I decided, a few weeks ago, to write a book. I decided that now that I’m 40 (well, nearly. In a month.) I should start doing the things I have always wanted to do so that I don’t reach 50 and have to have this same conversation with myself. Write a book. Top of the list. And if I can self-publish, even better. Because of the judging. And the waiting. And the angst. You know. So, I found a writers group, housed in a fairly well-known local writing community center — except — when I inquired about joining the group, I was told that they were currently “reviewing submissions” for a very few spots that very rarely open up and if I could send writing samples in the next few hours, they would add me to their list of considerations. I hadn’t anticipated this. I didn’t have a sample ready, I didn’t know what they were looking for, and I felt — all of a sudden — like I was hanging my hat on this one opportunity. Like it was this group that was going to be the ticket to writing a book, which was the one thing I was committing to do this year. I sent off two blog posts. (This one and this one, actually.)
Then I waited.
A week later, after more email refreshes than I care to admit, I was invited to join the group. Exhale.
There’s a weekly segment on Sirius Kids’ Place Live called “Story Pirates.” The Who is a story-lover. He prefers to listen to stories over almost anything else and he loves when Story Pirates pop up on the radio. The other day, Story Pirates announced that they were looking for story submissions for the month of March. They talked about the theme for the month, the types of stories they were looking for, and how to submit.
“Can I do that?” he asked.
This must be what it feels like when the child of a dancer asks to take dance class. Or the child of pianist asks to take lessons.
I took him to the library the next afternoon and we reviewed the guidelines for submission. I copied down every word he said, verbatim and delighted in watching his eyes dart back and forth as he constructed the next plot point. He had an actual storyline. He had planned it out. And then he “wrote” it down. My boy — the writer.
I submitted it online for him and when I told him that I had done so, he asked excitedly, “When do we get to hear it on the radio?” And then I had to break the news: it’s a waiting game now, champ. And even after we wait, there’s a chance (a good chance?) that they won’t choose your story. But you wrote it! And you sent it in! And now we wait.
And nobody knows what this feels like better than I.
“Where is That Smoke Coming From?”
-by The Who (shared with permission.)
“George, do you know where that smoke’s coming from?”
“No, I do not. Where?”
“Let’s go check it out!”
So, then, they were going to check it out when they saw a man. He said, “Where’s that smoke coming from?”
“We don’t know! It might be coming from a fireplace in a deep, dark house! Lets go see if it is!” And they invited him to join them.
So, they looked and they looked and they saw a woman. The woman said, “Where is that smoke coming from?”
They said, “Oh, we don’t know; we’re going to check it out.” They invited her to go.
So, they went and then they saw a womanish man. They said, “Where is that smoke coming from?” And then they all saw a man who was NOT saying, ‘where is that smoke coming from.’ He was saying, “Achoo! Achoo! Achoo! Achoo!” in a silly voice.
“What’s happening? Where’s that smoke coming from?” George said.
“I’m sick because I got piled in snow,” said Woo, the man that said “Achoo!” His hair looked small. “I got a humongous snowflake. One snowflake came from one cloud and it was SO, SO big that it was as big as the cloud! The snowflake made me sick!
They said, “Can we help you?”
He said, “Achoo! Yes!”
The smoke was the breath from his sneezes! They said, “We finally solved the mystery! Let’s bring him to the hospital.” They brought him to the hospital and they checked his ears and his eyes and his snow. All of the rest of them caught a cold, too, after they checked him out and guess what? All of THEIR sneezes made the whole entire world black because of all the smoke that THEY made!
So, everyone got out their flashlights and they got fans. They flew them as high as possible and blew away all the smoke. Now there is only white. White as the blue sky. And they all lived happily ever after.
The Who decided to play “baby” this morning. He climbed into my bed and snuggled with me, which he often does and then he was under the covers, pressing his feet into my squishy belly. When I remarked that it was like back when he was in my uterus kicking from the inside, he ran with the concept. He tucked himself into a ball and nestled up into my side, where he imagined a baby would gestate. He shifted his shoulder blades in exactly the way he used to when he was actually in there. And then, apparently miraculously “born”, he decided he was hungry. Lifted my shirt, searched for my nipple, and lay his mouth on it. He searched my face for permission after the fact.
It was momentary. It didn’t go on longer than a second and was just a small fraction of the morning’s play. I actually have no idea whether this is appropriate or not, but my instinct told me to allow it without any judgment — so I did. I’m sure there would be some who would take issue with it. I’m sure there are some mothers who wouldn’t feel comfortable with this type of play, and truthfully, had it gone on longer, I might have been among them. But I believe that children learn through their play. And I believe that bodies are not shameful. And I believe that exploration is part of the process. Will this change at some age? Probably. But I also believe that he naturally won’t want to explore in this way at some point.
So, anyway. That happened.
- It did not snow while we were in Boston. And it even went one better; it was downright sultry. (I mean, for Boston in February. I think we hit 59 degrees!)
- All of our flights were remarkably on schedule. There were zero hiccups at the airport — except for that one time where they swabbed my palms and shoes and The Who didn’t even seem to give a shit.
- We didn’t get to see Mr. & Mrs. Mallard because it rained on the one day we had free to go into the city.
- We did, however, get to see Roozle and her mommy! And: we got to go swimming with them in our hotel. In the hot tub (“Florida”) and the regular (“Popsicle”) pool.
- Bacon was offered on the breakfast buffet on our last day there. The Who, in his morning finery, tore through the lobby, yelling, “Mama! They have bacon! There’s bacon!” The early morning feasters got a nice little chuckle before work.
- I kept inviting women back to my hotel and they kept accepting.
- My besties indulged my desires and allowed me cheese and wine and American Idol and homemade Scattergories and whoopie pies.
- The Who saw monster trucks. He’s been counting down the days for months and is now counting down the days until the next one (which he believes will be next year. Perhaps his Uncle B should have some say in that, since I am decidedly *not* going to a Monster Truck Jam.
- It was weird being in Boston and not seeing my parents (who weren’t in town when we were there.) But, we did get to see a guy who looked a lot like my dad at the airport, prompting The Who to say, somewhat wistfully, “Grandpa sure does love me, doesn’t he?”
- We got to have brunch with family, including lots of Lego-playing with big cousin, L (who is nearly 21. Twenty. One.)
- I spent the last evening of our stay kneeling over the toilet bowl. That was pleasant.
- The Who learned a little about the Big Dig (what I could tell him, anyway, which mostly consisted of, “every time I thought I knew how to get somewhere, I found out that they had changed the road.”) He was fascinated by the concept of putting the highway underground, so we’ve now got this book waiting for us at our local library.
- It’s good to be home. It’s always good to go there and it’s always good to be home. We are lucky.
The Who, lately, has been big into, “tricked ya!” As in: “Mama, I don’t love you. … Tricked ya!” or “I want poop for dinner. … Tricked ya!” or, my personal favorite: “Ok, ok, ok. I won’t lick you. … Tricked ya!”
It’s the age, I think. I hear from other mothers of kids in his class that “tricked ya!” is going on in their houses, too. So, as unpleasant as it is (especially the “I won’t lick you this time” one) I understand that it’s a natural developmental thing. Probably something about humor (we’re big into jokes these days, too) mixed with pushing boundaries. He knows, of course, that he isn’t allowed to lie, so by “tricking,” he gets to veil his honesty experiments.
Promises, though, are a different story. Promises are sacred and that’s been a little bit of a hard lesson to learn. But, the rule is that promises never get broken. Period. And that’s why we don’t make them lightly. Well, I don’t, anyway. He is learning not to. I never promise anything that I am not absolutely positive I can deliver and I am trying to get him to see promises in the same way. Generally, with a reminder, he can do it.
“I’m not going to lick you. I promise!”
“Do you really promise? Because there is no breaking a promise.”
“Ok, I won’t lick you, but I don’t promise it.”
We all know where this leads, right?
If the promise is made, though, and broken, it’s a punishable offense in the form of an immediate cessation of whatever it is we’re doing. If he, in fact, confirms his promise, but then breaks it anyway, I stop playing. Or we leave where we are. Or a toy gets put away. There’s a zero-tolerance policy for broken promises when he has been given a reminder immediately prior.
To his credit, he rarely, if ever, makes the promise and breaks it. And, often, makes the promise and keeps it, which I think is important. I want him to have opportunities to build my trust and see what that looks like. And also to see what it looks like to have my trust and then take it for granted.
Of course, the concept, while understood, is not always crystal clear. Tonight, for example, when I told him that we ran out of time to roll and cut Valentine’s cookies, but that we would do them in the morning, he cried, “but you promised! You promised we would bake them today and you broke your promise!” The real truth is that I didn’t promise because I would never make a promise I wasn’t sure I could keep — and I reminded him of this. But we all remember what it feels like to want something so much that you’re sure the story was different. He was sure I promised. In his memory, it was a sure thing. And a sure thing is a promise.
It’s a work in progress: trust and accountability. How to earn it, how to maintain it, how to be sure that it’s held sacred and protected. For now, sure. I don’t want to be licked when someone promised I wouldn’t be. But for later, too. In fact, for later especially. When he promises not to get into a car with someone who’s been drinking. Or promises that he is where he says he will be. I’m hoping that working on this now isn’t just about baking cookies and wanting poop for dinner. Although, I mean, who wouldn’t want poop for dinner? I LOVE poop.
Listen, I know that complaining about snow days is old hat by now. But it’s seriously all I’ve got. Because it’s all there is. Because it’s all I do. And all I’ll ever do. Until Spring. Which is never coming.
A while back, we were really Jewing it up. In a flurry of autumn activity, we joined the synagogue, started going to Tot Shabbat on a regular basis and tried to attend as many “new member” events as possible. The Who’s enthusiasm for it made it easy and I was eager to get involved.
Winter hit, though. And although I’d like to blame our dwindling activity on the weather (because, Jesus. It’s been ridiculous up in here), it’s really birthday parties and play dates and other sundry activities that have crept in to take the place of all the davening. I mean, to be fair, it is “birthday party season” in The Who’s classroom — this concentrated several weeks from early December through March where this tight little group of kids all celebrate every other weekend, it seems. And Tot Shabbat is not all the time; it’s seemingly random Saturdays, occasionally cancelled by snow (at least this year.) So, I knew we’d come back around eventually.
Finally, today, The Who donned his new kippah and we hung out for a couple of hours in his Pre-K classroom (his preschool is in the synagogue and Tot Shabbat is held in his classroom) with some familiar faces, singing familiar songs to familiar tunes and it felt really good. I hadn’t realized just how much I enjoyed being a part of a synagogue. And having never really belonged to one as a kid, this is a pretty new experience for me.
I’m not 100% sold on this synagogue specifically, truth be told. It’s not the exact right fit for our family, but it hits a lot of the buttons: close to home, affordable, friendly, welcoming, and home to many of our friends. So, here we are.
Tonight for dinner, The Who ate filet mignon, broccoli, and 2 fruit wraps. He gave Yukon Gold potatoes and cauliflower a try, but was not a fan.
Why am I detailing this? Because it’s monumental. Despite our best intentions, we fell into the trap that so many parents fall into: we started making separate meals for our kid at dinnertime. We started him on the same foods we ate when he was a baby (even chili!) but gradually, as he became more choosy about what he would put in his mouth, we succumbed to the whine and would offer up a more palatable alternative. Over time, he began to expect this and although we knew it wasn’t the best idea, we kept it up because he was still eating a few decent things (mostly a steady diet of cheese, [organic] mac-n-cheese, grilled cheese [on whole wheat], and [organic] eggs with cheese.) But, then, within the past month or so, his list of “sure things” dwindled. He started to refuse grilled cheese, requested eggs and then regularly left them untouched, got very picky about the type of mac-n-cheese he would eat, gave up hot dogs (not the worst thing in the world) and basically left himself eating toast and milk with a few pieces of bacon every now and then.
I think that in our effort to develop a healthy eater by keeping our food rules to a minimum, we actually ended up developing an unhealthy eater. (I think that’s actual irony, not “Alanis Morissette irony,” right?) We decided that some changes had to be made — that we needed to develop and enforce some rules around food and eating. But doing that in a way that didn’t compromise our belief that “restriction begets obsession” was (and is) difficult. These are some of the things we noticed and the changes we made. We discussed all of this with him before implementation. Not that he had a say in it, really, but we wanted him to understand the rules and have them explained beforehand. He does a lot better when he is prepared.
- Hunger. The Who is a more willing eater when he is hungry. Shocker. Unfortunately, because we are relatively free with snacks, he often came to a mealtime not very hungry. Thus, it was easy to turn up his nose at something that he didn’t already love. To this end, we started limiting snacks close to meals. Sometimes we will counteroffer a snack with the meal instead. So, if he is asking for a snack, I will say, “It’s almost dinner, but I will give you some Pirate’s Booty on your dinner plate.” Sometimes this works. Other times? Not so much. Like, tonight for example: when I picked him up from school at 5pm, he was famished and cranky. He cried real tears for a long time about how hungry he was, despite my promise that dinner would be on the plate within 20 minutes. Once he realized I wasn’t changing my mind, he accepted the offer of a drink in the car to hold him over and actually remained pretty cheerful and helpful throughout the dinner prep. He washed potatoes. Learned how to press garlic. Seasoned the steak. And, as a result, he was really hungry when dinner was served. True to my word, I added a snack (fruit wraps) to his dinner plate, and true to his, he gave every food a try and ate the ones he liked. Which leads me to…
- New foods. The new policy in Whoville is that we all eat the same thing — or a version of the same thing — (though I promised to always include some element that he liked so he would not go hungry) and every food on the plate gets at least a bite. He already understands that tastes change over time and seems to agree that you need to keep trying things to see if you like them. Last night, for example, I made patty melts for m* and me. For him, a plain grilled cheese (something I knew he liked, but has been refusing lately) and burger on the side with ketchup. Although he has always turned his nose up at burgers in the past, under the new regime, he gave it a try. And to his delight, loved it. Ate it all. Plus the damn grilled cheese. (It helped that he was hungry. See #1.)
- Hunger, part two. As the parents of an infant who was a terrible nighttime sleeper, we have an old belief that a full belly means a better, longer sleep. (I’m not sure this was ever proven to us, but we seem to believe it.) So, if he didn’t eat dinner, we worried that he would be hungry in the night and wake up. Thus, we weren’t willing to say, “my way or the highway” at meal times. Now we are. If he chooses not to eat the dinner we served, he goes to bed hungry, sad as that might make him. It hasn’t happened yet, but I suspect that if it does, it won’t happen too often after that.
- Weekly menu. A while back, I found a meal plan craft idea on Pinterest. As someone who dreads meal planning and shopping and dinner-making, this project was a life-saver. If I keep it up every week, it takes all the stress and angst out of shopping and cooking. And — bonus — The Who loves helping me set it up weekly. Back when we had talked about eating the same things at dinner, I told him that some nights would be his favorite thing, but other nights wouldn’t be. So, I let him choose at least one night’s dinner. Last week, he chose “homemade chicken nuggets” and this week, he chose “roast chicken.” (The side dishes aren’t on the meal plan.) So far, so good. We’ll see what happens when we get to “corn chowder” night. I’m not sure how I can adapt that for his tastes or what I can add to the meal that he will like. Guess I’ll think on it.
So, that’s what’s going on around here at dinnertime. My hope is that, soon, he will be eating a more diverse diet that actually includes some vegetables. And if the last several days are any indication, I think we may be well on our way.