August 23, 2014

That Went Well. Not.

The first week in the classroom for all three of the members of this family did not go as planned.  That's putting it mildly.  It's a bit disappointing as this is Liam's kindergarten year.  You only get to witness your child's first week in kindergarten one time.  And yet, I want to forget this week.

Oh, there was nothing catastrophic--just a series of moderately annoying situations.  A seemingly endless series...

It all started when I took my car to be repaired for what I thought was under warranty.  Not only was it not covered but a part had to be ordered and repair rescheduled.  While in the service waiting area, I bumped into a glass shelf, shattering it into a thousand tiny shards and earning the disgust of every single person in the room.  It really was a freak accident--I have a terrible four inch bruise to prove it.

And so the week began.

The flooring I ordered and paid for in July couldn't be installed until this Tuesday--my boys' first day of school.  I had to move every stick of furniture from the front of the house to the back and disassemble the dining  table.  The boys had their first day breakfast on the sofa with chairs and bookcases surrounding them.  When I came home from work I had to reassemble the table so we could have dinner.  The boys tried to tell me about their day but all I could think of was the amount of work that awaited me after they went to bed.

On Wednesday, Liam told me that a boy in his class pushed him down the stairs while going to lunch.  On Thursday, he told me that his teacher put him in timeout.  On Friday, my second grader asked his new teacher if he could use the restroom but had his request denied.  He wet his pants an hour later.

The back drop for all this is a late summer heatwave.  My air conditioning hasn't worked since July.  I check the thermostat before going to bed--last night it read 81 degrees.  And it's not just hot--the humidity has been well over 90% for almost a week.

Wait, there's more!  Apparently, mice don't mind a lack of A/C because after catching five tiny rodents--I've thrown my hands up--I'm ready to admit that there must be an entire colony living inside the walls.  Tuesday night (yes, that Tuesday)  I heard something scratching under the stairs.  It sounding like a kitten doing cartwheels.  How do you get a mouse out from inside a wall?  Even if I knew where to put the trap, it probably wouldn't work.   They seem to have figured them out and avoid them at all costs.  I need an exterminator and fast!  But when will I schedule that?  I certainly can't take a day (or even morning) off to have that work done.

I can't imagine leaving my classes with a substitute right now.  I have 160 students and the first five days together have been great, if not terribly productive.  It's time to hit the ground running and engage their minds!  I'm struggling to learn all the names.  Each year my goal is to learn every one of their names before going away Labor Day Weekend.

All three of us have been looking forward to spending time away for the three day weekend.  Now, I'm not sure it's going to go as planned.  I didn't successfully arrange for a dog walker.  Poor planning on my part.  I hate to press my friends for favors like that.  It looks like I will have to cancel the hotel and break the boys' hearts (it's just about all they talk about right now) OR take the dog with us--hoping for cool enough weather that he can spend a couple of days in the car.  I checked--the hotel will allow him in our room with a significant pet deposit.  It's just not how I envisioned "getting away from it all".  Oh well.

I'm certain there's something I've forgotten, but you get the hasn't been a stellar week.   Still, there have been bright spots here and there.  I really have to look for them, focus on them, but they've been there.  Times when friends helped out with a smile and coworkers went out of their way to say a few kind words.  Then there's the moment when, about to yell that we were late for school, I looked over and saw Henry teaching Liam to tie his shoes.  Or this morning in the car when Henry told me "Mom, I did geology in my mouth!"  (He informed me that salt and water had eroded his peppermint.)

I can't make this stuff up.  All I can do is write it down.

August 12, 2014

Gliding to Success (or How I Taught My Son to Ride a Bike)

Exciting end of summer development:  Henry rides without training wheels!  It's been a long road to get here.  My firstborn has always been cautious when it comes to physical activities.  He loved his bike with training wheels.  When he turned six, I took them off.  A week later I put them back on.  He refused to even try to ride without out them yet I was convinced that unless he practiced on two wheels he'd never get the hang of it.  In the next year, I repeated the removing, reattaching sequence at least three more times.  Clearly, this was not working for us.

My epiphany came as I watched him speed down the sidewalk on his scooter.  He balanced his body perfectly and when he came to a downward slope, he gleefully picked up both feet and glided faster than fast.  He's aligning and adjusting slightly as he uses speed and momentum.   That's how you ride a bike.  How could I convince him that he already had what it takes?

Henry is seven.  He is much too tall and too old for the wooden strider bikes that are all the rage for young preschoolers.  Why can't I make a 16" balance bike? I asked myself.  It only took a few minutes to move from "I'm so smart to be the first to think of this" to "I really hope someone has done this before and made a YouTube video that shows how."

The first thing I realized after watching said video was that I didn't want to have to worry about putting the bike back together again.  (The video shows a 12 in bicycle but the procedure is the same with a 16 in.)  The pedals and the chain must come off.  It's a fairly big job but I could have done it in an uninterrupted afternoon.  Since I don't have one of those (ever) Grandpa graciously agreed to take care of this.  I'm pretty sure a bike shop would do this for its customers as well.

So back to the part about not wanting to worry about ruining the bike--I purchased a scratched and dented model at the thrift store.   Once the pedals and chain were removed, it looked like this:

We took the bike around the neighborhood, to the park and on bike trails.  It was most fun when there was a slight downward incline.  Henry figured out how to glide and spent lots of time with his feet up and out to the sides.  Coming back up the hills was tough but he was a trouper about it.  The funniest part were the looks given to him by serious bike riders on the trail.  Typically, they zoom right past the little kids but as they passed Henry, many would slow down and stare.   I was always several meters behind him and could read the faces of the other riders.  I imagined them thinking, "That poor kid.  His mom can't even afford to buy him a bike with pedals."  Well, actually, I'm sure most of them had it figured out by the time they rounded the next turn.  It's fairly intuitive if you think about it.

One of our favorite trails and Henry's last ride without pedals

 After a month of confident gliding, I decided that it was best to transition to pedals on a bike that was the same size (instead of the new-in-the-box 20 inch bicycle stored in the garage).  I now had to go back to the thrift shop.  I was very lucky and found this 16 inch Hot Wheels bicycle in great condition for under $8.

And the rest is history!  I'm so proud of my little boy! He is now speeding down the trail with nary a backward glance.  Almost like he's been doing this forever.  You know, one of those overnight successes that actually takes a lot of practice.  Go, Henry!


August 4, 2014

One Thousand Words

No, not this one.

This one.
And it's only worth 1,000 words to me.  I decided to take this photo at the moment I realized that although I've come full circle geographically speaking, I am light years from where I once was. You see, I snapped this picture on a Saturday afternoon while visiting the neighborhood where I grew up.  Well, one of the neighborhoods.  We moved.  A lot.  More on that later.  Maybe.

What you see in this photo is the cluttered floor of the passenger seat area in my SUV.  There are audio book sets from the library and a Phineas & Ferb soundtrack that Liam insisted on checking out.  My cell phone charger is plugged in next to a large canister of wet wipes.  So what?  It looks like a random mess. And my car always looks like this.

 And this is where it gets really interesting but probably only to me...

On this particular afternoon, I had snagged a rare parking space behind a drugstore (national chain, moving offshore to avoid taxes, let's not get bogged down in the details).  This wasn't just any parking lot--I distinctly remember walking through this exact lot and the store's back door (strange in and of itself--how many stores have a front and back door?) when I was ten years old.  That summer I was on a mission to find the perfect lip gloss and this was the only store within walking distance.  I seem to recall purchasing something sticky, shiny and artificially strawberry.  More than that, I remember how alone I was.  More than alone.  I was invisible.  I doubt anyone saw me enter the store, pick out the gloss and walk the two blocks to an empty second floor apartment.  New lip gloss was the highlight of my day.  Probably my week.

You see, from the age of nine, I practically raised myself and though I may not have been literally invisible, I went mostly unseen for the next ten years.  (Seriously.  I didn't go to my prom or high school graduation.  No one said a thing to me about either before or after the big days.  That's just how it went.)

Fast forward many decades and I find myself in the same parking lot, by the same back door but now I drive a comfortable car and it is littered with evidence of my family.  My family.  The one I created out of nothing.  (Okay, not out of nothing--I mean, you do follow this blog, right?)  Picture books, Disney cds, booster seats and a sticky, icky trash bag hanging from the armrests.  All things I dreamed of but never imagined could be a part of my life when I was completely invisible, scurrying home to put on my lip gloss and watch reruns of Gilligan's Island while eating ham from a plastic envelope (sorry, Buddig, but that stuff isn't even real meat is it?)

I'll say it again--those two people with the same name and social security number aren't decades apart, they are light years removed from each other. So, yes, the photo is worth one thousand words and that moment--the one when I realized all this-- is priceless.

July 28, 2014

A Summer Balancing Act

That's what it feels like as I try to prepare for the upcoming school year, take care of home improvement and maintenance all the while incorporating fun family time with the boys.  It's always like this at the end of the July and early August.  All of a sudden the clock starts ticking and there's so much still to do!  Currently, I have four repair contractors scheduled and a fifth to call (for the furnace cleaning I always forget to do).  Some of the work is on the exterior of the house and I hope I can sneak away on those days.  For the indoor work, I have to be home and that limits our activities quite a bit. It will be too noisy to do much inside, so I hope the weather holds out and we can have some fun in the front and back yards.  I've been told that each job will take 1 full (possibly two) day(s).  I really hate being tied down like that.  What's the alternative though?  There isn't one.  Houses get old, things need to be replaced and repaired and yes, I save all this up for the end of summer.  Every year.

It has been unseasonably cool, so we've only visited the community pool once.  I did want to be sure that we got a trip to the beach in though.  Along with a day at the state fair, that is a top priority.  We had a fun day last week although Liam was a bit cranky.  I'm fairly certain he hadn't had enough sleep the night before.  When he's sleep-deprived, he is very negative.  He complained all day--at each and every lakeside activity.   For the next few nights, I made sure he got lots of sleep (11 hours is always my goal for him).  He hasn't had cranky day since.  Well, not overly cranky, anyway.

We have a few things left on our bucket list but for the most part, I can say we've done everything we wanted--and more!  Henry is finishing his two week session of enrichment classes.  They are held on the beautiful campus of the school I dreamed he'd attend.  "Dream" is the right word because that is all it is--the tuition is 3x as much as what I pay for parochial school.  Henry's (and soon to be Liam's) current school serves its purpose.  For the most part, I like it well enough.  There are always some bumps and hurdles because we are not Catholic and I'm not a stay-at-home mom but I think those things bother me much more than Henry.  He likes it there, he has lots of friends and all of the adults are good to him.  Sometimes you have to know when to stop dreaming and just be thankful for what you have.

Beach food a la Liam