Monday, January 21, 2013

Whaddaya Want for Breakfast? v.2

Well, here's another thing nobody tells you about parenting: as soon as the child can articulate a desire, you, the parent, will be wrong all the time. I had not anticipated this at all. It's laughable on a good day and crushingly exhausting on a bad day.

Example: I had loaded both kids into the car to go [somewhere that is now a blur]. He'en had acquired a stalk of grass with seeds attached and was busily shredding it, waving it around, generally fiddling with it, and getting grass seeds all over the car. 

My new low standards didn't even take notice of this until she began to bounce it around near the baby's face. Then I tried some distracted remediation while reserving most of my brain to arrange purse, car keys, water, snacks, wipes, and God-knows-what for this trip to [somewhere that is now a blur].

Mom: He'en, please don't bounce that near the baby's face. I don't want her to get a grass seed in her eye.

He'en: [instantly outraged] I'm not bouncing it!

Mom: Okay, well, don't wave it, please.

He'en: I'm not doing that eeefer!

Mom: Or poke it at her? Or what? What are you doing?

He'en: I'm showing it to her.

Mom: Oh. Well. Please don't.

After a short pause, in a very quiet voice and tone I cannot really describe as other than smug:

He'en: I aw-weddy did.

I'm trying to remediate some of this, by the way, with a new household collar-tightening program based on 123 Magic Parenting. We all could use a refresher now and then. It's like training a dog. The problem usually is not the dog.

Moving along . . .

It's 7:33 a.m., blissfully late by two-kid standards. I haven't started Helen's breakfast even though I know that my computer's wakeup chime is like a four-alarm fire to the kids. I don't know how they can hear it through two closed doors, but they can.

Breakfast. Breakfast. Argh, yet another breakfast. I used to wonder how my mother developed such a distaste for cooking. She was an adventurous cook in the early 1970s and a member of the local Gourmet Club.

Well, there's one more "you were right, Mom!" Fast forward 30 years and I am totally sympathetic. Ten years ago, I used spend all weekend in the kitchen procuring five-course Indian meals and haunting the local Asian markets to seek out the correct ingredients for authentic Chinese.   Nowadays, if DH comes home to a plain roast chicken, some boiled potatoes (mashing is too much hassle) and anything green, I am beaming with pride like I just beat Deep Blue.

Breakfast. Argh.

The breakfast formula is "protein / starch / fruit." With those three categories in hand, I usually get something on the table of which I am not ashamed.  But I totally understand the urge to ask the kids, "What do you want for breakfast?" Even though I am not running a restaurant, I am so tired of being wrong about breakfast. Wrong egg: tears well up. "I wann-ed a dip-dip egg!" Wrong carb: tears well up: "I wann-ed waisins in dere." She doesn't ask for these things. I am just supposed to know. And when my clarivoyance fails, a meltdown follows, and I don't have a whole lot of tolerance for meltdowns when I am still on the wrong side of that first cup of coffee.

Now I hear Dragon Girl, so I am going to stagger to a halt with this entry. She, at least, is easy. What she wants for breakfast is a) milk, and b) cuddles. And she loves the same thing every single day. Bless her!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Stories: The Pirate who Fell in Love with the Mermaid

During a three-hour road trip this winter, I spun off about six "Pye-witt" stories. Two survived.  This is my favorite, probably because there's a grown-up moral or two buried herein.  He'en prefers The Talking Treasure Chest, which will follow when I get a couple more free fingers for typing.


Once upon a time, there was a pirate. He was the roughest, toughest, meanest, dirtiest, and smelliest pirate in all the world. He loved only one thing: treasure!  He didn't love anything else in the world. So of course nobody loved him back.

Because he was so rough and tough and mean, and because he was always trying to steal other people's treasure, this pirate was always getting into fights. In one of the fights, he lost his leg. In another, he lost his eye. He was so grumpy about losing his leg and his eye that he spent all day stomping around his pirate ship. When he stomped, his wooden leg would bang. So it sounded like this: step-STOMP, step-STOMP, step-STOMP. And that sound made him even grumpier.

One day, the pirate was sailing his ship far out at sea, looking for treasure. As usual, he was in a grumpy bad mood.  Step-STOMP, step-STOMP, step-STOMP, he stomped around the deck of the ship.

Far below the waves, in the deepest brightest blue ocean where the mer-people lived, a mermaid heard the funny noise from above:  Step-STOMP, step-STOMP, step-STOMP! She was a very good mermaid, very lovely with pale skin and long dark hair, and very curious.  "I wonder what that noise could be," thought the mermaid.

The noise didn't stop.  Day after day it continued -- Step-STOMP, step-STOMP, step-STOMP -- until it nearly drove the mermaid mad! 

"I have to find out about that strange noise," she told her mer-friends. "I will swim to the surface and find out!"

"Oh, no," said her mer-friends. "The surface is much too dangerous! You can't go there!"

But the curious mermaid was determined to go. So early one morning, she swam up-up-up through the blue water. She swam far and she swam fast, following the step-STOMP sound. And when she reached the surface by the grumpy pirate's ship, it was dawn. The sun was streaming over the water. The curious mermaid was swimming so fast that she burst out of the water and into the air like a rocket! Water splashed and sprayed everywhere until it looked like a shower of diamonds in the bright morning light.

"ARRRRR!!!!" shouted the grumpy pirate from the deck of his ship, where he was awake early and step-STOMP-ing around. "TREASURE!!! Look at all those DIAMONDS!"

The curious mermaid splashed down into the water again and bobbed her head up. "Those aren't diamonds," she said, "it's just me. Are you the one making that wonderful step-STOMP sound?"

But the pirate wouldn't answer. He was too grumpy and too distracted, thinking only of treasure. "Diamonds!" he shouted at the mermaid. "Give me those diamonds!"

"Really, there aren't any diamonds!" protested the mermaid.

The pirate still didn't believe her. "Give me those diamonds or I will come TAKE them from you!" he shouted. And no sooner did he shout that, then he dove over the side of his ship and into the water, trying to grab the diamonds.

Well, but once he was in the water, the pirate couldn't swim, having only one leg. And he couldn't see, having only one eye. So he started to thrash around and flail around and started to sink.

The curious mermaid felt very sorry for the pirate (even though he had been extremely rude and greedy). She couldn't return him to his pirate ship, so she did the next best thing. With her mer-magic -- because all mer-people have at least a little magic -- she changed that pirate into a merman!

His wooden leg floated away . . . and his remaining leg turned into a tail! He still had his eye-patch but it turned into a giant pearly fish-scale held on by a strand of golden and silver seaweed. [He'en insisted on this detail.] And after a good dunking in the ocean, he was much less dirty, and he wasn't smelly at all.

But was he grateful? Oh, no. 

"ARRRRGH!" cried the pirate, "Ye silly mermaid, what have ye done to me?"

"I've turned you into a mer-man so you wouldn't drown," said the curious mermaid, who wasn't about to put up with any more nonsense or rudeness. "Now come with me!" She took his hand and they swam down, down, down to the deepest brightest blue ocean where the mer-people lived.

As they swam, an amazing thing happened. The pirate saw treasure everywhere!

In the splashing water, he saw blue sapphires and aquamarines.
In the shining scales of fish, he saw silver and gold.
In the tiny bubbles all around, he saw crystal and pearls.
In the shining coral, he saw red rubies and purple garnets.
In the waving seaweed, he saw green jade and emerald.

"Treasure," he gasped, "Everywhere around me, there is treasure!"

At last, the pirate had found the one thing that made him happy. And in time, with enough treasure to satisfy him, he found that he wasn't so grumpy.  He didn't miss his leg, because he had a fine new tail. He didn't miss his eye, because he could see very well underwater.  As the days passed, the pirate found that he wasn't so rough, or tough, or mean.

In fact, he turned quite nice. And he fell in love with the curious mermaid who wouldn't put up with any of his nonsense. And they got married. And they lived, deep down where the mer-people live, under the bright blue ocean,


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Yep, Mamas and Spiders

DH and I were looking at nanny advertisements to survey the local pay rates. "I can't believe," I fumed, "that the market says somebody who helps raise your children deserves only $10 per hour. What the what? For two kids? What more important or difficult job is there?"

"Well, don't take this the wrong way," DH ventured, "but it is basically unskilled labor."

[N.B. - The gentle reader is here welcome to pause and send me a small monetary bonus for not busting him in the teeth with my laptop. Eight years of marriage has significantly mellowed me. Or maybe just scrubbed me into submission.]

In any event, I think we all can agree "unskilled" does not mean "easy." It's a shame that inborn parenting instincts have no market value. Just like spiders, Mamas get very little appreciation for the amazing daily miracles we do. So I'll just appreciate myself a little bit here, e.g., this morning:

"Mom?" After a nice wake-up, a nice breakfast, and a cheerful dispatch to her room to begin dressing in outdoor clothing, He'en now is visibly trembling and mincing down the stairs in nothing but a pair of Cinderella undies.  In a choking sob, she announces, "Mom? Mom . . . I don' wanna go ice skay-ting."

My first instinct is flatly Dickensonian: to grab the child by the ear and march her upstairs while firmly pronouncing that "we'll have no such nonsense."

OK, admittedly I don't deserve to get paid for that one. The second Mom-instinct is why I deserve the big bucks. This is the instinct that takes her hand, walks with her back upstairs, sits on her bed and snuggles her into my lap, wraps her in the favorite pink blanket, and asks,

"Why don't you want to go ice skating, honey?"

"I . . . I jus' doan." Tears have overflowed out of her neon-blue eyes and her superlong lashes are wet and spiked.

"You don't. Okay."

Pause. Hug. Thinking thinking thinking fast and especially thinking that I am sure-hell not about to get all aw-honey-you-don't-have-to-go after spending half of yesterday running all over town for the lesson registration, a pink-and-purple helmet, and a pair of itty bitty used figure skates (omg, so cute).

Further, and piffle on the foregoing:  DH has agreed to take the child ice skating, every Saturday morning for a month, at 8:00 a.m. Is that enough italics? Can you see the Grinchy grin on my face from where you are sitting?  Oh, yes, that child is going ice skating if I have to send her in nothing but Cinderella panties and a stocking cap.

Pause. Hug. Thinking thinking thinking.

Then I noticed the thermal tights on the floor. Next to those, a pair of pink sweatpants. Both are crumpled. Aha.

Sniff.  My offspring nuzzles her drippy little nose into my shoulder.

This is the gift of mothers and spiders: we can discern and track a trajectory that we didn't know existed four seconds beforehand. In this case, she had too much time to think. She got wound up in the gear. Excitement, which in my side of the family is never more than a breath away from apprehension at the best of times, had mutated into fear.  Argh, I should have gotten up here sooner.

Pause. Hug.  Then, very gently, "Is there something you are afraid of, about the ice skating?"



"Can you tell me what it is?"

Pause. Sniff. Then,

"Fawwing. I doan' wan' to faw."

Thank God she is still 4, and I hope to have about 10 more good years during which she will still tell me what is wrong.

So here's Part II of why Mamas deserve executive salaries: you are not out of the woods at this point because you can't belittle the fear. That gets you nowhere. And my husband has on his parka and is jingling his car keys, so time is ticking away. I don't know why Harrison Ford gets millions for pretending to defuse bombs under hot deadlines when Mamas do this every day.

"Falling. Well, that's very normal to be scared of falling. Falling is scary. I fall when I am ice skating. Even your dad falls."

Sniff. "Effen Dad?"

"Yep. We both fall. And do you know what?"

A glimmer of interest has emerged. "What?"

"At this first lesson, they are going to teach you how to fall. Isn't that silly, learning how to fall? But they will teach you how to fall so you don't get hurt."

Sniff. "When I yam skiiing, I fall on my bottom."

"Well, I don't know if that's how you fall when you are ice skating. It may be different.  You will have to find out and tell me. Do you want to find out? And tell me?"

Pause.  Sniff. "Okay."

Mama thinks:  "YAYYYYYY ME!!!!!"
Mama says:  "Okay, that's my good girl. So let's get on your tights."

She and her father left about a half-hour ago, all smiles. Yay me. Yay spiders. Yay instincts. Yay Mamas everywhere. Generous bonus checks will be issued to everybody.