready for this?

Earlier this week my cellphone buzzed (it was on vibrate – it’s always on vibrate: I have a toddler who naps; I miss a lot of calls this way, but naps are sacred in my world – and it’s surprising I even answered the phone). It was Seattle Public Schools telling me that my son had been bumped up the waitlist for the school where my daughter attended, and that there was now an opening for him in one of the 1st grade classrooms (some quick background: though both are public schools, Liam is currently at the K-5 school we are assigned to because it’s the closest school to our home, Paisley is at the just-slightly farther away “alternative” K-8 option school that families can apply to and where we ultimately want both kids to go, mostly because it’s K-8 rather than K-5; Paisley was on the waitlist until the first day of summer vacation, when she finally got in, but Liam was so low on the waitlist that we never thought we had a chance this year). The woman on the phone asked: did I want to accept?

And you, oh wise reader, know that I of course would say, or even perhaps shout with glee, “YES! YES! A THOUSAND TIMES YES!!” because it would be crazy, unequivocally and certifiably CRAZY, to say NO to getting my kids in the same school, to say NO to getting my kids in the same school that we wanted them to be at, to say NO to getting my kids in the same school that we wanted them to be at and on the exact same schedule with only one pick-up time and one drop-off time a day

It would be like, STRAIGHTJACKET CRAZY to say NO to making my life SO MUCH EASIER.

Which, of course, means that we said no (I know!! I know…). We decided to keep Liam in the 1st grade class that he started in two weeks ago. We are not moving him to the school where we ultimately want him. We are not making my life easier. Because, as it turns out, I AM straightjacket crazy.

Your stomach just turned, didn’t it? You feel a little sick about this decision, on my behalf? That’s very kind of you; I, too, felt sick to my stomach all that day, as the deadline I was given loomed for me to decide yay or nay. Or, perhaps you just called the good folks at the closest insane asylum to come catch this lunatic mama (who so obviously needs her head examined) with their butterfly nets? Don’t worry, I’m sure the few parents who I ran into after receiving the phone call, who saw me pulling my hair out and hyperventilating over this decision – all of whom looked at me with great pity, patted me gently on the head, and said in their kindest talking-to-someone-with-half-a-brain voice: but sweetie, that’s such an easy choice; of course you’ll change schools!! – already called the keepers of the local funny farm. They should be here any moment…

And I KNOW it’s crazy. I really do. And I worry about myself; this choice does not feel sane. But here’s the thing… my gut, my Mama Instinct, just feels so so so strongly that Liam is where he’s supposed to be this year. I can’t explain why, really… Okay, so his teacher is ah-may-zing, and is always smiling and laughing, and we’ve been told she’s the best 1st grade teacher at his school if not THE best teacher, and she just won a huge teaching award and because of it was honored at the Seattle Seahawks game this last weekend (Go Hawks!); but maybe the teachers at the other school are really great, too. And okay, he has three friends in his new class that he actually knew before school even started, and this is a big deal because two days before school started he had a 45 minute crying jag while sitting on my lap, his arms wrapped tightly around my neck like he’d never let go, sobbing uncontrollably about how he didn’t want to go to a new school and how he just wanted to be in a class with his two best friends who were still at his old Montessori school (never mind that his two best friends aren’t in the same class this year, either); but, he’s a nice kid, and I know he could and would easily make new friends at the other school. I know he’d be fine. He would be FINE. But the class he’s in now is just a really good fit. And he’s happy – and I really wasn’t sure that was possible so early in the year after changing schools, or that he’d handle the change as well as he has; I just really don’t want to jeopardize that happiness. And he’s learning so much; it’s already so obvious, and that’s exciting. And I know it could be like this at the other school, too… but what if it wasn’t?

Going to a New School, First Grade

The 6yo, actually SMILING at the orientation for his new school, held the last week of summer break. I took this photo because I was sure he would NOT be smiling on his first day of school. And yeah, it’s kinda nice that he’s STILL smiling, three weeks later…

So I know, in my (wildly irrational) heart if not in my (rarely rational) brain, that we made the right decision. An unequivocally and certifiably CRAZY decision, but the right decision. However… I will confess: I still can’t believe I voluntarily chose to make my life more challenging…

I must really love that kid.

Well, I guess there’s nothing to do now but to say adieu to sanity (who needs it anyway?!), learn to work more efficiently with the time I have (I could work nights after tucking the kids into bed, but that time is usually reserved for my Pinterest addiction), remember to put all those upcoming PTA meetings on the calendar (wow, that’s a lot of meetings…), hug my kids tight when I drop them off at their two different schools at two different times (at least when I can catch them before they run – RUN!! – into their classrooms), hope and hope and hope some more to win the waiting list lottery again next year (preferably before the start of school)…

… and, honestly, figure out how to do crazy as well as my kids (please reference Image 1, above). Well, minus the fingers in my mouth or eyes rolled back in my head; I confess, that’s not a good look for me…

Hmm… You know, I’m thinking this straightjacket just needs a few accessories… A scarf? Some ballet flats? A butterfly net? It might be a crazy year (or two… or three…), but I’m going to do right by my kids…

… and make crazy look goooood.

When Did He Get So Big??

Kindergarten Graduation

Liam, 5yo, at his Kindergarten Graduation Ceremony (June 2012). He stitched a beautiful red-tailed hawk on to the sash he’s wearing – one of his favorite birds.

My 5yo has graduated. From kindergarten. And I… I… Well…

I don’t quite know how this happened!! Or rather, he’s very smart, so of course he graduated, but I don’t quite know how this happened SO FAST.

I swear I walked him to his first class just YESTERDAY! Not three years ago…

Oh! No no no no… No, he didn’t repeat kindergarten for three years; I’m sure that was a bit confusing!

First Day of Preschool

Liam, 3yo, on his very first day of school (September 2010). Look at those cheeks!!


No. Liam attends a Montessori school, and started in his Primary classroom three years ago (THREE YEARS AGO! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?!). The first year, at 3yo, he went to school just in the morning. Then, at 4yo, he returned to his same class, with his same teacher (how we adore her; she was Paisley’s primary teacher as well), and attended for the morning and stayed for lunch. At 5yo, in his third and final year (equivalent to the traditional kindergarten year), he became what they call an “Extended Day” student and stayed all day, using his afternoon hours to master all the work he’d been learning for the past three years. THREE YEARS?!

It just goes by so fast…

And sometimes I don’t want it to go so fast. I want time to slow down, so I can savor just how perfect my child is TODAY. Of course, he was perfect yesterday. And he’ll be perfect tomorrow. And the tomorrow after that… And I’ll love him to pieces every single day, at every stage of development, as he grows and matures and becomes whatever he wants to become.

But it’s so hard to give up THIS moment; I want to hold on to him just as he is forever and ever and remember exactly how wonderful and witty and unique he is NOW.

So, because I know I can’t hold on to today (and really, I don’t want to – I want my child to continue exploring and learning and thriving and moving forward), I’m going to settle on trying to capture today, the now, as fully as I can: I’m taking pictures; I’m shooting videos; I’m tucking his precious works into memory boxes. And today (actually, it took three days, but who’s counting?) I’m starting my first ever Graduation Questionnaire – a verbal snapshot, if you will – to capture a little of the inner workings of my child. If I don’t completely lose my marbles in the next few years and decades (c’mon, with my crazy life, you know it’s a feasible reality; let’s just hope I keep sane until well into my 110s, though, shall we?), I intend to ask each of the kids the following set of questions upon any significant academic milestone: graduations from kindergarten to elementary, elementary to middle school, middle school to high school, high school to college, and so on if they continue past college… (hey, a mama can dream!).

Oh! A bit about the Graduation Questionnaire itself – I’ve broken it into major thematic sections, just because I’m a little OCD like that… I also decided to set the questionnaire to a soundtrack (because I think life is better with music… that’s just me). I plan to always only pick songs that are meaningful to the child being interviewed, and will add an explanation as to why, in hopes that the songs and explanations, upon re-reading these questionnaires at some future point, will more fully flesh out the child and the moment in question, and also trigger my own memories of the time (as I believe music is a wonderful mnemonic device; I’ve also heard that chocolate assists memory recall – good thing I eat so much!).

So, without any further ado…

 THE GRADUATION QUESTIONNAIRE

PART A: THE BASICS
Song: Let’s Get It Started (The Black Eyed Peas)

Liam became quite the fan of The Black Eyed Peas when my (ingenious, brilliant, and perhaps entertainment-seeking) hubby serendipitously discovered that playing The Black Eyed Peas music videos on YouTube would settle down Liam’s baby brother whenever he was fussy (which wasn’t too often, but often enough for us to create a Black Eyed Peas station on Pandora in order to play them on the road, and to make Liam come running as soon as he heard their music piping from the computer). Though he prefers their song Boom Boom Pow, it’s rarely on the radio; I am absolutely required to blast Let’s Get It Started whenever in comes on when we’re in the car.

What is your name? Liam. (He spells it out for me… In case I didn’t know? Love.) L-I-A-M.

How old are you? Five. But I’m turning six.

How tall are you? Mmm. I don’t know. I actually don’t know. Do you know how big I am? (According to the door frame we use to mark all the kids’ heights, he was 3’ 8 ½” in March; according to his high-water pants, he has grown at least eight feet since then.)

What color is your hair? I don’t remember. I just don’t know that. (Me: Dark blonde.) Oh.

In what city do you live? State? Country? Um, I live in Washington, Seattle. What’s country mean again?

PART B: CURRENT PREFERENCES
Song: Magic Dance (David Bowie, from Labyrinth)

I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited for my kids to be ready for the movie, Labyrinth! One of my all-time favorites… I let the older two watch it about a month ago, and now Liam keeps asking if any and all songs he hears on the radio were sung by “The Goblin King.”

What is your favorite color? Why? Red. Um, because it’s a really pretty color.

What is your favorite book? The Tree House books (He means The Magic Tree House books; they are pretty fun…).

Do you have a favorite singer or band? Uh, no.

What is your favorite song? Goblin King? (At my skeptical look, he continues…) What? We sometimes listen to it…

What is your favorite movie? How to Train Your Dragons (He means How to Train Your Dragon; not plural).

What is your favorite part of the day? Why? What do you mean your favorite part of the day? (Me: Like morning, afternoon, evening… Or like when you wake up and come snuggle with me in my bed, or when you go to school, or recess…) Uh, I have to go to the bathroom. But I’ll tell you when I get back. (And we PAUSE. At this point I look at Bill and say: This is going to be the best post EVER. He laughed. As he should…. I twiddle my thumbs. I check out my email, Pinterest, Facebook. I roll my eyes. I wait some more… Finally, the child returns!) Okay, what’s the question? (I repeat the question.) Going to the Mariners game. (Me: But that’s not something you do every day…)  Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….. My favorite thing to do is to do school. Can I go watch my cartoon now? (Me: Answer a few more questions. Please??) But… whine whine whine whine!! (And we PAUSE. This is going SO well. Wow! Right… aaaaand we pick up the next day.)

What is your favorite meal? Snack? Dessert? Peanutty Pasta (followed by a big smile – a win for Mama!! Too bad that’s not what we’re having for dinner tonight…). Ritz crackers. Candy.

PART C: THE FAMILY
Song: Little Talks (Of Monsters & Men)

We listen to a LOT of the local indie radio station KEXP in our family, and this is one of our favorite bands and songs (this video was filmed by KEXP during the Iceland Airwaves festival); I think we’re also quite fond of the fact that this band is from Iceland – and even Liam is excited that his older sister and his papa are starting off our family’s global explorations in Iceland this summer.

What’s your favorite thing to do with your sister? Read books with her.

What’s your favorite thing to do with your brother? Wait, which brother. Papa or Broder? (Me: Uh, Papa is not a brother…???) Oh. Uh, I like playing “I’m going to get you!” with Broder. (This is said while on his tiptoes, with his hands up by his face like he’s pretending to be a cat, and he draws out the phrase like “IIIII’mmmmm goooooinggggg tooooo GET Youuuuu! And then he pounces… Like he really got his little brother. I confess this is a really cute game; and Broder loves it, too: I honestly think the two of them are going to bust a gut, laughing as maniacally hard as they do. Well, usually…) But when he cries, I stop. (Hmm. Well, sometimes… But at least he knows he’s supposed to stop!)

What’s your favorite thing to do with Mama? Going to school with you. Also, hugging you. (Awww!)

What’s your favorite thing to do with Papa? Uh, let’s see. Going to Mariner games with him? (Can you tell Bill took him to a Seattle Mariners baseball game this last weekend?)

What’s your favorite thing to do with your dogs? Your cats? Play ball with them. (Which he does every single morning when he wakes up at the unbearably early hour of 5:30am – the dogs, however, don’t seem to mind the early hour; they adore Liam. Naturally.) I don’t know what I do with the cats. Well, I do know what I do with Pippi; not Poncho. I hold her and kiss her. I sometimes do that with Poncho. Not all the time. (Me: Why don’t you do that with Poncho?) ‘Cuz he sometimes bites and scratches. (Right. Smart kid.)

When you get to start travelling to other countries, where do you want to go first? Why? Egypt. Because it’s really cool. (Me: What makes it cool?) ‘Cuz King Tut used to live there (the King Tut exhibit is currently at the Pacific Science Museum in Seattle, and we see the signs and billboards everywhere), and so did the Scorpion King. (Me: WAIT! WHAT?? What do you know about the Scorpion King?????) Well, I don’t know anything about the Scorpion King. But he had scorpions… (Note to self: hire private investigator to follow my child and uncover who has been corrupting said child with stories of inappropriate movies!)

Where do you want to go after that? Um, to, um um um, let’s see. What’s it called? Where [friend’s name] was born? I want to go to Germany.

And after that? I don’t know yet. (Fair enough.)

PART D: HOW HE FEELS
Song: Sail (AWOLNATION)

Oh my goodness, how I wish I had video footage of Liam ROCKING OUT to this song (and I’m talking head-banging, air-guitaring, lip-syncing ROCKING OUT) when we’re driving to school in the morning! His enthusiasm is infectious, and I happily indulge his request to turn the volume way up above all safe levels for the ear drums involved… Also, you MUST watch this video – it’s of a guy in a flying squirrel suit; I’ll leave it at that. And if Liam does anything this crazy stupid in his entire life I will kick his arse myself – if he makes it back home alive!!

What makes you laugh? Um, Paisley tickling me. Also, you tickling me. Mostly everyone tickling me. Except for those people who can’t make it work… (Clearly, we feel sorry for “those” kind of people…)

What makes you cry? When people tickle me so hard and I say stop and they don’t stop and then I start crying. And when someone bites me, also. (Of course… But, uh, who is biting my child?)

What makes you angry? When somebody pushes me. And when [kid in class] punched me in the face, I got mad at him. (Excuse me?? Apparently I need talk with my child’s teacher about my child getting punched in the face and bitten?! My Mama Bear alter ego is rising to the surface… I better take a sip of wine.)

What makes you happy? When somebody makes sure I’m okay. (Aww! That’s nice!)

Do you have a pet peeve? (Pause to define pet peeve.) When somebody sings a song so many times and they don’t stop and it really starts to annoy me. (And no! He isn’t referring to me! I don’t think…)

What’s the worst thing that could happen to you? When somebody gets really mean at me. That’s my worst thing. (Mama Bear growl about to escape…)

What’s the best thing that could happen to you? Um, when somebody, um… I don’t know that. All things are my favorites. (Happy boy!)

PART E: AT SCHOOL
Song: Under Pressure (Queen & David Bowie, as performed with puppets)

As any decent parent should do, I’m raising my children to identify important voices in the history of rock ‘n’ roll (Springsteen, Dylan, “The Man in Black,” and so on). In the last few weeks, I’ve been working with Liam on being able to “hear” Freddy Mercury; this was a surprising challenge until I remembered Liam loved this video, and explained that this song was sung with “The Goblin King” (see above).

What does your teacher do the best? Give me lessons.

What is your favorite thing to do in class? Um, to hang out with my friends. (Me: how about lessons?) My favorite thing is… hanging out with my friends. (He says this as if I’m really dim-witted. At least he doesn’t roll his eyes! As I’m about to interrogate him about lessons, he quickly cuts me off…) Mama, can we have dinner now? I’m hungry. (So, a dinner break was taken, but I fully intend to return to this question, apparently for day three of questioning, with the belief that there better be more than “hanging out with friends” happening at school…) (Next morning, I repeat the question.) I already told you, hanging out with my friends. (Me: I specifically want to hear about your favorite work in class, though.) Um. Reports. You might have already heard that. (Indeed, during his graduation ceremony in his class last Friday, his teacher had said a little bit about each child, including what their favorite work in class was… she’d mentioned that Liam’s favorite thing to do was reports. At least he reminded me of this in a kind manner, and didn’t make it sound like I was dim-witted – this time!)

How do you do that, write reports? Um, you write the words, and when you’re done you edit it. And then you write it. And then when you’re done you draw it.

What goes on at the playground? Sometimes people attack. (Me: Attack?!) Yeah, attack guys. But we just play nice games. (Me: What kind of nice games?) I don’t really know. Mostly [friend’s nickname] just makes it up. But I don’t know.

What do you want to learn in first grade? I don’t know. (I’m getting tired of hearing “I don’t know.” Maybe I need to rethink my questions. I try again…) I only know that they have the clock work.

What do you think you’ll have to learn in first grade? You don’t really have to. You don’t have to learn it. You can ask if you want to learn. (Huh.)

PART F: THE FUTURE
Song: Land Of Hope And Dreams (Bruce Springsteen)

This is my favorite of Liam’s current favorites. Bill and I are huge Springsteen fans, and of course we bought his latest album, Wrecking Ball. It’s great, and is on continuous play in the car. Liam is obsessed with listening to Track 10, Land of Hope and Dreams. It’s a great song, though not new; the video I’ve included here comes from Springsteen’s reunion tour with the E Street Band, which Bill and I attended exactly 12 years ago yesterday, on June 12, 2000, the opening night of the Madison Square Garden show in NYC; the concert was freaking EPIC, and he closed the show with this song.

Is there anything in particular you want to learn how to do? I don’t know yet. (Me: It could be anything: how to fly a plane, mow a lawn, drive a car…) I just don’t know. (Okay. Next question.)

What do you want to be when you grow up? I feel like being a vet. But taking care of honey badgers and peregrine falcons and that kind of thing. I might take care of some others…

How will you become a vet? You need to ask the people, the people that work at the vet.

Where do you think you’ll live when you’re my age? Mama? Can I just see this? I want to see what it’s like… (We pause for my child to watch the garbage truck go by in the alley. These questions are taking me forever! What was I thinking??? He tries to run off to the playroom after, but I call him back and ask the question again.)  I don’t know. I’m telling you, I don’t know yet! (Okay. Sheesh!)

If Kindergarten Liam could give advice to Grown Up Liam, what would you want to say to him? I don’t know. (Me: Well, wouldn’t it be cool if you met yourself all grown up?) Yeah, but… I don’t get it! (Okay, that’s legit. He’s only five. It’s a fairly abstract question… Or, he just wants to go back to hitting his baby brother over the head with rolled up Mariners posters that were supposed to make it out to the recycling bins. Either way…)

Is there anything else I should know about you that I should include in this report? Can I do this later? (Sure. Sure… When you graduate from elementary school… And when you graduate from middle school… And when you graduate from high school… And when you graduate from college… And when you graduate from your veterinary program… Or whatever other program you decide will help you become what you want to be when you grow up.)

HERE ENDS THE FIRST GRADUATION QUESTIONNAIRE

Yes, yes, we can and will do this later. And you know what? I’m looking forward to seeing how Liam’s answers to these questions change over time…

More than he will ever know, I’ve already enjoyed watching him grow and develop from a tiny bundle of cooing goodness into a considerate toddler who I never had to worry about running into the streets (he just always waited to hold my hand). And I’ve already enjoyed watching him grow and develop from that considerate toddler who still had cheeks rounded with baby fat, into the curious little boy he is today who still giggles like a maniac when being tickled (though I STILL don’t know how this happened SO FAST!!).

And now? Now I must content myself with looking forward to watching him grow and develop from the curious little boy he is today, who loves hanging out with his friends, into a kind young man who still loves hanging out with his friends, and is also still as sweet, as gentle, as playful, as generous of spirit, as confident, as silly, as family-centered, as perfect as he is today, as he was yesterday (okay, fine, three years ago!) when I first walked him to his classroom door, and as he was the day he was born and made our world infinitely better.

But no matter how old he gets, and no matter how tall he gets (and at the rate he’s growing now, he’ll be twenty and a half feet by the time he reaches twelve, I swear), and no matter how FAST it all goes (SO FAST!!), I hope he always smiles that same sweet smile…

And knows that he will always be my baby.

No matter how big he gets.

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.