Wednesday, April 30, 2008
It's Olivia who's giving me the headache. I know it's typical for this age (5), but lawd-o-mercy that girl is giving me a run for my money: sassing; lying and sneaking around; flat out blowing me off when I tell her to do something; and man can she take forever to get ready to go do anything. It took us three days to get around to the "seed store" like she's been pining to do because every morning by the time she got her shoes on we didn't have time before Sean-Peter was due off the bus.
But the real proverbial straw was yesterday when I let her take pictures with my camera, something I've let her do from time to time with no real problem. But yesterday. Yesterday she gave it back and I discovered that she had deleted all the files. Every picture I had not gotten the chance to download, gone. Which was everything since our trip to Alabama: adorable pictures of the kids hugging on daddy the morning he left; beautiful ones in perfect lighting "exploring in the woods" by Conner's Scout campsite; Conner decked out in his new Scout gear; Sean-Peter in all his glee and glory playing with some new Thomas stuff I totally scored at the thrift store on base. All. Gone.
I was complaining about this to John, how I know this is a normal stage and I really do understand that. But my pictures! He summarized it in his typical comical fashion, saying it's the whole Adam and Eve Thing: No matter that she had taken pictures numerous times before with nary a hiccup. This time she just couldn't help but wonder, What would really happen if I touched these buttons here that my mommy told me not to? I mean, what's the big deal?
And because of the whole Adam and Eve, Thing, her imperfect mommy told her in no uncertain terms what really happened and how it was irreversible and couldn't be fixed and we could never get them back and I could never trust her to take pictures with my camera again. Ever. Goodbye Garden of Eden. So great was her sorrow Olivia fled from my fiery sword and cried her broken heart all the way to her room while I mourned my loss and pondered whether I had been too hard on her.
And the drama never stops. Just this evening, all the dishes were put away and the kitchen put in some semblance of order -- save Olivia's plate, which still holds most of her dinner. We're trying to get out the door to take Conner to a youth group at a friend's church, and Olivia's trying to grab a banana.
Okay, I know it's a banana. But work with me here. It's the principle.
"So eat your dinner."
"I don't want my dinner!"
"Fine, but you're not having a banana either. Eat your dinner, then you can have a banana."
"I'm never eating my dinner! I'm never going to eat it again! And I'm not eating my lunch or my breakfast or...anything! I'm only going to eat a banana!"
I would like to end this by posting a photo for your viewing pleasure that Olivia took of herself. We were rolling on the floor laughing at what was the most hysterically bizarre, goofy expression that I'd ever before seen on her face, and that's saying a lot.
But she deleted it.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
But Conner came home from a Scout campout today and when I went to pick him up he told me that another kid punched him on the bus. So that's kind of on my mind right now.
Because, huh? Punched him? My Conner?
Conner's okay. The other kid is smaller and his fist basically glanced off of Conner's cheek; there's not even a bruise. And I met this kid yesterday, who's also coincidentally named Connor. (I'm just assuming he spells his name with the "o", since, like, everyone assumes Conner's name is spelled that way, so I guess every other Conne/or is spelled with an o, too. We had to go and be different. Lucky Conner.)
The other Connor is younger than mine and, I thought when I was around him, kind of goofy. Now I think a little differently. Now I'm worried for him and wondering if he's headed down a bad path. After hearing more about him from my Conner (they were paired up as tentmates) he sounds like at the very least he is a bit of a social misfit. At the worst he might be a sociopath. Just kidding. Just a little mama bear sneaking out. But he does remind me of those kids with symptoms of watching too much tv and playing too many video games: their minds struggle to differentiate between electronics they either passively watch or actively control and the social reality around them. Connor is the type of kid who would just pop into an active conversation and say something inane, leaving everyone standing there blinking and unsure of how to react, but usually by just ignoring him. And, ultimately, going out of their way to avoid him.
I try to be so careful of there being two sides to a story: after all, how many times have I heard my own son give his subjective version of an incident that I personally oversaw and heard quite differently?
Thing is, anyone who knows my Conner cannot conceive of anything he would do to justify someone hauling off and hitting him. This is the kid whose preschool teacher once told me that she waited to intervene when Conner and another kid were having trouble, because she wanted to allow time for Conner to stand up for himself so the other kid would learn that he couldn't get away with doing that to him (whatever it was, I can't recall). This is the child who, in Italy, came home at one point last year because he had stood up to one of the bullies in the playground, and the other guy had backed down. That was huge for Conner, and I could tell a difference in his confidence level after that incident. He also learned the valuable life lesson that bullies are usually just scared little people. Although I don't think he appreciated that at the time.
It has taken me much of the day to digest what really happened on the bus and what I think should be done about it. I have my ideas, but I am respectfully waiting to see what comes from the Scout leaders once they have had a chance to discuss it among themselves. Apparently it had happened just before they arrived back in town, and once they did it was the usual chaos and disarray of unloading and meeting up of parents and scouts and making sure all the gear was taken care of and no one had a chance to really get a grip on what had transpired, including myself.
I am learning some valuable things about this and am having things I already knew further cemented in my brain. I was standing there near my Conner at the gathering while they were making final announcements (Lord help me, this is a large Scout troop and can these things take forever) and watching the other Connor and his mom across the way and thinking, I can't believe she hasn't even said anything to me, her son going and hitting my son like that. Even if there were a good reason shouldn't she offer up an apology or something? At least come to me to talk about it? And there she is, standing there like she doesn't have a care in the world.
So I'm standing there stewing and turns out that she didn't have a clue that anything had even happened. Which I found out when she came up to me later and said something about "next time" to which I replied that I didn't think it would be a good idea for our sons to tent together again. And when she said, "Why, what happened?" I immediately turned to her Connor and said, "You mean you didn't tell your mom about what happened on the bus?" And when he just looked down I told her that her son had punched my son on the face, and he was okay, but she might want to talk to her son about it and find out what happened. She just turned directly toward him and kept saying, "You hit another kid? You hit another kid? You hit another kid?" (I resisted the urge to wave and say, Yoo-hoo! Over here! Um, that would be MY kid.")
But when her Connor finally looked up and said, "Yea, I did. But he made me really, really mad." I knew there was nothing more for me to say. He seemed so...disconnected. Oh, yes, Boys Will Be Boys. But did it ever occur to this boy that if he hauls off and hits someone that that someone might hit him back? He clearly acted like, I was mad, so it was justified. Now, they weren't in a heated argument; they weren't having a political debate or arguing over who was better at whittling a stick, or whatever. According to my Conner, the other Connor had grabbed something out of Conner's hand, and Conner had grabbed it back. A grabbing war ensued and within seconds Conner felt the punch, which was so random and sudden that he felt his hand ball into a fist, but (luckily for the other Conner) instead of hitting back he raised it into the air, which called a scout leader to come help.
A little part of me almost wishes that Conner had hit him back. But the grown-up in me is so glad he didn't, not just because it was the right thing to (not) do but also because it wouldn't be so clear who was in the wrong if he had: it would have become more of a he said/he said and been translated into "Conner and Connor got into a fight" instead of one boy clearly starting it by hitting the other.
This is one of the hardest things about moving around, when your kids are in activities in a new city and no one knows you from Adam and you have this balancing act of advocating for your child without sticking your nose in where you don't belong. Conner is still a child. On the cusp of teenagehood, but still a child. I will follow through on this to make sure that my Conner is treated fairly and not just lumped in with the other kid as being equally involved in an altercation. But dang if I'm not out of my element with this Boy Scout Thing, what with my being a girl and all.
And I was a little bothered by the reaction of the one volunteer adult leader whom I approached before we left, who said that they would both probably get a "strike" simply because they were both involved, but acted like it wasn't a big deal; you know boys will be boys and all. At the time I couldn't quite put my finger (or my words) on why that didn't seem right, but when I called John later to tell him what happened he said it best, "It sends the message that you'll get in the same amount of trouble whether or not you hit him back, so you might as well hit him back."
I got a different impression from a scout leader who called to talk to me this afternoon about what happened. This "kid" is quintessentially what Scouts is all about, in my opinion. Here he is, a high schooler, taking charge of an incident that could potentially be volatile, what with hot-headed soccer moms and all, and doing it with maturity and sincere concern for the people involved. In Scouts, see, it's the Scouts who are in charge; the adult volunteers are really there just to facilitate and oversee things to make sure that, you know, no one gets punched, or anything.
This Scout seemed to be getting a grip on the situation and was very concerned that this was going to taint my Conner's experience and cause him to give the whole Scout thing up. And very well it might have: certainly if you had asked him right after he got off the bus if he wanted to keep doing Scouts it would have been a resounding No -- he was quite upset, after all, and really, really mad himself.
But I am learning that, Boys Will Be Boys and all, that you really shouldn't hold back when it comes to doing what you feel is right by your own child. I do have concern for this other Connor: I'm worried that his mom might react by pulling him from Scouts, when he is really one boy who could really benefit from it. My Conner told me later that the other Connor's dad died (when, I don't know) from cancer, and that he had a twin brother who died at birth. For a boy to share this with another over one weekend? You know there's pain there. And what struggles a mom faces raising a son alone after suffering such loss, I can't imagine.
I will stand up for what I believe is right by my son, and I hope to convey to them to somehow encourage the other Connor to face -- to recognize -- this with the responsibility that is his, while still encouraging him to stay involved with the troop himself. Just maybe not in the same tent as my son.
So. I'm not going to go on about how my neighbors rock. How Darlene behind us called and asked if I would like to get out Saturday afternoon by myself? You know, since my husband's away? These are the neighbors who already have been taking Conner to his Scout meetings for me, which would be difficult for me to do what with the little ones needing to go to bed in the evening before it's done and all.
I was like, "Well, I don't know. I mean, I don't even know how to think about that!" because, truly, I am simply so used to not having a life. And it turned out that it really was more important that the little ones and I go hang out at the Scout campsite with Conner for awhile (and in retrospect isn't it good I made an appearance? besides, Olivia couldn't get enough of "exploring in the woods", no matter that stupid mom only put sandals on Sean-Peter because he has an owie on his toe so "No gocks, mom" only it's a miracle that his trying to keep up with big sister didn't take off his toe altogether) so I didn't take her up on it -- this time.
And I'll just barely mention how my neighbor Bob across the way ended up mowing our whole yard with his awesome riding mower after I asked for his help to start our little push one which has been dormant all winter and I can never start a cold mower and Conner (so far) is just as pathetic as I am. And not only did Conner so luck out because he was charged with tackling it but so was I because I was going to have to make him do it and listen to him gripe and moan and complain even more when I make him go over the big swatches he misses so obvious to the naked eye yet I can't tell where I've been! is what he always insists.
So I'll spare you, because this has gone on long enough as it is.
Monday, April 21, 2008
"What? The schools are delayed? Because of the fog?"
I couldn't hear what she replied because of Conner's whoops and hollers.
I really was quite incredulous. Delaying school because of fog? Then I heard on the radio (note to self: do not go a day again without listening to the radio in case there's another natural disaster and it completely passes you by) that the fog was disrupting the commuter traffic and I was reminded of how schools in Texas will shut down completely when there's two inches of snow --or less. And I thought, Oh, right -- If you don't know how to drive in something then, yes, let's please just stay off the roads.
When I told Sean-Peter he didn't have school after all and that the bus couldn't drive because of the fog, he hollered and cried and madly protested. He just loves that dang bus.
Conner immediately ran around the house and went off to do something, anything. He was giddy with his new-found freedom. He even got upset when Olivia didn't want to play hide and seek with him.
I myself set to painting. Then painting some more. Then the fog burned off and I did some yard work. And more yard work. And more yard work. Then more painting. Whatever happened to sitting on the couch and eating bon-bons? I am so physically drained right now I'm thinking I don't get paid enough for this job. Oh, right.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I took Conner to his guitar lesson this afternoon and his instructor settled in with the tuning process and, making small talk, asked, "So did you guys feel the earthquake yesterday?"
"Huh?" I'm afraid that's about as eloquent as I sounded, too.
Apparently I missed the biggest earthquake to hit the Midwest since, like, ever. And was totally clueless that it even happened. I swear I do get out.
Conner, for his part, also wasn't awoken at 5:37 yesterday morning when it hit, but he did hear about it at school. (Drat these boys who come home and tell you nothing. Don't you think this would merit at least a "Hey, did you know there was an earthquake?") His guitar instructor said he woke up and watched his whole house shake, to which Conner replied, "Oh, maybe that's why I found my alarm clock on the floor when I got up." Oy vay.
The epicenter was in Illinois, just over the border from Indiana. But it was felt as far away as Atlanta.
Needless to say, it takes more than an earthquake to wake me up at 5:37 in the morning. The house would have to cave in. Or a three-year-old would need to softly tap me on the shoulder, take your pick.
Speaking of Sean-Peter, remember his new intelligible word, "Me"? And how the next step would be to incorporate that into his sentences? He is totally on top of this game, and seems to get a kick out of it as much as we do. His closed-mouth Mm bou mm? (what about me?) has progressed, after just a few promptings, to "Mm bou ME?"
Conner and Olivia are playing Hide and Seek.
"Mm bou ME?"
Olivia is talking to her daddy on the phone.
"Mm bou ME?"
Olivia is getting ready for her dance class.
"Mm bou ME?"
I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing it.
Friday, April 18, 2008
As we pulled into the parking lot I started to prep the kids, "Now, we're early today so we're going to have to hang out and wait for the other class to be done before we can go in for yours, okay?"
"You mean late," said Olivia.
"No, late. You mean we're late."
"Um, no, Olivia, actually we're very early today."
"Mom, what's very early mean?"
That question says so much about my family you have no idea.
The week has been simply gorgeous. My kids have been familiarizing themselves with the neighbor's swing set again -- how cute are they? big sister pushing the little brother. *sniff* Reminds me of a Little Critter book they like me to read to them.
In other news, Sean-Peter had his second speech therapy session with his new therapist through Children's Hospital. She is amazing. I'm starting to call her the Child Whisperer. Or at least the Sean-Peter Whisperer. Throughout a 30-minute time frame she enabled him to say, "me" and "I did it!" clearly and with consistency, helping him to open his mouth and use his palate every time. If this sounds pathetically unamazing to you, it's because I haven't been blogging about this in detail like I keep intending to and you have no idea why it is so exciting that my 40-month-old son is uttering pretty basic expressions intelligibly.
It's been a bit overwhelming to think about sitting down and writing coherently about my son's speech disorder, even though it is very predominately on my mind and something I spend many hours of time and energy sorting out and wading through. Just when I think I'm getting a grip on it another step in this journey reveals itself and shows me a light on the path that subtly changes the perspective of every step that has been taken thus far, and I find myself at a loss to even know how to begin to explain everything I am still learning.
Words like hypernasality and velopharyngeal incompetency have been added to my vocabulary, and I almost hesitate to mention them because the links describing them are all tied in with cleft palates and surgical remedies, neither of which pertain to my little guy. But these are the technical terms that describe his speech and have helped me to understand what's going on in the little guy's mouth that he mostly keeps closed while "talking". Velopharyngeal incompetency is just a fancy way of saying that his soft palate doesn't play well with the back of his throat, and hypernasality is the result.
And did you know that the soft palate is a muscle? Actually, it's a bunch of muscles. But the point is that apraxia of speech is a neurological disorder that affects the message from the brain getting to the muscles that we use to talk, and for Sean-Peter, the palate seems to be his biggy. Why he doesn't even typically open his mouth is not something I'm clear on yet, but simply saying, "Open your mouth when you talk, buddy" usually only results in hearing the same unintelligible nasality -- only with his mouth open.
Which is why it is so exciting that he can say me and I did it! clearly and normally, mouth open and all. And not only did he say them for the Speech Whisperer, he also repeated them at home, numerous times, to the jaw-dropping surprise of his big brother Conner. In fact, he he got to saying "did it! did it! did it!" so many times in response to our thunderous applause and whoops and hollers that he got himself into a giggle fit, like using his mouth properly gave him some kind of endorphin high and he lost control of his senses.
Using these words in his sentences is the next step. For instance, "What about me?" is his favorite phrase of the month, only it comes out more like, "Mmm bou' mm?" So I'm working on having him repeat it using his newest success at the end, the intelligible "me". Of course, this requires his cooperation, and he is three. Can you imagine having to work so hard to say a simple word? I try to remember this when Mr. Grumpy comes out to play instead of Mr. Cooperation, and I'm following the Whisperer's advice to encourage twice, then let it ride. It would not be good to invite Mr. Frustration to stay for too long.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
My parents visited us here in Ohio for about a week -- they were here through Easter -- basically hanging out with their grandkids and watching a lot of basketball on the telly. At least, it seemed like a lot of basketball to me. We're not exactly the watching basketball kind of family. Unlike my sisters' families and, it would appear, the entire state of Kansas, where following basketball is akin to a religious exercise. The "Bible Belt"? Pshffshaw. More like the Basketball Belt.
Anyhoo. Olivia also gave them an earful, no surprise there. I wrote down a few of the more choice comments she made, otherwise known as Open Mouth, Insert Olivia's Foot.
"Grandpa, don't you ever close your eyes when I'm counting on you to color with me!"
"Grandpa, you have hair in your nose."
Grandma tells Olivia, who wants her to hit a balloon around with her, "First I need to make a call to someone in Kansas." Olivia exclaimed, "Kansas? Is there somebody there besides you?!"
"Hey, that's not the Easter Bunny! I can see the zipper on its back!"
Sheesh. Good thing her grandparents love her.
Besides basketball watching and laughing over Olivia's quips, my mom and I also got a little shopping in. Ohio is a haven for antique markets, but I had yet to actually get out and visit any. Oh, woe me. We only got to one, The Treasure Barn in downtown Dayton, where I salivated over all the finds that seemed like such amazing deals to me after my last antiquing experience in Europe where the dollar continues to weaken by the second. But I managed to come away with only one purchase, what I call "The Anywhere Chair", which John immediately made fun of and said it looked like something that belonged in the Brady Bunch.
It's not perfect, for pete's sake. But it's not fugly, either. Is it? I mean, someday I can get this $10 chair reupholstered and it will look like something I found in an old chalet outside Paris, right?
There was fun in the sand. Wait, this looks familiar.Ah, yes. Here they were, almost two years ago now, at Lignano Beach in Italy, on the Adriatic. *sigh*
But back to the Gulf.
Sean-Peter was happiest when he had fistfuls of sand.Or was just crawling around in it. But wait, I feel some more nostalgia coming on.He used to have this thing with literally sticking his head in the sand.Peek-a-boo!He was happiest with fistfuls of sand then, too.
But for some inexplicable reason he also insisted on dumping loads of it onto his face. He always seemed so surprised.
But not too upset overall. Wasn't he so cute?
Okay, if I keep walking down memory lane I'm never going to get this post done.
Sean-Peter did eventually get braver near the water. He just needed a little encouragement.I call that my melanoma hat.
Olivia helped him along, too.When I saw them holding hands I decided it was too adorable to not turn this into a photo-op.
"Get a load of that guy!"
And we toured the U.S.S. Alabama in Mobile Bay.
...until they started chasing him. Then he got a little confused and didn't know which way to go.So he sought refuge with his brother.Conner comforted them, "Come on, let's just look at the water."But wait, what's that?"An alligator! And it's coming closer!Run for your lives! Aw, that's better. Now we're safe. Them's big guns.
John and Ed used to work together, sort of, back in Vegas. Last time we saw Ed and Cory they were young and carefree and without a worry in the world.
I love this picture of Olivia. I must have taken a dozen just like this, of her running to the waves ready to jump into them and then running back so carefree before gearing up to go again.
To me, this is what the beach is all about.
At least for punks. That water is cold in April. I'll just stand by and watch and take pictures, thank you very much.
When we returned to Ohio we found Spring waiting here for us: the same temperatures we had enjoyed down south, but without the humidity. Oh, folly! for it lasted but a few, gorgeous go-outside days before Winter reared its ugly head again, "I'm ba-ack!"
I'm actually sitting here (and trying to finish this godforsaken post already) in front of a fire, for pete's sake, with a forecast telling me there's a chance of snow showers and a hard frost in our future. Good thing I haven't had the wherewithal to plant those flowers Olivia has been pining for.
I personally envision my immediate future full of painting a seemingly infinite number of walls and baseboards and cupboards and doors whilst learning therapy techniques from Sean-Peter's new speech pathologist ... and adjusting to John's absence after leaving for SOS this morning.
What, you thought he already took SOS? Silly you. That was the correspondence course. Not the same thing at all. I don't have any idea why anyone would think it was. Ridiculous, really. To think that you wouldn't need to go take the course in-residence after already completing it online. I don't know what would give you that idea. It makes perfect
military sense to take it twice. Really, it does.
So I'll be holding down the fort here for about five weeks while John is down playing war games back in the nether regions. Neither role is going to be a piece of cake. I just got an email from John as I've been (finally) wrapping this up, and he has arrived and checked in and discovered that he has a full-up mini apartment with a regular kitchen and everything as opposed to the run-of-the-mill hotel room and bath like most of the others. He already knew he was probably going to be the senior old fart there with his date of rank, going in so late in the game like he is. But seeing his accomodations confirmed to him that "they're going to really stick it to me good".
Aw, sweetness. You might actually wish you were in my shoes for once.
If only my shoes were still at the beach.