Jack. Eight.

The universal and the unique are at war when parents try to describe their children to other people.  Jack is Everyman at eight – everything I could say about him will sound like what all parents say about their offspring, and in many ways he is an eight year old like every other eight year old right now, born in 2008, coming of age in the United States.  There is nothing I can put here that will distill the essence of the uniqueness of our Jack to an audience who has never met him.  My intimacy with him is (naturally) so personal, and I lack the medium to convey it in a way that will not translate to that audience as “blah blah kid update blah.”

And yet, I am compelled to capture him here. Because time is going by, and all the Jacks of all the childhood stages that I have known are already lost to time, as eight year old Jack will be one day as well.  As he grows and develops, the changes feel incremental and unrecognizable since he’s part of my daily life. As a recent trip away revealed to me, it takes only a short three days away for me to see how dynamic our oldest child still is, and how quickly he is growing away from us and into his own life. Just a click of an old home video from a couple of years ago spins me into nostalgia for his chubbier days, and a skim of an old post from this old blog casts me back there for a brief time.

So, in honor of our oldest boy’s birth, I will attempt the impossible, and try to write who he is right now, understanding that in ten years I will miss this time with him, and will want to re-live it if I can.  Eight years a mother, and this is what he, his father, and I have created:

A dancer. Everybody feels a beat when a good song comes on. All three of my children like to dance to music in the kitchen – they call it a dance party. But Jack is the only one compelled to move when he hears a song. He’s always been this way. It’s like the Pied Piper has an electrode burrowed directly into his brain and turns him into a puppet – the music controls his limbs. If he hears a song that strikes him, he will lock eyes with whoever else is in the room, and his limbs and shoulders and eyebrows and every bit of him will start to move. As he grows older, his dance moves have become more expansive – he whips his head around, throws his arms wide, falls to the ground and does the worm before hopping back up.  He *really* has a lot of confidence on the dance floor, and confidence is not Jack’s strongest suit.  Never have I been so reminded of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes than when Jack dances. He’s exactly like the cartoon – hunched shoulders, jazz hands, spiky blond hair.

A hypochondriac. Jack has also always been The Worst when it comes to physical “injury.” He does not handle the slings and arrows of daily life very well. He’s pretty emotionally resilient, but in terms of his bodily integrity, it does not take much for Jack to freak out. It’s very hard for us to tell when something is legitimately wrong with Jack, because he whines and obsesses about a tiny scratch and a broken finger and strep throat and a mosquito bite in equal measure.  There is no gradation of reaction, it is all DEATH! I AM DYING! SAVE ME, THE END IS NIGH! At eight, he is starting to become a bit more self-aware about this. Years and years of coaching him to be a better judge of disaster may at last be paying off, but I have a feeling this kid will be a frequent flyer at the doctor when he’s old enough to have his own insurance.

A stuffed animal connoisseur. Jack has always loved stuffed animals.  A lot of kids do as little ones, but Jack’s devotion to stuffies persists to this day.  Liam could really take or leave them (except his Puppy, which is really not a stuffed animal but an unstuffed blanket with a rattle for a head) and Craig cannot be bothered, but Jack cannot sleep without about 50 of them in his bed, all carefully arranged each night.  He still carries them around the house, he still (fortunately for his orthodontist) sucks his thumb and holds his stinky old bear for comfort when he’s sad. He received that bear when he was a toddler, I remember it well, although he tends to re-write the story and tell me that Bear was born when he was, and given to him that very same day. It was a free with purchase Hallmark bear that my mother got him one Christmas, that she just happened to latch onto when he was a toddler. It is now a rag with a head and some semblance of feet. It stinks, it’s lost all of its stuffing, doesn’t even really look like a bear anymore. But boy does he love it. I wonder if he will take that thing to college.

Obsessive. Jack is also obsessive. Is immutable a characteristic as his Chia pet hair, Jack will always always be repetitive and obsessive about things that he doesn’t quite understand.  He will ask you the same question over and over, he will repeat new information again and again, and he does it all in a maddeningly strong-willed, forceful way, like a steamroller that keeps revisiting the same place.  It is probably a coping mechanism for his auditory processing issues, and this can drive me in  particular quite crazy. However, after eight years of dealing with it, we have learned a few tricks. It’s just the way he is, it’s how he understands the world, and we accommodate it, because we love him, because it’s not his fault, because ultimately it will serve him well to steamroll over people and insist they repeat until he understands, rather than stand shyly in the back, lost and unwilling to let anyone know he’s not following.

Sweet.  Jack has always been a positive, open, enthusiastic friend.  He just automatically loves people, and they tend to dig him. This is also made him emotionally open to the pain of others, and able to anticipate and think about the needs of others somewhat earlier than I think many children do. He wants to watch the movie that we all want to watch. He wants to share his toys so that no one goes without.  This is not all the time – he’s still a kid, he’s not perfect, and there are moments of selfishness of course. But there are flashes of altruism in Jack that reveal an underlying willingness to subsume his own needs and wants in order to make other people’s lives better. The longer I live in this nasty scrum of a rat race where it sometimes feels like every single situation turns into a game of musical chairs where we are all fighting over not enough chairs, I think about Jack. There are still people whose essence is to take care of the good of the whole, even if it means sacrificing the good of the self. I had this impulse and it’s starting to die out, the longer I survive in m profession.  I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing for me, but knowing it lives on in Jack gives me hope for the future.

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In the wee small hours of his actual birthday, I heard crying from Jack’s room.  The Prof had already dealt with a crying Craig earlier in the night, so it was my turn.  I could tell it wasn’t Craig, but was sure it was Liam, scared of the wolf in the Neverending Story – the movie we screened for Jack’s birthday at a theater we rented out to play the Blu Ray to a roomful of second-graders amped up on pop and pizza.  (Not as expensive as it sounds).  When I walked into their room, I beelined for Liam and saw he was out like a light.  It was Jack crying, weeping and snuffling into his pillow, fat tears rolling down his cheeks.  “What is the matter, Jack?”  I asked, a bit less sweetly than I probably should have (see “Hypochondriac” section above).  “My leg hurts” he bawled.  Mentally, I pinched the bridge of my nose, hissed air from between clenched teeth, and then took a deep breath.  “So it probably really does hurt, right?  Since it woke him up?” I thought to myself.

“Come on down buddy,” I said, and he hobbled theatrically down the ladder, working himself up into a full frenzy over a hurt leg.  “Bone cancer,” flashed through my brain, before I took hold of myself and firmly replaced that thought with “GROWING PAINS.”  I helped him hobble to the couch, laid him down, and went to get some Children’s Tylenol.  Then I sat by him on the couch and placed his legs in my lap, and massaged them gently.

He fell asleep pretty quickly, and as his chest rose and fell in a deep slumbering rhythm, I continued to rub the long knobby legs in my lap and let my mind wander.  Eight years ago to the minute, we were also together in the dark, both of us in pain (I am positive labor is painful for Baby, too, all that squeezing).  I labored through the night with Jack and he was born shortly after eight in the morning.  Those magical pre-dawn hours were largely lost to me eight years ago, as I squirmed and screamed.  But last night I was lucid and feeling pensive, as one is wont to be in magical pre-dawn hours, holding one’s eldest child on his birthday morning.  I can clearly remember looking at his tiny newborn body and marveling over every inch (again with the universal and unique).  I looked at it again last night in its lean-awkward-child phase, with eyes eight years older and wiser.  He’s my delightful boy – a complicated, interesting, sunny and sweet little boy.  He’s made me who I am as much as I have molded him.  What fun we have together.  What a felicitous moment, sweet symmetry of the two birth nights, pain and comfort, connection in the dark.

Happy birthday, Jack.  I love you at eight.  I love you at every age.

Love, Mama

 

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Family Fun

Yesterday we took the boys to the spring game on campus.  We spent forty dollars on hot dogs (when she told me the total I nearly fainted), and the boys dusted the pollen-covered benches with the seats of their formerly-clean jeans.  They met Riptide, the Pelican mascot, and rubbed his fuzzy beak.  There was a kids’ area set up out back, with bouncy houses, food trucks, footballs and soccer balls, and a bunch of those football player tackle things.  The boys had a ball.  A woman asked if I had a son playing in the spring game, and I was like – WHUT.  Do I look that old?  (Technically I could have a son in the game, if he was a freshman and I’d had him when I was a freshman.) (Shut up.)

Later that night, we went to a crawfish boil.  Tables lined with newspaper, a hole in the middle for tossing the shells.  Piles of steaming mudbugs, potatoes, corn, sausage – rolls upon rolls of paper towels, fingers stained orange from the boil spice.  I made new friends.  A woman who just finished chemo showed up – the first time she’s been out in months – and flitted from group to group, so thrilled to be back in the world, energized.  After we finished I washed and washed and washed my hand up to my elbows, like a doctor scrubbing in – the price of having a son allergic to shellfish.

After church the next day, the big boys go to a birthday party at the botanical gardens.  Craig and I plan to follow after nap, but he sleeps and sleeps.  The Prof texts me pictures of the boys riding a merry go round, playing with kids, sad faces because everyone is asking for Craig.  I give Craig a popsicle when he wakes up, as a consolation prize, and later, after they get back, the boys fish in the freezer themselves and give him another one.

The following Monday I work til after midnight, but it was worth it.  The weekend.

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That was last weekend.  The intervening week was another stressful and busy one.  I try to preserve my weekend for time with the kids (plus the ever-present domestic chores), but always end up paying for it with a terrible, awful, crushing Monday.  My biggest challenge is to not let thoughts of the looming Monday ruin the family time, or what’s the point?  Might as well just work.

Jack had a little play this week – I wrote the time down wrong in y calendar so we were a little late, but we caught most of it.  A friend was in town briefly for work, and we went out for drinks one night and then he came over and had some wine at our place Friday night.  Saturday we went to a new espresso bar/breakfast place with the boys – it was full of kids, largely well-behaved, which was nice to see.  Sort of European almost – children, mingling with adults!  Everyone getting along!  The woman at the register had an almost grown up conversation with Liam, trying to wheedle him into getting French Toast.  (She talked him into it, and after he took his first bite he exclaimed – “this is dewicious!”)  Jack ordered a smoothie, which he hated, so he shared Liam’s French Toast (as did Craig), and the Prof and I shared an egg sandwich and Jack’s smoothie.  We walked out into the bright heat of the day and let the kids play on a nearby playground a while.  Next to it was a basketball court and nice enclosed dog run, full of dogs and owners frolicking in the lovely weather.  A house we made an offer on was just a block away, but . . . cash buyer swooped in.  It would have been nice.

Now it’s Sunday, the day of Jack’s birthday party.  Eight!  Ugh!  I rented a movie theater screen and we’re watching The Neverending Story and eating popcorn.  Keeping it simple. His actual birthday is later this week.  I usually will string up balloons and streamers in their doorways on their birthdays, so they have to break through to get through their door. He woke up today and whispered to me “mooooom.  I don’t see any decorations.  Should I stay in bed til you put them up?”

I’ve got to go get moving for this party.  Here are the week’s meals . . . planned on the fly this time, as I moved through the grocery, since that’s just how it worked out.

Pork chops, steamed purple potatoes, asparagus

Turkey burgers, stir fried squash and zucchini, fruit

Chicken and black bean enchiladas with green chile

Skillet basil cream chicken, couscous

And then we head north for the wedding of the century.  More on that later . . .

 

Posted in Bitchin in the Kitchen, Everyday Adventures, Holidays and Celebrations | 1 Comment

MILP Roundup

I am part of a group of women who blog(ged), all lawyers and moms, who have been supporting one another online for many years (nearly a decade for some, and I’ve been involved for maybe 7?)  And we had a meetup!  Not nearly everyone could attend, but we had a solid half dozen.  Three others who could not attend in person joined us one evening via Skype, which was delightful.  Even more could not make it this time, but were enthusiastic about next time.

I worked through the morning Friday, then dashed to the airport just after lunch and caught a flight.  I’m here to tell you, packing and flying places without children is just . . . I just can’t even . . . it’s just been soooooo loooooong since I . . . man.  It was great.  I billed some time on the plane, then got hopelessly lost in the airport, and then was picked up and met these women that I have only seen in pictures for years.  They are delightful.  We had a great time eating (lots of dining happened), playing Cards Against Humanity (occasional ghastly impropriety is good for the soul), and talking a great deal.  It was the same old support group, only in living color.  So great.  I came back Sunday afternoon and then billed 13 hours yesterday, but so it goes.  Worth it.  Can’t wait to do it again.  And we have plans for the next one in 2017, hopefully with even more MILPs in attendance.

Now we’re off and running into another week.  Just a couple of short weeks until my sister gets married.  Sometimes life just overflows with wonderful things, doesn’t it?

Posted in MILP Roundups | 5 Comments

Why My Sons are the Best

  • Craig knows new words every day.  Every day.  Today, for example, he said such sentences as “No bedtime yet for Craig.” “Line ’em up, cars!” “I want juice or milk baba.” “Aunt Corrie, Aunt Caki, Aunt Amanda, uuuuuum, who else?  Nana!  Grandpa Doc!”  When he is being disciplined (gently) or put to bed or similar by one parent, he will ask for the other.  “Daddy coming?”  or “Mommy coming?”  He is a clever little sprite.
  • Yesterday Jack asked sweetly if we could watch a movie on the couch and cuddle.  I said after I got the baby down to bed, and I took Craig into his bedroom to read a couple of books (This is Not my Hat, and Have You Seen My Hat.  Aka, the fish hat book and the bear hat book, our latest toddler favorites.)  While I was reading the various hat books, Jack poked his head in and said something like “I’m selecting a movie from the grown ups part of Netflix, not the kid part, so we can be sure that we all enjoy it.  I know how to scroll down to the words that say Family Movies, and I’ll pick something there that you’ll like, too, Mom.”  Then he retreated from the room, quietly shutting the door behind him.  (He picked Dolphin Tale – which, you know, was a good effort.)
  • Liam lost his first tooth a short while ago.  Something about his jaggedy jack-o-lantern smile just wrecks me.
  • Craig has laid claim to a giant Mack Truck that once belonged to Liam (the truck is mentioned at the bottom of the link).  You can open up the back and sides, and this truck is a matchbox car carrier.  Craig has discovered how to fill it up with cars and he carries it around everywhere he goes.  He likes to carry it to the porch, and take all the cars out and line them up along the porch railing, then put them all back in it.  He takes this very seriously, in that special toddler way.
  • Jack is a giant, I mean GIGANTIC, wuss when it comes to bodily injuries.  The tiniest brush of the tip of a feather across his arm will make him collapse to the ground in abject misery and howl with pain.  From the dawn of time -it sometimes feels that long – we have been working on the lost art of sucking it up.  And while we by no means have encountered a break-through, the latest “my finger hurts a little bit and so the world is Eeeeeeennnnnddddiiiinnngggg” situation has shown me a Jack who is a bit more self aware about his melodrama.   The day after the exceedingly minor injury surfaced, Jack came home from school still complaining about it.  Then he thought a sec, and said “Carter says I jammed it and it’s really not a big deal,” shrugging and smiling a wry smile.  Then he went on with his evening, without asking for an icepack or that I magically heal him somehow.  We’re growing, people.
  • Liam has taken to surprising me in the mornings by appearing from some secret place (often the laundry room) fully dressed.  He will leap into the nearest doorway, just waiting for me to flip at the sight of him all dressed, no yelling required.  This doesn’t happen daily – today, for example, he flopped on the couch for twenty minutes and then almost went to school in his pajamas.  However, it’s been happening a lot more than never, which is pretty cool.  I’m tricking him into being a rule-abiding kid.  *evil chuckle*
Posted in Jack, Liam, Tex | 1 Comment

Sunday Morning Meal Planning

The big boys slept forever – are still sleeping.  Craig is treating everyone to the best sleep we’ve had in months.  He got up today after 7 am.  It’s a miracle!

Once more it’s time to plan the meals.  Last week I made a chicken korma using bottled korma sauce – I just seared some small chicken chunks on both sides in a little hot oil and butter, drained them on paper towels while I cooked some chopped onions til they were soft, wiped the grease out of the pot and then threw it all together with the sauce.  Served it over steamed rice with steamed broccoli – love my rice steamer that also has a basket for steaming vegetables at the same time.  Anyway, I made triple rice so that yesterday I could use the leftovers to make vegetable fried rice.  So easy, so delicious, relatively healthy.  It tasted great, even as simple as it was – highly recommend.  (I didn’t have roasted peppers, but I threw in some shredded carrots.)

And still the meal planning marches on.  These kids need fed daily, turns out.

12 minute chicken and broccoli.  It seems clear to me that someone out there has trademarked “fifteen minute meals,” as most of my food blog buddies avoid saying their meal takes only fifteen minutes to make.  Sixteen minutes?  Twelve minutes?  Just thirteen minutes?  Those are cool.  But never fifteen on the dot.  Anyhow, this recipe looks simple and tasty and I already have everything it requires.  Boom.

Ina Garten’s mustard roasted chicken and lemon couscous.

Ravioli with pesto and sausages.  (I already have sausages, ravioli, and an open jar of pesto, so there we go.)

Cheesy beef (turkey) and sweet potato taco casserole.  I have never tried this one, but it looks like a good make-ahead.  Subbing in ground turkey for the beef.  Sweet potatoes on special at our grocery today, so it’s perfect!

PW’s perfect potato soup.  I have lots of potatoes to use up, so this will be great – a little crusty bread, some apple slices. Yum!  I make it without bacon but usually add a bit of Tony Chachere’s Cajun spice, so it gets a little kick!

Posted in Bitchin in the Kitchen | 1 Comment