Ten.

Ten things I learned this week:

  1. When I say I want a short haircut, I probably mean I want a short haircut. Not a shortish haircut, which is what I got.
  2. Although I felt certain that I had a kid that didn’t fall asleep watching TV, if the week has been long and so has the show, the kid might just drop off during the closing credits.
  3. 44lbs is probably my limit for carrying as dead weight up a flight of stairs.
  4. When making buttercream icing, use less sugar.
  5. Finding one-piece, cotton,  summer-weight (i.e. not fleece) zip up, footless pajamas in a size greater than 4T is next to impossible — even on the almighty internet. (Unless you are willing to get one that has a butt-flap with a punny saying on it like “Tail End” or, alternatively, a classic solid red with a butt-flap.
  6. Using the search term “union suit” might get you, finally, what you’re looking for.
  7. However, using the search term “union suit” might also get you this. And this.
  8. Baking a cake, walking my kid to school, doing the dishes, and coordinating homeroom mom responsibilities will indeed make me feel a little like Donna Reed.
  9. Picking out tile for the new bathroom is truly my idea of a good time.
  10. I prefer my ginger ale slightly frozen.

 

 

Moon.

This morning, it was overcast and cool. Kind of awesome, actually. The sky was doing that thing where there are big swaths of gray, punctuated by irrational inlets of light. It was amazing and disconcerting. The threat of rain never made good and so by sunset, there was this beautiful scraping of purple and pink across the horizon that felt oddly unsettling. And then the moon. My God, the moon. You know the one that people have been posting about on Facebook for the last 24 hours? When I came home tonight at 9pm, it was brighter than I’d ever seen it — a perfect, mottled sphere behind a spray of clouds. It was mesmerizing, but I came inside overwhelmed by the strangest sense of loneliness. I had to put on an episode of Friends to keep me company.

Ten years ago, when I first moved here, I put on this new pair of car seat covers that I had just gotten as a birthday gift. I had wanted them for a long time, but after about a week driving with them, I had to take them off. Everything here was so new and unfamiliar — the town, the roads, the house, the co-habitating, the grocery store, the local news, the radio stations — that having car seats that I didn’t recognize tipped the scale.  I never did replace the seat covers, but I did, of course, get more comfortable here. The anxiety that accompanied change and newness subsided, as I knew it would.

It feels like that now. Of course, it’s not quite the same. I am in a place I know very well now. There are lots of familiar people and I know more than one way to get most places. But there’s also a lot of new. New daily routines, new school, new teachers, new responsibilities. It feels almost like it did when I first moved here. I didn’t know which door to go in, where the school cafeteria was, even what to call the teacher. It must be doing more of a number on me than I realized. Because when the sky was a little bit different this morning, it turned the whole day on its head. Just like the seat covers.

I’m sure this will subside as the routine becomes more familiar. And I’m glad that I recognize it in myself it because, if I am feeling anxiety about all the change and newness, imagine what The Who is feeling. I think I’ve been pretty understanding and patient with him as he is settling in, but probably not enough. Maybe I’ll tell him the story of the seat covers and see if we can’t find some common ground to get us through these weeks.

One.

Week One is in the books and it was both easier and harder than I anticipated. The good news is that after my night-before little meltdown, I didn’t have any others. The bad news is that The Who had one two days in a row.

In retrospect — and to my credit, also in the midst of them — I realized that they were a result of the transition from the school and kids he’s known his whole life to a brand new place. I hadn’t anticipated it, given how excited he was to go to kindergarten and how short the day is, comparatively. But I also hadn’t really thought through just how different public kindergarten in a room with 15 other kids is from Pre-K in a room with 7 other kids. The expectations are high, there are new rules, and a lot of unfamiliarity. Of course as soon as he comes home (at “the witching hour” no less) he’s going to fall apart in the safety of what he knows. The meltdowns were unrelated to school or anything that happened there; he seems to really be loving it and is excited to go every day. It just seemed like asking him to handle anything was too much to ask this week. Sharing toys, being patient, waiting for turns — all of it was too much. (An added challenge was that his anxiety was curbing his appetite and he wasn’t taking very much in for the first couple of days. And if there’s anything I know about my boy, it’s that he gets hangry and it comes on fast.)

By the third day, he was better. He was eating regular meals again and I had caught on to the learning curve well enough to know that the best afterschool activity is to come home and have a snack and watch a show or listen to stories. Nothing that requires much of anything from him. By today (the fourth day) he was handling plan changes like a boss and was pretty much back to his usual self. It was good to see — especially given the weekend we have coming up.

Tomorrow, he starts dance class and we have spent the week at various dance supply stores procuring black ballet shoes, tap shoes, tights, bike shorts, and a dance shirt. He is ready. I was wary of adding yet another new thing to his routine so soon, but I didn’t want him to miss the first class and he is excited. Sunday starts Hebrew school — another new thing. This one’s at least in the synagogue where his old school is and he will be in class with two of his Pre-K friends.

It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that he now goes to school every day. That we are now fully entrenched in our community in a way we never have been before. Each day when I amble up the street at dismissal and sit among all the other parents picking up, discussing PTG meetings and picture day and Fall Harvest fairs it becomes more real. I’m kind of loving it.

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K.

The Who’s been going to “school” since he was a year old. He started with just two short days a week and by the end of last year, was up to three very full ones. Seven and eight-hour days by the time he was 5. Kindergarten, by comparison, will be a cakewalk. Two and a half hours a day. It’ll barely register, I bet.

Yesterday I asked him, “What are your feelings about kindergarten?” And he said, “A tiiiiny, tiiiiiny bit worried and mostly really excited,” which I completely got. I felt the same way. Actually, I barely felt worried at all — mostly just really eager for him to start exploring the things he loves learning, getting to know his new teacher, making new friends, and having fun. Every single time I checked in with myself about it, this is how I felt. This is how I felt buying school supplies. This is how I felt at orientation. This is how I felt picking out new jeans and long-sleeved shirts for fall. Easy breezy lemon squeezy. Kindergarten. No big whoop.

Except, as it turns out, it is a big whoop. It starts tomorrow and all day today, I’ve been edgy and aggravated. Frustrated and a little bit blue. When m* asked me what was the matter, I snapped at her about all I have to do and all that’s on my mind to get ready for tomorrow (which is really not much, to be honest.) But then even when it was all done — the backpack packed, the supplies labeled, the clothes laid out —  I didn’t feel any better. So, instead of finding myself some real food for dinner, I sat down with a carbonated drink and a package of Pop Tarts and all of a sudden, it hit me. As I sat there eating what was pretty much my steady diet for the first 5 weeks of his life, I realized that this — this kindergarten thing — is bigger than I thought.

This is my baby. This is my only baby. These two and a half hours a day are the start of his entire school career, which will last until he is a man. He is a boy now — a sweet, little, handsome, inventive, creative, funny, sassy, brilliant boy and when he is finished with public school, he will be a man. Tomorrow, he will run ahead of me on the sidewalk toward his new school and I will follow behind him, anxious about the routine, worried that I am bringing him to the incorrect door, wondering what it will feel like for him to be handed off into a classroom of new kids and new rules. This is not dropping my toddler off at the same day care in his class of 8  for the fourth year in a row.

We (mostly me, I think) agonized over where to send him to school. And although in the end, I believe we made a fine choice, I still feel a pang every time I am reminded about the standardized tests he will be subjected to, the common core curriculum that will be foisted upon him, the complete lack of art and music and outdoor play (at least in kindergarten.) I hope we made the right choice. I hope he is successful and nourished there. I hope no one picks on him and if they do, that he has the wherewithal to stand up for himself and to continue to feel confident in who he is. And, most of all, I hope that when I blink my eyes and find that my preschooler has become a high schooler, I have done him right.

Crash.

I have made some bold statements about my parenting in the past. I was The Mom Who Only Buys Wooden Toys. I was The Mom Who Doesn’t Let Her Kid Play Pirates. I was The Mom Who Refuses To Go To Disney. Eat artificially dyed foods. Play on my phone in a restaurant. Eat in front of the television. Wear characters on his clothing. Play with weapons. Slowly but surely, most of these edicts fell by the wayside due to circumstance, his strong opinions, or my laziness. These are all still my preferences, but with the passing of each year, I get a little more realistic. I wish none of his toys were made of plastic and painted with probably-toxic colors. I wish that none of his toys had batteries, made noises, or flashed lights. (I even wish Lego made a wooden set, even though I know how actually ridiculous that sounds.) I still think pirate-play romanticizes actual criminal activity. But I think I’m beginning to understand ways in which I can, well, I guess lower my standards and still not feel like I need to turn in my hippie parent card.

Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to play with any weapons of any sort. We couldn’t even play with toys that suggested that it might be modeled after a weapon (like those foam ice cream cones that were spring-loaded and popped out when you pressed a button.) I grew up to be a pacifist. Is that because I didn’t play with weapons? Maybe that was part of it. Or maybe it was actually that my parents made clear to me their stance on fighting and war and were straightforward about the reasons behind it. The Who, of course, is an experiment still in progress. Neither m* nor I are inclined to buy weapons as toys, though she grew up shooting bb guns, etc. If The Who turns a toilet paper tube into a pirate sword (a double whammy!) I don’t make him put it down.

The sound of my standards crashing down is sometimes the loudest noise in my head. I can make an argument for why I allowed my kid to buy an orange sports drink to wash down his yucky-tasting antibiotic even though I have been almost aggressively anti-Gatorade (and any other chemical-laden, sugary, artificially colored food or beverage) but it doesn’t change the fact that, in the end, I allowed it. And I probably will again. Just as I will allow him (encourage him, even) to park himself on a bench with his eyes glued to my iPhone so I can get some shopping done.

It’s not wrong to have standards. And it’s not wrong to be idealistic. It’s not even wrong to stick to the things that feel really important. He’s still not allowed to drink anything carbonated, “diet”, or caffeinated. Or chew gum.  I still don’t prefer for him to be a walking advertisement for Disney and for the third year in a row, I denied permission to buy Spiderman light-up sneakers. But he does, finally, know who Mickey Mouse is and his shoes, though not Spidey, do light up.

I try not to be too hard on parents who come out with these bold proclamations when their kids haven’t even yet mastered holding their heads steady. I was one of those parents. And I also try not to be too hard on parents who change their song after a year or two. I understand that we’re all trying to find the balance between holding firm to our values and honoring the individual interests and preferences of our kids.

But…I still draw the line at Disney World, though. So far.

Lego.

Legoland Discovery Center: Boston. The last big part of our trip and, quite possibly, the most exciting. It wasn’t Legoland Florida, which we visited last year, but it was still pretty awesome. To their enormous credit, they fit a lot of entertainment into a fairly small space. Two amusement rides, a build-and-race center, a decent-sized climbing structure/playspace, a cafe, a gift shop, a “factory” simulation, a classroom, a 4-D movie, and a significantly awesome MiniLand.

I’m pretty sure this will make it onto our itinerary most times we’re in the city. Easy parking, a fun several hours, and a JP Licks as soon as you walk out the door. Win-win-win!

Here's where you start: Tessie, the life-sized Duplo giraffe.

Here’s where you start: Tessie, the life-sized Duplo giraffe.

The Who tried and tried to climb it -- with very little success. We finally decided that the master builders probably didn't make enough footholds on purpose.

The Who tried and tried to climb it — with very little success. We finally decided that the master builders probably didn’t make enough footholds on purpose.

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They have timed entry and then only allow 30 people up to the first exhibit at a time. It was a good effort toward crowd control and they had the good sense to incorporate cute photo ops like this on the wall in the waiting room.

They have timed entry and then only allow 30 people up to the first exhibit at a time. It was a good effort toward crowd control and they had the good sense to incorporate cute photo ops like this on the wall in the waiting room.

The "factory" part of the place is a 360º movie type thing that is semi-interactive and a little confusing.

The “factory” part of the place is a 360º movie type thing that is semi-interactive and a little confusing.

I am very wooed by life-sized Lego pieces.

I am very wooed by life-sized Lego pieces.

MiniLand was my favorite part -- and I think The Who's also. He also learned as we crossed it on the way to Legoland that the Zakim bridge was part of the Big Dig, with which he is fascinated.

MiniLand was my favorite part — and I think The Who’s also. Boston made of Legos! He learned as we crossed it on the way to Legoland that the Zakim was part of the Big Dig, with which he is fascinated.

"Look!" The Who said excitedly. "That's us! It's our blue car on the bridge!" (I'm fairly sure he was suspending disbelief and so did I. It was fun.)

“Look!” The Who said excitedly. “That’s us! It’s our blue car on the bridge!” (I’m fairly sure he was suspending disbelief and so did I. It was fun.)

Every five or so minutes, the lights in the room dimmed and the structures' lights came up, simulating nighttime in the city.

Every five or so minutes, the lights in the room dimmed and the structures’ lights came up, simulating nighttime in the city.

Love.

Love.

Growing up, we split season tickets to the Sox with a few others. Either my brother or I went to every home Friday night game with my dad. These were our seats.

Growing up, we split season tickets to the Sox with a few others. Either my brother or I went to every home Friday night game with my dad. These were our seats: Section 23, row KK, seats 1 and 2.

Almost any kid who grew up in Boston will remember the milk bottle snack stand.

Almost any kid who grew up in Boston will remember the milk bottle snack stand.

The Tea Party ship.

The Tea Party ship.

And, under the water, an actual tea party. Clever, Lego guys. Clever.

And, under the water, an actual tea party. Clever, Lego guys. Clever.

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I was a little disappointed that there were no weeping willows in the Public Garden. I guess I can forgive them this one transgression.

I was a little disappointed that there were no weeping willows in the Public Garden. I guess I can forgive them this one transgression.

Especially since they got down to so many details. For example, around the back of this part, if you knelt down and pushed a button, a light came on the Cheers bar underground. (It happened to be the TV show set version and not the actual Bull & Finch pub, but whatevs.)

Especially since they got down to so many details. For example, around the back of this part, if you knelt down and pushed a button, a light came on the Cheers bar underground. (It happened to be the TV show set version and not the actual Bull & Finch pub, but whatevs.)

The Hatch Shell, where you could push buttons to make each instrument play.

The Hatch Shell, where you could push buttons to make each instrument play.

And Harvard Yard. Please note how there is no parking of any cars there, just like in the original.

And Harvard Yard. Please note how there is no parking of any cars there, just like in the original.

Life-sized Olivia's House -- a small nod to Lego Friends.

Life-sized Olivia’s House — a small nod to Lego Friends.

Inside, there was a kitchen with a cucpake-making station and a karaoke set-up. Those two things along with the purple leather couches? Sold. (The lyric he's singing in this shot is "Here's my number."

Inside, there was a kitchen with a cucpake-making station and a karaoke set-up. Those two things along with the purple leather couches? Sold.
(The lyric he’s singing in this shot is “Here’s my number.”

"So call me maybe."

“So call me maybe.”

And, finally, the Master Builder's workshop. I'd love several hours alone in here.

And, finally, the Master Builder’s workshop. I’d love several hours alone in here.

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Stuck.

We’re back. We’re finally back. The driving trips give us a lot of flexibility, but they kind of ruin me. Maybe him, too, though he seems not terribly worse for wear.

The traffic in Connecticut actually made me cry real tears. Just a little, but still. There was a moment — after an hour of going no faster than 16mph on 95, and then finally pulling onto the Merritt Parkway to a dead standstill/stop and go for another half an hour where I thought, I cannot do this. I can’t. When he woke up from his nap, I tried to reason with him: “It’s at least four more hours. We’ve been driving for three already. If the traffic doesn’t let up, it will be longer.” I wanted him to agree to stop at a hotel, but he really didn’t want to and since I was on the fence about it anyway, we pushed on. Luckily for both of us, we started moving again and didn’t hit anything worse than that for the rest of the trip.

It’s a straightforward drive, but one that always sideswipes me with mixed emotions. I’m always looking forward to getting home. To seeing m*. To sleeping in my own bed. To having everything just where I want it. But passing through each successive state (Welcome to Rhode Island! Connecticut Welcomes You! Entering New York! New Jersey: The Garden State!) from there to here is a reminder of how far I actually am from home. It has gotten easier; it totally has. Going back and forth does not throw me nearly the way it used to. And I have friends here that I am delighted to return to. But, man. I just love Boston. Even when I have lived here as long as I have lived there (I’ve still got another 20 years to go for that) I don’t think it will ever be the same. I just have to keep reminding myself that that isn’t my goal: sameness. I’m not trying to recreate home; I’m just trying to make another one.