Monthly Archives: January 2008

The preschooler’s song

            Lately, instead of standing at the bedroom door, calling for me, Zachary has quietly lain in bed until his clock says 7:00.  Then, he has come into our room and stood next to me.  “Mommy,” he says, “the clock says seven-zero-seven.”

            “Then it must be time to get up, baby.  Come give me a kiss and then I’ll take you to the bathroom.”  I give him a quick snuggle and then we take a deep breath before the chaos of Benjamin and breakfast.

            Then there was this morning.  “Mommy, the clock says seven-one-one.”

            “Then it must be time to get up.  Would you like a quick snuggle?”  He climbed into bed and curled his thin little body into my arms.  What a nice treat to wake up to.  And then, from deep in the ball of little boy I cuddled in my arms, I heard the lament, the cry of children throughout the ages.

            “I don’t have enough new presents.”

            “Zach, when it is your birthday or Hanukkah, you can have presents.”

            “But I don’t have enough new trains.”

            “Zach, you have a lot of nice toys, and I just bought you Legos.  Please don’t whine.”

            “But,” he began again, with the logic that seems iron-clad to anyone under the age of seventeen and absurd to anyone over the age of twenty-three, “I need some new presents.”

            Let me tell you something, kiddo.  You need many things.  You need nourishing food.  You need a warm bed.  You need parents who love you and protect you from the brother who seems intent upon eating you.  You need sunscreen and a raincoat.

            But more trains?  You definitely do not need any more trains.

            The refrain began again while I am making oatmeal.  “Mommy, I need more new toys.”

            “Zachary, there are children who have no houses.  There are children who have no food.  You want more new toys, but you do not need them.”

            “But Mommy,” he tries a different tack, “I need another birthday.”

            “That’s it.  One more word about this and you are going to need to leave the kitchen until you are finished whining.”

            He climbs under the table, presumably to grumble quietly to himself and his brother about the unfairness of mommies who cannot distinguish between luxuries and necessities. 

Short break

Folks,

I am taking a short break from posting and reading.  Just two or three days, but I wanted you to know in case you wonder why you haven’t seen me around your places much this week.  I am in the midst of a big work push and I will distract myself if I so much as open my Reader.  I will be back by the end of the week, I suspect.

In the meantime, those of you who are female (which I think is about 98% of you), could you please tell me what you know about the BlogHer conference?  Do a lot of people bring their spouses and kids?  Which days are the best to attend?  Anything in particular it would be important for me to make it to?

Thanks, and see you on the other side of the dark tunnel of concentration that I am about to enter.

Emily

Grandparents

Thank you all for the fantastic and insightful comments on the series I posted last week.  I was just blown away by the encouragement, feedback, and book suggestions (which I will read to help me better understand my little man).

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            Once upon a time, retirement made sense.  People established themselves in their twenties, scrabbled to raise a family, poured their youth into amassing retirement savings, tucked away pennies to help their children through college, and then, somewhere in their sixties, they sat down for a few years to catch a breath.  The shame of it was that they were too exhausted by the years of toil to actually enjoy themselves, and they mostly played canasta with the other old fogies at the community center while patiently waiting for the social security checks to come in.

            Now, with the baby boomers, we are seeing a slightly different model of retirement.  Sure, some are still retiring in their sixties, but there is one slight difference.  Whereas sixty-five used to be old, now it is young.  I am not sure what form of the new math brought about this change in calculations, but the sixties are the new forties.  It used to be that the grandmothers met one another in the aisles of the grocery stores, comparing coupons and complaining about their sciatica.  Now, you are more likely to run into a grandmother at the gym, where that lady outpacing you on the elliptical machine is a grandmother of five getting in her daily two hour workout.

            With all of this energy and youth, not to mention a good thirty years until they are likely to slow down, many of the boomers are picking up second careers or buying R.V.s so they can visit all fifty states.  Others are starting businesses, picking up hobbies, and generally painting the town red.  But, there is only so much time one can pour into blogging, clubbing, and organic farming.  Sooner or later, these folks are going to find themselves with time on their hands.

            Fortunately, right about that time, their children have babies.

            This is why the grandparent industry is taking off.  Magazines written for grandparents, travel agencies exclusively for boomers and their grandchildren, and sturdy little cribs designed for quick assembly in Grandpa’s study.  J’s parents, however, were having none of this last.  No, they went out and bought a full-sized crib, along with a complete bedding set.

            The crib probably should have been our first hint, and if we missed that, we might have picked up on the new video camera and the three bags of children’s books that Ruth happened to pick up at her school’s used-book fair.  “The librarian recommended these,” she beamed.  But, because we are a little clueless, it was not until we actually drove home from the hospital with little Zachary squalling in the backseat to find Ruth and Edward waiting in our driveway with their new video camera running that we finally realized what was going on: Zach might only have two grandparents, but he probably was not going to suffer from lack of attention.

            Now, both of J’s parents have busy careers and active social lives, so it is not as though Zach, as the first grandchild, was filling some empty hole in their lives.  No, they just built an entire addition on their hearts for him, something they have done for each subsequent grandchild.

            I do not mean to intimate that they are perfect people.  They have an annoying tendency to show up with giant gingerbread men forty-five minutes before supper, and after a day out with them, my kids come home suspiciously hyper and with telltale dark-brown smears around their mouths.  They seem to equate doting with tooth decay.   And, like any in-laws, we can get on one another’s nerves.  No, they are not perfect people.  They are, however, damned-near perfect grandparents.

            They take the kids to the pool when it is hot and the Science Museum when it is windy.  They scour books on wherever we are living so they can plan adventures involving trains or dinosaurs or string instruments.  Together, we earnestly discuss Zachary’s aversion to Band Aids and Benjamin’s level-four hurricane status.  Yes, my in-laws are making all the other grandparents look bad, and they know it.  And, despite all the presents and outings, Zach told me recently, “I like when Grandma and Grandpa come to visit because they give me kisses.”  Of course, he rather likes the chocolate-chip cookies, too.

Blog for Choice

I am not closing comments, but I know this is a volatile subject and I hope everyone will show one another the respect we prize so highly here at Wheels on the Bus.  If you do not feel like reading my post today, feel free to click away.  But, if you do, please click away to WhyMommy, who is getting a double mastectomy today and sure could use all the good vibes that we can muster.

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            We usually steer clear of the political here at Wheels on the Bus, mostly because I was taught that it is just not polite to discuss money or politics.  Consequently, I refrain from posting my tax returns and this is not a political blog.  It is, however, my blog, and I am pro-choice.

            I am pro-choice because I believe in the integrity of the human body.  I am pro-choice because I believe that men should not have the right to legislate about women’s bodies.  I am pro-choice because I believe that reproduction is profoundly personal.  I am pro-choice because I believe that to suggest women would ever undertake an abortion lightly is to show an astounding lack of faith in the human race.  I am pro-choice because I cannot imagine having to make the choice, so it is not for me to decide for others.  I am pro-choice because I am deeply offended that someone else’s religion should impede my right to make decisions about my body and my family.  I am pro-choice because I advocate a broad government that puts its resources into protecting our planet and educating our young, not a deep government that worms its way into my house, my bedroom, or my body.

            I am pro-choice because I believe every child should be a wanted child. 

            And so, today, I post this badge:

Blog for Choice Day

Because I know you really want to know

            Since I know you are all waiting with bated breath to learn the results of our preschool search, I bring you the following PSA.  J has been on the ground in LA for a week now, and he has ferreted out a preschool.  Actually, I ferreted several out and lined up appointments for him, neatly spaced in one-and-a-half-hour slots with an extra half-hour for lunch.  There were a few that had spaces available, and after careful consideration, we have chosen one and we have put down a deposit.

            It is a synagogue preschool, which means no more Christmas plays or Easter hat parades, although I have a sneaking suspicion I will be attending a Purim carnival or two.  That suits me just fine; if the kids are going to be learning about a religion, I vote for it to be ours. 

            The director impressed us with her concern for children’s developmental level and her understanding that children do not all fit a single mold.  Zachary will start the week we move.  Twice a week, Benjamin will be in a transitional class, which means I need to be there, too, even though I am pretty sure he won’t notice my presence if there are toys and other children around.

So, you can all rest easy tonight, knowing all we have left to sort out is housing, transportation, and sunscreen.

            Every now and then, I get tagged for memes.  I want to comply, really I do.  I am a rule-follower by nature.  But, I never seem to like the posts I put together out of memes.  So, if you have tagged me and I have not come through, please do not curse me with seven-years bad luck and please forgive me.

            I do, however, make a point to acknowledge all the kindness I am shown here on the internet.  Sheila, over at My Memories, has given me this lovely piece of bling:

candyhearts2.jpg

It is really a wonderful award because it goes out to “the blogs that you’ve discovered that you can’t possibly live without. They make you laugh, cry, think and feel connected every time you read a post. They give you a thrill as you see them loading into your browser and you get an equally satisfying thrill when you see that they have commented on your blog.”  It originates over here, and recipients are to go and link to those they are giving the award to.  Thank you so very much, Sheila, for passing on an award you so richly deserved.

            Now, for the fun part.  I decided I had to limit it to two blogs, but I read about 100.  It was tough going, but I chose two blogs to which I really am addicted, to the point that I shove all other posts out of the way when I see them come up in my Google Reader:

            Flutter, because you are honest and raw but still snarky;

            And Becky, at Mommy Wants Vodka, because I think I have a crush on your snarkiness.

            Does anybody notice a trend, here?

            You may notice that, now and again, I get these awards, but I never pass them along to Julie.  This is odd, you may think, as I clearly read her blog every day and engage with it on a rather intense level, not to mention my joy every time I get one of her very thoughtful comments.  The problem is, none of these awards ever seen to sum up the way I feel about Julie’s blog.  I could invent one of my own, but we all know how technologically adept I am.  So, to Julie I award the first (and perhaps only) “People who say you are thinking too much are clearly not thinking enough” award.  And, Julie?  If you can figure out a way to fit that on a button, please feel free to pass it along.

             That’s it. Back tomorrow with weight and substance and all the good, dark stuff you have come to dread expect at this here blog.

Bus stop

Jen, over at Get in the Car, wanted to send me books and tea, but I was too far away.  So, resourceful woman that she is, she sent me a gift voucher for Amazon, and I bought me some books.  In case you were wondering, I went for The Artful Edit and Motherless Daughters.  Both books I think I will find useful as I, you know, edit.  Thank you so much, Jen!

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            We must have gotten to the bus stop just after the 137 had departed, because there was only one other person waiting.  A young man, perhaps in his late twenties, dressed casually enough to indicate he was not still wearing party clothes from the night before.  Perched against the high bench, he turned the pages of a newspaper.  No wedding ring, yet also not one of the swinging singles who leave broken glass and the occasional feces on the sidewalk after a Saturday night of drunken revelry.  Young, responsible, but with no one to be responsible for, enjoying his Sunday morning because for him Sunday came with no obligations except reading the paper and joining up with whomever was waiting to have Sunday brunch with him.

            Zachary almost ran over this man’s foot as he scooted into the bus stop.  I say “almost” because Zach is amazingly agile and rarely miscalculates unless he is not focused on the job.  I followed behind with Ben, who was securely strapped into the umbrella stroller. 

            “Look, Mummy,” Zachary said, as he has adopted the British pronunciation at least 40% of the time, much to my chagrin.  He pointed to the bus zone painted into the road.  “The red bits are for the bus.  And the black bits are for the cars.  And the pink bits are for the bus.”

            I fumbled for my bus pass, knowing it was best to have it ready before the process of getting on the bus began.  “That’s right, sweetie.”

            “Why is there no traffic that way, Mommy?”

            “Because there is no red light.  The cars don’t have to stop.”

            “But, but, when we come back, we come from that way.”

            “Yes, sweetie.”  Ben was starting to strain against the straps, a sure sign that, if the bus did not arrive in under two minutes, I would have to take him out and let him walk around the bus stop, a situation I definitely wanted to avoid.

            “Mummy.”

            “Yes, Zach?”

            “Why is that car like that?”

            “Which car, baby?”

            “The white one.”  Zach pointed.  He fell off his scooter, on which he was trying to balance while standing still.

            “Why is the white car like what?” I asked, helping him up.

            “Why is the white car like that?” he asked, obviously feeling he was clarifying the question.  I looked again.  The white car pretty much looked like any other car, as far as I could detect.  Windshield, tires, doors.  Oh, wait.  Doors.  Only two.  And the car was smaller than the others.  I took a shot in the dark.

            “Why does it have only two doors?” I ventured.  Zach is the kind of child who will tell me if I have gotten it wrong, so I can make guesses like this without worrying that I am simply replacing the original question with one I feel more confident answering.

            “Yes.”

            “Well, honey, it’s actually a silver car.  It has only two doors because it is a smaller car.”  Duh.  Seriously, Emily, did you not even think before you gave that answer?

            “But why is it a smaller car?”  Unaware that her car was the subject of such in-depth conversation, the driver sat, patiently waiting for the light to change. 

Zach fell off his scooter again.

            “The driver must not need a bigger car, honey.”  I helped him up.

            “But, why?”

            Benjamin was now pulling himself up against the straps, grunting and insisting “down.”  Although the stop had begun to fill up, there was no sign of a 137 in sight.  I bent down to undo the buckles.  “In a minute, Ben.  Give me a second.”  Freed, he began walking around the sidewalk, looking for shiny, dangerous things to pick up.  And there was still the matter of the silver car, sitting at what could only be described as the world’s longest red light. 

I, of course, had no idea why the driver felt she needed a car that size, rather than a sedan, or a station wagon, or one of those absurd SUVs that the mothers at Zach’s school use to tool around South West London, just in case they suddenly find themselves in need of an all-terrain vehicle.  But, I did have a possible answer at hand.  One that he hears so often that he takes it as gospel.  And, it also happened to be true, which is not essential in an answer, but always strikes me as a lovely bonus.

“Small cars are better for the environment, honey.”  He nodded.  This answer he understood.  This is why we take the bus instead of driving.  This is why we recycle.  This is why, he explained to me a few weeks ago, he likes to ride his scooter.  “It’s good for the ‘vironment,” he told me.

The light changed, and, mercifully, the silver car moved forward and then turned left, out of our line of sight.  Benjamin was trying to get to the road, and he was starting to get a little frustrated because I kept playing interference.  He swerved to the left, I stepped to the right, cutting off his trajectory.  He tried the right, and I moved to the left.  Clearly, Mommy was not aware that she was getting in the way, and it was starting to piss him off.

“But, Mummy.  Was I there?” Zach asked me.

Now, I was pretty sure I had not missed a portion of the conversation.  And I was quite certain we had just been talking about the silver car.  So, I had absolutely no idea where he was talking about and for what occasion.

“What, honey?”

“Was I there?” the child repeated.

I held onto the hood of Benjamin’s coat.  This was even more annoying than my continual blocks.  He kept reaching up, trying to disengage my hand, which I must not have realized was there because it was stymieing his goal of getting into the road. 

“Yes, Zach.  You were there.”  This answer seemed to satisfy him as he tried to balance on the scooter while standing still.  Off he fell.  “Zachary, if you fall off the scooter again, I am going to have to take it away.  You are not using it properly.”

“OK, Mummy,” he replied, trying once again to balance on it.

“Benjamin, that’s it.  You will need to go back in the stroller,” I proclaimed, scooping him up and trying to bend his rather resistant body into the seat.

Predictably: “Mummy, why is Ben going back into the buggy?”

A bus turned the corner.  “Look, Zach.  Is that our bus?  What are the numbers on it?”

“One, three, seven.  Yes!  Yes!  That’s our bus, Mommy.”

The man folded up his paper as people began shifting on their feet in anticipation of stepping onto the bus.  I checked for my pass and picked up the scooter, while Zach stood at full attention, ready for the long-awaited arrival.  “Now, step on carefully, honey, then go on back and get on a seat.”  I swiped my pass.  “No, not up there.  Near where the stroller goes.”  Zachary clambered onto a seat, peering out the window for things to ask questions about.

I am pretty sure we had thoroughly convinced one man never to have children.

Child after my own heart

            “Does your child watch television?” one of the preschool applications asks.  Yes, he does.  Zachary gets twenty minutes of television a night – one program without commercials.  He needs the downtime, I need to get supper on the table, and Benjamin needs to eat.

            You see, Ben does not get excited for TV.  He humors it for a few minutes, but, frankly, he thinks it is more fun to play with trucks than to watch cartoons of them.  The only reason he sits still for the first five minutes is because he gets a little pre-dinner snack to hold him off.  An appetizer, if you will, perchance an hors d’oeurve.  I know, I know – it is a bad idea to teach kids to snack in front of the television.  It leads to bad habits and greasy, vacuum-packed, processed potatoes.  But, somehow I think even the most strident of nutritionists could not fault us for what our child eats in front of the television.

            We give him vegetables.  Some nights it is steamed broccoli, and I return to the room a few minutes later to find tiny little broccoli hairs and the discarded bits of stalks scattered about the living room floor.  On nights that dinner will be short on protein, he likes to munch on kidney beans, and we forever finding bits of kidney bean stuck to the chairs, and then to our behinds.  These nights, however, are a bit of a letdown for the child.  Because all he really wants to eat are peas.

            I used to give them to him in the pod, until I realized he was sitting there trying to pick the peas out with his chubby little toddler fingers.  Fine motor skills are not his strong suit.  Now, I just steam some shelled peas, and nothing warms the cockles of his heart more than to realize the evening’s entertainment includes peas.  All he needs to see is a grown-up entering the room with a bowl and he lunges forward, screaming “PEAS!”

            Needless to say, we cut him off at a certain point.  We sort of want him to save room for supper.

            Tonight was one of those sad nights when I was incorporating the vegetables into the main course, so there was no pre-dinner snack at all.  A few minutes after the television program began, J entered the room to see if Benjamin had finished his cup of milk.  (Zachary does not actually acknowledge our presence during the program, except now and then to ask us to leave the room, please.)  Ben, ever the accommodating child, handed the cup to his father, then gave him a hopeful little smile.

            “Peas?”

            “No, Benjamin, no peas tonight.”

            A few minutes passed.  Now I needed to go through the living room.  Benjamin lit up at the sight of me.  “Peas?”

            “No, sweetie.  I don’t have any peas tonight.  I’ll make you some tomorrow.”  Just so you do not think I was holding out on my son, let me point out that I have run out of peas.  We are currently pea-less. 

            A few minutes later, Benjamin came waddling into the kitchen.  “Peas?”  We were starting to feel like pretty negligent parents, I must admit.  “No, honey, no peas tonight.”

            He tried a different tack: “Beans?”

            “Ben, dinner is almost ready.  It’s chicken.  Just hold on a few minutes.”

            Now he was not just hungry.  Now his feelings were hurt.  He began to cry.  “Beans,” he sobbed.  “Beans.”  To my maternal eyes, he was truly disconsolate, although J contends it was mostly performance art.  I caved, pulling out a can of kidney beans and shoving it into J’s hands.  This made Benjamin progress from crying to weeping.  He could see the beans.  He could almost touch the beans.  But he could not yet have the beans.  Daddy took his sweet time, fumbling with the can opener, rinsing out a handful, searching for a small bowl.  It was not until J set the bowl down on the floor, as though feeding a famished puppy, that Benjamin calmed down, seating himself with the bowl between his legs and tucking into a bowl of cold kidney beans.

            You will be happy to know that this did not spoil his supper.  He ate rice; he ate chicken, pausing every now and then to exclaim “Chi-en!”  He had a second helping; he guzzled milk.  He ate more rice, pushing it to the edges of the plate so he could admire Thomas the Tank Engine in the middle.  Then, stuffed to the gills with beans and chicken and brown rice, he turned to me.

            “Peas?” 

I think I need to stock up.