Monday, June 18, 2007

The Enforcer

I feel like the biggest meanie sometimes.

The day started so well, and it ended so poorly.

WG had her first day of camp at DA. She absolutely loved it and I was ecstatic. There's nothing better than watching your kiddo have a really great time.

Then we came home and while Baby B napped, we read three books from her summer reading list.
  • Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding by Yumi Heo
    Great illustrations, an interesting and conversation provoking exploration of a little girl's conflicting emotions when her favorite uncle gets married. Perfect for five year old girl crowd.
  • Wolves by Emily Gravett
    An unusual and offbeat tale in which a rabbit checks out a library book about wolves. Blurs in line between the book we're reading and the book inside the book in interesting and creative ways. However, I found the ending a little scary. I didn't explain it to WG for fear of nightmares. Luckily, there's an alternate ending.
  • Best Best Friends by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
    A Caldacott winner, although I'm not sure why. It's interesting enough, and it did spawn a conversation about friends, jealousy and why its important to be nice. But its not the kind of book that we'd want to read again and again.)

We played our two new favorite games from Haba - The Sleepy Princess & The Pea & Animal Upon Animal. Both involve stacking and falling and both are lots of preschool fun!

Then, in a fit of spontaneity, we headed for the pool. Mel knocked off a few minutes early (I'm sure he'll make up for it after the kids are in bed) and we all went to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine together. The pool was fairly quiet and several times I noticed WG shouting loudly. I asked her to lower her voice. Dad asked her to quiet down. And finally, I got out of the pool, walked over to where she and Dad were playing and told her that she was too loud, that this was her "one warning" and that if she screamed again, we would be going home. Not a breath later, she screamed. I hadn't even had time to take ten steps away. So, I got her out of the pool and sat her down on the side. We talked a bit, and then packed up and went home. I feel like an ogre. But on some level I know that I did the right thing.

On the way home, Mel and I talked about whether the punishment fit the crime. And we talked about presenting a united front to WG. And I don't think she was intentionally testing the limits. But I do know that if my consequences become idle threats on little things, that eventually she'll start pushing the limits on much larger things.

As we were walking out, I could feel all the eyes on me. The grandmas and grandpas in the crowd just couldn't believe I was taking this poor child home for letting loose squeals of glee and screams of delight.

But one day, when she's not driving drunk through our neighborhood, and she's not rude to the people that she passes on the street, hopefully then they'll see why I'm sweating the small stuff.

Boy, is this parenting stuff hard.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Blueberries & Cherries

Yesterday, WG and I baked a blueberry pie. She's been begging to make one for weeks and I've had all the ingredients - but yesterday during Baby B's nap we made it a priority and headed for the kitchen. The combination of being four and her last year in Montessori school has transformed her into Miss I-Can-Do-It. She headed for the pantry and cabinets and wanted to bring everything back to the counter. She wanted to measure, pour and stir. And with every step came her now constant refrain, "Why?" "Why do we paint the crust with egg?" "Why does egg make it brown?" "Why are there holes in the top of the crust?" "Why don't pies have icing?" Every situation is a chance for her to learn and I try to embrace it - although after the 187th "Why" of the day sometimes I'm the one that needs a time out.

Meanwhile, Baby B awoke and we needed something to occupy him while we finished our lattice weave crust. So, I used a fresh fruit feeder and let him taste his first cherries. Whoever invented these feeder things is a genius! I absolutely love them. Munchkin makes them and you can get them at Target for about $5.00 (2 in a pack). You coarsely chop fresh fruit, snap it inside the mesh and then baby can suck on it, chew on it and otherwise amuse himself with fresh fruit flavor. Baby B just LOVES it. And he loves Bing cherries. He was a big rockin' mess afterwards, but it was worth it to watch him enjoy those cherries.

Sadly, the blueberry pie was a disappointment to the WG. While dad and I loved it, she didn't like the way it tasted. Probably too tart for her palate. Plus, there was no icing.

(Find the recipe for our Blueberry Pie at

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Learning to Play

Today my best friend Allison and I packed up the kids and took them to Planet Child in Cary. It doesn't sound like much, but it was a big undertaking for us.

First of all, there are five car seats to manage. Two booster seats (no problem, they're light and easy), one infant bucket (again, pretty simple) and two mammoth Britax car seats (I should be bench pressing to handle those). I think those things are safe in the same way that SUVs are safe - they're just bigger, heavier and tougher than everything else on the road. Of course, you'll likely sprain a wrist trying to move it from car to car.... I digress...

By 9:30 we had all five kids dressed, fed and strapped into the car. Hooray! Sadly, that meant that Allison wasn't yet dressed. She threw on some clothes and we were off.

Planet Child was terrific. If you haven't been there, it's definitely worth a trip to Cary. (It's a 45 minute drive for us and we'll definitely go back). The staff is incredibly friendly and helpful. It was busy but not crowded at all - and the kids all quickly found sections that amused them. Charlie put on a pith helmet and climbed into a Land Rover in the safari section. WG found a buddy and headed to the kitchen/grocery area. Sam and his buddy played in the pirate ship - my personal favorite. And Baby B and Baby T were happy, happy in the baby area. We spent two hours there are scarcely a tear was shed - a near record for our crowd.

I played on the floor with Baby B for a wonderful, long time. We played peek a boo among the padded blocks. We spun the toddler bead toy, we giggled and we hugged the stuffed animals. It struck me that I really do love playing on the floor with him. But I do have a tough time doing it at home. At home it seems that there's always laundry to do, closets to straighten, out of season clothes to pack up, or emails to answer. I have such a hard time putting those things to the side to play. It's when he's frustrated or sad that I'll get on the floor with him and distract him. At the pool we splash about together. Even in the grocery store we sing and play. It's at home that I have a hard time playing.

I think I need to put playing on my to-do list. Every morning I start with a to-do list. It typically has 30-40 items on it, so I rarely get them all done in a day. But I am happy when I can cross off half. Then I roll the other items to the next day. Maybe if I put playing on the floor with Baby B, I'll remember to make it a priority - even when we're just at home.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

In Memorial

I just got back from a week in Auburn, Alabama, the town I grew up in. It was one of the most challenging weeks of my life. We were home for two funerals.

On Sunday, my grandfather passed away. Buster was a big man most of my life. He had coal black skin and long hair. He wore cowboy boots and a big cowboy hat. On summer afternoons he would load me, my siblings and cousins in the back of his customized pick up truck and take us to Krystal for hamburgers in the parking lot. He pinched our cheeks, laughed giant belly laughs and loved Jerry Springer. But on Sunday, he passed away as a result of complications from cancer.

My grandmother and aunt, together with his family, began making funeral arrangements, and then unexpectedly my grandmother had a massive heart attack and died early on Tuesday morning. She was standing at the stove in her home making an early morning breakfast and then she was gone. We were all so stunned.

My mom and I packed up the kids and got on the road early on Tuesday. Tuesday and Wednesday were full of people who were calling or stopping by to offer condolences – but many of them were stopping in to check on my grandmother. When they heard the news about her they were stunned and our family bore the full brunt of their shocked reactions. Seventy-year-old men crumbled into heaps of tears on her sofa. Large bodies and slight frail ones rocked with sobs in her chairs. Some could hardly speak and some had many words. Some just repeated – no, no, no.
Grandma's House

I think it will still take me a while to recover. I know that in many ways I haven’t yet begun to grieve their passing. I am still adjusting to the shock of their absence in the house that was so much a part of my youth. And I’m still working through my own feelings about those friends and family members that reacted so powerfully to the news.

In the end, I know that it won’t be this past week that I remember – although it’s made a powerful impression on me. It will be the way that Buster looked in that white suit and string tie, my grandmother’s infectious giggle and the way she referred to herself in the third person ("Grand-mama loves you"), and the steadfastness with which they loved each other and each of us.