Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I started crying on Friday evening.

Jacob received his First Holy Communion a few Saturdays ago. He and his classmates have been preparing for months. I have been complaining. There were too many notes home, too many books to read, too many meetings, too much money, too much fuss, too much arguing about ties, too much too much too much. After all, I argued, this is just the first of many. It isn't that big a deal. The important thing is what happens for the next 80 years of his life. I kept working on whittling it down to size.

Then I went shopping for his gift. That was the beginning of the end. I was standing there in the huge Catholic Supply store (because I suppose it takes many supplies to be Catholic) with my mother when she said, "Christy, it's his First Communion."

My throat was closed by a seven pound lump and I whispered, "I know. I know!" I left Mom standing next to one of six special First Communion displays. I browsed through the crucifixes until I stopped crying. I went back to pick up a white embossed memento box and met Mom at the cards. As soon as I read the first card, I was off crying again. We eventually managed to actually purchase a few things and headed home.

The next morning, Jacob started trying to get dressed three hours before the big event. I told him that he could put on his brand new white shirt and tie no sooner than 9:05. He spent the rest of the morning wandering into the kitchen every 3-4 minutes to check the time. By 9:20, Jake and I were on our way out the door. The rest of the family was to meet us at church after the picture sessions were over. "Are you excited?" I asked him. He nodded, then slipped his hand into mine. He held my hand all the way to church. He's a big kid now but he knows that every once in a while, I still need him to be my baby boy.

Friday, April 17, 2009

5 Joys of Parenting

Mary tagged me with this and it's taken me a few days to be in the right frame of mind to tackle it. Jacob is on spring break and is therefore bored out of his gourd, my diet is stalling out, Nick is writing term papers, pick your reason. It's been a long week. But! I have just about managed to free my inner Pollyanna and end this week on a good note. So, without further ado, I present 5 things I love about parenting:

  1. Little League. No, I am not living vicariously through my child. It turns out that an hour at the ball field is a rollicking good time. I sit next to my husband for a whole hour. I talk to friends. I watch the occasionally hilarious, occasionally heartbreaking moments on the field. I yell, "Wooooooooo!" or "It's ok! You'll get it next time!" I hold my breath whenever the uncoordinated kid goes to bat, hoping that this time he manages to hit the ball. And when he does, I leap to my feet and roar with the rest of the parents. At the end of the night, I am grinning like a fool. The first game of the year is on Tuesday. I cannot wait.
  2. Confidence in my own abilities. In my childless days I assumed that if I wanted to learn a new skill, I had to enlist an expert to teach me. My kids have taught me that I can figure out almost anything. I can make a Halloween costume from a picture in a comic book. I can decorate a cake to look like a clown. I can fix a bike. I can speak entirely in rhymes for an hour. And it's not because I'm particularly talented or intelligent - it's because a child believes that I can.
  3. Singing. Having very small children is a great excuse to sing at any time. I love to sing and there are only a limited number of situations in which singing is an option. Add a child to the equation and that number expands exponentially. And they sing too!
  4. Poetry. Children, especially when they are learning to speak, are astonishingly poetic. They don't have a large vocabulary so they have to use their small vocabulary creatively. "I'll make my feet whisper," Claire told me the other day when I said her jumping would wake up Daddy. When Jacob was feeling anxious, he told me that his heart was "bouncing around." They just throw these phrases around like they're nothing and then wonder why I am smiling.
  5. Jokes. What does a bunny sing at a birthday party? Hoppy birthday to you! It just doesn't get better than that.

I'm tagging Cheri, Chelsea, Sara, and Lisa (but I'll be patient since she's having a baby right this very instant).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The whole story

I was in the shower at 6:15 this morning when the bathroom door banged open. I heard the toilet seat hit the tank. "Good morning, Jake!" He grunted back at me then walked out of the bathroom, leaving the door wide open. About 30 seconds later, Claire started screaming. I ducked my head under the water and pretended not to hear anything.

A few minutes later, Claire skipped into the bathroom as chipper as can be. I stepped out of the shower, mistakenly believing that the coast was clear. Jake came roaring into the bathroom complaining, "Claire hit me, kicked me, and bit me twice!"

"Are you bleeding? Did you lose a finger?" I asked. Jacob shook his head. "Then get out of here and we will discuss it when I am dressed. He left in a huff, mumbling about the injustices of the world and the plight of innocent, bitten boys.

A little while later, I peeked my head into the kids' room and asked, "Claire, did you hit, kick, and bite your brother?" She instantly put on her Lying McLiarson face and protested. "Don't lie to me. Did you hit, kick, and bite your brother?"

She smoothly shifted tactics. "My brother?" she asked, her little eyebrows furrowing together in faux confusion.

"Yes, your brother Jacob. Did. You. Hurt. Him?" I raised my voice in frustration. Jake heard me and scurried into the room, his mouth moving as fast as his feet. Claire, realizing that she was cornered, attempted to cry. She covered her eyes with her hands and wailed, then checked her hands for tears. They were dry. So she poked her fingers in her eyes to make real tears.

As my blood pressure approached record levels, Jake realized that it was only a matter of time before Claire spilled the whole story. He blurted out, "Well, I didn't know she was on the couch when I sat on her!"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Park Cleanup: Boys and Graffiti

Jacob's cub scout pack volunteers to clean up our local park for the annual Easter egg hunt. It's one scout activity that I actually enjoy. The boys are hard workers (as are the parents) and the weather is usually nice. Also, I am convinced that if we spend enough hours picking up trash during these years, my son will not be one of the boys throwing his beer bottle against the handball courts in ten years. I hope.

This year, we discovered more than the standard fast food wrappers, broken beer bottles, and cigarette butts. Several of the boys were picking up butts around a bench a few dozen yards away from me. I saw them huddled around the edge of the bench, then they all came scooting across the lawn to me. "There's some writing on the bench!" I looked around for other parents and realized that I was the closest to the action, so I allowed myself to be pulled back to the bench. One of the boys read the graffiti in his very best read-aloud voice. "For mindless sex go to ..." followed by a web address. The boys all looked at me with big eyes as the reader asked, "What does it mean?"

I gulped, then attempted to distract. "Oh, what a shame! Who would write on a bench like this? That is just not nice. You boys know better than to vandalize the park like that! I'm so glad that you are nice boys! Good job on the cigarette butts. Let's go over by the garden and look for more!" Six eyes stared back at me. They weren't about to let me get away with it.

"But what does it mean?" They waited expectantly.

"You boys are going to have to ask your parents. Jacob, wait here and we'll talk about it." The two other boys shot across the park with lightning speed, screaming for their parents the whole way. I blabbered some sort of explanation to Jacob, most of which I can't even remember. I do remember wrapping it up with a stern warning that the writing was not appropriate for children and that if the other boys had questions they should talk to their parents about it. Jake wandered off after getting bored to tears by my lecture. I made my way back up the hill to the other parents.

"Sooooo, what did you say?" I asked.

"Well," replied another mother. "I said that we'd talk about it later. And then my son said that Jacob's mother knows what it means and if it was ok with me, he'd just go back and ask you again." She laughed and we went back to picking up litter. Ten minutes later, the boys were back at the bench again.

Monday, April 6, 2009


I have been very busy doing a lot of nothing lately. Actually, a lot of that nothing includes conversations with my children. Someone flipped a switch that turned my normally chatty children into extraordinarily chatty children. I have been reminding myself of the hours my mother listened to me and taking many deep breaths. I love the idea of talking with my kids. I love the results of talking with my kids. I love the occasionally fascinating conversational tidbits that only very small people can offer. I do not love putting down my work to listen. One day, I will be a good enough mother to listen joyfully. At the moment, I am only a good enough mother to listen.

Claire, two days ago, told me, "This doll's name is Dya. Not diarrhea. Dya." I'm relieved that she cleared that up for me.

Jacob confided, "Sometimes, when my friends are doing something wrong and the teacher knows that someone is doing something wrong but she doesn't know who, my friends get very quiet. I think that's like lying. I always speak right up and admit what I was doing." I didn't know how to respond to that one. I'm proud of his integrity. I also wish he had a stronger sense of self-preservation.

I walked Jacob home from his after-school program the other day. He gave me a blow-by-blow account of a special visit from an owl and a caretaker from the bird sanctuary. They dissected owl pellets. I was informed of the size, color, and contents of each pellet. I was also treated to a re-enactment of a kerfuffle while we waited at the corner for the light to turn. Jacob stripped off his backpack. "Somebody whistled and the owl got scared! He fluttered his wings! I was standing right next to him and I said 'AAAGH' and jumped like this!" He leaped backward into the light post, hitting the pedestrian call button with his back. The call button beeped, further surprising Jacob who then leaped sideways almost, but not quite, over his backpack. The backpack tripped him, causing him to stumble further sideways while his mouth was still talking, "Wow! Wow! Wow! Well, it wasn't quite like that with the owl!"

"Do you know how much I love you?" I asked Claire. She answered, "Yes. Eighteen hundred and fifty. That's a very big number." It is indeed a very big number, but not quite big enough.