A Very Kindergarten Week

It started with Benji laughing hysterically. He wanted to tell me a story about something that had happened at school, but it cracked him up so much he could hardly get the words out.

Finally, he managed to calm down enough to gasp out the facts: When they got their turn with a school iPad, he and a friend took a picture (or pictures?) of Benji’s bottom with the camera app. I laughed, too — and then suddenly a sobering thought struck me.

“You had your pants on, right?”

“Yeah, like this –” …and he proceeds to drop his drawers and give me a full moon.

So, yes… for definitions of “wearing pants” that don’t strictly include covering your bare buns.

The next morning the seriousness had sunk in, and I realized I had to call the teacher. We couldn’t have other kids using that iPad and getting an eyeful! I called the teacher and she expressed the level of horror, shock, and astonishment I probably should’ve felt the previous evening when I honestly had just laughed with incredulity.

Needless to say, after wiping all the iPads, the teacher had a special consequence for Benji and his friend. They stayed in from recess for a private lesson on, well, keeping privates private. When I talked with him that evening, Benji told me he wished he hadn’t done it, so I figure we’re probably safe from that exact thing happening again.

Goodness only knows what’s coming next.

Well, actually, I know, because it came already. Every Monday and Friday we have dessert with dinner — literally with, contemporaneous, simultaneously to eating our pasta, etc. Well, Benji and mom had this brilliant idea of having ice cream sundaes for dessert.

Oh, it was a glorious sight: A real sundae dish, filled with three scoops of Neapolitan ice cream, topped with banana, strawberries, canned cherry pie filling, and crushed pineapple, and the whole thing liberally drizzled with chocolate sauce.

Benji slayed it. Took no prisoners. Licked that dish clean. There was nary a sundae molecule left to be seen when he finished. After which he asked to be excused, and we figured — well, occasionally you get dessert for dinner.

When we got home, though, he started complaining about his stomach hurting. He kept complaining, and curled up on the floor instead of changing out of his clothes, taking a bath, getting on pajamas, or brushing teeth.

Which made a whole lot more sense when, after finishing his quick bath, he vomited right into the toilet. Chocolate-colored vomit came out his mouth and his nose, a real double whammy. I won’t describe any more, but suffice it to say that after two very thorough rounds of throwing up, I seriously doubt much sundae remained in his stomach.

“I don’t ever want to eat ice cream ever again,” he told me, midway through this ordeal. Then, giving me a window into his mind, he said, “I’m sticking with Tillamookies. They’ve never steered me wrong.” I refrained from pointing out that they, too, contain ice cream.

Finally I got him into bed and calmed down (vomiting like that really is enough to ruffle anyone’s feathers), and he went to sleep very quickly.

So, I guess we’ve all learned something:

  1. Don’t take pictures of your bare ass, especially on public computers.
  2. Don’t eat excessive amounts of sugar.

Truly, everything you need to know, you learn in kindergarten.

Why We Keep Teeth

Benji has lost four teeth so far, the front two in the top and bottom. Before he lost his first tooth, which came out at the end of June last year, we prepped him with the hard reality that there is no Tooth Fairy. We are the Tooth Fairy, I told him. This didn’t faze him, as long as a prize appears overnight in place of his tooth.

We also skipped the tooth-under-the-pillow shenanigans, and instead have a special jar to contain the tooth. The jar sits outside Benji’s bedroom door, making it nice and easy for the “Tooth Fairy” (he still wants to pretend, even though he knows it’s us) to make the swap.

So: Today Benji lost his fourth tooth, the final front top one.

Benji with top and bottom front teeth missing.

This means my human tooth collection now expands to four. Yep; I’ve kept all Benji’s baby teeth so far.

Not that long ago, my mother gave me a baggie of my own baby teeth that she’d kept for nearly 30 years. She’s not alone: I have anecdotally heard of lots of parents who keep their kids’ teeth.

Which got me thinking: Why do I keep these nasty relics?

It’s bizarre and rather gross. These aren’t exactly the crown jewels here, y’know?

But today I think I figured out why I, at least, feel irrationally reluctant to just toss those teeth in the garbage (compost? I guess they’re probably compostable… eventually; they are organic, but like shells probably don’t decompose much, hence teeth in skulls thousands of years later… Maybe if you crushed them up…. Hmmm)

Sorry, back from my tangent! It was interesting, but as I was saying, I think I feel reluctant to get rid of Benji’s baby teeth because they represent, at a very visceral level, his childhood — and losing them emphasizes both his maturing and how quickly it’s happening. A baby getting his first tooth is exciting, and often much celebrated, but not nostalgic. It happens in that 18 months of insanity that all parents survive with only vague, hazy memories.

A kid losing his baby teeth, on the other hand, is leaving babyhood behind. He’s growing up, maturing, and becoming increasingly independent. He’s had those baby teeth for five, six, seven years — long enough that they feel like part of who he is. Losing them is an exciting and healthy but somewhat heart-wrenching step towards becoming a new person.

So! No wonder it’s hard to chuck those baby teeth without a qualm: They’re all tied up with all the fraught emotions of memories of a child as a baby, and anticipation of the future and a child growing up. We’re great at celebrating this step for kids, but I wonder if there would be some way for parents to celebrate this, too, a way that acknowledges the more complex feelings potentially tied up in these little teeth… but that also gets rid of them in the end, too.

Oh, That’s Saturday

Thanks to Ian, I get to spend most of every Saturday biking. It’s the part of the week I finally don’t worry about anything harder than not getting dropped. It helps keep me sane. I ride on Saturdays rain or shine, heat or cold; the only exception is extreme wind or ice.

The other exception is when I’m sick. This week wasn’t my best for health: On Tuesday I got a cold from Benji. But I spent all of Wednesday, the Fourth, lounging in bed watching Netflix (thanks, Ian!), and by Thursday I felt much better. Friday I planned to do the usual Saturday ride, maybe albeit a little slower than usual.

Then, on Friday night, I got some kind of what I suspect to be food poisoning. It wasn’t pretty for about four hours there, is all I’m going to say about that. After which I went to sleep (it was the middle of the night, naturally) and woke up feeling normal. Definitely some kind of food poisoning, but to be on the cautious side, I decided to move my ride from Saturday to Sunday.

It was then decided (to use passive voice for its intended purpose, which is obscuring how/and who) that Ian would get a little mini-vacation day, while I took Benji. Thus it was that I got to see what normal people might do with a Saturday, given the whole day in which to achieve…uh…achievements.

Okay, let’s not get hung up on the use of “normal”; moving along, let’s instead get to the point of the post, which is this list of things I got done on Saturday:

  • Sort through a bunch of old clothes and bag a bunch up for Goodwill.
  • Wash a ton of dishes left from Friday night. It was a lot.
  • Drop Ian off at the place where he was going to hang out and do some stuff by himself.
  • Take Benji to Hillcrest Bakery for a little treat (where he ate the entirety of an enormous chocolate croissant, but only after agonizing between that and an apple fritter the size of his head).
  • Go grocery shopping with Benji. He stuck with me most of the time, but we went by the kids’ room where there’s a super nice attendant who will watch your kids while you shop, and he wanted to go in to play. So I finished up without him. When I came back to pick him up, he said, “Oh no, it’s time to go already?!” Then he started negotiating about when he’d get to come back.
  • Pick up CSA veggies and do the CSA kids’ garden. Benji also found a rainbow array of glass chips in the parking lot of the CSA parking lot, which is graveled with a ton of glass chips. I don’t know where they get them, but they aren’t sharp anymore. He did that, and then he picked some carrots and beets and a zucchini in the kids’ garden. Learning moments: Those squash plants are prickly! Also, to pull veggies, you need to grip at the base of the stem, near the dirt, rather than at the top of the leaves.
  • Put away all the food and wash a bunch of the veggies (although I did save the lettuce for Ian).
  • While also getting Benji some lunch, make two loaves of zucchini bread to use up the zucchini ASAP. To use up everything we got, I put in twice the amount of shredded zucchini, and the recipe turned out just fine–if anything, moister and more tasty than usual.
  • Make teriyaki sauce for the first time (easy) and start marinating some meat for today’s dinner. Hope that turns out okay!
  • During quiet time, wash dishes from the zucchini bread and eat lunch.
  • Mow front yard… it’s really mow the weeds, as the grass has stopped growing for the summer. We don’t water and I always look forward to the grass dying so we don’t have to mow any more. I’m sure our neighbors love this strategy.
  • Start weeding front yard. It may be dry, but that doesn’t stop the weeds from growing… and boy howdy, do they grow. There’s still a lot to do. While I was finishing that up, Ian got home from his adventures.
  • Take Benji to Bridle Trails for a 3-mile, zucchini bread-powered hike with Grammy and Papa Gary. As a bonus, we found ripe salmonberries, huckleberries, and some tiny native blackberries. Yummy!
  • Get leftovers together for dinner, probably the easiest part of the day. After that, Ian took Benji for a bubble bath and bedtime, and I collapsed on the couch for a couple episodes of Queer Eye (more on that another time).

Apparently that’s what I can do with a whole uninterrupted day. I can definitively say that if I wasn’t gone for 4 to 6 hours every Saturday, our house and yard would look much nicer, we’d have a lot more baked goods around, and–most difficult of all–I’d be able to give Ian a better break, plus get more quality time with my child.

Well, as time goes by, we keep finding a new balance for what works for us. I guess the thing about balance is you don’t just get it and you’re done. It’s a process that requires constant work and adjustment. On a bike, if you aren’t constantly making tiny tweaks (and sometimes large swerves, depending!), you’re going to tip over. Maybe that’s also true in life.

Mommying

Here’s what being Mommy looks like.

It looks like waking up at 3 am and staying up the rest of the night to hold and comfort your child as he repeatedly vomits. While he’s sitting in your lap, leaning over the toilet, you’re holding his head. Between bouts of vomiting, he murmurs, “I’m glad you’re here, Mommy.”
(No picture.)

It looks like playing the Hero Kids RPG at 6:30 am on Saturday, with Daddy GMing and Benji and I as characters. You work together to defeat a were-wolf, avoiding spiders and killing lots of wolves. During the game, your child takes a whole turn to bring your character up to full health, because he’s very worried that your character is injured.
Hero Kids: Adventure 2

It looks like going for walks in the woods together every week, rain or shine. You find a surprise patch of daffodils blooming in the woods, see innumerable trilliums and other native flowers, and avoid lots of horse droppings. But most fun of all is playing in the creek that’s really 6″ of mud with 1″ of water on top, poking it with sticks, building dams, and dropping big rocks in to make craters that fill in. On your walks, he wants to hold your hand no matter how narrow the trail.
Bridle Trails Walk: Daffodils

Bridle Trails Walk: Muddy Creek

It looks like staying home with your sick child when he has a cold, then getting the cold yourself — and then having the cold turn into the second round of pneumonia you’ve gotten in two years.
3 Generations of Face Masks

And this happens on the first week of the year it’s truly lovely — in the 70s and sunny — right when you’re about to start ramping up riding for Bike Everywhere month and the longer summer ride season. The pneumonia means you’ll miss at least a week of work and you won’t be able to help much with the child, which is real unfortunate, because this is the week all the grandparents and the regular after-school childcare are all unavailable.

Being Daddy, meanwhile, looks like trying to work as much as possible while also taking on Mommy’s jobs and all the after-school childcare.

Nobody promised parenting would be easy. It’s just the mixed-in moments of joy that make all the other moments worth it.

But I really am tired of pneumonia. Honestly.

Based on the recovery time last go-round, it’s probably ended my biking season plans before I even got to start them. I’ll spend the summer just trying to build back up to where I was last week, without any real hope of getting faster, doing the long rides I love, or keeping up with my biking buddies. I have to accept this reality and kiss goodbye the hopes and expectations I had for the season.

And that’s just biking! I have deadlines at work that I should be moving towards, projects and release-related stuff to write. It’s not going to be pretty.

It’s hard.

Viral Activities

No, I’m not talking about the next activity everyone’s going to be doing on the internet; I’m talking about literally what you do when when you’re five and a half and you have a fever over 102 for six days. You:

  • Watch at least three hours of videos or movies a day.
  • Eat rainbow Jell-O, popsicles, “Awesome sauce,” and donuts.
    Sick: Rainbow Jell-O
  • Fight taking ibuprofen, then perk up when it works.
  • Cuddle with Daddy.Sick: Snuggle with Daddy
  • Sleep.

When you feel a little better, you:

  • Build a bird’s nest out of a beanbag chair, pillows, and blankets.
    Less Sick: Bird's Nest
  • Color with chalk because it’s not raining.
    Less Sick: Sidewalk Chalk
  • Command Daddy to freehand a map of Europe for you on the blackboard.
    Less Sick: Map of Europe
  • Create your own bus schedules.
    Less Sick: Bus Schedule 1Less Sick: Bus Schedule 2

When you’re Mommy, while Daddy draws Europe and Benji creates a bus schedule, you draw flags (another interest that has coincided with his increasing interest in geography). This includes my favorite, the Rainbow Unicorn flag. Cuz what country wouldn’t want a rainbow unicorn on their flag? Only monsters.
Rainbow Unicorn Flag
Lastly, when you’re the parents of a five and a half-year-old who just had a high fever for the last six days, you wash your hands until they’re dry and raw, and you pray devoutly that your immune system can stave off whatever the kid had. Because no way do you want to spend the next week in bed binge-watching Netflix when there’s work to be done.

Eating Time and Dessert Nights

My relationship with food is definitely a love/hate thing. It’s like a combination of the feeling of getting to stay up late at night when you’re a kid, the feeling of having to take some nasty pink antibiotics, and the feeling of having to mow the lawn.

Well, when Benji came along, Ian and I decided to take a stand in two areas: Sleep and food. I wanted Benji to have a healthier relationship with food than I did.

Throughout the littlest-kid years, we defended naps with the vigilance of a mother tiger over her cubs. Sleep was tough, sure, especially during sleep regressions and when we hit developmental milestones. Is it time to go from two naps to one? How do we do it? Yet, ultimately, we controlled that to a great extent. That is, we could at least control when we put Benji in his room and when he was allowed to come out: We carved out the time for healthy rest, and for the most part, he took it.

Only since school started this September has he really seemed to give up napping, and even so, he still falls asleep occasionally during “quiet time,” which we still do for at least an hour a day after lunch.

Anyway, boy, food has proved tougher. You can’t make a kid eat! Eating or not eating — from Day 1, it’s the first place that little person asserts his independence. You can’t make me eat!

Long story short, we eventually settled on offering a variety of mostly healthy foods and telling him to eat until his tummy wasn’t hungry anymore.

But over time this evolved into Benji wanting us to quantify how much food he had to eat to be done. We would suggest a number, and he’d take that many bites, no more or less.

Then it got worse as, at dinner time, the question turned into: “How many bites do I have to eat to get dessert?” No matter what we said, this always resulted in whining and negotiating, claims that no reasonable human being could eat six bites of pasta AND all the peas, we were practically monsters in parent form, etc., etc.

About a month ago, I was talking with a friend at church about this misery and she mentioned that they just have dessert nights at their house. The kids pick two nights a week when they have dessert; the other nights, they just don’t.

I loved this idea, and combined it with another idea I heard elsewhere many years ago: Serve dessert as part of dinner. It isn’t a reward, it isn’t some kind of treasure you have to dig through a pile of gross food to get to. It’s just another part of the meal: You get protein, veggies, carbs, and a little bit of something sweet — emphasis on little. Dessert should be small enough that the kid isn’t full, and still wants some real food after eating the sweet part.

We started implementing the dessert night idea immediately, and I have to say, it’s been great. We don’t negotiate anymore. If it’s a dessert night (Benji picked Monday and Friday), I give Benji dessert along with everything else on his plate. Of course he eats it first — but then he goes on to eat a pretty substantial amount of his real dinner, too, with no complaints, whining, or stalling… or at least, none related to how many bites he has to eat. He’s still a kid, after all, and I don’t expect him to fall upon kohlrabi with cries of rapture (I know I don’t!).

We aren’t being completely straight-laced about this, mind you. Sweet treats happen at other times and on other days — with grandparents, at a friend’s house, at church, whatever — but dinner has sure gotten a lot nicer. But we are trying to focus on healthier foods that provide real nutrients, so this fits with that goal synergistically (if that’s a word, and if it’s not, it SHOULD be).

So that’s that! For now, anyway, we’ve broken free from the tyranny of dessert. Hooray!