Monthly Archives: January 2008

Let’s hear it for the boy

When we were younger, J used to give me flowers.  He doesn’t anymore, although that may be due to one or diatribes I have performed about the environmental waste involved with cut flowers.  And, he does not give me chocolates anymore, although that may be because I have given up sweets.  But, darn it, he does not give me jewelry, either, and I have absolutely no philosophical qualms about most forms of bling.  Well, except for blood diamonds, I suppose…

          So, perhaps I have not left the door open for much in the way of romance.  But, gosh darn it, I think he may have gone too far.  Overheard the other night after dinner: 

J: “From the waist up, you are smaller than I have seen you in a long time.”

Emily: “You know, that’s not really what I wanted to hear.”

J: “I mean, before you had Ben, you were really thin.  From the waist up, you are that thin now.”

Emily: “You know, usually when you are in a hole four feet deep and you have a shovel, you should consider stopping the digging.”

Zachary: “Mommy, excuse me please.  I have something to tell you.”

J (relieved): “Please!”

Well, it’s hard to complain.  He was doing the dishes at the time.

I have a friend.  She is feeling isolated and overworked and needing support from other mothers.  She is also a very good writer.  I think she needs a blog.  A Mommy blog, perhaps.  Do me a favor?  Leave her a note here telling her so.

Making conversation

            As you know, I have two children.  Popular lore has it that usually one child is more talkative than the other.  The theory goes that there is only so much air time, and if you have one child who rarely pauses for breath, the other child cannot get a word in edgewise.

            Would that this were true.

            In my house, what happens is that the child who starts a millisecond later simply talks louder, so as to be heard over his brother.  The first speaker, to ensure that we can still hear him, raises his volume a bit more.  Which means that the second child needs to speak up, so that we can hear him, of course.

            Somehow, I got myself two talkers.  (Those of you who know me IRL can stop laughing and muttering something about apples and their proximity to trees.)  Zachary was a late talker, mostly because he kept the words to himself till he busted out in full sentences a few months before his second birthday.  However, he has long since made up for lost time, and his grandfather has been heard to joke that you could get him into the zoo for free (due to his small size) if he would only keep his mouth shut.  The child’s proper use of the subjunctive tense gives him away every time.

            Benjamin started talking before he had words.  And, unlike his brother, he does not learn first and do later.  Learning and doing are the same thing for him.  So he likes to practice his words.  All the time.  All the freakin’ time.  And, he is a pretty advanced little talker, I must say.  Most toddlers seem to like nouns and verbs, but he goes for all parts of speech, delving into modifiers and states of being.  Sometime last month, he started putting two words together, starting with “Daddy work.”  It has escalated, and yesterday he informed me that he wanted to push the doll in the stroller by commanding, “baby sit.”  (He likes to talk, but he mostly likes to boss.)

            Sometimes, though Benjamin gets things a little confused. 

            He likes little action figure dolls.  The dinosaurs he calls “Ra-ra-roar.”  The little plastic animals he calls “a-me,” then identifies by name or sound (although lately they have all inexplicably started “baaa-ing”).  And then there are the little plastic people.  One came with his fire truck, and he loved the fire truck and only liked Fireman Sam because he fits behind the wheel of the truck.  One day, however, he realized that the little doll was where it is at, and he started calling him “Sam.”

            This was awfully cute, and for awhile we were happy to fetch him Sam every time he asked for it.  Until we realized he was not always asking for Sam.  “Sam” appears to be the word he uses to refer to all little toy men.  Firemen, Little People mechanics, wooden dolls from the doll’s house, and the magnetic knight who lives on the refrigerator and comes with a whole wardrobe of magnetic clothing.  All “Sam.”

            “Actually, Ben, that’s a knight,” I told him. 

He must not have believed me, because he insisted, “Sam.”

“No,” his brother told him.  “Knight.”  Ben looked at me.

“He’s right, honey.  That’s a knight.”  Oh, Benjamin’s little face seemed to say.  I get it. 

“Knight Sam,” he announced.


            It wasn’t the first time I had heard it.  It wasn’t the twelfth time I had heard it.  I have heard it so much over the last week that it runs like a cartoon jingle through my mind while I wash the dishes and unexpectedly pops out of my mouth when my husband and I are discussing Nietzsche over a glass of port after the kids are in bed.*  I recite it like a mantra twenty times while brushing my teeth, although I do suspect it has the opposite effect of an actual mantra.

            Because I know it is true, I start making calls at 5 PM, which is surely not the ideal time to try to have a phone conversation around my house, but since Los Angeles is eight hours behind us… well, you do the math.  I spend every spare minute during the day on the computer: researching preschools, sending emails, and creating a spreadsheet of relevant information and actions taken.  I make note of places to call once they are open for business, and I call while the children are injuring entertaining one another, later while J is bathing them, and even later, long after I ought to be in bed. 

Because we know it is true, we have expanded our search to include neighborhoods we otherwise would not be considering.  J wants to limit his commute.  I want fresh air, mostly because we have kind of a lousy track record with lung disease in my family.  (For the record, I think when your non-smoking mother dies of lung cancer in her thirties, you get a free pass on neuroses about air quality.)  But, we also know the kids need to get into a preschool, and we know how tight that market is in Los Angeles.

So do the schools, which is why I have heard it before.  And probably will again.  Yet, something about the way she said it this time, something about her admonishing tone, well, it kinda rubbed me the wrong way.

            “You’re going to have a really hard time finding any place that has room for a four-year-old.”  Really?  Is that so?  Oh, I hadn’t realized that.  Now, of course, I am aware, and will act accordingly.  If you could just tell me what exactly I ought to do to act accordingly.

            I know, I know: I was completely negligent.  I should have signed the child up for your preschool when he was still just a gleam in my reproductive endocrinologist’s eye.  Unfortunately, that was three houses, two states, and a country or two ago.  I had no idea I would be moving to LA.  And, your tone of voice has made crystal clear to me just what you think of parents who fail to enroll their children in preschool until they have a vague sense of where they will be living.  But, now that I have been properly chastised, what precisely would you suggest I do?

            Shall we stay in London, permanent expats held captive by the competitive preschool market?  Or perhaps go to Philadelphia, as originally planned, despite the fact that J has already told the company we will move?  Or, perhaps I should pack Zachary up and send him off to college, since I think UCLA is still accepting applications.

            Now, other schools I have spoken to have been apologetic.  Or, they have tried to be helpful.  Or, sympathetic.  Or, at the very least, they have restrained themselves from passing judgment, perhaps understanding that it is not Zachary’s fault his mother failed to foresee this move in 2003.  A few schools have even told us that there are spots and that J can come visit the school when he is in LA in a few weeks.  We have no idea what these schools are like, so I keep calling, trying to maximize his school-visiting efficiency by determining which schools may have spots, and that is why I found myself on the phone with the Judge Judy of the preschool world, who informed me, “You’re going to have a really hard time finding any place that has room for a four-year-old.”

            I tried, I really did, to keep my tone light and joking, but I suspect some of my frustration may have seeped through.

            “Well, I can’t keep him out of school till kindergarten, now can I?  So I guess I’ll just have to keep calling schools.”  And I got off as quickly as I could, because I was only in the Ls, and I wanted to make it through the Ms before getting ready for bed.

* Note: we have actually only twice ever discussed Nietzsche, and I am pretty sure it was long before we had children.  But it sounds good, doesn’t it?

Good news, bad news

The Good

            Julie came home from the hospital before Christmas.  She still cannot walk, but she can sit up in a chair and she can wiggle her feet.  She will make a full recovery, but the experts have no idea how long that will take.  Her mother is hoping to bring her to school for short periods in January, because the poor child is bored silly.

            I was a bit nervous about bringing Zachary to visit, but he did great, perhaps in part due to the new train set she had.  He just accepted that she couldn’t walk and went on with life.  He actually seems more interested in playing with her nowadays, perhaps because he is bored silly on a four-week winter break.

The Bad

            My experiment giving up sweets for six weeks went swimmingly.  I am the queen of self-discipline, so I had no trouble saying “no” once I set my mind to it.  I was especially curious to see if the extreme mood swings that seem to accompany a certain time each months would be affected by my abstinence from most processed sugar.

            Sadly, they were.  I had a few cranky moments for two days (unfortunately, while my in-laws were here — sorry, guys) and then went a bit nuts for about a day.  Given that – during that time of the month – I am usually a stark, raving lunatic who ought to be locked in Mr. Rochester’s attic for four days, this was a great improvement.

            Why is this such a bad thing?  Well, it means I sort of need to give up sweets permanently unless I want to take hormonal supplements, and I don’t want to take extra medication.  So, I am giving up sweets.  Not completely.  I figure I am safe dipping into the Ben & Jerry’s about once a month.  But, while I would not give up sweets to lose weight or some such nonsense, curbing the beast within is a pretty good motivator.


            Yesterday, Zachary poked my stomach with his hand and, finding it rather squishy, informed me there was a baby in there, which there most certainly is NOT.  So, perhaps giving up sweets just about now is not the worst of ideas.  And, maybe I ought to think about adding cheese to that list…