Monday, November 7, 2011

Gem Collector

I collect these little gems, to enjoy their sparkle on a grayer day.....
The kids have not adapted well to the time change. They never do! Despite keeping them up an hour later on the night daylight savings ended, they were still up before the crack of dawn. The next morning, a school morning, it was the same deal. (The irony here was that last week, I fussed at the boys a lot one morning after we had to chase the bus down, since they had dragged their feet so much in getting ready. Their solution? Get up half an hour earlier. Um, no?) The third morning of early waking, Aidan came into my room, abruptly woke me and announced, "Leo turned his light on, and he is playing with his slinky under the covers." He promptly turned around and walked out, leaving me half-awake and completely disoriented, trying to work out the meaning. Was this a clever euphemism, I wondered? Nah, I realized. Leo really does have a slinky that he's been playing with.

This weekend, Aidan and I enjoyed a rare treat: a just-the-two-of-us date. I took him to lunch and we shopped for supplies he needs for the Christmas gifts he's making for his brothers. As we sat down at the table in the cozy, sun-light, warm room in a corner of Bodo's, he looked straight at me and asked with urgency, "Mom, do birds have eyelashes?" I loved this. I absolutely love how his mind works, how important it was to him to know the answer, how he'd clearly been trying to work it out for himself. I don't think that question has ever crossed my mind, not once. I wonder, then, how it came to him. I love that he catches me off guard, asks me something that really forces me to think. I love, too, that these are questions I can eventually answer (thanks, google), unlike the hard ones for which I still don't know quite what to say: What should I do when she is so mean to me? Why did he say that to me on the bus? Why did my fish have to die?

In case you're still wondering, eyelashes are usually found only on mammals, although the occasional rare bird is known to have them as well. Kind of like my rare bird, who asks such important questions.
I'll never tire of the literary gems my children offer. Aidan's teacher told me about this awesome website,, where people of all ages can create stories in a very user-friendly format, with clever artwork. One quiet afternoon before Halloween, Aidan dictated a creative story to me about a haunted house. I swooned when he delivered the following line: "The skeleton went back to the graveyard and said a poem that summoned his friends up from under the ground." Summoned? Said a poem??? Literary genius, this one is!!
Leo is having a bit of a tough time right now. After all, he's the dreaded F word- FOUR. Luckily, things aren't quite as painful for me on the parenting end as they were at this same time with Aidan. So in moments of frustration and angst, I remind myself of some of Leo's very best qualities.

I've alluded this in previous posts, but Leo is having a bit of trouble with one particular boy at his school - whom I've called Mean Boy. He has tried "inoring" him (silent g in Leo's pronunciation). He has tried avoiding him. He has tried distracting him with strange diversions, like telling him jokes that couldn't possibly make sense, even to four-year-olds. (Mom, why did the cat cross the street? Because she was eating bananas, ha ha ha! Get it?)

But the most tender and kindest attempt at making Mean Boy have a change of heart about teasing and tormenting Leo is one that Leo devised all on his own. He decided to draw Mean Boy a card. And he did, and it was beautiful. He even included a "symbol salad" across the bottom (a sequence of random letters) in the hopes that he had written something. He was so proud, and so happy to deliver his card to Mean Boy. And while the long-term effect remains to be seen, it certainly appears that Leo's kind gesture was well-received. Again, I am humbled by the open, loving, and forgiving hearts of small children.
I've saved the biggest gem for last. Although even as I prepare to write it, I know that not even a highly skilled writer (unlike me) could truly do justice to the gestures and facial expressions that would make this story scintillate.

As I've mentioned before, Pax has almost no expressive language. (speech therapy starts Thursday - hooray!!) And so he relies heavily on his expressive gestures and facial expressions to communicate his wants and needs. Dinner prep at our house is a rather torturous time of day. Pax, in particular, whines and fusses and pulls at my pants and begs to be picked up and fed. I try hard to resist his pleas, though, because pre-dinner snacks - no matter how healthy -ruin his appetite.

He's also a picky eater, so I give him small portions of everything that I'm offering, never sure what - if any of it - will make it to his belly. Last night, I served him one quarter of a veggie burger on a bun. He took one big bite out of it before we'd even said grace, then handed the rest of it to me as soon as we finished praying. I figured he didn't like it, so I put it off to the side of my plate. I took one bite of my own burger, with its melty cheese, toasted bun, and the perfect amount of each condiment - but barely had time to chew that bite before Pax was pointing and grunting that he wanted something different. Puzzled, I showed him that he had all the same things on his plate that were on my plate. I offered him more potatoes, more macaroni, more salad. No, no, and no. He abandoned the pointing and started army-crawling across the table to me. He pointed right at the burger in my hand. I shrugged and handed it to him, thinking he'd give it right back once he saw it was the same.

In a made-for-a-McDonald's-commercial gesture, he made "big eyes" as he held the burger out far from his mouth, then brought it in close, then back out again, practically salivating like Pavlov's dogs. He took one big bite. Then another. Then another, until I was begging for him to give it back. He paused, looked me straight in the eye, then pointed to the small bit of leftovers he'd handed to me earlier in the meal with a look as if to say, "See? There's yours." He continued to eat and eat and eat, shooting furtive glances at me whenever he thought I was giving up my fight. Finally, he put down the last bit of the sandwich on his napkin. I reached over to retrieve it but his ketchup-covered fist got to it first. He protectively pushed his hand down on top of the bun and glared at me with a look that said "Don't you dare touch this burger!"

I told Jeff that tonight, we're switching places at the dinner table.

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