Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rusty Nails

Monday afternoon Nathan decided he wanted to go out on our deck after school. Shaun has trained him well, especially when it comes to footwear, so he put on his shoes and then commenced to convincing me to go out and play with him. The idea of our deck is much better than the actual thing, at least in it's current condition. As far as playing out there, bring your imagination, because there is about 600 square feet occupied only by about three old flower pots, some scrap lumber, and as we found out, one rusty nail.

We were out there no more than five minutes when the barefooted momma walked right into the damn thing. Nice. Not a terrible wound, but still, who actually steps onto/into a nail? A rusty nail at that?! The only rusty nail I considered I might encounter would be in the form of a drink or maybe a twisted clown, certainly not one that had to be pulled from the ball of my foot and that would cause a trail of blood!

I won't get into all the details, suffice it to say, a tetanus shot the following day was in order. Nathan was very concerned. Each time I reassured him that he was not the one getting a shot he countered with, "but I don't want you to get a shot eadder, then it's gonna bleed". I let him know that the shot was going to help me and that I wasn't the least bit concerned with one little shot. (!) He was visibly uncomfortable in the doctor's office and while the nurse meant well, it really wasn't all that helpful for her to place my well being in his little hands by insisting that he hold my hand "so Mommy would be alright". Huh? I told him he could hold my hand but to turn away so he wouldn't have to see, just like Daddy does, cause Daddy doesn't like shots either.

Can I just say, that shot is a bitch. My arm and shoulder are completely sore and I'm achy all over. I'm holding out hope that that is in fact the effect of the shot and not a case of the actual flu coming on.

This morning, the morning after the shot, Nathan inquired several times about the status of both my foot and my shot sight, thoughtful kid. Once we were in the car en route to school, the inquisition continued. Finally, I got a word in and asked him again if he had been worried because he thought he would be getting a shot, and this time he said yes. I tried to comfort him that I would never allow someone to give him a random shot, that an injection intended for me would never accidentally land in his arm. He naturally wanted to know all of the tactics I would employ to accomplish such a feat against a needle wielding doctor; but what if this, what if that? Finally, I stopped and declared, "Honey, you don't have to worry, I'm watching out for you." His, were the last words on the subject, "Thanks Mommy."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Intubation by Pasta

The other day Nathan was eating penne pasta for dinner. I was going about my business in the kitchen when it came to my awareness that Nathan was probably done eating and had moved on to experimenting. A piece of penne was protruding from his lips, head tipped slightly back, eyes entirely crossed and fixed on it, and loud breaths being forced through the center hole. It was fascinating how bits of marinara were being spattered about the area, and I was a little curious to see how this scene might play out--oh yeah, no, I wasn't actually curious at all.

"Nathan, please don't play with your food."

"But Mommy, I'm just breathing so I don't die."

Aside from this display, he keeps me aptly wrapped around his little finger with his often generous dinnertime compliments, such as this evening when I tried a new recipe for Mediterranean Meatballs.

"Mommy, what did you put in these meatballs to make them so yummy?!"

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Open House ECD

Sunday, was Open House at Nathan's new school. It seems we couldn't have found a better teacher for our little music man. She sings with the kids everyday, he literally comes home with new songs daily! Not only does she read to them, she tells them stories and often the singing and stories are accompanied by complimentary food, for example, they tried porridge to go along with Goldilocks' saga last week and coconut cream pie in honor of my favorite song thus far.

The kids alternate "jobs" in the classroom, as in life, some are more sought after than others. So far Nathan has been 'chair pusher inner', which I am told is very boring; 'snack helper', though it sounds good, turns out your services are only needed in the event the snack table runs out; the big granddaddy of them all so far has been 'bell ringer', where not only do you get to ring the triangle, but you get the illusion of control over your classmates, what's not to love?

When asked if we had specific areas of concern for Nathan, in this last year before kindergarten, we responded that academics were of little worry--that we were more concerned that he find his way and his voice on the playground and generally with his peers. Ms L told us she was not at all concerned, that he interacted throughout the day through all sorts of experiences. She told me that he clearly makes his needs known and if he wants to join in the circle time conversation, not only does he join, but he often will stand to speak and make an announcement of what he has to say. In fact he did just that during the circle we shared at open house, and that was with plenty of extra adult strangers. (As it were, tomato worms in the garden were eating up the harvest.) So it seems the pendulum may have swung.

Ms L indicated that Nathan was more interested in the Language part of the classroom than Mathematics right now. This did not surprise us as he can not pass a sign on the street, a book cover, a piece of junk mail, or any words in his path without knowing what they say. Further, he questions the etymology. "Mommy, why do they call it 'arrow'? It doesn't have 'air'", and then as if I don't understand, "you know, like the air all around us." Then there was, "Mommy, why do they call it a lie-braree? They don't lie there." Occasionally, I am fortunate and he answers his own questions, in this case, "Ohhh, they call it a lie-bra-ree, cause you read there." Then there's the logic. I was driving yesterday, Shaun in the passenger seat and Nathan asked what the words on the side view mirror said. Shaun told him, you know the ones, "objects in mirror are closer than they appear". Shaun tried to give an explanation suitable to a four year old, it did not suffice, not even close. There is to be no joking or distracting of this child when he wants answers. It is serious business. He truly becomes angry if you put him off. He understood that the words were a warning, but followed up with the usual, "but how does that help?". Only after a thorough explanation of what the side mirrors are used for in driving and then an example of what might happen if one did not heed the warning, did he let it go. Holy cow, it's no wonder I am exhausted by 9am.

As we were leaving Open House, there were many signs to read and explain as I do everyday, but this time he noticed a new one right by the front door. One that he had never inquired about, one that, to my knowledge he has not come in contact with anywhere.
We were walking out the door and Nathan asked, "Mommy, why does that say 'PULL'?" I began to explain it in the best way I knew how, without instilling fear or worry, mentioning that the fire department was going to visit the school next week to teach the kids fire safety, blah, blah, blah. The three of us were walking along and he was listening intently and no doubt forming all sorts of follow up questions, when suddenly I realized, he just read that! He just read that. "Hey, do you know what?" "No, what?" "You just read that sign all by yourself!" To say he was pleased with himself would be a bit of an understatement. He delivered his most excited smile. The kind that push his cheeks up so far that his eyes are mashed into a squint, his hands come together up under his chin where he wrings them like a mad scientist, and there is jumping, yes jumping. It was really quite delightful, a moment I'm glad we all shared. He is on the precipice of his little world getting a whole lot bigger; I hope he doesn't leave me completely in the dust too soon, I'm not quite ready. I must admit though, the words "go look it up" may save my sanity if not my soul.

First Boat

On this day, we needed a field trip and fast. I decided the hottest day of the year when everyone was cranky to begin with might be the ideal time to head out to explore a new spot in East County where it is generally at least ten degrees hotter and the air doesn't move at all except from your own breath.

Santee Lakes is nice enough and I would definitely like to go back when the weather is cooler, but it won't be the place I pack up our family for a camping trip any time soon, or ever. There are five man-made lakes stocked for fishing, great walking paths, playgrounds, boating, and even a water feature playground.

The "campground" was everything we avoided when I camped with my family as a kid. It consisted of a very large gravel parking lot with ginormously long, narrow spaces to accommodate the homes on wheels that came to park there. There was nary a tent, pop-up trailer, tree, fire ring or picnic table in sight. Oddly, there was not a person to be found either, if not for the satellite dishes carefully placed and the air conditioners running at full capacity, I would have thought it truly was a parking lot. We were not to be disappointed in the vast quantity or array of homes requiring driver's licenses to view, as next we came upon several car ports the size of football fields designed to store the monstrous vehicles, vehicles that I am certain cost more than the median priced home across these United States. Ironic though it seemed, we were happy to see solar panels atop the carports, apparently generating a great percentage of the energy needed to operate the entire park. (As far as alternative energy sources, I'm thinking miles of windmills are much more attractive, but I suppose that is just a ridiculous side note.)

Monday, September 21, 2009


"You can change without growing, but you cannot grow without changing."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

For Us...

Have you ever searched for just the right greeting card? The one that perfectly articulates what you feel? I have gone through rows and rows of cards over various occasions, quickly vetoing ones that don't suit me, the receiver, or that would just be ridiculous lies.

I have recently been through a similar experience of trying to find just the right words for an occassion, but this time, it was a bit bigger than a greeting card. I contributed to writing certain pieces of my younger sister's wedding ceremony. Much more on that later, but as I researched quotes, lyrics and various readings, I naturally had an awareness to the task at hand, but also couldn't help but consider which or what might be appropriate to capture the essence of my own marriage. What might I have chosen for our wedding ceremony or our now?

"It is wrong to think that love comes from long companionship and perservering courtship. Love is the offspring of spiritual affinity and unless that affinity is created in a moment, it will not be created for years or even generations."
Kahlil Gibran

This is the quote that resonated with me most about our connection then and now. I know clearly, the precise moment I felt it first.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Happy Grandparents' Day

Being a daughter in a military family precluded me from really knowing very well the two people I referred to as my grandparents. My most vivid memory of them is from a time they were visiting us on Wrightwood Road from Portland, I was in high school at the time. It was morning and my grandpa had likely been up at the crack of dawn drinking coffee with my dad. I'm sure to my dad's chagrin, Grandpa was probably giving him all sorts of tips on everything from the best way to stake a tomato plant to the most efficient way to peel a carrot. I suspect my dad's smile and patience may have been wearing thin by the time the rest of us arose from our slumbers. I'm sure he welcomed the sight of his mom that morning, smelling of rosewater and donned in a fluffy pink robe. Grandpa smiled and opened his arm to her as she nestled in next to him, standing with his arm around her shoulders. She looked up at him with twinkling, sweet eyes. I don't recall what had been said, I do remember the love.

I suppose I do have a second set of grandparents as we all do, but those people I refer to as my mother's mother and my mother's father. They did not do anything to me specifically to earn such titles. They did do and not do a whole hell of a lot to my mother and her siblings though. I believe it is accurate to say one did a lot more of the doing and one far more of the not doing, but at a certain point I imagine you just stop keeping track of, we'll call them, uh, disappointments. What matters most is that my mother, for the most part, has made her peace with the both of them, one posthumously, but peace nonetheless. She was able to reenter relationships of her childhood and say things that were probably important to say. She was also able to reenter relationships and not say things that she might have wanted to, but would not have benefited anyone, not even the wounded children.

Shaun has quite the opposite experience of grandparents, at least on his mother's side. He knew them well and he and his mother even lived with her parents for a period of time when he was quite young. He credits his grandad and grandpa (great grandad)alongside his dad for being the most powerful, strong, male influences in his life. Powerful and strong not in a "he-man" sort of way, but more in that they were involved, loved him, and happened to be men kind of way. They all hold a very special spot in his heart and had a great effect on his life. I'm pretty sure I have never met anyone with a greater love for generations previous, unless of course I look in the direction of my own son.

Nathan has incredible grandparents, all four of them. I guess I am biased because not only do I not think my kid is "typical", there is not a one of his grandparents that is typical either. Shaun's parents are not geographically close and we don't see them as often as we would like, but Nathan has an uncanny sense when he is in the presence of family and his reserved nature grows relaxed far more quickly with them than in the company of others. He speaks of them with the affection and familiarity that one might expect with local grandparents seen on a far more regular basis.

One of many ways they are present in our home even when they are 800 miles away is their participation in most major celebrations around here. Boxes from Granny and Grandad are found with great delight on our front porch days before special occassions. The brown papered parcels make their way onto the living room coffee table, reminding us of a celebration approaching in the days to come. It is not at all about the gifts, but they are often homemade, sentimental and always treasured.

When people learn that Nathan is the first grandchild on my side of the family, they generally give me a knowing look, shake their heads, and mention the spoiling. Depending on how one defines that word, he may well be the most spoiled little boy ever.

Afterall, he has his very own treehouse at my parents house, how spoiled is that? Yes, my dad spoiled him with the planning process, the shopping process, the construction and engineering processes. The time spent, the teaching, the dreaming, no doubt the listening, and the completing of a pretty fantastic project will probably only serve to make Nathan treehouse entitled for the rest of his life, and that is to say nothing of the fact that it has a swing, it's own flag, and a patch of grass; the nerve! Did I mention the teeter totter they created out of miscellaneous parts from around the nursery? Good gracious, physics and fun, will the coddling never end?!?

Don't even get me started on my mother, she is the worst culprit of all, that one. First of all, a child really only deserves so much love and attention don't you think? At some point, enough is just enough. What is this child going to think anyway, that everyone is going to honor and cherish him as she does? I must have a talk with her, the sooner he learns how cruel the world really is, the better. What is she thinking, what with all the outings to nature centers; to historical, fun, interesting and even mundane destinations? The cooking together, the shopping, the endless conversations, the reading, the writing, the storytelling, the playacting, the singing, the dancing, the collecting, the painting, the walking, the playgrounds, and oh so many projects. Enough already!

If all of that weren't enough, amidst the act of spoiling him, I seem to be getting spoiled too. In the beginning, I would often come home from work on Grandma Fridays to the smells of dinner wafting from the kitchen. I think she made a game of it during Nathan's nap, to try to create something delicious out of the meager groceries I tend to have on hand by Friday. Other times she was not up for the challenge and brought or bought the fixin's for her cause. She's been known to bake up banana bread with the rotten bananas on the countertop, fill our fridge with fruit in the interest of making an eight ounce smoothie for Nathan, and leave fresh cut flowers in the kitchen window. Yeah, Grandma Fridays are a pretty good gig for Momma too. As Nathan might qualify, actually, the gig is good well beyond Fridays.

Since having a child, I have had to learn to ask for help and to draw certain unfamiliar boundaries. They have been pretty immense lessons for me, made possible by their necessity and the perceived lack of choices. While sometimes difficult to ask, it is a real comfort to have my parents close when a challenge arises. Funny, it doesn't matter much which of them I might reach in these times, each snaps to action in their own way. Dad will recon the situation thinking through every important detail before acting, whereas Mom figures it out as she goes. I hear that one may have more rhythm than the other, but in trying times, theirs is a well choreographed dance designed over decades. We have enlisted their help dealing with everything from date night to kidney stones to a dying dog. We were even fortunate enough to accept their generosity at the end of a very long journey, a journey that never reached the destination we so desired; but my disappointment will always by mitigated by the awesome gratitude for one more opportunity and greater peace of mind as a result.

I did not even know to wish for something so great as what Nathan has in all of his grandparents. What a gift, one we are all most thankful for.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

1st Day of School 2009

It's the first day of Nathan's last year of preschool! We took the plunge and made what felt like a huge decision in changing schools from where we have been for the last three years. We felt that while the old school had a lot to offer, they may have been missing the essence of our particular kid. Montessori philosophy seeks to encourage a love of learning while following the child in their own interests and pace, that did not seem to be occurring with Nathan. We felt he was being shut down rather than encouraged to bloom in his own unique way.

When I was introduced to the practices in a Montessori classroom; I was told that before the child was allowed to "work" with a particular material, he had to be given a "lesson" on that material (and it's intended use). After said lesson, I was told the child could "work" with it in any way he chose, so long as it was respectful. One of our first red flags was when his teacher made a point to tell us that he turned whatever materials he could into instruments. This was mentioned as though it were a problem simply in the material being used differently than its prescribed use, not because it was loud or boisterous. We were glad she told us of her concerns; we thought it was smart, creative, and a peek into the heart of our child.

Encinitas Country Day is a few miles from my office, it is still Montessori, but with a heavy play overlay and a much less strict interpretation and execution of the Montessori philosophy. The campus feels like a handful of quaint rural cottages surrounding two huge playgrounds on two different levels. A far cry from the tiny outdoor concrete space the kids are limited to at the old place. They have at least two outdoor playtimes, which may well transition to three or four depending on drop off and pick up times. It is a newly formed class so it's small and all the kids and even the teachers are all new together. A weekly gymnastics class and a music class are part of the curriculum, to which we added a keyboard class to support his continued interest in music and specifically the piano after his encounter with one in Ventura over the weekend.

We are looking forward to the Halloween parade and the Thanksgiving Feast created from all the vegetables the kids will harvest from the gardens they are tending outside each classroom cottage .

I am here to update a week and a half in; Nathan seems very happy with the change. There has been nary a tear and he's come home singing new songs, talking of plans for tomorrow, and generally happy to go back each day. So far, we are thrilled.