Sunday, November 13, 2011

Maybe He's a Vampire?

Fridays are Ethan's kindergarten are seirously fun. The day starts with an all-school sing-along assembly, where the kiddos learn patriot favorites like "This Land is Your Land," holiday favorites like "The Monster Mash," and sometimes, a few Beatles songs (yeah, that's right--All You Need is Love on a Friday morning with coffee and 100 elementary kids--pretty sweet.)

Then Ethan's class pours out of the building to recess, 20 minutes of controlled (more or less) chaos where the boys spin BeyBlades while the girls build fairy forts on the hillside. Apparently this is the age/grade where the genders cootify (Shakespeare invented 10,000 new words, leave me alone) and can no longer bare to socialize with each other--it happens so organically its hard to fight--these days I watch Ethan catch pretend footballs on the lawn, wrestle his way out of a pile up of fellow kindergarten boys and engage in to-the-death light saber battles in the courtyard with his guy friends, after school. Only when we get home does he readily admit that he would still like to go to his girl friend's house and put on Disney Princess dresses and conduct fashion shows for the moms until the sun goes down.

After recess the kindergarteners come in for their enrichment centers--each week revolving between gardening, cooking, art and glass/ceramics. I volunteer on Fridays, which means I spend my Friday mornings in sing-along, recess & then enrichment center. Apparently I garden. This is news to me, although as an aside, I have to say I did in fact not kill any of the garden left behind by the previous tenant AND I seem to be, at least currently, keeping our lettuce and cauliflower alive. So while I'm off digging in the dirt with one group of 5-6 year olds, Ethan is engaged in one of the other activities (except for once a month when we're together).

A couple of weeks ago, his activity was cooking. To make use of the last of the tomatoes growing in the school's gardens, the recipe of choice was bruschetta. Which calls for garlic. Something my child has probably eaten several times without either of us knowing it, but certainly not something he would, at this point in his life, opt for under any circumstances--when asked what he'd like for dinner, I guarantee you Ethan will never say to me, "You know, Mom, I think I'd like a good scampi." Won't happen.

So thinking he could avoid mixing his tomatoes (which he loves) with garlic (which he does not), he decided to tell the teacher in charge that he was actually allergic to garlic. "Allergic" is a new word to Ethan--Daddy appears to be allergic to gluten and dairy, and Ethan's school is rife with kids allergic to nuts, eggs, citrus, dairy and just about any other food product you can think of. All Ethan really gets is that "allergic" seems to mean that you don't have to eat it. So, in Ethan's mind, a garlic allergy? Very convenient.

What he didn't realize is that, as his parent, it is my duty to inform his school of any and all allergies my child might have. He also doesn't realize that allergies can be a deadly serious thing (literally). He knows nothing of anaphylaxis or EPI pens. He's never witnessed anyone having a life-threatening allergic reaction. He knows a couple of kids who have relatively mild allergies, but he's not been briefed on the significance of or the responsibility that comes with a truly serious allergy. Why would he? We're unbelievably lucky that he has none.


To say it was like he shouted "fire" in a crowded room is definitely an overstatement (but you know how I love me some hyperbole). But. The garlic was immediately whisked away and stricken from the recipe. One of the other moms volunteering offered to go check with me and either verify or debunk the claim, since she knew I was out in the garden beds trying to convince a small horde of kids to help me shlep rotting pumpkins from one bed to the other (yeah, that was not so successful. Mostly they just squealed "Ewwwwwww!" and "Cooooool" while the pumpkins disintegrated in my hands--it was really special.) The teacher declined her offer, probably thinking I was a total deadbeat of a mother not to inform the administration of my child's allergy. Apparently they asked him a couple of times if he was sure he had a garlic allergy & he insisted that yes, indeedy, he was not allowed to eat garlic.

At the end of the day, I was approached by the Dean who asked, "Does Ethan have any allergies we don't know about???!!!" Oh my. Never in my life have I done nothing wrong and felt more awful for having done something wrong. I assured her that no, he was absolutely not allergic to ANYthing, and I apologized on Ethan's behalf for making something like this up (I knew this was coming, as the aforementioned mother told me about the situation during lunch recess after the enrichment centers).

I then went in search of the cooking teacher, to offer my apologies for my silly son and his make-believe dietary intolerances. I found her in the midst of a meeting with other teachers regarding---please take a who make allergy claims without any corroborating information from parents. Thank you, Ethan. I assured her that it wouldn't happen again and that she had not, in fact, almost killed my child with her bruschetta.

After all but taking a blood oath that my child has no food allergies, we put the whole thing behind us. Except for the discussion with Ethan about why we don't make stuff up about things that could put us into anaphylactic shock, and how thinking you might not like a food does not equal being allergic to that food.

I am poking fun at the response, but I'm actually really grateful that Ethan's school is so vigilant. Knowing that they are that careful to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their students makes me that much more confident that they are committed to looking after my child when I'm not around the other 4 days of the week. Because even without the vampiric allergy, he's still my special snowflake.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Graduating from Nick, Jr....

Let's just pretend I didn't take a month of off blogging, shall we? I can't sit through another one of my rambling explanations of writer's block and what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life angst, so we'll just gloss over it and spare ourselves, mkay? But as an aside, I'll admit that I am "supposed" to be writing almost 6000 words for NaNoWriMo today, as I am already 3 days behind after a strong start (and by "strong, I mean there are words on the page, even if they don't make sense or reflect anything remotely identifiable as writing--or-thinking--talent). But considering that I realized around word 5000 that I have no discernible plot and I dont' really like my main character (who is based on ME, for the love!), I am thinking I might switch gears entirely, give myself a couple of days to brainstorm and then start from scratch again. super!

So instead of worrying about plot and character development or the existence of a theme, I decided to blather on about Ethan and how he is growing up too damn fast and SLOWTHEHELLDOWNALREADY! He is constantly asking me when his next birthday is--"how many months until May?!!" "How many weeks, days, minutes, seconds until my birthday?!" I am trying to devise plausible ways to slow down the time-space continuum so I can stay 40 for at least the next decade--40, not "in my 40's"--and he is trying to rush headlong into his next birthday so we can have a StarWarsBeatlesTransformer party at ChuckECheese/ourbackyard/PumpItUp/thepark.

He's pointing out words he knows how to spell and rambling off math equations as we drive to the grocery store. It is all very exciting and he's amazing and when I am not feeling just the tiniest bit suffocated by his constant neeeeeeeeed for attention and validation, I am busting with joy and pride at what a fantastic little man Ethan is turning into (and truly its not as though I ever doubted that).

The other day, as Ethan and I were compiling a small army of Luke Skywalkers out of playdough, Ethan heard Moose E Moose talking from the TV (yes, "bad parenting 101" in our home--the TV is on, a lot, even when we're doing other things.) and then heard announcer lady say, "It's like preschool, on TV." He looked up at me & announced, "I think I'm too old for this show; I'm in kindergarten, not preschool."

Now being the peri-menopausal, hyper-sensitive joy to be around that I am lately, these words made me a little weepy and I had to pretend to go to the bathroom because crying around your 5 year old isn't quite as okay as crying around your screaming 8 month old. After I contained myself a bit (seriously, turning 40 is a fabulously complicated blessing--time has taken on a whole new significance for me in the past few weeks; I hope its just a phase and I can soon go back to getting through a day without contemplating my own mortality and being at once crushed with gratitude for my own health and terrified by the passage of time which will surely find a way to steal it away). GAH!!!! Aren't you glad I haven't been blogging?!!! Seriously.

I realized, though, that he's right; Dora and Diego don't really speak to him any longer, aside from the fact that we can basically recite the script of each and every episode. He still loves Dino Dan and, G-d help me, The Fresh Beat Band; but other than that, we have little use for Nick, Jr. And I can't bring myself to turn on regular Nickelodeon or, even worse, live-action Disney shows. Ethan's got a sass streak that does not require him being exposed to smart-mouthed teenagers on TV. (could I sound like a crankier old woman?!) I did show him Husband's and my favorite ever cartoon--The Fairly Odd Parents, on Nick this weekend, and he liked it. Only problem with that is that its on before SpongeBob, which I loathe with the intensity of a billion white hot suns, so I have to be quick with the remote when Fairly Odd Parents is over to avoid falling into that freaking pineapple under the sea.

More than kid shows, though, Ethan has been showing an interest in the Science Channel and Food Network. Yesterday we flipped back and forth between some show on how Super Novas are created & Food Network Challenge: Lego Cakes. Obviously he can't grasp the concepts of density, worm holes and solar wind (um, hi; neither can I), or how these Challenge contestants can call rice-krispie treats "cake" (um, hi; neither can I), but he watches it rapt and full of questions. Hours later he wants to know "why did that star explode, again?" and I wrack my brain to remember something about the heaviness of the iron at its core and how when the star can't take it anymore it does something like imploding and then exploding out from the core. And then there's the whole idea of the black hole---5 year old's mind? Blown. So is back to a discussion of rice-krispie treat as sculpting medium. Far more familiar territory for me.

There's a BIG part of me that is so thrilled to say goodbye to Moose E Moose & Zee. It's been a long and drawn out relationship of convenience with them, and I don't care if Moose likes Candy Corn or if they make it to Frisko the fire ant's birthday party on time. And I won't miss Max and Ruby or Little Bear and I take sheer joy in the idea of never having to sit through another episode of the Backyardigans. But like the end of all relationships, its been a little bittersweet because they have become such a part of our daily life's fabric (again, awesome parenting!!!). And as you know, I bristle at change, even when its welcome and good for me. I'm all rational like that; its how I roll.

I'm sure we'll find our way to Channel 120 every once in awhile to see what's up with the Fresh Beats (like maybe they decide to, oh, I don't know, change clothes once in awhile?!) and Dino Dan (will his mother ever seek professional help for her child who sees extinct prehistoric beings roaming freely throughout the hallways of his school and home? And when will that annoying chubby classmate of his turn into a full-blown Chris Farley?) But for now, we are going to make Science and Food Network our go-to's. Because you know, the family who pretends to understand a damn thing that astrophysicist is saying together, stays together. And maybe if I watch enough of the show about worm-holes and black holes and the like, I'll find a way to stay 40 for the next decade.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

When Life Hands You Lemons...

(or a container of Country Time crystals....), set up a lemonade stand....

That's what Ethan did on Tuesday. Somehow he got it into his head to start up his own business (it could be the influence of his entrepreneurial friend, Livi, who at 5 and a half is her neighborhood's go-to dog walker, cat feeder, plant waterer extraordinaire--complete with her own marketing department) and selling icy cold beverages on the corner of our block is what struck his fancy. I'm relieved he didn't ask Husband and I for a food truck of some sort to serve his lemony elixers out of, because he's been watching a LOT of the Great Food Truck Race or whatever it's called on Food TV.

Thankfully he was content with a pared down operation of just his IKEA art table, a hand-printed sign beckoning thirty travelers and a couple of plastic jugs of lemonade. He did, at one point, insist on serving said lemonade with a Twizzler "straw" but mercifully he forgot about that little touch of je ne sais quoi after I completely spaced buying the Twizzlers along with the rest of the accoutrements.

So after school on Tuesday, we set up the stand to coincide with the dismissal time of the elementary school down the street. Oh, idyllic suburbia, how I love to hear the sound of the school bells ringing umpteen times a day from 1/4 mile away. Its like having my own little 50 minute alarm clock from the hours of 8am-3pm. You know, so I can keep track of how much time I am wasting each day, in neat little 50 minute intervals. Very helpful indeed.

While Ethan sat patiently at his lemonade stand, eagerly awaiting his first $.25, I ripped into the bags of faux-spider webs & squishy plastic spiders to drape across the shrubbery in the front yard. Because that's what you do in California in October---you celebrate the season of falling leaves and ghouls by sweating your ass off decorating for Halloween. In the 85+ degree heat. Somehow, I would envision a hot apple cider stand at this time of year, call me crazy. But no, lemonade. With lots of ice.

Slowly parents started to make their way towards the school to walk their kiddies home. Remember walking home from school? In first grade? Alone? Yeah, not anymore. Because apparently suburbia is also crawling with child-snatching lunatics. I recently read an article about the criteria for "first grade readiness" in the 1970's--one of the benchmarks was whether your child is able to walk 4-8 blocks on their own without getting lost. Um. Yeah, we live ONE block from Ethan's best friend and I'm still not comfortable letting him walk that on his own. Thank you, 21st century paranoia; I'm looking at you, Nancy Farking Grace.

As parents approached, Ethan decided on a "yell at potential customers" marketing approach by announcing at full volume that he had "LEMONADEFORSAAAAALE!!!" in case the sign that said "Lemonade" and the two 2-gallon jugs of lemonade on his table were not enough of an indication. Good sports, each and every one, they smiled and said they would be back, many of them saying, "Oh, I wish I had some money with me! I'd love some!" as they sauntered on towards the school.

After hearing this "I don't have any money on me" reason a few times, Ethan decided to conserve his booming sales pitch until he got a sense of what he was working with---the next parent who passed by was not greeted by his town-crier-esque announcement about his lemonade, but a question about her financial liquidity. "DO YOU HAVE ANY MONEY????" he asked the mom passing by, and 15 feet away, I threw about 10 plastic spiders in the air in horror. Thankfully, she laughed and said that no, she didn't, but once she picked up her kids, they would walk home and get some.

"Ethan!!! Honey, don't ask people for money!!! Offer them the lemonade!" How charming that I had to caution my child against pan-handling on the corner of our block. Winning!

Finally a steady stream of sweaty elementary kids and their parents came filing past the stand and Ethan's business was hopping. With two sizes to choose from, we were doling out small and large cups of lemonade for $.25 and $.50 a pop, some with ice, some without. Considering the 2-gallon jugs were too heavy for Ethan to pour, and that he has no idea how to make change, it was basically my lemonade stand, but his cute-factor is definitely what brought in the uber-generous tips (seriously--someone gave us a $5 for a $.50 cup of Country Time lemonade).

After the rush elementary kids was over, we were left with only one small cup of lemonade left, which we split between us (guys, Country Time is nasty), and $30. Not too shabby for one hour's worth of work.

Ethan's already started planning his next lemonade stand--he wants to make a LOT more lemonade so that we can also handle the middle school crowd that lets out 30 minutes or so after the elementary school. He wants to add the option of some sort of berry or pink lemonade ("maybe we can even put real strawberries in the lemonade!!!"), and next time he hopes that I've found his cash register in our moving boxes so he can use it for each and every transaction.

Watch for us on Food TV--The Next Great Lemonade Stand competition. He's got it in the bag.

"Do you have any money???!!!!"

"Come on, you know you've got some money....."

"I'll give you some lemonade for some money!!!!!!"

Oh, that bandaid on his chin? Yeah, I'll tell you about that next time.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Want My Two Dollarsssss....

Please tell me you're old enough to get that reference? Please?

My child--no doubt as a result of our own tendency to be a little too free w/ the purchase of toys and treats throughout, well, his entire life--has started to become a bit pushy with the "I wants" of late. He believes to his core that every trip to Target to pick up toilet paper and a gallon of milk warrants a stroll through the toy aisles and the purchase of at least one Hot Wheels car, if not an Imaginext Batmobile or some sort of super hero paraphernalia. And to be fair, for a long time, I fell into the trap of "If you're on your best behavior while we shop for everything we need, Mommy will buy you a Hot Wheels car." In my defense, they are $1 and provided hours of entertainment, so it seemed like a budget-friendly no-brainer. However, since Ethan's generally well-behaved and we go to Target a lot (which might be the larger root of the whole problem--mama's a bit spendy and that can't be great money-management modeling), we are now living in a house that has a Hot Wheel to human ratio of about 30:1 (yeah, I just used a ratio. Suck on that, math teachers who thought I was hopeless. I'm looking at you, Sr. Eleanor.) (Is that what a ratio looks like? Did I do it right?) (I should have paid more attention to Sr. Eleanor).

So when I'm not puncturing the arch of my foot on one of Ethan's little metal non-explosive land mines that are strewn throughout his room and the hallway, I am sweeping them out from underneath the couch, or having to stop the dryer because one has fallen out of a pocket and is clunking around in there, or listening to one of the cats bat a car around the kitchen floor (where they are sure to leave it for me to step on next time I enter the kitchen.)

So yeah, too many toys. Even though we got rid of quite a bit before our move & even though I've intentionally not unpacked a whole box that's currently residing in our garage. Really, then, I can't blame Ethan for having an expectation of instant gratification when we are anywhere remotely near a store that markets products to his age group.

We've been slowly backing off of toy purchases except for the holidays, birthdays and other special occasions. I can't remember the last time we purchased a toy for Ethan just because we were there and it was available. Each time we meet with some resistance, but its been a good opportunity to talk about gratitude and how we are so lucky to have everything we do. He likes to talk the talk--he can tell me all the things he's grateful for and that there are lot of boys and girls out there who don't have it as cushy as he does. But when push comes to shove, the boy wants the goods.

Things came to a head a couple weekends ago when we were at a toy store purchasing presents for a friend's birthday party. Ethan was intent that he neeeeeeeeded a toy--he didn't even know what toy & couldn't even find anything that he really really felt compelled to have. But those details don't concern him---he wanted a toy and expected to be able to stay and browse until he found something suitable. When Husband and I insisted that we were there to buy presents for our friend, that we had in fact already purchased said gift and were making our way to the store exit, the storm hit.

A few warning gusts of whine. The clouds of the furrowed brows and clenched fists came next. Then the deluge of giant alligator tears. Followed closely by the spinning twister of "I waaaaaaannnntttt a tooooooyyyyyyyy," repeated over and over. Of course, in front of several other parents, no doubt judging us for either the general over-indulgence that would have lead to such an outburst, or for not buying him a toy to get him to pipe down. It was super good times.

And being that he's working so hard to be on his best behavior during the school week, when he loses it at home or on the weekends, he loses it hard. Wild assertions, such as "money DOES grow on treeeeeeees," and "but I don't have ANY toys at home!!!!!!" come flying from his mouth through tears, in a desperate attempt to get us to believe in some sort of alternative reality. He says it with such certainty (as though I am a dumbass for not having planted more money trees in the backyard and how could I not notice that dust-bunnies are the only thing inhabiting his toy boxes?!!!???)

Fortunately for Husband and me, this bodes well for us being able to out-logic our child for quite a while to come. I have friends whose kids are so sharp in the area of logical argument that they are already being stumped by their 5 year olds. Thankfully, our little boy is more of a flights-of-fancy type of kid, based firmly in emotional reaction (he *might* get that from me?! Maybe?) as opposed to logic and linear thinking.

Having had enough of these types of outbursts, Husband and I proposed a chore & allowance schedule whereby Ethan could earn his own money and spend it according to his wishes (after putting the first 1/2 of his allowance in the bank each week). Ethan loved this idea. Perhaps because after the list of chores and what each was worth financially was drawn up, he assumed he would be paid, in cash, every single time he performed one of his chores. He ran to the cat dish, tipped the bag of food over until it was spilling out over the bowl, ran back to the living room, stuck out his hand and said, "Twenty-five cents, please."

Excellent. Now that I won't have to feed the cats for a week & a half, let's make "sweeping up the spilled cat food" part two of that particular chore.

When we informed Ethan that, no, he wouldn't receive a quarter here or fifty cents there, every time he completed one of his chores, the storm of righteous indignation swelled again. "But....but I fed the cats! I did my chooooooore! I want my moneyyyyyyy!!!" Oh, the tears.

We explained to him how an allowance works--we'll tally up the chores he performs and how often on the responsibility chart each week & on Fridays we'll give him the total amount we owe him. Husband explained that even he only got paid every two weeks for all the work he does at his company. This was met with more cries of, "I want my twenty-five cennnnnnnnts!" and Husband and I taking turns leaving the room to snicker at our little workers' rights activist threatening to go on strike almost even before he'd started the job if the terms weren't to his liking.

In the end, to at once appease him and to show him the futility of receiving his allowance in tiny pieces, Husband reached into his pocket, pulled out a quarter and handed it to Ethan. He stood there with the quarter in his hand (at first he was horrified that all his hard work of over-filling the cat dish was reduced to one coin--Husband asked him if he'd prefer 25 pennies instead & the response was a resounding "YES."), I'm sure feeling a mix of satisfaction and confusion. He asked if we could go to Target so he could spend his allowance. Husband and I asked him what he planned to buy with $0.25. Looking down at the shiny coin, he contemplated his purchasing power. Then he put his allowance into his pocket and said, "You can just give me the rest of my allowance at the end of the week."

Excellent idea, little man.

So far this week, I haven't had to feed the cats, pick up any of Ethan's clothes to put them in the laundry hamper, make Ethan's bed or water our plants. Fabulous. The only chore that Ethan's yet to attempt is "Clean Your Room." This chore is worth the most money because its the toughest job--it will be interesting to see how he responds tomorrow when we give him what he will surely consider a puny sum of cash (since Husband told him what his potential earning power was). I wonder if that means next week will find his room sparkly and clean. We'll see.

Until then, we're just doing what we can to help out the economy, right?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sir Paul, Style Icon...

While some boys these days are walking into their local kid's hair cut place with a picture of Justin Bieber, or simply sitting at the kitchen table as their mom buzzes around their head with electric clippers, my kid's got a different vision. Paul McCartney. More specifically, "the young Paul McCartney."

Two days before school pictures, Ethan's hair was looking like this:

Probably the longest its ever been. We ask him periodically, "is it time for a haircut, buddy?" and 99% of the time, "nope, I like it," is the response we get. It was encouraging when we started kindergarten and found there were two other boys in the class who unapologetically wear their hair long; at least I didn't have to worry about him being made fun of, or being mistaken for a girl.

But the day before school pictures, Ethan announced he was ready for a change. "Can we get my hair cut? I want it cut like Paul McCartney. Young Paul McCartney." Not that there's a huge difference between young and not-so-young Paul McCartney hair. But the kid knows what he wants.

We sat down with Google and did an image search for of Sir Paul, on the look out for the perfect picture of the mop-top in question. Ethan decided on this:

I think it was the fact that he looks like he's Vogue-ing that Ethan liked more than the hair, but whatever. I saved the picture and brought it to our local kid's hair salon.

Really enjoying his time in the stylist's chair....

Pondering his new 'do...

Ethan's imitation of the original picture of McCartney

and his kindergartener's artistic interpretation of said pose.

Is it just me, or does he look like an entirely different child with short hair? Long hair or short, The Cute is almost too much to take, in my admittedly biased opinion.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hell Hath No Fury...

like a worn-out kindergartener.

Holy cats, people. This child is out of his everloving mind these days. Bless his heart, all I hear from school (teachers, other parents, administrators, etc) is how fabulous he is. "He's so sweet!" "He's very thoughtful of his classmates." and my personal favorite, "you know the advice they give you in communication seminars? Like to nod and make eye contact when you're listening and to repeat back to a person what you've heard them say? Ethan totally did that with me today--what a great communicator!!!"

This confounds me. Perhaps the doorway into the kindergarten classroom is in fact a portal to an alternate universe where only happy, well-behaved & respectful kids are compatible with the air supply. Perhaps ::sob:: he just really likes being there more than he likes being with me ::sob:: Perhaps the teacher has bribed them with toys and candy if they save up all the turmoil for at home (which? I can't blame her. I've got 1, she's got 23).

But whatever it is, within moments of pick up, the magic spell of good behavior has gone *POOF* into the ether and the next several hours are littered with tantrums and whining and sass. It's really special. Really. Special.

Let's see, an example? Okay. Last Wednesday, Ethan asked to stay late at extended care--its like a elementary-age appropriate rave in there every day from what I've heard---dance parties, movies, popcorn, games, Wii, arts & crafts, etc. Who wouldn't want to stay?! Fine. It was "sports" day last Wednesday, so I let him stay until 3pm (two hours longer than his regular school). I speed walk my way to the playground to find him running around with his friends, playing tag. (fortunately, Ethan goes to one of the remaining schools in the area that allows the game of 'tag' on its playground. You know, while kids at some other schools are perhaps wrapped up snug in bubble wrap before being allowed out onto the playground.)

I smile & wave from the edge of the playground. When Ethan sees me, he immediately stops his chase and hangs his head. The trudging towards me slowly begins. Oh, the drama. By the time he reaches me, he is gearing up for the wailing. "Why do we have to gooooooooooo???? I hardly had any time to plaaaaaaayyyyyyyy." The extended care teacher gives me a look like, "Um. Yeah, he's been playing his heart out for 2 straight hours," which I know is true. Bless his heart, Ethan's little fibs are so entirely unbelievable that unless he improves at it, he's going to try to tell a teacher some day that a UFO abducted his homework. The tears start to flow. The ever-increasing pitch of "I don't want to gooooooooo" starts up.

When I tried to tell him that it was 3pm and he had in fact had plenty of time to play, he started in with the, "It's not 3 o'clock!" This is my favorite--when he tries to argue away cold, hard, totally non-threatening facts. "It's not 3 o'clock!" "No, you didn't buy me a toy yesterday!" (fact: yes, I bought you a Batman batmobile to go with your batcopter. FACT!)

And then we escalate to the "always" & "never" statements and the whole concept of fairness. Oh, this is always a good time.

"You never let me do anything fun!!!!!" (this is after I paid extra for him to stay in extended care for 2 hours so he could have FUN with his friends). "I never get to have a play date!!!" (this wailed in agony as we were leaving....a play date. Oh, the irony!)

This weekend he informed me and Husband that he was going to "cry for a month" because we wouldn't buy him a toy while at Target picking out birthday presents for friends. I told him that if he planned to cry for a month I would go ahead and cancel our play dates for the next four weeks because no one wants to hang out with a kid who's incessantly leaking from his tear ducts and complaining about life. He stopped crying.

This is where I admit to being a horrible mother & say that sometimes, he gets so riled up and crazy, saying such nonsensical things with such conviction that I have to leave the room. Not because I'm frustrated, but because it makes me giggle. There is something unbelievably precious about him losing his mind over the silliest little things (although I realize they are not silly to him), and I just love him so much, it makes me smile and that upsets him more (understandably). So I leave the room for a minute while he's yelling about how "NOT VERY NICE!!!!!!" I am. I don't feel great about giggling over these tantrums, but I guess it is better than having to suppress the urge to spank him instead.

For all my joking about the alternate universe in the paragraphs above, I know that he's just working so hard to transition smoothly into kindergarten, to stay on task, to make sure the teacher loves him as much as his last teachers did, making new friends, falling in love with math (my kid???!!!! oy). By the time he gets home, he's just got nothing left---the "good behavior" tank is running on fumes.

Husband jokes with me when he is displaying typical gross male behavior in front of me (use your imagination) that I should feel grateful he's comfortable enough around me to just be himself in all his grossness. "It's intimacy" he says. Um.........

But in a way, its the same thing going on with Ethan right now, but with tantrums and borderline psychotic mood swings instead of bodily functions. After a day of concentrating on being the best behaved kid he can possibly be, Ethan's comfortable enough with me to just be himself--and "himself" at that time, is a whining, complaining, tantruming mess. And I love him just the same.

Of course that doesn't mean he's getting away with it, either. He has lost play dates (which is probably a good thing because he is bone-crushingly tired by the end of the day) and he's spent some time in time-out. Today we are making something called a "mind jar"---a thing I found on Pintrest. Its a jar filled with water, glitter-glue and food coloring. When mixed together, it creates a glittery lava-lamp type effect in the jar. The woman who posted it on her blog uses it as a tool for her children when their behavior or mood is out of control. They have to go to a certain spot with the jar, shake it up and take some deep breaths as they watch the glitter settle back to the bottom of the jar. Then they can put it down and come talk about what's going on, or apologize--whatever's appropriate in the moment.

Ethan loves the idea. "So I can calm down when I'm really upset, right?" he says. I love that he gets to help make it and therefore has some ownership over it. And I love that while it is a great redirection away from undesirable behavior, it doesn't really feel like punishment (because why should I be punishing Ethan for having feelings?)

We'll see how it goes. I'll let you know if glitter can soothe the savage beast...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hookers & Ferries & Cops in Pink Tutus! Oh My!

At times, the SGK 3Day walk was so fun that it was easy to lose sight of the very real & tragic reason we were all there, hoofing it 60 miles around the bay area---every three minutes another person in this country is diagnosed with breast cancer. One in eight women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their life time--that's 12% of American women, people. It doesn't take a giant leap of logic to realize that at some point, without a cure, we will all be impacted in some way by this disease. It is sobering and terrifying. But.

The best thing about the SGK walk was that in spite of those seriously Debbie Downer stats, the 3 Day is much more a celebration of life & of the human spirit to fight & survive, and to fight for each other. I mean, really, what could be more celebratory than this, I ask you:

or this?

Its a good day when you get hugs from tutu clad police officers outside a bank of port-a-potties, my friends. A damn good day indeed.

Just as a side note, these fine gentlemen were from the San Jose police department and they were volunteering, using up their own vacation time to patrol the route and keep it safe for us. And I'm also thinking they were kind of keen on the idea of donning pink tutus, fur mukluks and bunny ears. Because you don't see that on COPs often, now, do you?

Oh, and bras on their helmets. Let's not forget that...

They were pure awesomesauce.

Also awesomesauce? My teammies. The picture is missing three of us (me, taking the picture and two others off in the port-a-potty line...) But look at how chipper!! Look at how ready to go! Raring to have at it!! At 5am!

At the Cow Palace!!! WTF is a Cow Palace??!!

But that's where we started out from. The Cow Palace. Home of fancypants cows? Who knows.

But I do know that pink hair at 5am is quite fancy...

After the opening ceremonies at sunrise gave us our first case of the ugly cry...

we headed out into lovely Daly City...

And by "lovely," I mean full of temporary construction fencing, traffic cones and fog.

And the danciest, happiest dude of them all, stopping traffic for us to cross.

Lots of mini-vans of supporters drove by us, honking and cheering us on throughout all three days.

First stop? The Yumi Deli. Natch. Six am & no coffee makes for some silly walkers

And LOOKIE! Hookers for Hooters!!! (note: not real hookers. I think.)

These ladies popped up over & over again during the course of the three days, bullhorns & all, playing music, dancing, singing, high-fiving & cheering us on. Somewhere in the middle of day 2 the sight of them *might* have made me weepy & overwhelmed with how much emotional support & encouragement they were doling out. Hookers with hearts of gold, I tell you.

And then there was all the mother nature-y goodness along the way, too.

Pretty, right? Totally made those blisters that were slowly developing under my pinky toenails totally worth it.

Day 1 drew to a close with us making our way, no longer a swarming sea of pink, but spread out over several miles, more like a slow trickle of pink, to Fisherman's Wharf, where the tourist's marveled at us like we were part of the regular attractions--you know, Boudin's Sourdough, the Pier 39 sea lions, Ghiradelli's Chocolate & the ladies walking 60 miles in pink shirts. We caught a ferry over to Treasure Island and were beyond thrilled to realize it was then another 1.5 miles of walking to the camp ground. There's something about walking 18.5 miles and then getting to sit for 30 minutes as you watch the lovely city sky line and rock gently to the rippling current that makes that last 1.5 miles seem like a particularly horrendous torture for the blisters & muscles. And no shower has ever felt better than the one I took that evening inside an 18-wheeler shower truck, after waiting in line for 40 minutes holding my pajamas & towel and making small talk with the women to either side of me in line.

There was a chipper lady in the dinner tent bouncing up & down on the stage (she clearly had taken one of the vans from the starting point to the camp), telling us what a great job we were doing & letting us know about the dance party that would take place in that very tent on evening 2. Dance party? After walking 40 miles? Oooookay, crazy lady. You have fun with that.

Day 2 found us hobbling walking through Berkeley and Oakland. Where this sign:

could not have come at a better time. Yes, I'm smiling, but look at how I'm leaning on that utility pole. I could have stayed there all day.

So, they don't need chemo & that obviously provides tremendous perspective. But they are going to need to be lanced and disinfected and covered up with blue cushy "newskin" and then sealed with carpet like "moleskin" and then wrapped in a pink sticky tape that looked like the soy paper Ethan gets his avocado rolls made with bc he doesn't like seaweed. mmmmm....sushi feet.

There we go....ready for the next....30 miles. Oy.

While most of day 2 was spent checking my daily schedule to see how. much. farther. there. was. to. go., there were some amazing & memorable moments as well. Right before heading into the medic tent to have my feet tended to, I walked past a girl who was maybe 16, holding a sign that said, "My mother had surgery yesterday. Thank you for walking." Cue the ugly cry, please. And when I started thinking that I wanted to puke with every single foot fall, a woman would walk by me with the pink temporary tattoo "survivor" on her cheek. Some supporters lined the route with poster boards of Frost's poem, "Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening," which ends:

Again with the ugly cry. There were reminders everywhere of why we were doing this & how the pain we were feeling was so insignificant and fleeting compared to that of the people we were walking for. And every time someone stopped us, asked us "what are you doing?" & listened to us explain our goal, it felt like we were doing something. Every time we walked past an outdoor cafe & someone stopped their conversation to give us a thumbs up or to thank us for what we were doing, it was an anesthetic for the pain swelling in our feet.

But again, that shower? Felt awesome. And I've never slept more like a rock than I did those two nights on the ground in a little pink tent.

Day 3 is pretty much a blur. The ferry dumped us in Tiburon and we had to be quiet for several miles so as not to wake the rich people. Super. Tax loopholes AND extra beauty sleep. I started to notice that the monster hills actually felt good on my tight muscles; they were like built-in stretches. Go figure. For a lot of the day my feet were well-wrapped and minimally painful, but I was so intent on getting to the end that I can't really tell you a lot about that day. It was very much a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-to-the-finish kind of a day.

This guy made it possible for me to keep going, after he performed minor surgery on about four different places on my feet. Glamor, thy name is medical tent nurse. How many gnarly nasty feet that man had to tend to over the course of the three days must be endless fodder for blister-related nightmares and flashbacks. I know as a nurse he probably sees far worse on a daily basis, but the sheer volume of nasty feet....::shudder::


And then, we were there:

I will admit that I didn't walk up the giant hill from Fort Baker to the Golden Gate Bridge. We'd stopped for lunch right before the hill & I always found that starting back up again after a break was the most painful part of the walk. I really didn't want to be limping and hobbling over the bridge after climbing a monster hill. So one of my teammates and I hopped on what we *thought* was a SGK bus to take us to the top of the hill & drop us off at the bridge.

Turns out, we really just got into an RV driven by someone named Mimi, who was accompanied by her daughter, Leelee, and a pomeranian. Turns out, they weren't entirely sure where they were going or where to drop us off. See, when trying to navigate the Golden Gate Bridge, you have to be very careful not to take the wrong turn or chose the wrong exit, or you'll end up on an irreversible track over the bridge and then there's money involved and confusion and a lot of "take this exit here!!! Oh, no, not that one!! This one!!!" or you end up heading out of town completely. So my teammate & I spent about 7 minutes in absolute internal panic mode while Mimi & Leelee tried to figure out A.) how to get from Fort Baker to the bridge and B.) how to avoid the aforementioned missteps that would drive us right off the SGK route altogether.

Fortunately it seemed like it wasn't entirely Leelee's first time at the rodeo, so she directed her mother correctly into the parking lot for the Golden Gate Bridge, we gushed our thank you's profusely (both that they got us up the hill in time and that they were not in fact creepy serial killers trolling the route for their next victims--well, we didn't say that part out loud, obviously.) We met the rest of our team up at the top of the hill & walked across the bridge as a team. Very bonding and life-affirming and all that good stuff.

For some reason, my brain kept letting me think that the bridge was the end of the walk. And while it was a highlight for sure, there were still several miles to go before we reached the end. This line of walkers heading off the bridge and down towards Crissy Field kind of bummed me out as we approached the end of the bridge. There were probably vans I could have taken, but there was something so symbolic about the walk--even though all the money had already been raised, and the walking was, in truth, especially at this point in the game, a formality, I couldn't bring myself to give up. I just kept coming back to the reason I was there in the first place.

And then we were at the finish:

Yay, team!!! Still missing some people (it was hard to get us all in one place at the same time).

The crowd of walkers waiting to go into the closing ceremony.

walking in to the closing ceremonies, site of the final ugly cry....

After all the walkers who were not personal survivors of cancer themselves had entered the circle, those people who walked as survivors march in, at which point everyone takes off one shoe and holds in the air to salute them. Its possible that it was simply delerium from the pain in my feet and the overwhelming emotion of the past few days, but given that I'm a sucker for symbolism, I shed some fat weepy tears on this one.

Then the survivors join hands and there's swelling triumphant music playing and TEARS TEARS TEARS!!!

Aaaand then on our bloodied little stumps that once were feet, we danced....

Where do I sign up for 2012?!