Thursday, December 25, 2008

Jokes from a 6-year-old

What kind of monster loves to dance? The boogeyman.

Why don't clams share their toys? Because they are shellfish.

When is a door not a door? When it's ajar.

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other slide.

Knock Knock. Who's there? Boo. Boo who? What are you crying about?!

Knock Knock. Who's there? Woo. Woo who? What are you so excited about?!

These few very bad jokes elicit peals of laughter from my 6-year-old. So of course I love to hear them over and over again.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Perpetuating the Myth and Salvaging the Story?

Sweetie is at the age where he asks if everything is "real" or "fake" so of course he has been asking about Santa Claus. Luckily, he is in a year-round school, and he is "off track" from just before Thanksgiving until after the first of the year, so I am not battling all of his killjoy peers and their nasty little tales of parental lies and deception. And, as I have mentioned before, he totally believes in magic.

So we've been counting down the days to Christmas Eve with our advent calendar. We've been talking about the story of Christmas and the birth of Jesus (prompted by a nativity scene in a neighbor's yard). He has asked for, and I have shared, stories of Christmases when I was a little girl. He was horrified by the trick my father played on me when I was 8; he led me to believe that my Big Wheel didn't come with all of its pieces, and you can't make returns to Santa, so I was just out of luck. He loved the story about the Christmas when I received two live finches ... I kept hearing this "peep peep" sound while we were opening presents but never noticed the cage. He didn't know Santa could bring you pets!! He was intrigued by my older sister's claim that she got out of bed one year because she heard something; the presents were under the tree and she saw Santa's boot as it disappeared out our front door. (She is nearly 50, and SWEARS to this day that she saw Santa's boot walking out our door.) We talked a little about Santa, but not as much as you would think considering all of his questions about everything else.

Out of Sweetie's mouth, here's the skinny on Santa: He was a real person, a long time ago, but new guys become Santa when the current Santa gets too old, and it just keeps going from new guy to new guy so we always have a Santa. (Hhhmmm ... has someone been watching The Santa Clause?) Santa doesn't live at the North Pole all the time - only when he is getting ready for Christmas - but the elves live there all the time; that's why they have those funny ears. He isn't sure where Santa lives, but it has to be someplace warmer than the North Pole. Santa is magic; he makes his reindeer fly, he makes his sleigh fly, he can magically make chimneys big enough for him to climb down and up, he has a magic key that opens doors to homes that do not have fireplaces, and he has that magic bag ... it's kind of like Mary Poppins' bag; it looks really small, but it can hold every single toy that every child in the world has put on his or her wish list. Oh, and Santa can stop time ... duh, how else could he get around the entire world in one night? The magic kind of "freaks [him] out" - that's why he doesn't want to go see Santa and get close to him. And by the way, even though those Santas in malls are not real - Santa hires guys to pretend to be him because he is too busy at work - maybe those mall guys have some kind of magic, too. He isn't sure, but he doesn't want to risk it. Santa doesn't make toys; his elves buy them at stores. Rudolph, though a real and magic reindeer, does not have a red nose that lights up. Rudolph's nose is red, but it's red like the one Dale has from Disney's Chip N' Dale. Rudolph wears a red flashlight on his halter!!

After we toured our neighborhood to look at lights, baked fresh cookies, sprinkled reindeer food on the lawn (oatmeal with glitter, so the reindeer can see the sparkles from the sky and know there are kids here), and got dressed in our Christmas pajamas, I heard him talking to his very best friend "Puppy" - a polka-dotted stuffed dog he has had for more than 5 years - and telling him "he's coming, he's coming, we have to go to sleep."

In years past, we have written letters to Santa, and received letters from Santa and/or Mrs. Claus, but this year he simply was not interested. Instead, he chose to tell his wish list to one of his worry dolls. He is 100% confident that his worry doll will take care of things for him, and he will get that one thing he really really wants. The problem? Because he didn't write it down anywhere, I am not 100% certain what he "really really" wants. I had to make an educated guess.

I just heard a clatter outside, and when I went to check it out, I noticed my Christmas tree has a ton of presents under it that weren't there before. And according to, Santa was in my area while I've been sitting here writing this blog. Though I believe in the spirit of Santa, I have always thought I was perpetuating a myth. Maybe I've been wrong; maybe my son is salvaging the story for me. Christmas just isn't the same if you don't have Santa in your life.

Happy Christmas.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Celebrate the Conscience!

As the mother of a six year old, I am often faced with those opportunities to teach my son about right and wrong and the power of his conscience. Sometimes it feels like it doesn't get through, but I had a very proud parental moment yesterday.

Two days ago Sweetie asked if he could have a piece of candy. "Bless him for asking" I thought to myself. I said no because the boys had been over at Mama G's for awhile that afternoon and she lets them eat so much junk. I thought that was the end of it. A few hours later, however, I found evidence that he had had two pieces of candy. I confronted him and at first he denied it. Then I showed him the candy wrappers, and he admitted that yes, he had eaten a piece of candy after I told him he could not have any and he claimed he had given the other piece to Stinker. He went off to his double timeout; one for eating candy after I told him no and one for lying about it.

Yesterday I was sitting on the floor folding laundry and Sweetie came up to me and said: "Mom, you know how you found those candy wrappers last night and I told you that I had one and gave one to [Stinker]? Well, I lied to you, Mom. I had two pieces of candy. I just feel guilty so I wanted to tell you about it."

I was so happy to have some proof that he has a conscience and it's speaking to him! It's not much in the grand scheme of things, but I'll take very little victory I can.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Where Did I Go Wrong?

Overall my boys are good kids, but it has become abundantly clear in the last two months or so that they simply do not listen, and I don't know what to do about it. They don't listen to me, their father, their grandmother, and sometimes even their teachers. They violate long standing rules for no apparent reason. They do things I have specifically told them not to do just a few minutes earlier. Where did I go wrong?

I have taken classes and read books and talked with other parents. What I am doing should work. They aren't monsters or openly defiant like some of the kids you see on the nanny shows. They just ignore me. I give clear warnings and I follow through with whatever consequence I threaten, but they don't care. I have "good citizen" rules that apply whether we are at home or somewhere else. We have "ugly" words we do not say because good citizens don't use those words. We have "bad" words that no one is supposed to say. I have restaurant rules and store rules. My rules are consistent, and there aren't too many; I definitely choose my battles. So why don't they listen? Where did I go wrong?

Some examples just from today. We have a long standing rule that we do not jump on the beds. I have explained that it is not safe and they will break the bed. They went off to play in their rooms, and sure enough within about five minutes I could hear them jumping on the beds. I reminded them of the rules; I caught them jumping on the beds five minutes later. We have a long standing rule that we do not throw things - anything - in the house. They hardly ever abide by that rule! We have two types of couch pillows, the "green" which they are not supposed to play with, and the "flowered" which they are allowed to play with. Sweetie launched a huge couch pillow - the ones they know they are not supposed to play with - across the room and knocked over some Christmas decorations. We have a long standing rule that we do not treat furniture - ours or anyone else's - like playground equipment. Did that stop Sweetie from swinging between couch and loveseat like they were parallel bars? Did that stop Stinker from tightrope walking on the back of the loveseat? Did that stop Sweetie from using his dresser as an anchor to tie up toys with Christmas ribbon? No, no and no. And this was all before dinner!! Where did I go wrong?

Neither of my boys can stay seated at the table through an entire meal. It doesn't matter where the meal is - home, restaurant, family's house, picnic - and it makes no difference what time of day it is; breakfast is just as problematic as dinner. Before we sit down to eat at a restaurant, I remind them of our table rules, including sitting "bottom to bottom, back to back" on the chair, facing the table, until I tell them it is okay to get up. If we are in a booth, they both eventually lay down and have to be reminded to sit up. Stinker turns around, or gets on his knees. At a kid friendly pizza place tonight, I reminded Stinker for about the fourth time to sit down, in his chair, and he said "No." Just like that. Nice and calm, no tantrum, no devilish smile ... just "no." I don't like to physically move his little body, but I do, and I did. He just got up again. Where did I go wrong?

We have very simple rules for any store: no running, no yelling, look with our eyes and not our hands, and stay close to Mommy. Stinker - the rambling man - is warned that if he wanders away from me, he will get put in the cart (which he hates). Long story short, we went to buy him a new pair of shoes, he ran away from me, and landed in the cart. And then he whined and yelled and cried that he wanted out, the whole time we were there. I'm sure the other shoppers loved me. I told him I would let him out to try on shoes, but that he was to stay close by, and if he could do that, I would let him stay out of the cart and walk. He took off again, with the shoes still tied together!! We went to a craft store to buy supplies for a school project for Sweetie. Stinker was so obnoxious; I took away a toy he was holding, slapped his hand, and gave him a timeout right there in the store. A woman told him she was going to make a phone call to Santa and make sure he was on the naughty list. How embarrassing!! Where did I go wrong?

And then the piece de resistance. They had a big fight in the bath, so I got them out and into their rooms to get ready for bed. After I escorted Stinker to his room, and as I turned to get his pajamas, he picked up a toy, and said to it "I hate that stupid Mommy." As you can probably guess, "hate" and "stupid" are ugly words in our house, and good citizens do not call other people names. I am devastated. I know most children say that to their parents at some point in their life, but Sweetie has never said it, and Stinker is only 3 years old. Where did I go wrong?

I'd love some parenting tips. I don't have any problem disciplining my children, but I don't want to be a yeller and I don't want to resort to spanking (though I have done both on occasion ... I am human after all.) In the meantime, I am going to go have a stiff drink and lick my wounds ...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Guatemalan Worry Dolls

Yesterday, Sweetie came up to me, all excited: "Mom, come here. I found this thing, I've never seen it before so I don't know how to tell you what it is, I bet you don't know, but come and look because I want to have it." I couldn't imagine what had him so worked up. I followed him into his room, and he presented me with a small, oval-shaped box made of a wicker-type material. I knew immediately what it was, I just had no idea how he found it!

When The Ex and I first split, I was worried about a lot of things. My worries were weighing on my mind, and apparently wearing on my face because Mama G gave me a little oval-shaped box of Guatemalan worry dolls. At night before you go to sleep, you tell one of the dolls a specific worry, and then the doll does the worrying for you so you can get a good night's rest. I haven't used them in years, and in fact I forgot I even had them, but they've stayed with us through two moves and somehow ended up in Sweetie's hot little hands.

Sweetie is a pretty spiritual kid and a big believer in magic. He believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. He believes in pixie dust and fairies and dream catchers. He understands and believes in karma (though he thinks it is the spirit of a child). So you can imagine his delight when I told him about worry dolls. He begged me to let him have them because "Mom, really, I have a lot of worries." I tried to get him to tell me some of his worries - seriously, what is my 6 year old worrying about? - but he said "you aren't magic, Mom, but the worry dolls are. I want to tell them so I won't worry any more." How could I resist?

This morning he told me he had used all 6 of the worry dolls last night. And he feels "less worrying" today. Well. God I love that kid!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Rainbow Song

I grew up in a home with a mother who liked to sing. She had a beautiful voice, an alto, and I remember her singing all the time: vacuuming, cooking, sewing, gardening, driving. Sometimes she would put on an LP, crank it up, dance in our living room, and sing her little heart out. Maybe that's where the divine dances of the ya ya brotherhood originated in my head! I loved to hear my mother sing when I was little. I really loved it when she sang "que sera, sera." (What is that song actually called? Did Doris Day sing it?) That song had an impact on my older sister as well; a couple of years ago, while she was in Paris, she texted me to tell me that it was playing in the little cafe where she was enjoying a brioche and coffee! As I got older, I thought my mom was weird - nobody else's mom sang all the time and nobody danced around!

For me, music and memory tie together in my brain. Certain songs evoke very specific memories for me, both good and bad. Thankfully, all of the songs I remember my mother singing bring up warm fuzzies and smiles. Maybe it's because of the strong impact my mother's singing had on me, but I really wanted to sing to my children. I don't have a very good singing voice, but everyone always told me it doesn't matter to little kids, so I decided I would try it. When my sons were infants, I sang made-up silly songs to them during playtime, and they smiled. I would pace with them during the witching hours - those long nights when baby just won't sleep - and sing. I couldn't remember the words to very many songs, so I sang weird songs like "Silent Night" and "The Ants Go Marching One by One." The one song I remembered - a full three verses - was "que sera, sera." I sang that song to them a lot.

We did a lot of singing in the car on the ride home from Disneyland earlier this week, but it was more of the silly made-up type. For example, I made up a song about their stinky feet, which they LOVED. We sang it over and over again while they stuck their stinky feet on my center console and I tickled their toes. Sweetie asked me to sing it again today. He loves it when I sing. Stinker doesn't. Most of the time when I sing, Stinker tells me to stop.

Imagine my surprise when, at bedtime tonight, Stinker asked me to sing him the Rainbow song. The Rainbow song? What's that? I kept thinking about the made-up songs ... did one have a rainbow in it? No. Nursery rhyme songs? No. What the heck was he talking about? And then it hit me. He wanted me to sing him "que sera, sera." I sing three verses, and the second verse (as I sing it - who knows what it actually is) is:

Then I grew up and fell in love,
I asked my sweetheart, "what lies ahead?
Will there be rainbows, day after day?"
Here's what my sweetheart said:
Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.
The future's not ours to see. Que sera, sera.

When I said "are you talking about the que sera, sera song?" he said. "yeah, yeah, sing dat one." I can't remember the last time I sang that song to either one of my boys. I have no idea what prompted him to ask me to sing. But I loved it. And I sang it. And he made a yummy noise! I was not surprised when Sweetie came into Stinker's room and said, "sing it to me, sing it to me." So I did. And then he made a yummy noise. I am a lucky mom; other than giggling, there's nothing better than a yummy noise from my sons.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Divine Dances of the Ya-Ya Brotherhood

My two children spend, and have always spent, most of their days in a structured school environment so that I can work. I have guilt, and feel like I am missing out on critical bonding time with them during their day, so I am forever trying to come up with ideas that are "uniquely me" to help me bond with them. Often, they are so happy to see me, and relieved to be home, that they have an abundance of energy that cannot be contained. On those days, the constant chatter and loud silliness starts in the car ride home and then spills out of the garage into the house. On those days, it is difficult for me to change my clothes and get dinner going because they are literally hanging on me, talking to me, tugging on my clothes, etc. I needed something we could do together when we got home, that was quick and easy and a no-fuss treat for them, that would make them feel like they were getting some special attention from me and would diffuse some of that extra energy. Behold "ya-ya" time.*

We drop everything as soon as we get in the door. I put on some fun music, turn up the volume, and we dance around the living room being crazy. It only takes about 10 or 15 minutes before they feel sufficiently spent. We started with the B-52s - they LOVE "Rock Lobster" - but they now want their own music. We are currently all about the Naked Brothers Band, and they don't even request that I join them in the dancing. I know it's time for divine dances of the ya-ya brotherhood when one of them says "Mom, can we get our ya-yas out, please?"
Recently I caught myself watching them. It warmed my heart to see my sons, totally uninhibited and full of joy, leaping and dancing together. They had big smiles on their faces. They grabbed stuffed animals for dance partners. There was no special occasion; it was just an ordinary day like any other. How lucky am I?? What a great day!!
*The idea of "ya-ya" time is not my own. How we do it is our own special creation, but I read about the idea in a parenting magazine somewhere.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Days They are a-Changin'

Until recently, a typical weekday for me went something like this: up at 6:15 a.m.; shower and dress; pack lunches and backpacks; make breakfast; rustle awake two young sleepyheads; beg and plead for my children to eat, brush and dress; load the car; first grade dropoff; preschool dropoff; fight traffic for 40 minutes to travel a whopping 14 miles; work all day as a litigation attorney; scramble out of the office at 5:00 to fight traffic again; first grade pickup and preschool pickup by 6:00; make dinner; fight about homework; dishes; baths; bedtime stories; and tucked in children by 8:30. Then I got to start on all of the other things that "normal" people do when they get home. It was exhausting. I've been doing some version of this routine for the past six years, but totally by myself during the last three. And my single-mom routine is not very different from the routines of many, many single moms, and I even had the benefit of a very good job, very good childcare, an ex-husband who is around for his children, and regular child support payments. Many single moms don't have that financial strength I had. I knew I was tired, but I didn't realize how tired until the universe pitched me a curve ball.

About a month ago, after working for the same employer for almost 5 years, I lost my job. I was shocked and upset at first, naturally, but the strangest thing happened on that very day: I slept better that first night than I have in months, maybe even years! And my sleeping "issues" - not being able to fall asleep, waking in the middle of the night, struggling to get up in the morning - are basically gone. Go figure. There must have been some relief in knowing I didn't have to get up and do that darned routine again.

After the shock wore off, and I squashed the rising panic, this change in circumstances is probably a good thing. I really needed some time off - to rest, to clear my head, to unclutter my life - and now I have it. Don't get me wrong, I MUST find another job, and I'm actively looking for work, but it's nice to be able to cook for my children, go to the gym, volunteer at school, help out some friends, and still pick my children up in the afternoon with plenty of time left in our day to be a family.

Now a typical weekday looks something like this: up at 6:45 a.m.; dress; pack lunches and backpacks; make breakfast; rustle awake two young sleepyheads; beg and plead for my children to eat, brush and dress; load the car; first grade dropoff; preschool dropoff; have coffee with the "guys" at the donut shop (unless I'm volunteering in my son's classroom); go to the gym; shower; spend 1-2 hours on the computer doing job search-related things; chores/errands; watch a little TV/movie; first grade pickup; preschool pickup; make dinner; fight about homework; dishes; baths; bedtime stories; and tucked in children by 8:30. On most nights I don't have to do anything after the kids are in bed because either (1) I already did it, or (2) I could do it tomorrow.

I have a much calmer existence now. I have plenty to keep me busy, but nothing tragic happens if I choose to forego the chores/errands and relax instead. Too bad I don't have that "I love to clean" gene. I know my calmer existence is only temporary, but I'm going to enjoy it while I can. Yes, the days they are a-changin.