Meet The Kids: The King

Yesterday, I introduced you to my youngest, The Supplanter. I’ll dedicate today’s post to my oldest, The King.

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As I mentioned yesterday, we named him after our grandfathers. A few weeks before we discovered I was pregnant, we were celebrating our final Christmas with my grandmother. She was in kidney failure, so she spent much of the afternoon in bed while the family took turns entertaining her. As we gathered to say our goodbyes, she asked me when I was due. I was trying to figure out what she meant, when she announced to my mother and cousins that I was pregnant. This was news to me and Hubby, but it turned out she was right, since it was shortly after the New Year that I got a positive result on a home pregnancy test. It felt like this was her gift to us, and I knew we had to name the baby after her or Pa, depending on whether we were having a boy or a girl, with the middle names coming from the grandparents on Hubby’s side.  The King arrived in mid-September, and helped make that first Christmas without Grandma a little less painful.

It wasn’t long before he earned himself the nickname of Shark Child, based on the notion that sharks never stop moving. The day he learned to roll was one of the happiest days of his life, since it meant he didn’t need to depend on us to explore things just out of reach. I still think he didn’t learn to walk – he learned to run. He ran almost everywhere, and explored almost everything. While he’s not as social as The Supplanter, he was often one of the leaders of the packs of children that would form at the playground, simply because he was one of the most physically daring. Kids followed him because he was the one climbing up the outside of the play structures, or jumping from the top of a platform, or doing some other crazy stunt; he was doing his own thing, and if kids wanted to join in, that was great.

As he’s grown older and bigger, his reserved side is showing more. The fearlessness that he had early on is being replaced by caution after some pretty spectacular accidents, and I’ve noticed him more on the fringes of groups of kids rather than at the center as he used to be. I think it’s been a pretty big adjustment for him, as kids caught up to his physical abilities and some have surpassed him. He was used to being the center of attention because of the things he could do, and it took him a while to learn how to get appropriate attention when he’s not running and jumping and doing stunts. He doesn’t always tell me details, but I think he’s lost a few friends over inappropriate things he’s done, and I think he’s working hard at slowly building up his good reputation again. It’s fascinating to watch how his interests evolve in relation to the people he wants to be friends with, and sometimes it’s a challenge to bite my tongue and let him make his own decisions.

I think it’s probably because he’s always on the move that I feel like it’s a gift when The King curls up with me and tells me about his day. He reads a lot of non-fiction, so he’s full of interesting facts that I never would have guessed he knew. I love talking with The Supplanter, too, but conversations with The King can be surprisingly deep for someone his age; he loves science, and asks thoughtful, detailed questions. Of course, he’s also 8, and takes great joy in anything gross or inappropriate. He has the best giggle, and sometimes Hubby and I go along with The King’s silliness just to get him laughing.

He’s a multi-faceted, complicated child and he’s not always easy to parent, particularly because I think he gets jealous of the attention The Supplanter gets with his much bigger personality. On the flip side, though, the qualities that make The King complicated also make him a really interesting person. He’s hard work, but getting to watch this smart and funny person emerge is just reward.

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Meet The Kids: The Supplanter

I find myself writing about my children a lot, which is strange, because I’ve abandoned my other blog that was dedicated to kid-type stuff because I felt I didn’t have enough to write. Apparently The Universe works in mysterious ways, and enjoys taunting me.

Since they’ll likely be featured often going forward, I decided I’ll take a blog post or two to properly introduce you to the boys. I commonly refer to them as The King and The Supplanter – my oldest (The King) is named after our grandfathers, and in baby books, the meaning of his first name usually comes with some variation of “the King of the House.” My youngest was harder to name,  because my family tends to have really old-school New England names that we felt were either too old-school to use, or too frequently used. The irony is that we agreed on a name, but didn’t look at the Social Security baby names data, and so blindy chose the top boy name for him. Neither did we look into the meaning of the name in the baby name books until after the fact, but found it greatly amusing to discover that one of the meanings of his name was “Supplanter.” The names suit both boys very well, and in many cases, so do the name meanings!

Today, I’ll tell you a bit about The Supplanter. He’s in Kindergarten this year, and is a little bundle of energy. At preschool graduation last year, his teachers voted him “Class Politician” which is spot on. He makes friends wherever he goes, but he has a particular knack for befriending teenage girls. I think a big part of it is his freckles and his long, fluttery eyelashes; he knows how to work the cute. He’s one of those kids who does great in a group, and usually tries to make sure no one is left out. He’s kind and caring, and loves the spotlight.

I’ve been trying to raise the boys to be open minded, and I frequently challenge their ideas about what’s a “girl” thing vs. a “boy” thing. While The King remains skeptical that boys can openly enjoy things that aren’t traditionally boy things, The Supplanter embraces nearly everything. A few days ago we were driving around town, and he saw a strip mall nail place. He’s in that phase where he reads EVERYTHING because he can, so he sounded out the word “manicure” and then had to ask what it meant. I gave him a brief explanation, and he responded “oh, so girl stuff.” He was surprised when I told him that there are plenty of men who go for manicures, too, but he was intrigued by my explanation of pedicures. “Man, I need one of those,” he told me from the back seat. “My feet are really peely.”

The next day, we attended a birthday party at a place at the mall. Afterward, Hubby wanted to buy a cupcake from the high-end bakery, but I wanted to pop into Lush, which offers specialty bath products and cosmetics. I discovered the franchise when I was in Covent Garden in the late 1990’s and have been a fan ever since. Since we don’t make it to this particular mall very often, I thought I would pop in and buy a birthday gift for my mother. At first, The Supplanter didn’t want to come with me, but then the pretty girls in the shop started talking to him. Then, I showed him the bubble bars, which look like colorful marshmallow candies. The final nail in the coffin was the bath bomb demonstration – warm water in a bucket, a bath bomb that produces first pink, then blue, and finally lavender foam, with a gorgeous scent – The Supplanter was hooked. He wanted to buy the whole store, but I convinced him that one bath bomb for the tub was enough, and that he could come back some day and buy the lip scrub he discovered at the cash register. He got back to the car smelling like neroli and lavender, and covered in glitter (in addition to the regular dirt and a blue tongue from the candy at the party.)

Blue Tongue!
Blue Tongue!

The King thought the bath bomb was a girly thing, until he realized that The Supplanter was going to use it in the tub, and then suddenly bath time was cool.

The Supplanter is also as sensitive as he is outgoing. He loves to explore, but he gets spooked easily. Take, for example, the day we went to Broad Meadow Brook to sign up for summer camp. He wanted to play in the nature area, but my shoes were all wrong for hiking. I told him I could see him down to the bottom of the hill, if he wanted to run down and back before we left. He took off with his usual eagerness, but was back within a few minutes; he was pale and looked very concerned. “I think I heard a fox,” he said. “Can we leave?” I knew there were other people on the path below him, and doubted that he’d really heard a fox less than 200 feet into the woods…and really, who could resist that opening, right? “What did the fox say,” I asked? The look he gave me would have turned Medusa to stone. “It’s not funny,” he replied. “I’m really feeling nervous. Can we go, please? I’ll be fine if I have a camp counselor with me this summer, but I really want to leave right now.” By the time we were back at the car, he was singing, and I bet you can guess which song.

So, that’s The Supplanter in a nutshell – adventurous, sensitive, outgoing, loves to shop, enjoys the finer things in life, and full of equal parts humor and love.

A Wish List, Of Sorts

Sometimes blog topics are like my cat, Zoe; they appear out of nowhere and spread themselves out in front of me so that I cannot possibly avoid paying attention. Other times, they’re like my cat, Morris; deftly remaining just out of reach, and mumbling grumpily on the rare occasion I manage to get a hold of some random part.

Today is a Morris day, but I know if I don’t make an effort to write something, I’ll lose momentum. As I was scrolling through my facebook news feed, I realized I was already writing my next topic – Things I Wish. Post a comment if there’s something YOU would like to wish!

In no particular order:

  1. I wish I could carry a tune. I feel bad because I think I’ve passed on my tone deafness to my kids, and the youngest does love to sing.
  2. I wish I had more time to be creative. I have a list of things I’d like to try or get back into, but I don’t have the energy once the kids are in bed, and I don’t have the time before they’re in bed.
  3. I wish I could go on vacation. Paris sounds nice. (France, not Texas!)
  4. I wish (sometimes) that I had one of those extended families where everyone lives a few blocks from one another, everyone gets along, and there’s lots of cousins to play with. 
  5. I wish I could stay home with my kids (but only on the days they’re well-behaved).
  6. I wish I could go to the beach. 
  7. I wish I didn’t care so much what other people think about me.
  8. I wish I was better at braids and creative hair styles – summer is coming, and I’d like to keep my hair long, but still be cool. 
  9. I wish I was independently wealthy. I’d probably volunteer my time at a local animal shelter, since I know it’s not practical to have any more cats in my house. 
  10. I wish people weren’t so disconnected from one another. I think the world would be a much nicer place without road rage and internet bullies and extreme-partisan politics and all the other things that go along with our modern society.

So, that’s my list for today. Have I struck a chord with you? Do you think I overlooked something? Do you want to commiserate with me because some of your wishes are similar? Talk to me in the comments!

The Great Purge of 2014

I have never been “that woman with the spotless house” but I have to admit things have been pretty out of control at Chez Ballerina lately. Hubby and I have been trying to get organized for a while now, but we finally agreed that a Dumpster was in order. So, while others attended parades and cook-outs, our family sorted through the detrius of our 15+ years together. Read through to the end to check out my poll!

I am amazed at all the junk that came out of our basement. There were several boxes full of toys, backpacks full of college text books that are at least 10 years out of date, backpacks full of horrible things we shall never speak of again, not-so-dry wall, fiberglass insulation, questionable sleeping bags, old furniture…the list goes on and on. We even (finally) got rid of the bird cage stand that was there when we moved in.

Early on, I paused to consider whether we might need this bauble or that curiosity, and created huge piles of stuff that I donted to charity, but toward the end I became ruthless. When I climbed out of the Pit of Despair (a.k.a the basement) to find the living room looking as if a toy factory had exploded, I wasn’t pleased. When I realized the youngest was sitting on the couch watching TV instead of sorting through said toys, it was on like Donkey Kong. Knowing that the best stuff was likely elsewhere (…the back seat of my car…), I dragged the toy box outside, up-ended it into the driveway and gave the boys 5 minutes to pick out what they wanted to keep. If I hadn’t been so tired, I might have taken better mental notes about what they saved and what they discarded – it would have made for a great blog post. Then again, I also might have cared more about what they were throwing out. They managed to reduce the pile to about a dozen keeper toys before I swooped in with the snow shovel to get rid of the rest. I was impressed that they weren’t more sentimental – neither of them seemed particularly upset to see so many toys dumped in the trash.

At some point while we were cleaning, the youngest asked why we weren’t having a yard sale. He’s big on making money, and he’s fascinated by clean house shows on basic cable, where the home owners seemingly put in a few hours effort for a pretty significant profit. Hubby and I explained that we’d tried a yard sale when the oldest was still a baby – we’d ended up sunburned, and with barely enough cash to go out to dinner that night (assuming we were comfortable leaving our house unattended when all the creepers now knew where we lived and what kind of stuff we had.) As if that hadn’t scarred us enough, there was the guy who stopped to dig through our first major trash pile as it waited for curbside pick up. That was the cleaning session we’d initiated shortly after we realized our cat was using the basement as his litterbox, and the pile was filled with horrible, stinky little cat poop landmines. Hubby was nice enough to give the guy a heads up, but the stranger kept digging anyway. He eventually left with my old breast pump, some empty CD cases and probably a case of Cryptosporidium. Watching the guy dig through cat poop was bad enough, but I shudder to think what he was planning to do with my breast pump. So, yeah. No yard sale.

The Dumpster has been gone for only a few hours, and there’s plenty more work to be done to clean up and reorganize after our purge, but so far my only moment of regret was throwing away the remote to the oldest’s R/C car. I believe this thing was cursed, anyway. The oldest bought it with gift cards he got for his birthday, and couldn’t wait to show his friends after baseball practice. He was driving it on the grass near the field, but it went out of control and ended up in the parking lot where it was run over by another parent’s van. Hubby felt bad, since the kid had the toy for less than 24 hours before it was destroyed, so he bought him a replacement – which ended up with a slightly bent front tire because the youngest accidentally steered it in front of the oldest while the oldest was riding a scooter. Then, six months later, I threw the remote away, thinking it went to something else. See? Cursed! I felt bad for being so ruthless with their toys, so I replaced the R/C car with one that (hopefully) hasn’t made a pact with the devil. The oldest even contributed a gift card he’d received for Christmas, since he didn’t realize the remote went to his car, either (I did ask him before I tossed it.)

So far, so good.

How about you?

The Delicate Art of Friendship

When I was in kindergarten, I made friends left and right. Anyone who played with me at the park was instantly my friend, even if I’d never met them before and would never see them again. As I got older, I realized not everyone I meet is going to be my friend, nor am I going to want to be friends with everyone I meet.  I realized the value of the word “acquaintance” and its many synonyms (classmate, coworker, customer, etc.)

Then along came social media. At first, one had to be a real geek to find people on the internet (remember BBS and IRC?) Then along came providers like CompuServe and AOL, which made access to the internet as easy as installing a floppy disc that showed up one day in the mail. Suddenly it wasn’t just the hardcore computer geeks who were surfing the World Wide Web, or at least as much of the WWW as your online service provider would let you see. People could connect with other people all over the world, and the anonymous intimacy of online friendship spread like wildfire, though it was often awkward to try to explain to the non-internet savvy people that some of your best friends are people that you’ve never seen in the flesh. Before facebook, there wasn’t really a label for that relationship. Facebook normalized online interaction and made it acceptable to say that the 800+ people you’ve connected with are your friends. With Facebook, there are no more acquaintances – if you want to connect with someone online, you’re automatically their friend; it’s a virtual kindergarten, and Facebook is always encouraging you to go out and find more friends.

Herein lies the rub, however; we’ve lost sight of the line between acquaintance and friend. We’ve developed the ability to have over 800 friends and still feel lonely. Perhaps we’ve even grown lazy in face-to-face social situations, relying, for example, on a Facebook school parents group to make connections with each other rather than breaching the silence of the after school pick up line. I’ve been both a contributor to and the  recipient of premature familiarity with someone, simply because our children are friends and we’ve connected on Facebook. I’ve caught myself feeling momentarily jealous of pictures of Facebook friends enjoying wine night – at least until I remember that we’re not that close.

This blurred line between acquaintance and friend has made me realize just how precious are the women and men whom I would call friends, even without social media. These are the people who listen, not because they enjoy drama, but because they genuinely care and want to make the situation better. These are the people who share their crazy life drama with me, knowing I’ll listen and offer advice without judgement. Being with true friends means feeling comfortable and safe, but it takes work to get to that point. Social media can be a powerful tool; remembering not to rush a connection, and honoring the people with whom you ahead have that connection, is the true art of friendship. I’ve been a lot happier since I figured this out.