Monday, September 29, 2008

need any help?

"I'm not gonna be your kid anymore!"

What did I do to deserve that? I offered to help Bug with his "homework". I can't wait until he has real work that he truly needs help to do. He won't get near the concept. I feel like we're still at the toddler stage, "Do 'self!"

He's only four. At school he made a whole page of the number 2, all backwards. He brought home an empty page to practice at home. Am I wrong to want to assist a bit? I've got all sorts of rhymes and hints to help kids remember how to draw letters and numbers, write color words, and phone numbers. This is what I do did. Am I supposed to just sit back now and let the school teach him without my involvement?

I think Bug may prefer to go it alone and then be angry that I haven't helped him. But it is a fragile situation. Pook has resisted now and then and I've seen what a tenuous hold a parent has. Piss them off and they'll avoid ever learning from you again. "What did you do at school today?" "Nothing." "Need any help with that?" "No."

My father was a math professor. I would never allow him to help me with homework. He'd look at my assignment and start his sentence with "Well, I wouldn't do it that way. It'd be a lot more logical if you...." Bye, Dad. I closed him out.

I have a couple of years to figure out how to approach Bug. Trial by fire.

Friday, September 26, 2008


I was too preoccupied watching a Seattle based medical drama to check it out. I felt a bit guilty when I went into the boys' room later to kiss them goodnight and I stepped on Bug. He mumbled a bit as I tried to scoop him up in the dark and flop him back into bed. I pulled up a light blanket for him. Pook was already covered. He stays under the sheets much better than Bug. (Let me rephrase that: Pook stays under the covers. Bug does not.) I woke at 3 am and was cold. To make amends with Bug, I went into their room and covered him again.

I just pulled out their jammies with long pants this week and put light blankets on all the beds. We've had the windows open and it is starting to get cool overnight. Early September is sweaty, buggy summer but we've finally reached fall. October in Atlanta is beautiful, cool and crisp. It was 55° when I looked this morning.

Maybe the boy needs a sleeper already. Once it really cools off and we turn on the heat they'll be wearing sleepers but it will probably be warmer in the house than it is now. I like having the windows open and blankets on, but the key word there is 'on'. Pook started using his blankets around age four, so I'm hoping it'll happen soon. Unfortunately, Bug moves around a lot more at night so I may be too optimistic. Hence, the kthump I sometimes hear at night!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

more nonsequitors

All at random:

I hope a vulture comes. It can eat that dead squirrel we saw yesterday.


How big can a flounder get? Why not as big as a whole car?


How many dead end streets are there in Georgia?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

diary of a toilet

We have been having toilet troubles. The downstairs toilet has been leaking for a few years and refuses to be fixed. The kid's toilet upstairs began to run so badly that we started to cut the water off between flushes. That was so annoying, the kids began coming into our room each time they needed to use it. Noisy children, numerous trips in and out all night and all morning was not going to work. We decided it was time to replace both. The guts had been replaced numerous times but the 1970's toilets had not. It was time to go with low flow tanks and help the drought plagued state.

Simple? Never.

Day 1: I phoned our former contractor- a great guy- and he said "as soon as his dad died" he'd come out to take a look. (Yes, he really said that.) It sounded like this was expected to happen at any time, so we thought we'd muddle through.

Day 7: I was reluctant to phone. (Really, if you want to stall for time, this is the best way I can imagine. The only disadvantage would be that you can only do it one time.)

Day 14: I decided to go for it. Dad had died, business was busy, but he'd come out Tuesday.

Day 18: Our house is built on a slab. This is annoying for several reasons, but in this case it is annoying because the toilet is too close to the wall and the pipes can't be moved. He came over to remove one to measure just in case. Yep, 10". Not sure why since standards had changed well before 1970 but that's what we have. The cheaper $100 toilets are not an option. Special orders it will be. We research. For $247 there is a toilet that will fit. "Top of the line." It would be in on Thursday. We'd been living without the kid's bathroom for two weeks now, so another two days was nothing.

Day 20: Our contractor picked it up, brought it over and I thought I was ready to surprise CD that evening. Not so quick. The tank wouldn't fit downstairs. He decided we'd been given the wrong tank. They could get it on Friday but he couldn't come back until Monday. Meanwhile we decided that the lid to the tank upstairs didn't sit well and for that price, "top of the line," it was worth replacing.

Day 22: We drove out to the plumbing place with the kids. ("Oooh, a Queen's bathtub! Oooh, look what happened when I pressed this button! Oh oh. It won't go off. Oh oh. I didn't mean to....") The store replaced the tank and the additional lid for us but didn't refund anything. I even asked. I get the feeling from our contractor that this is typical. He doesn't seem surprised that the best plumbing store he could suggest and the "top of the line" toilet are causing such problems.

Day 23: He comes over, installs the new tank with the new lid upstairs. The toilet works, the lid fits. Whoo Hoo! One toilet finished. Then he tries to install the downstairs toilet. Apparently the tank hadn't been the problem. We'd been given the wrong bowl. Unfortunately my contractor did not discover this before he cut a square out of the drywall to try to fit the tank in ?! the wall somehow. Now there is a hole in the wall and a toilet in the hall.

I did more research. Seems we have toilet bowl 703 when we need bowl 703.10. The additional numbers are the difference between a 10" and a 12" rough in. Well, no wonder it doesn't fit. The plumbing store is closed on Mondays. Of course. I left them a message.

Day 24: Turns out the store had given us the correct box but the factory warehouse was at fault. Seems there were seven toilets marked incorrectly as 10" when they weren't. So good of me to bring their attention to this problem. This time I requested that they deliver the correct bowl so we wouldn't have to go collect it. They can use their gas money, I'm saving my $4/gallon. Unfortunately this meant it wouldn't come until Thursday. Maybe this was good since it gave the drywall time to get repaired.

Day 27: Our contractor phoned to check to see if the 9:30 delivery had made it. Nope, postponed until 1pm. Then the plumbing store phoned me again and explained that the new toilet had a crack in the bowl and they'd have to get another one.

Day 28: They will bring it over between 9:30 and 10:30. And, true to their word, it showed up! At 2:30. But our contractor wasn't free and had to wait until Saturday morning instead.

Day 29: Toilet installed!

But... after he fixed the wall he'd cut open he must have bumped the wet drywall as he put the tank in so now we have a big dent in our wall. I didn't notice it until he'd left. I phoned. He'll come by sometime this week to repair the wall. Then I have to repaint the wall and part of the mural I have on it. So, Day 29 but still counting.

I'm building an outhouse.

Monday, September 22, 2008

ferris wheel

I lived near the Indiana State Fairgrounds as a kid and my father worked across the street from it. Each fall he'd take us and I'd sneeze my way through the barns and exhibit halls as we admired the biggest watermelon, the blue-ribbon bonsai, the fattest pigs and the noisy variety of chickens. Then as an adolescent, I attended at night. The same fairgrounds with fat cows and tractor displays had... rides. Lit up, loud with music and crowded with people. This was not my father's fairgrounds.

I hadn't been to a fair since those teen years, but Pook has been asking to ride a Ferris Wheel since he was two. I'm too wary of the corner carnivals and have driven out of my way to keep him from noticing them. Busch Gardens had no Ferris Wheel. American Adventures had a tiny, broken one. Then I saw an ad for the North Georgia State Fair with a picture of a Ferris Wheel and I was sold.

Due to various parenting adventures, we didn't get there until 5pm. Maybe this was a good time because there were hardly any lines. We went straight to the Ferris Wheel and had a chance to watch a group go before we boarded first for the next ride. All four of us were able to sit together in a basket. We had some fun looking around at the rest of the midway from mid height and then from the top while we waited for others to load. The Ferris Wheel isn't the most exciting ride, so I'm glad we rode it first. Pook seemed satisfied and happy.

We saw something else from up there that we knew we'd have to check out next- motorcycles. Bug rode some, the kiddiest of kiddie rides- at Busch Gardens, and these were the same. He still talks about the ones at Busch Gardens. Seeing them at the fair made his day. Absolutely thrilled. Pook went along but saw it for what it was, a simple circle.

[true quote you'll get if you talk to Bug: "I'm gonna get a motorcycle when I'm bigger. My mama says I have to pay my own insurance first."]

We splurged on funnel cakes and spewed powder sugar everywhere, then walked around to see the sights. After observing the three rides that went upside down, CD and I chose the relatively tame Pirate Ship Swing to ride with the boys. It too was too scary for at least three of us. They did a fun ride swinging in circles on their bellies, then the Tilt-a-Whirl together while we watched.

There was a fabulous show with high divers in a 9' pool. The finale included a dive from 86'. Impressive. We saw the ending to a BMX bike performance and I was secretly pleased that one of the guys fell. While he hopped right back on his bike (only a helmet, no extra pads) he did deter my boys from wanting to attempt any bike tricks back at home.

We ate corn dogs, onion rings, and Frito Pies for dinner then checked out the presence of exhibit halls and barns. I didn't drag them past the blue ribbon floral arrangements or prize winning seed displays, but they had fun checking out the barn. The fair is too small to have judged livestock so I think these were here just to see and be seen. There was a camel, some llamas, an emu, a wallaby, and many more common farm animals including the hugest bull I'd ever seen. CD let the kids buy animal food and they declared the goats tongues "warm and wet".

Pook had said he was tired an hour before, so we finally called it a night. It was late for them, but just enough to be exciting. We could see the rides lit up and hear the music pounding as we walked to our car through the dusty fields.

I think I spend as much time watching my boys' faces as I do watching the events that are so thrilling to them. Bug, especially, is incredibly expressive. He lights up when he's excited and everyone around him catches the feeling. The next day I enjoy the sifting of memories . I like to hear what comes out on top as "the bestest" and what gets exaggerated, "I wasn't scared at all!" We can't choose what our kids remember and what we think is best is not always what they'll like. But I think this one was a keeper.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

the war

Pook: "I got him! He's dead!"

Me: "Guys, I wish you wouldn't play games where you hurt people."

Bug: "We're white blood cells and it's a red blood cell. We put all the rulers and pencils and bookmarks all over and they're germs and the exercise balls we use as white blood cells and we battle the germs and there was so much huge germs and the whole den was the heart and the germs got inside the heart so the person almost died. And we saved him. We won the war!"


Friday, September 19, 2008

can you see?

I bought myself reading glasses today. Can you tell? I've been putting this off for a while. I think my eyes changed six weeks after I turned forty. I'd been led to believe that this was a change that happened in your forties not immediately after blowing out your candles. It started with ingredient lists and then medicine dosages. I held things further away and got better lighting. And, really, my arms are still long enough to get by. This was my father's rule of thumb for needing reading glasses.

He, like I, had 20/20 vision his whole "youth". My eyes are my best feature and having perfect vision was a source of pride. I had them tested at age 38, figuring it had been a mere twenty years since I'd had them tested last (heading out to college). The Dr. pronounced them perfect and then added, "See you in a few years." "When?" I asked. "Oh, you'll know." (This is the exact same comment my midwife gave me when I asked when to go to the hospital to deliver Pook.)

Yeah, I knew. So, I decided it was time. They're very simple, almost invisible on me, with no rims and redish gold sides. Only problem is that I can't get the huge plastic tag off them. So really, this is a lie. Everything still looks like


Thursday, September 18, 2008

in the middle of the road

I recently mentioned the busy roads near us; we live by a major intersection. This morning I was returning from dropping Bug off at school and I noticed what looked like a paper lunch bag in the road. Only for some reason it caught my eye and I looked with more attention as I drove past it. It was a tiny, orange-brown kitten. Sitting on the line between lanes of traffic. Looking terrified. With two lanes to the right and five to the left. All busy with traffic. I gasped and braked as it made eye contact with me. But I drove on. I stopped at a light just ahead and tried to look in my mirrors while simultaneously cringing and not wanting to look in my mirrors.

The chances of it making it through the day are almost none. If I'd looked for a place to stop, then I'd have had to cross two lanes of busy traffic myself. If I could even do that, I suspect I would have scared the kitten who would have then run. No good ending to this story.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Harriet has awarded me the Arte y pico award.

Thank you so much!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

a meme

This is the first time I've agreed to continue a meme, but since it seemed short and simple I decided I'd give it a try. I'm supposed to tag six more of you to do the same but since I don't think I know six bloggers personally, I'm going to let you tag yourselves. I can name two of my vast readers who blog: my cousin Lesley, and Erin-who-I-have-never-met-but-who-writes-a-blog-I-read-and-reads-mine. If I'm missing you, let me know and tag yourself. At least let me know. I'm a good loyal reader and always commenter.

"Meme: n.A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another." In practice a meme on a blog seems to be the equivalent of a chain letter. I never send those on so don't even bother. I've sent a recipe chain online before and even got one recipe back, but in general I ignore those too. In this case, the tagger is Harriet M. Welsh. The meme in question is to list 6 unspectacular things about myself. Most of me is unspectacular, so I'm not digging too deep.

1. I can't read music. I can sing if the person next to me can also sing in my range. I wish I could read music but I've taken some piano lessons and I haven't gotten there. I probably never will. My kids don't complain when I sing them to sleep.

2. I plant a wonderful yard every spring and watch it die every summer. This bothers me but I'm not sure how much of the solution is reforming my inability to go out in the heat, humidity and bugs to water and tend it, and how much is simply Georgia's drought.

3. I would choose sleeping over almost any other choice of things to do. I'd love to get ten hours of sleep at night. Since I have children, I do not get ten hours of sleep but it is still a good goal and I'm still pretty useless after 10pm.

4. I hate having anyone read over my shoulder. Pook does this all the time when I'm online and it drives me batty. He's doing it now and I'm going to need to shoo him away. Again. I also confess to often reading over CD's shoulder. If it drives him crazy he'll have to tell me to leave.

5. I miss swearing. I used to think that I could swear evenings, weekends and summer vacations when I wasn't teaching and then withhold the urge when I was around my classroom. No. Had to cut it out entirely. Once I was out of the habit from teaching, I had my own kids. They will be so pure.

6. I love watching the food channel on tv. CD calls it food porn. I write down recipes that seldom get cooked. I'm planning on organizing those pages. Soon. Really. Actually, I love to cook and he and I used to have fun cooking together. Again, kids got in the way. Now I cook so we can eat. Unfortunately, I still have this thing about eating the same menu more than once every couple of months, so deciding what to cook is always a chore.

Monday, September 15, 2008


We had no kids Saturday night. They were left in the care and control of a babysitter at someone else's home! He'd done this before, and even gotten four boys (ages 4-7) in and out of baths, so we were optimistic that it'd go fine. Last time however, we'd brought them home at 11pm. What we learned was that if your child is still used to taking naps, sleeping from 9pm til 11pm is a bit like a nap and if you expect this child to transfer sleepily into bed, you are wrong. ("Hey! Let's play!") So this time we'd decided to leave them all night.

I'd been a bit reluctant to try this. Bug is only four. He wakes up often at night. He still wets the bed sometimes. He screams in his sleep sometimes and can't be consoled. He always wakes at 6:30, regardless of his bedtime. He can be --I'll be generous here-- unpleasant when he's tired. So I wasn't sure if a sleepover was a good idea. We tried it out at our house a few times. I think we've had other kids over three times now, maybe more. At our house it went ok. Another house, especially L&P's seemed like the next step. The kids were certainly looking forward to trying.

We went out to dinner with L&P, shared a bit of good wine and lots of good Italian food, and then more good wine. We'd driven together so since we were in their driveway, I went in to check on the boys. I'm not sure I've ever not kissed their sweaty baby heads goodnight. I stepped over a few bodies, crowded onto a small bedroom floor together, and covered them up with sheets after unzipping the too-hot-but-part-of-the-experience sleeping bags. CD and I went home and crashed.

I woke at about 3am and fell into uneasy dreams which kept repeating. In one, Pook got into a subway train that Bug and I didn't manage to board. In another, Bug got into an elevator without me or Pook. I knew, even while dreaming, that my dreams were directly related to having my babies missing from the house, but I couldn't break away from them. Although I wasn't worried or anxious about them sleeping away, I missed them. Even when CD and I dragged our sorry bums out of bed in time to (barely) meet them at church in the morning.

They, of course, had a fabulous time. The babysitter claims everyone was asleep by 9pm. L even got up in time to make pancakes for the crowd. (Bug probably woke the whole house). Unfortunately, there were not four boys in attendance at Sunday School. Their youngest had woken up vomiting. Our fingers are crossed that this will not spread to our house, but I am not optimistic. We will, however, try the sleepover again.

Friday, September 12, 2008

bottle it up

Bug and I walked to pick Pook up from school today- (guilt over yesterday probably). He started the walk by telling me he didn't have any energy because he'd used it up on the playground. Immediately after telling me, he began to skip. I laughed and he asked why. "I thought you didn't have any energy." "I said I don't have any walking energy. I still have skipping energy. And running energy. And jumping energy. And galloping energy. And hopping energy." He demonstrated each.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

weaving a web

I just mapped my driving route from this morning. I seem to have covered an area roughly two miles by five miles with twenty five miles of driving. Seven times up or down one road too. Doesn't seem possible, does it? I can't claim expediency although I tried to combine errands, really I did. We were ready early for the dentist appointments the boys and I had at 8:40, so I swung by the farmer's market. I sent the boys to buy themselves some honey sticks for future lunch box treats and I dashed to my favorite two farmers and quickly bought cucumbers, tomatoes, corn and arugula. Five minutes and we were back in the car. Post dentist (good reports for all) I dropped Bug at one school and Pook at another. I went to the grocery for the rest of our week's food, then brought it home. I multi-tasked while putting away groceries and phoned for a hair appointment. When I wrote it on the calendar I realized I was supposed to pick up a CSA box at the market this week, it hadn't been my a la carte week. I had half an hour before my yoga class was supposed to start, so I dashed back to the farmer's market, doubled my arugula pile as well as lots of other great items, and still made it to the YMCA on time. After the class I picked Bug up and headed home for less than an hour when it was time to pick up Pook. Craziness.

Atlanta, particularly Atlanta suburbs, are pedestrian and cyclist UNfriendly. The roads I drove on are four lanes wide, choked with traffic and spotty about having sidewalks. We cross a major highway intersection with busy on and off ramps. We've been biking a lot since Bug got up on two wheels and I love the idea of running errands on foot or on bike. But if I study the route I drove yesterday, there were only two portions that could have been walked (partially because the kids were with me for part of it). And if I'd walked to the Y I'd have had to use the walking as my exercise because I'd have missed the yoga class. If I'd walked to pick Pook up from school, any nap for Bug would have been impossible. So I'm doing the unthinkable and defending my twenty five mile web.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

random neuron firings

There are random neurons that fire in the preschool brain causing the child to speak nonsequitors. No segue. No "by the way". No "I was just wondering". Certainly no "on a different topic". We pause, then say what we usually say under these circumstances, "Oh." and we carry on.

I write down some of the best and I'm going to start adding them here to share. I'll just toss them in when I hear them. Just remember that they've come out of nowhere. Bug is full of the craziest stuff:

While talking about buttering bagels: "Horses have horseshoes. How come they have horseshoes?"

"How do you buy houses? How would they fit in a store? They wouldn't fit in a bag."

"How big can a flounder get? Why not as big as a whole car?"

"It would be fun if you could go up to the clouds and the clouds were all cotton candy and you could eat them." (And then he fell asleep.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

of birds and bees and books

I had two dreams Saturday night that stuck with me. One, that I needed to pick out a Christmas gift at Home Depot for a church friend, seems to not be very significant. The second, that I'd never filled in the key paragraphs of the Birds and Bees story for Pook, seemed important. Right then. Pook gave me the opportunity in the morning when he asked to go to the church library. He'd checked books out from it maybe once before. But I knew they had some great books because he'd had a class at church a year ago -- Our Whole Lives-- reproduction, families, personal safety and more. Unfortunately for us, the year he took it there was a clause that if any one family requested it, the key paragraph would be deleted from the final story. And someone requested. Why they'd sign their kindergartener up and then request that the most vital information be deleted, I don't know. But Pook never got the whole story. Got eggs? Check. Got sperm? Check. The rest? Uh, not really.

I'd secretly hoped he'd ask some day while I was driving 70 miles and hour and he was in the back seat, me in the front. Easy that way. But he never had. We've covered all sorts of great topics in the car. Both kids are familiar with adoption issues- many many friends are adopted, most from other countries, some domestically, but most in families with multiple races represented. Both kids are familiar with a variety of family structures- they know kids with two moms, one parent, divorced parents, and kids living with grandparents. I've covered this flawlessly. I even think I answered the question about how babies get OUT of the Mama, but neither kid had ever asked me how the baby got IN.

So, I checked out "It's Not the Stork" and started to read it that afternoon. Both kids were interested. I got through the first eight topics (about 22 "chapters") and Bug was restless. I changed to another book and waited till he was away to finish reading to Pook. And what did he say when I read the key page? "Oh. I didn't know that part." And we continued with the next page. No particular questions, no need for clarification. I read another third of the book to Bug today. He ignored the vital information completely. Both will need to hear it all again and again. But the most difficult part is over. For now.

My mom's theory on sex ed. is that you need to teach children everything before they're ten. After ten they stop asking questions and get embarrassed. If they know the facts, then the other children on the playground have a fighting chance of learning it right. I don't see Pook correcting someone's story about the stork, but I can see Bug doing it. And I could be wrong about Pook; especially if it was a friend in a quiet situation. So, whether it educates anyone else or not, my kids will be prepared.

Monday, September 8, 2008

the village

We live about three unwalkable miles from Bug's preschool. The only family I'm aware of who lives nearby and uses the same preschool can't carpool. She has toddlers who need to be belted into car seats. We're past car seats and into boosters these days. It's annoying that we can't simplify the drive. I carpooled when Pook attended that often and am not interested in ten drives a week past 13 (yes, I've counted) stoplights each direction.

Our carpool to the elementary school was creative last year. Two families took turns picking up Pook from school but I drove children from a different family every morning. The family of the morning kids (J&M) tried to make their schedule simpler this fall and we've been driving together both ways each day so far. I'm happy to drive every morning if it means Bug can take a nap. Unfortunately they just informed me that the schedule isn't working and they're going to have to enroll J&M in after school care. That means no carpool.

That means twenty short, annoying drives a week. I'm searching. I've checked with all the neighbors I know. Everyone is settled into their routines. There are none on our street who use public school now that our next door neighbors are gone. I'm looking. I'm feeling desperate.

I need a village. I don't want to be alone in caring for my kids. I'm frustrated that I don't have anyone to share the burden of driving. I'm frustrated that they have no one else to entertain them. Someone the kids can play with that doesn't need an invitation each time. Someone I can ask for help from without keeping tabs on who owes whom. I don't even need the whole village. Just one family.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Another school day tomorrow?

I get to make seventeen new friends this year?

Bug gibbered faster than I could listen as we drove home from preschool. Because last year they went home after playground time and this year they eat lunch after playground time, that means they're staying longer. Because they're bigger. Four year old logic. I think he enjoyed himself.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

apron strings

I have never kept my children so close that they couldn't explore, couldn't grow into their own people. I've always held the philosophy that I'll let "the village" raise my children-- assuming they'd let me know if something was wrong. So why am I having such a tough time with back-to-school this year?

Last week when Bug had just a few days left before starting school I wanted to keep him from getting bored and restless. He was invited to go to the Botanical Gardens on Friday which seemed great. We'd had a lot of rain during the week and we hadn't gotten out much. The Botanical Gardens are fun for both kids and adults. I enjoy the mom and I knew Bug would enjoy a day with K. Except I didn't go. She had said that I was welcome to send him alone or to come myself. I was looking forward to some adult conversation, so I had intended to go along. But Bug literally begged me ("please, please, please Mama") not to come. I considered going anyway, but decided it really meant a lot to him. He doesn't play without me a lot, and to him it means he's "BIG". I understand. But it hurt. Again.

So we come to the start of school. Met the teacher today, start on tomorrow. He's feeling some Big-Boys-must-have-Big-Boy-behavior stress. He's excited. All of that is resulting in meltdowns. So I'm feeling eager to have a day without him (and run errands and do laundry- oh, so exciting). But I'm not eager. I'm trying to be prepared but I'm going to be lonely. He'd be happy if I'd use the Carpool line from Day One but I'll walk him in for a few days. Not for him. For me.