Monday, November 24, 2008

One crucial step away from that visit from the CAS

I was in a client meeting last Thursday when I suddenly noticed the time on a colleague’s watch.

“Excuse me, but it is really four o’clock?” I asked him, panic already flooding my veins like ice water

It was.

“Would you be kind enough to excuse me for a moment?” I asked, backing away from the table as the panic escalated into a five-alarm siren. I grabbed my phone, dialed frantically, and, in my haste, misdialed.

It was my day to pick Rowan up from school — at 2:30.

I tried our number again, and again it didn’t go through. Where was he? Had Rachel figured things out and gone to collect him? Dial again, hit the “4” twice by accident. Dammit — slow down. Dial again — hit the “8” instead of the “4” — idiot! Idiot! Idiot! Idiot! Should I just run over to the school now? The client, a round, middle-aged woman with greying hair, looked on, concerned. “I forgot to pick up my son from school,” I announced to the room. I dialed again, with shaking fingers — okay, got the correct sequence — and a recorded voice telling me to please hang up and try my call again. “Isn’t there a goddamn phone that works in this office?” I yelled. He could be wandering the streets by now. “Here,” I said, shoving the phone into the hands of the big-eyed receptionist: “Here. You call for me.” I dictated the numbers, and she punched them in, and still nothing happened.

“I left my son at school,” I wailed, punching at the phone, the numbers shifting out of my reach. “I left him at schooooooooooooooooool.”

And then Rachel woke me up.

As someone who nearly lost her mind, twice, from sleep deprivation — as documented here, here, here, here, and here — I never thought I’d say this, but here you go: sometimes, sleep’s a bitch.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

And you can spread it on your toast

It’s a good thing Rowan has discovered the sock fuzz between his toes, because it has been far too long since we’ve discussed body fluids in this forum. Not that toe jam — and yes, Rowan has learned the proper term for it, courtesy of Rachel — is, strictly, a body fluid. It’s more of a byproduct of new, fuzzy winter socks. But perhaps we’re getting too technical here. In any case, Rowan is fascinated. “Oh! Gotta check my toe jam!” he’ll announce, dropping to the floor and peeling off his socks. “Not much today!” he’ll say, after a quick inspection of both feet. I think he’s planning on carding, spinning, and knitting a sweater with it. Or maybe just taking it to junior kindergarten for show-and-tell. Which should make parent-teacher interviews all the more interesting.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A million little washcloths

Get out your Shop-Vacs, your Hazmat suits, your chisels — the toddler has discovered cutlery and wants to feed himself. Will accept no help. Will in fact strenuously reject help. We are reduced to sitting quietly by, keeping one hand as subtly as possible on his breakable pottery bowl — this being the month we wisely chose to rid the house of plastic dishware, bless our earnest green souls — washcloths at the ready, while he shovels food into his pie-hole.

His expertise is — literally — hit or miss, mostly a function of the food’s solidity. Yesterday, he daintily polished off an entire piece of French toast, handling his fork with dexterity that would rival the Queen’s. This morning’s oatmeal? Not so much.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Four legs good

We are living the cliché that says that when you have kids, your pets plummet on your list of priorities. When we brought Rowan home from the hospital, our beta-cat, Creemore, briefly saw him as an opportunity for advancement in the pecking order. Within seconds of us laying our newborn son on the sofa, she attacked. Twice. Imagine a flash of grey fur and extended claws covering your brand-new baby. Rachel threw the cat across the room, twice, and then locked her in the office for hours as she seriously contemplated euthanasia. And this is the cat we used to take with us — on the airplane — when we went away for long weekends.

We expected trouble when Isaac arrived, but by then Creemore had learned her lesson. As the midwife conducted the newborn exam on our bed, the cat stretched out next to him, curious but respectful. Since then, she’s mostly stayed out of the kids’ way.

Today, the cats seem more like innocuous roommates than cherished pets. Except that they are woefully behind on their rent. Every so often I will see one of them sleeping on the bed or descending the stairs and be mildly surprised. It’s an odd thing, really, to have animals living with you, right in your house. Think about that: we have two animals living right inside our house. Crazy. Why cats and not, say, squirrels?

And then there are the times when I watch the boys and think, why children and not cats? I watch as Rowan runs shrieking through the dining room as he unspools the retractable cord from the vacuum cleaner. I watch Isaac empty a cupboard of pots, break into impromptu little dances, bestow kisses on my knees, treat the other parents in the Kindermusik lobby to impassioned gibberish soliloquies. And I think, who are these strange creatures with their strange rituals who live in our house with us? And how did they get here? And why children and not, say, order, sleep, trips to Venice?

I’m convinced, actually, that the cats are thinking the same thing. Maybe not that part about Venice, but they must wonder about these two loud little beings with their sudden, jerky movements and oppressive love. Isaac first word was “cat.” For as long as he has been sentient and at all mobile, he has gravitated toward the wee beasties. “Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat,” he’ll say, lurching toward one feline or the other. Creemore just runs away, but Lola, our big, black, snarky queen, has proved remarkably tolerant. She’ll lie quietly as the baby mauls her and covers her with kisses. In the last week or so, he’s become much more skilled at the art of petting her. “Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice,” he’ll say, over and over, as he strokes her fur. “Niiiiiiiiiiice.” Rowan scratches her behind her ears, “with four fingers. See, Mom? You do it with four fingers. Like this” — and he holds up his hand to show me. “See?” I swear I’ve even heard Lola purr as they descend upon her.

As Isaac sheds his babyhood, marching on two feet inexorably towards language, molars, cups without lids, I notice his almost daily capacity to surprise me. Just the sheer presence of this grinning little boy standing up in his crib at the end of his nap, answering my questions when I expect only silence, pointing, spooning oatmeal into his mouth all by himself, is a bit of a revelation. Each day, he becomes more and more his own person and less (dare I say this?) pet-like. Each day, he becomes more deliberate, a part of the family with his own opinions, his own preferences, his own rituals. One day in the next year or so, he’ll sleep in a big-boy bed, just like his brother. And one day I will go into his room to check on him and find, as I did the other night when I went to check on Rowan, a grey cat curled up next to him. Purring.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The gratuitous, if late, Halloween 08 shots

Super Why and his amazing dinosaur friend. I didn’t know who Super Why was, either, but apparently he’s some PBS character who teaches children how to read. And that’s who Rowan wanted to be for Halloween. How cool is that? I would love to pat myself all smug-like on the back and say it’s because we don't have a television, but of course Super Why is a television show ... mini Skittles, anyone?

Actually, the mini Skittles are all gone. Everything is gone. Not because we ate it all but because Rachel took it in to work and unleashed it upon the unsuspecting there. After the initial dressing up and trick or treating, the candy itself became a supporting character in a series of family dramas that involved Rowan negotiating nonstop (Now? Now? Now can I have candy? Now?) and Rachel and I trying to do our best to curb the intake of pure sugar that left him irritable and bouncing off the walls. At one point over the weekend, I was so annoyed that I ate a bunch of his candy purely out of spite. Not so good. So now it’s gone.

Next year, I'm debating just letting him gorge to his heart’s content for 48 hours — will the absence of arguing compensate for the attendant sugar high? That's a question only Super Why can answer.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The writing on the wall

Here's a parenting dilemma for you:

Should I be proud that he knows how to write my name, or annoyed that he used the wall as his canvas?