Work with me, please.

Archive for January, 2012

Family Time is the Best Time

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It’s almost Wednesday already!  The weekend seems like so long ago. It was a fun weekend too.  Mae and Jay were off school on Friday, and we visited the Lego exhibit at the National Building Museum.  I think I had more fun playing with the Legos than they did.

At bath time on Friday night, Mae asked, “What college will I go to?” (I love, love this kind of conversation.  It means she realizes she has to leave this house one day. No offense.)  I told her she’ll have 100’s of colleges from which to choose.  She said, “You mean anywhere in the world?  Well, maybe not the other side of the world because that would cost a lot of money.”

I said, “Maybe you’ll get scholarships.” She replied, “Oh, yeah” . . . like easy, no problem.  Music to my ears.  If she and Jay continue to maintain an attitude whereby higher education seems a given, and indeed an entitlement, I will consider myself to have been a somewhat successful parent.

After swim on Saturday morning, I took Mae to see Charlotte’s Web on stage at a local theater. Afterwards, we went to lunch and she talked about wanting to take drama lessons again. I promised her that she can go back to drama in third grade. I’d been hoping that I could find a drama therapy group so that we could combine social skills training with something fun and interesting. My leads have turned up fruitless, unless I find a way to haul her an hour or more away. I’ll look again once I have a better work schedule, hopefully in March. It would be cool to surprise her with drama lessons before next school year.

The weather was nice enough on Saturday that Hubby took Jay to the park to practice skateboarding. I’m glad I had an excuse to be somewhere else. I don’t mind too much that he wants to skateboard, but goodness, I don’t want to have to watch him learn. I’ve just gotten to the point where I can watch him and Mae at swim without gasping.

My poor Jay has been pining for Mae’s attention lately. I say “poor,” but he seems just fine. He wants her to have story time with him every night. Even when they argue over whose turn it is to choose the book or he has to wait for her to finish getting ready for bed, he insists that he wants her there. As of last week, he no longer wants to be a “builder.” He wants to be a chemist when he grows up — just like Mae. He wants her to watch TV with him, sometimes allowing her to choose the show so that she will stay. Hubby and I intervene sometimes, encouraging Jay to do his own thing, be his own person.  Given Mae’s tendency towards bossiness, we try to ensure that she doesn’t take advantage of Jay’s kindness and interest in her.  He’s such a goodhearted little dude.  I realized recently, finally, that he nags her sometimes just because he wants her attention — like this morning when he snatched her hat from her head and took off running.  I used to think it was an obligatory little brother thing for giggles.  Now, I think it’s his way of asking her to play with him.  I appreciate that he admires his big sister and wants to spend time with her.  I just hope he keeps a sense of self as time goes on.

On Saturday night, as payment for a bet I lost, I took my youngest sister to dinner at a dive that’s been featured on the Food Network.  So, it’s a dive and I don’t mind dives.  However, can I get dive prices for standing toe to heel with strangers and mixing it up with the resident wino to wait for my styrofoam tray of canned green beans and other food that my momma can cook better?  It’s actually my mother’s fault that I lost the bet — some confusion about the difference between neckbones and turkey necks.  I need to call her and tell her that she owes me a meal.

Heat, Snakes, Heros, and Love

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We woke up Saturday morning to a blanket of icy snow. It was enough to get Mae and Jay to whooping and donning their boots. They stomped around the front yard, enjoying the sound and feel of crunching their footprints into the sheet of ice-snow. And, on the very weekend that Ole Man Winter settled into the DC area, our furnace went kaput. I think we’ve lost heat at least once every winter since we moved into this house over six years ago. I am so hoping that the technician will declare the unit a total loss so that we can get a new one under our home warranty. I know, I know . . . but I can dream.

On Saturday, we took Mae and Jay to an area children’s museum. It boggles my mind that Mae can ask the curator to take the boa constrictor out of the cage so that she can pet it, yet, she calls for her dad when she sees an ant or spider in the house. Maybe the latter is a damsel in distress thing. Maybe she enjoys seeing her dad in the hero role, which is cool because he’s awesome like that.

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On Sunday, Hubby and I made a delicious spinach and lentil soup. He came into the kitchen and said, “Can I help you cook?” Best words I heard all day. I enjoy cooking, so I was happy not in terms of relief, but that he chose me over football during playoff season! Cooking is something we enjoy doing together and hadn’t done in a while. Bonus: while the lentils simmered, we made guacamole for the first time. Well, it was something like guacamole because we added a tomato, which I think made it salsa. Also, we don’t have a proper stone mortar and pestle set, so we mashed the avocado and other ingredients together with a fork. We stood right at the counter and devoured the whole bowl. For the record, we are not totally greedy and selfish. We did try to convince the kids to try some. No dice on the guaca-salsa, but Jay, starch lover that he is, did try the multigrain chips and asked to have some with his lunch.

Then, I tried to convince them to try ants on a log. A few weeks earlier, Jay had asked us to buy celery so that he could try it (Thank you, Wonder Pets). I thought it unlikely that he would actually eat the celery. Since he likes peanut butter and raisins already, I thought maybe he would take at least one bite of the combination. He and Mae were tickled by the name, and uninterested in a taste. Frankly, I had trouble keeping my mouth from twisting as I demonstrated how fun it would be to eat “ants.” Unable to get them on board, I went back to the kitchen and gave the rest of the log to Hubby. Yuck.

When the soup was done, Hubby and I had a taste test — one bowl, two spoons, standing face-to-face with the soup between us, heads bent into the steam, taking turns with our spoons. Yummy! Best.soup.ever.

Our kitchen adventures over, I took Mae to one of her friend’s birthday party. Yes, she was invited to a girl’s birthday party, and a girl that she likes! Even better, Mae got to sit by K, the little girl whose friendship she seems to value the most. So, Mae was really happy while she painted her ceramic mug. In the down time between the ceramics painting and cake serving, Mae got antsy and started jostling with K. It was the kind of horseplay that can easily and quickly turn and led to someone getting hurt. As I walked over to remind Mae that she can play without touching, I heard her explaining, “I’m using your own power against you” (Thanks, Avatar). I took her on a tour of the ceramics shop to look for gift ideas. After a few minutes, she was ready to go back to the party room and I reminded her again to keep her hands to herself, and warned that if she couldn’t, we would go home. Others were still eating cake when Mae went back in, and since she only eats chocolate cake, she had nothing to do. Idle time is not my girl’s friend. When she and K got to jostling playfully again and I heard another mom telling them to cut it out, I got Mae’s attention with my hands and motioned for her to get ready to go home. The party was winding down anyway as there were no other activities planned. Mae was disappointed, but she came over without complaining. As we walked to the car, she put her head down and said that she always messes up. I told her that’s not true, and that she often makes smart choices.

In retrospect, I think I should have just pulled her out of the party room for a few minutes to make the point. Maybe I was too hard on her. The funky thing is that I know such horseplay is more acceptable among boys. I feel like I’m forced to play to a double-standard. I want Mae to be seen as a good playmate in front of other parents and kids so that they will be more accepting and inclusive, and that means I have to encourage her to “play like a girl” when truth be told, she prefers to “play like a boy” with girls. My sense is that K would rather not horseplay, and that she goes along because Mae has a strong personality. Leaving the party early allowed Mae to get out before she got on K’s nerves or got into any serious trouble. I realize that Mae may not be able to appreciate that, but I like to think I saved her from something. K came over to give her a big hug before we left, and I call that ending on a good note.

I’m no spider-squishing hero, but hopefully, one day Mae will understand that I tried to make her life a little less scarey, even if I didn’t always go about it the best way.

Problem or Opportunity?

Mae making a "bubble sculpture," one of the experiments in her chemistry lab set.

Mae told me at bedtime tonight that she wants to go to NYC for her birthday on March 25.  Hmmm . . . is this a problem or an opportunity?

About a month ago, I asked Mae if she would prefer to take a trip or have a party to celebrate her 8th birthday.  She chose a party.  Reminder to self:  Follow own advice about knowing when and when not to give choices.  I have said this in my personal and professional life.  Generally, some people, children especially, should be given choices only in limited, controlled circumstances.  My preference was for a weekend family road trip, which is what we did for her 7th birthday.  A trip is easier to plan and lets me avoid having to deal with Mae feeling rejected if some of her favorite friends don’t or can’t attend.  That’s never actually happened; I’m just afraid that it might because Mae feels left out sometimes.  I should have told her we were taking a trip and maybe let her have some say in where.

Silly me, I went with the party idea.  Since Mae is all into science and preparing herself to become a chemist, I set about planning a science-themed party.  I visited a couple of recreation centers and submitted an application to reserve space at one.  Just yesterday, I scheduled a company that comes to your location and puts on a science show.  Today, I combed the aisles at a thrift store and found a little toy lab kit ($1.69!) that I plan to use as props on a cake — I haven’t figured out exactly how yet, but that’s a different story.  Mae doesn’t know about any of the party plans because she’ll nag me to no end as well as invite everybody she knows and their brother’s cousin’s nephew.  Sooo, I can cancel the party and plan a trip.  Maybe I’ll make the science-y cake anyway.

Jay’s birthday is in June and he’s already “ordered” his birthday cake and desired location.  Maybe, just maybe, I am creating monsters.  Urrggh!

The little booger gave me a scare this weekend.  He started complaining about stomach aches about three weeks ago, and I thought it was constipation.  He’s still so iffy about dinner, eating only a few items and usually in small quantities.  I pushed more water and vegetables and gave him an antacid a few nights.  Then, on Friday night, I asked him to place a hand on his body to show me exactly where the pain was, and he touched the middle of his chest.  I started thinking ultrasound, surgery, cancer, etc.   Today, I took him to the pediatrician, and she thinks it’s heartburn.  So, now we’re keeping a food diary to figure out patterns and connections, though I don’t know what I can possibly eliminate from his limited diet.  I’m hoping that adding more alkaline will help.  Jay takes authority figures so seriously, and I’m going to use the doctor to the hilt.   Maybe Jay will eat better “because the doctor said.”  Fingers crossed.

Unless My Eyes Deceive Me

Mae asked today if I’d take her and Jay toy shopping. I said no. She asked why I never take them toy shopping.

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That is all.

When the Tables Turn

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I started typing this post while I lay in bed this morning listening to a conversation between Hubby and Mae. It all began last night when they fell out over the TV.  Mae tried to plead her case, and it didn’t work.  Hubby reclaimed control of the TV, and Mae cried for a while and told him how upset she felt.  (For the record, I warned him that adding a Netflix subscription to the big TV and proceeding to let the kids order cartoons would lead to problems.  The “big TV” in the family room is for adults, and the “little TV” in the play room is for kids.  But, who listens to me?)

When Mae came to our bed this morning, we told her we were still sleeping and she could go downstairs or back to her bed.  She was intent upon snuggling up close to her dad.

I heard Mae say, in a calm and serious voice, “I want to talk to you some more.”  She went on, “I want you to be the daddy I can trust and not the daddy I can’t trust.”

Hubby began to speak, and Mae said, calmly still, “I’m not finished talking.”

“I want you to be nice to me.  I was talking to you about your need to change.”

Then, Mae touched one of Hubby’s ears, and he told her to stop.  She likes the softness of ears, especially his.  She rubs her own often too, and she used to rub Jay’s a lot.  If I catch her touching Jay’s ears, I make her pay him two mickies.  If I see her reach for his ears and stop her self, I give her mickies and praise her self-control.  She rarely touches mine because I’ve been pretty clear and consistent about boundaries.  Sometimes Hubby tells her to stop and sometimes he doesn’t.  So, she has made less progress with him.

Anyway, after a few moments of silence, Mae extended the olive branch.  She asked Hubby if he would go down downstairs and watch TV with her.  She added, “I love you more than anything or anybody in the world.  I just want to spend some time with you.”

Then,

Besides, we’re all one. When I touch your ear, I’m touching mine. So, it doesn’t really matter. We’re all a family; we’re all one.

Hubby responded, “We’ll still be a family. Even in a family, you have to respect personal space.”

Mae said, in an almost cheery voice, “Ok.”

At that moment, Jay emerged from across the hall and joined Mae in trying to get Hubby up and downstairs for breakfast.   And so the day began.

And, a good day it was.  I didn’t leave the house once.  Even though I didn’t relax much, not running errands or attending birthday parties feels like an accomplishment.  Mostly, I stayed in because I had to shampoo and braid Mae’s hair.  That was about three and a half hours of work total.  She is usually a trooper about getting it done.  Today, she gave me a fit during the blow drying because she wanted to be in front of the TV.  I told her the noise would make it difficult for Jay to hear the TV, which wouldn’t be fair.  It takes twenty minutes or less to section and blow dry her hair, and normally she gets through it fine if she reads.  Today, Mae literally stomped my foot because I wouldn’t let her watch TV.  The nerve.  I stayed calm, although I did make her wait 30 minutes before she could watch TV during the braiding phase.  My mother and aunts and a high percentage of the black mothers I know would think me crazy or unfit for not popping her with the comb I had in my hand.  This child has no idea.

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Fortunately, Hubby did laundry and bathroom cleaning while I cooked.  And, I baked, which was a nice break.  I made lemon bars, which is one of the quicker recipes in my limited repertoire.  I’ll take most to work and some to my sister.

All in all, it was a good weekend.  Hubby and I took the kids to swim on Saturday morning.  This is their first time having lessons separately, each with small groups of other children.  Mae did a great job of listening and following instructions.  Jay was more comfortable than I’d expected in getting his face wet.  They clearly enjoy being in the water, though both seem to hesitate when new skills are introduced.  I’m just glad that they are willing to go and try to learn.  So, we’ll keep the lessons going for as long as they are willing.

Yesterday afternoon, I took Jay to a birthday party for one of his classmates and he had a blast.  I met a mom there who was featured on the reality show about women who didn’t know they were pregnant.  Her story is so fascinating that I would have gone to the party just to hear it.  I had been skeptical that a woman, even a woman who had never had kids, could not know she was pregnant.  Now, I’m a believer.  This woman, 43 years old at the time, had stomach pains and pressure in her abdomen and went to the emergency room.  The nurses found a baby in her pants.  Wow.

Mae was sad about not going to the party.  It so happened that I had written a new social story — as she had requested back in December, I think — about party invitations.  I showed her the story on Saturday, and she said that she understood it.  I also explained that this party was for younger kids, and that she and Jay won’t always go to the same parties.  She “got it,” though it was hard still for her to watch him and me go out the door.  Hubby said she cried a little after we left.  I think she handled it like most 7-year olds would have.  And, that’s a good thing.

It’s amazing to me that she can go from having a heart-to-heart talk with a grown-up, almost as if she’s the parent, to the usual 7-year old stuff, and everything in between.  I have no idea what the teenage years will be like.

All I Want in 2012

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Phew!! We made it through the holiday season.  I got away with my simple holiday decorations, although before it was all said and done, Hubby and the kids were saying that we should have had more lights, including some outdoors.  Hubby says he’ll put up lights next Christmas.  More power to him.  I’m sure he’ll have it all done by the 12th of Neveruary.

Even though Mae received some of the items from her wish list and several other surprises, she still feels cheated because she didn’t receive any gifts on the actual day of Christmas, and there were no presents under our tree when we returned from SC.  Despite his failure to find us in SC, Mae decided that she still believes in Santa Claus.  Jay wasn’t hung up on who gave him what and on what day. I think he lost track of the days and wasn’t sure which was 12/25. Next year, Mae has declared, we will stay home for Christmas to avoid any confusion.  I’ll set this aside for now.  It’s not worth debating at this point — and trust me, debate she will.

We did stay at home on New Year’s Eve.  Mae and Jay were up at midnight, and the four of us toasted in the new year with sparkling grape juice.  Mae wanted to also toast with toast, as in toasted bread, which she thought was such a funny idea. If I hadn’t been so busy fussing with red velvet whoopie pies and trying to get the right consistency for the filling, I would have entertained her.  As it was, I left the cakes just long enough to clink glasses with Hubby and the kids.

I made no monumental resolutions for the new year.  I plan to eat less white flour and sugar (ignore the fact that the first item I ate in 2012 was a whoopie pie.  Since I was making them for my co-workers, I had to test them).  I skipped rice for the “good luck” meal and used whole wheat pasta in the mac ‘n cheese.  I’m taking on the philosophy that every decision I make about food counts, and the micro decisions are important steps to cutting back.

I want continued health and growth for myself and my family.  We’re good and we’re getting better.  Mae is maturing.  I see progress in her emotional control and social skills, and I see progress in my ability to manage the difficult moments.  Jay is maintaining his independence.  At times, he imitates some aspects of Mae’s behavior in an attempt to get his way.  But, for the most part, he has his own mind and makes smart choices based upon his own strong sense of right and wrong.  I have to remember to encourage and nurture his individuality.

I have an unofficial job offer for a position that will allow me to work from home up to four days a week.  I’m excited about the potential new challenge and learning opportunities, and even more so about the possibilities for worklife balance.  The time I can gain from commute-free days.  Lunch dates with Hubby, who works close to home.  Exercising and starting dinner during my lunch hour.  So many possibilities.

And, my last “want” for 2012 is a new kitchen.  I’ve been wanting a new kitchen since we moved into this house in 2006.  The stained, torn linoleum and busted cabinet doors and drawers are really getting to me now.  I’ve vowed to scrimp and pinch my way to a renovation this year.  Hubby is on board, or maybe just afraid to get in my way.  He’s a smart man, notwithstanding the thing about the Christmas lights.

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