Jackets Lost And Found

So far we have had two chilly mornings.  So far Sean has worn a jacket to school two times. So far Sean has lost two jackets.

So this morning, as he put on his 3rd and final jacket, I said to him that his first order of business today was to locate the other two jackets.

“Mom,” he said, “If the jackets are not claimed within so many days they give them to someone who does not have a jacket.”

“Sean,” I said, “That someone without a jacket may be you if you don’t come home with your jackets.”

And I was not kidding.  I am a big proponent of Love & Logic parenting. If he comes home with no jackets today, tomorrow he will be mighty chilly as he walks to school.

After seven years of parenting, I have yet to discover how to teach this child to keep track of his stuff.  I have tried to teach him that when you do not return things to their proper place, they become lost.  When you just put things down wherever you are done with them, they are not in their proper place and therefore — become lost.  When you do not put mommy’s scissors back in her desk, the proper place of scissors, they are not there when mommy wants to use them, and they become lost.  And that makes the vein in mommy’s neck bulge just a little.

The constant losing of stuff is a source of aggravation to me for two reasons.  1) It somehow becomes my job to find or replace the lost stuff, usually at the very inconvenient 11th hour and 2) I am not now, nor have I ever been, one to lose stuff.  I obsessively keep track of my stuff.

I grew up with not a lot and if I lost my stuff, I would have been transferred from the “grew up with not a lot” category into the “grew up with nothing” category.  There just wasn’t any getting more stuff.  Period.  Papa Ed and Vivian practiced Love & Logic out of necessity, long before it was a parenting philosophy, long before people said stuff like “parenting philosophy”.

Last fall, Sean lost his jacket the very first day he wore it.  It was a very distinctive beige and black plaid jacket that I loved that someone had handed down to us.  I had an inexplicable sentimental attachment to that jacket — probably because when he wore it with the hood pulled up, all I could see was my own 1st grade face and that melts my heart like butter on a hot waffle.

At any rate, several times a week I would go up to the school and rifle through the lost and found box of MIA lunch boxes, jackets and water bottles looking for that jacket.  And let me tell you, that is not an especially pleasant job.  That lost and found box falls into the category of “smells not that great.”

Finally I gave the jacket up for lost, grieved it and went to the resale store and bought him a bright orange jacket for $5.  I figured that maybe he would be less likely to lose an orange jacket, and if he did, I was only out $5.

But then in the spring time, when it warmed up, Sean came home with the brown and black plaid jacket.  Which was now too small.   I could never get clear how the jacket resurfaced, if Sean checked the box again and there it was or if at the end of the year, some kind soul looked through the box and saw his name in the jacket and returned it to him.   If the jacket could talk, I’d ask where in the heck it had been all year.

And maybe the jacket would say he went home to spend a season with a little boy who was growing up with not a lot.

Carry On Santa

So that y’all may go on with your holidays, I shall reveal to you the secrets of the House of Antique as it relates to obscure toy requests:

1) A machine gun.  Sean wants the Nerf machine gun but it is $40 and we already have three other Nerf guns.  He will get the $15 Walmart no-name obnoxious noise making variety which I will deeply regret two minutes seconds after it is loosed from its packaging.

After purchasing a number of Tonka obnoxious-noise-making Trucks and an Alvin the Chipmunk who sings Up On The Rooftop every time you walk past, you’d think I’d learn. But no.  I get visions of his eyes lighting up and his grubby little hands clapping with joy and I lose my mind and buy stuff I hate.  Apparently I’m nuts.  Or just nutty about that boy.

2)  A Bakugan Kit.   This “kit” is the exorbitantly over-priced Tupperware container for his growing collection of Bakugans, and by growing collection I mean we have two that we got in Happy Meals (one of which is lost at the moment).  Last week I had never heard of a Bakugan and I still don’t really know what they are.  Were it not for kids at school, Sean would still not know what they are.  &!@# school kids.

3) A microscope. This he is also not getting, although I really want to get him one.  I want to wait until I can buy a good sturdy one.  Anyone who has any microscope buying insider info, I’d love to hear from you.

4) A lie detector kit — as seen in Sky Mall magazine.  Also not getting this as it would surely be used against me.

What he is getting are Zoobs and a blocks and marbles super set and a new soccer ball.  Oh yeah, and the stupid machine gun.

Merry Giftmas to all and to all a good night!

He Speaks

AD and I think it is important for Sean to learn how to stand up and speak in front of others with confidence so that he might grow into a man who can influence others for good, so that he will have the tools to articulate his ideas, dreams and visions with clarity and confidence.  No matter where his life’s journey leads, we think this is a valuable life skill that requires practice more than anything else, and that it’s never too soon to start.

Since Sean was about three, we have had what we call Family Fun Night or what non-geek families would likely term as misery.  We start off by reading a Bible story, then we talk about it a little bit and then we take about 15 minutes for each person to draw a picture of what they got out of the story, what they thought the story was about or whatever they found in the story that inspired their artistic spirit in some way.  Then each person has to present their work to the others.  And by presenting, I mean you are required to stand up in front of the group, identify yourself and then talk about your work.  (You should know, being a guest in our home requires you to participate in FFN.)  I have gathered these tiny works of art into a collection and it has been fun to look back upon them and see Sean’s artistic and conceptual growth.  And I have to say, when I look at his art, I am awed; I have a glimmer of clarity about what Jesus meant when he said that we are to be like little children.

Having said all that, we are always looking for opportunities for Sean to practice speaking in front of groups larger than our small tribe or other friendly folk who might be at our house.  So the other day I arranged for him to read Snowmen at Night to the kindergarten class at his former school.  We had him practice a few times, coached him to make eye contact and to speak slowly, loudly and with expression.  And he did a great job. So if you are looking for a speaker, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with his agent.

As we were driving to take him back to his school, we passed a nursing home.  On a whim, AD whipped into the parking lot.  “Let’s go in here and see if they need a reader!” he said.  “I’ll bet they would love to have a little boy read to them!”  So we did and they did and Sean did.  The activities director was delighted to see us and gathered up a few of the residents in the dining hall to hear Sean read.  He stood in front of the small group, told them his name, the book he was going to read and who wrote it.  Then he sat down and began reading the book with joyful expression, taking care to show the pictures.  And those who were not borderline comatose were thrilled.  And those who were comatose, well, I know they were thrilled in their hearts even though they could not express it.

At one point, one gentleman got into a coughing fit and I became slightly alarmed and concerned that he was going to code out right there in the dining room and what a bummer it would be if on your first public speaking engagement someone DIED.  But Sean did not miss a beat and kept reading.  When he finished he thanked them for their attention.  They clapped and said what a good boy he was and my heart swelled with humility that God would bless stupid old me with such a marvelous little boy.  Grace is the only explanation for that.

When we left the nursing home, Sean was enjoying the speaker’s high.  He had done well and people liked him and he was energized by the experience. “I’d like to do that again!” he said.

We returned Sean to school about two hours beyond tardy so I checked him into the office.  The office lady asked me if he had a doctor’s appointment and for a split second I was tempted to lie and say yes so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the impending disapproval, but Sean was standing right there, so I told her the truth:  He had a speaking engagement.  “Well, you know he’ll be marked tardy, don’t you?” she said.  And I said, “Oh. I see. You think I care.”  No I didn’t say that because how snotty would that be?  No, I said I did not really care about tardy marks, I only care that he is learning and that we felt what he was doing today in the community was important.  In retrospect, ‘yes ma’am’ would have been sufficient.

I understand the school’s view that punctual attendance is important, but important things are also learned outside of the classroom.

Flailing Not Failing

Sean was born six weeks early and spent the first week of his life in the NICU.  He was teeny tiny, but was never in any danger, other than being sent home to live with two clueless people.

Before we left the hospital, the nurse showed me the proper way to wrap my baby in a blanket. She stressed the importance of keeping his arms tucked in tight at all times. She said he was used to be being curled up in the confines of my womb and he would prefer being swaddled.  She said that if he were allowed to flail his arms freely, he would feel insecure thus destroying his sense of well-being and possibly leading to a life of crime.  Only the worst kind of mother would allow flailing.

Perhaps all that was implied, I don’t really remember.  In those days, uneven hormones along with the daunting task of caring for an infant made everything seem reallllly critical.

I felt a measure of confidence as I watched the nurse swaddle my tiny new baby because I had made burritos before and I recognized that she was merely making a yummy baby burrito. Nothing hard about that.  Having passed swaddling 101, they released us to take our baby home.

When we got home, the first order of business was to change his diaper and then wrap him up in the prescribed manner at which I was an expert.

I laid him ever so gently diagonally across the blanket.  Just like the nurse, I folded the bottom of the blanket into a triangle and pulled it up and over his feet.  I then pulled the right side of the blanket tautly over him, rolled him forward a little, tucked it under and then repeated left to right.

Voila!  I stood back and admired my work. All that was missing was a bow!  But then, like Houdini, he began to twist and squiggle until he had freed his right arm which he began waving over his head like a flag.  And then he pulled out his left arm.  And then he began flailing both arms with all his might.  He seemed to be saying, “Look at me! I’m flailing! And you can’t stop me!”

“Stop it baby!” I cried, “Stop flailing! Do you want to end up in jai!?” At which point he wadded up the blanket and threw it across the room.

I retrieved the blanket and rolled him up in it again and again.  No matter how tightly and expertly I swaddled him, he pulled his arms out in record time.  When visions of duct tape began to dance in my head I conceded.

On my very first day of motherhood, I learned this very important lesson:  You can swaddle a baby but you can’t make them keep their arms in. Without duct tape.  I also realized that when it comes to babies, expert advice is really only a suggestion.

Six years later, nothing in that regard has changed – I swaddle, he unswaddles, I tuck, he untucks, I wrap, he unwraps, I do, he undoes.  It’s the pattern of our lives.

Nearly every night I peek in on Sean just before turning out the lights to find him sleeping with his arms outside the covers.  I lean over him and kiss his forehead and then like a good mother, I pull the covers up under his chin and tuck his arms securely under the blanket.

And when I turn to take one last look before leaving the room, he pulls his arms out and flops them on top of the blanket.

AM-Baby

You can tell from the look on his face that he is plotting how to get out of the swaddle.

The New Bed

Recently I acquired a twin bed for Sean.  Heretofore, the poor giraffe-legged child had been sleeping in a toddler bed.  Toddler bed, we all know, is code for “crib on the ground”.

I know what you are thinking. “What is wrong with y’all? Can you not even manage to get your six-year-old child a decent bed?”

And the answer to that is apparently not, at least not in a timely manner.

Several times when we’ve had other children at the house, I have overheard them laughing at Sean’s itty bitty bed. And although it didn’t bother him, it made me realize that it was probably time to get him out of the toddler bed.

But finding a new bed wasn’t as easy as I imagined it would be.

It took me a while to find the bed I wanted. For one thing, I wanted an old-fashioned 1950s Beaver Cleaver kind of twin bed.  For months, I searched Craig’s List and eBay and garage sales to no avail.

As it turns out, the Catholic grade school that I attended closed a year or so back and they sold off all the furniture in the convent and my mother bought one of the twin beds. When she found out we were looking for an old fashioned twin bed, she offered it to us.  There is great irony to think that my son is now sleeping in the bed of a now-dead nun who used to routinely whack the holy snot out of me.

At any rate it is a really nice bed, solid maple and just as old-fashioned as it can be.  And the best part – free!

So when my parents came to visit recently, they brought the bed with them and joyful sounds were heard throughout the kingdom upon its arrival.

The next day when AD left for work, I dropped Sean off at school and then my parents and I high tailed it to Sam’s and bought a mattress and box springs.  When we got home, I quickly disassembled the crib-on-the-floor and hauled it up to the attic while my dad set up the “new” bed.

Mom and I put on the brand new sheets, fluffed the pillows and then stood back to gaze upon the marvelous new bed.  And we felt much happiness and no sadness. None.   We did however feel tiredness.  We had been working at a feverish pace because we knew we had to get the job done before AD got home and put the skids to our merry making.

AD does not like change. AD would not want to take the toddler bed down.  AD would have to rend his garments and cry into the crib sheets. He would have to kneel by the tiny bed and hang his head in sorrow. He would have to weep as he tenderly ran his fingers over the rough patches on the frame where tiny teeth once gnawed.  He would have a goodbye ceremony. He would write the bed a little letter and tape it to the bed frame. And this could take weeks, maybe even months.   All while I stood quietly and respectfully off to the side tapping my foot and looking at my watch. All while Sean asked over and over and over when he was going to get to sleep in his new bed.

When Sean got home from school, he took a flying leap into his new bed and declared it awesome. He loved it.

When AD got home from work, he did not declare the new bed awesome, but rather said, “Oh. A new bed.”

And I could see what he was thinking:   “I didn’t know that last night was the last night I would get to tuck him in the little bed.”  And while I have sympathies for his sentimentalities… no wait, I really don’t.

So later that day AD asked me, he said, “Do you not even feel a little bit of sadness that the old bed is gone?”

“No.”

“Not even a little? Not just a teeny tiny tinge of sadness?”

“No.”

“None?”

“No. I feel glee.”

He half smiled at me.

I half smiled back.

AD weeps at what he leaves behind.

I look forward to what lies ahead.

It all works out, for at long last, our six-year-old sleeps in a proper bed.

Growth Spurts, Money Jars, The Circle Of Life And Other Things

About a year ago, Sean’s grandmother gave him a money jar which sits on top of his dresser. It is a big plastic jar that looks like a pickle jar, only it has a slot on the top which shows a digital reading of how much money has been deposited.  The digital reading is about as accurate as taking a wild guess, or basically the same formula we are using to determine the actual cost of national healthcare.

Be that as it may…

Like his father, Sean likes to hold on to his money, so after a year of saving, the jar was half full with about $40, mostly in change.  Some of the money he earned from his towel folding business but most was given to him with impunity from recalcitrant grandparents, aunts, uncles and other nice people.

Last week my favorite five-year-old was in a growth spurt or something was up because we had some attitude and obedience issues.  Normally he is a pretty compliant and polite little guy and doesn’t delight in giving me too much trouble. Which works out well for him since I don’t abide much nonsense.

But, last week there was an incident involving the carpet in his bedroom.  I won’t say what the offense was because I don’t think anyone deserves to have their misdeeds recorded for all the internets to analyze and comment upon forever amen.  But it wasn’t an accident; it was premeditated, willful and on purpose. An accident I can easily forgive because who among us hasn’t knocked over a perfume display in Sanger Harris? Accidents happen. But this was no accident.

I was in a quandary as to what to do about the incident because it was so far out of character for this child. I was really interested in getting to the bottom of why he would do such a thing more so than issuing a swift punishment.

I was baffled.  I took a day or so to figure out how to proceed.  The side benefit of this delay was that it allowed him to stew just a little and meditate upon his actions.

Finally, I recalled that one time my brother shot out the neighbor’s picture window with his BB gun and I believe my parents made him pay to replace it.  My brother is not now, nor has he ever been in jail, so I decided to go the personal responsibility route.  Rather than punishment, I decided that the appropriate thing to do was to have him take responsibility for his actions and make him pay to have the carpet cleaned. And that meant I would have to confiscate his money.

He cried when I told him I would have to take his money to pay for the carpet cleaning.  “I was saving that money for an iPhone!” he wailed.  I told him that was really sad with as much sympathy as I could muster. And then I took away his money.

The rest of the week passed with no further incident.  And although I never got to the bottom of why he did what he did, I did see in him a contrite heart. He was sorry.  So Saturday, I took all the silver coins and the dollars to pay for the carpet cleaning, but I let him have his pennies back for seed money for his iPhone.

AD and I talk to Sean a lot about spending and saving so that he might grow into a financially responsible man. But we have some concern that because he lives a privileged life, that he doesn’t know what it is to want and to wait and to do without — which in our view are not bad things.

So sometimes, in an effort to remind Sean of how good he has it, AD will tell him that when he was growing up, he just wanted to have enough money to be able to get a snack out of the vending machine at school. That was his idea of being rich.  But you know, these kinds of stories tend to fall on deaf ears.  All they hear is “Iwalkedtoschooluphillbothwaysthreefeetofsnowblahblah”.

We are genetically programmed to say these things.  We cannot stop ourselves.

This morning, for the first time in 11 years, AD’s work took him out of the house to work on a project.  All Sean has ever known is AD working in his office upstairs.  So this morning, as AD was heading for the door, dressed and carrying his brief case, it shocked us all just a little.  Sean stopped him and asked him to wait.  He disappeared into his room and when he came back, he handed AD a fistful of pennies. “Here you go dad, in case you want to buy a snack out of the vending machine.”

So, maybe he was listening after all.

I’m not really sure what in the heck happened here this past week.  I think we might all be going to through a growth spurt.

Note: Sean is not getting an iPhone until he can buy me one too.

When Leaves Fall Moose Mate

So then, Sean’s homework assignment for tonight was to draw a picture representing fall.

I was excited about that project because of the many creative possibilities.  I envisioned that he would draw a field of pumpkins or falling leaves. Or maybe pumpkins or falling leaves. Or something like that.

So I gave him a piece of paper and read to him the task as stated on the assignment sheet.

Side Bar:  I learned early on in college that if you can figure out what the professor wants and give it to them on time, you can raise your letter grade by at least a factor of one.  And the way you figure out what the professor wants is by reading the syllabus. The professor often explicitly states what is expected of you on the syllabus.  That’s just a little trick I learned.  So if you are in school right now and you are reading this, here’s a little golden nugget of advice:   Read the dadgum syllabus. Read it twice.

Then I gave him some art supplies and said, “Go to town Picasso!” And he did.

When he handed me his masterpiece for inspection, I was a little bit surprised. There were no falling leaves or pumpkins. There was what appeared to be a moose staring at a tree.

So I asked him, I said, “Sean how does this represent fall?”

And he said with a bit of exasperation as one might have when speaking with someone as unlearned as I, “Mom. Moose look for a mate in the fall.”

So I said what anyone in my situation might say. I said,  “Oh.”

And then I scratched my head and wondered if maybe we might be watching a little too much Animal Planet.

And now, I  want to take this opportunity to apologize to the parents whose children might come home from school tomorrow with a little too much information regarding the mating habits of moose.

DSC_6439

Mr. Moose looking for a Mrs. Moose.   Clearly.