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Jacksonfish is dead

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Well, it’s one step forward and three steps back for lamemom, as I just continue to exhibit how effing stupid I really am.  The other evening, I decided to mention to Jake that Jacksonfish, his blue beta fish (irresponsibly given to him for his 4th birthday by a friend who should have known better) had died. Between you and me, the dumb fish had died about a year ago but we all kind of pretended that Jacksonfish, (not to be confused with Jackson, the best dog in the world), was on a stay-cation in Queens with their babysitter (the mother they should have had) and her family.

The husband and I were going away for the weekend and the kids were off to Queens to stay with the babysitter so I had to tell Jake about the fish before he got there and expected to have a reunion. Predictably, his face squinched up within seconds and he started sobbing so hard that he got red dots all over his forehead. Of course, I think I have raised them to love their animals that much so I’m a little puzzled that I expected him to take it cavalierly. But I did. I was absolutely surprised that he was so upset, I think because I couldn’t imagine he had believed our story about why the fish hadn’t been at home in almost a year. He cried and cried and we cuddled and he pleaded for his fish back.

Fortunately my stupid had stopped, for I knew not to tell him that Jacksonfish had gone the way of many pet fish — an accidental bowl-cleaning-swim down the drain. I said that fish don’t generally live for very long as pets and that Jacksonfish had enjoyed a happy life full of love and family, and so on. Then Jake asked for a new fish and I kind of ignored him because there is no way we are getting another fish, even when my son is crying so hard he has dots all over his face.  (Curious that I prefer picking up dog poop two or three times a day to a weekly fish bowl cleaning.)

But I will definitely keep this episode with me: he is five and a half years old and he totally believes me. I know at some point, this will change, but now, I am his authority. Whether it is about his fish on a holiday to learn Spanish in Queens or the sugar bugs that will eat his teeth if they’re not brushed well or that being kind to our animals and little sisters is the most important thing we do each day, my son believes me. As always, I am astounded and terrified by the responsibility.

 

 

May 9, 2011

When is a white lie okay?

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“Remember,” I often say to my daughter, “saying something you know isn’t true is lying.” And she nods and looks solemnly at me and eventually repeats the same lie she said to spur my little lesson.  Sometimes, she says, “ I’m not lying. I’m tricking you. “  How to explain the difference between a lie and a trick to a three-year old?  I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that kids of a certain age (which I can’t remember) don’t actually know “truth” (or lying) per se, as they actually believe that whatever they say might have actually happened.  They are in the bathroom with the toothbrush and toothpaste and then get distracted and head out to the kitchen and they actually believe they did brush their teeth because they were this close to getting the task done.  (Of course, I wish I remembered the age at which they should recognize the difference between actually did and intended to do, as my husband sometimes seems to exhibit the same dilemma:  “Yes, I did put the milk back in the fridge/put the seat down/read the 3-page email you sent me about your parents’ visit…”)

Slipperier slopes, however, present themselves with my 5-year old.  He’s pretty good on the difference between lying and tricking, but I would like to broach the subject with him on the beautiful possibilities that a white lie offers. Of course, I’m sure such a subtle concept will never work with him but sometimes his capabilities surprise me. (If you’re one who thinks white lies are just as bad as “real” lies, we’ll have to agree to disagree. OR you can just click away!)

Sometimes, I believe a white lie simply moves the conversation along in a much nicer way.  For example, if you said, “I look so haggard. I should get Botox but I can’t afford it.” And I said, “I think the lines between your eyes are actually very dignified,”  I don’t think you are harmed because you can’t get the little plump-up shot anyway, and maybe you feel a little better about your haggard-ness.

Another perfect example presented itself last night, when the kids and I were lucky enough (really) to get to go to a party hosted by Hershey’s Kisses. (Kind of dreamy for this pregnant lady: the room was teaming with Hershey’s Kisses, even a new one that isn’t available yet. I’m still chocolate drunk.)  My kids never get to go anywhere and were particularly excited about going to a “candy party.” They played games (the event’s focus was “Family Game Night,” which seems like a fun way to hang out a little more together), ate pizza and hot dogs and popcorn and we probably ate a hundred pieces of candy.  We were playing the board game Sorry and my son started chatting with a very kind woman from the Hershey’s Corporation. She was not just a brand lady, she was a product lady and I bet she eats, sleeps and breathes Hershey’s Kisses.  I knew where we were headed the second the conversation started…

Kiss lady:  How old are you?

Jake:  Five.

Kiss lady:  Are you having fun?

Jake: Yes.

(here it comes)

Kiss lady:  Have you been eating a lot of candy?

Jake:  No.

Kiss lady: (nodding)

Jake:  No, I haven’t had any because I don’t like them. I hate chocolate.

I’m pretty sure I heard a collective gasp move across the room. Jake had the same conversation four more times with other’s Hershey’s people before we went home. Of course, everybody was lovely and as incredulous as I that someone doesn’t really like chocolate. And I don’t want Jake to lie, but I’m not sure how bad it would have been if he had said, “I haven’t had any candy because I’m not hungry.” Or “I haven’t had any candy because I’m saving it for later.” Just nicer, no? He also suggested to someone that perhaps a chocolate-less Hershey’s Kiss might be a good idea. I’m certain that was sent right to the development folks in Pennsylvania.

We can’t wait for the Twizzler’s party.

May 4, 2011

Too old, too cool

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No, not me. Surprising, isn’t it?

No, yesterday my heart broke because my son was too old for a jammie walk.  The husband was taking the kids for a quick jammie walk to buy some (certainly edible but FAR from Jeni’s) ice cream (in an attempt to make up for neglecting my birthday – but that is another post). Since bedtime was looming, my caveat was that the kids had to be ready for bed before they go. Both kids hustled into pajamas and then it dawned on my son that he was expected to be heading out in his pj’s.Which he has done seven thousand times in the last five years. But now, as the end of his kindergarten year looms, he is too cool for a jammie walk.

I heard him discussing it with his father in the other room and they decided that an easy fix would be to pull sweats over the pj’s, so the problem was solved but a bigger problem loomed in my head. Or my heart, to be more apt. My baby is too old to cruise Amsterdam Avenue in his pj’s. Who knows what he’ll be too old for tomorrow. I will try to snag all the hugs I can in the meantime and hope the little sister doesn’t also turn on me before baby #3 arrives.

 

Apr 26, 2011

Just pedal!

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Yesterday in NY the temperature reached 70 degrees, the whole city is out in the park and I am forced to admit again how lame I really am.  I am tortured that my son can’t yet ride a bicycle well without training wheels.  Since there’s no reason to bother with a blog if not to be honest, here’s the ugliest part:  I’m infuriated that many of his friends can ride their training wheel-less bikes capably.  In fact, I’m totally bummed that one of my best friends gets to run while her son (same age as mine) rides his bike along with her. And it gets uglier:  my husband and I almost never practice with him but I still want him to be good at it. You betcha’, I’m the worst parent in the land.

Let me give you some background – since running with him in the BOB (best running stroller ever) up and down the hills of Central Park and bribing him with peanuts so we could go a little farther, I have dreamed of going for a run in the park with my son riding along with me.  What better way to spend an hour together and get some exercise – two birds with one stone. I’m not an idiot — I know bike riding isn’t intuitive, but Jake is a little tentative since losing his training wheels (and his mother is a nutcase), so we haven’t spent much time practicing. (And I’m giant pregnant so am not really nimble enough to run alongside his bike pretending to hold his seat.)  I also don’t want him to know how keen I am for him to get it, because we know that will never work. On the plus side, once he does get it, I bet his little sister won’t be far behind. And I expect that baby #3 will learn instantly, to keep up with the others.

When I first adopted Jackson, the best dog in the world, I wanted him to run with me, too. In my pre-dog NY years, I would run in the park, fully envious of the other runners with their dogs. And I tried running with Jackson for about two years, with no success. Running with him 0n-leash sent me to the chiropractor and running with him off-leash was a disaster because huskies run away (I’m sure your husky is much better trained, but my husky runs away) so the only off-leash running we did together was me running after him, trying to catch him.  Not super fun, though nice interval training for me. Eventually, I accepted that Jackson is not an off-leash dog and that his distance running intentions have nothing to do with whatever run I have planned for the day.

So I will also accept that my son is not a 5-year old cycling star and I will grit my teeth when I hear about my friends’ kids riding with them in the park.  But though I gave up on Jackson (and my husband, but that’s a story for another day) joining me for runs, I am confident that Jake will soon see the light.  And once I birth this baby on board, I’ll get Jake a basket for his bike so he can carry our sweatshirts and a snack, because food, especially when it’s a bribe, makes exercise more fun.

 

 

Apr 12, 2011

Don’t run with sticks. Unless you’re also carrying a really hard ball that you intend to whip at me.

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We were barely out of the car and Jake was running with a giant stick through our rock garden, which is full of sharp twigs sticking out of the ground, last year’s plant remnants. (Note to friends who have been to our cottage and are wondering what the hell I’m talking about:  rock garden. The rocky, weedy stuff next to the steps that looks dangerous for children – that’s what I call the rock garden. Easier than typing “rocky, weedy stuff next to the steps.”)  So the stick he was carrying was 5 feet long and pretty thick – more walking stick than marshmallow roasting stick. Of course, he fell and nearly impaled himself and I could not actually be that helpful initially because the little sister and I were in the middle of a need-to-poop emergency. I eventually turned my attention to my son sprawled across the rock garden, still clinging to his stick. He looked up at me and we had the stare-down to determine if this fall was going to be a big deal or not.

Somehow, I won and he calmly got up, with nary a tear or raised voice. Because I’m his very own lamemom, I said something unhelpful.

Well, I’m glad you’re not hurt,  but you know, that’s why we say not to run with sticks. There’s a tiny little lesson in this…

We all returned to the yard and Jake and I started kicking around the soccer ball, which was pretty ambitious considering I have an ankle that still doesn’t bend and am pregnant-big enough that people think I’m due in the next few weeks.  Jake soon decided he would like to play lacrosse, so we pulled the tag-sale (that’s east coast for a garage sale) lacrosse sticks and a tennis ball from the garage and started to play. I know next to nothing about lacrosse but it was fun and he was teaching me what he knew, (which is not much).

I passed the ball to him (I don’t even know if pass is the right word; lacrosse for dummies is my next web search) and he started running to catch it. He was running fast while looking for the ball, holding the stick, somehow avoiding mud, snow and and the occasional dog piles in our yard, and I was cheering for  him. He missed catching the ball by a mile but we were both proud. And glad my don’t-run-with-sticks lesson had been disregarded.

Mar 25, 2011

Game day is life without us.

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This week was a big week for us as far as kindergarten is concerned. We went to Jake’s parent-teacher conference.

Apparently, our son is age-appropriate in all of his school work. But he is apparently an angel. Here are some highlights, and as much as I like some good exaggeration, these are near-quotes from his teacher:

He is friends with everybody and everybody likes him. He plays nicely. He is kind and gentle. He knows and does what is expected of him. He (- and this is rich – ) really LOVES his little sister. Blahblahblah.

You get the drift. It went on and on and I wanted to throw up in my mouth a little bit because that certainly did not sound like my son. He has been outright mean with his sister lately and his surly behavior at dinner time each night has been making me want to put him in the corner forever or shake him silly, (but I know that’s not an option). So I mentioned this recent behavior to the teacher. (Yes, I totally sold out my son. Whoops.) She smiled and said something along the lines of, “At home, they’re trying things out. It’s practice.”

That made me feel better than anything else she could have said. I understand it: I have some horrible runs (or swims or bike rides), but I try to pull it together for race day. And so it is with the kids. I guess we just have to work on his practice methods, because his game-day methods seem to be working. And I think that’s the idea. Because we can’t always be there to monitor (or judge or guide) them and it all comes down to whether they’re ready for the game or not.

Mar 17, 2011

“I’m going to be a party girl.”

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At breakfast last weekend, the kids decided to share life plans with the husband and me. Jake started the conversation by asking about guns and cowboys. I gave him my best explanation on why cowboys might have guns (less True Grit and more crazy grizzly-bear-at-night) and I think that sealed the deal:  he is going to be a cowboy. Since he hails from a long line of farmers, cowboy didn’t seem too far of a stretch, except for the fact that he lives in Manhattan.

Not to be left out, his sister piped up. “And I’m going to be a party girl.” Silence. The grown-ups exchanged glances, wondering where she got the phrase “party girl.” I have to admit that I spent a moment wondering how she knew that her lamemom had been a party girl a long, long time ago and I was a little touched that she wanted to follow in my footsteps.  But she’s only three so where did she get the idea of a party girl?

The husband recovered quicker, which is unusual. He and Jenn discussed how fun it would be for her to be an engineer (he was an engineer a long, long time ago). She was excited to build “real things” like buildings and bridges and breakwalls. The husband was seeming pretty smug as he had suddenly not only talked her into going to his university back in Canada but had also virtually confirmed that she would get her masters in engineering in Texas, just as he had done.  I began to imagine my grown children:  a cowboy (with a gun) and a girl engineer, and I was proud.

And I stayed proud, even as Jenn burst the bubble. After ten minutes of engineer talk, she announced, “But I’m going to be a party girl.” Regardless of what a 3-year old’s version of a party girl is, she’s excited about it.  And presumably that’s how we end up doing up something we are good at, that makes us happy. So I hope that she’s the best party girl she can be. Maybe the next baby can be the engineer, or something similarly reliable, as not only will he be looking after his old mother, he will also need to keep track of his party girl sister and cowboy-with-gun brother. Our reunions are going to be a hoot.

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Mar 8, 2011

It’s not about the ice cream.

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Monday afternoon, my son Jake (5) wanted something else to drink at the cafe. We’re neither fancy nor French but my son LOVES “cafes,” and I can turn any local coffee shop into a cafe by simply calling it a cafe. He wanted more to drink so I handed him three dollars (I knew it was only two but I hated the idea of him not having enough — nothing more embarrassing than that, as far as I’m concerned.) and pointed him in the direction of the front counter, maybe 100 feet from where we were sitting.

He insisted that I go up to get it for him and I insisted that he go. Eventually he realized that I wasn’t going to bend. For him to obtain another lemonade he needed to put on his big-boy pants and march bravely forth:  stand in a line of strangers (grown-ups), order, pay and return to the safety our table. He thought for a while and eventually he mustered up his courage and set off.  Of course, I watched him the whole way and felt a surge of relief when he actually had his drink in hand and was headed back to me.  He was proud (and no longer thirsty) and I was proud, too. Of both of us.

This cafe day, coupled with a great post by Jenny Heitz this week at A Child Grows in Brooklyn called Parenting in the Age of Fear, has me wondering when it’s okay for us to start encouraging (or pushing?) them to be more independent? Of course, I don’t let the 5-year old walk the dog by himself but he gets to hold the leash and and “be in charge” while I bite my tongue (almost off) as I try not to micromanage leash length, treat allocation, etc. (Yes, I’m a pleasure to live with. Shame my husband doesn’t have a blog.)

I don’t know how old I was when I got to start doing things on my own but I know I was probably allowed to ride bikes with my friend Tricia to Gebos for penny candy when we were 8-ish. Or maybe we weren’t allowed, but we were out riding our bikes so we just ended up there. Lots of freedom comes from having wheels, and as a city kid, my son will probably not ride anywhere on his bike for a long time. (That he is barely done with his training wheels is another whole story.) And of course, along with my desire that my kids are capable, independent people comes the desire that they don’t become those people too quickly.

I often imagine letting Jake go to our corner deli alone. He would have to ride the elevator to the lobby of our building (the elevator has an attendant), walk 8 or 10 steps to the corner, turn the corner and enter our deli, where the guys know us. No streets to be crossed, but a corner when he would leave my sight if I were to follow him as a spy. (And of course, I plan to follow him for a long time.) I envision him selecting whatever his $5 can buy him. I wonder if he would be safer if I sent his little sister along as a back-up and made them hold hands? (Because a snatcher might successfully snatch my sweet son but wouldn’t have a chance if he tried to snatch the crazy little sister.) And though I know he can order my coffee (he even knows my order at Starbucks, which is different than my deli coffee order; his father, sadly, choses to know neither), he doesn’t read yet so what if he grabs me a pint of chocolate chocolate chip instead of the vanilla heath bar crunch I really want?

Mar 2, 2011

How did I end up in a Ray Bradbury novel?

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The kids had the week off of school so we were up at our cottage for a few extra days. Since it was too gross rainy/snowy to really go on the hike we had planned, we were headed to our local library.

Jake:  How many books can we check out?  Three each?

lamemom:  Let’s wait and see how many we like. Maybe two each because I need something to read, too.

Jake:  So two for everybody.

lamemom (Imagining some of the books that I hate reading to them):  Two for everybody if I like the books.

Silence from the back seat, giving me time to quickly replay what I had just said. Whoops. Suddenly I was a censor, I’ll be burning books in no time.

Jake:  You’re not the boss of our books, you know.

Because I have I’m-the-boss-of-everything tendencies,  I started to reply, in true 5-year-old fashion. And then I stopped talking but my mind was racing.

How guilty should I feel because I want to be the boss of their books?  I don’t feel bad about hiding the scary Peekabo Game book that somehow ended up at our house but I feel a little bad that I can’t bear to read Barbie does Gymnastics for the HUNDREDTH time.  I hide those books, so is it different if I only check out from the library for them the books that I will want to read to them? Actually I think I’m feeling conflicted because I’m “interfering” with library business, like tampering with the mail. (Would I really go to jail for “borrowing” my neighbor’s People magazine?) Or am I conflicted because the book hiding that occurs at my house is a secret — I dutifully “help” the kids look for the missing Barbie does Gymnastics — and by refusing to check out Barbie from the library, my control is no longer a secret?

I think it all comes back to my fruit salad theory:   when my son was younger and we would go to the diner, we would always order a fruit salad with our french fries because fruit was something I knew he would eat. And he would eat all the grapes and strawberries (which is to say, both grapes and the one, sad strawberry) and I would be thrilled. But then this doting lamemom would end up eating most of the french fries and the under-ripe cantaloupe. The sad green melon (which I can’t even dignify with a name, unfortunately) would be left in the watery bowl. So I realized then that being a parent meant eating the crappy fruit. (And I still believe that is true in many instances.) OR it meant making your kid (gasp – even the 18-month old) share the good stuff with you or – (double gasp  — down goes the frugality my mother tried so hard to instill in me) – ordering my own fruit salad. Since I don’t want to be stuck eating the crappy fruit forever, I don’t.  And my kids’ Barbie does Gymnastics book is the literary equivalent of the watery, green melon.  So I’m avoiding that, too, and I don’t feel (that) bad about it.

 

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Feb 28, 2011

Do you ever win?

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That is a question my kids ask me several times a week. I’m a triathlon-er of sorts, which means when my 40-year old joints are moving as they should (which is not now), I swim and ride my bike and run. We have dragged the kids to my husband’s and my races since they were babies, and they think that’s normal – standing on a beach at dawn to see Mommy or Daddy finish a swim in a wet suit. But no, I have not won in a long time. Actually, I’m pretty sure (with the possible exception of a relay in middle school track) that I have never won. I can say with certainty that I have never lost. But my kids are obsessed with a win.

We were driving along the Hudson River on the weekend and Jenn pointed, “You did races in that river, didn’t you?” Happily distracted from Friday afternoon traffic on the West Side Highway, I bragged (yes, I bragged to a 3-year old – I didn’t say I was proud of it), “Yes – the New York City Triathlon. Do you remember cheering for me?”  Of course, she didn’t remember because they hadn’t come to the 2010 race (because my husband wanted to go to our cottage to waterski instead of stay in the city to cheer his wife on for kind of a big-deal race two blocks from home – I’m not bitter). But I had a nice moment or two to think about those races, until Jenn wrecked it with “Did you win?”  Then she listed two other racing friends of mine, wondering if either of them had won. No, I explained, none of us had won, but we had had fun and tried hard and all got faster than we had been the previous year. She heard, “I lost and my friends did, too. Blahblahblah.”

“Who won?” she asked. I explained that a lady from New York named Rebeccah Wassner had won and that triathlons were her job.

“Do you know her? ” she asked. No, I answered. Somehow within seconds, lamemom had gone from badass-mommy-swims-in-the-Hudson to loser-mommy-neither-wins-nor-knows-the-winner. I had to turn it around, if only to save my fragile ego. Happily, young son came to the rescue.

“Jenn,” he asked. You know all those medals at home that they let us wear?”

Race medals – the “good job for finishing” kind, not the “yippee you’re the winner” kind – get a lot of use at our house – I find them hidden in backpacks and under pillows. The kids love them and stage races, winning them at the end. (Our downstairs neighbors love this, undoubtedly. Sorry!)

“Well,” he continued, “they get them at races.  And she’s only forty (!!!) so she has a lot of years left so if she keeps trying hard and running as fast as she can, even when she’s tired, then maybe she’ll win one day.”

I stopped myself from saying, “I will probably never ever win a race,” because I don’t need to explain age groups and PR (personal record) times to them. Ultimately, don’t we want them to believe that if they keep trying, even when they’re tired, that it’s possible to win?

And though he’s just five, maybe he is right — maybe I will win one day. And if I do, they’re not touching that medal.

Filed under Expectations, Triathlon
Feb 7, 2011

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