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May 2012

I Can Also Do A Trone D'Amour

... so then I said, "Yeah but you should see the other guy's blog!"

Ba da bing.

Has it really been almost a month? Wow. Like sand through the hourglass, I reckon, so flow my days driving around and around and around the same ten mile radius. School, home, preschool, Target, home, preschool, home, school, grocery, home, swimming, soccer, home, tumbling, home, karate, home, dance, drawing, home. On the plus side my children are becoming so well rounded that they can no longer sit in chairs; they roll right off. On the minus side I am having to type this using a pencil clutched between my teeth because my fingers are locked in a permanent steering wheel clench.

I sound like a housewife. Hey, 'Chelle, I think I'm a housewife.

So what's up? A little of this, a little of that with me.

I claim the distinction of having That Kid in the preschool class. The one who stills cries at drop-off every single time even though it is MAY. Some mornings Edward climbs into my side of the bed at early as six and jolts me awake by hissing, "Is it a preschool day or a hang out day? Tell me!" and when I mutter "Preschool" he opens his mouth and nails the Queen of the Night aria although he changes the libretto to a simple variation on the word No.

A couple of weeks ago I refused to answer him so he followed me around the kitchen saying, "Is it a preschool day? Is it? Speak! Why won't you answer?"

I finally said, "Edward, do you know why I won't answer you? Do you know why I am not going to tell you that it's a preschool day today?"

To his credit, he laughed.

"Right!" I said. "Because you say 'is it?' and I say 'yes' and then you freak out and cling to my leg and I have to drag you around the kitchen while I get lunches made and one of these times I am going to trip and split my head open. That's why."

He laughed again and wandered off but just in case I thought he was, like, cool with this he threw an extra-specially pitiful tantrum when I tried to leave the classroom later that morning: "But Mommy I yuv you and I just want to be with you," he moaned.

Around this time it occured to me to try to recruit Caroline to help ease the pain of Edward's morning transitions. For the first eight months of school she has just disappeared into a pile of girls as soon as we walk into the class, leaving me on my own to try to scoop a melting Edward back into his Lightning McQueen shoes and although I realize she is not her brother's keeper it did seem to me that having a beloved twin in the same class should be good for at least three minutes of calm; long enough for me to make it out the goddamned door.

"Caroline," I said when we were alone one afternoon. "What do you think we can do to help Edward not feel so sad at the start of preschool every day?"

"Oh? Is he sad?" she asked disinterestedly.

"Uh, yeah, I think so. You know how he screams and cries every single morning at drop-off?"

"Oh," she said, "You want him to stop crying?"


"Then maybe you should cover his mouth."

Strike one.

I tried again a week later.

"Caroline, I would really like you to help Edward when school starts tomorrow."

"OK!" she said. "How?"

"Well maybe you two could play with something right at the beginning? Like you could build a tower or... ."

Caroline put her hand up. "No," she said. "I like to do other stuff."

"I understand that but just for a few minutes at the very beginning of school it would be nice if you would play with your brother."


"Do it!"

So we went to school the next day and Caroline stood next to me while I divested Edward of his backpack and lunch bag and watched as he inflated his lungs to begin his morning dramatics.

"Iiiiiiiiiii doon't YIKE... " he started.

Caroline flung her arms wide and stepped forward to enfold him in an embrace, "Edward!"

"...YIKE preeesch... ."

Caroline stopped walking and shot her arms heavenward.

"Oh I give up! You stupid boy."

And she flounced off toward the craft table without a backward glance.

Strike two and is it me or do you think Caroline might have a future working with people in distress? Psychiatry, maybe, or social work.

Not to say they aren't close because they are.  



(I love this picture)

They are mostly perfect together and I continue to maintain that everyone (except me) should have a twin. They play beautifully, respect each other [more or less - Edward occasionally says "I need some privaseat" and shuts himself in his room; an action that Caroline finds completely incomprehensible so she stands outside his door shouting "Edward! You're all alone! Are you OK?"] and self-govern like Sammarinese. I have almost given up on trying to adjudicate their quarrels since they never listen to me anyway and their own brand of twin justice seems pretty equitable: Twin X - in a fit of pique - pinches, kicks, smacks or steals a toy from Twin Z. Twin Z is then honor bound to retaliate with a return pinch, kick, smack or extreme prejudice toy retrieval. Then it's over. I used to try to prevent the victim from returning the slight but not only would they both turn on me like I was interupting an affair of honor and how dare I but there was no amount of time that I could separate them that justice would not eventually be served. My name is Inigo Montoya, you stepped on my hand when I was just sitting there, prepare to have your hand stepped on in return.

Huh. I have admitted that I find it easier to let the kids settle their own quarrels even when I know it's going to involve pinching. I wonder if that is excellent parenting or just really lazy.

So last week I was driving the twins to school and Edward said, out of nowhere, "I'm not scared of preschool anymore."

I said, "Oh good," but I was skeptical.

However when it came time for me to leave he was fine. So fine, in fact, that he chased me to the door per usual but merely said, "I need a kiss" before running back toward the classroom. The next couple of days were just as easy and apart from wondering what the hell, Edward, it's so nice to think that I can now drop them both off without tears...  this week. Since Friday is the last day of preschool until September.


Total aside:


Edward loves birding books. He can literally listen to "Mottled Duck. Blue-Winged Teal. Cinnamon Teal" for upwards of an hour and when I finally throw the book at him and flee he goes through it on his own. My father is an avid birder so it is possible he comes by this honestly but I think he also likes being able to obtain useful facts (like the relative size of the Pileated Woodpecker - a page upon which he has put a sticky note) without being able to read. Caroline can read (very well and somewhat to our surprise since it seems like a couple of months ago she was sounding out Caaaa-aaahh-tuhh and all of a sudden she picked up one of Patrick's magazines and said, "Ohh! This is about the secret lives of seahorses. Are they too adorable to survive?") and I think it frustrates Edward that he cannot. So he is compensating by memorizing field guides. Why not?

I just hesitated over typing this next part for about five minutes because I know from bitter experience how much people hate to hear about *whisper* gifted children but... it's been a while since I've talked about the challenges of educating Patrick and as fourth grade rolls to a close I have some thoughts to share.

Bwahahahahahahahahahhahaha, pretty much sums it up.

He's in a school this year that pulls together kids from all over the district based solely upon their test scores (IQ and achievement) and grade accelerates them as a class for three years. Originally they were still age based but around Christmas they pulled some of the fourth graders out and created a cohort with some of the fifth graders, primarily for math but reading as well due to scheduling. So Patrick has been doing sixth/seventh grade math and I don't even know what reading since then and it's been a good fit. He's challenged and he's happy. He's also not the greatest student in the world, which secretly amuses me and outwardly exasperates me. He does his math homework conscientiously every night but I sometimes look at the stuff he thinks he can turn in for reading and I'm, like, seriously, kid? He had to complete a packet for a book project and under the question "Who do you think was the most important character?" he had written: Probably the evil person. "Why?" Because without her it would have just been a book about two friends on vacation.

And! Despite the fact he was writing in goddamned pencil when he noticed he had misspelled "friends" he just scribbled the correction over top. I ask you!

I was bemoaning Patrick's lack of scholarly pride to my mother, talking about always doing one's best and honor and workmanship and the one room schoolhouse of my childhood that we were only allowed to attend after we'd finished plowing the fields when she interrupted me.

"Wasn't there something about a science report?" she asked.

"Oh," I said. "That. Well, yes."

She was referring - tactlessly may I add - to the infamous Bug Project. Ninth grade science. Every year since the floodwaters receded our junior high school science teacher had assigned the same project to her ninth grade general science class: collect 50 different insects, preserve them, mount them and label each one neatly with its King Phillip Came Over From Germany Swimming.

Absurd, of course, and no one could possibly be expected to do anything so time consuming and boring, am I right? Well, fortunately, I did not have to. I was connected. Ten or maybe even fifteen years earlier Scott Caton's eldest sister had actually done the damned Bug Project (she went on to Harvard. I did not. just saying) and received an A. She handed the project to her brother who turned it in again, received his A and passed it on to his young friend, my brother. It's not for me to tell tales about people who now use their science Phds to start and run multi-ka-ching-ka-ching dollar companies so I have no idea what my brother did with it before he gave it to me but in due time I turned it in as my own. I think I got a B because the insects by that time were missing most of their legs and some thoraxes and for all I know half of the species I claimed to have collected with my own two hands were extinct but, hell, I did it and had to go to no more trouble than carefully writing my own name over all those who had preceded me.

Anyway, Patrick. Slacker. Breaks his mother's heart,

Here he is before his class play, enacting the role of former Michigan governor, Lewis Cass. The embonpoint compliments of a throw pillow, the cravat tied a la Mailcoach compliments of his brilliant valet (I bow.)


As I was helping him put his costume together I was talking to him about the fact that the play was being held at the end of grandparents' day at school and thus he might find himself being introduced to people's grandparents. Patrick tends to get wildly uncomfortable in certain (many) social situations so I find it helps to give him something specific to say and do and we practice it ahead of time.

"So your friend says, Grandma, this is my friend Patrick. Or Patrick, this is my Grandma and all you have to do is make eye contact - very important! look them directly in the eye! - and say 'It's nice to meet you.' That's it. Done and done. No big deal. Got it?"

And he said he did. But since he was now wearing a cravat he said, "Orrrrr... I can bow over the Grandma's hand, kiss it and say... 'I can see where Nathaniel gets his beauty.'"

He practiced this on my hand and I appreciatively died laughing. Then I said that he might want to stick with the original plan, though, as he probably did not want to become known as that weird kid in the fourth grade who thinks he is an 18th century French comte.

"What? Cow? What cow?"

And I said "No no. Comte. Count. Like a Lord."

So Patrick bent over my hand again and said, in a heavy accent, "Mooooooooo."

Maybe you had to be there.

Probably the nicest things about Patrick's class this year are: 1) Patrick isn't the quirkiest kid in there by a long shot (when they did Puss n Boots the role of the princess was played by Patrick's close friend M who happens to be male and such is the vibe in this class that not a single ten year old in the room saw this excursion into gender bending as anything other than the piece of ironical whimsy it was;) and 2) they do fun things like algebra and cryogenics and mini golf hole construction.

That's actually due tomorrow and is one of the only long term projects that Patrick has been enthusiastic about doing without my having to nag him. They had six weeks and five dollars to plan and construct a mini golf hole. It had to have a theme and at least one obstacle. Tomorrow they get time to set up their own holes and then they play the course. Fun right?

Patrick started with an empty water cooler bottle from the garage. The top reminded him of a funnel, which lead to tornadoes, which lead to Oklahoma and tornado alley. Fortunately we have a whole lot of crap in our garage (including the rug) and a whole lot of duct tape in our house so he was able to pull it together. I'll try to get a picture of it when it is final tomorrow but here are some elements.




That's a cow in a tree. I'm not sure if it is French.

There is also a sign in the works saying Welcome to Oklahoma that has a Lamborghini stuck into it (shhh, don't tell Edward that Patrick is borrowing one of his 15000 special cars) and a twisted billboard for the IMAX tornado movie. Oh the humanity.

Well that was a nice long talk and I completely forgot to tell you that Edward's got some moderate hearing loss again (ear glue) and in June he has to have a second round of grommets popped in. I am thinking of telling him that he's going to preschool and then at the surgery center I'll say, "Surprise! No preschool after all! You get to have surgery!" Just imagine his relief.

Oh and I'm reading The Night Circus for the book club this month. I think I like it although I somehow misread a character's name so for a couple of chapters I thought two different people were one person and I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on. Then I sorted it out and I still didn't know what was going on but the writing is decent (in a chocky-blocky deliberate third person style that usually drives me crazy) and it's pleasant. I'll get back to you when I'm done.

Patrick and I ditched two books in a row after the disastrous Kingdom for Sale and have now settled on Airman by the guy who wrote the vastly entertaining, highly recommended by me, Artemis Fowl series. Airman has a different feel to it but we're about a quarter of the way through and we like it very much so far.

I am struggling with how to deal with Caroline's gregariousness. I want to teach her safety while staying reasonable (do I honestly believe that the random father at the kids' haircut place it going to abduct her just because she asked him to read her a book? no. no I don't) and I also want to teach her manners (can she go talk to the people at the table next to us? oh, the group of late 20 somethings who greeted our arrival on the BBQ joint's back deck by switching to a conversation about how none of them ever want to have kids ever? Uh, that would be a no, Caroline. I think she's cute. I'm sure you think she's cute. but did the nice people trying to hang and enjoy their beers and food and conversation need to have to decide whether or not they think she's cute? No.)

On the other hand I don't want to crush her or anything and I know that part of my reactions to her, let's call it friendliness, come directly from my own social insecurities. I mean my god Caroline they are STRANGERS who you DON'T KNOW. What if you talk to them and they don't like you and you make a fool out of yourself and then have to replay the horror of your gaffe over and over again when you are unable to sleep for the next twenty years? 

See the problem? See my problem?

So how do you talk to an extroverted chatterbox about the rules for engaging strangers in conversation?

PS I missed you and I'm sorry I didn't write for so long without any excuse at all.

PPS Oh I meant to say that we're very very very very thankful that our school district offers the clustered school option.