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All my bags are packed...

I'm moving! There are some features here that aren't working for me (ahem, the comments), and I didn't get such a good reception on the suggestions board when I posted that LJ visitors should be able to sign their comments. I wanted a bit more control of my template too, so I'm off to Blogger. Please update your bookmarks with my new address: http://meanmommyblog.blogspot.com/

I'm leaving this site up and moving everything over to the new site very slowly, so if you're looking for older posts, you can come back here until it all makes it over.

See you there!


Middle Man

All parents imagine their children in the future, what they'll be like as teens, as adults, as parents themselves. It's hard to know if the roles I see my kids settling into will stick as they get older, but I do have a pretty fixed idea of what Owen and Mitch will be like at 16 and 18. As my older sister recently predicted, "Owen will not be cool enough to hang out with Mitch." That basically sums it up. I can imagine Mitch peeling out of the high school parking lot in some sputtering old sports car with Owen riding shotgun, shouting, "Slow DOWN! You're gonna get a TICKET!"

We call Mitch "the blond bombshell" (bombshell more in the "ka-boom " sense than in the "foxy mama" sense). He's high energy and full o' sass, a personality that childcare experts like to call "spirited" and that I like to call "obnoxious." He is fearless, loud, funny, brave, smart, and capable. He is full of confidence and curiosity. In our family, it's not only his bravado that stands out; he also has his own set of  physical features: clear blue eyes and blond hair, Malibu bronze skin in the summer. The rest of us have dark hair and eyes, and resemble one another much more closely.One night when we were out for ice cream,  Mitch wandered over to a table that held a family of four towheads. I whispered to John,  "He's going to be with his own kind."

Mitch is also the middle child. All of these qualities combined have, I fear, created a child at risk of feeling alienated.

Right now, we can add to the mix an older brother who is drawing a lot of attention for starting kindergarten and an adorable baby sister, the only girl, who has just started to crawl and was recently diagnosed with a health problem that requires much doting and numerous doctor visits that leave Mitch at home. It's no wonder his first line of defense against melting into the background is raucous behavior. And he's three. As any seasoned mother can attest, the terrible twos have got nothing on the tear-your-hair-out threes.

Here's a list of SOME of the trouble Mitch has gotten into today:

Broke the printer by kicking it while sitting at the computer.
Spilled cherry Italian ice on the rug.
Bit Owen.
Ran into the family room to divebomb the couch, knocking Paige into a table in the process.
Ate one bite of a peanut butter sandwich he'd thrown a fit to get, then declared himself full.
Hit Owen. And hit Owen again. And again.
Woke Paige up from her nap on purpose.
Swiped the doctor's stethoscope at Paige's check up, and when asked to give it back said, "No thank you."
Erased two of my shows from the DVR.
Splashed juice on the screen of daddy's beloved and very fancy TV.
Pooped in his #@%^&# pants THREE times!
Unplugged the floor fan and plugged it back in elsewhere.

The list could go on if I felt like sitting here recounting all of it, but I'll give the kid (and myself) a break.

Sometimes when I'm reprimanding him, he gets this look of sheer defiance, a "bring it on beyatch" kind of look. But sometimes, especially when I am watching from a more objective place, when John does the fussing, I can see something softer beneath that look. It's a look made of sadness, defeat, anger, and a little bit of love, and it reminds me that he's only been alive three years, that he doesn't mean any harm in all the trouble he gets into. He's just figuring out the world.

So maybe I can't predict with any accuracy what Mitch will be like when he's sixteen, maybe he'll be a mild mannered boy, a devoted student and a disciplined, no nonsense athlete. But no matter what he becomes, I hope he will always know that, blond hair be damned, he's one of us. A vital, significant part. Keeping things interesting in the middle.



It has recently come to light that a member of my family is hopelessly addicted to a powerful substance, one that has such a grip on this person that it even disrupts her sleep.  She wakes several times a night for a quick fix, though during the day she is able to function normally, if a bit crabbily.

Yes, my boobie milk is that good.

Paige has recently regressed to the newborn stage, where she insists upon waking every hour to have a wee sip of breast milk. I know that her waking is not out of hunger. She eats heartily at dinner, especially now that she's added some table food to her diet. And many nights John puts her to bed with a nice fat bottle of formula. But still, from about 11 o'clock on, she insists on waking and fussing until I let her nurse. She latches on for about 5 minutes and then goes right back out. And it's getting very very old. Very very very old.

I know, I know, I'm a sucker. If I wasn't so wimpy, I'd be a mama with a backbone who makes her too-old-to-nurse-every-hour 9 month old cry it out. But I've always had trouble with that technique. Something in me just won't let me leave my babies bawling and wondering why I'm not coming to the rescue. I have no problem with the technique itself; I just can't seem to follow through.

So I'm walking around rather blearily these days, biting everyone's heads off over the slightest indiscretions.

This hasn't been the best of weeks anyway. We've been casually browsing real estate a nearby town, and I've developed new house fever.  Right now it's about a 30 minute drive to and from Owen's school, and since we want all the kids to attend there, it makes sense to move closer, especially since we're past ready for more space anyway. But realistically, we won't be ready, financially or otherwise, to move until at least the spring. I've worked myself into a lather over a couple of perfect houses I've come across in my browsing, lying in bed wracked with angst that we can't do anything about these perfect houses. So I've decided to stop looking for awhile and trust that the right house will appear when we're ready for it. (It will appear, right? RIGHT?)

Another not-so-great part of this week: an email from Owen's teacher asking about his noise sensitivity. She told me that he's been falling apart before the intercom comes on in the morning and in the afternoon, crying and covering his ears. Apparently he also lost it during class, as well, when his reading teacher used an electronic timer during their classwork. We knew that the intercom was bothering him, but he had not shared with us that he'd been as upset as his teacher indicated he was, and it breaks my heart that he has been struggling with this on his own. That he hasn't told us tells how scared he's been shows me that he's trying hard to work through it and that he's a little embarrassed. Poor kid. We do have an appointment set up with a child psych that a friend recommended. I'm hoping it will help. This anxiety is only getting worse, and I'm afraid of what it will grow into if we don't teach Owen to cope now.

And to top it off, it's been over 100 degrees every day this week. Dog days for sure. Yipp-flippin'-ee.


A sad milestone

His first at-school meltdown. Oh just rip my heart out and mail it to the top of Kilimanjaro. It did me in. I'm likely to homeschool him from here on out. If only homeschooling didn't require any discipline on my part, I'm sure I could do it.

Many moms of elementary schoolers are probably already familiar with the "stoplight" system of discipline in the lower grades, but in case you're not savvy, here's an overview: Staying on green is the goal. Every kid has a stoplight and a clothespin. The pin starts out on green every day. If a child misbehaves, he gets an "X" on his behavior card. In our school, 4 X's mean the child's pin moves to yellow. Staying on green all week results in the much coveted trip to the treasure box on Friday.

Yesterday John picked Owen up from school. When they got home, Owen blew past me, shirttail out, shoes untied, and went to his room calling back to me, "I gotta unpack my bookbag!" I was puzzled, as he usually stops to say hello and blather about his day for a bit before moving on to anything else. When John passed me, he gave me a dark look. Something was amiss.

Before going back to check on him, I learned from John that Owen had gotten an "X" on his card. Just one. No change to his "green" status, just one little "X." This, apparently, was NOT okay with our little rule Nazi. In fact, it fairly undid him, and, John reported, he bawled all the way home from school. Sigh.

So I had a little chat with Owen, and he told me (after some snuffling and a round of fresh tears) that he'd been playing with his glasses when he was supposed to be doing something else, so the teacher had given him an "X." He got so upset about it, the teacher sent him to the restroom to calm down. I hugged him, wiped his eyes, and explained that everyone makes mistakes, told him that what happened was no big deal and one "X" wasn't the end of the world. I said that know he knew that he needed to listen closely to what the teacher wants him to do. He seemed much better after realizing we weren't disappointed in him.

I'm not sure which part of this is most painful to me. To imagine him feeling ashamed and humiliated and embarrassed with no one to turn to is gut wrenching. That he had to leave the classroom to get himself together is the saddest thing ever. And that he ran past me to unpack his bookbag before I could see any evidence of his "X" bothers me. Did he think we'd be angry about one little mistake? Does he see us as that hard nosed?

My reaction to this relatively small incident is so first-time mom of me, I know. But all of this letting them step into the world alone stuff is hard as hell. What's hardest for me is standing by while he faces moments of sadness or embarrassment or loneliness by himself, without us there to turn to. It's necessary, of course. But he's only 5, and that first push out of the nest is damn hard.

I'm sure I'll feel this way again, as we reach other milestones. Like college. Holy crap, college. Maybe if I start brushing up now, I'll be smart enough to homeschool him to a BA.
Yes, I felt a little guilty yanking my newly adjusting kindergartener out of his second week of school. Yes we stayed all week when we'd intended to come home on Tuesday so he wouldn't miss too many days. And yes, I wrote a rather sheepish note of explanation to his teacher. But it was worth it.  The week was, as ever, soul cleansing and fun and renewing and bonding, and my children love their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents all the more after it. School doesn't even come close.



We've decided the hell with anything that interferes with our beach vacation, we're going for at least a couple of days. Back next week!


I Did It

I made a person. A real, live person with a life independent of mine, who goes on about his day while I go on about mine, our paths crossing only in the afternoon, at the end of the day. Someone whose peers will now influence him almost as much as I do, whose teacher will know things about him that I don't. A person with an inner life who is, as I type, sitting alone in a room full of strangers, calling up all of his young emotional resources to adjust to a new place, a longer day, new friends and authority figures. A person who's doing very well with his first year of big kid school. Mostly.

I have been trying to write this post since Wednesday, Owen's first day, but my computer is acting wonky again, and I don't have time to take it over to tech services. But it's almost better to have a few days under my belt, a bit of perspective. I was fine when I dropped him off on Wednesday (maybe a wee bit sentimental), and he was fine, too. I looked back once as I walked to car after delivering him to his teacher, and he wasn't watching me, just sitting among the other kindergarteners on his new red and blue nap mat with a bravely stoic expression, that look we get when we're somewhere new, a little disoriented, and don't really know what to do with ourselves. He gazed around kind of blankly, waved when I finally caught his eye and gave me a small smile.  Part of me wanted to run back and scoop him up, spare him those first few awkward days. I just kept thinking, he's only FIVE years old, and I'm leaving him in this brand new place with all of these strangers. Adjustments like that are scary even for grown-ups. It amazes me how he's taking it in stride.

So far his favorite things about kindergarten are art, recess, reading, and the discipline system, since his teacher rewards good behavior with a weekly trip to her "treasure chest" to pick a prize. He's striving with all his might to earn that damn treasure, so I guess the system works.

However. I'm also afraid what I feared may be happening. Remember the post about Owen's fear, where I predicted the conversation we'd have if he found a noise to be anxious about at school? That conversation happened this morning, almost word for word as I imagined it. But it's not a school bell that's bothering him, it's the building's intercom system. It startles him when it comes on with morning announcements and to call the kids' names for carpool. On the way to school this morning he said, "Mommy, I want to stay home and do fun things with you." Shit.
When he came home on the first day, he announced that they had a "speaker" in his classroom, then assured us that he wasn't scared of it at all. Not me. Uh uh. No way. But that's how his anxiety starts: first he denies it, fights it, tries to pretend he's not feeling it--hoping to get past it, I suppose. So when he tells me he's not afraid, he really means, "I'm very worried." Then it escalates. The second day he mentioned the intercom again, still claiming to be fine with it. Then this morning.

I knew why he wanted to stay with me, so I saved him having to tell me and asked, "What's bothering you? The speaker?" He said, "You got it!" Sigh. I told him he couldn't stay home, that he'd have a very sad and boring life if he let noises keep him home because noises were everywhere. I explained that every child in his class had something he or she was trying to get used to, even if no one else was worried about the speaker, and that everyone would feel more comfortable in a few days. I told him that the intercom was a very small part of a really fun day and he shouldn't let one part of the day ruin the rest of it. I assuaged him for now. I only hope his anxiety doesn't grow further.

I hate that his worry about that stupid speaker is complicating his adjustment to kindergarten. I wish we'd gotten in touch with a child psych before school started. I wish he could be reasonable about the whole thing and overcome it. Because when I imagine him, alive for only five years, on his own at real school for the first time, waiting for me to pick him up in carpool with his hands clapped over his ears and that alarmed expression on his face that makes him look like almost like a baby again, it breaks my heart. Why does life have to get harder? Why does it have to pull us farther and farther apart, separate an anxious five year old from his mother?

But truly, I know why, and I'm proud of him for doing as well as he's done so far. I'm proud of him for going without hysteria and tears today, for trying to listen to me and get past his fear. He left the car this morning with a quick hug, and I could almost see him brace himself for the day. That's one "first" I didn't expect--his first public face. The first mask he'd wear for everyone else. The first year he's old enough to realize that sometimes we have to grin and bear it, even if the grin masks fear.


Only Owen Could...

Entertain himself for hours taping handmade price tags to our belongings. (TV: $400, Lamp: $6.00, Exersaucer: $50.00, Entire Bathroom: $600.00)

Offer a tutorial to the savviest of technophiles on the little-known features of the digital cable remote. (I bet you don't know how to sort your favorite programs by theme)

Follow his mother through the Dollar Store begging (and I mean a GROVELING begging ) for a suction-cup car sign (ala "Baby on Board") that reads "Bad Cop. No Donut." (The kid loves signs)

Memorize the school day schedule (down to the minute) after seeing it only once and then rattle it off to any passers-by who happen to make the mistake of asking if he's starting kindergarten this year. (He's most excited about the TWO recesses)

Bring his own gumball machine along when eating dinner out in case the restaurant doesn't have a gumball machine wherein he can spend his quarters. (Tonight he decided to spend them on a skill crane instead)

Ask for Tootsie Rolls for breakfast and when denied suggest popsicles as his second choice. (He settled for Cinnamon Life)

Beg for a new t-shirt at Target (but they're on SALE mom!) rather than a new toy. (The tackier the better)

Fear the toast popping out of the toaster. (Among other things)

Have a meltdown about learning to tie his shoes. (He gets frustrated easily)

Name "guess what number I'm thinking of" as his favorite game. (And we're talking ANY number, no limits here)


Link of the Week: Sunday, July 15, 2007

This week I'm loving DayTipper. It's a site where you can submit and read tips of all sorts to make life easier. In the few weeks I've known about the site, I've found a few really useful ones.  And if you submit a tip and it's accepted, they'll pay you a whole $3.00! That's almost a Starbucks latte!

A Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

We took this video of Paige tonight after dinner. Background noise courtesy of Owen, Mitch, and Bailey.

It's a little bit long, but cute as heck. Also, I was holding my camera sideways, forgetting that the video feature wouldn't automatically reposition it for the computer. So just tilt your head sideways while you watch.