Friday, October 29, 2010

A Compilation

I take my two younger children to our library's story hour every week on Thursday mornings.  This is the first year that my youngest meets the age requirements (the library website specifically says 'ages 4-5') and probably the only year we'll be able to attend (unless I go by myself next year!).  But I enjoy being able give them weekly activities to look forward to and the opportunity to practice their manners (don't I sound like a mother?  Who cares about fun!  Let's talk 'please' and 'thank you'!).  But I do have a slight beef about story hour: kids not in the age group.

Have I already commented about this?  Why are there children there that are younger than even two years old?  They aren't paying attention to the story.  They mostly wander around the library causing trouble while the day care provider reads a magazine.  And yes, children who are technically older than the requirements may be able to attend occasionally when school is canceled for the day, but does that mean that they get to boss the little kids around?  Yes, you're twelve, we all know that you'll best the five-year-olds when it comes to the bean bag toss and musical chairs.  Aren't you a little too old to be playing?  Shouldn't you be slightly ashamed that you're taking prizes away from the kids for whom the games were intended?  It makes me feel sad for my kids, getting bossed around by people who shouldn't even be there.  

Okay, rant over.

Yesterday I was waiting anxiously for the afternoon bus to drop Boy One off from school.  The minutes kept ticking by on the clock until it read twelve minutes past the normal drop-off time, at which point I came back inside and Girl and I found our shoes and coats while I scrounged for the school phone number.  At this point, the phone rang: could I come down and get Boy One?  He had a melt down at the end of school and was so upset that he wouldn't even sit down on the bus.  Girl and I ran the quarter mile to the school where we found said boy, asleep on the floor of the bus with his head in a teacher's lap.

The teacher, bus driver and aid all assured me that he was still breathing, but had this ever happened before?  Apparently he had a difficult afternoon and chose not to join closing circle, thus he didn't receive his licorice treat.  Nothing makes him more upset than not getting his treat, and since he had to leave to catch the bus he didn't even get to tell teacher he was sorry so he broke down in hysterical tears, finally working himself into exhaustion.  After a few minutes we woke him up and he was all smiles, but all of us adults were standing around asking each other, "what do you think we should have done?"  He did, later, get to go back in the school and apologize to his teacher, who gave him a hug and his treat.  Thank the Lord for such compassionate teachers at this school.

As it is the end of October, this morning I had parent/teacher conferences to attend for both of the boys at their respective schools.  I ended up arriving at the elementary school ten minutes early (and staying fifteen minutes late) for my meeting, which allowed me to talk with his regular aid and the learning specialist (as well as his teacher).  It ended up being a terrific meeting, as there were so many good things to share!  The marks he received on his progress report were all in the top two of the five levels - the best marks he has ever had!  I cried.  Also, he is too advanced for his reading group!  Amazing!  The samples of his writing and illustrating were so detailed and show so much improvement.  There is nothing more exciting than seeing your children develop their abilities.

I skipped down the street to the kindergarten (where I showed off Boy One's progress report to all of the teachers, aids and office staff I could find.  No, really, I did.) and met with Boy Two's teacher, who also had nothing but good things to say.  About him being an example to the other kids about how to behave, about having compassion on his classmates and helping them when they need it, about how responsible and respectful he is.  Wow!  Nice to know he behaves so well at school - can't he do that at home?  Even the P.E. teacher stopped me the other afternoon to tell me that Boy Two had picked right up on Chinese jump rope (?) and then helped the rest of the kids to learn how.  He's coordinated, too!  What great kids I have.

As a special treat, I have a little anecdote I've been saving for a few weeks.

My mom and I went to the Mill End (fabric) store a few weeks back and I happened to overhear a tiny exchange that I will never forget.  The customer was at the cutting counter talking with the employee about the material in front of her and the kind of cut she needed.  Then she tried to be cute and made a little quip about the fabric, telling the employee that she needed "...the better part of valor."

The employee deadpanned right back, "Actually, it's pronounced velour."

I loved it so much that I wrote it down on a paper in my purse so I'd be sure and remember it!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


For the first time in my life, the people that I am calling my friends know absolutely nothing about the first quarter century of my life, nor do they attend church with me.

This is very odd to me.  The idea that someone can be considered my friend and yet they don't know my husband or anyone else in my extended family (except my children) is very foreign.  I have never felt that I make friends easily, although I do make an effort to smile a lot and put myself into social situations that require me to be friendly.  But I do have a sharp wit and a quick tongue, and not everyone appreciates that light teasing is how I move a conversation forward.

The four women (and their husbands) that I spent most of my free time with from 1996 - 2008 have all moved away from the valley and, although I don't necessarily feel lonely, I don't have the opportunities to socialize that I used to. 

The local Kindergarten had a Harvest Festival that our family attended on Tuesday evening and I was surprised that I found myself talking to so many people.  A mom I knew briefly from a community playgroup sat her family down beside us, claiming to my husband that she 'loves our family'.  I had never met her husband or son, but had no problem conversing animatedly with the whole family for fifteen minutes while my own family tried to lure me away.  Two minutes after getting up from the table, I identified a man I had never seen (his kids look like him) as the husband of a friend of mine (also from playgroup two years ago) and pounced, introducing myself and asking questions about his new pastorship in Astoria and his wife's nursing classes.  I think I threw the poor guy off a little; he looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

In the gymnasium to pick out pumpkins to decorate, I talked with my son's T-ball coach, the previous director of the Gladstone Center (who helped me with my oldest son the last two years), the Head Start director who likes my cooking, two teachers that I know well, and their husbands.  My little family felt a little abandoned that evening, I think. 

Two mornings later I was the only one (a second came fifteen minutes later) of the hundred invited parents to attend a new Monthly Coffee hour with the new Director of the center (whom I've never met - but as I introduced myself her eyes widened and she expressed, "Oh!  You're THAT Kristen!"  Yep, that's me.  I guess everyone in town knows of me.).  We got along famously before my time ran out and the Girl and I made a dash for the library's Story Hour, where the children's librarian and I have developed a rapport.

Apparently, these people (and others at my son's schools) are my new 'friends'.  I was a little surprised to admit to myself that I have more positive interaction and lively friendships with these people in my community than I do with the people of my church, who I've known for twenty years now.  Something about that disturbs me a little, but also feels very right, in its own sense.

I have more thinking to do about this.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Child/Parent Dance and Who Wins at the End

Boy Two is way too much like his uncle.  I just may have to trade him to the gypsies.

Monday started out about normal.  The kids had the day off from their respective schools and Daddy was working from home for part of the day so he could drive me to a dentist appointment, but otherwise it was business as usual.  Boy Two kept having "loud feet" (a term that any family living in a home that shares a wall/floor/ceiling with another family will immediately understand) and going to his room for trying to annoy his siblings and subsequently annoying his parents.

A little before lunch time I poured some juice for the kids as usual and made sure there were three different colored cups for easy identification throughout the day.  Once again, the green cup was the favorite and the first one to grab it was Boy Two.  Fine.  But what bugs Mama is that whoever gets the green cup invariably crows his/her success to purposefully aggravate their siblings, who then whine for the next hour about how "I wanted the green cup!"  Over the course of time, this argument has become a tiny drain on Mama's nerves.  Monday was no exception.  Hence, the exasperated Mother decided to remove said items from the kitchen.  I found all the green cups that we own, made a formal, loud announcement in the presence of all the children, and abruptly disposed of the cups in the garbage.  This settled the argument for Monday, but Tuesday morning the grievance was "I wanted the orange cup!"  Mama is planning a trip to Target to purchase enough cups of a single color to quiet the argument indefinitely.

About half an hour later I asked Boy Two to find his siblings and ask them what they wanted on their sandwiches for lunch.  He is the only one who can be counted on to (a) remember the question, (b) ask both siblings, and (c) return to me with the answers in a short amount of time.  Sadly, I underestimated his cunning. 

The orders as he reported them were: Boy One, apple butter; Boy Two, peanut butter and marshmallow; Girl, Nutella.  So those were the sandwiches I assembled.  I called all three to the table and Boy Two wolfed down his lunch before Girl even arrived - a move I should have caught.  Girl, upon examining the contents of her bread, complained "I didn't want Nutella!"  Mama retorted, "That's what you asked for, so you need to eat it!"  Only then did Mama notice the shadow of a smile on Boy Two's face as he avoided eye contact.  Bingo.

I pulled him into the other room and quietly asked him if sister had asked for peanut butter on her sandwich and he admitted to it, still with a slight devilish gleam in his eye at having gotten away with his scheme.  Drat.  I couldn't have the two kids switch sandwiches, Boy Two had already consumed his!  How am I going to handle this one?!

The old standby, I guess: he lied to Mama about the sandwiches, therefore he gets the ole Toothbrush With Soap treatment.  Poor kid.  He hadn't yet figured out how to spit out the foam and not swallow it.  I suppressed a smile as I thought of the belly full of bubbles that he had swallowed.  Yuck.

Two incidents down.  I naively thought that would be the last one. 

As evening descended on our home the kids began to ready themselves for bed.  I entered the boy's room to put clean sheets on a bed and managed to glance at the little green nightstand between the beds, now covered in someone's pretty scrawl.  Ugh.  How would I figure out who was responsible for this?  (If you already think you know, you're probably right.  Way to jump to conclusions.)

I called the kids in and very innocently began to question them about the elegant artwork.  Everyone squirmed and immediately began blaming each other, something I learned years ago is never reliable.  I would have to draw out the culprit without them realizing I was doing it. 

Keeping up the naive, awed inquisitiveness that I won an Oscar for, I calmly asked questions such as "This is beautiful, did one of you do this?  It's very good!  I can't even tell what this is; is it marker?  Pencil?  Those circles are so precise, are they ripples of water?  Are those letters?  They're very well done.  What do they spell?"  It took me about fifteen minutes of this interplay to really get a good feel for who the real culprit was (fortunately, Daddy followed my lead in this drama) and the artist finally revealed himself when asked "What is this supposed to be, a dragon?"  "No," Boy Two piped up (I knew he couldn't resist), "it's a pirate ship!"  He then proceeded to relate what the other designs were and when I asked in awe, "So you did this?" he suddenly realized he was caught and, remembering the soap from lunchtime, quickly admitted his guilt.  As a reward (?) for telling the truth, he avoided punishment and simply spent the next twenty minutes erasing his artwork (thankfully it was only colored pencil). 

In the realm of parenting, any conflict you don't lose is considered a win.