Work with me, please.

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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.

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