Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Easter 2014

Although I'm obviously not a "He is Risen!" person, I do love Easter.  And when Easter falls a little later, when it's actually warmed up a bit and my hope in the Earth's ability to melt the white stuff has grown, I love Easter that much more.  This year, the forecast for Easter weekend was especially promising-- temperatures in the 70's with some warm light rain predicted for Sunday.  I envisioned playing outside, flying kites, and maybe some puddle-jumping soggy Easter egg hunting.  I eagerly looked forward to our "traditional" Easter Brunch in Dike, where we planned to meet Mason's and my families and gorge ourselves on ham, pancakes, muffins, and the never-ending pie table!

But, as most well-intentioned plans go, things did not happen accordingly.  On Friday, C complained of a tummy ache and didn't have much appetite.  Since he's not much of a lunch eater anyway, I wasn't too worried, but when he still seemed a little out of sorts an hour later, I settled him into our bedroom where he could relax, watch a few episodes of Dinosaur Train, and munch on Saltines.  Secretly, I kind of enjoyed this time-- it was a nice excuse for me to cuddle up with him in the middle of the afternoon and read my book while he intently watched his shows.  But when he hic-cupped, then coughed, and got that wild-eyed look.... I knew we were in trouble.

It's about five steps from our bed to the toilet in the attached bathroom-- but those five steps might as well have been miles.  By the time I had him situated in the bathroom, our bed, the bathroom, and the two of us were..... a mess.

Now here's the part where I'm supposed to just gloss over the cleaning up sick kid mess and say that it was bad and my heart ached for Charlie.  But here's the truth:  Before I was a mom, I bet a zillion people told me, "Oh Karah, it's different when it's your kid! You'll be just fine. (followed by condescending smile and little pat on the head)".  And I would assure them that no, vomit is vomit is vomit.  And now, standing on the other side of that motherhood fence, I would like to tell all those people, "You all lied to me.  It is NO different when it's your own kid.  My kid's vomit smells just like any other kid's vomit.  And it's the same color and has chunks and everything.  And just because someone happened to pass through MY vagina, does not mean their vomit is exempt from making me gag."  

So that being said, I do not do well when covered in sick kid.  And as much as I hate to admit this, I momentarily froze--completely in panic-- while Charlie was in just as much panic about what had just happened, and I struggled with the decision of whose clothing to strip off first.  In the end, I followed the advice of the flight-attendants and took care of myself.  Once I was half-naked, I was able to breathe again (I think I held my breath for close to three minutes) and focus well enough to take care of my kid and the gaggy affected bed sheets, rugs, and towels.

With the washing machine doing the dirty work, the two of us spent the afternoon watching tv and running to the bathroom.  And by Friday evening, C seemed to be on the mend.  When Saturday morning rolled around, things seemed to be almost back to normal.

I think he enjoyed being allowed to watch tv all day--- too bad it was actually sunny outside!

In the morning, Charlie and I headed to the Holland egg hung (the BEST little secret in Grundy county).  I LOVE how small-town it is, very low-key and not super crowded.  Volunteers hide plastic eggs around the playground and scatter candy on the grass as well.  Inside each egg, a numbered slip of paper is reedemable for a little prize-- C came home with a balloon punch thing, a bubble wand, a kite, and a jump rope!  (Too bad the punching ball thing broke and left someone in tears-----which left his parents feeling terrible and picking up a consolation replacement toy at Norby's.)

These two-- so much love!

My parents came that morning and we had a really lovely day.  My mom and I took C to a local greenhouse, went for a nature hike, petted a 3 day old foal, flew a kite, and played at home.  Dad and Mase battled the wind on the golf course and played a quick nine.  When they were finished, the two of them took Charlie up to Parkersburg to the "big park" and came home in time to eat grilled hamburgers, strawberries, and spinach salad-- such a summer meal! It was no surprise that C fell asleep within minutes of being tucked into bed that night.

I've never felt something so soft!  The foalie's coat reminded me of puppy Maddy. 
C could have spent hours tossing pebbles through the tiny cracks in the bridge and predicting where they would land. 

Our selfie-- with my little poser. :) 
Later, the grown ups settled down to watch a movie.... and that's when Flu Bug Round #2 hit me.  I spent the next six hours getting to know the intimate details of our porcelain oval office-- and didn't feel much better when I woke up Easter morning.  Although I crawled out of bed long enough to watch C go through his Easter basket, I remember almost nothing of the morning.  I'm still sad that I missed participating in his excitement about the goodies hidden in his Easter basket, and I always love an egg hunt!  Plus, I was very disappointed that I couldn't make it to brunch to see Mason's family-- it's been a long time (thank you winter) since we've been able to see them. But staying in bed seemed to help and by Monday, I felt well enough to return to work with the condition that my school cherubs treat me kindly.

Hopefully, I won't have a repeat of this bug for many years to come-- it was quick but intense!  And while I'm still sad about missing the Easter activities right now, someday I'm sure we'll look back and say, "Remember that Easter when I was so sick?  I couldn't even get out of bed to be a part of the egg hunt.  AND I missed brunch!"  But looking on the bright side, it was sunny and smiley and we live in a world with washing machines-- which are pretty freaking amazing when you have the flu.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Catching Up

So often, the days slip by and I find myself lying in bed, smiling about something cute or endearing that Charlie said earlier.  I pause and mumble "I should write that down"... but then my eyes get heavy and my body seems to melt into my sheets and the notebook tucked into the nightstand seems like a very far away place to keep something to jot down little ideas.  So I vow that I'll write down the cute thing tomorrow and I continue to my date with the Sandman.  But then tomorrow comes,  and I go and do everyday things like load and unload the dishwasher and get the mail and make dinner and fold laundry (and sometimes even put it away) and watch House Hunters and all to quickly whatever I was going to write down is long forgotten.  So tonight, I'm racking my brain to jot down a few things that I've found myself loving lately.  Here goes....

I'm loving.....

* The way Charlie has a burst of energy after meals-- especially dinner.  He'll run sprint through the house, yelling and screaming crazy things.  Mostly, he pretends he's being chased by a dinosaur or monster or he's rescuing someone.  This "exercise" usually lasts a good 20-30 minutes.

* Words Charlie uses.  My favorites are:  "Splunger" (plunger), "Aminals" (animals), "Hula-Loop" (Loop-de-loop), "Smoke Protector" (smoke detector).  He also likes throwing "big" words into his sentences.  Words like "interesting" and "luckily" and "impressed" will randomly be used.  

* The fact that C is soooo 'physical touch' (even though I'm not).  He has to be touching me or hugging me or kissing me almost all the time.  

* The way C loves his friends.  Whenever we leave daycare, he individually addresses each friend, gives them a big hug and says a personal goodbye.

* The things he fights for.  A few days ago, while getting in the van, we stopped at the library to drop off books.  After grabbing them from the backseat, I automatically shut the van door.  By the time I was back in the front seat, he was whining and starting to cry.  When I asked him what was wrong, he told me that he really wanted to kiss me.  Sadly, my first reaction was "Sweetie,  you can kiss me when we get home in two seconds!" And then, a thought came to me, clear as a summer day:  Your kid is crying because HE wants to kiss YOU.  And someday honey, you'll wish that he just wanted to be in the same vehicle as you.  So, I took the 30 seconds to unbuckle, hop out of the van, open the back door, and let him kiss and hug and tickle me before driving 3 blocks home.  Funny how such a small act of patience still warmed my heart days later. 

* The way C makes friends at parks.  Friend magnet.  (Super annoying to end up babysitting parent-less kids at a park, but more on that another time)

* Watching Charlie get braver with gross motor challenges.  He's riding his bike with training wheels, and rode next to Mason (riding his bike) all around the neighborhood.  He even rode down our hill-- which isn't huge, but is steeper than anything in my entire hometown-- and remembered to brake at the end. 

* C's sportsmanship.  True, he's basically been involved in a counseling small group from the time he could play board games, but it seems to be working.  He never pouts about losing, always compliments the winner, and gets excited when other players excel in the game.  Sadly, he hasn't quite embraced our "Winner puts the game away" rule and always seems to wiggle out of that one.  

* The way C interacts with others.  For the longest time, we went through a period of "shyness".  And though I tried with all my might to embrace his introvert-ness, the fact remained that he was being really rude by totally ignoring people!  Gradually, with continual gentle guidance, he's come out of his shell a bit.  When adults ask him a question, he will answer it-- and usually make a follow-up comment.  A few weeks ago, he was with me at Parent-Teacher conferences for about 90 minutes before M could pick him up.  I heard so many positive compliments about his behavior, his vocabulary, and his personality that made me have a very proud mama moment.  

* The way his brain is a sponge-- and he remembers so much of what he hears.  He's currently very interested in dinosaurs, and will tell us who is a carnivore/ herbivore/ omnivore.  If you're playing with him, he might let you know that you mistook a T-Rex for an Allosaurus or that the pokey things on a Stegosaurus are not spikes, they're plates.  He's also very interested in the way things work.  The other day, during a thunder storm, he looked at me and said, "Don't worry, it's just thunder.  That's just warm air and cold air bamming together." I smiled. 

*  If you ask C what he wants to be when he grows up he'll tell you "A Fighter Jet Pilot".  And then he'll tell you how fast they fly and how far off the ground they can go.   And the next day it might be "A Fighter Jet Pilot and an Astronaut and maybe a Teacher."  

*  Right now, my very favorite thing is bedtime.  We read books-- lately in Mama's bed and sometimes with just a flashlight because for some reason that is super exciting.  Then, because I'm super lazy and love the smell of his just-bathed hair and body, I snuggle with him as he falls asleep.  I probably shouldn't admit that most nights, I'm asleep by 8:30 too.  Some may say this is a time waster, but when I wake up from my little evening "nap" and that little 40 pound body is curled into me, I really can't think of what would have been a better way of spending an hour or two.  "They" say these moments are fleeting... so I'm kind of grabbing the tail of that kite of time that seems to be slipping away from me.    

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Rage Against the (Video) Machine

As a child of the 80's, I grew up with the occasional video game.  I remember visiting my cousins' house and playing Atari and I remember the neighbor across the street had some fun Sega games.  Gradually, kids in my class began to talk about Nintendo and eventually my sister even received a Game Boy for Christmas.  But aside from playing a few hours of "Tetris" here and there, video games never really excited me.  I never had the attention span for them-- they always seemed so boring to me.

The fact that most kids who have major attention deficits are easily engrossed in video games kind of amazes me.  There's not much more mundane than watching a little character on a screen try to jump around and catch imaginary coins or bananas or colored pebbles.  And to me, there's absolutely no reward.  So you advance to the next level and do the exact same thing.... for what?  More coins?  More points?  More of nothing?  And I should probably admit that seeing kids zoned out in front of video games drives-me-nuts.  I have no idea why I have such a deep, visceral, annoyance with video games but I cannot seem to shake it.

So it probably comes as no surprise that I've always proudly stated that "No kid of mine will become a video game junkie!" And like the long list of words I've eaten, I need to admit that my kid is on the slippery slope of becoming a video game junkie.

Somewhere in the midst of his minion obsession, we introduced Charlie into an innocent little phone game called "Minion Rush".  Trouble is, it turns out the game is completely addicting to our little man.   And while his daddy argued that the game was benefiting C's reaction times and problem solving skills, I saw changes in Charlie that I didn't like.

I noticed that while the game is not violent, Charlie would be very agitated after playing.  His mood would go from calm to crazy and his tolerance for frustration was always lower after playing the game.  I noticed that on days when C played the minion game, he had a hard time playing with any of his other toys.  We have a basement full of toys-- creative, fine motor, gross motor, manipulatives, books, dress up, musical, imaginative, athletic, etc..... yet he claims his toys are all "Bo-wing".  While he's usually a pretty compliant little guy, when the timer signals the end of his Minion game time, he cries and yells and shouts things that seem a little out of character.

Now, I must admit that having Charlie occupied for what could be hours at a time is a nice little break for his parents.  And, I do understand how people fall into this allowance.  Believe me, half of the reason I let him play in the first place was because I could just do my own thing for 20 minutes!  But eventually, the cons were outweighing the benefit of 20 free minutes.  Finally, I insisted to both Charlie and his daddy that The Minion Game will now only be played on weekends.

We are two weeks into our new minion-free lifestyle and so far, things are going well.  C used to beg to play the game like Maddy begged for people food-- following us around asking over and over if he could play it now.  After just four minion-free days, the begging had lessened and he started to  remember the fun he could have with his other toys.   After almost two weeks of minion-free days, I am noticing that he isn't asking to play the game or watch tv as much as before, and he is playing independently more.

Lately, he seems calmer and less agitated, and remembers to ask for help when he's frustrated.  Honestly, the lack of the minion game has forced me to interact with him a bit more as well.  We always play together, but I realize that he might need a few new ideas of ways to play with his toys, or suggestions for inventing new Tinker Toy creations.  This has been one of the surprise blessings of giving up the game.  Of course, all this good behavior could just be a fluke-- he's famous for fluking his behavior right when we think we have things figured out.  And, the fact that we've been able to get outside more in the past week has also helped.  But I'm hoping that these behaviors stick-- maybe he'll forget all about those little yellow guys by the time each Saturday rolls around.  Highly unlikely, but it's always good to dream, right?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Calling Persephone & "Spring" Break

A few weeks ago at church, we listened to the story of Persephone and Demeter.  If you remember 8th grade mythology at all, you'll remember that Persephone, the goddess of life and beauty and everything fertile had never known winter (lucky girl).  That is, of course, until one day when the Earth opened up and introduced her to the underworld and that sexy alluring Hades guy.  And while she was hanging out with Hades, being promised to become a queen and help the souls of the underworld (and be married to the hunky Hades), things above ground changed.

Her mother, Demeter, wept and mourned and worried.  The trees lost their leaves, the flowers lost their blooms, and the Earth turned cold. Snow came and things froze.  Animals hid and food was scarce.  In most versions of the story, Zeus is behind Hades/Persephone introduction and he realizes that maybe it isn't good for the Earth if Persephone leaves permanently.  And, Persephone misses her mother and the animals and flowers and trees and everything nature-- but she loves Hades and the promising allure of the Underworld.  So, of course, the only compromise is to split her time equally between the two.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am an equal rights person (I won't get into that now).  But six months of winter, and six months of combined spring/summer/fall just doesn't seem fair or equal. As March ended and we welcomed April, I spent some time calling Persephone.

How can a person call her? Well, simply think of things you love so much about spring and summer. Imagine these things and call them out to her-- tell her we NEED her back!  We WANT her back!  We MISS her! Hades may be hot but we're cold!  So here's why I need Persephone to come back and bring spring.

Honestly, my list could go on for days but I'll stop there.  In March, we had a little getaway Up North-- where we were greeted by snow that was waist-high and temperatures that were very cold.  It didn't feel like spring break at all.  The weather, combined with the fact that we had head colds and spent most of our time sneezing, sniffling, and blowing our noses made for a pretty un-productive break.  We watched movies, played a few games, watched a LOT of basketball, and pretty much relaxed.  I read and knitted and did some writing but mostly, we just hung out.

While we relaxed, C vacationed at my parents' house.  They had field trip after field trip and played non-stop.  It's no wonder the kid thinks our house is boring when he returns-- those grandparents seem to keep him busy.  (I assured him that growing up in that house wasn't nearly the vacation it has turned into in the past 30 years)  We picked him up Sunday afternoon, and I could hardly keep my hands off him. We've done this little getaway for four years now, and I think it gets harder to leave each year.  One of my friends with older children once told me, "I just loving having my whole family under the same roof" and I think I'm beginning to understand that feeling a little bit.  But, when we hopped into the truck to head home, the first words out of C's mouth were, "When I'm five, can I stay five nights?!"  I think it's safe to say we all enjoyed our little break, but it's always nice to get back into the groove of things.

Now, as we cruise through April, let's bring on spring!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Keepin' it Classy in Spahnville

One of my favorite things about parenting a little boy is all the stuff I get to do "because" of him. Case in point: Monster Trucks.  Anyone out there who has a boy under the age of ten probably knows what I'm talking about when I say that Monster Trucks are definitely one of the "stages" of boyhood-growing up.  It seems we've done them all here:  Cars, trucks, trains, rescue guys, tractors, dinosaurs, and now Monster Trucks.

So when Charlie saw the Monster Jam commercial a few weeks ago, he begged us to go to the "Monster Truck Alley"!  And because one of his parents (not his father) secretly LOVES Monster Trucks, we bought tickets and headed down to Cedar Rapids.  

C probably would have been happy just hanging out in the skywalk-- he thought looking at the traffic down below was super cool.  
We arrived at the venue just as the trucks were revving their engines.  We donned our ear protection (I could not believe how many people brought kids without earmuffs!) and headed inside.  The smell of nitro greeted us and the trucks paraded around the dirt track in front of us.  After finding our seats amidst what had to be a bunch of State Fair goers, we watched the different contests.   They did wheelies, races, jumps, and freestyle.  I learned about this whole new sub-culture and the stars of the show: Rottweiler, Wolverine, El Toro Loco, The Thunder, and of course the beloved Grave Digger.  In between big events, little four wheelers had races that made me nervous as they rounded corners and the riders nearly fell off their vehicles (How do the mothers of these kids allow this type of behavior?)


Can you say rip-off?  



Oh, and watching these guys was just as entertaining.  They moved dirt, carried crushed cars, and set the 'stage'.  C again thought it was "awesome"

Charlie claimed to love the whole show and according to him, "It was awesome!" His expression, however, was a little suspect.  He was quiet and observant, never yelling or clapping but rather taking it all in.  He coaxed his dad into a $15 souvenir sno-cone and a crazy expensive Hot Wheels monster truck.  We justified the expense by noting that this little day trip kind of made up for our lack of any winter getaway this year.

By the end of the show, we were wearing down a little.  But someone insisted he was NOT ready to go home and he was NOT tired.  ("Stop asking me that!") 
By the time the engines had stopped revving, C was getting tired.  Actually, he was probably tired and totally over-stimulated.  We gathered up our things and headed home.  I think we had been on the road all of ten minutes before the back seat was zonked out.  We enjoyed the quiet ride home after "making some noise!" for two hours and crossing "Monster Truck Rally" off the bucket list.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Window

Nine out of ten times, I'm the one to drop Charlie off at daycare.  We hustle out of the house and drive five miles north to the tiniest neighboring town.  We pull in the loooooooong skinny driveway and hop out of the car.  We tromp up the wooden steps of the back door, and push open the door that sticks just a bit too much.  We stamp snow or rain or mud off our boots and I gently tug C's hat off his head.  Dogs bark, a baby coos, and crazed middle schoolers run wild looking for their sweatshirts, shoes, backpack, or assignment that is due today.

Sometimes, Charlie shakes off his coat, kicks off his boots, and bounds into the kitchen to start his day.  Other days, he curls into my leg and hides behind me like he used to do when he was just learning to walk.  Those mornings are the worst.  The ones where I need to pry him from my body and the last thing I see before leaving the house is him in someone else's arms, crying and reaching out for me.  I know these moments only last a minute, but that doesn't mean they're any less heartbreaking.

But on the good days, the days where he skips into the kitchen hoping to have an extra breakfast (or at least some chocolate milk), the memory of leaving is sweet.  Before I head out the door, he runs to me exclaiming, "Huggy and kissy!" to which he gives me no less than ten kisses (directly on the lips) and that many bear hugs.  Then, I slip out the door, and he races to the window-- where he eagerly awaits my descent down the long driveway.  He stands at the window and blows kisses-- hundreds at a time-- and when I blow them back from the car window, he "catches" them and pantomimes stuffing them down his shirt.  He created this gesture on his own-- I have no idea where it came from.  But I like the idea of my kisses staying safely snuggled against his skin, right next to his heart while I'm away.

Next year at this time, we'll be months away from ending this morning ritual.  The only ritual that he and I have ever known-- and in many ways I can't believe it's almost time for that.  And something that is so ordinary, so 'everyday', so taken for granted, will become a memory in an instant.  It strikes me how important it is for me to remember these small, little, insignificant moments-- because isn't that what ultimately composes the most significant memories in life?  This, these tiny moments, are life.

If you need 60 seconds of tears-- or just a little tug at your heart, here's a little video for ya.