September 28, 2009

Pancakes in the Nude


The following conversation took place between my mom and Tristan while we were on a short road trip over the weekend.  I can't remember exactly how the conversation got started but we were talking about cooking or food or life or who knows what.

Mom: Tristan, you have to learn how to cook.
Tristan: No!
Mom: Well, then you will have to get married so your wife can cook for you.
Tristan: I not getting married.
Mom: If you can't cook and you're not married how will you feed yourself?
Tristan: I no know.
Mom: You really need to learn to cook.
Tristan: No.
Mom: If you don't know how to cook you will have to take your pajamas off and go out to a restaurant to get pancakes for your breakfast.
Tristan: I not going restaurant naked!!

September 25, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now?

Tristan's speech is improving so much these days. It's really delightful to be able to have some almost-regular conversations with him. The other day he woke up and found me sitting on the couch, settled into my arms and we chatted about various important topics of life such as Spiderman's webs being sticky, Julius going to school and, once again, how my bra is constructed.

He is becoming increasingly aware of all the things around him and what they mean and what relevance they have on his life. This is one of my favorite times of the boys' lives when conversations start to happen and you can really TALK and communicate on a get-to-know-you level.  I love it.

Well, I mostly love it.

When I don't love it is when we are in a crowded Wal-Mart and we pass a big toilet paper display and Tristan says in his very loud, high-pitched voice, "DAT TOILET PAPER. YOU WIPE YOU BOTTOM, MOMMY, WIT DAT TOILET PAPER?"

I veer off quickly around the corner with the basket as he's waving his hands at the TP display and hiss under my breath, "Yes, toilet paper is for wiping bottoms. Very good, very good. Uh huh. Let's use a quiet voice now."

"WHY COME YOU USE A QUIET VOICE MOMMY?"

Oh, for the love of Pete. I'm not sure why I bother. Maybe because I don't want to talk about wiping my bottom with a whole bunch of other strangers standing next to the dairy aisle. Am I silly for thinking that's wrong?

The other time it becomes a problem is when the child likes to repeat the things you say.  This is something I've already been aware of because I have one older child, but as I'm creeping up on middle age I sometimes forget things.

In the toy section I wanted an excuse to hasten the process of selecting a toy. We had it narrowed down to 2-3 toys to choose from but he just kept insisting he needed all of them. Finally I said, "Look, you need to just pick one or we're leaving because Mommy has to go potty."  That seemed like a reasonable excuse for urgency.

"YOU NEED GO POTTY MOMMY????"

A man passing by with his basket glanced over at me to see if I was mortified. Resigned was really the word I would have chosen, so he had the decency to be completely embarrassed on my behalf. He scurried quickly away and disappeared as I waved to his retreating back.

"Yeah, okay, Tristan. You don't have to yell about Mom needing to go potty."

"WHY COME?"

"Because it's private."

"YOU GO POTTY IN PRIVATE?"

"Okay, we're really going now. Pick a toy, pick, pick, pick or I will pick for you or better yet we'll just leave with NO toy. I recommend you pick something right now."

And, smartly, he picked one and off I raced with one hand on the basket, the other waving around trying to distract him from looking around in case he saw more toilet paper or any other products that could somehow be turned into a loud conversation about my personal care habits.

September 21, 2009

The Abuse Continues

My boys are going to the dark side. More and more they act like their father, talk like their father, throw temper tantrums like their father, and want to do things with their dad more often than me.

The other night I was tucking our youngest to bed, smoothing his hair with tickly mommy fingers, straightening the covers and that sort of usual nite-nite stuff.

Frequently he will hug my arm to his chest and nuzzle my hand with his face and say, "Stay, Mommy." It's so cute and heartmelting.

But this latest night was different. He looked up and me and said, "Daddy read me story."

"You want Daddy to read you a story?"

He nodded, "You go get him."

"Oh. Okay, sure. Will you love me forever then?"

He nodded and said, "Yes, just go."

"Oh, you want Daddy right now?"

"You just go. Get me Daddy. Him read me story right now."

His dad doesn't actually read him books. He tells really cute stories about various super heroes knocking on our front door and asking if Tristan can come out and do good deeds to save the world. It's very entertaining and they only last a few minutes long and Tristan will make him tell about eight of them in a row and then cries like the world is ending when he stops.

* * *

However, while Dad is fun, mom is the one they generally come to when they are upset or want some snuggling and loving up.

Last night I had a dream that a big race horse was in bed with me trying to eat my chicken noodle soup. When I woke up at 4:44AM I realized what I thought was a large soup-slurping thoroughbred was actually two boys -- one at my side pushing me to the edge of the bed, one at the end of the bed knocking my feet off so that I was only touching the bed from the knees up and with one arm dangling over the side.

As I lay there trying to figure out if I should kick them all out, move to the couch or just get up and do something productive I realized that Tristan had managed to wet the bed through his overnight pants. All over me. Not his DAD who is the fun one, but all over his mom and mom's side of the bed.  And then after I cleaned everything up had the nerve to ask me for a drink before going back to bed.

My response was, "I don't think so." And then I realized being only two he probably doesn't really get the art of snarkiness.  Although, I'm in no big hurry because once they figure it out then they start using it on you in retaliation.

I'm rethinking my mom's whole fly swatter thing.

September 18, 2009

Some Firsts

Julius lost his first tooth this week. It's been a long and grotesque week with him showing me the progress of the wiggling tooth each morning and night. "Look how loose it is, Mom!" He'd hop around me, then open his mouth and waggle the tooth around with his tongue until I felt a little queasy around the edges and beg him to please stop. He'd race away yelling, "Look at my tooth, Dad!"

He finally lost it on Tuesday after getting punched in the mouth on the bus by a scrappy little Kindergarten kid who is obviously well-versed on the story of David and Goliath, that inspiring tale of a small but lion-hearted man going against a foe umpteen times his size despite that being a really insane decision.

Unfortunately, my son's modern day version of that bible tale turned out pretty much like the traditional version only in our case, David got suspended from the bus for a few days and Goliath lost his first baby tooth and still sports a big bite mark on his thigh several days later.

I've been trying to focus on the really important things about this learning experience like how proud I am of my son for not just beating the little guy to a pulp when he could have, how he showed Ghandi-like tolerance, restraint and buoyant good-nature despite David's repeated attempts to pick a fight. All of these things are fabulous qualities I admire about my son and have complimented him on when I'm not being distracted by the unfortunate, nagging thought that my son got his ass kicked by a Kindergarten kid half his size.

Yeah, I'm shallow.

So, we've been struggling with these many issues -- how to handle someone trying to pick a fight, what are good and bad choices in those cases. We've talked about self-defense, self-esteem, consequences of action and non-action. This is something we've assumed was going to happen eventually because Julius is a little different. He is generally well-liked and charming, but he still talks different because of his respiratory condition. He's the big, quiet boy who whispers. In the world of rough and tumble boys, that's a defect, a weakness, a testing ground. No matter how much I don't like it, in the world we live in this is the reality of life.

The realization I'm coming to is that the proving ground for all of us is not how we handle ourselves in this fight. The real proving ground is how we handle ourselves outside the fight. How do we react during what comes after? Do we learn anything from it? Do we let it change us for the better or worse?  Does it rule us? How is our self-esteem? How is our outlook on life? Are we afraid? Are we bitter?

I can tell you that Julius did well. His parents, however, could have done far better.

The day after the bus fight I walked to the stop to meet Julius so the driver could see he had an engaged and concerned mom. It turns out I know him and went to school with his son who was a popular basketball player. His wife is my mom's hairdresser. He waved to me as he pulled away. I phoned Mom that night to tell her Mr. Stemple is Julius's bus driver.

"He hates redheads," she said.

"Uh, okay. Why? How can you hate a redhead?"

"I don't know. He does though. Always has. For years Donelda has been wanting to put a red rinse on her hair and he absolutely forbids her to. She's the one who told me he hates redheads."

"Well, that's unfortunate since Julius and I both have red hair."

"Isn't it though." I could sense her working on her latest conspiracy that somehow it was all orchestrated by the bus driver -- a big plot to get the redheaded kids beat up at school.

Supposedly that day the kids were supposed to be separated to avoid further incident. Julius got off the bus, head hanging low.  I put my arm around him and tried to bend down to see the expression on his face. To my surprise he had a funny smirk there like he was trying to keep from grinning or laughing.

"What?" I demanded.

From his pocket he whipped out a plastic baggie containing a tiny little tooth and showed me his big toothless grin.

"Wow! It's out already??"


He nodded, "It just fell out today!"

"Maybe getting punched in the mouth helped." (I'm shallow AND insensitive. I look at it like seeing the glass half full.)

"Maybe so." He gave me another gappy-toothed grin.

Later in the day there was some speculation on the true identity of the Tooth Fairy. After last year's long and agonizing debate about Santa Claus, I wasn't looking forward to the eventual murder of another fake cultural icon. Julius said he thought his dad was really the Tooth Fairy. I walked in about that time and said, "That's silly. Can you imagine how preposterous your dad would look in a tutu?"

Julius laughed.

I went on. "In fact, if anyone in this household would be wearing a tutu, it would be me."  I did the spokesmodel motion down the sides of my body and executed a snappy turn so they could see all sides of me.

Julius laughed again and said, "You're too fat to wear a tutu."

I gasped in mock horror (while hiding that I was truly slightly horrified) and said, "Get out. I could totally wear a tutu."

He rolled his eyes and said, "Mom, seriously, where would you find a tutu that big?"

He's so grounded. I hope the Tooth Fairy brings him a big ole hunk of coal.

September 15, 2009

Why Some Mommys Get Tired

My son, the toddler vegetarian will currently only eat rice, broccoli and yogurt but only if the yogurt doesn't have chunks of fruit in it. Occasionally he will share some lettuce with the guinea pigs by yanking it out of their mouths and stuffing it into his own. Otherwise, on his own salad he likes Greek vinaigrette dressing. As time goes by his eating habits begin to look more and more like mine and my husband is starting to blame me for that.

As I write this he serenades me with an electronic piano that Grandma got the boys. He plays it with his feet.

Over the past week or so he has been very forthcoming with the fashion and personal care advice. He started by offering suggestions about the size of my bust. He's also has some very keen advice about the condition of my skin. He insists on having long conversations about what I'm wearing and why, in addition to make-up tips.

His current fixation is on the underwires in my bra (which he refers to as a "brav"). Every morning he says, "Dat you brav? Why you wear dat?"

"Because girls wear bras when they go out of the house."
"Why come?"
"Uh... well, because... uh, that's what they do."
"Why come?"
"It's a common practice in our Western culture that women wear bras because it's more socially appropriate although some feminists feel that it represses women."  I paused and glanced carefully over at him hoping that would be a conversation stopper.
"You take it off."
"No, definitely not."
"Why come?"
"Well, sometimes women also wear bras for the safety and welfare of their community. It's just better this way. Trust me."
"Okay."
I rarely wear dresses. Last Sunday I was invited to attend church by a friend and broke out the one trusty dress I feel comfortable wearing. This sent Tristan into a tailspin. He followed me around the house quizzing me.
"Wass dat?"
"It's a dress."
"Dat dress?"
"Mmmhmm."
"You wear dat dress?"
"Mmmhmm."
He then proceeds to crawl under the dress and look around and just generally hang out there like he's in a tent at the side of Walden Pond contemplating whatever it is that breast-fixated toddler vegetarians contemplate.

After an exhausting conversation about why I suddenly need to wear a dress when all his life I've only been wearing pants, we move on to the subject of makeup which I also rarely wear.
"Wass dat on you eyes?"
"It's mascara."
"Why you put dat on you eyes?"
"Because it makes Mommy's eyes look pretty. Does it make my eyes look pretty?"
"No."
"Oh. Well... I think it does. It makes my lashes looking longer and fuller. Most people think longer, fuller lashes are attractive."
"Why come?"
"Because television tells them it's better. Except even if I didn't watch TV I would think it looked better."
"You put dat on you eyewashes?"
"Yes."
"Dat make you eyes look pretty?"
"Yeah, that's the whole idea."
"Why come?"
"Oh Tristan. Just because. Just, well, just because. Why don't you go see Daddy for a minute?"
"Why come?"
"Because Mommy's brain is tired."
"Oh. Why come you brain is tired?"
That went on for about another half hour with me hinting at various compelling reasons why he should go somewhere else in the house and talk to someone else for a while. Finally he went off to see Julius and they promptly got into a shoving and screaming match and came running to me crying about how unfairly they both are treated by the other.

I pointed to something over their heads and yelled, "OH MY GOSH!" and when they turned I shut the bathroom door and locked it, slid down the wall and pulled my knees up to my chest and contemplated how much I need a pedicure while the two of them threw themselves at the door screaming, "MOM LET US IN, LET US IN!" Two brothers united in a common cause.

On the other side of the bathroom I spied a magazine I hadn't yet read and scooted over to it, thumbing leisurely through the pages. The door bowed ominously. The door latch rattled angrily. I could sense a 37-pound toddler hanging off of it like the monkey bars. I wondered how long it would hold and if it would come apart before their dad realized that I was trapped in the castle with raging Attila the Hun and Mini-Hun threatening to break through the stronghold.

I flipped passed an article about how I should walk more (because who needs to be reminded of that when the barbarians are at the gate?) and settled on an article about how I could have dazzling eyes like the movie stars.

Suddenly on the other side of the door I hear their father bellow at them to stop hanging on the door and wait for me to get out. They whine, but scatter to various corners of the house and I hear him walk up to the door and say, "You okay in there?"

"Just fine," I say, peering closer to see how in the world they do that eyeliner magic.

I grin and turn another page.

September 14, 2009

STSS: Up for Adoption

Due to current (and long standing) time constraints, I'm not able to keep up with my beloved Small Town Snapshot Sunday meme.  I would love to find a good home for it if there is someone out there who would be dedicated to it weekly.

Leave comments here if you'd like to adopt it and give it a great home.

While I love that meme, I'm also trying to get more realistic about what I can actually accomplish so the main part of this blog (and my other blogs) don't suffer. Quality, not quantity, right??

September 11, 2009

A Thoughtful Offer

I was down at the Chamber of Commerce office dropping off some marketing material and other goodies for the nice lady there to give out in the packets she sends to people who make inquiries.

I sat in there for a while and we chatted about goings-on in town. Just as we were about to wrap things up an older gentleman (not OLD, just older than me) came swooping into the room. The door flew wide open nearly hitting the wall and he paused dramatically in the doorway and surveyed all that was in the room before he fianlly entered.

Donna, the Chamber of Commerce lady, seemed to know him. I could tell by looking at him that he was "from off" (i.e. not from here, not a native of the area). His hair was grayish and a little wild. He was smartly dressed and had boatloads of charisma at his disposal. He started immediately disposing of it all around the room. Some of it got on me.

After a short time, Donna introduced me and when he discovered I was a Realtor he immediately launched into a story about this piece of property in Kansas City that would make us all rich if only I could find an investor to purchase it. And then he spun the tale about various ways we could turn all this into our advantage, most of which sounded suspicious and not entirely legal.

Talking to him was a bit like wallowing around in quicksand, but a quicksand that is a really lovely shade of lavendar or delicate rose pink and perhaps smells a little like warm apples with cinnamon. I could sense the danger, but didn't really care.  I could see, though, that if I were ever going to get out of there I'd have to come up with some dire excuse like "Oh, I forgot my house is on fire..." or maybe "oops, I'm incontinent!"

Eventually I extracted myself and headed to my car. To my dismay he was behind me and seemed to be not just leaving at the same time as me, but actually following me. I stopped before I got to the car and turned around. He started talking about parties he goes to and muckety-muck politicians and celebrities who sometimes attend. He mentioned one party in which he was the escort of a very rich and classy woman. And when he said "escort" I assumed he meant "date" because I'm a silly, naive sort of girl.

He continued, "I do that sometimes, act as an escort to these woman who need someone to attend parties or dinners or whatever with them. Upscale endeavors where looks are important and discretion is required."

I thought about this for a moment wondering why he was telling me all this since I'm about the last person in the world who attends any upscale endeavor where looks are important and discretion is required.

And then he added, "I'd offer these services to you, of course, if you ever had need of them."

"Oh," I said, it suddenly all becoming clear to me. "Er, well, thank you. That's a very thoughtful offer, but no, definitely not. I'm sure my husband would not be too keen on that."

"You're married then."

"Oh yes, quite married, thank you."

"Well, please do keep considering the other offer of selling that property. I hope you can find someone for it. And tune in to my radio show. There's the number on my van..."

He waved his arm to a hand-painted hippie wagon that made me forget his creepy offer and made me smile at his eccentric ways, his free spirit, his energy and his determination to be himself in a community where that sort of behavior frequently goes unrewarded.

I waved and watch him go, leaving a trail of dust in his wake.

September 9, 2009

Things That Make You Go "Uhhh...."

If you liked my post about the tea incident at the McDonald's drive thru, you'll probably enjoy Stephen Parrish's post about some equally crazy incidents of his own.

* * *
Last night over dinner my son and I entered into negotiations over a suitable reward for him completing the 8-mile "Fall Classic" bike ride taking place this month. We're doing it as a family.  They have several versions and I'm hoping I can manage that much. Before I became a mom, back when I was living in the Land of the Beautiful People (Southern California) I'd routinely ride 40-50 miles on my bike. Now I have to rest after checking the mail. It's embarrassing.  Well, we're doing it anyway.

So, back to the negotiations. I think it's important in life that people learn to negotiate well.  I'm not saying I'm great at it but I have a lot of practice at it in my work. Six years old is not too young to start, and already he has some mad skills, so much so that I'm starting to regret giving him such an early start.

His opening bid for finishing the 8-mile trip was $100. In exchange for that he would give up a year of his allowance. It was a great line of thinking in some ways.  Get all the money up front and you gain control of the funds to create your own yield at your own pace. You are the master of your destiny and can do what you want, good or bad.

The big problem is he can't do the math yet and his offer meant he'd actually lose $104 over the year which is a terrible business decision.  Just as I was about to agree to it (because I'm a heartless and terrible mother) his dad stepped in to save him. I slapped my hand to my forehead and groaned in agony. Success was within my grasp!

Rob explained his near catastrophic financial mistake and I volleyed back with an offer of $80 in exchange for  six months worth of allowance. He rolled his eyes with a nice mixture of disgust and condescension. He said he'd be satisfied with $204 to which I responded, "No, definitely not."

At his dad's suggestion he added, "AND a raise to $6 per week."  I'm sure now he's going to be really disappointed when it turns out to just be whatever he wants from the ice cream shop.

In any case, at that point the negotiations pretty much declined when we looked down to discover that Tristan had been under the table the whole time with a black JUMBO permanent marker drawing on the white linoleum what he claims was a horse.

In case you ever need to remove permanent marker from your white lino, get to it fast with a green scrubby and some Lysol 4-in-1 spray cleaner. And big biceps. (Thanks, Rob.)

* * *
The same night, when I was tucking Julius in to bed he complained that our television system was messed up. For the second time the living room satellite box is possessed by the devil and keeps turning itself on and off. So we had to move the bedroom stuff to the living room so Julius can't watch TV at night anymore.

I suggested that perhaps we should get rid of all the electronics in our house and then all we would do is just read all the time. He looked quite alarmed, then I could see the light bulb go on with one of his schemes. "I know... we could sell everything for like $230 at a yard sale and then buy all new stuff. And then it would all work."

"I don't think $230 would be enough to do what you're trying to do."

He thought about that for a moment and then said, "Okay, then $350. Would that be enough?"

All I can say is that it's hard to be the mother of a budding capitalist.

* * *
For some reason Tristan decided he'd clean the table after dinner. He picked up all plastic plates, silverware and stuff for the garbage. Without asking.  So, I guess the satellite dish isn't the only thing in our house that's possessed. For all this he got a dime from his dad and later was found polishing the front of the stove and then in the bath I saw him scrubbing down the sides of the tub. When I asked him what he was doing he said, "Me skwub da baff wiff soap."

None of this is behavior he learned from me. He is his dad through and through.

September 7, 2009

Reduce, Refuse, Relax

A slight "blogcation" was forced upon me due to my chaotic lifestyle and also that I refuse to face the fact that I can't actually do everything.  Despite obvious proof otherwise, I am still CERTAIN I can indeed do everything I want to do.

So, in order to continue living in my well-constructed fantasy world I am pretending I didn't really want to do Small Town Snapshot Sunday yesterday. I'm also pretending I didn't really want to do a post this morning as is my usual custom.

I'm not pretending very well. No, honestly, I would rather have been doing my small town snapshots yesterday instead of buying 96 rolls of toilet paper. I would rather have been describing my fabulous small town life instead of fighting Chuckwagon Race traffic on a highway that has all but two lanes closed due to construction.  I would rather have been writing a post this morning instead of doing loads of dishes and making a very bad surprise omelet for my husband that turned out to be really wet in the middle followed up by driving a Realtor around in the woods and being in the car with the kids for three hours straight.

However, not one to be a total complainer, I can never consider the time wasted. Because if I hadn't been trapped in the car with the boys for three hours I would possibly not have heard this conversation:

T: You poo poo chicken.
J: You're a fat poop chicken.
T: You poo poo chicken!
J: You're a fat poopy chicken!
T: You poo poo chicken!
J: You're a fat poo poo chicken butt!
T: You penis head!

Please remember, this is not language we use in our home, rather this is just a string of naughty boy words attached to regular English words in a combination that the boys find hilarious.

* * *

After we left the lost and confused Realtor, I was driving on to our next destination. I was wearing a tank top with a flowery overblouse and I hadn't noticed that one side of the shirt had slipped down off my shoulder. Tristan, his usual helpful self, said "Mom, you shirt fall off."

I looked down and said, "Oh, it sure is." I pulled my shirt back up onto my shoulder and kept on driving.

Tristan continued on with his sage observations and advice, "You need smaller bips. You bips too big, Mommy. You shirt fall off. You bips too big."

"Um, are you saying my breasts are too large?"

"Uh huh, you bips big. You shirt fall off."

I immediately phoned home to relay his recommendation to his dad who said, "Tell Tristan to mind his own damn business."

* * *

And so, after the toil of the morning, lunch is done, one boy is having a nap, one boy is sweeping the kitchen floor without asking (must be up to something!) and I'm about to relax and put my feet up with an ice cold "uncola" with a squeeze of fresh lime.

I hope you're having an unlaborious Labor Day, wherever you are.

September 4, 2009

The Chicken

On the phone Rob is telling me, "The weirdest thing just happened to me. I don't mean regular weird, I'm mean the weirdest thing ever."

"What." I know what he means by "weirdest thing ever".  He means, "weird even for US."

He launches into the following story. All of it's true. Really.

While I'm at daycare picking up the kids he gets a knock on the door. On our front porch is a 6'7" (or so) humongous fella we know slightly. His name is Darren and he's the least known of the three siblings who come from a well-known family in town.

He greets Rob and then says, "Sheryl Sweeney told me three years ago I could have that chicken that's in your yard, so I was wondering if it's okay if I go ahead and take it."

Rob said exactly what I would have said which was, "Um... what?"

"Sheryl Sweeney. She said I could have the chicken. About three years ago."

The chicken in question is actually a large metal rooster (about as tall as me) that's hanging out in a forsythia bush in our side yard. To me it doesn't seem to stand out, but for some reason it's well-known in the neighborhood. When I bought it a few years ago it was gorgeous, brightly colored and I was madly in love with it. Unfortunately, the man who sold it to me didn't tell me it was an indoor chicken so I put it outside to liven up the yard and it promptly faded to a dull yellow color and is now rusty. Still charming but not nearly as cool as when I bought it.

Sheryl Sweeney used to live in my house. She was a terrible renter and destroyed the place. We had to completely redo everything inside. The walls were punched out and the blown insulation poured out of the walls. Graffiti, trash, broken windows. I had to take her to court for damages and, unfortunately, garnish her wages because she refused to pay after the court ordered her to. It was not a happy time for anyone.

And now Sheryl Sweeney was somehow at the root of the near-abduction of my chicken.

Patiently, Rob explained that we've lived in the house way longer than the last three years. The chicken was purchased around six years ago, long after Sheryl Sweeney had come and gone. She never owned the chicken, the chicken was never here when she was here and I paid for the chicken myself and painstakingly creatively anchored it down because the wind kept blowing it over.

He ended by saying, "It's my wife's chicken, not Sheryl Sweeney's." And speaking man to man, Darren should know that you don't mess with a woman's poultry yard sculpture.

And yet, Darren was insistent that Sheryl Sweeney had the right to give away my chicken. He knows this because she told him when he was in the hospital. With a Stroke. "So maybe it was four years ago, not three," he added, as if that made more sense. And he already has someone to paint it and everything. He had big plans for my chicken.

And that is how Sheryl Sweeney planned The Great Chicken Heist of 2009. She sent a stroke-adled rube who is swayed by tacky yard art to haul off my chicken.

But score one for the home team thanks to my vigilant husband. Take THAT Sheryl Sweeney!

September 2, 2009

Living and Non-living Things

My oldest son, who is 6, is in 1st grade this year. I'm discovering that 1st grade is really nothing like Kindergarten and I find getting back into the swing of the school year is difficult for me. All of a sudden on a daily basis there are things coming home in the folder, weird things that make me pause and wonder about how strange the world is sometimes.

Take last night, for example. I pull out his folder to see if he has any homework, check his conduct report and all the papers he worked on at school that day. In the folder were two papers I had missed filling out in his original enrollment packet. I'm sure the administration staff were saying to themselves, "Make a mental note, Julius's mom can't follow directions."

Along with the papers was a sheet entitled... Chapter 1 Study Guide: Living and Non-living Things

The study guide explained the basics of how to tell if something is alive or not. I thought this was something you sort of understood on a primal level. Did they teach this in school when I was a kid? I have no idea. Doesn't it seem like if you're in 1st grade you should know this already? I just don't know.

But anyway, the basic jist is you're alive if you need food, water, air and space.  Also, if you grow and change. The first line of the study guide begins with, "Non-living things were never alive." I decided I was going to read this short study guide to Julius as he's hanging out in the bathtub splashing water around liberally to hasten the inevitable decay in our bathroom floor.

I read a few sentences to him and then decide to quiz him about what I've read.  I point to a wooden foot stool nearby and ask if it's living or non-living. Dr. Frankenstein declares it to be alive.

"Are you kidding me?"  He has an interesting sense of humor and sometimes it's hard to tell when he's kidding.

"No, I'm serious."

"Well, does it grow?"

"Yes. If you add longer legs to it it gets taller."

"Well, true, but that's US changing it, not it changing on its own. Does it need food and water?"

"No."

"So, do you think it's alive then?"

"It was when it was a tree, so it used to be alive." Which, of course, refutes the first tenet of the study guide which stated that non-living things were never alive.

At that point, because I'm a human who is easily amused I couldn't resist writing the teacher to explain the quandary this study guide has caused in our house (and also to warn her what Mr. Smart Pantalones might try to pull on her).  Her response, which arrived in the dreaded/anticipated purple folder that afternoon, was "I didn't think of that one!" Yeah, me either.

Lady, it's gonna be a long year.