Wednesday, August 31, 2011

As the Preschool Turns

Who knew that preschool was such a hotbed of romance and intrigue?  On our way to school this morning, Noelle chirps from the backseat that Nico is her best friend and if he doesn't want to be friends anymore then instead of walking away, she'll stand next to him and they'll fall in love and hearts will come out of them. 


Then she went on to list the other 'couples' in class:  Sammy and Paige, Charlotte and John (or was it Jimmy) and Brenden and Braden.

We are nothing if not equal opportunity at this school.

I tweeted what she had said about her and Nico and her friend Sammy's mom replied that Sammy had told her that he (Sammy) loves Noelle and thinks she is so pretty but she (Noelle) is marrying Nico and Sammy is marrying Paige because he loves Paige the best and Noelle is apparently spoken for or I think it may have gotten all sister-wives up in this joint. 

We all had a good laugh and 'whaaa?' reactions but then I started thinking; where are they getting these ideas about love and marriage?  They are all the oldest in their families so it's not as if they are taking cues from older siblings and if they are anything like Noelle, the sophistication of their media consumption begins with 'Blue's Clues' and ends with 'Olivia'. 

Dylan and I rarely watch anything 'mainstream'; our tastes run more toward 'Ghost Hunters', 'Leverage', 'Ghost Hunters International', 'Destination Truth', 'Ghost Adventures' and of course football though I will readily cop to loving questionable movies such as 'The 40-Year Old Virgin' and 'Team America: World Police.'  And 'Real Genius' because DUH.  We only watch TV after the kids are in bed so it doesn't seem like they are getting it from us.  Maybe from books as Noelle likes princess stories but rarely comes back to the 'falling in love' part, she's more interested in the why:  why did Cinderella's shoe fall off?  Why were her stepsisters mean to her? Why did Gaston want to hurt the Beast?  Why did Ariel want to be a mermaid?

Is this a comprehension issue?  That at this age they don't know to express liking another person other than 'love'? Why the need to 'pair up' so young? I remember having two guy best friends when I was in kindergarten; we did everything together.  In fact, my mom still has the ornament Ben gave me when I was 5 but I don't recall anyone labeling the relationship as 'love'.  I don't remember anyone commenting on a 'boyfriend', they were simply my best friends.

Have we as parents been contributing to this by unconsciously labeling another child as a 'boyfriend' or a 'girlfriend'? Have we watched them play together and commented,' Oh, she loves him so much!'  Are we projecting onto our children's playmates our interpretation of relationships or is this simply how we are all wired at that age; everything is absolute, love or hate, there is no in between, no gradations, shades of gray?  Are they just trying to make sense of the world with the words and concepts that they have?

I think that Dylan and I will need to be more careful in what she is exposed to and help her better understand emotions and relationships though I will say, it does make me feel a bit better knowing who my future son-in-law is already.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Anatomy of a Birthday Cake

So, I made Noah a birthday cake.  Yeah, no big except for my compulsion to make Complicated! Character! Cakes! complete with multiple decorating tips and practicing shell borders and what not.  Actually, it's become sort of a tradition in our house: each child picks their birthday theme and I procure the baking pan necessary to transform their hearts' desire into edible reality.  Or I pick because I'm pretty damn sure that Wilton does not make a Super Martian Robot Girl cake pan and I'm also fairly certain that is what Noelle will pick this year and Bzzz! Snap! GAH.

This year for Noah we went with Blue's Clues and I'm sure that this will surprise absolutely no one. 

But Mommy, I love Blue so much.  Crap.
But, how does one accomplish this with a full time out of the house job and no motivation after 8:30 pm Oh Masochistic One with No Discernible Artistic Talent Whatsoever?  I'm so glad that you asked as I shall tell you.  And then you may commit me to Sheppard Pratt post haste.

First up, the cake.  Actually, first you have to find the damn cake pan on as it's no longer being produced of course even though the show that landed the character in your life is shown daily on NickJR and then hope to god that 1) it's actually in semi-decent condition, 2) won't require the sale of a kidney and 3) arrives sooner than the day before the party.

No, I'm not bitter.  Why do you ask?

Therefore Step 1B becomes actually making the cake which I do with the few remaining brain cells remaining after work/dinner/play/bath/bedtime and a beer (or two or three) thrown in for good measure.  I of course didn't take a picture of the naked cake but trust me, we had a very naked and forlorn cake in our kitchen for a couple of days.  No Duh step 1C: cover the cake so it doesn't dry out.  You will only make this mistake once.  I guarantee it.

Now you have the cake all prepped so now it's time to assemble the 80 million icing colors, tips, couplers and decorating bags. I'm only slightly exaggerating here. I kid you not, this thing required 3 different shades of blue.  (Not to be outdone, Noelle's last birthday cake called for 3 different shades of grey.  For Diego's SHOE.  I still can't talk about it without twitching.)

The coffee is necessary as it was too early for beer

We are now ready to decorate!  The damn dog is blue.  So how many different colored icings were required?  7.  SEVEN.  FOR A BLUE DOG.


Any good decorator (read: parent hack) knows that you should follow the directions exactly except for when they make no sense.  Which they frequently don't so either throw caution to the wind and DO WHAT MAKES SENSE or invest in a lot of different tips and couplers.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

I'm the ghost of cartoon characters in endless reruns
Yay!  The sides and blank spaces are done!  We are rockin' now!  Let's get this party started with something easy.

I don't remember the episode where Blue goes to the office but okay
I'm feeling more accomplished by the second but you know what this is missing?  Yeah, you guessed it, some blue.  We should fix that.

Much better
This is the first point where I deviated from the directions.  GASP.  I know but hear me out; the darker colored spots weren't apparent on the cake even though according to the cake pan they should have been so in reality, they forced me to do this. 

Zombie Dog: coming to an office near you
I sustained an injury to my wrist about 12 years ago at work that results in weakness and fatigue whenever I do a lot of repetitive motions with that hand.  It's probably a good thing that I'm not a guy.  I'm just sayin'.  Why this fascinating segue?  Squeezing hundreds of itty bitty stars to cover the dog may not have been my smartest move ever. 

Noah, you better damn well appreciate this.

The finish line, it's in sight!

I mock you with my off center tongue
Crap, not the finish line.  I hate it when I confuse that with Pit Road.  At this point I just wanted to be done so voila, the finished cake:

You see that printing? That's me.  Yeah, believe it.
So why do I go to these lengths to make a cake when buying a ready-made one, even a special order one (from Giant people - love Charm City Cakes but am NOT dropping a grand on a birthday cake for a toddler.  Ain't gonna happen.) is probably more cost effective?  Well, my mom always made our birthday cakes and I'll readily cop to a bit of Mommy Guilt over having to work.  As if a homemade cake will even things out on the cosmic scale but it makes me feel a little more connected and present.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go freeze the cake as there is a hurricane just itching to sit on our heads.  I'll let you know how this turns out.

I'm not cancelling the pizza yet

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Dear Noah,

Happy Second Birthday baby boy!  I can't believe that it's been two years now since you've come into the world, huge and silent and...jaundiced. But we don't like to talk about that even though you did get your own tanning bed for 3 days.

Yeah, you read that right

You've been my snuggle-bug and fiercely independent wanting to go and do everything that your big sister does.  You are very strong willed which I find quite admirable though will freely admit that it would be fine if you chilled out once in a while. 
Your big loves right now are trains and Blue's Clues, books and cars and art.  And Bla Bla, always Bla Bla. 

 Other things you love?  'Hie-seek' and dress up.  You have been a pretty, pretty princess, pretty witch, Super Baby, Wonder Baby, Bat Baby and Brave Knight Noah.  Also *maybe* a fairy but we can't prove anything.*

You have the most mischievous grin that lights up your beautiful dark blue eyes.  You are so ridiculously big (taller than everyone other child in your class and most of the next class up despite being the youngest) yet today you are wearing 12 month shorts as you have no hips to hold up anything larger.  I'm so not even kidding here that one of your many names is The Hipless Wonder.

You started school this past March at 18 months after being watched by Grandma exclusively; Daddy and I worried about your transition but for no good reason.  You have done AMAZING in school - you know all of your colors though you still confuse red and yellow at times, a lot of letters and can count to 12 in English and 10 in Spanish though I tend to credit Dora for that last one.  You seem to pick up new words everyday and combine your words into more and more complex phrases.  My current favorite is 'Where Mommy be?' when we are playing 'Hie-seek'.  You are a very good helper; every afternoon when I walk into your classroom the first thing you do is put away the toy or game you are playing with before running to me even though that is what you want to do in the most desperate way.

You HATE being thwarted or denied and have thrown some magnificent tantrums.  There are times you've gotten mad, thrown a toy and gone to sit on the time-out step before Daddy or I can say anything.  It's so incredibly cute watching this that we have to work very hard to hide our grins and giggles.  You have inexplicably began showing an interest in the potty though haven't seemed to quite grasp the fact that the clothes must be removed before using the potty as evidenced by the time you fell into the toilet twice at school in ONE DAY last week.

You want to do everything that your big sister does but your favorite people hands-down are DaDa and Grandma.  Mommy and Daddy, we're okay I guess but not worthy of the giant thunk of enthusiastic love awarded to DaDa.  You would think that he lines his pockets with chocolate eggs or something. 

You love knock knock jokes though don't really get how they work.  But you'll try your best and we'll laugh right along with you.  You want so desperately to be a part of what's going on around you but please stop trying to grow up so fast.  I'm not ready for it.  Though I am a fan of your bringing your empty sippy cups into the kitchen so hypocrite, thy name is Mommy.

You are my Big Boo, my Boo Boo, my Doodles, Doodlebug, Man Man and Captain Chaos.  You are everything that I ever wanted in a baby boy and more.  I love you so very much Noah.  Happy, happy birthday Sweet Boo.


* Actually, yes we can.  You will hate your senior year yearbook. And bachelor party.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Angel Baby

To My Angel Baby,

Today would have been your birthday.  You were a shock and a surprise so I didn't cherish you while I had you; in fact just when I was getting used to the thought of YOU, you left us.  I have always wanted three children and having you then losing you just drove that closer to home.  The day I told your daddy about you, I cried and not tears of joy.  I'm so ashamed of that now; I had a gift, the most wonderful gift in the world and all I could think about about was how we would manage.  Small house, smaller cars, additional child care, the list of concerns grew ever larger.  But of course we would manage, we always have.

We kept you a secret; no one knew about you until after you were gone.  I had strange feelings, that something wasn't RIGHT, something kept me from sharing even though the words were on the tip of my tongue more times than I can count.  We developed a plan, you wouldn't want for anything.  Between your older sister and brother and all of your cousins, clothing and baby gear was covered as this is a family of pack rats and we throw nothing away.  A few days before we found out that you were gone Daddy and I began talking about your name.

You were a girl.  It was much too early to tell, but I just *knew* the way that I knew with your sister and brother. And because the cat wouldn't come anywhere near me. 

Time passed and we both grew used to the idea of you.  We planned how we would announce you to your family.  Christmas time it was difficult to conceal you as I'm well known for my love of wine but the holidays passed without suspicion. 

I talked to you, I wonder if even then you could hear me.  I found myself stroking my stomach daydreaming about holding you; would you have the blue eyes that all of us have?  Would you be the only to inherit your grandmother's thick wavy hair or would I doom you with my eyesight to be forever squinting. Would you be into dance or sports or art?  I was eager to find out.

Two days before we were set to tell the family, I had a sonogram.  The doctor was concerned with your size and lack of heartbeat but at 8 weeks, it didn't seem to be that concerning of an issue; perhaps nothing more than a date miscalculation.  The technician looked all over; we could see where you were supposed to be but there was no movement, no life.  Your little heart had stopped beating a few weeks earlier; we never did know why. 

So my angel, as the days leading up to your birthday have passed, I find myself thinking about you and mourning you all over again.  Still.  I am so sorry.  I am sorry that I didn't fully appreciate you while I had you and that you never got the chance to know your sister and brother who would have loved you like crazy.

We had you buried at a little cemetery near the hospital where you would have been born.  I didn't attend the ceremony; I couldn't find the strength but that doesn't mean I didn't love you.  I love you and always will.  I just have to believe that I'll meet your soul in heaven one day and we can be the family of five I always hoped that we would be.

Happy birthday angel.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How much of the day needs to be in the books before you can call 'mulligan'?

Hooray!  It's Wednesday!  Hump Day!  Half way to the weekend!  What could possibly go wrong on a beautiful day such as this?*

*We call this 'foreshadowing'.

Dylan and I both get up at 5:30 am during the week.  Well, I do, he's a much lighter sleeper and our evil evil cat has cottoned onto this and pretty much makes his life miserable several days of the week, today being no exception.  I slept great except for the disturbing dream right before waking that featured me being at my grandmother's funeral and when I finally gathered up the courage to look in her casket, she looked like she did when she was 70 (she died last year at age 95). Then she sat up and started talking and walking around which no one found the slightest bit odd.  I tried to tell them not to bury her, she was alive but of course no one listened.  Thankfully I woke up then as I pretty sure my subconscious could not handle my grandmother being buried alive.  (I blame this week's Leverage for that twisted little path.)


Anyway, we get up and go about our morning routine; showering, fixing lunches, fanasizing about coffee and get the kids up at 6:30.  It's always a treat to go into their rooms in the morning as we never know what we'll see; Noelle has been found with her feet on the pillow, with books and comic books covering every inch of the floor.  Noah sometimes will be sleeping on Bla Bla, sometimes Bla Bla will be strangling him, a lot of times doing the Baby Butt Salute.  Noah popped right up this morning, happy and chatty.  Noelle tried her damndest to remain dead to the world.  Spoiler alert:  she was not successful.

Now Wednesday has been water play day for Noelle this summer at her school/camp but on her daily report yesterday there was a note that water play had ended for the year thus bringing about Tears and Tantrum (TaT) One lasting off and on for about 15 minutes (Noah pushed out some sympathy tears.  Solidarity and all that.)  Getting this resolved, we herd everyone down for breakfast, Noelle still grumpy and teary, when Noah decides he's not in the mood for eating and GOOD LORD WOMAN, ENOUGH WITH THE FOOD PUSHING.  (For the record, I am not a food pusher.  What I am is not believing him when he says he's not hungry and hasn't finished his milk.) (The boy loves him some milk.  Hence my not believing him.)  Dylan, at this point, gets to escape and I have the fun task of rounding up hungry grumpy children and herding them back upstairs to finish getting ready to leave.  I will spare you the details but suffice it to say that it takes a good 15 minutes to get 2 kids' hands washed, teeth brushed, hair combed and faces washed.  I just...GAH.

But wait, there's more! Now we have to puts shoes on! And argue/fight over the videogame/dry erase markers/comic books/WHATEVER. It is now 7:25.  My goal is to lock the door at 7:15; you can see where this is going.  So FINALLY with three backpacks and assorted and sundry accoutrements, we leave whereby Noah takes off running down the sidewalk.  Used to it, no biggie, we move on.  Relative good moods all around....until we have to get into the van.

I keep a supply of 'pops' in the center console to reward good behavior from the day/bribe for a minute's silence and they know this.  Noah, however, doesn't seem to care that pops are not an appropriate early morning food especially when one has deigned to not eat his breakfast.  I'm sure his teachers would love me for sending him to school on a simple sugar high.  He can also open the center console and procure a pop for himself.  He did.  I took it away.  He grabbed another one and did the old 'bob 'n weave' trying to protect his pop from the evil clutches of Teh Mommy in the rathe confined space of the backseat. (He was not successful either.)  Being relieved of his precious pop set off a swear-to-God 10 minute TaT complete with full extension twisting and turning limp noodle refusal to be buckled into his seat.  I was getting more and more frustrated, sweaty and oh yeah, LATE by the second with him wailing 'Go HOME!' alternating with 'Hugs!' He's finally installed in his seat pop-less screaming and sobbing and hiccuping; if he had thrown up I wouldn't have been surprised in the slightest.

Onto school without further incident unless you count my blood pressure and heartrate being higher that recommended for buckling small children into their carseats but whatever. Not on the same page were they this morning.  He calms down and up she ramps, this time over my snapping at her for her being frustrated about not being able to get her backpack out when I offered to do it originally.  She sulks/pouts 'I can't do it!' which then plucked my last nerve leading me to snap 'Get out of the van!' She immediately starts crying because I was mean to her/hurt her feelings and I just really didn't care at that moment.  She's on the sidewalk, I'm breathing heavily and get him out.  Noah, he's right as rain now...until we walk into his classroom where he dissolved into TaT Three upon sight of his teacher.  So now I have Noelle still upset from my snapping at her, Noah freaking out over being left at school and me on the verge of hysterical laughter.  His teacher comes back in and attempts to take him so I can leave but he has a death grip on my collar.  She keeps saying to me, 'Give him here, I've got him' to which I'm finally forced to respond that yes you do but he also has his fist twisted in my collar and I can't move!

Noelle and I head down the hall listening to absolutely heart-rending screams emanating from his classroom.  If I wasn't so royally pissed off at the both of them, I would have been more moved but I was so I wasn't.

I love my children with every fiber of my being; most of the time I really like them too. This was not one of those times.  Once I got to work and calmed down, my mind was clear enough to review the events of the morning.  There was lots I could/should have done differently but am very glad that I kept my head enough to not snap that I didn't much like either of them even though it was the honest-to-god truth.  It's rare that I'm happier to be at work than with them but I'll own it, I was this morning.

But that doesn't mean that I like it.