Friday, June 29, 2007

Triple the excitement

Paolo has had a big week. First, he moved up to the Scholars' Room at daycare, which is the last class before the kids head to kindergarten. Paolo was supposed to move up in September, but the teachers wanted to move several kids at a time rather than uproot an entire class at once. Paolo was in the first group of three to move up because--and my head is totally floating six feet above my shoulders right now--he's really smart, and the teachers felt sure he could handle the more challenging curriculum. As it turns out, they are not messing around with the kindergarten prep in that class. I have a sheet at home with six words to work on sight-reading this week: this, the, and, at, if, it, is. This kind of learning is a big jump from coming up with a handful of words that start with a certain letter. I've been working on sight-reading with Paolo, but our words are simpler: stop, go, no, play, a, I, red, blue, C-3PO and R2D2. Those last two count, right? They may not seem easier, but they are words that either he sees all the time or knows how to spell from a song. I don't know how to teach the words on the list. I've been racking my brain since Monday for a way to explain "the." Here it is Friday, the end of the week, and we haven't reviewed any of the sight-words due to my mental paralysis. And now my son is going to fall behind. It all starts here, you know. He can kiss that college scholarship goodbye.

This was also the first week of Paolo's swim lessons. They're going well, except that he refuses to get in the water without me. Parents aren't supposed to be in the water during class; the kids hang onto the side of the pool. I swore I wouldn't be that mom who hovered unnecessarily. However, by the second lesson, I had to come to terms with the fact that either (a) I get in the pool, or (b) we pack it in. Stubborn, thy name is Paolo. Once I'm in, I hang back out of the way, looking like a bobber in my maternity swim get-up, and Paolo participates in the class...for the most part. It's still a struggle for him to be comfortable in the water, but if there's a way to swim without getting one's face wet or moving one's arms at all, he's practically there.

We had a houseguest as well, which only added to the week's excitement. Sam's and my best friend from college came for a visit. It's probably weird that both Sam and I were such good friends with the same person, but there it is. Behold the power of Neal. Neal and Paolo instantly bonded, which makes sense considering that Paolo is genetically predisposed to find Neal vastly entertaining. Also, Neal presented Paolo with a cap gun. A gun. A gun with caps, little pellets of gunpowder. That explode. To a four-year-old. To MY four-year-old. Am I babbling? It would be an understatement to say that Paolo thinks the cap gun is the most wonderful toy ever and would like it to be surgically attached to his right hand. Before you call Social Services, you should know that my condition for allowing this most inappropriate gift (and I'm not offending Neal; he meant to make my eyes roll back in my skull) was that, once Paolo uses up all the caps, the gun has to disappear. This is a limited-time toy whose time is almost up. Neal, come back and see us anytime and, while I appreciate that other Arkansas children are already hunting by age 4, maybe a toy truck?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Northwest Arkansas Crime Report 6/22/07

7:59 a.m. A caller in Tontitown reported someone taking fence posts and bringing them back damaged.
Dammit, Cletus, I told you that wood wasn't strong enough to fix the floor on the trailer. Haul yourself out of that hole and take it back.

11:41 a m. A woman at 400 S. Futrall Drive reported a man got out of a vehicle with no pants or underwear and asked two girls at a pool if it was a community pool.
Because if it were a community pool, he'd have to put some shorts on. Great, let's party.

5:02 p.m. A man at First Baptist Church, 1709 Johnson Road, reported a man in a vehicle pointed a shotgun at him.
Did Jesus call the police when he was persecuted?

9:01 p.m. A caller on Turner Street reported a man kicked a woman in the buttocks during an argument.
I can just imagine the desk jockey taking this call: "And where did this assault take place?... He put a boot in her a...Thank you, sir, but I mean where are you calling from?"

10:57 p.m. A caller on East Randall Road reported 20 people fighting with baseball bats.
11:05 p.m. A caller on East Randall Road reported a man hit with a baseball bat.
Out of twenty bat-wielding rednecks, only ONE person connected? Swing it like you mean it, Dirty.

Monday, June 25, 2007

You can't always get what you want.

I've started the neurotic nesting thing, where I'm cleaning things with a toothbrush and re-folding everything in the linen closet. I worked hard on Saturday (after the fabulous pony party), and I worked even harder on Sunday. In the afternoon, Paolo refused to nap and Sam went on a bike ride. Me, I wanted to sit down, read the paper, and do the crossword. And I didn't just kind of want to do this; I really wanted to do this. I'm not sure why, but that 30-minute break between cleaning and starting dinner would make or break my satisfaction with life, and it hinged on the crossword. I pulled out Paolo's town rug, helped him pick out cars and trucks to run along its roads, and I sat on the floor with my paper and pen to be close by while he played.

Paolo thought it would be a lot more fun to crawl all over me, flick the paper, and generally be a complete nuisance. I coaxed, I demanded, I begged, I bellowed; he would not leave me alone. So the mature adult in the room crumpled up the paper, kicked it, and stormed into the kitchen to start dinner prep. The Menace followed me, repeatedly asking if I was happy and if we were friends. After the hundredth time I answered in the negative, he launched into a steady stream of how he was not happy, he was really just not really happy, and he was not my friend anymore. Once his chatter escalated to rudeness, Paolo got a scolding about the proper way to talk to one's mother and went to the living room to pout.

With all the extra prep time, dinner was pretty wonderful. I made fettucine with shrimp in a tomato cream sauce, an artichoke with lemon-butter dip, and blueberry cobbler for dessert. The not-quite-apple-of-my-eye, aka the Crappy Eater, had never eaten shrimp before. Not only did he eat the pasta without complaining, which is a tropical vacation in itself, he raved about how great it was. Then he wanted to try the "leaves" Sam and I were enjoying. We showed him how to peel a leaf off the artichoke, dip it in butter, and scrape the tender bottom with his teeth. And he did it, and he loved it. He declared artichokes to be his favorite food forever and asked to have them again and again. He thanked me for the tasty dinner and put stickers on my hands for doing such a great job.

I did finish that crossword much later, Paolo and I ended the night the very best of friends, and I got to see him take another step toward a life of food appreciation.

You get what you need.

Watermelon Walter

(Flipping through coupons in the Sunday paper)
Me: Check it out. You can customize a bag of Dum Dums for your kid, like Anna Banana, or Butterscotch Brian. What would be a good lollipop name for Paolo?
Sam: Pukin' Paolo
Me: What??
Sam: Punkass Paolo
Me: Oh, shut up

Friday, June 22, 2007

Bad license plates

1. 1PLY. This may not be your fault. You paid $40 to get a University Alumnus license plate, which consists of one number followed by three letters. Chances are you didn't choose this, but you should have kicked that back immediately at the DMV. Honestly, I buy generic toilet paper, but even I spring for 2-ply. What does your license plate say about you? You're a cheap bastard, possibly named Scott, and you better wash your hands twice.

2. KEMO. Okay, maybe your name is Keenan Moses or Kelly Monique, and you or your friends thought it would be hip to J-Lo your name. But didn't anyone at any time point out to you that it's a bad nickname and a terrible thing to put on your personalized plate? Hey, dawg, call me Kemo; all my homies do. Chemo?? Yeah, but with a K, so it's cool. No, dude, no it's not cool. Or maybe you're a really twisted radiologist.

Armchair psychology

I've been worried about Paolo. Lately he seems to be trying to regress. He has been having accidents overnight and at school. Around the house, he clings to me like a spider monkey, wrapping himself around an arm or leg. He requires constant assurance that we're friends and gets nervous if he thinks I'm mad at him. He picks at his fingernails and whines rather than using words when he's upset. I convinced myself these behaviors indicate a heightened level of anxiety about our impending family addition.

I think Paolo understands he's going to have a baby brother, but he doesn't want to talk about it. He asks no questions, shows no interest, and takes no notice of my expanding belly. We haven't forced information on him because he doesn't seem to want it. However, once I decided Paolo was a ball of anxiety, I concluded that he is aware a big change is coming and it's making him afraid because he doesn't understand what it means. I ran this theory by Sam, who dismissively told me I was projecting my own worries onto Paolo.

Undeterred, I sat down with Paolo yesterday and, as tenderly as I could, explained to him that he didn't need to be a baby for me to love him, and that I will always take care of him, no matter how big he is. I then asked if he thought he had to be a baby in order to cuddle and be close to me, to which he replied furiously, "I'M NOT A BABY!"

Thus, the theory I had cultivated for weeks was shot down. Sam was right, and I'm done projecting now. I'm the one who is worried about our happy family dynamic going all screwy; I'm the one having useless second thoughts. Is there such a thing as pre-partum depression?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Heavy dreams

In the wee hours of the morning, Paolo woke from a restless sleep. With perfect clarity, I heard him sigh and say, "What's darkness?" before falling right back to sleep.


Monday, June 18, 2007

The parks are no longer safe.

I am not taking Paolo to the park anymore for the rest of the summer. We walked into another birthday party on Saturday that I had not planned to attend. Who does this twice? Seriously.

As we were leaving the playground, a little girl carrying a plastic Party City bag came crying down the sidewalk chasing after her mother who had walked too far ahead for the girl's comfort. Paolo ran right over to the girl, which surprised the hell out of me. He's compassionate, but that was way out of character. The girl stopped crying immediately when she saw him and said, "Hi, Paolo. Look what I've got for my party." No. Way. Not. Again. My body slumped as Paolo cheerily called back to me, "It's Jillian, Mama. It's Jillian from my class!" Well, of course it is. I have her party invitation on our goddamn refrigerator so I won't inadvertently find myself in this exact situation. Just kill me. Before Jillian's mother, who was hurrying back to her no-longer-crying daughter, could get close enough for a conversation, I flashed her a quick smile and herded Paolo out of the park. In other words, I ran like a chicken and never looked back.

I'm sure it won't be awkward at all when I run into Jillian and her mother at Madelyn's birthday party next weekend. She'll be all, "What, my little girl's party wasn't good enough for you?" And I'll just be honest: "Well, maybe if you would have hired some ponies like Madelyn's mom..."

Friday, June 15, 2007

Birthday Party Protocol

Children's birthday parties are in full swing. Apparently, no one is born between October and March; they all wait for warmer weather. Paolo is booked for three weekends in a row, and I'm turning down invitations because there are multiple parties on the same day! Now, heaven knows Paolo doesn't have that many friends. It's just that his classmates' parents invite every child in the class to eat hot dogs and take swings at a piñata in honor of their little snotnoses. I don't get that. Maybe my kid is strange, but he doesn't like all the kids in his class. Frankly, his birthday party would have been ruined by some of those little shits showing up. So I didn't invite them.

Besides, I've taken Paolo to enough of his classmates' birthday parties to know it's always the little shits who show up: the ones who demand to open and keep the birthday presents, who have to have their sticky fingers pried off the piñata-thumping stick so someone else can have a turn, who have screaming fits when denied an extra piece of cake or third lollipop. It's edifying, though, to observe the mothers of these little beasts in action. They spend the entire party chastising, threatening, taking pictures, getting pummeled, rolling their eyes, and having zero effect on improving their child's behavior. Oh, that's why your kid is that way. You only speak to him to say no, and you never look him in the eye. It's no surprise he does the same with you. And yet, you never miss a party.

I miss as many parties as I can; I guard my weekends fiercely. I work full-time, and every minute I spend with Paolo is important to me. So, every birthday party invitation has to pass a three-step test. First, do I know this child? There are close to thirty kids in Paolo's class, so this isn't easy. I tend to know who's evil and who's lovely, but the kids in the middle can fall through the cracks. Second, I ask Paolo if he knows this child. If so, are they friends? This question gets me out of a lot of parties. Third, I factor in our availability for the date, as well as the venue and any special features, such as superhero dress or pony rides.

Whether or not I decide to go, I keep the invitation until the event date. I learned my lesson. If I do plan to go, I always RSVP and bring a small, wrapped present that Paolo and I purchase together. It's a current trend for parents to write "No Gifts Required" on the invitation. Now, I know the parents have bought way too much crap for their kid's birthday, and considering they've invited 30 kids to the party, Birthday Boy/Girl truly does not need a present from each attendee. Tough. My father taught me NEVER to show up empty-handed - not to a dinner party, a holiday party, and certainly not a kid's birthday party. If you don't want so many presents, be more selective with your guest list.

I do not mean to insinuate that having Paolo attend a child's party is some sort of honor. He will hang back most of the time, reserving his enthusiasm for the pinata and cupcakes. (To a four-year-old, if you have those two items on hand, you have yourself a party.) Paolo tends to weird out the adults because he doesn't act like a crack-addled monkey, but he will hand over his present without complaint, take turns at games, and wish a happy birthday to the Birthday Boy/Girl and and thank the hosts when we leave. So take THAT you parents who all seem to know each other and have SO much to talk about, while I smile politely and mentally drink myself unconcious. After about two hours of frosted bliss for Paolo and crushing discomfort for me, my well-behaved boy and I head home. It's a bittersweet feeling as we depart, favor bag in-hand, knowing that my elation at surviving another birthday party will be quickly crushed by the next little envelope in Paolo's school take-home folder.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Things I was smart enough not to say out loud

Me: That new Korean BBQ restaurant is getting good business. We should go there for lunch sometime.
Sam: We still need to check out the new Vietnamese place, Red Palace. Awesome name.
Me: Um, let's go to the Korean place first. I'm not sure I trust the Vietnamese restaurant.
Sam looks at me quizzically.
(In my head): What if they're still mad at us?

Me: I'd like to make you something special for Sunday dinner, it being Fathers' Day and all. Do you have any requests?
Sam: Yeah! I want a double order of those fried zucchini blossoms you made last weekend.
(In my head): I'd better get to the Farmers' Market extra early on Saturday in case there's a huge run on zucchini blossoms for Fathers' Day.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

And the results are in...

I passed the second glucose tolerance test! You'll recall my last blood sugar score was 140, just one measly point over normal range of 69-139. This time I knocked it out of the park with an 82. Wooooo! Who says cheaters never win? Somebody give me some chocolate.


Sometime during the night, I woke to hear Paolo crying in his sleep. I tried to wake him gently, imagining all the horrors he could be experiencing in his mind. We shouldn't have finally let him watch the first Star Wars movie. Even though it didn't scare him a bit at the time, it must have left some evil imprint on his delicate subconcious. He must be dreaming of monsters, of being chased or hurt. "Paolo, honey, Paolo, you're having a bad dream. Wake up, sweetheart." Even worse, what if he's dreaming of being alone? I bet he's lost or looking for me, but he can't find me. I rubbed his back and tried to break through his night terrors: "Mama's here, baby, Mama's here." Finally he woke, sat up, and asked for some water.
"Did you have a bad dream?" I asked him softly.
"Yeah," he answered.
"What was it about, bud?"
"You got me in Time-Out."

"Well, I'm sure you had it coming. Go back to sleep."

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Northwest Arkansas Crime Report 5/27/07

7:01 p.m. A man at 2761 Travis St., Fayetteville, reported an automatic deer feeder stolen.
He will now have to go into the woods to bag a deer rather than picking them off from his back porch.

8:29 p.m. A caller on Orchard Way reported a pickup driving around while two men played instruments in the bed.
That's what we call a free concert in Arkansas.

10:15 p.m. A woman on South Seventh Street reported a male acquaintance threw a deep fryer.
I hope he took the turkey out first, because that's just wasteful.

10:53 p.m. A man at 1664 Lester Cove reported a small child was dropped on the floor.
Britney must have been in town for the Wal-Mart shareholders' meeting.

10:59 p.m. A woman at George’s Deboning Plant, 701 Porter Ave., reported a person stole a vehicle, hit a pedestrian and tried to drive through a fence.
Three hundred originality points for elevating "Take this job and shove it" to the next level. Fifty style points deducted for not making it through the fence.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

When History Majors Marry

(Phone rings at work.)

Me: Hello?

Sam: What's up, dude?

Me: Did Missouri enter the Union as a slave state or a free state?

Sam: Well, you have to remember how important it was to preserve the balance of the Union between free and slave states, hence the Missouri Compromise. Kansas came in...

Me: a free state and Missouri came in as a slave state. Damn, why can't I remember that? So is it true that Missouri was the last to abolish slavery?

Sam: It makes no difference. Slavery was abolished on a national level, so however long it took state legislatures to push the paperwork through is moot. After Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the Constitutional amendment, slavery was done.

Me: Okay, got it. Hey, what did you want anyway?

Sam: What is Cosmo short for?

Me: Well, it's really Cosimo, like Cosimo Medici.

Sam: Oh that's right, Cosimo was one of the Medici. You are the smartest person alive.

Me: Back at ya. Later.

Sam: Later.

Monday, June 4, 2007

It's only cheating if you get caught.

I totally cheated on my glucose tolerance test. I've never cheated on a test before in my life, academic or medical, so this was a first. My doctor had told me to sit during the hour-long wait between the sugar drink and the blood draw. I disagreed with that approach, so I took a walk around the building...five times. And also I walked a block uphill...twice. What? I was bored! I walked at a leisurely pace, and I sat the rest of the time, honest.

Besides, while the lab lady did my paperwork, she told me I was supposed to be fasting. That information would have been good to have BEFORE I ate breakfast that morning. She wrote down that I was fasting anyway. And I'm supposed to be concerned about the results being skewed because of a little exercise? Please.

And another thing: while I was waiting, I witnessed a parade of round ladies coming and going for their glucose screens. Only two of them were in for the three-hour test, and they were cows. "I am not one of you," I shouted inside my head, and then I went for another walk.

I expect to receive any bad news by mid-week. What if my score is still abnormally high, you may wonder? I will yield ever so gracefully to whatever medical atrocities they want to inflict on me because, if I didn't manage to pass the test this time, there is something seriously the matter with me. Moo.