Archive for March, 2008

If the inventor of the knock-knock joke were still alive today, I’d kill him.

4-year-old: Knock-knock.

Me: Who’s there?

4-year-old: Banana.

Me: Banana who?

4-year-old: Knock-knock.

Me: Who’s there?

4-year-old: Banana.

Me: Banana who?

4-year-old: Knock-knock.

Me: Who’s there?

4-year-old: Banana.

Me: Banana who?

4-year-old: Knock-knock.

Me: Who’s there?

4-year-old: Banana.

Me: Banana who?

4-year-old: Orange ya glad I didn’t say banana?

RegularDad and 7-year-old, laughing: But…you SAID banana. You said it already.

4-year-old: Oh…. Well…. Wait. Let me start over.

Sometimes, the only way to begin is to just sit down and begin.

Last fall, I listed in my curriculum page all the things I’d purchased for my preschooler to work on while my first grader was doing her work. And, of course, once I’d bought all that stuff, my preschooler became adamantly opposed to the idea of sitting down to do school work. So, not being one to push 4-year-olds into schooling, I simply nodded when she chirped that she never ever EVER wanted to do school EVER, and let her wander off with the math manipulatives to play instead.

And slowly, over the course of this gray drab winter, she became ready. She was ready at least two months ago to sit down and do some work. She began to beg me for math sheets, for handwriting, for reading. Please Mommy…I want a sheet too! And I’d print off these free worksheets I’d find online and let her scribble on them and “grade” them when she was done, and that worked for a while. But soon, even that wasn’t enough. The kid wanted more. More work JUST LIKE HER SISTER’S.

In the evenings, I’d sit exhausted on the couch and wonder just exactly how I would fit her in. I’d grown so accustomed to just teaching the one, that I’d balk blankly at trying to add in the other. I wasn’t quite sure why I couldn’t wrap my brain around starting her. Her work would take a half-hour or less of time each day. Yet somehow I just couldn’t fit it in. As the weeks passed, she became more and more fitful about it, and I realized that I would just have to sit down and do it.

So, this past Tuesday, I pulled out our old primer book, just recently finished last fall by my 7-year-old. I found a marker and some index cards and sat down with my 4-year-old and started working through the short vowel sounds. We work on this while my 7-year-old does her math worksheets.

And there’s a little more distraction this way, and a little more work for me now, but there’s a part of me that’s singing inside because soon, my youngest will be reading, and that barrier that she feels somehow between her and the rest of the family will be going away. That I’m still-little-ness. That I-don’t-know-how-yet-ness.

So, I’m singing inside, yes. But I’m a little sad too. Because I’m watching my youngest “go off to kindergarten”, and I guess I thought as a homeschooler that I would skip that strange emotional moment when you realize that your baby isn’t really a baby anymore.

But I was wrong.

Well, the jig is up.

A couple of months ago, my 7-year-old lost another tooth. She went through this thing where she lost about four of them, one right after another, on an almost weekly basis. And of course, that last one, I completely forgot to put the money under her pillow. RegularDad was working nights most of that month, and I don’t sleep well when he’s on nights, and I was pretty ragged by the time I forgot this one last dollar. I woke a little before 6:00 am, with the awful realization that I’d forgotten. I got up and padded downstairs to get it and tried to sneak into her room with it, but of course she was awake already.

What is it? she asked when she saw me approaching her bed.

I have a confession to make, I said to her. I’m the tooth fairy.

She smiled a little and nodded.

I forgot to give you your dollar last night, I said. I’m sorry about that. And I handed her the money.

That’s okay, she said, taking it with another smile.

Don’t tell your sister, okay?

Okay.

She took it pretty well. Probably because she’d already figured it out. And what she hadn’t guessed on her own, her older friends had already explained to her.

I thought we’d gotten through it pretty well. But then, as Easter approached this year, she began to ask repeatedly, Are you the Easter Bunny? and I’d just laugh a little and change the subject. I know she knows. But I’d like to keep the magic going for my 4-year-old for at least another year.

But then, in the days right before Easter, her question changed to Gee, I hope the Easter Bunny doesn’t FORGET. Mom, do you think the Easter Bunny will FORGET us this year?

And I realized she was worried that I would forget to do Easter baskets.

It went on for days. She asked repeatedly what we thought about the Easter Bunny. Was he real? Would he forget? Should we leave a carrot? Or a picture? Gee, I hope he doesn’t FORGET. Do you think he’s gonna FORGET? It could happen you know. After all, the Tooth Fairy was getting a bit forgetful, as we all can attest to. Hey Mom (with conspiratorial double winks) remember that time the Tooth Fairy almost FORGOT to leave me money???? Remember that???? Wasn’t that SOMETHING????

We were all pretty tired of it by Saturday. RegularDad finally said to her that he would discuss it with her on Monday evening, but that she really needed to DROP THE SUBJECT until then.

So my plan was to do Easter Baskets, and also leave out little gifts for them that were just from ME. So they’d get something from the Bunny, and something from me, and it would be different items, and that would settle the question once and for all. At least until my 4-year-old gets older.

I also stayed up extra late to DO the baskets. RegularDad fell asleep early. I stayed up and didn’t even go get the stuff from the car until it was almost 11:00 pm. By the time I was done with everything, it was after midnight. I’d put the baskets together and hidden them. And I’d put out little flower-planting gifts for the girls on the table at their places. One was a sunflower kit, complete with seeds, potting soil, and a pot. The other was a set for sweet peas. Also self-contained. I also put out a card and a box of gourmet jelly beans in RegularDad’s place.

Finally, as 1:00 am approached, I staggered upstairs and fell into bed, hoping for at least 5 hours of sleep before the girls got up to find their baskets. And when I awoke to hear them whispering and giggling as they searched, I was just exhausted. Great, I thought as I heaved myself out of bed, this is gonna be one of those days when I feel like I only got 2 hours of sleep. I glanced over at RegularDad. He was still sleeping. I left him there to get a few more winks and went downstairs to the living room. It was still dark, but for us that’s normal waking time. The girls always get up early to make sure they see RegularDad in the mornings before he leaves for work.

My 4-year-old had already found her basket. And she’d already started in on the jelly beans. I helped her pick up the grass that was starting to spread all over the carpet and put it back in her basket. My 7-year-old was still looking for hers. But in her mind, the basket should have been left out someplace easy to find, because she simply refused to open any closet or cabinet doors to see if it was there. Where could it be, she said repeatedly, as she wandered through the rooms of the house, obviously not looking for it.

I was tempted to tell her to look in some closets, but I held back. This had to be the final test, I figured. The final, agonizing, irritating test to see if I was the Easter Bunny or not. So, I held my tongue and watched her wander around. And just as I was about to give in and mention the closets, I happened to glance at the clock in the dining room.

It was a little after 3:00. As in AM. As in — Not Morning. NOT MORNING AT ALL. As in: it’s the middle of the night. As in: no wonder I feel like I only got 2 hours of sleep. I ONLY GOT 2 HOURS OF SLEEP.

I immediately confiscated my 4-year-old’s basket and sent them back to bed. I had to yell at them a little bit, and there were a few tearful moments. And RegularDad woke up and asked what the hell was going on, and when I told him, he got out of bed and admonished the two of them Quite Sternly to STAY IN BED until it was light outside.

And after that, I lay in bed, eyes wide open, watching the hallway. Because it was only a matter of MINUTES before one of them would get up and try to go back downstairs. I remember telling them each at least once to GET BACK IN BED RIGHT NOW, and then I simply passed out from sheer exhaustion.

Sometime later, I awoke and saw that dawn was breaking and my 7-year-old was standing in our doorway. Is it time, she asked. Not yet, I said. And then I fell asleep again.

At 7:15 am, I woke again, and my 7-year-old was standing in the doorway again. I turned to RegularDad and asked him to get up with them and let me sleep in a bit. He did, and a few minutes later I heard him in our 4-year-old’s room asking: Where did you get all these jelly beans? Where?

I lay there, confused. I had her basket right there next to the bed. Could she have snuck in and gotten her candy without waking me? I seriously doubted it. Then I worried that she had found her sister’s basket and taken all those jelly beans. And then I remembered the box of jelly beans I’d left on the dining table for RegularDad. And I heaved myself out of bed once more and crossed the hall to her room.

She’d gotten the whole box open, found an empty egg carton someplace and was sorting them all by color while she sang a little song to herself.

Those were for Daddy, I told her. Those were my gift to Daddy. And then I turned and walked away. I crawled back into bed where I stayed until a little after 9:00. I had strange dreams. In one of them, I was smoking again. Sitting in the girls bedrooms, just puffing away. Eventually I got out of bed and went downstairs for coffee. The girls greeted me with smiles and hugs and offers of jelly beans. No candy for Mommy, I said. Just coffee.

Much later on in the day, my 4-year-old confessed to me that just before she’d gotten into Daddy’s jelly beans, she’d opened up the sweet pea planting kit I’d left for her on the table.

There was a bag of brown stuff in the pot, she said.

Yes, I said. That’s the potting soil. You plant the seeds in it.

Potting soil? she asked.

That’s dirt. You plant the seeds in the dirt and sweet peas will grow.

Dirt, huh? she said. No wonder it tasted funny.

It’s spring break…so why am I so tired?

We’re taking off this week, because it’s almost Easter. I like to pretend I’m a really good Catholic. So during these past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed peppering my conversations with various vaguely serious references to Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, and all that. But the truth is, Easter’s snuck up on me this year, since it’s so early. I have to run out tomorrow for egg dye. And later on, I have to run out again and shop for the Easter Bunny. I’m his personal assistant you know.

So anyway, we’re just taking the week off, and I thought I’d enjoy running a few errands during regular school hours, because the district is off this week too, and I felt safe from the usual stares and questions. All the kids were off, so I figured we’d blend right in. I wouldn’t have to remind my 7-year-old that she’s in first grade or jump in to save her from a particularly difficult impromptu physics exam delivered by the idiot running the automatic scanner at the grocery store. But…no.

I forgot about the Little Old Lady Factor. Twice this week, sweet little old ladies have looked at my daughter and said (all condescending and jovial) “No school today, huh?”

And then I’d say, with a little smile: “Spring break, you know.”

And then my 7-year-old would say: “Yeah, and we homeschool anyway.”

And then she’d give me a big smile and a hug and watch the little old ladies wander quickly away with worried backwards glances, like we had some sort of contagion. Or perhaps a bunch of tracts.

It seems, if you’re 7, homeschooling is super-cool when you’re out telling people about it, rather than sitting at the table at home actually doing it.

So, we’re off this week. I’ve read a novel or two. And vaccuumed here and there. And tried a few new recipes, one of which I actually would make again. And then we went to the library today and hung out with our club and checked out some books. Pretty mellow stuff. And I’m just exhausted. I’d better get us back to those books. Just so I can feel rested again.

Homeschool recess.

The girls are spending more and more time in our new back yard. Before the swingset was set up, they spent a few days building this:

fairy-house1.jpg

This is a fairy house. They each got a book on fairies for Christmas from one of their Great Aunts: Fairy Houses and Fairy Flight, both by Tracy L. Kane.

There are, apparently, all sorts of rules for building fairy houses. My 7-year-old knows them all by heart. She is greatly concerned that the moss she used as carpeting is a nonapproved material, since she technically “picked” it from some stone slabs insteading of just “finding” it. I’ve tried to assure her that it was an honest mistake, and that I’m sure the fairies will overlook it and come to live here anyway. But I’m not sure she believes me.

Here’s a closeup of the interior:

fairy-house2.jpg

Now you tell me: what fairy wouldn’t want to live here? Looks like the fairy-lap-of-luxury to me.

This is what we do when our school work is done for the day.

This is why we homeschool.

Because you can’t have it both ways.

You know how sometimes you walk into a store or a waiting room somewhere and you see one of those signs that says: Children left unattended will be given an espresso and a free puppy? Yeah, those annoying things. You’ve seen ’em, right?

Well, what I want to do is print up a bunch of little note cards that I can hand to receptionists and nurse practitioners and the like when I arrive on time for a previously scheduled appointment. A card that would say:

Hello. My scheduled appointment was at [insert time here]. I am sitting over in the waiting room with my [insert appropriate number here] darling children. You can’t hear us because I am diligently keeping my children quiet and orderly. Please keep in mind that just because you can’t hear us doesn’t mean we don’t exist and don’t have anything else to do today but sit here leafing through your old issues of People and Time. Please also be aware that if the wait for my appointment extends beyond 15 minutes, I will pull out an entire bag of M&M’s, a 6-pack of Mountain Dew, a toy percussion set, and a whole bunch of sharpie markers but no paper. And I will give these items to my children to play with until you see fit to call my name.

Have a nice day. We’re ready when you are.

I figured I’d print up a batch and sell them on eBay. What do you think? Anyone want one?

I could rant and rave about things, or I could just post a picture of a rose.

rose.jpg

Sometimes, RegularDad comes home with roses for us. For no particular reason. He’s cool like that. This one opened up particularly beautifully. It captivated us for a few days, so I took some pictures of it. And now I’m glad. Because sometimes you just need to remember that you can leave the bullshit behind and just enjoy a rose.

Feel free to join me.

EDITED TO ADD:

I just looked at the date, and realized that this is an anniversary of sorts for us. Seventeen years ago today, RegularDad took me out to lunch at a little college-hangout restaurant called Stuff Your Face in New Brunswick, New Jersey. We were so broke in college, that our first date was supposed to actually be lunch in a dining hall, but when I met up with him, he said, “Change of plans! I’ve got some cash!” and we went out to a real restaurant. At the end of our meal, the waitress brought the check. He grabbed it and glanced at it and said: Seventy-two dollars??? Jeez, what did you order??? Then he winked at me, and I got the giggles and sort of fell in love with him right there.

He didn’t bring me this rose today. He brought it a week or so ago. But it sort of feels like I got roses today now.

Did I say rant and rave in this post title? Hmmm….I can’t remember now what I was all up in arms about.


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