Friday, August 27, 2010

Poo-poo, the sequel

I know, I know. It's been weeks! I am getting blog lazy (blazy?). That's what happens when I have an actual work project to spend my time on.

I know I wrote about poop talk months ago, but it's returned to our house with a vengeance lately. This time it's not so much Henry as it is Amelia. Now that she's officially 2, there is nothing funnier to her than the word "poo-poo."

This is what it's like to read a book with her now:

Me: In the great green room, there was a telephone and a red...
Amelia: Poo poo
Me: Balloon. And a picture of... [pause to turn the page]
Amelia: Poo poo
Me: No, the cow jumping over the...
Amelia: Poo poo
Me: No more poo poo! If you keep saying 'poo poo,' I'm closing the book.
Amelia: OK, no more poo poo.
Me: Thank you. And there were three little bears, sitting on...
Amelia: Pee pee

And of course it's like hearing something funny at a funeral, right? It's not really that funny, but because you know you're not supposed to laugh, it is hilarious. So I set my face in a stern gaze, and then I snort, and then I guffaw, and soon I am crying tears of unadulterated mirth and Amelia is grinning in victory.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Science camp

I had really started to make peace with myself as a mother. Sure, I was a little moody, a little loud, a little insecure. But I was doing my best, and that counts for something, right? RIGHT?

The problem is that sometimes my best sucks.

For the past two weeks Henry has been attending afternoon camps at the Lawrence Hall of Science. The first one was about bugs and the second was about pond life. The camps are awesome--real bugs, real salamanders, real crayfish--and Henry loves them. They have been amazing learning opportunities for him, and just absolute showcases of parental ineptitude for me.

I don't know what it is about the camps. Maybe it's the fact that the Lawrence Hall of Science is 30 minutes away. Or that once I park, it takes another 5 to 10 minutes to unload everyone, descend the giant staircase, and circle the entire O-shaped building to get to the classroom. Maybe it's the mid-morning swim lessons that leave me with an hour and a half to kill before science camp--too much time to purposefully head to the classroom, too little time to go home or run any significant errands. Whatever it is, I am just a mess around the whole thing.

It took me two days to remember I was supposed to pack him a snack, and when I finally figured it out, all I had to leave him were some sandwich wedges bearing Amelia's tiny bite marks. One day we were at LHS an hour early, and he was still late because I realized minutes before class started that I had left my purse clear on the other side of the building.

This week I didn't even pack lunches, preferring to spend a small fortune in the LHS cafeteria, which was nice, but it meant his snacks consisted of either a free-floating banana with his name written in ballpoint pen on the peel (3 days) or pretzels from the vending machine (1 day). Sometimes I drew a heart next to his name on the banana peel to prove I care, however half-assed the snacks I provided.

Each day I'd see the other kids lining up with their snack bags, their parents looking all grown up and organized, and I'd send poor Henry in with his lone banana. Or I wouldn't see the other kids because we were late, and they would already be sitting in the circle, name tags on, and I would send Henry in and place the solitary banana beside their neatly-arranged pouches. I wanted to cry for my son.

So it has been a bad week, one in which I have been driving up to 70 miles a day to and from various summer activities, while an unfinished 20-page research report due at the end of the month sits neglected on my laptop. And yesterday at pick-up time it finally all came to a head.

I had one phone call to make yesterday--just one!--regarding a part-time job with my old company. I told the woman I'd call between 4 and 5 p.m. Amelia and I picked Henry up at 4, and then they both wanted to climb the giant DNA outside, and I said fine, seven minutes. I warned them at five minutes, and again at two minutes. I announced a one minute warning. Then I told them it was time to go.

"I just have to climb through once more," said Henry, starting in from the front end. It had taken him all seven minutes for him to make it across once.

"No," I said, firmly, "I have to get home to make a phone call."

By then Amelia had run off squealing, her greatest entertainment these days being to either run or hide when I say we have to go somewhere. It took two minutes to chase her down, and another minute to talk Henry off the DNA, and finally, my brittle patience barely holding together as we walked to the car, Henry said, "I have to go to the bathroom."

And I know...grrrrrrrr. What could I say, "no"? "No, you can't go to the bathroom"? "Hold it for the 30 minute ride home"? Of course not. So instead I said, "Dammit!" and dragged the two of them down the giant stairs to the bathroom where Henry proceeded to tell me he had to poop. Poop! This kid can take 25 minutes to poop.

This was all very frustrating in itself, and then my loopy, child-addled mind decided to take it to the next level by declaring this event to be symbolic of the fact that I will NEVER get a job, and that, in fact, I have RUINED my life by staying home lo these many years. Then it pointed out with great indignation that Simon has NEVER, EVER had to choose between getting a child to the bathroom and making a business call.

I started audibly weeping, right there, in front of both children in the Lawrence Hall of Science ladies' room stall. I continued grousing all the way back to the car. I buckled the kids into their car seats while loudly declaring that it was absolutely unfair that Daddy never had to take on drop-off or pick-up responsibilities. As I drove away I saw that the lady on the bench in front of our parking space was one of Henry's teachers. So, you know, swell. I hope they give him an extra hug today.

Incidentally, I still made it home in time to make my phone call. So I further ruined my kids for nothing.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

On giant stuffed animals and heartbreak

This is supposed to be Digit, the funny, Gilbert-Gottfried-voiced sidekick on Henry's favorite cartoon, Cyberchase.

But, of course, it is not Digit. It's not even Gilbert Gottfried. It is an unknown PBS intern wearing a large, hollow, stuffed-animal as a suit, peering out from a mesh grate in the mouth.

When I told Henry we were going to meet Digit, I'm not sure what he expected. I don't know if he thought Digit would still be a cartoon, or if maybe he thought he would become a cartoon, too. He may have imagined the two of them solving math problems and fighting the evil Hacker together.

Whatever he was expecting, I could tell by the look on his face when the real-life Digit came back from her bathroom break that it wasn't this awkward, Digit-ish fat suit.

"It's Digit!" I said. "Say hi to Digit!"

Henry slowly walked up and let Digit engulf his tiny hand with her giant, four-fingered wing. He smiled politely as Digit danced.

Digit's KQED representative friend did most of the talking. "Digit is so happy to be here!" she said.

"Henry loves Digit," I grinned wildly, trying to make up for Henry's lack of enthusiasm. Most of the other kids at the science museum didn't appear to have even heard of Digit, and I felt bad for both Digit and the KQED lady. "Cyberchase is his favorite show," I added anxiously, suddenly fearing that this lukewarm reception for Digit could lead PBS to pull the plug on the cartoon.

We snapped photos and took the free activity books and stickers, then said goodbye. But Henry lagged behind as we headed for the roller coaster exhibit.

"Was there something you wanted to say to Digit?" I asked him.

Henry looked thoughtful, then nodded. "I want to ask him what it was like to live with Hacker."

It was a good question. It was, in fact, a New York Times caliber question, and was a testament to Henry's extensive knowledge of the character's backstory. But this Digit had no voice.

"I don't think Digit can answer that, honey," I told him. "He's probably lost his voice talking to all those kids as he toured the country."

Henry took one last, longing look back at Digit. "Yeah, probably," he said.

When you're 4, anything is possible. The real Digit could show up and take you on a cyber adventure. Tyrannosaurus Rex could come alive and roam the Museum of Natural History. A fat man with flying livestock could slide down a blocked chimney and deliver a new Lego set.

But, alas, Digit is just one in a long string of overstuffed costumes that will show up when he's expecting an animated hero. Is this what growing up is? A long stream of disappointments as magic, hope, and eventually your very soul fade to gray? Or is that just me?