Tag - Sam

A Most Patient Cat
Those Pesky Producers
The Order of Things
Twins Take Manhattan, Part 2
Twins Take Manhattan, Part 1
Home on the Range
My Son, the Fact Checker
Back to School

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.

Those Pesky Producers

Sam runs in to the kitchen where I am working on dinner and says, “Mom, it was Jamie Kellner.” I am confused, I don’t know a Jamie. Or a Kellner.

“It was Jamie Kellner, Mom,” he says, pointing at the ipad. “He canceled the Animaniacs in 1998!” I tell him that I still don’t know who he is talking about.

“He was an executive, the WB kind,” he says matter-of-factly. Sam has made it quite clear that while he loves DVDs (specifically Volumes 1, 2, and 3 from his Aunt JT), what he’d really like is to watch his favorite show on television, you know — like on Boomerang? Or Cartoon Network? They should totally start airing new episodes.

“Why did he cancel them?” I ask, noticing Wikipedia open on the ipad.

“I don’t know,” he says, “but he was responsible.” And that, friends, must be the gospel truth if he read it.

I suggest he write a letter to Mr. Jamie Kellner or to the WB. “Can we do that?” he asks.

“Sure. Why not?” I say, “We could start a ‘Bring Back the Animaniacs’ campaign.”

“Maybe we can write to the others too?” He starts rattling off other names I’ve never heard of — Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, Tress MacNeille (the voices); Steven Spielberg…

I stop him and say, “Steven Spielberg?” He says, “Yep. He’s the executive producer.”

“Oh. Spielberg. Didn’t he do some other stuff?” I ask him.

“I think so, another cartoon maybe?”[smile]

“Mom, can we go to Hollywood? I want to go to Warner Bros. to visit them.” And he says Bros. so that it rhymes with ‘toes.’ I start to explain that Wakko, Yakko and Dot probably do not live at the Warner Bros. studio any longer because they’re cartoons, but I don’t want to see that smile dim.
“I’d like nothing more,” I say instead and give him a hug.

In the early nineties, when Animaniacs was apparently everywhere? I owned a TV, but had no cable. I had never heard of Sam’s “zany Warner trio” before he plucked them back into existence off of youtube. Luckily, Santa had heard of them. And she shops on ebay.

The Order of Things

He says, “Mom? You’re number one.” I’m curious, mostly because he has an uncanny way of remembering the order of things.

So I reply, “You mean like you’re number six at school?” Because in second grade, that’s how they do it — each child lines up for lunch, recess, specials — all by a special number assigned alphabetically by the teacher.

A week in to the school year, when Sam is able to recite who is what number, I’m fascinated. When I point out that the order is done alphabetically, he says “No, it’s not. Number one is Maddie, number two is Alex.” I explain that the order is by last name and his eyes get bigger as he rattles off their names again with this new information.

I’m amazed that he ordered everyone by number and not alphabetically.

When he starts checking out books at the library on the U.S. presidents, I am relieved he’s moved on to a new topic, because let’s face it — how much more could he possibly learn about geography? Or cloud formations?

Pair a new interest with his current Animaniacs obsession and now my son knows every U.S. president in chronological order. (Sam, who is number 15? “James Buchanan, Mom.”) This song is in heavy, heavy rotation around our house. He sings it non-stop. It’s quite something to hear these lyrics explode from his mouth:

Tom Jefferson stayed up to write
The Constitution late at night
So he and his wife had a great big fight
And she made him sleep on the couch all night

James Madison never had a son
And he fought the War of 1812
James Monroe’s colossal nose
Was bigger than Pinocchio’s

What a skill — my brain has no such ability.

What I do have is a new appreciation for the way Sam orders his world. There is much comfort to be found in predictable, unalterable facts. It’s the other stuff — it’s the people in our lives. It’s the emotional, the messy, the unpredictable that makes him anxious. Me too. I guess you just hold on and trust that order will eventually arise from chaos.


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.



We have swerved off of Looney Tunes into the land of Animaniacs! It’s a shame I’ve not yet shared Sam’s adoration of all things Looney Tunes because it supplanted Thomas the Tank Engine about a year ago. We’re talking DVDs, character blankets, cuddlies.

But then he happened upon this video on You Tube (fueling an already happy obsession with geography) and ever since we’ve been living in another dimension — one populated by Yakko, Wakko and Dot.

Happy Day-Before-Thanksgiving y’all.

Twins Take Manhattan, Part 2

So, Night at the Museum. My sister is awesome and she knows my boys. She knows, for example, that if the theme night of “A Night at the Museum” is Come dressed as your favorite mythical creature, then Sam MUST be there. Not only is she a special education teacher AND the principal of her school, but she adores my boys and they adore her.

There are a million reasons why John would hate it. More. So we hatched a plan. The two of them would ride the subway into the city that evening (Sam’s first!) to SLEEP AT THE MUSEUM and John and I would stay in her adorable Brooklyn apartment reliving my city days.

But first: the costume. What mythical creature could he be? His first choice was a Chimera. Well… my sewing skillz are mad but not that mad (a fire-breathing monster: a lion’s head, a goat’s body, AND a serpent’s tail? No.) His second choice was Pegasus and for the sake of brevity, I will not tell you how much money and time I poured into the all-white costume only to have it look like a fluffy unicorn — not at all like the fierce warrior horse it was supposed to be. I will instead tell you that, with just five days to spare, I went back to the drawing board (Sam a little worried but fully on board), and began creating a Gryphon.

Body of a lion. Head and wings of an eagle. Pretty simple, right? These are the mad steps I took:

  1. I found a simple child’s pattern and faux tan fur.
  2. I studied the directions and inexplicably sewed the wrong sides of pants together (confusion and delay, up until 2 a.m. ripping stitches).
  3. Finally figured out how to measure and sew elastic into pants waist. Did I mention this is the first outfit I’ve ever made? I’m a whiz at curtains though.
  4. For the wings, I used pliable wire that I found in the garden section and fashioned wing shapes the length of Sam’s arms, then I inserted an old cardboard tube at one end so that he would have something to grab when he wanted to move the wings by raising his arms.
  5. I covered the wire structure with some very cool mummy-mesh type fabric and then glue-gunned a feather boa down the middle. Since the wings were the first part I made for Pegasus and were originally all white, I got a bag of brown feathers and added several to look more like an eagle (well, not really since eagles wings are black, but to make them less white). I sewed up the hood with some white felt and was spare with attaching additional feather boa pieces to the top (because, you know, I wanted to avoid making him a fluffy gryphon). 
  6. The beak took shape with a piece of yellow foam board. I hand sewed it to the top of the hood and pinched the tip (assisted by glue) to make it “hook” and then added googly eyes on a couple pieces of felt.
  7. The tail was made with extra fabric and stuffed with polyfill. I hand-sewed it to the back of the pants (see below).
  8. Feet were borrowed brown shoe covers and I attached six “claws” made out of black felt. They look pretty authentic, I think.
Walking to subway, carrying rest of costume in bag.

(If anyone ever tells you that a home-made costume is cheaper — it is definitely not.)

How I wish I had been there to see the joy on his face in person. All reports indicate that not only was he not overwhelmed by the crowd and the sensory stimuli, but he was in his element. He loved every minute of it and was quite independent. My sister reports that “Sam knows his limits and asked to rest when he needed it.” It was a big costume night and nomination slips were everywhere. Several people came up to ask his name in order to nominate him for a prize (first place in the hybrid category). I wish I had been there to see how proud he felt, to see how he liked being the center of attention (my guess is immensely). But there are pictures!

Love you, sister.

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?

My Son, the Fact Checker

Sam’s latest obsession is Greek Mythology. It may be an extension of his flying off the couch as if he were Icarus, but his curiosity for all things myth has increased over the last several months.

Scene: In car, driving to library. Sam, not content to just enjoy the short ten-minute ride, must read a thick tome of myths while on way to acquire new thick tomes of myths.

From the back seat: “Mom? This is really confusing!”

“What is, babe?”

“Atalanta and Hippomenes. The wrong person wins the race!”

“Hmm,” I say.

“Did you hear me? Mom! This is wrong!”

I’m fairly certain I have no idea what he’s talking about.

“Mom, on Starfall, it’s Atalanta who wins the race —not Hippomenes! But this book says that Hippomenes wins the race.”

I hear how upset he is and realize that 1) Even if my son is smarter than I am, I must not show it and 2) I need to come up with a better answer. But my mind and myths? A sieve.

“Okay, honey, we’ll consult Google when we get home.”

“That’s good and whoever has the most-rights will be the one I believe and the other will be most-wrong. Okay?”


The book is correct, of course. It is my motherly duty to write a letter to Starfall:

RE: The Woman Runner (under “I’m Reading;” “Greek Myths.”)
My 7-year-old son, who happens to have a photographic memory, was reading a book on Greek mythology and came to me confused about the ending of the myth of Atalanta and Hippomenes. The book he was reading ends with Hippomenes (the boy/prince) winning the race after Aphrodite gives him 3 apples with which to distract Atalanta (the girl). My son said “On Starfall, Atalanta wins the race.” So we came back here to your site and while I appreciate the girl-power twist on this myth, we both thought you should know it’s incorrect. If only you had 7-year-old fact checkers who are obsessed with mythology!

Their response:

Tell your son he is correct! The Woman Runner we modified so the kids can choose their ending. The kids can choose to let the prince win or let Atalanta win, and depending on the outcome of the race the final page is different.  But your son is correct that in the traditional myth the prince wins the race. Thanks for using Starfall!

Does that seem right? I mean, I know it’s mythology and not world history, but for kids like Sam who trust what they read, especially on educational sites —he can choose the ending? I don’t think this answer will appease Sam. Not at all. I think I will unleash him on the rest of the site. What say you, dear readers?

And here, a few additional Greek characters whose names I know not at all:

Cyclopes et. al.

Um devil guy, a centaur? Will consult with in-house expert and get back to you.

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.

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