Monday, September 29, 2008

Continuing a Theme

I have step throat.

Luke ran a fever again this weekend.

Henry is still constipated.

But did I ever mention that my sister is moving down here for at least six months starting in November? Really, that is what is keeping me going.

Now I'm off to sip soup and chant my little mantra: "Mara. Mara. Mara."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Regression All Around

I know my posts have been whiney and boring lately. I haven’t been telling very good stories. We’re struggling around here, and either my kids aren’t as fun and funny lately or I’m just not finding the story in it.

But here’s a quick one, before I launch into my complaints. Yesterday, knowing full well that this is not his parents’ choice for president, Luke told me that if he could vote, he would vote for John McCain.

“Why would you vote for him, Luke?” I asked.

“Because he is in the Republic, like in Star Wars.”

At least his reason is something besides rebelling against his parents.

So on to regression. It is happening around here. Big time. Both kids seem to be having a hard time adjusting to school. Luke is very angry these days. He used to be a biter and a hitter, and, although I sometimes have to get on him for being physically aggressive toward Henry, I haven’t had to deal with him being violent toward other kids in a long time. But remember how I was talking about my wonderful new town? How I finally fit in? How my web of friends is intertwining and overlapping and I’m weaving myself a wonderful, beautiful life? Well, yesterday at the park, Luke tried to throttle the son of one of my new acquaintances. Right in front of all the moms.

Not to sound like all I care about is what the other moms think. I’m quite concerned about Luke and his behavior, and I have just taken a couple of very good steps toward figuring out what is going on with him. But I have to admit, I also just felt very humiliated. I cried the whole way home.

And Henry. Henry had no trouble saying goodbye to me at school for the first few days. But yesterday, he pitched a full-on tantrum when we walked into school. I had to hand him, thrashing and kicking, over to his teachers. It might be because he hadn’t pooped since Sunday. We seem to have some sort of control issues going on. He appeared to be constipated, so I kept sitting him on the toilet yesterday morning. By yesterday afternoon, he refused to sit on the toilet even though he was writhing in pain. When he moaned and I looked at him, he said, “It’s nothing, Mom. I’m upset you are eating all the chips.”

He finally pooped in his pants. Now he’ll only go in a diaper.

And now I’m officially the author of a mommy blog, since all I can seem to do is rant about my kids and talk about poop.

Monday, September 22, 2008

In the Wake

Ever since the big storm, my kids like to walk around the neighborhood and take note of what they call “the destruction.”

“More destruction!” Henry will yell, although a week and a day after the storm, they are becoming more and more oblivious to the piles of tree limbs and branches stacked on the edges of nearly every yard. The city assures us that their two wood chipping trucks are slowly but surely making their way around our town.

The electric company gradually restored power throughout the city. Ours came back on Thursday night. My friend Stacy’s was finally reinstated on Saturday morning.

Luke set off to take some pictures of the destruction one evening and wound up with a few good ones—featured above—of the mess in our yard. He asked me to post them on my blog, so here they are.

As far as I’m concerned, the main problem with all of this was the disruption of our schedule. Yes, I’m happy that the kids were forced to do without movies and computer games for a few days, but the cancelled school was hard for everyone involved. Luke swore that he was thrilled to have four days off in a row, but his horrible mood proved otherwise.

We can’t seem to catch a break this school year. Luke’s first week was a day and a half. His second week was a four-day week—the best so far. The third week, Luke was sick and missed three days. Then there was last week, when school was in session only on Friday. Which was most convenient, since I had to spend the whole morning in the doctor’s office with Henry, who had an ear infection. Last night, Luke woke up with a fairly high fever and he missed school today.

I’ll just consider this the wake of the storm. Things will settle down eventually, right? Right? RIGHT???

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

That Ike

A "wind event" occurred here in Columbus on Sunday afternoon and evening, the tail end of Ike that no one expected would cause such mayhem. Our little town suffered many, many fallen trees and limbs, such as the one above from our yard. This is the same hackberry tree that dropped a huge limb over the winter. Once again, we were lucky that it didn't hit our cars or house. It did take down the power lines, though, and we expect to have power restored on Thursday. Thank goodness our landlord lent us a generator, so we have a working refrigerator and computer. What else do we need?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Our Town

All of a sudden, the whole last year of posts where I wrote about how I didn’t feel like I belonged in our new town—about how moving is so hard and how I’m the only mama around nursing a preschooler and I’m such a big hippy dippy parent—seem just silly. Because a sense of being settled, of this community becoming my own, has crept up on me. How does that happen? I think, for me, it has something to do with a critical mass of people that I must know before I feel as though I belong. And it isn’t that they all have to be like me. I just need to feel as though I have allies scattered around the neighborhood.

I have been getting to know more of the parents at Luke’s school, and I have begun to socialize with a few of them. And I have recently met and hung out with (both pre-arranged and accidentally) two people from my town whose blogs I have been reading, American Family and ThatPatti.

And there’s Milkweed, who I became friends with at the end of my graduate school career but was out of touch with for the whole six years that I was in Chicago, who lives ten minutes down the road from me now and who is a kindred spirit. She is a member of the book club that I belong to, another member of which is a different graduate school friend who has her own Henry, who gets along smashingly with my Henry.

I’m also getting to know some of the parents at Henry’s school, now that he is a big preschooler. His school is just a couple of blocks from our house and is named St. John’s, as was my parochial nursery and elementary school in Alaska. Craig, I have to say, hasn’t been helping much with first impressions there. He went with me to pick Henry up yesterday, and he wore a T-Shirt that says, in huge letters, EAT ME. Underneath EAT ME are tiny little letters, probably a tenth of the size of the larger letters, that say “closet,” because the “eat me closet” was a fundraiser for the dorm in which we were house parents for four years in Chicago. It was a closet full of snacks that the kids would sell for house profit. But anyway, Craig wore this shirt to preschool pick up, and I was a little embarrassed, Craig meeting the director of the school in such a shirt, but we have a long history of conflict over his semi-offensive T-shirts, and I decided to let this one go.

Last night, after a lovely afternoon of meeting up with a new acquaintance and her boys, just the ages of my boys, at the park—where we also randomly met up with my blog-turned-real friend of American Family—the boys and I sat on the porch eating strawberry sorbet cones. The evening was warm and the cicadas buzzed, and I waved at neighbors out for their evening strolls. The boys were humming some random, made-up song, creating harmony for music neither of them knew to begin with. I was just beginning to feel the bliss of the moment, when all of a sudden, after a long pause, both boys came in at the exact same time with the exact same note.

And this place felt like home.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Sick Day

Luke has been quite sick, feverish and achy and congested. Last night he tossed and turned, moaning all night in his sleep. I didn’t even take his temperature, having learned my lesson long ago that I would rather not know. I just dozed and fed him Tylenol every four hours, water whenever he would take it.

He awoke this morning, the worst of the fever broken, when Henry came upstairs and climbed into my bed where Luke had joined me for the night.

“There isn’t room for five in this bed!” said Henry, not used to finding Luke in mom and dad’s bed.

“This is three, Henry, but if we added two more we would have five,” said Luke.

“Well, Daddy can’t come in because I love Mommy best,” said Henry.

“I love everyone in this family so much!” said Luke, in an uncharacteristically mushy mood. “I’m wonderful! I love myself! And I love Henry and Mom and Dad!”

I think Luke is learning a lot in school. Math word problems. Self-esteem catchphrases. Oh, and world religion.

A few nights ago at the dinner table, he said, “There is a holiday going on right now where people don’t eat anything all day and then they eat a huge meal at night.”

“What is the holiday called, Luke?” I asked.

“Hmm, rrrr, rrrr, Romeo?” he said uncertainly. Mrs. Romeo is his new teacher.

“Oh, is it Ramadan?” I asked.

“Yes! That’s it! People RIGHT NOW are eating a large meal to get ready for not eating all day tomorrow,” he said.

“Who has this holiday?” I asked.

“Anyone at all! Anyone who wants to know what it is like to be poor,” he answered. “But I don’t want to do it,” he added quickly, shoveling another bite of burrito into his mouth.

Luke is at home today, still running a low fever and recovering from his restless night. But hopefully he’ll be back to school tomorrow, back to learning all of the important things to be learned when one is in first grade.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The War on Crime

Well, Luke’s first week of first grade is now complete. All in all, it went really well. He seems to like it a lot. Last night I asked him to rate it on a scale from one to ten, and he gave it a 100.

I’m overwhelmed by the drop-off procedure, myself. Gone are the days of three neat and tidy kindergarten lines in the front of the school, patrolled by the crossing guard kids and at least one adult monitor. Now we walk to the back of the school to the huge concrete expanse and three large playgrounds, where all of the kids—I’m not sure how many, exactly, but it’s got to be hundreds—run around until the bell rings. Then they run and line up in the designated line spot for their class. I find it draining. And this is all before 8:15 in the morning.

So it is no wonder that Luke seems utterly exhausted when I pick him up six and a half hours later. It is hard for me to see him so tired and dazed. It usually takes him a snack, a video, and some cuddles and book reading before he can really tell me about his day.

Last night we went out to eat at a local pub, as is our custom on Thursday nights. We go during the happy hour so that the beer and appetizers are half price. The boys color and watch sports on TV while eating French fries, and we drink half price beer. We were all talking about the day, and Luke casually mentioned that one of his former kindergarten classmates, J, bit a boy—one of Luke’s friends and current classmates, H—on the back of the neck during recess.

“Did he get in trouble?” I asked.

“Yes, he had to sit on the thinking wall for all of recess, and he lost his Popsicle during the Popsicle party,” answered Luke.

“Oh,” I answered, relieved to hear that the recess monitors were doing their job. One of my fears is that recess is chaotic and all Lord of the Flies, although I really have no idea what it is like. And not that I’m scared Luke will be a victim. I’m more scared that Luke will be a bully.

“But before they took J to the thinking wall, we got in a fight!” Luke proclaimed.

“Oh,” I said, trying to remain calm and casual. “You got in a fight? What kind of a fight?”

“A bully tangle,” said Luke resolutely.

“A what?” I asked, visions of West Side Story dancing in my head.

“I told J, ‘You better stop it right now!’ and he said ‘No!’ and I said ‘Yes!’” explained Luke. “We said mean words.’”

“Oh, okay,” I answered, relieved. He was really just standing up for his friend H.

Henry is developing his own ideas these days about how to maintain order. As we were walking to pick up Luke from school, Henry said, “I wish I was in a video game with bad guys and I could chop them all up with a knife.”

Now, had I not gone through this very stage with Luke when he was just Henry’s age, I would have been disturbed. But Henry has the benefit of being the second child, and I know that Luke began speaking this way at age three in order to make sense of “good” and “bad.”

“Well, what if you could teach the bad guys to be good?” I asked.

“I told them and told them to be good,” said Henry, “but they didn’t listen.”

“Well, what if you just put them in jail instead of chopping them up?” I asked.

Henry paused, considering this alternative.

“Okay, I would chop them up then lock them in the zoo.”