Friday, February 4, 2011

The darndest things

The best things my kids have said to me all week:

Henry, after listening to a children's reggae song (it was a GIFT) about how to make yucca pie: "He says it's made with water and sugar, but really I think it's made with people's blood."

Amelia, as I am snuggling her: "I love you, Mommy, but sometimes I burp in your face." Which is an uncanny description of our relationship.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The action figures have gone away

This week we have had a problem with hitting. On Monday Henry hit Amelia over a disagreement about who could play with the Daddy in her new dollhouse, he may have hit her again while they were playing in the yard (I couldn't be sure because she retracted her accusation, not wanting to lose her mud-digging partner to a timeout), and he definitely hit her while washing hands before dinner because she was taking too long at the sink.

Normally, Henry is so sensitive to criticism that a stern, "I am very angry right now, Henry," elicits a cascade of tears and an immediate cessation of the offending activity. But after the third hit, it became clear that more severe consequences were in order.

"We don't hit in this house," I told him. "No dessert for you."
He was quiet through most of dinner. I thought maybe he was reflecting on what he had done, contemplating the error of his ways. Finally he held out his hand to me and said, "How about this? If I don't get dessert, I'll throw a fit. If I do get dessert, I won't throw a fit!" He beamed at me.

I smiled back at him. "How about this?" I said. "If you throw a fit, there's no dessert tomorrow night, either." Henry scowled.

After a few moments he spoke again. "If you don't let me have dessert, it will make me hit Amelia a lot more times," he said, this time with a smirk. This was the four-year-old version of hardball.

"If you hit Amelia even one more time," I said, "your action figures go away."

Henry's jaw dropped. I leaned over until my face was level with his. "I don't negotiate with terrorists," I said.

"I am very angry and annoyed with you!" he said.

"Fine," I said.
"I am going to be very, very sad if I can't have dessert!" he said.

"That's good," I said. "Maybe you'll remember that next time you want to hit someone."
From then until bedtime, there was more wailing, more pouting, more discussion of his feelings on the matter. I stood firm. I stayed calm. Finally, at bed time, he said, "I won't hit Amelia any more." I felt pleased with myself.
The next morning he hit the cat. Twice. First time was a warning, second time his action figures took a 24-hour hiatus. Worse, the cat would have nothing to do with him. He was heartbroken and, possibly, chastened. He hasn't hit anyone or anything since. I'll keep you posted.
(Meanwhile, I told this story to my mom and she was instantly trying to figure out where the "bad influence" lay. "Is he learning this from kids in his class?" she asked. "Is it from TV?" Preschools and PBS: secret hotbeds of violence.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cheering on the inside

Simon and I have achieved something of a cease-fire, which is good, although we have declared cease-fires before and you see how far that's gotten us. Note to Israel and Palestine: I totally get it.

Honestly, I have no idea what an acceptable end-point for a marriage might be. I know people who would say "NEVER" and people who would say "When it stops being fun." I know happy and miserable people on both ends of that spectrum.

Let's say it's actually something like this: when it's more damaging to my kids that their parents stay married than that their parents get divorced.

I'll keep you posted.


In other, less depressing news, Henry got his very first, very own library card yesterday. He signed the application and card by himself (just Henry, like Cher or Madonna). He remains wary of the whole "borrowing" concept--he doesn't want to have to give the books back--but he was delighted that he could bring home five books without a lecture from me about poor children who would trade their shoes to have one-tenth of his home library.

His picks included Star Wars ABCs, I Spy Spooky Night, and something about a robot babysitter.

When we got in the car to go home he said, "My insides are cheering because I got my own library card."

My insides are cheering, too.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Corpse marriage

God, my last post was FOUR WEEKS AGO? It seemed like just yesterday I was whining about Santa stories. Partly I was just busy with Christmas and, well, mostly Christmas. How much productivity is lost in this country as a result of that holiday? Possibly a million work years a season.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about divorce. I'm nearly positive that's where things are heading, and it's just a matter of when and what we do with the house and whether I'll fail to get custody because I am such a class-A freaking lunatic.

I looked up "signs your marriage is heading for divorce" on Google (which should be a top sign in itself, but wasn't on any of the lists I saw). My favorite sign was "Your wife changes back to her maiden name." Really? You think that could be a sign of trouble?

A dying marriage is a fascinating phenomenon. You know what it was, you remember holding hands after a dinner out, or running together to catch a boat that time on vacation, or semi-seriously adding "Data" and "Lor" to your list of possible baby names for twins, and although sometimes you can still see that basic idea, it's become horribly distorted. A bloated, discolored, rotting corpse of that earlier time.

(Sign #2 your marriage is heading for divorce: You describe your relationship as a "bloated, discolored, rotting corpse.")

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Henry and Amelia finally saw Santa this past weekend. Twice, actually--once at the Oakland Zoo and once at my mom's club's holiday brunch. Having two Santa sighting so close together posed a problem: the kids remembered what Santa looked like on Friday, and they wanted to know why Santa looked totally different on Sunday.

Which brings us to the fact that the whole Santa story has many, many holes, and a parent committed to the Santa Experience is often forced to perform fantastic feats of split-second spin control. In the case of two different Santas, I explained that St. Nick can't attend all the holiday events himself, what with the prep work for his BIG DAY, so he sends out elves dressed as Santa who report back to him about what everyone wants for Christmas. Sometimes, of course, he shows up himself, so we have to be on the lookout for the real Santa. And that is why some Santas look real and some look very, very sketchy.

I also had to come up with a reason for Toys for Tots, because, really, shouldn't Santa be getting things for the poor children? Shouldn't that be his number one job? I told Henry that parents send money to Santa every year to pay for the gifts and delivery, and that some families don't have money, so we pick out toys for those kids to help Santa out. And that maybe Santa slips in a few extras for us because we're helping him out. That's logical, right? Although the whole pay-for-play deal does seem to suck the magic right out of it.

Anyway, Henry ran right up to both Santas, sat right down, and asked for Star Wars action figures, Star Wars Legos, and an iPad (I'll have to thank my dad later for bringing such a thing to my house before Christmas). And despite my wide-eyed head shaking at Santa, Mr. Claus's response has led Henry to believe that they have an agreement. No amount of explaining that Santa might have other video game systems up his sleeve can shake Henry from the conviction that he is getting an iPad. And he's not. So that will be fun on Christmas morning.

Amelia took a little longer to warm up to the old man. At the zoo she refused to sit on Santa's lap, and instead stood at the foot of the sleigh and shouted up, "I want video games!" When Santa asked what kind of video game she wanted, she shouted back, "Pink!"

She felt different at the Sunday brunch, when she ran up to chat with Santa three different times, once actually climbing onto Santa in the middle of another kid's meeting. By the third time she didn't have anything left to ask for, so she told Santa about our cats.

I'll post a photo if I ever get around to downloading them from the camera.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why I seem a lot more fun than I really am

So last week was my turn to go to school with Amelia (it's this "parents and children together" program that was a lot more charming the first time around with Henry). It being winter, I had a slight cold, so the tip of my nose, right around my left nostril, was dry and BRIGHT RED.

It looked hideous, so before I went in, I touched it up with some cheap cover-up stick in pale ivory. And that, of course, looked worse, so I tried to wipe it off. It didn't really wipe off, though, because of the dry skin. Instead it just looked like my nose was red with a light dusting of white powder around the nostril.

I can only hope I'm building an interesting reputation at the preschool.

Monday, November 29, 2010

That person

I'm lucky, right? Look at those faces. I'm really, really lucky. And I have much to be thankful for: two great kids, a nice house, a warm bed, family who babysit for free, friends, a six-day-a-month job, that I'm not bald yet.

Things are good! They're great, in fact. Really, really, really [sob] great.

A couple of weeks ago I went out to drinks with a couple of old friends from high school. One friend is having a particularly hard time--his mom has Alzheimer's and he's working a job he hates--and he said his girlfriend is pressing for marriage and babies.

I leaned toward him, stared him in straight in the eyes, and said, "NEVER get married."

And even as I was explaining how it was a terrible institution, and how only a fortunate few could ever truly be happy being yoked to one person for life, I was flooded with the horror that I have become that person--bitter and jaded, glowing with a smoldering resentment fueled by the carcasses of my dead dreams. All I needed was a cigarette and maybe a limp and the whole picture would have been complete.

I can't say exactly how things got this bad. It's never one thing, just 10 years of things piled up and littering the floor until our home is the emotional equivalent of a cat hoarder's place.
I do love those kids, though. Thank God for them.
On an unrelated note, but still under the category of "Things That Suck," Amelia seems to be suffering from some sort of insomnia. It started with one missed nap on Sunday when we took her to see a play. Then the next day she spent nap time wandering around her room, and the following night she was up for an extra 90 minutes performing stealth excursions to turn up the volume on her lullaby sounds. Since then, she hasn't napped at all, it's taking hours for her to fall asleep, and this morning she was up for the day at 4:30.
Meanwhile, her waking hours are what you might expect from a two-year-old who's missing four to six hours of sleep each day. There's a lot of whining and tears and writhing on the floor.
The poor dear needs sleep. But she won't sleep. So she's overtired. So she can't sleep.
This is not heading in a positive direction AT ALL.