Friday, February 27, 2009

Tonight's Topic

So here's the deal. I always swore that my family would eat dinner at the dinner table every night. Growing up, we did until my mom died, then we just sat in front of the tv with trays and ate without talking to each other. When we had Joe-Henry we always ate at the table, and I loved it. I loved seeing the faces of my family and chatting about our days. But somehow in the last year, we had gotten into a horrible habit of having dinner in front of the tv every night, watching the news. It always went something like this:


Joe-Henry: (staring at television) That's so scary

TV: lame local commercial plays with bad music and bad actors

Joe-Henry: Duh. (mimics bad actors)

Charley: Eat your dinner

Me: chew, chew, chew

Repeat until both Charley and I yell: EAT YOUR DINNER.

WE have a perfectly lovely dining room, but the table seems to be the piling and dumping place, so cooking dinner also involves cleaning off the dining room table first and I'm just tired before I start.

But, after some prompting from the husband, one day this week when Joe-Henry and I were both sick, I came up with an idea and included him and it's sort of taking flight and we all love it. I had read somewhere about conversation cards that people have at the dinner table. You could buy a deck somewhere, but Joe-Henry and I decided to come up with our own, so I got out some 3 x 5 cards and we went to town.

Our topics include things like "If you could meet one famous person from history who would it be?" and "Who is your favorite Star Wars character and why?", and suddenly my kid, who acted like we were making him sit on a chair of nails if we told him we were going to sit at the dinner table, is saying things like "I can't WAIT to see what tonight's topic is!"

Last night's topic was "share 3 things that you appreciate about the other people sitting at the table".

Joe-Henry said "I like that you care about what happens to me, and you have rules", and he said some other stuff, but I could hear because I was crying.

And he was giggling. Because his mom is a dope.

I love my family.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dear Joe-Henry

My Sweet Boy,
I have been writing on here a lot of late about how quickly you seem to be growing up. Your dad and I mention this to you on occasion, usually after your bath when we see your looooong legs sticking out of the towel, or when you give me a hug while I'm in the kitchen and I don't have to bend down at all to retrieve it. On the contrary, I know that soon, you will be the one bending down to hug me.

But lately you have been coming at me with other evidence that you are growing up. These aren't physical reminders but emotional ones, and it's especially hard right now on your old mom. I've been sick for what seems like forever and my emotions (along with my intellect) seem to have suffered a direct hit because of it. When I feel this way, I am no match for your arguing, or your descriptions of football or lightsaber battles on your video games, or indeed for your confession that you want to marry M. In fact, you can't wait until you're eighteen so you can kiss her and date her and (here you look at me, your eyes wide, and when you catch my eyes you break into a fit of laughter and hide under your pillow).

If I weren't such a mess right now, I might be able to handle this in a more authoritative manner. I do my best anyway, I summon all my resources to let you know that you are still so young to be thinking these thoughts, and that M., your good good friend, might have a bad reaction to this news were you to confess it. She is still a child in second grade, unlike you, because suddenly you are at least fourteen (all evidence to the contrary: second grade homework and boy's size six shirts) and I don't know when it was that I blinked and missed those years.

When I tell you these things, you say "I know, I know", and I'm ashamed to say that I miss the old soul, the one who looked at situations with caution, the one who sought my advice and actually listened to it. I know that this is only the veeeeery tip of the lifelong beginning of my wishing that you would slow down FOR ME. Because nature has a way of leaving us parents behind. I did it to my own dad, so I know where of I speak.

But at least I was a bit older. Twelve, to be exact. My dad wouldn't let me go steady with Todd Johnson. I did it anyway. Even though it meant that I had to go out to the field at recess and sit next to him and hold his clammy hand. And he made fun of me. Honey, I didn't even really like this boy. But when he "broke up with me" after one day I was crushed. I will tell you here that this moment in time played itself out many, many times before I finally listened to my dad about men. When I was dating your daddy, and we were having a rough patch, I cried to him about something he said to me; something I thought was unnecessarily mean but in reality was just honest. I'd been fooled for so long into thinking that "nice" meant "polite", when sometimes the nicest thing someone can do is call you on your crap. Luckily, your grandpa said something that I will always remember, and is maybe the single best piece of advice I've ever received:

It's not what people say, it's what they do.

But I digress.

My sweet son, I think what it is that I want, as always, is to protect you. When you were just learning to walk, I rarely took you to the playground because the other kids seemed so lumbering, so perpetually moving and screaming with no care for what small obstacles were in their way and I didn't want you to get hurt. Eventually I caved and did anyway, knowing somewhere in my mother's heart that it was my job to expose you to this dangerous world.

And now, I just, aaaghhhh. My throat catches.

I just want you to be a kid for a while longer. Please, slow down. Romance will come in it's time, along with the inevitable heartbreak that most always accompanies it. Because with all of our scientific advances, no one has, as yet discovered a cure for a broken heart. Time and maturity and wisdom can help heal it. But you are only eight. You haven't even lost all your teeth yet. You still want to see Winnie The Pooh first at Disneyland.

And my sweetie - selfishly? I want you to be mine for just a few years more.

With all the love in my heart,

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sex and Violence

Two recent subjects of conversation with the boy:

1. So, if Stripes still COULD have a baby, where would it come out?

2. The minute details of a light saber battle in his Clone Wars video game, where someone got a leg blown off, and someone else got "force pushed" into a fire. This one-way conversation lasted a good fifteen minutes.

I am now having him draw me pictures of his favorite car, his favorite football player, his favorite Star Wars character.

In other words: diversionary tactics.

The sex conversation isn't one I'll avoid on purpose, we were just literally saved by the bell. The phone rang, and we just haven't gone back to the subject yet. And if there is anything I know about conversations about sex with my son, is this: It's all about the segue. So, yeah, we'll get back to it.

But the obsession with violence? While I am not alarmed, I don't like it. But I wonder about the best way to deal with it. I don't want to shutter him away completely, because I know that it will only fuel his interest. Still, I want to show him other good, interesting things about the world. Cool stuff that happens when no one gets stabbed and thrown in hot lava. Because honestly? Hot lava and gun fights bore me to tears. There is no mystery involved, no magic. Having said this, I do think it's interesting to discover that the character he chose to represent himself is a woman.

If you are a parent, have you dealt with this before? If you aren't a parent, how do you think you'd handle it? And also, have I permanently put you off of having children altogether?


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Counting My blessings...

...but first I'm going to bitch and moan.

This month has tested my innate cheery sensibility.

We've had some weird bug for too long, and knock wood, JH hasn't gotten it, but he has developed a bad case of the whines. With good reason: his parents are no fun AT ALL. Yesterday he got so upset with me that he pinched me on the arm. I work with a student who pinches hard because it's the primary way she has learned to show frustration, and when JH did it I lost it. I sent him to his room. Half and hour later when it came time to go to the store, he was still seething and screaming, and I turned and screamed back, in front of the entire neighborhood to SHUT! UP!

He cried in the car that he hated me, and he wanted someone to play with OR a brother. Right. Now. So I called a friend, took him over while I did the shopping and picked him up an hour later. I don't think he was the best behaved kid there, either, and will call my friend today to offer a real apology. When I picked him up I was just too exhausted to offer more than a weary "I'm so sorry."

I'm exhausted from lack of sleep, due to coughing and the cats jumping on my head and trying to nurse on my pajamas. My husband has been running weird fevers for too long, and I'm worried about him. He went to the doctor yesterday and they ran some tests, so hopefully we'll get some news soon. I'm keeping fingers crossed for "not viral, but easily treatable and not life threatening". Theeeenx.

AND when I made coffee this morning, after sleeping fitfully on the couch in the basement so as not to wake the house with my Camille act, I forgot the filter and that first pot went all over the counter. I am an ass head.

So, there. I'm officially done whining. Oh, wait. First I want to tell you about the dicksweep that called at 8:15 on a Saturday morning to say "Is this Anne? Anne I understand you recently inquired about refinancing your mortgage!"

I'm sure he appreciates his new a-hole.

aaaaaand now I'm done.

So, on to my blessings. And I do have many.

First and foremost: my family. My husband still loves me and thinks I'm funny when I get mad at strangers. He makes better coffee than I do, but more than anything, he's my forever Valentine and I love him so much and so madly it hurts. And my son: when he's not making me nuts, I appreciate him all the more. I love him and I worry about him and his sense of humor is getting sharper and funnier by the day. He's a puzzle wrapped in an enigma rolled up in a riddle. And he's cute. Especially when he's trying to lie. He's inherited my complete transparency when not telling the truth. Thank god.

My kitties: even though they keep me up at night, I adore them. There is nothing, NOTHING like a kitty cuddle when you're feeling sick. It's better than hallucinogenic cough syrup.

Our house: it's adorable even when it's an unholy mess. And right now, it's an unholy mess.

My job: how is it that I landed in this place? It's a perfect puzzle every day, and I love trying to figure out ways to communicate with these amazing kids. My co-workers- each and every one of them- I love. That's not to say that some don't drive me slightly batty, but the heart and soul of that building is the sheer dedication of those adults who walk in the door with the commitment EACH AND EVERY DAY to make a difference for those kids. I feel an immense amount of gratitude for all of them.

My surroundings: I live in a beautiful place. It's sometimes gray for what seems like an eternity, but even in that gray, there is promise that green is just around the corner. My tulips and daffodils are just poking their first shoots up through the muddy soil, and it makes me feel giddy. It makes me feel so hopeful that something completely out of my control turns out beautifully. It helps me to let go, and take care and offers me forgiveness for yelling at my child, for feeling sorry for myself, for being a crankypants to a complete stranger who was just doing his job.

Word games: when I have not one ounce of energy, I still have enough brain power to play word games on Facebook. Scramble and WordTwist are my faves. I am only competing with myself mostly, because God knows I can't keep up with Donna. She's in a league of her own. She has a computer for a brain. I am unworthy. But still, I love to play.

My sad little blog and my internet friends: This place has been very untended of late, but I know that people still stop by to check, and it cheers me. Thank you for that. It buoys me.

So, dear ones, now I feel a little better. How about you? What do you feel grateful for? Let me know - the power of gratitude is healing and I'm sure I'm not the only one that wishes February would just get the hell out of here. I'd love to hear from you - either here in the comments or on your own blog.

Let's get all grateful on February's ass and blow this funk into outer space.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I hope that you'll all pardon my lack of anything these last weeks - we have been felled by one of the worst, scariest flues ever. Charley was sicker than I have ever seen him - my big strapping husband relegated to a moaning, mewling baby, with a fever that topped out near 104.

I came down with it on Friday, although I'd been having chills for a while at night, and was so cold Friday night I wore two sweatshirts, a wool hat, wool socks and two down blankets to bed. Last night was the first night I didn't freeze in bed. I woke without a fever this morning, and feel like I'm made of wax. I still ache as though I've been hit by baseball bats about my lower back, neck and shoulders, but think it might actually do me good to get more movement today.

Joe-Henry convinced me yesterday that he had a horrible stomach ache and couldn't go to school. Well, no, actually, he didn't convince me. But I let him stay home anyway. I think he was worried about me. He agreed to my terms: no Wii, no computer, and no tv until after 3:00. He drew me pictures, checked on me while I slept all day long Seriously, I slept from 7:30-11:30 and again from 1:00-3:00, with the rest of the time spent sitting on the couch playing game after game of Scramble and Wordtwist on Facebook. All the while, my boy hung out loyally near me, telling me stories about school, asking me how old he can be before he has a girlfriend, giving me the rundown on football statistics until I'd nod off again.

So, we're back among the living and it's getting better. Hopefully there will be good news to report out in the wide, wide world.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

First Game

Whew. One full week of football practice complete, and one game under our flag belt. It was a week where I learned as much about myself as I did about Joe-Henry. Sadly, I still know nothing about football.

I still feel faint when I think about the kids who smashed into each other head first at practice. And I wasn't even there. One of the boys had to be taken to the hospital with a broken nose. They had to wait a half hour on the field to find his parents, who had gone somewhere without telling the coach and didn't have a cell phone. Or something. I'm not sure.

In any case, it was a long, agonizing time for everyone involved. I wanted to pull Joe-Henry right then.

Or wrap him from head to toe in bubble wrap.

Or fit him with some sort of electrical force field that sends other kids flying when they get within 6 inches of him.

But I didn't do any of that. Even when, on Saturday morning, instead of feeling excited and thrilled for his FIRST. FOOTBALL. GAME. EVER!!!, he was near tears, saying "Mom, they push you down. I'm scared! Can't I play baseball instead?" As much as I wanted to say "YES! Woooohoooo! Let's QUIT FOOTBALL!", Charley and I both agreed that he needed to at least give it a go in his first game. See how that goes.

When we got to the field, there were a million kids of all shapes and sizes. Some of the teams were so tiny it was hard to imagine that they'd even been walking for more than a year. And some of the teams looked huge. And imposing. And together. I felt a huge knot in my stomach, and my palms immediately began to sweat. I looked around and found Joe-Henry, who had already found his coach and his team, and was suddenly all focus and if he felt afraid right then, I didn't see it. All the kids had their mouthguards in, and were listening intently to the coach. He was explaining that the boy who had the broken nose had been taken to the hospital and wouldn't be attending the game today. He was telling them how important it was to listen to him, and how important it was to have fun. That was Rule Number One. He didn't care if they won or lost. If they had fun, that was all that mattered.

They all moved to the sidelines, waiting for their field, when suddenly I heard the coach yell "NICK!!! YOU MADE IT!" I looked, and there in front of the coach and all the kids, stood a smiling Nick, with a gigantic forehead and nose. He looked like a friendly little alien. The coach kneeled down and said "I'm so glad you came to the game to watch the team!", and Nick looked crestfallen.

"Can't I play?" The coach gave him a huge hug and said "I don't want you to get hurt. Do you want to play? Really?"

"Well, yeah!" Earnest puppy dog eyes peeping through giant forehead.

So the coach gently put the jersey over Nick's head and said "I'll save you for the important plays, okay?"

The game went without any injuries for our team. The other team had a kid carried off the field, but I saw him walking it out, so I think he's okay. Joe-Henry played a bit, with all the focus and heart he had, and said he loved every second of it, even though they lost 2-0. The other team had this HUGE kid who was their ringer. He wasn't just big, he was fast and there was no stopping him. They also had a girl on their team, but she didn't get much playing time. The other team had plays and you could tell they all had done this before. Our team was sort of like the Bad News Bears. They didn't have any plays, they didn't really know where to run, and everyone got a chance to play. After the game, the coach even said, "yeah, you guys are kind of a bunch of rag tag raggamuffins, but I don't care - you all looked like you were having a great time!" So the guy who said this, totally redeemed himself in my eyes.

There is the obligatory parent who undermines the coach because his kid is the best player, and after the coach tells him what to do, his dad yells onto the field to do something else. A whole season with that guy is going to test my ability to hold my tongue.

Honestly, I'm still not sure we'll make the whole season. The thought of JH getting hurt becomes more real to me, and the consequences of that... I don't think I could ever forgive myself.

But I also don't know if I could live with myself if Joe-Henry questioned HIMSELF if he quit. If quitting made him feel like a failure.

All I know is this: he's looking forward to practice tomorrow. So we'll go. One cleat in front of the other.