June272014

Summer Blog 2014: Thursday 4am, Special Edition

            I have discovered a brilliant secret to detach the clinging child from keeping me awake while he prolongs the random wake-up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. Parents, you know what I’m talking about. The child wakens you from a dead sleep at an ungodly hour to tell you that he can’t sleep. In spite of your no-child-left-allowed-in-the-bed rule, you give in in the hope that you can get back to sleep without further interruptions. This works sometimes. It does not work this time because the child writhes in the bed beside you, poking your back, smacking you in the face, yanking the covers from 1/3 of your body (a random 1/3 that wreaks impossible havoc on your sleep temperature). Eventually, the child achieves what must be his devious master plan – to get you as awake as he is. You strategize.

            “Let’s go back to your bed and I’ll rub your back and your hair so you can go to sleep.”

            This also usually works like a snake-charm. It does not work this time. Every time you think the child has fallen asleep, you remove your hand and he pops back up to ask you a question about clams—or Captain America, or the color of the sky.

            “Look, Mommy, I think the sky is the color of morning. It’s time to wake up!”

            After making him look at the clock to see that it is 4:30 a.m. and reminding him that during the school year I had to drag him out of bed at 7:30 a.m. I nearly weep at the pain in my neck and shoulders caused by my attempts to prop myself up on a Hello Kitty pillow and an unidentifiable Pillow Pet.

            Then, out of the desperate need of the moment, my perfect idea arises. “Are you tired?” I ask, already knowing what his answer will be.

            “Nope.”

            “Good,” I reply smiling, “then it’s your turn to rub my neck and shoulders.”

            “But … why? I don’t want to … I can’t.”

            “Nonsense. I rub your back all the time. Plus, you said you aren’t tired and my neck hurts. So it’s your turn. Get those hands going!”

            He grumbles, then gets quiet and thinks about it, trying to work out this new turn of events. Finally, he says, “Oh, I get it. I have to rub your shoulders because you rub mine.”

            “Yep. Chop-chop mister. Sit up so you can dig in.” (I want to wear him out as quickly as possible and get a free massage in the process. Brillant!)

            He lasts maybe 3 minutes. “Oh my gosh, my hands are sooooo tired!”

            “Oh stop it. Make a fist, then.” I demonstrate it for him. His little hands are like a cat tiptoeing over my back. Push down as hard as you can. My shoulders are killing me!”

                        He makes a valiant effort for another minute. “I’m soooo tired!”

            “But you said you weren’t tired. Which is it?”

            “Now I’m tired.”

            “I don’t believe you.”

            “I really am!”

            “So I should leave?”

            “Yes! Go!”

            “Are you sure? I can stay. I could use a bit more.”

            He shoves my legs with his feet. “Out!”

            I head back to bed doing a little victory dance and celebrating what is sure to be a foolproof method of getting sucked into another sleepless night for several years. Worst case scenario—he decides to take me up on it and I get a massage while I sit up with him.

            Mom for the win!  

6PM

Summer Blog 2014: Thursday—Staycation!

Aha! We live in a beautiful place! Let us go enjoy walking around it (without spending any money, of course)! Plus, the kid NEEDS. TO. MOVE.

So we go out today with a Plan. Walk around pretty town. Utilize some coupon from magazine for lunch. Go to library. End with Cheap Movie ($5.75 x 2 = $11.50 … right?). This is a big day for us. So far we’ve spent no money all week.

When we get down town the kid shows zero interest in walking around to see the beauty of anything. When I spot the old building my mom used to own, I am awash in curiosity. It’s been gutted and turned into a restaurant, so I decide we will go there for lunch. The kid wants nothing to do with it, but I tell him to stuff it. In spite of the surreal experience of seeing our former office gutted and turned into a seafood shack, it’s pretty nice. Upside: they have a kid play area out back in the shape of a pirate ship and the food is great. Downside: it costs a bloody fortune. After the kid entertains all of the outside lunch guests with his very noisy and very dramatic impressions of a pirate, we hike over to the library.

… where I discover that I have a pirate boatload of library fines from when I lived here 6 years ago. Luckily, the nice man behind the desk takes pity on me and cuts the fees down to, like, the equivalent of the pointy thing that pokes out of the bow of the boat, which I pay with a red face and profuse thanks and apologies. I ask if I returned all the books before I left. I did. I somehow feel better about that. Turns out I’m not a book thief, just a hoarder. And a roundabout sort of patron of the library.

We raid the “levelled” books to keep his little brain from losing all the progress he made this year, snag a book on tape (he chooses #5 Harry Potter because that’s the only one they have), and run out to catch our movie. It’s a very poorly stocked library.

I decide we can run in to the Dollar Store to grab some cheap movie snacks to sneak into the movie. (Cheap Mom trick #508: Bring a big “Mom purse” to the movies stuffed with cheap snacks and drinks). 2 drinks + 2 snacks = $4, right? No. Apparently in the Dollar store, everything is not a dollar. After negotiations with the kid, I walk out $6 poorer and am irrationally irritated over $2.

But the movie makes up for it. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a great movie. We laughed; we cried. I never saw Cats, but, you know … Anyway. So cool taking my little man on a “date” and snuggling with him, holding his little hand that grows a little bigger every year, and occasionally stopping to watch him watch the movie.

6PM

Summer Blog 2014: Wednesday – Out of Doors!

This boy needs to RUN! I know this. I should have known better than to try to do little activities, however fun, to keep him busy.

So off to the beach we go. I am determined to run him to the ground today. I want to see yawns when he hits the mattress tonight.

Chairs, towels, sunscreen, water, boogy-board, flip-flops and we are ready to go. We do it Florida style. Keep it simple. For some Floridians, even this is too much. I plunk down in my chair to take deep breaths of the ocean breeze, listen to the heave and fall of the waves as they move in from the deep to splash harmlessly onto the sand at our feet, and soak in the rays of the warm summer sun. Pure calm. This is Zen made manifest for me. Meanwhile, the kid straps on the board and dives into the waves. I pat myself inwardly on the back for finally getting it right.

After 2 hours of riding the waves tirelessly (I wasn’t kidding about this kid’s stamina) my son walks up to our chairs and says, “Why aren’t you doing anything Mommy?”

“Oh, I’m doing something,” I say. “I’m relaxing. It’s an art.”

He sits down next to me and looks out at the ocean.

 “Remember a while back when we talked about having trouble sleeping and imagining a peaceful place that makes us calm? This is what I imagine. The breeze and the sun on my skin. The sound of the water. The smell of the ocean.” Then I am quiet and I wait to see if he will get antsy or if he will pay attention.

He settles in to the chair and looks out over the ocean for a long time, then says, “I can feel it. The sun feels warm on my skin. It feels good.”

I smile, so incredibly proud of him for being calm. We sit there in silence, just soaking it in, for a very long time.

6PM

Summer Blog 2014: Tuesday—The List!

Today we will be Creative! When I was a kid we had a blast building forts. I remember spending at least half the day in the backyard of a friend’s house building an elaborate, multi-room fort that would have made the Nights of Arabia envious. At least that’s what it looked like in my imagination. There’s no telling what it actually looked like. Probably a few sheets tied to a tree. Who cares?

I take the kid out in search of boxes. Kids, like cats, love boxes. So we go looking at the backs of buildings in recycle cans (yes, this is a nice word for the recycling dumpsters) for big boxes. Naturally, we don’t find any at the back of any buildings. But I spy primo boxes at the side of a building – in full view of several people inhabiting that building. Great. At this point, I’ve already made an “Aha!” sort of sound about the boxes, so it’s too late to fool the kid into pretending they aren’t there. When I try to make a lame cop-out and say that there are people there, he just says, “So what? Why do you care?” Ugh. Pride. So I tromp over to the x-tra large *ahem* recycle can and haul out several perfect boxes in front of a group of guys. I smile and wave like I’m making a wine selection. If my mother taught me anything, it’s to hold your head high whatever the situation and look like you belong there even in you don’t! As a bonus, we also found 2 sturdy wooden frames for another project we want to do. I haul these out as well and march back to my car.

At home, we spend a while (I actually didn’t pay attention to the time) arranging and rearranging the boxes into various fort-like configurations, giggling and discussing by turns. We argue about design, share ideas, do some troubleshooting, aren’t happy with anything, and end up using only one of the boxes to build him a little booth to hide in with doors and a peep-hole. I find it fascinating to see how he works and thinks.  

More quickly than I expect we are on to the next thing on the “list”—making cupcakes, which we burn. Based on the cupcake experiment and his recent snafu with some rice, I believe he might be inheriting my lack of culinary skills.

By the end of the day, he is running around the house, antsy and unsatisfied. He keeps asking me, “What’s next on the list? What else are we doing today?” It’s too early for dinner and too late to start anything new. The bugs are out for blood outside and he can’t go out in the yard without becoming a moveable feast. Out of sheer boredom, after playing with his Legos for a long time, he ends up watching a movie in his room. When it’s time for bed, he isn’t even tired. Nearly an hour after I put him in bed, when my partner and I are talking, he makes some comment about what we’re saying from his bedroom, like he’s been listening the whole time and wants to chime in on the conversation.

In spite of my efforts, I feel like I’ve failed. This calls for a better plan of action tomorrow.

6PM

Summer Blog 2014: Monday—“I wonder what the poor people are doing.” Oh, wait …

This week my son and I began our annual summer mini-vacation ritual. Only this time we’re doing it with more fear and less money because I am officially out of work and looking for (but not finding) a job. The job market is soul-suckingly discouraging. Every shred of confidence I have in myself and my abilities is slowly being sapped out of me as the days go by and no one responds to my applications. Not one. It’s like a punch in the gut. I’ve second, third, fourth, and fifth guessed my every move since high school in the past two months as I’ve reviewed job descriptions, salaries, and requirements.

So, for the moment, my usual, annual 2-3 week “vacation” with the kid has become a whole summer (8+ weeks) of blank days with minimal funds and no present security of a job to go back to in the Fall.

As with everything in life, I begin with lists. I firmly believe that with a proper list, one can conquer the world. I make a list of things to do that cost little to nothing and are (for the most part) non-digital.

When I show the kid this list first thing Monday morning, I create a mini-monster. Since he’s seen it, every time he gets bored with what we’re doing, he just stops, looks at me and says, “OK, what’s next on the list?”

To which I’ve decided to respond, “Housecleaning can be fun! Why don’t you go clean the bathroom?”

My second list is a list of things I want to get done in the house, which resembles the site of a natural disaster because we moved here in the middle of a semester. Teaching + dissertation + longer commute + motherhood + moving = post-apocalyptic house.

First on the list is a trip to the grocery store because we have no food. Making money stretch means planning a grocery trip with coupons and a minute examination of the store ads to maximize the sales for the week. Then you make a list (that’s 3 lists!) with notations on each item – coupon, digital coupon, bogo, etc. However, the multi-tasking this takes in the grocery store becomes a waking nightmare with an bouncy 8 year old in tow. As I’m hunting down the correct brand of spaghetti sauce and comparing the 3 coupons I have to the BOGO of the week, the kid is tossing his Lego man as high as he can in the air (heaven knows why) and catching it, to the chagrin of various defenseless elderly women, only narrowly missing their perfectly coiffed granny-hair. The kid runs up and down the aisles nearly crashing into carts, shelves, and people every few minutes.

In one fleeting moment near the end of the trip, I think to myself that if a post with some duct tape—or maybe soft rope—appeared, I might tape/tie him to it. Just for the 15 minutes I needed to finish. As long as it didn’t hurt him, of course. I’m not a monster.  

The kid has had that song with the chorus “I’m so fancy” stuck in his head for weeks. All day. Every day. So he sings it. All day. Every day. And he only knows like three lines of it. And they aren’t even the right words.

It is here, in the grocery store that I finally snap—to the utter shock and amusement of a random woman in the dairy department. “You’re not fancy! Not that kind of fancy! You don’t need to be fancy! Stop it! Stop it with that song! You don’t even know the words! I can’t take another minute of it!”

I imagine it goes without saying that I now have the stupid song stuck in my head. I’ve actually resorted to begging him to go back to singing the song “Let it Go” from Frozen. Which he sang for two weeks solid. Incorrectly. It’s that bad.

I realize that I have not paid proper homage to his teachers. If I had the money, I would send them weekly massage gift certificates and bouquets of chocolate. I’ve already said that they deserve higher pay. But perks. They need more perks. Maybe man-servants. They are goddesses among women for still smiling at the end of the day when they have 38 of these little monsters in their classroom all day.

Good thing I love this little monster, with whom I cuddle that night as we say goodnight after silly kisses and a game of chasing the dog around the house.

July282013

The things that distracted me today. A List. By the Author of a Dissertation in Progress, Title Forthcoming.

  1. Dog tries to sit on my laptop. Repeat at regular intervals.
  2. Have idea to dress the children up as Gru’s Minions for Halloween (I bet they have great DIY ideas for that on Pinterest!)
  3. Begin making list of distractions. Force self back to work and set tomato timers for reinforcement.
  4. Try to make dog get into a position where I will not have to type with T-rex arms (because dog leans his whole fat body on my right arm)
  5. Coffee wears off – as indicated by staring at screen trying to formulate a thought for so long that it goes dark.
  6. Neck is filled with stabbing needles. Time for daily injection of Advil.
  7. Contemplate absurdity of how many things Charlotte Smith published in spite of mothering 12 children, having a total douchebag for a husband, ending up impoverished, losing a child, decades of litigation, and the very fact of being a woman in the 18th century.
  8. Contemplate hiring children OUT as minions. This is a brilliant plan as it will a) bring in extra cash and b) give me some extra work time. (Plan nixed when I remember that they barely do anything we tell them to do.)
  9. Wonder how many obscure BtVS quotes I could get into my dissertation. Guess I’ll have to watch Buffy to find out. Ah, the difficulties of academic life.
  10. Pea-sized bladder of dog. OK, not really. My pea-sized bladder.
  11. Significant other turns on the TV. I look for things to throw at him. Thank the gods for noise-cancelling headphones and www.simplynoise.com He will live to see another day.
  12. Important life decision: I definitely want to be in Dumbledore’s Army. Also, MS Word knows how to spell Dumbledore. “You may not like him; but you can’t deny Dumbledore’s got style.” 
  13. I need a Chillow.
  14. Wonder if there is a dissertation equivalent of “tennis elbow” – “dissertation elbow.” I have it.
  15. Mistype ‘young female’ as ‘femal’ leads me to think of ‘feral,’ which makes me picture what a pack of young, feral females would look like. Then I remember Mean Girls. Distraction averted.
  16. Giggle at dog running at barking in his sleep.
  17. Wondering how much wine is left and if I put a bottle in the fridge. Utterly burned out by blurring lines of multiple editions of 18th century texts. 
July142013
July32013
gallimaufryan:

josephdreamboatlevitt:

Haha what! My life, it is complete. I am an image quote on tumbls. 

And deservedly so because you’re so fuckin’ gay, which is to say, I like you and your words and their mix of sex, zombies, wit, warm fuzzies, cold not-fuzzies(? - you know, the delightfully sad and/or creepy stuff), queer positivity, and also cats.

gallimaufryan:

josephdreamboatlevitt:

Haha what! My life, it is complete. I am an image quote on tumbls. 

And deservedly so because you’re so fuckin’ gay, which is to say, I like you and your words and their mix of sex, zombies, wit, warm fuzzies, cold not-fuzzies(? - you know, the delightfully sad and/or creepy stuff), queer positivity, and also cats.

(Source: m-ilochan)

July22013

Tuesday: Superman on Ritalin?

"What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater?" ~ Man of Steel

My son and I started out our day today reminding one another about the day before. I reminded him about 19 times about our new Inside the House Rules for Our Bodies, while he reminded me that I said we would go to Target to use his birthday gift cards “first thing in the morning.” 

Inside the House Rules for Our Bodies for Especially Bouncy Boys:

WE ARE TO PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION TO THE … 

  1. FLOORS — by not jumping or stomping
  2. WALLS — by not slamming ourselves or our toys into them
  3. FURNITURE — by not climbing or jumping (or doing gymnastics) on it

My son looks up and asks, “What about the ceiling?”

Images of cars, planes, and soccer balls dance in my head. “OK, add the ceiling to the list. Floors, walls, furniture, and ceiling. Control your body with ALL OF THOSE THINGS. Got it?”

"Yes, ma’am," he says with a military voice, followed by a salute. "Now can we go to Target?"

Oy. 

******

During first grade, the school finally came out with the whole ADHD thing, dancing a jig around the laws of what they could and couldn’t say. But the message is clear — your kid has it and we can’t do our jobs until you give him the meds. Not that they aren’t doing a genuinely great job. But our school systems are set up to provide the widest range of test-based education to the most children, rather than to help individual children learn how to learn. This system fails many. It stifles creativity and initiative, and it discourages independent thinking. Kids spend most of the day indoors and immobile—disconnected from nature and most of their senses. The curriculum does very little to engage tactile and other sensory learning techniques because reading is (understandably) emphasized,yet these other competences are not tied into literacy. 

Most importantly, this system labels kids who cannot work within the system as abnormal, rather than considering the unnatural construct it represents. And they (along with the medical establishment) pressure parents to medicate children to fit their construct. I refuse to medicate him. I know I’m making things more difficult in many ways, but the risks are real and I cannot in good conscience do it.

So my son has been “diagnosed” and labelled by this system. I don’t know how other parents take this experience, but for me, it makes me angry — because I don’t want what he might be trampled by this bureaucratic need for boxes.

****

After an endless trip to Target, which involved a lot of math and complicated decisions about action figures and Legos, we went to see Man of Steel. I have plenty to say about this film, but for now, all I will say is that I always love movies that show superheroes with their Moms. 

Today, watching my son as he watched the action I wondered if Superman would have been considered ADHD. The scenes from his childhood show a strong, athletic boy who is hypersensitive to sounds and images and therefore unable to concentrate in class. He certainly didn’t fit into any of the physical “norms” that the other children did.

What’s normal? Since when do we label disease and disability according to what a child can do in school? I learned this year that ADHD falls into the “other” category because it doesn’t actually have anything to do with a child’s ability to hear or see or physically move around. The child has the capability to learn at the same speed and cognition as others. The only identifiable variable seems to be inattention and physical movement. But they also know that these kids do well in other situations. Could it be that if the school was different the kids would do better? 

I just want my child to be a man of integrity, one who cares about others and who finds fulfillment in life by discovering his gifts and using them. 

Did I mention that his middle name is Clark? He’s totally going to save the world one day. He can already melt an iceberg with his smile. 

 

"You’re not just anyone. One day, you’re going to have to make a choice. You’ll have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, good character or bad, he’s going to change the world."

July12013

Monday: Capturing the Image and the Imagination

I began today with warm fuzzies. A tap-tapping on my shoulder and “Hi Mommy!” … only to open my eyes and see two big brown eyes and a dimpled smile about 6 inches from my face. My 7 year old still snuggles with me, and still lets me attack-kiss those edible cheeks so I get to indulge in both. He plays hide-and-seek with our very cute midget-lab while I get my breakfast and start in on my first cup of coffee. Le adorable. *sigh*

Inevitably, however, boy and dog rev themselves up and romp around until the floor shakes. Our lives may be in danger if the downstairs neighbors are Voo-Doo practitioners. Between the elephant children and the mini-horse dog, they must curse our children’s children. 

When I tell the boy about our art class, he tells me that it sounds boring and whines about going. I tell him that it’s already paid for and he will be happy about it whether he likes it or not. 

The warm fuzzies are dead before I make it to a second cup of coffee.

When we get there and he gets his smock on, he overhears someone saying that we are painting [GASP!] SHARKS! He decides this might not be such a bad idea. Then the teacher begins class and he interrupts immediately to tell everyone that he just caught a shark yesterday. Suddenly, he is the coolest kid in class —an instant celebrity. Even the teacher is impressed. He refers to him as Shark Hunter for the rest of the hour.

By the time he gets the second blob of paint onto the canvass he looks at me and says, “You were right, Mommy, this is totally fun.”

To which I respond, “Aren’t I always?” 

"Yes," he says, "I wish I could be right sometimes." 

HA!

I shall make a Renaissance man of him yet. 

image

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