Tag - John

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A Most Patient Cat
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Otter Facts
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The Paintbrush
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The Artist
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Contracts
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Twins Take Manhattan, Part 1
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Home on the Range
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Summer’s Finish Line
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Back to School
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Back in Teletubby Land

A Most Patient Cat

It’s hard to remember how scared of cats my kids used to be. Ever since we added this love to our family, there has been a thaw. John often gets down on the floor with the T-cat and squints into his fur. Sam likes to dress him up.

Troy is a willing model. As long as he’s in the thick of the action, he’s happy.

(Just don’t forget to scratch my ears).

Sam, who has memorized every U.S. president as well as the political party to which they each belong, says, “Look Mom, Troy is a Federalist. Like John Adams!”

There is dignity in toilet paper.

Otter Facts

“Otters are fun creatures to watch and they are highly intelligent.”

—from Top Otter Facts, otter-world.com

My child is in love with otters. Lately Baby Einstein’s Neighborhood Animals has been on high rotation around here. Who knows what it is about the otter that is fascinating him so, but he’s been taking more photos of the TV screen (*note new image count: 1,067):

And he was so adamant that I spell OTTER for him that he spelled it all by himself after I told him that if he did he could have chocolate ice cream.

Last night after I had tucked him and his brother into bed, I heard his little feet scurry across the room. He had pulled a book off the shelf and had torn out the page on Otter Facts. When I went back up to investigate, well…

… he read it to me. He stumbled over “often” and “webbed” and “waterproof.” But he read it to me.

This morning he brought me paper and a crayon and said “Mommy draw otter.” I looked at him and said “No. John draw otter.” And then, even though it was 6:30 a.m., or perhaps because it was 6:30 a.m., I said, “John…Paint otter?”

“Paint?” he said. And so there we sat — did I mention it was 6:30 a.m.? I handed him a brush and paint and water. He caught my gaze, unsure. I told him he could do it and  a split second later he began. He painted.

Fact: Otters are pretty darn cute. And intelligent. Not unlike this child.

The Paintbrush

Oh, John. After years of making Mommy spell words for you, of pulling my hand and insisting that I draw pictures for you (in crayon, in pencil, on paper, on the computer, once in the sand), after an eternity of my being Chief Scribe — now you’re ready to do it yourself?

balloon1The watercolor paints are new — we have not cracked them open since Christmas — so when you brought them to me with a paintbrush and said “Open Blue?” I took in the situation and your earnest face and thought, Well? Let’s give it a shot.

Of course I hoped that you would paint yourself but I wasn’t optimistic. I mean there’s precedent and it usually ends up being me. But still, I got a cup of water and showed you the basics: dip brush

in water, mix brush in color, paint on paper. I waited for the inevitable “Mommy paint?” but instead you pushed me away and started coloring in a hot air balloon. Like I was in your way! (I was, I hovered.)

How did I not figure it out sooner?

balloon2It’s the medium. It’s the amount of strength required of your little hands, of your fingers. Painting is fluid and smooth. Your body does not protest or resist or get in your way (like with the crayon or the pencil or even the marker). Painting allows you to execute one smooth movement after another.

It’s not (as I sometimes wondered) the repetitive nature of having us draw picture after picture for you. It’s that YOU want to be able to draw yourself. And we’re as close as you’re able to get.

And then it dawns on me that this must be what it’s like when you try to talk. I see how you struggle to find words when it’s so plain that you want to communicate something — your body doesn’t have a paintbrush to help it find expression. And just like when you make Mommy draw for you (i.e., be your hands), you stop in your tracks and cry. Or flap with frustration. I see how frustrating it must be.

What if the answer to both is… painting? So I’ve decided: No more crayons or markers. We are filling this house with paint and easels and smocks. Let’s see what you’re trying to say, baby.

The Artist

Well my child? You sure have been busy. We were running out the door and I yelled “John, where is my phone, honey?” because truth be told, you use it more than I do. You stopped in your tracks and disappeared downstairs. When you returned and gave it to me, I was incredibly proud that you listened, followed a direction and brought it to me.

Then I looked at my phone. I scrolled and scrolled…Seven hundred and twenty photos of the TV screen? Seven hundred and twenty?

I’m thrilled you mastered changing the DVDs without breaking them — we did lose a few to your learning curve. I was curious why you kept changing the disks over and over and why you’d fast forward to a scene and pause it on a specific frame.

When I showed you how to take a photo with the iphone, 720 pictures is not what I envisioned, but wow. I see how you experimented and took photos from afar and then how you focused in on the details that you most love. Beautiful, just like you.

Contracts

We are a household of contracts — some sacred, some broken. I love you is one. The day you marry, they are binding and loud and carry the punch of possibility. Eventually I love you rolls off your tongue like a habit, Working late. Sorry. Love you. Old and familiar meant to quiet and reassure. You hear I love you and think He loves me, not He loves someone else.

But you should be listening to the subtext. You should be on high alert and why is it you have not been on high alert? Oh, trust? Yeah. Well.

I think I love you is overused.

It is different when it comes to my children. My I love you for them is a song my entire being knows by heart. I love you is not a habit or a manipulation or a ruse. My I love you is my compass, my truth.

Sam has his own ideas about contracts. I’m not clear on how or why he organized his thoughts under the heading of a “contract,” and am only slightly concerned that under traits for John he came up with “tormented.”

(When asked what he means, he explains, “You know, when I torment him?” Yes, of course. Terrific.).

I ask him, “And what else is here under John? ARTISTIC? Did you mean AUTISTIC? and he sighs and says, “No, Mom. I mean ARTISTIC, that’s what it says.” Well, I guess it does.

Sometimes, we say what we mean and mean what we say. I don’t know what to do, though, when words are the places we hide behind.

 

Twins Take Manhattan, Part 1

This weekend we packed up the minivan and headed north to NYC. Months ago my sister invited us up so that Sam could attend the American Museum of Natural History’s “A Night at the Museum.” An unbelievable event inspired by the movie of the same name. Explore the museum by flashlight? Sleep under a big blue whale? Yes and yes!

* * *

But first we had all day Saturday to explore. Sam had two things on his list: 1) Visit the Empire State Building and 2) Climb the 354 steps to Lady Liberty’s crown. Although climbing the steps without a reservation was highly unlikely, we settled on the latter in the hope that the crowds would be less intense for John’s sake.

Who knows what we were thinking — the line was endless. It took more than two hours to board the ferry to Liberty Island. As long as John had space to jump and skip and move at the edges of the line as it snaked around Battery Park, he was okay. But as we neared security, it became exceedingly difficult for him as the queue narrowed. Sensory overload, a crush of people, and security was high. He was not allowed to walk through the scanner with Elmo — instead Elmo had to take his own ride through the x-ray machine in a bin with coats and bags. Because, you know, Elmo might be a terrorist. I am grateful for the security, just try explaining it to John. 

Once aboard, he refused to go up to the deck, even though he’s been riding ferries since he was three. So the two of us stayed below and watched Lady Liberty through the windows. What an awe-inspiring sight as we neared. I sang softly in his ear “Come and play, everything’s A-okay…,” the only tune I could muster to quiet his sobs.

Should we have pushed so hard? I don’t know. I know that we’ve bailed on other events for much less. How on earth could I have disappointed Sam by giving up? Once we arrived and were off the boat, he was thrilled. So much open space to run around in, a perfect breeze on his face. We’d do things differently next time. Reservations perhaps? Get there earlier? We are not often spontaneous — it’s just not how we roll, but you know what? It worked out in the end. I am so proud of both my boys and even better, I think John was proud of himself.

To be continued…

Home on the Range

We are again driving to the library. This time the subject is Extreme Weather. An earthquake, Irene, lots of reasons for Sam to shift his focus to hurricanes. It’s not just Sam who would live at the library if he could — John has been asking to go for days. Lately his selections lean to Wiggles and Raffi music. The truth is what he really wants are the clear CD cases and as soon as we get them home, he will remove the music, the liner notes and line them up next to ones he already has. He will also peel off the library date stickers and I will use a lot of tape trying to fix them before they are returned.

But sometimes, like today, he hands me a CD of Sesame Street songs and says, “Play music?”

So here we are on our way to the library. John is content because Elmo is singing us there. Sam is happy because he’s brought along his Weather Encyclopedia (again to get additional books about the weather because there are never enough).

“Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day…”

Elmo and Sam sing along. Suddenly Sam stops and says “Why do they say the deer and the antelope play?”

I say they are animal friends and they’re playing. You know, with the buffalo.

“But they have different habitats,” he says.

“Um, really?” Do they? I have no idea.

“Yes, Mom. The deer live in the temperate forest and the antelope live on the tropical savannah. They have to arrange them to play. Like a play date.”

I’m dumbfounded. Do you know he’s right?

Summer’s Finish Line

John had the entire month of August to get sick but instead spiked a fever the night before the first day of school: a day circled and highlighted on our calendar since the end of June.

July was a piece of cake with summer camp to fill our days. But August! A month of unstructured weeks and hours. Fourteen days at the beach with family had its own poetry and routine but that left two more weeks. Two more long weeks. Pool fatigue set in and really — you can only go to the library so many times. That finish line was looking mighty fine for us all.

We went to open houses, met teachers, surveyed the land. We went to Target, stocked up on supplies, cleaned backpacks and lunch boxes. I began to talk to John in earnest about going back to school. “Back to school?” he laughed, jumping up and down. We picked out clothes, read stories about school, ticked off our classmates’ names (a total of four).

Finish line.

And then the middle of the night fever, the early morning refusal to eat or drink. The phone calls to the pediatrician, the bus depot, new teacher and school. The disappointment. (We were all disappointed, I will not lie!) But I felt so bad for him.

John loves school.

He loves the bus, the staff, the routine. And I love that he loves something that is apart from us. We had made it through so many days already, what was one more. But John sobbed for nearly two hours, I told him, “First doctor, then school tomorrow.” He’d repeat it, calm a little, then as if heard the injustice for the first time, cry again and wail, “School tomorrow?”

So John’s first day of school was Sam’s second. We were lucky: strep was negative and he awoke happy and fever-free. When the bus pulled up, he ran down the drive to meet it.

And his teacher this year? Fabulous.

Back to School

I am alone for the first time in months. Hello silence! How I’ve missed you. Which also means: Hello self! There you are! How are we feeling about being alone? Should we eat some ice cream or should we write. I’ve carried half-written posts around in my head all summer, never finding the space or time to sit down and share them. My boys turned seven. We had a lovely family vacation and I sank into brief breaks here and there — a book on the beach, a stroll on the sand — but nothing quite beats the sound of silence for this weary mom.

Back to school brings with it the familiar angst, the wringing of the hands, the transition to something new. We’re in second grade. The amount of worrying I do as back-to-school ramps up is ridiculous. Ridiculous. It helps when I hear that I’m not the only neurotic mom trying to micromanage every aspect of my kids’ lives. As if I could.

Last year I lost sleep over John’s then-new teacher, so worried was I that she wasn’t going to be as good as his first one. She turned out to be better! You’d think I’d learn from that — and I have, really. It just has not stopped me from fretting anew about all of the things I cannot control. This part of being a mom is the absolute worst — the letting go, the trusting. I do not do it well. The only thing that makes it bearable is that my kids are much more resilient than me.

So here we are: Sam moved up to second grade with not one friend or classmate from last year. Not one. It’s like they went out of their way to isolate him. This, when social skills are paramount on his IEP.

The first week the students line up in front of the school by classroom. On the first day I lead an anxious little boy to his new teacher. He is quiet. He notices several former classmates in a separate line. He waves and says hello under his breath but they don’t notice. I tell him “They just didn’t see you, honey.” If his teacher wasn’t excellent… I think, but she is. Members of his team try to reassure me that this is going to be Sam’s best year yet but I have no objectivity. My head has checked out and given control over to my heart, which by the way, is breaking! He’s all alone! He’s sad!

Of course I go home, call the husband and sob. He picks up after the first ring, says he’s been expecting my call. He hears my concerns, wonders if this might not be a positive in some ways. But you didn’t see his face! It’s not right, I say. I spend the rest of the day drafting anxious emails to the principal and his team — should we transfer him?

I save the draft and decide to see how his first day went. If he’s sad, I will hit send! I go to the school and wait out front for him. I’m prepared for the worst, my imagination is by now, firmly in overdrive.

“It was a great day!” he says running to me. “I love second grade!”
Resilient. Positive. Confident.

He has already memorized half of the class in alphabetical order, of course. He rattles them off to me, “…numbers 12, 13, 14, and 15 I don’t remember yet, but I will tomorrow. Number 16 is… ” He even found his best friend C. at recess and they played together. Huh.

Letting go… trusting… it’s a process. He teaches me. How I love that boy.

Back in Teletubby Land

My eyes open to your silly grin. As always, I hug a sliver of our king-size bed — you’ve trained me well over the years. Even when you don’t come bounding in at 2 a.m., I still awake curled at the very edge of the mattress and wonder why my body feels so tense.

There you are: peering over my pillow. You laugh and say,”Tubby custard!”

Really?

I have the odd sensation that I am in a video, trapped in Teletubby Land and you, John, are the eerie baby sun. Much cuter, of course.

“Uh-oh,” you say. “Mommy time to get up? Time to say hello?”

I will not lie: I had hoped we had seen the last of that foursome. Do you remember how you WOULD NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE without your Po doll in hand? There was the time you dropped her in a crowded store and we didn’t realize it until we were all the way home. Your daddy was so mad and so frantic to find her. (He did, of course, cursing her all the way.)

One day, John, you just stopped carrying Po. I placed her on a shelf with the others and three years passed.

And then this morning.

It’s the same but so very different. Back then you were silent — you certainly never recited lines from videos or locked eyes so intently with mine. So, yes —okay! I’ll sing with you! But can we leave Po at home today?

Tinkywinky. Dipsy. Laalaa. Po.
Teletubbies. “Teletubbies!”
Say, Heeeeee-lo! “Eh-oh!”

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