Friday, July 30, 2010

Worth Getting Up For...

So lately I've done a lot of teeth gnashing and hair pulling (my own, people, take CPS off speed dial) about some of the, um, challenges we've had with Ethan recently. There's the sleeping and the 4-year old version of adolescence--yesterday, shortly after I posted my blog entry for the day, I had to give myself a time out. Myself. In my room, lights out, door closed, deep breaths, counting to 100.

Until Ethan came to my door and said quietly, "Mommy, I'll be nice now," and I crumpled into a big ball of gooey mush and hated myself for a moment for indulging my own need to escape from the crazy instead of bucking up and being a better mother to this amazing (and amazingly stubborn, boundary-pushing, bouncing between independence and need) child. I know it's good for a child to learn empathy and to recognize when his behavior has hurt someone else's feelings and apologize, but as a parent you expect to be the person teaching him those things on the playground or during a playdate. You kind of expect to be outside of his bubble of negative emotional influence--because he's 4 and you're a grown up. And yet.

But really. There are moments. Last night, as Husband and I sat in bed and indulged in the most ridiculous hour of television watching I think I've ever been party to--The Jersey Shore--in which Snookie, The Situation and their band of merry illiterates take on Miami (and really, is that town big enough for them and the lesser known Kardashians? I think not.), Ethan woke up. It was only 10:30. He'd only been asleep for 2 hours. I'm sure Time magazine would say this is because we coddled him and *gasp* co-slept with him for 2 years. But really? The kid's just not a great sleeper. But only sleeping for two hours is extreme even for Sir Doesn'tSleepAlot. So Husband & I assumed, given the Pooh debacle of Monday night, we were in for another long and rambling 4-year old nightmare narratives of bad guys with angry voices and Pooh bears floating to the ceiling, etc.

Husband sighed heavily and headed into Ethan's room across the hall. I went to get a glass of water. Neither of us were terribly upset by being pulled away from the trainwreck of sweaty Jersey stereotypes on the TV. But truth be told, I hoped Husband wouldn't have to be in Ethan's room too long because by then we were 30 minutes into the show & had committed to seeing it through at least this one time, but it wouldn't be nearly as much fun to watch alone, with no one to snark with at the ridiculousness (seriously, is anything funnier--in a sad, sad way--than an overly tanned, processed, make-up'd, drunk to the point of slurring 20-something dressed in a tube top and hot pants slurring in a thick Jersey accent, "I mean, I'm tryin' to be classy here." Oh dear god, that is good stuff).

On my way back from the kitchen, I heard Ethan talking in a very matter of fact voice & assumed he was sharing with Husband the gruesome details of Pooh's latest acts of terror. But then I heard Husband laughing and saying "that's a good one, buddy." Hrm.

When Husband emerged from Ethan's room a few minutes later, I asked him what Ethan had been talking about. It's odd for Ethan to say anything at all when he wakes up in the middle of the night. He usually calls to us with a quick "Mommy" or "Daddy" and lies back down the second we walk in the room. If we ask him if he's okay, at most he nods before he falls back to sleep. A full conversation is a rarity.

But apparently Ethan's dreams have moved him away from the bloodbath that is Winnie the Pooh and put on stage at the Improv.

His big important, can't-wait-til-morning revelation for Husband? A chicken joke.

"Daddy. I have to tell you a joke. Why did the chicken cross the park? To get to the other slide."

Thank you folks, he'll be here all week. Don't forget to tip your waitress.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is 4 the new 2?!

I know that, as a woman approaching my 40th birthday (and not in a Meg Ryan's whole "And I'm going to be 40!" "When?!" "Someday!" "In EIGHT years!" type of way. I am staring down the barrel of that mother), our society tends to pshaw the big 4-0 by saying that 40 is the new 30. Or the new 25? (please?! sigh. I can dream)

So, as the past two weeks have addled my brain with the insane tantrum-throwing behavior of my 4 year old, I wonder if the same holds true for him.

Is 4 the new 2?! We all live in dire dread of the "terrible 2s," and I won't pretend that Ethan was a perfect angel when he was two. Our move to Los Angeles rocked his world, throwing off his routine and forcing him to make new friends. We left the park, both of us in tears, on more than one occasion after he threw sand at another kid or shoved mercilessly on the playground. But I got that; just learning to share, having a relatively limited vocabulary, all of that. The terrible 2's make perfect sense to me. Even the "terrifying 3s" saw their share of behavioral issues. There was the experiment in hitting and spitting. Those were super fun times. But overall, he handled our move to the Bay Area so much better than the move to LA. He used his words so much more effectively and was all around, well, easier.

But 4? These first three months of 4? Oh my holy hell, WHAT did I do in a previous life to merit this??!!! (okay, I exaggerate; he's mostly a lovely child) In particular, the last week or so have been a melange of tantrums, hitting friends, freak outs, melt downs, spitting, wrestling matches (and not the fun kind) over toys, and experiments in outright smug defiance. All in time for us to head back East to see our friends and family for vacation. Which will be awesome for them! Can't wait to see you, friends! Please put shin guards and a helmet on your kids!

I'm not sure where this upheaval of 4-year old malaise and crazy is coming from. I have to assume there is some serious hormonal surge coursing through his little body right now, right? His regular structure & routine has not been disturbed, and Husband & I are consistent and timely (I think) with consequences.

But it's gotten to the point where today I turned down three play date offers. It's just exhausting right now to referee all of the little scuffles he finds himself in, whether initiated by him or not. I'm not trying to punish him. I thought perhaps he needed some serious one-on-one time with mommy who will not take his toys & will just play with him what he wants to play. No sharing, no trying to get along with another preschooler. Just time with unconditional love mama. We tend to be constantly on the go & I thought maybe he was suffering from play date burn out.

We had a fairly awesome morning. Watching too much PBSkids, playing with cars, tickle fights, and full-on belly-laugh marathons. And then.

Then came the hour-long tantrum. Which involved hitting, punching, spitting, defiance, screaming, crying and an honest-to-goodness can't-calm-down hysteria. I had to literally scoop him up, carry him to the car and drive. Like I did when he was 2, and losing his little toddler brain over some injustice or another. By the time we got to the grocery store & he found the cart with the giant car on the front of it, he was calm(ish). And let me take a moment to send my apologies to all the Safeway patrons who not only had to catch the tail-end of the epic meltdown but who also may or may not have to Neosporin and bandaid their ankles thanks to my shoddy ability to steer that massive cart/car combination. It just doesn't take corners very well at all. I'm sorry. Look on the bright side, I didn't completely mow you down, right?

Fortunately the lady at the deli counter further saved the day by offering Ethan a slice of turkey. I knew he was hungry & that his hunger was probably the impetus for his tantrum o' crazy. But he wouldn't eat ANYthing I'd offered or put in front of him all day. Pancakes, cereal, toast, eggs, pb&j, quesadilla, string cheese--nada. Apparently he was holding out for the fine dining experience that is a piece of turkey on wax paper in his grocery car. Damn foodie.

There is something equal parts fascinating and terrifying about having a 4 year old. Old enough to push limits in a way they never could before, but too young to really reason in an effective way (at least from my experience). I kept asking him to eat, trying to explain to him why I thought he was cranky & even admitting to him that I get a touch of the beast when I'm really hungry. But all to no avail. King o' Crazy had to work it out his way. Letting them have the space to figure it out is so hard. And sometimes embarrassing and unnerving (oh, the judgy eyes of strangers!!!)

So now we are at home, the child's belly full of turkey and hot dogs (I've got no guilt--he weighs 30lbs soaking wet) and we're back to having fun. I sense a play-dough kitchen marathon approaching. And I guess there's nothing for me to do right now but enjoy the moments between the last meltdown and the next...

Hold me.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Pooh of Doom

I love me some Winnie the Pooh. Now, don't get me wrong; I don't mean I love me a demin jumper with Winnie & Piglet embroidered on a pocket or anything like that. I just mean that growing up, Winnie the Pooh, particularly in The Blustery Day, was a fixture of my childhood. Old school Pooh. All of this My Friends Tigger & Pooh with Darby (um, hello, where's my boy Christopher Robin?) and the super sleuthy learning experience garbage is just not something I can get on board with it (although they did keep Pooh's "think think think," which I appreciate it, even if it is in some obnoxious mystery-solving ditty--ugh).

So it seemed natural to me that among the plethora of Build-a-Bears and other assorted stuffed animals, Ethan should have a Pooh or two thrown in there. In a moment of ultimate cheesy weakness, Husband bought me a talking Pooh long before we even had Ethan. A stay up in NH with friends of ours who did have kids introduced us to their talking Pooh and dork that I am, I feel in love with all the silly little things he said, "A very large Pooh bear hug would be nice about now.....yes, like that," and so on. This is embarrassing for me to admit, as I've not really been a stuffed animal type of girl since puberty. But anyway, we had that Pooh before the Dawn of the Age of Ethan. Then, somewhere in the mix of babyhood gift-receiving (and buying), we wound up with a "My First Pooh" bear as well. So fine. Two poohs.

This posed no problem for us at all until Sunday night. When, in a solid sleep, Ethan rolled onto his talking Pooh and compressed its tummy enough to set off the assorted recorded messages that during the day would make him giggle.

However. When your Pooh bear wakes you from a dead sleep in the middle of the night and starts demanding you hug him? And you're 4? Your world is bound to be rocked just a little bit (and by "little bit" I mean a WHOLE GIANT MESS OF SCARED).

Husband happened to have fallen asleep with Ethan in his room, so he was there for the Chucky-esque moment. At the time, he said, Ethan handled it well. Sat up, called for Daddy in fear, whimpered for a few minutes & then quickly fell back to sleep as soon as he was in Husband's protective grasp. You'd have thought the problem was solved.

Except that by morning, the talking Pooh incident had ballooned in Ethan's mind to consist of Pooh speaking in angry voice and floating above his bed. Um. Yeah, that's what I said. Has someone been letting this kid watch Creature Double Features while I'm not looking??!! Who let him see The Freaking Exorcist, starring Winnie the Pooh?!

Bedtime on Monday night posed quite a conundrum. First Husband and I had to explain to Ethan the mechanism by which Pooh "spoke" to him over and over again; I offered to show him by pressing on Pooh's tummy, but by this point, the Poohs had been banished to my room and Ethan refused the very thought of seeing them ever again. We talked about how dreams are just pictures our brain makes while we're asleep, about how our imaginations like to play while we rest and sometimes they make up stories that make us uncomfortable.

Ethan thoroughly inspected his room for any trace of the menacing Pooh doll before consenting to start our bedtime routine. I fully expected bedtime to drag on into the wee hours, but I think he was so restless from his nightmares the night before that he was powerless to fight the urge to sleep. Thankfully he slept soundly and nightmare-free through the night. But I guess that means that these guys are going to be setting up camp in mama's room for the duration:

c'mon, they're harmless!!!

or are they?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Glad I Didn't Renew that Subscription to TIME Magazine...

because they apparently think I'm a lazy, coddling, lying, creating-a-narcisstic-going-to-be-obese-and-entitled-child kind of parent. So, you know. Eff them.

I recently came across these three "you're a shit parent" related articles while perusing the interwebs:

The first "new" article warns parents of the danger of lying to their kids about concepts such as "the paci fairy," contending that we are setting our children up for a future of narcissism and entitlement. Because, I'm guessing, they think someday our kids will grow up to realize that we (let's clutch our pearls in horror, shall we) 'lied' to them to spare their little toddler feelings and will automatically jump to the conclusion that the rest of the world owes them a constant stream of the same sort of emotional protection? Okay.

I especially love the fact-based, scientifically supported wording of this particular paragraph:

"Parents who let kids hang on to pacifiers as long as they want tend to follow the permissive parenting style, which is linked to children growing up to be more narcissistic than their peers, according to Twenge."

With all the "tend to"s and "according to"s, without any real factual data to back this stuff up, how can NOT go rushing towards your cherub-faced little toddler and rip that paci out of their yappers RIGHT THIS SECOND?! Lest you unwittingly raise the next Paris Hilton or Tiger Woods. Narcissistic psychos.

I also really enjoyed (note sarcasm) Jennifer Shu's cold-turkey advice that "simply stating 'We don't use pacifiers anymore' works pretty well," as an alternative to the paci fairy "lie." Does that work for some kids? I'm sure it does; and probably really well & fantastic for those families. But assuming that all kids will react the same way (and agreeably, at that) to having such a major source of comfort yanked from their universe seems remiss to me. And in our culture, where parents turn to the "experts" for advice on how to do EVERYTHING, it seems unfair to both the parent and the child.

And really, let's talk about the great lie that is the paci fairy. Do we not also fall back on ideas/lies like the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and Santa Claus, or for my tribe, Hannukah Harry (awesome SNL skit)? I wonder if these same people who worry about creating narcissistic kids with the paci fairy refuse to take their kids to sit on Santa's lap at the mall. Do they simply toss their kids' teeth unceremoniously into the trash? Do they simply reject any of the "lies" we tell our kids to preserve the innocence of childhood and the magical tone of the milestones of their young lives?

From my perspective, the paci fairy serves two purposes. One, it does soften the blow of letting go of a trusted friend and source of comfort. And really? WHAT is the problem with taking the emotional well-being of your child into account if you feel just throwing a paci away is going to traumatize him? I reject the idea that my kid is going to grow up a spoiled brat if I take his feelings as a toddler into account. Reject. The second, and maybe, in my opinion, MORE important purpose, is fostering his sense of imagination. HOW is this a bad thing? When Ethan gave up his paci, we talked about the paci fairy for days---what she looked like, where she lived, what the card we made for her should look like, what Ethan wanted to say to her, how she was going to give his paci to a little baby who needs it. His imagination was alight with ideas AND he took ownership of the process---let's not forget, this was HIS paci to give up. Not only that, he got a tremendous sense of having done something nice for another little baby by giving his paci away (and how often does a toddler give a tiny rat's butt about his peers?)

To my way of thinking, the "paci fairy" is a tremendous opportunity for a child to be empowered, creative and take the experience of growing up into his own hands. You can read about Ethan, my apparently doomed-to-be-narcissistic kid, preparing for the arrival of the paci fairy here.

And let me just say here, TIME magazine, that the concept of the paci fairy IS a "cold-turkey" method of giving up the paci--she comes and takes it one night and POOF! no more paci).

The second and third articles rail against the lazy, coddling habit of co-sleeping, of course. The family-bed is called a "maladaptive parenting technique" and the articles contend that children who co-sleep with their parents will spiral out of control towards a life of obesity, sleep disorders. One researcher, who found that Asian cultures co-sleep at a much higher rate and yet manage to be intelligent and successful members of their societies actually suggests that maybe "Asian babies need less sleep," than their American counterparts. Um. I'm sorry, what now??!!

Please be sure that I don't judge families who don't co-sleep; I know that it simply doesn't work for a lot of people for a number of reasons, from kicky kids to simply just not wanting to share a bed with their kids. I've long gotten past the days where I cared one way or the other where people put their babies to bed or how they get them sleep at night.

BUT, I take great issue with "news" sources reported shit articles like this so that some new mother or father, happy in their family bed, starts to reconsider their decision for fear of "ruining" their children. It's exhausting enough being a new parent (or the parent of a toddler, preschooler, and I imagine elementary-aged, tween and adolescent) without having to second guess EVERYTHING from paci fairies to your sleeping arrangements because some fool in some article in some magazine says that you're a bad parent if you do X instead of Y or god-forbid you do Z.

Seriously, Time. You are on my list.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back...

But in a good way.

Husband & I have decided to cut back on the preschool next year. The year before Ethan heads to kindergarten. And some people are confused.

See, Ethan started preschool a few months before his 3rd birthday; it was a 2x/week "transition" class, in which he played with his friends and his amazingly patient teacher while the other mothers & I had our little coffee klatsch in the next building over. The class was only 2 hours long & the moms weren't allowed to leave the campus in case one of the wee preschool novices were to dissolve into a hyperventilating panic and require mama's arms. It was lovely. Ethan, though he did stamp his feet and shed a few tears for my benefit as I dropped him off each Tuesday and Thursday morning, did great. The teacher assured me that his tears were drying on his cheeks before I could even cross the parking lot to the parent's lounge.

After the transition class ended, we moved Ethan up to a 5 morning a week summer camp program at the same school. He loved it. My kid is a social butterfly. Nothing makes him happier than being around his friends & he made some great ones in LA.

When we moved to the Bay Area, we enrolled him in a 5x/week preschool. Our thought process was that, 1.) he'd already been going to summer camp 5x/week and was thriving. So why not continue on that trajectory? and 2.) Husband and I always just blithely assumed there'd be a second child, a new baby, that Ethan would want some time away from & I'd want some one-on-one time to bond with. Five days of preschool, in that scenario, made perfect sense. He'd get time every day to run around like a lunatic and be the center of his own universe at school & I'd get guaranteed time every day to snuggle on the couch with some squishy newborn deliciousness.

But we know now that that is simply not to be. And the kid I DO have? Is getting older every day. And 5 days of preschool means something like NINE HUNDRED hours I won't have with my son this year. Given how our concept of our family has changed in the past 4-5 months, that's just not a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

Husband and I have thought about it long & hard; Ethan's in a 3x/week summer camp at his school (same teacher, same kids) right now and loving it. He hasn't once asked to go on the days when he's not scheduled to attend & we are loving sleeping late (if you'd ever told sleeping-til-noon college Sarah that 8AM would be "sleeping late," she'd have kicked you in the shins and told you to shut your damn mouth--well, probably not, but its fun to imagine) and lounging about our day, letting it take us where it will. We've been filling our time with play dates and trips to parks and the fro yo place down the street. I have been loving having him around & find that I look forward to Tues & Thurs even more than I do the three days he's in school.

I've had a few people question our decision to cut back on the preschool, especially in the year before Ethan heads off to kindergarten. Will he be prepared academically? Will it undo some of his social preparedness? Aren't you being selfish? Isn't this more about you than him? (I should note that no one's come out and actually asked the last two questions, but I've heard them implied in the other questions and of course, I asked myself those questions while coming to this decision).

And maybe I'm a horrible parent, but I don't really worry too much about the answers to those questions. This time in his life is not one he will remember clearly; I don't anticipate that 20 years from now he'll be lying on his therapist's couch lamenting the year his parents switched him from 5 day preschool to 3 day. But I do believe that the time he spends with me will weave itself into the fiber of his sense of self & help us stay closer as he does move forward (okay, re-reading that line, I have to conceded--maybe THAT is what he will be talking about on the therapist's couch in 20 years)

Socially? Nothing short of solitary confinement for extended periods of time is going to undo his ability to get along with his peers--the kid lives to interact with others, and gets to do so just as much on the days that he's not in school.

Academically? Well, I'm one of *those* parents. I'm not so very concerned about Ethan's future academic achievement that I am letting it guide my decisions about his preschool experience. I know some people will clutch their pearls in horror over that, but it's true. He's a bright kid; I love watching him discover things and the teacher in me is giddy when he starts to recognize words by their spelling and when he pulls a pile of books to me at the end of the day, climbs into my lap and says, "read to me." But? He's 4. Having taught in a private, high pressure college prep high school, and having watched my driven students slog through their academic requirements with determination and frenzy, but no joy, feeling that in some way, mom & dad's love was dependent upon the grades they brought home, my primary desire for my child's academic career is that he enjoy it. Do I want him to do well? Absolutely. But more than that, I want him to LOVE learning, even if that love doesn't always translate into A's or even B's. I don't think he "needs" to be in preschool 5x/week to achieve the kind of love of learning that we hope to instill in him.

Am I being selfish? Meh. Maybe. The decision is, in part, guided by our inability to have another child and my desire to soak up as much time as humanly possible with the child I do have. So yeah, 100% selfish. And since, like I said, Ethan's unlikely to have a ton of solidly clear memories about this particular age of his life, when it comes down to it, it is definitely more about me & the memories that I will have going forward. I'm okay with that.

Stepping back is rarely seen as a positive move. But in this case? It's all good.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Home Schooling (not really)...

Sometimes it feels like I am home schooling even though I am most decidedly not home schooling. Because the child asks eleventy billion questions every day. About everything. Until my ears are bleeding and my brain is mush. The string of "why"s he can hitch together is astounding; every answer provided leads to another question, challenging not only my knowledge about the world around me, but my very sanity.

But I try to buy into the whole "you are your child's first teacher" business, so I answer what I can & google what I can't.

There are a whole lot of weather related questions. Some of Ethan's recent questions have been:

1.) Why is the sky blue? (this has to do with prisms and blue light dispersing more rapidly than other colors colors on the light spectrum--thank you, NASA).

2.) Why does it rain? My explanation, drawn on memories from my basic 9th grade earth science class taught by a teacher who was potentially crazy and almost certainly unqualified, led Ethan to ask another question, 2a.) "So, the clouds are peeing?" Sure. The clouds are peeing. Right now I am all kinds of grateful that we don't live in a climate where the forms of precipitation vary from rain to fog to snow to sleet to hail. Oh, that reminds me. I have had to answer 2b.) Why is it foggy?

3.) What makes wind? Again with the google...I found my answer here, but I didn't really get into the whole downburst or jet stream concepts. If Becca lived nearby, all of my son's weather related questions would go to her, thus sparing my wrists the carpel tunnel I am sure to develop whilst feeding my son's rapacious need to understand all manner of weather phenomenon around him.

He also asks a lot about other things...

4.) Did a doctor make a hole in your tummy so I could get out of your tummy? Well, since I had a c-section, this is easy. Yes, honey, the doctor made a hole in my tummy so you could get out. Of course, this always leads to the inevitable:

5.) How did I get into your tummy? This is where I pick my words carefully. See, I'm not averse to telling him, biologically speaking, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We live in a household where body parts are called by their real name & we're working hard to create an environment where there's no fostering of body shame. But I don't know how I feel about spilling all the beans.

I distinctly remember being in high school and babysitting for a family I found to be very progressive and crunchy (very different from how I grew up). I loved their kids, but as a sitter, the gig was kind of lousy--their snacks were all unsweetened and their ice cream was made with rice milk & their cookies were laced with carob chips. So not what I was looking for in terms of refrigerator booty. One evening I had my Humanities book open to a page I had to read for homework. We were studying Greek sculpture & on the page was a picture of a naked young man carved out of marble. The little boy I was taking care of climbed up into my lap, pointed to the picture and said, "That's his penis. He uses his penis to pee, but he also uses it to make a baby. He puts it in the lady's vagina and they make a baby together. That's where I come from. I came out of my mommy's vagina."

I was responsible for the wellbeing of these two kids, so I did not run screaming from the house. But the prissy little 11th grader in me? Whose family simply didn't talk about these things? Wanted to run like I was on fire. It was so foreign for me to hear a little kid talk about sex, to even KNOW about sex (of course he didn't call it that, but his knowledge of anatomy and what it was for was staggering to me at the time). I know I blushed 10 shades of crimson, stammered something about "um, yeah, that's right. okay, let's go play!" and then scooted him into the other room to play with his big brother. Then, I was mortified.

Now? As an adult and a parent? I've come a long way from the sheltered goody-two-shoes teen I was then who blushed when a 3 year old talked reproduction with her. I like to think of myself and my parenting as a little bit progressive with a side of crunchy, too. Adult me basically sighs and shakes her head at prissy teen me. It's hard to believe we are the same person with 20 years spanning between us. I am far more comfortable with the idea of my own child understanding his body and its various functions, including the parts used in reproduction and how they work.

BUT, I am also aware of how kids talk to one another, and I'm not sure of my kid's friends' parents are ready for their children to hear about this at 4 years old. So I talk about when a man and a woman are all grown up & love each other, they hold each other very close & (this is where I hold my breath and hope he doesn't ask for further clarification) the man might put a baby in the woman's tummy. So far, this has appeased him. I know the day is coming when he will say, "HOW?" And then I will have to tell him. Goody for me!

6.) Why do my feet stink? Dude. Because you're a boy. (no, really, that's not what I tell him).

7.) Do chickens/elephants/snails/ants/zebras/etc poop? This question comes up daily. The child looooooves him some poop talk. We're familiar with Everybody Poops. And yet. It is like a daily affirmation that all is right with the world when I confirm for him that indeed, (insert today's animal) does in fact poop.

Ethan asks a LOT of questions in our car.

8.) Why are you driving so fast?
9.) What is a speed limit?
10.) Why did you honk your horn at that car?
11.) Is Piper in that car?
12.) Why is that car red?
12.) Who is singing that song? This I love. Because when I tell him it is, say, John Mayer, he will ask me, "why?" Why is it John Mayer?!! What do you mean?! This kid can whip out the "why" like no one's business & in the weirdest places. Why is it John Mayer? Why is he singing?! What are you asking me?!

My favorite two questions from today?

13.) In the car, with no further explanation & while I am driving and cannot see him or turn my head to investigate the source of his question:

"Why is that like that?"


14.) About 5 minutes into a string of "have you ever seen" questions, most of which made sense: "Have you ever seen a duck watching TV in your tummy?"

Again, uhhh. What?

I know I'm not alone. What crazy questions has your kid asked you lately?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I'm not a very brave person. I'm one of those people for whom taking risks feels great--when I can bring myself to take them. I am getting better at pushing on my comfortable limits, but you'll never find me sky-diving or bungee jumping or offering to speak publicly on any occasion. Ever.

But I want to raise a boy who isn't afraid to be brave. Who doesn't see the fear in his mother's eyes and shrink away from taking chances or facing his own fears. Bugs? Creep me out. But when we encounter a colony of ants writhing in a pack on the ground, I take a deep breath & talk to him about the amazing community they create & how they work together as a team. When a bee flies around us, I try not to spaz at the fear of being stung or the worry that we still don't know if Ethan's allergic; I just tell him to walk away from the bee & leave it alone--it will only sting him if he scares it.

Today, when we were climbing up giant rocks on our hike, slipping on leaves and sliding through caves (yeah, that's what I said. Sliding through caves), I told myself to take some deep breaths, hold his hand & not let him see that the part of me who shies away from taking risks was hyperventilating just a little bit.

We met a couple of girlfriends and their kiddos today at Castle Rock for an amazing hike. For the most part, it is an easy walk. Clearly...

when the 15 month old can handle it, it's a pretty easy hike, no?

The kids had an awesome time from the get go, and our traveling minstrel even brought the music with us...

chicks dig guitarists.

Today he took a break from being John Lennon and announced to me that he was "Jack Johnson...or maybe the guy from The Who." He's got a wide range of musical interests, clearly.

When you name a park "Castle Rock," it's probably because there are a lot of rocks in the general area. And perhaps stumbling upon one really giant rock or rock formation is the climax of the hiking experience. That seems reasonable. This is the first set of rocks we found...

there was much climbing of rocks.

As we continued, the hike became rockier and dicier. Nothing truly dangerous (unless you were being utterly reckless, which we weren't), but there were enough steep-ish grades and piles of slippery leaves to cause more than one of us to more than once slip and fall on our butts or stomach as we were venturing up the hills and rocks. Very minor & without anything that could remotely be called an injury. Most of us took it in stride. Ethan, his mother's son, tapped into his fear and on more than one occasion, lost his proverbial shit over the slipping and falling.

Ethan did a lot of "I can't"'s and ran through his entire repertoire of whines, from a whimper to a scream, quite literally. As most of his friends moved ahead with the hike, Ethan and I often found ourselves staying behind to hash out how and if we were going to forge ahead, conquer the fear or call it quits and head back to the car.

It was hard, as his mom, to know when to give him a gentle push, when to leave him be & when to suggest (erm, threaten?) to just leave if he didn't decide one way or another if he was going to move forward or just sit down and cry. I didn't want to shame him into moving forward; I didn't want to shame him if he decided he didn't want to go further.

But I was frustrated. Mostly because I saw my own fear in him. My own unwillingness to keep going when I've stepped out of my comfort zone. My own tendency to whine, "this is haaaaarrrrd," and give up. That novel I've always wanted to write? It's haaaarrrrrd. Losing the extra weight I'm carrying around by sticking with a running routine and giving up chai lattes? It's haaaaarrrrd.

As we approached THE Castle Rock, Ethan and I told our friends to go on ahead as we sat together--Ethan screaming and crying; me, taking deep breaths and asking him if it was time to go or if he was going to power through and see the big rocks with his friends. I was preparing myself to make the walk back to the cars by ourselves. I know that if I was the 4 year old in that scenario, it's the choice I probably would have made.

But my boy? Is brave.

Castle Rock, meet Ethan. He's all kinds of brave.

I'm assuming all these rock formations were formed by glaciers because of the smooth surfaces and weird holes in the rock--they are like ginormous ball and socket joints. Just the right size for preschoolers to climb into...

into the cave he goes...

blurry action shot...

seriously, I'm claustrophobic and breaking into a cold sweat just looking at this picture, and I can't believe I let him shimmy his way through that little cave-y space, but he LOVED it.

taking a little break in one of the giant caves that the kids turned into the "house"--this was one of the bedrooms.

once you get past the CRAZINESS that is that rock pattern, check out my kid navigating his way through that pile of rocks--with his friend Mika, who may or may not have a touch of a Dora obsession (note the back pack).

Seriously, WHAT makes a rock look like that?

Aaand, back down again...

time for a drink...

which way to the parking lot?

I have found that motherhood challenges me in a million ways every day. Letting Ethan find his own footing on the slippery rocks and steep hills, trying to figure out when to nudge him to move on or move backwards, or when not to say anything at all, but to offer him my hand and let him decide, is something that's complicated by my own sense of fear. Our day was not flawless (of course I didn't catch the screaming tantrums on the camera because I was too busy looking for a tree stump to kick in frustration) and the pictures only show part of the story, but he was so proud of himself for being so very brave that I'm fairly certain the memories that stick with both of us will be of how happy he was climbing to the top of Castle Rock, not the angst that got us there.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Less of Me...

This is what my doctor said she wanted to see the next time I come in for an appointment.

Given our country's propensity towards ever-expanding waistlines, I'm guessing doctors these days spend a good deal of their time coming up with euphemisms for "girl, you are FAT!" And since "you've got too much junk in the trunk" is probably not doctor-office-appropriate, "I'd like to see less of you next time," is a fairly innocuous way to get the point across that perhaps you are packing too many extra pounds. And by "you," I mean "I". I am packing too many pounds.

Not, like 100 extra pounds or anything. No one's going to be suggesting I audition for The Biggest Loser (which? no. the closest I EVER want to get to trainer turned painwhore drill sargeant Jillian Michaels is her 30 Day Shred. and even then? No.). I watch The Biggest Loser up until about week 10; that's about the time their bodies start to look like mine (although I find myself asking Husband around week 9--"is that what I look like?" and he suggests a little bit of counseling for body dysmorphic disorder might be helpful), and I'm too jealous of their continued weight-loss success to be able to watch the rest of the series. Up until that point, I cheer them on, get weepy when they get weepy, etc. Once their bodies look like mine & I know in 2 more weeks they're going to be at my goal weight & it's going to take me 6 months to get there? Whatever, bitch. I'd rather watch Ace of Cakes.

But the point is, there's weight to lose. And when you come from a family that just can't get enough of it's high blood pressure (the family tree is rife with hypertension), and when you were diagnosed at 28 and your doctors takes your pressure 3-4 times at each appointment because "it might be lower next time," (um, yeah, doctor, when you say that? That kind of has the opposite effect of what you're going for, but thanks), it's a good idea to take it seriously.

For several months, I let it go. Losing weight is kind of impossible when you're on medications that make you, well, gain weight. And from November to March of this past year, that's exactly what I was doing with my body. Every little shot into my belly of Follistim was a like a slab of cheesecake directly into my midsection, but without the tasty pay-off (or a resulting baby, for that matter; thank you very much cruel universe). Do you bloat a little when you ovulate? Yeah. During those months I was ovulating upwards of 8-10 eggs. So, "bloat" doesn't quite cover it. And somehow, each month, a little bit of that bloat stuck around. Toss in the fact that the same span of time encompassed the holidays AND the emotional eating that someone with questionable coping skills is bound to fall back on, and VOILA!!! You have one chubby mama on your hands.

So fine. When a doctor tells you to lose weight, you lose weight. Three weeks ago I joined Weight Watchers. And as with so much of my life, part of the reason I joined, beyond the whole losing weight thing, was so that I could blog about it. Because Oh.My.G-d. Weight Watchers meetings are a trip, people. Yay for me, I've lost almost 5lbs (on top of another 5 that has come off since I stopped with the IF treatments), so that's great. But the meetings!

My group leader? Her name is Perky. That's what's on her little name tag. Perky. I don't know if that's her G-d-given name, if it appears on her birth certificate, or if she actually chose to call herself that. But that's the name on her name tag. Perky.

And she is. Bless her heart, she loves her some Weight Watchers. As do all the other women in the meetings. It's like they pump happy air into the room through the ventilation system and I am the only one who is somehow immune. Maybe it's because I'm new & have not yet ingested enough of their kool-aid (and by kool-aid I mean their chemical & sodium infused processed food products), but I cannot find the same giddiness in losing .2lbs as the other ladies. This past week, that's what I lost (after 3.5lbs the week before) & you'd have thought I deserved a parade. "Losing .2lbs is better than gaining .2lbs!!!!" the receptionist squeaked as she wrote my new weight down in about 4 different places (the WW paper trail is massive). I got a "bravo" star sticker & everything, y'all.

I also get a gold star sticker every time I raise my hand to answer a question (because I am in 3rd grade, right?) Sadly, I have to admit to a bit of a Monica Gellar streak, in that no matter how hard I try to fight it, if I know the answer to a question, something in the fiber of my being compels me to raise my hand a la "I know! I know! I know!" (has that show been off the air long enough that references to specific dialogue are no longer relevant? If so? I don't want to hear about it. let me live in denial). I have a lot of gold stars. I'm not proud of that.

So every Wednesday from here on in, I will be donning my absolutely lightest articles of clothing for weigh-in. Everyone at preschool drop off notes how nicely dressed I am on Wednesdays because I am always in some light flowy skirt or sundress. They probably think I am engaging in some sort of inappropriate Wednesday morning tryst, because the rest of the week I'm sporting my heavy jeans & a shlumpy t-shirt; but alas, I'm just trying to get the number on the scale to be as low as humanly possible, and apparently Weight Watchers frowns upon naked weigh-ins.

Let's hope this week I get to my first full 5lb loss; I've promised myself that with each 5lb increment, I am treating myself to a foot massage & pedicure (seriously, people, they have foot spas up here---just foot massages. For an hour. oh sweet fancy Moses, I cannot wait.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Note to Self: You are so NOT hip...

In case there was any question about that, one way or another. The answer is a decided, "Um. No. I am not hip."

This morning, Husband & I decided that we'd hop in the car and head here. We've been wanting to go for a long time, and hooray, today was going to be the day.

Except that it wasn't. Because the Conservatory is in the middle of the Golden Gate Park (which, by the way? One of the very best things about living here--it is my original "happy place" & I always feel completely content and at peace when we are there). See, today was San Fran's 2010 AIDS Walk and it's epicenter was right where we usually park our car. Every major thoroughfare in the park was blocked off and street parking was all but impossible. There would be no Conservatory today...grumble, grumble, grumble....

But rather than admit adventurous-outting defeat, we decided to head to the neighborhood that sits adjacent to the park, the Haight-Ashbury district. You know, that mythical zone of 60's free love, drugs & long-haired hippie freak happiness. I've been twice before in my life, in my younger, unmarried, child-free days. The first time I was there, a guitar-strumming, long unbathed, dredlocked hippie sitting on the sidewalk offered me a foot massage for a dollar as I walked by him. No, thanks, but fascinating! The second time I found myself in the Haight was when I drove x-country with my best friend in '98 & we spent hours trolling through all the vintage shops, marveling at the amazing clothing and kitchy little tchotchkes.

This time? Eh. I think my Haight-Ashbury days might be behind me. The people watching is & always will be RIVETING. No question about that. But I'm not in the market for a hookah or a tattoo. That pretty much cuts the shops of interest for me in half. I also am, sadly, not dressing like Betty Page these days (erm, never was, but I *could* have). There go more shops down the interest drain for me. So really we're looking at a book store and the Ben & Jerry's shop.

I can go to a bookstore a mile from my house & get myself a pint of Ben & Jerry's at the Safeway down the street. I know it's not the same in terms of "ambiance," but I'm fairly certain that at least in my 'hood, I can do each of those things without circling the neighborhood interminably searching for the elusive parking space or having to step over a steaming pile of poop on the sidewalk (seriously, what is it about poop this weekend?! we cannot escape it, people!)

One of the things I'll always love about the Haight is the artwork on the walls--murals are everywhere & they are amazing and give you a feeling that the neighborhood itself is just alive.

Husband is a good sport. And he makes for one hot hippie chick.

You stay classy, captain of the drinking team chick.

Um. No. Just no.

Moose bike, y'all!!! Freaking moose bike!

Yeah, we wandered a bit, gave each other the hairy eyeball about every 10 paces, and then took our unhip asses home to the 'burbs. ::hanging head in shame::

Saturday, July 17, 2010

In Which, The Child Serenades a Snake & Some Squirrel Poop.....

Well, no. He didn't really do either. Although his ukulele, a snake AND squirrel poop did in fact figure greatly into our day. See, today we went here for a little afternoon hike (and by hike I mean a leisurely stroll on a completely flat terrain, except for the 2 minutes we ventured up a hill to see what was up there. There was nothing up there.) Ethan insisted on bringing his ukulele along for the adventure....

..I'm a cowboy, on this steel horse I ride...

So we got to listen to his island-inspired musical stylings while we read this sign at the entrance of the trail:

(please note the instructions written in dog-ese. Someone's a witty park ranger!)

The nature preserve is right next to a small municipal airport, which? I guess is okay if every little plane in & out of there is piloted by bird-flier-througher-extraordinaire Captain Sully Sullenburger, but otherwise? Why would you build an airport adjacent to an area where flocks of birds are routinely making the rounds? Also? There is a landfill (lovely) not far from the preserve (which also makes me scratch my head--"let's put all our unbiodegradable crap right next to a lovely haven for aquatic wildlife!"), and the sheer number of scavenge-y sea gulls circling the place would have given Alfred Hitchcock the heebie geebies. So I'm grateful to the powers that be that we didn't watch some bird shredding cessna plummeting into the marsh on our hike.

The walk was actually quite lovely. Dusty trails, what passes for grass during the California summer (beaten down straw is more like it), blue skies, birds calling, ducks in the wetlands diving for lunch, tall graceful egrets tiptoeing elegantly through the marsh, and little things we thought were bunnies but turned out just to be boring old squirrels scurrying past us on the trails. All so lovely. Ah, happy Saturday making family memories.

Until Ethan spotted the squirrel poop. I'm not sure why, and perhaps there is no explanation that a rational non-4 year old could possibly understand, but Ethan became at once equal parts fascinated by & terrified of, the squirrel poop. To my eyes, it was unremarkable (although it did make me wonder aloud why one never sees squirrel poop in urban settings. Husband thinks I'm insane). But to Ethan, this particular poop opened up a flood gates of questions and concerns. Do squirrels have bums? Why do squirrels poop? Why do they poop right here in the middle of this trail? Where else do squirrels poop? Why don't squirrels poop on potties? Why can't I poop anywhere I want to, if the squirrel can? What is in squirrel poop? (ohdeargod!) And it went on.

These questions came in rapid fire succession as Husband and I volleyed the "it's your turn to answer" look back and forth between us. The child is a bottomless pit of "why" these days. Bottom. Less.

After we responded as completely as we could to every question he shot at us, Ethan decided that he could not, without tearful fits of hysteria, continue walking on the trail whenever he encountered squirrel droppings. Thus began the "carry meeeeee!!!" portion of our hike. It was, my friends, delightful. Any time we approached the offending poop, Ethan would begin his tiptoe-y dance of doom & demand that one of us pick him up and carry him around it.

Let's take a moment to note that the trail was wide enough that 2 of me could have laid across it, toe to toe. A squirrel poop? About the side of a popcicle stick, if the squirrel really meant business. So let's be clear that Ethan could easily avoid being anywhere remotely near the poop and still manage to walk on his own two feet, all while staying safely on the trail (not that it was surrounded on any side by perilous alligator infested water or molten lava, so he could have even gone off the trail to avoid the poop if it were especially monstrous).

What we have here is a drama queen. Or king. Or whatever, he's 4.

So there was a lot of that to contend with (because I had no idea how much squirrels actually do poop, and I will give Ethan this--there was a LOT of poop). But we powered through.

Ethan, however, was not the only one doing an overly dramatic tiptoe-y dance of doom. I have to admit to doing one myself (sans tears & flailing arms), when I saw the snake. I went a little bit "off road" to get a closer look at something that looked like a pheasant, but really probably wasn't because I don't think that pheasants generally hang out in marshy wetlands. So it was probably just a really big duck of some kind (my bird-watching grandmother would simply be kvelling over my vast knowledge and appreciation of our avian friends, wouldn't she?). Anyway, as I approached the edge of the water, I all but put my foot on something that looked very much like this:

ohdeargod. HOLD ME!!!!!!

Please note I did not in fact take that picture, but it is the closest approximation I can find to the snake I saw today; it is a picture I found on a "snakes of Northern California" website & I'd give the credit for it if I could read that little name in the lower left hand corner.

I took no pictures of the actual snake because I was too busy losing my fucking mind. For a few seconds, I think my brain literally just ran a loop of "it's a snake. it's a snake. it's a snake," before it jumped into gear and tried to remember what to do in the event you confront a snake in the wild. Make yourself as big as possible? Shit, no, that's for a mountain lion. Play dead? Shit, that's for a bear. WTF do you do when you're confronted by a snake??!!! If you're me, you shudder a few times and then run on your tiptoes to safety, saying, "snake. snake. snake snake," the entire time.

I should note that I never once saw the thing's face. When I was approaching it, it was already slithering it's way past where I was, and I must have seen it's back half uncurling and rolling on it's merry way. I did, however, check to see if there was a rattle on it's end & there wasn't it. Thank goodness because if it had rattled, I'm fairly certain I would have dissolved into a puddle of gelatinous terror right on the spot. But it had to be as big around as my wrist. Ugh.

Apparently both Ethan and I will be watching where we step for a long time to come...

Some pictures:

It may have been a little bit sunny out today...

I can't help but hear a John Cougar Mellencamp song when I look at this picture. It is so "Little Pink Houses"

hello, little airplane...

do you see it up there in the tree? One of the poop-squad, just hanging out. No doubt planning his next poop assault on the trail.

This plant smelled just like licorice. This made me happy, but made Husband and Ethan a little sick to their stomachs.

So. Tired. of. Dodging. Poop. Caaaaarrrrryyyyyy mmmmmeeeeee!

Oh yeah. He was "that" guy.