Saturday, March 29, 2008

Soccer Mom Status Report

Okay, I have not yet gotten a minivan, but I have made some progress in my journey toward soccer mom. Breaking news: I am the proud owner of a glue gun. Now, I am not crafty by nature. For instance, scrap booking will never be in my future--I don't have the patience or the organization for it. I have several unfortunate 4-H sewing projects in my dark past, one of which still circulates the close-knit community in which I was raised as a maternity dress. And I have a large bin containing fabric scraps and two completed quilt squares that I worked on in my early teen years. But the boys and I checked out a book on nature-based crafts, and they are begging to make totem poles and gourd rattles and arrows from scraps around the yard, so I felt a glue gun was a necessity.

On the vehicle front, I am moving up in the world, even though I have yet to attain that minivan. We have had a good week with our cars. Craig FINALLY got our jeep fixed, which has been up on blocks, sans tires, since December. Although the broken down car look really worked with the overall landscaping theme in our yard (I like to think of it as creatively trashy) it is good to have something to drive besides our diesel Mercedes, since diesel is up to $4.20 per gallon. I do always feel classy driving our Mercedes, especially since I cleaned out all of the old Starbucks cups (see! I could be a soccer mom!) and bailed two gallons of water out of the bottom of the car. There is a hole in the roof of the car and we have had torrential March rain showers--although there is something so whimsical about donning rubber boots for a car trip.

So, okay, I might be biking or jogging Luke to a soccer game, or arriving in a loud and smelly Mercedes. Oh, right, except that he has no interest in soccer. Every few months we get a catalogue in the mail from our local community center advertising available classes. Luke doesn't want to take soccer. Nor is he interested in swimming lessons, the other common destination for a minivan. Last term, Luke enrolled in "Superhero Spectacular." Next term he wants to take a class about spying. Even Luke's more mainstream interest in "ninja moves" has morphed into a near-obsession with capoeira, a strange, dance-like martial art. Not that I don't think it is cool. It just doesn't help us fit in.

Henry is my more mainstream guy, I think. Craig is always going to be an idiosyncratic mathematician. Luke is always going to push the envelope. But Henry. I can definitely see him as a soccer player. Of course, at the rate he is going, he will be running around the field talking faster than he can run. I don’t remember this with Luke. Is there a verbal diarrhea phase of language development? Oh, and Henry still has his little “crossed wire” problem where he just randomly cannot remember certain words and so substitutes other, inappropriate words in their place.

“Mommy, remember that fing? That fing we give to Cleo?” Henry asks. I don’t know any Cleo.

“Who is Cleo, Henry?” I ask.

“My friend Cleo, when we went to the party? The fing? The little fing we talk wiff? What that fing?”

The only party I can remember is a birthday party for our little friend Laura.

“Do you mean Laura, Henry?” I ask.

“Yes, Laura. The fing? The fing we talk wiff? That little pink fing? Cleo get it and talk wiff it?” Henry goes on. And on. And on. And I still have no idea what the “fing” is.

“And Cleo fights with her sister about the fing? The fing that is called . . . I can’t know,” he pauses, finally. “Cleo and her sister fight, and fight, and fall down.” He pauses again, looking into the distance as if remembering.

“But God loves us anyway!” he finally proclaims.

Yes, in addition to the verbal outpourings, the forgotten words and the strange substitutions, Henry likes to provide his patient listeners with an (often baffling) moral to the story.

I have heard that to realize a dream you must first see it in your mind. So here is my soccer mom aspiration: We arrive at the soccer field in our bio-diesel Mercedes. Because of fueling our car on waste fast food oil, we smell like McDonalds, so that works in our favor. Henry runs out to warm up while Craig sits in the bleachers reading a woodworking book and Luke sulks around in the shadows spying on people. The game starts. Henry gets benched for talking too much. I strike up conversations with several of the moms around me, and, lo and behold, I hit it off with someone. Because I won’t ever be a soccer mom, not really, but if I just keep working to find my place in this new place, I might finally do it.

And there’s always Cleo. She’ll be my friend. And if not, God loves me anyway.

Monday, March 17, 2008

On Dead Squirrels and Other Theological Quandries

"I like some things about God, and other things I don't like," Luke told me last Sunday, after I informed him we wouldn't be going to Church due to the 20 inches of snow that had fallen the day before.

"Oh, really," I said casually. Luke has a radar for hot-button issues, so I always try to play it cool with him.

"Yah," Luke went on, which was what I had been hoping for with my noncommittal answer. "I like that I get to go to heaven to cuddle Dock Ock," said Luke, speaking of his dead guinea pig. "But I don't like sitting still and being quiet in church."

* * * * *

"Sometimes we do bad things, but God loves us anyway," Henry informs me, out of the blue.

"Yes, Henry, God loves us very, very much," I answered.

"Up to here, Henry!" Luke said, stretching his arms us as high as he could reach. Then, taking his "good older brother tone" that he takes on rare occasions, Luke continued. "God is like our Daddy. Isn't that cool, Henry?"

Henry agreed, as he always does with Luke.

"And God is like our mommy!" Luke went on. "God is our Daddy and our Mommy. And he made us and gave us to Ser and Craig."

* * * * *

There was a dead squirrel in our path a few days ago, causing a great deal of curiosity in and excitement for the boys. And then the next morning, strangely, there were two more dead squirrels in the street right by the path where we found the first. Within the hour, they had been smashed and bloodied by passing cars. This pushed the boys into dead squirrel obsession.

"This playdough is squirrels," Henry said, breaking a hunk of playdough into smaller pieces. He threw it on the floor. "Now you drive and make squirrels bloody." So I walked over the playdough. "Now let's play again!" said Henry.

Also, Henry spent the morning scouting squirrels, both from our window and our front porch, and each time he saw one, he asked, "That squirrel alive? That squirrel not bloody?"

Later in the afternoon they wanted to visit the non-smashed squirrel, and so I puttered around the yard while they looked at it. They were under strict orders not to touch the squirrel, so they just talked to it.

"Squirrel?" Henry asked, "You dead? Why your eyes open?"

And Luke, in a crooning voice, said "Hey cute little squirrel. I'm sorry you died. I wish I could pet you. But you are in heaven now. Can you say hi to Doc Ock for me?"

Friday, March 14, 2008

Learning to Bike

Luke just learned to ride a bike without training wheels over the last few days. He is hugely excited and proud. Yesterday, after he had successfully ridden around our court for about five minutes without stopping, I said, “Luke, why don’t you stop while you are doing so great? You can end in victory!”

Earlier in the practice session, Luke had crashed and the handlebars had left a nasty bruise on his cheek. Predictably, Luke had not handled the pain well. I was hoping—for his sake, my sake, and the sake of the neighbors—that he wouldn’t crash again.

“No mom!” he yelled, expressing, I believe, his whole life philosophy in this one phrase: “I’ll ride until I crash!”

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What About Henry?

So Aunt Mara asked, commenting on my last post, what about Henry? What was his reaction to the big Magic Cup truth?

Well, I don’t really know. He was likely sitting at the table, waiting for his dinner, listening to his brother cry. I know that he didn’t quite understand what was going on. But, to tell you the truth, I don’t remember what he was exactly, because I was so focused on Luke. All too often, this is the case.

Luke is such an intense child that a lot of my energy is focused on him. I try to pay attention to Henry as much as I can, but I often am dealing with the more pressing situation: Luke. Even when Luke isn’t crying or yelling, I often ask Henry to be more flexible because Luke is so rigid.

The other day when we were at Trader Joe’s, Luke and Henry wanted balloons. There were none that were ready to go, but the checker offered to blow some up. He described the available colors, none of which were both boys’ preferred red, and Luke chose blue. Henry, misunderstanding, asked for red. The checker convinced Henry that yellow was a nice alternative. A few minutes later, the checker emerged from the back of the store with a red balloon and a blue balloon. Anticipating trouble, I told the boys what was going on. As expected, Luke began to become agitated.

“Henry,” I asked, “Would you prefer a blue balloon? Blue is the color of Superman.”

“Okay!” said Henry. Problem solved.

Except that part of me feels guilty for doing this kind of thing again and again. Will Henry remember these situations and resent Luke and me? Feel as though he was always being tricked? That his desires were always being denied?

Maybe. But Henry has found ways to put his foot down. Often, quite literally.

Henry has been having huge temper tantrums lately, a few a week. And even though they are a huge pain and very loud and very long, you know what? I’m glad. Henry is such a people pleaser, such a giver, that I’m glad he can make demands sometimes. And when he is tantruming like this, Luke usually rises to the occasion, acting more mature than usual.

So what about Henry? He is finding himself. He is often along for the ride. He was a part of the magic cup story, but it wasn’t his story. He is finding his way, figuring out how to make his own magic.