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February 2012
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March 2012

Glaring

You might recall that I started putting slips of paper labeled  "kitchen" or "bathroom" into a hat with the idea that I would then be honor bound to thoroughly tidy whichever area the hat dictated before I could allow myself to go back to my usual schedule of dithering. You may also recall that this worked brilliantly until the hat started telling me to forget the damned front hall closet and have hot sex instead. It was all very mysterious. Steve claimed to be just as baffled as I (and yet as equally honor bound) but I have my suspicions so I gave him back his hat and started putting my room slips into an old makeup bag which I now hide from those who might be tempted to abuse its powers.

The reason I mention this is because it recently occurred to me that I should write "blog" on one of those slips and despite the fact that I have SO MUCH TO DO and only two hours until I have to pick the twins up... here we are. The hat-which-is-now-a-makeup-bag has spoken.

So, how are you?

I'm having a bit of a rough patch that started about a week and a half ago. One second I was talking to a friend in the lobby of the Y and the next my entire field of vision was filled with jagged flashing purple lines. Capital M Migraine and it was horrible and then I threw up and then it felt like my head was being crushed and then I slept for thirteen hours and then I woke up and it started all over again. For five days this continued. I finally went to my primary care doctor and he said oooh yeah definitely a migraine and he gave me steroids to stop the cycle and a handout on trying to prevent another one and a follow up appointment in a month with their headache person for when that doesn't work.

The pain and the lights went away a day after I started the steroids but I still feel a bit like my brain is buzzing. Not painful or even unpleasant; just sort of threatening, like the wrong thing could pop me right over the edge again and the wrong thing seems to be light. Any kind of light but computer screens (hiya, consider this an act of love) fluorescent lighting and sunlight glaring through the windshield are the worst. I was discussing this with my doctor and realized that I was describing the holy trinity of never leave the house mothering slash huswifery: Target, carpooling and killing time online. Damn it all. 

So that's my 445 word apologia for a photo post.

Look! Children! Enjoying the unseasonably warm weather over Spring Break! Wearing helmets for no reason! Going to Duluth for a night at a waterpark (I never thought I would find a place that could make the Wisconsin Dells look like a miracle of good taste. who knew?)! Making pants!

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That is all.

Oh, wait. Patrick and I need a new book series as we are almost done with Tiffany (heart her) Aching. Bartimaeous? 


The Left Out Bits

The preschool teacher pulled me aside during pickup on Wednesday and said that they were having some problems with Edward. He's increasingly defiant, she explained, especially during transitions. I stared at her for a few moments trying to come up with something better to say than, wait, he's just now starting this at school? I had assumed they'd been rolling with the fact that Edward - sort of like the Eskimo and snow - has forty different ways to say no. But apparently he's been mostly biddable (apart from the gothic drop-off scenes that still continue although, yes, I know, it is MARCH) until the past week or so when he's started putting his square foot down. No, he didn't want to get out of the pool, no, he did not want to put away the trucks and have a snack, no, no, craft project for him, no no and no. Non.  

She asked if we had seen any of this behavior at home (HA!) and if we had any techniques for dealing with it. I said hmmmmmmmmmm and tried to look thoughtful and finally admitted we don't negotiate with terrorists and thus we frequently wind up carrying Edward like a clutch purse. I added that we would talk to him about expectations for school.

When I came home I repeated the gist of the conversation to Steve, ending with the teacher's query as to whether we have any effective strategies for dealing with Edward's intransigence.

Steve promptly said, "Yes. Yes, we do. We send him to preschool."

Edward is very sweet in many ways but he is in the stage when he is anxious to assert his dominance all the time. He's sort of a classic baby of the family, which he is both figuratively and literally albeit by only 45 minutes. We all dote on Edward and get exasperated by him and he spends his time saying, "I'LL DO IT BY MYSELF!" or "Ok, here are the rules and the order of the rules: first rule..."

Caroline never says, "I'll do it by myself" she just does it and Patrick never wanted to do anything (aw, I just got a mental image of a young Patrick following me around with wet floppy hands because he couldn't be bothered to dry them but was perfectly willing to walk around the house after me so that I could do it for him) so the vocal stubborn independent thing is new to us. I have been trying to let Edward make as many decisions as are reasonable in the hopes that this will help to quell his lust for power. I reorganized the pantry and the refrigerator and created Get It Myself shelves. He gets to wear pajamas every goddamned day. I have designated jobs for them (clearing their plates, helping me sort clothes and put them away, dusting) and they started earning an allowance.

Oh, right, that reminds me: the first week they got an allowance Edward immediately said he wanted to go to Target and buy another transformer. I thought ah ha! a teachable moment! and told him that he had $4 but the transformer he wanted costs $7 so he had a choice: he could either buy something else for $4 or he could save his money and buy the car next week.

He said, "Caroline, I need three moneys. Can I have yours?"

And Caroline said, "Sure."

He turned back to me and said, "I want to go to Target now."

(I negotiated a more equitable solution while in the toy aisles and they both spent their own money but I was sweating it.)

Anyway, Edward's going through a stage and I told him to knock it off at preschool and he said ok. We'll see if that works because if it does I am a parenting genius and every time I witness a kid throwing a tantrum in the future I can say with smug assurance that if it were my child I would just tell him to stop it.

Some pictures of Caroline and Edward after they got out of the bathtub and into my bed. They don't often look like twins to me but holy cats

Snuggly

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Oh, on the subject of allowances and chores... I put a lot of thought into this and decided that they get an allowance because they are members of the family and are entitled to a little spending money and that they have chores to do because they are members of the family and are responsible for some of the work that needs to be done. Two different things. I am making this distinction because when we started an allowance for Patrick x years ago I tied the jobs he had to do every day to being paid a small weekly stipend and it blew up in my face almost immediately. Since Patrick doesn't like to spend money he doesn't really need any money; thus he frequently decided that the allowance wasn't worth the effort of doing the chore. D'oh. We quickly cancelled the allowance and then reintroduced the jobs later as a mandatory requirement for his existence. He fed the cats, put away his clothes and played with the twins when I needed him to do so. When I tried to come up with some ways that Edward might feel more responsible for things I decided on an allowance for the twins and I told Patrick that I would start his up again. I mentioned as a related aside that I thought he was big enough to have increased responsibilities and asked what things he would be interested in doing. He said he'd make some dinners.

And he did.

I gave him the stir fry recipe I like and he chopped and stirred and fried.

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The deep-dish pizza recipe turned out to be kinda crummy but it looked pretty.

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He's also done waffles, blueberry muffins and, you know, spaghetti. Today they are celebrating early Pi day (Spring Break next week) with a Pie Day and Patrick wanted to make and bring a cherry pie to school. I don't do pie. I have never done pie. And if I ever did do a pie it would not be a fruit pie because I dislike them. So it was Patrick's project in toto.

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And in the end he created what I can only describe as a very Patrick pie. Click the link for the picture.

PS I got "It's So Amazing" and "It's Not the Stork" out of the library. The twins LOVE the stork book, which Edward calls the Snork book before saying, "Yet's find out how the baby gets into the tummy, shall we?" Caroline likes the part where they talk about how both boys and girls sing and dance and do karate and play with trucks and dolls.

I left "It's So Amazing" in Patrick's room, all casual, and was amused to find it the next day in the hall outside his door. When I asked him he looked surprised and said he thought Caroline had left it on his bed because it looks like a picture book. I said, no, it was for him and that I had gotten a smiliar book for the twins that was geared toward younger kids.

I found him in my room later flipping through the Stork book. When I walked in he looked up and said, very firmly, "This is TOTALLY inappropriate for the twins."

He gave me his best pious Elder Ebenezer Flintface look and showed me where the book illustrated, gasp, human bodies and showed a girl bent over checking out her behind in a mirror (excuse me, her anus.)

"Do you know how many times a day Caroline shows me her... her butt as it is?" he asked, resorting to strong language. "What do you want to do? Give her, like, a how to manual on being naked?"

I got to use my new catch phrase (it's perfectly normal!) and told him to chill. Bodies. Natural. All Good. He kept reading, I wandered off and then heard him say, "Well! I didn't know THAT! That's creepy!"

And I came rushing back to explain and normalize whatever it was he had read. Creepy? Nonsense! Nothing creepy about human bodies. It's all, perfectly, normal!

I asked him what he had seen and he showed me the page on... circumcision.

Ah. Yes. Well. OK. Maybe a little creepy.

He said, "According to this, people... they... sometimes... TO A PENIS!"

Then he studied the illustrations and I could see the wheels turning and I was backing out of the room when he looked at me and said, "I've had THREE surgeries?" in a strangled sort of Et Tu Brute way.

And I said no no, not a surgery, minor procedure, and he said if they knock me out it's a surgery and I said well they don't put babies to sleep for it and Patrick looked horrified and I said Um Well You See and then I told him to ask his father. It really was Steve's decision after all. I swear.

Hands. Washing.

When I handed over the book I was worried that Patrick was going to ask me some awkward questions about penises and vaginas and whether someone would have to buy him dinner or at least a drink first. Instead I found myself on the wafer-thin edge of the circumcision debate. Jeez, Patrick why not ask me whether I think formula was an acceptable supplement to breastmilk for the twins; whether being born in a hospital compromised the birth experience for him; or whether, as a stay-at-home marmot, I feel I am an adequate role-model for Caroline who might know that there are female brain surgeon opera singer astronauts but who certainly did not find that out by watching me.


Renaissance Boy

As all good helicopterii know, February/early March is when you scour your local area for upcoming summer programs that will allow children to enjoy high-spirited adventures in the fresh air as they work at their own pace in non-competitive environments that will enable them to discover who and what they are while ensuring successful learning experiences as they build memories that will last a lifetime; preferably in a twenty-first century-ready language, like Spanish. Or maybe Chinese.

Historically Patrick has always been a little hard to schedule.

I remember when he was about five I flipped through the community ed offerings and asked him how he felt about two weeks of golf camp.

"Golf?" he squeaked in much the same way an octogenarian with a trick hip might react when asked if she would mind being shot from a cannon. "GOLF?" he repeated. "I could get hit on the head!"

"Hmmm, probably not, but ok. How about baseball?"

"Hit on the head."

"Soccer? Soccer's pretty safe."

"Not if you fall over and then someone runs into you and kicks you in the head."

"Fine. Hey! They offer lacrosse!"

"I don't know what that is and I probably don't want to."

"Lacrosse is an old native American game that uses a kind of basket thing on the end of a stick to catch a ball and... ."

"Ball?"

"Well yes... ."

"Hit on the head."

As I recall he spent most of that summer in a "Montessori" program that alternated between having the children pick up playground trash that had blown in from the adjacent highway (all they needed were the wee orange jumpsuits) and parking them in front of a Dora DVD that had been set to play in Espanol. On the plus side he was not hit on the head.

Currently the summer... hmmm... I feel a sidebar coming on...

re. Patrick, the boy whose right side and left side were like unto Lincoln's nation divided - while it could technically stand it certainly could not dance. or swim. or hit a ball with a mighty crrrrrrackkk while tiny teammates cheered PATRick! PATRick!

Patrick had coordination issues that were so severe our insurance company eventually agreed to cover both OT and PT for him. We didn't know this in the beginning, though, and although I realized that he didn't have a real enthusiasm for sports I kept trying to gently encourage him to enroll in, say, peewee jai alai and he kept saying he'd see me in hell first. In retrospect he probably had a better handle on his own limitations than I did. But although I could understand and sympathize with a desire to avoid being put in a situation where his obvious lack of coordination would render him the object of groaning and headsmacking (aka Charlie Brown Syndrome) I kept thinking that being part of some sort of organized sport was inherent to childhood, at least in the suburbs, and was especially important if you are otherwise bookish. Mens sana in corpore sano and all that. 

Anyway. He never did take soccer or golf or football or baseball or lacrosse but eventually he discovered tumbling and he liked it and has proceeded to make slow - very very slow; glacial, really - progress at it for the past several years. I cannot imagine he will ever be even remotely competitive but he enjoys it and when he earns a ribbon indicating mastery of a skill on his languid ladder to the Advanced class he feels the tremendous sense of accomplishment that you only get when you have worked really, really hard for something.

In addition to tumbling Steve has always insisted that his children know how to swim, so Patrick took swimming lessons and more swimming lessons and even after I grabbed Steve by the ears and said "THIS CHILD WILL NEVER LEARN TO SWIM" he kept taking them and all of the sudden after six maybe seven years blammo! he learned to swim. Not only swim but swim pretty well and there is talk (I ask you!) of having him join the swim team this summer once he finishes his remaining Flying Fish skill: treading water for six minutes.

[The other day I watched him (him. Patrick. my son Patrick) complete a lap using the butterfly stroke and neat little flippy kicks and said, "So what's the deal with treading water for six minutes? Seems like you could just do it and be on your way to Sharkdom."

Patrick said, "Tread water for six minutes? I'd rather die. Literally."

But I think he'll do it.]

So he tumbles and swims and that was it until a couple of weeks ago when he said that he would like to learn how to...

ready?

learn how to...

ski.

Patrick.

SKI.

PG Wodehouse once pointed out that there is enough sadness in life without strapping long planks to your feet and jumping off mountains and, really, what else is there to be said, but mine is not to wonder why; mine is but to call the local ski school and provide them with the necessary digits not neglecting the three on the back. He had his first lesson a week ago and before he went my mom asked, "He'll get a helmet, right?" and my brother said, "They do helmets there, right?" and I reminded Steve to rent a helmet about fifteen times.

Steve dropped him off and when I picked him up he was sitting next to his teenaged instructor in the waiting area of the ski school. The instructor was filling out Patrick's Mountain Adventure Journal. Patrick was crying.

"I hit my head!" was the first thing Patrick said to me. "Well, my face actually."

This was obvious because there was a ski-tip shaped mark just under Patrick's eye and he looked like someone who had just been, you know, hit in the face.

"Oh, well, it happens," I said, somewhere between soothing and brisk, because that is the only way to talk to Patrick if you ever want to hear the end of it.

The instructor looked up and handed me Patrick's assessment.

"He did really well," he said.

I assumed he was being polite and Patrick pulled himself together enough to say thank you and we left and I thought that would be the end of it. And by "it" I mean "skiing". We returned his equipment while Patrick gave me a lurid account of just how far backwards his leg had twisted in order to swing above his head and smash the ski into his face (sure) and the speeds at which he had been travelling as he narrowly avoided the chair lift supports and some safety fencing and, I dunno, a schoolbus full of nuns and orphans and I realized as he described all of the horrible danger and death at every turn that he was quite enjoying himself. 

"I want to go again," he said as he admired his developing bruise in the side mirror of the car.

"You... what?"

"I want to go again. I want to go, like, tomorrow. Can I go after school one day? Can I go after school every day?"

I said, maybe, probably not and no and I signed him up for another lesson that took place two days ago. I had high hopes for this lesson.

When I went to pick him up he was crying again.

Aw nuts.

The new teenaged instructor, a girl this time, explained that he had been hit from behind by an out of control snowboarder and he was still shaken up. His calf was turning black and blue and his knee was a little swollen.

She handed me his assessment card and said, "This was only his second time out? That's... really amazing. He's already working on keeping his skiis parallel and we were able to start some of the harder runs. He's already a level four. He's really good."

I gaped and Patrick sniffled in a gratified way and then looked completely blank when I asked him where his boots were (spoiler: Steve had put them in a cubby and then said, four times, Patrick, your boots are in this cubby. Patrick see this cubby? This is where your boots are. When Mom comes your boots are in. this. cubby - we went out to dinner later, me and Steve, and our romantic evening started with a return to the ski place to get Patrick's damned boots) so I had to give him a piggyback ride while carrying my handbag, a pair of skiis and his ski boots first to the rental return and then across the muddy icy slushy parking lot to our car.

Patrick made a great show of gingerly arranging his leg in the back of the car, wincing and gasping when I hit a pothole.

"So are you done with skiing?" I asked.

"Of course not," he said. "I want to go again. Can I go again? When can I go again?"

 I am so proud of him I could... I could write a blog post about it. I have always, maybe secretly, maybe not so secretly, worried that Patrick either inherited my anxiety problems or - worse, much worse - I, like, gave him his own anxiety disorder by freaking out so much when he was little and it was only my constant vigilance that was keeping him alive. The fact that Patrick chose to do something quite ambitious and rather scary in the first place pleased me. I mean, skiing! Look at that Leo bloom!

And then the fact that he got hurt - more than once - and still wants to keep doing it... well. The cockles of my heart are glowing. Warm and red.

Go Patrick, I say, and let this be a lesson to us (well, me, really) not to pigeonhole. If you had asked me three weeks ago if I ever saw Patrick entering the X Games I might have laughed until I choked but who's laughing now? Patrick. Well, not Patrick, his leg's still sore and his face hurts when he smiles but... it's an obvious moral.

Oh and the other lesson is to always wear a helmet because you never know when you might get hit in the head. Maybe I'll start a new line of mini golf helmets for children and I'll sell 'em through One Step Ahead. Seriously, could that catalog be any more paranoid?

PS That was the digression that ate the whole post. Next time: summer camp, chores vs allowance and the subtopics "Edward doubles his first week's allowance by asking Caroline for hers" and "Patrick continues to shock our lights out by learning to cook in exchange for an extra dollar a week," books on sex for children of various heights, what ancient burial ground Steve and I have accidentally disturbed to cause us to have both cars in the shop (twice) while both garage doors suddenly broke and the basement insurance claim continues to hang in limbo.

PPS Patrick really and truly has started cooking and I love love love it. The only thing he will not do in the kitchen? Take something out of the oven: "I might get burned!"