Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Having fun using ideas from picture books

We've had a spell lately of finding books that the boys really, really enjoy that have inspired some fun in real life.

The first is Anthony Browne's, The Shape Game.  G and M were very quiet while we read it which can mean they are really thinking and taking it all in or can mean they are bored and .01 seconds from getting a massive case of the wigglies.

When they came to the page where every person in the painting has the dad's face, including the dog, M just about fell off the bed laughing.  Later that day, when D came home from work, M made a point to show him that page in the book.

What was really fun was when I explained the shape game to N, G and M, and we played it together.  The results were pretty cool.

The point of the game is for one person to draw a random shape/squiggly in one color of marker/crayon.  The other person has to make something "real" from that nebulous shape using another color of marker/crayon.

The top figure is what G came up with from the purple blob I made.  The bottom figure was my idea from his green criss-crossed shape.  

The top fish is my creation from N's green blob.  The bottom horse is her creation from my blue blob. 

 G drew the green funnel-shaped squiggly, which I then turned into a cobra being charmed out of its basket.  

 N drew the brown blob, which G then turned into a whale.

This one took a little bit of discussion.  I drew the blue squiggle.  G just made the green line in between.  When I asked him what it was, he said it was the thing they put in between his teeth when they took pictures of his teeth at the dentist.  I suggested we draw eyes, a nose and the special camera.  I was pretty amazed at the idea he had just from my blue squiggle.  

The other book we read that G especially loved is Substitute Creature by Chris Gall.  I had read it with him a few times, but when he read it with my mom (Nana), they decided to make cookies similar to the ones at the end of the book.

I love it when books inspire us to do things out of the ordinary, use our imaginations a little.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

15 years of marriage

This week D and I will celebrate 15 years of marriage.  As I was looking through old photos of us from the early days of our relationship and marriage, I felt a little uncomfortable, as if I were peering into the lives of people I don't know.  It is difficult for me to remember the people we were back then.
On a cruise in 1996, when we became engaged. (Island of Dominica)

The people in the photographs were very, very young.  Of course, we weren't (or at least D wasn't---he was nearly 29 when we married).

Our wedding in 1997.

Our honeymoon. (Grand Cayman Island)

We lived in our first house for 4 years, which seemed like an eternity at the time.  I can still remember that it didn't feel like "home" for a long time.  We've been in our current house 11 years, and the time has flown by.  Perhaps this is simply the busyness of having children and years of accumulated sleep loss.  This house felt like home a lot faster than our first one, but we had been married awhile by the time we bought it.

In the early years of our marriage, we traveled a some really cool places.  Italy, Greece, Iceland, Canada, Assateague in Maryland, Savannah, GA.  I'm really glad we had a number of years (6+) together as a married couple before we added kids into the mix.

Grand Canyon in 1998.

 Burano, Italy in 2001.

Greece in 2001.

 Niagara Falls in 2002.
Toronto in 2002.

We've been though job changes, master's degrees, the death of a parent, a nervous breakdown, surgeries, car and home purchases, 3 children, many illnesses.  I guess when I look at some of those photographs from the early years, I see two people who were untested, who didn't have 15 years of compromise and frustration and gratitude and simply knowing each other.

Kid #1---N in 2004.  Married 6 years.
Kid #2--G in 2008.  Married 10 years

Kid #3---M in 2009.  Married 12 years.

When D and I hit 10 years, it felt sorta like a big deal.  Double-digits.
Now, at 15 years, I feel like we're in a middle ground between big deal and, "Holy Shit!  We are getting close to 20 years, and then I'll be close to being married for!"
And that feels weird.
Good, for sure, but also weird.

I'm proud of the life D and I have made together, the ways we've been able to compromise, forgive, forget, ignore.

Those young kids in the photos didn't know half this stuff.

Wisdom is a sweet reward. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

What if I just don't like my kid?

There is no end to the worries I have as a mom, and I'm sure most moms feel the same.  With some perspective and a little wine, I can usually talk myself down from whatever worry is hovering in my mind, but as soon as the wine wears off, there is a new one that pops into consciousness.

My worry of the moment is that I may not actually like my middle child.

I can handle the idea that G is "challenging" or "spirited" or "difficult," but what if I just don't like him?  

Sorta changes the conversation, at least to me.

If he is "challenging," "spirited," whatever, then he is the one with a problem. But if I just don't like him, well then I think I might be a bad momma.

Or is the truth somewhere in the middle?  

G is a whiner, which simply sets me off.  I'm not sure if it's because of the whining or because it never ends.  Every day I must wake up hoping today will be the end of the whining, and it never is.  Every day there is an episode (if I'm lucky) or a series of episodes (if I'm unlucky) that sets off the whining.

He is also tremendously persistent when he sets his mind on doing something.  When his mind is set on whining, it requires every ounce of my strength not to go absolutely berserk.

It is hard to know sometimes if what I dislike is certain behaviors in G or G in general....especially on a bad day when it seems he is doing that disliked behavior

I don't have this worry with the other two.  M is insane sometimes, but he is 3.  All 3-year-olds are bonkers.  N is mostly even-keel, although I know the teen years will be here before I know it, which will likely change my perspective on liking her.

G has many, many wonderful qualities that I adore, and I try to remind myself of this as often as I can.  His exuberance, his curiosity, his helpfulness are all wonderful.  His smile alone is heart-melting.

I know I always love him, but I often wonder if I like him.  And that makes me feel sorta rotten.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Boy birthday bonanza

G's and M's birthdays are 11 days apart, which means I have birthday-on-the-brain for at least a solid 2 weeks every fall.

G had his preschool celebration of taking in sweet snacks and wearing the birthday hat, then we celebrated with a little tiny cake that evening, just the five of us.  Later in the week, he had a big birthday at My Gym with preschool and playgroup friends.

My traditional "ugly cake made with love."  I made cake pops for the first and only time for his My Gym party.  Those were a royal PITA.

M's birthday was just family at our house.

Another "ugly cake made with love" by Momma.

So now a slight reprieve from shopping until the Christmas craziness begins.

I'm Carrie, and I have PADD (and a cleaner garage, and a fondness for doing things on the cheap, and a crayfish)

I have diagnosed myself with PADD, which is like ADD except it specifically concerns painting.

I have many symptoms of PADD.  For example, I hyperfocus on the need for paint in the house, either because the paint is dirty, scuffed up or worn or because I am tired of the color.  I am impulsive about painting; I tend to just up and decide to paint.  I also have emotional difficulties....not about paint, but about everything else.

This year I have painted 3 bathrooms and the garage (in addition to hiring a painter to paint the dining room, kitchen, family room, hallways, foyer and stairs).  Because I don't like to waste and am cheap, I used the same color paint in 2 of the bathrooms, and leftover paint from the dining room in the third bathroom.  I am going to use the leftover gray paint from the garage to paint the kids' bathroom.

I painted it lavender when N was about 3 years old, and now that I have 2 little boys also sharing that bathroom it seems a little too frou-frou.  Plus, I put cutesy little fish wallpaper up in spots and wrote "Under the Sea," when N was completely engrossed in Disney Princesses.  Five years in kid-time is like 20 years in adult-time.

I am keeping the fish wallhangings and shower curtains---just changing the paint color.

The garage looks much better now that a coat of non-flat paint is up; we've been in the house 11 years, and the walls were downright funky.  Garages, like ovens, should be self-cleaning.

D is going to hang organizing grid all over the place for rakes/shovels/brooms and hooks for hanging bikes up.  Perhaps we will have room to walk around our cars when all this is done.

N is going to dress up as The Mad Hatter for Halloween this year.  Being the cheapskate I am, I found directions for making a hat out of cardboard online.  I used old fabric I already had, a glue gun, a Halloween pin I bought a few years ago and a green popsicle stick to make this:

We also have a new pet in the house....a crayfish from N's class.  At first I put Poo (her name) in a blue plastic bin, but I didn't like the look of it on my kitchen counter.  So I decided to make use of a dip tray I never use.  I added some aquarium rocks I had in the basement, and voila!  Poo has a nice home.

This is mostly what I've been up to these weeks when I wasn't planning or celebrating boy birthdays or writing articles for my freelance work.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Testing anxiety in the 3rd grader

Third graders at N's school take the the CogAt test for advanced program, and it has been a small weight hanging in my mind.

I recognize now how little standardized testing counts in the big scheme of things----who cares what I scored on the ACT or the SAT or the PRAXIS?  No one ever asked during interviews what my scores were.

But I also recognize how much standardized testing counts in the little being placed in advanced program classes, which in this neck of the woods and probably others, means classes that generally don't have the "behavior" problem kids.

Had I not been privy to what tracking actually means in a school system, I don't think I would be so.....jumbled in my feelings.  But I taught the advanced program students, and I taught the honors students, and I taught the comprehensive students.  While I taught the same stuff to these kids, the learning environment was much different.  The AP classes were quiet, generally requiring very little direction or focus from me.  This was not the case with the Honors or Comprehensive classes.  The AP classes moved much faster, read more difficult books.

The funny thing is that I much more enjoyed teaching the Honors and Comprehensive students.  I felt like they got more from what I did, appreciated it more, had greater leaps and bounds in their progress than what I saw in the AP classes.

Education looks different when you're a parent than when you are childless, teaching someone else's children.

N has essentially psyched herself out over the AP test, getting so worked up yesterday during a test practice that she had to come home due to stomach pain.  I haven't put this pressure on her and will spend this weekend explaining to her that she just needs to relax, read the directions and do her best.

Remind her that she will have other opportunities to take the test later in elementary school if needed.

Remind her that it doesn't mean she isn't smart or creative or any of those things.  It is a test that cannot possibility describe her possibilities.

Remind myself that her own father was in Honors classes in our school district and this didn't keep him from getting a good education and making a good living.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The occasional smug childless person

I get being smug about parenthood.  I spent almost my entire twenties thinking people who decided to have children were complete dumb asses.  Smugness in the under thirty set is understandable.

Smug childless persons over age those folks start to get on my nerves.  By the time you are 40, you should have a couple things in your backpack.  A little wisdom.  A little more compassion.  A stop sign to be used at the end of your tongue so that not everything you think gets mentioned to people whom you don't know well.

By the time you are 40, even if you don't have children, you probably have nieces or nephews or friends with children.  You've probably had the experience of seeing firsthand just how exhausting and annoying parenthood can be.  You've also probably lived long enough to know that most big experiences in life, like marriage and homeownership and major chronic illness, are things you can't fully understand until you live through them.

Someone I don't know very well but with whom I have occasional interactions (usually at a time when my kids are doing zumba on my very last nerve) has a tendency to mention that he doesn't have children.  As in, "See, I'm so smart I didn't have kids because I knew that they are a pain in the ass."  As in, "See, you're so dumb you went and procreated 3 times.  Did I mention I'm childless and so much smarter than you?"

At its worst, parenthood makes me feel like I have 3 large leeches sucking the very marrow of my core.  At its best, I feel like I know the meaning of life and true joyful love.

Being a parent has been the absolute biggest stretch of hardcore personal development I've ever experienced.  I think a parent of any merit spends quite a bit of time rehashing his/her life, personality, behavior, beliefs and attitudes in the hopes this reflection will make him/her a better parent and, therefore, a better guide for his/her child.

So, yes, maybe I'm sleep-deprived, a little ragged, frayed, suffering the effects of an almost decade long bad hair day.
But you, my smug childless 40-something acquaintance, are an ass.  

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Life is full of surprises, and the best one is you

Dear M,

I am savoring these days with you while you still have some baby fat and you're cuddly and say "I yuv you Ma-ee."  You, my bonus baby, are three.

You are so easy, or perhaps I am just so much more relaxed as a mom than I was with your sister and brother.  I think I just kinda let you be, allow you to discover and find ways to entertain yourself.  And maybe since you are kid #3, you have learned to do that simply because you've had to.

I always tell Daddy that you don't have an original idea in your head because everything your big brother does, you do as well.  You adore G, and it has come to the point where you and he can play well for extended periods of time, pretending to be superheroes or Transformers.  It makes me happy to hear you two making your characters talk to each other about saving the world.  I chuckle every time I hear one of you holler, "Help me, bro!" (as the Kratt brothers do on Wild Kratts).

You don't remember, but your big brother did this to you.

You try to tell knock-knock jokes like your siblings.  As best I can figure out, they have to do with pacis and poop.  When you find an opportunity to be in the spotlight of the family and make us laugh, you go hog-wild.  The other night at dinner the four of us couldn't stop laughing at your odd dance in which you smacked at your penis with a toy hammer and sang, "I whack, whack my baby pee-is."

You love to watch Diego on tv and read books.  One of your favorite pastimes is to roll Matchbox cars down a ramp while sitting on the ottoman in the basement.  There are times when I can't find you, but then you'll wander up from the basement and tell me you were visiting Gonzo and Shanks.  You are far, far more brave than either N or G.

It boggles my mind that in one short year you will begin preschool.  These three years have flown by.

The surprise of you has taught me much.  I've learned that while having two little boys two years apart is exhausting, there is great joy in seeing your brotherly closeness develop and grow.  I've learned that I  will probably be able to handle raising another 3-year-old without losing my mind (although you've got a full year to prove me wrong).  I've learned that even though a "surprise" put a kink in my plans, I wouldn't change a thing.


 I am excited to see what the next year will be like, watching you grow, seeing the things in which you take an interest, and hearing all the silly things that will come out of your mouth.

You are a delight to me...the unexpected gift that keeps on giving.

I love you,