The Education of Summer

We have been doing nothing and everything for the last month.  We spent the day with Grama Aleene yesterday.  She has an old jeweler’s loop that fascinated the boys and the picture above pretty much sums up the theme of our summer.

We have a weekly date at the local Buellton library where we turn in our Summer Reading Journal and get prizes for reading  books.  Also, the library (which is free) offers a weekly “show” on Wednesdays at 10 A.M.  Week one was a ventriloquist that told some really cool stories.  Week Two was a very impressive Kazooo concert put on by the local senior citizen group.  The third week was a magician named the Great Linguini that was seventeen if he was a day.  I don’t think I need to describe any of these in detail to let you know what my summer has been like.

We also had a really fun Fourth of July with lots of family at The Wild Oaks Ranch in Ballard….a.k.a. Bailey, Bunny, and Sparky’s house.  They allow Steve, Michelle, Lauren, and Mitchel to reside there also, as long as they act as proper guardians and conservators of the estate.  It was a blast.  Burgers and Jello Jigglers cut in the shape of our country.  The boys played with everyone, but especially enjoyed Canyon (6) and August (2).  Mitchel was the leader of the male cousins, and poor Kristen just kind of watched in awe as the boys performed circus acts.

Lauren is almost past the point of any “kids table” identity which just astounds me.   I remember sitting in the waiting room of the hospital (wearing a really bad late ‘80’s outfit) and watching as Steve (in scrubs) raced down the hall with his new family.   How is it possible that she is an actual grown up now?

We also managed to survive another July Fourth Parade, wherein, I was heard to remark, “So, when Santa drives by, we can leave, right?”  We had brief aspirations of actually viewing fireworks in person, but we relented to the exhaustion and good sense that sometimes takes us over.  We were all in bed by nine and heard the dull echoing booms and dog barks….and I have to tell you, it was nice.

Sam’s latest expression is a doozy.  He comes flying into the room, tears streaming, and says with the most heartfelt, Shakespearean delivery, “Ackie broke my fee-wings.” Usually the culmination of an exchange where Alex decided to play with a toy that Sam felt he had staked a claim to several days prior, but it is still most impressive when you hear it from a two year old.  We have all had our feelings “broken” at one time or another.  And regardless of our own contributory negligence, it can still be rough.  Apologies were, of course, exchanged and Alex is gaining an understanding of the time warp that happens in a two-year-old’s mind.   Learning lessons abound in my house…..and usually I am the one with the most to gain.

Much love,

tiff

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Pooky Tars and Keh-Wee Shawks

I know I promised I wouldn’t continue dwelling on speech impediments, but we had a day of exploration last weekend.  We went to the Sea Center which is out on the Santa Barbara Pier.  Then we rode on Little Toot which is a very kid friendly water taxi that runs between the pier and the harbor every half hour.  It is a priceless ride, even though it costs a whole dollar per kid.  And it is even more meaningful to us because “Captain Fred”, the illustrious ship’s captain has known Zach since he was younger than Sam.  Keep in mind this “ship” is no larger than a Hummer.  Throughout our adventures that day and for the past few weeks we have gathered several Sam-speaks which need to be acknowledged.   We pretended to be a rocketship zooming through a bunch of “Pooky Tars”, and then at the aquarium they all got to touch the “Keh-Wee Shawks”.  Lunch was “Dewicious”, and  the big boys are still “Ackie” and “Zeeka”.  Finally, he has this one phrase that he pronounces perfectly, but has become his “Ah, Bach…” for any of you that remember M.A.S.H.  When I tell him something, whether it is that we are having PB&J for lunch or that there is life on Mars, he comes back with a calm and collected—”Oh, I see.”

I don’t have any profound sum up for this one.  Just so relieved to have made it successfully through the end of the school year.  Next September, for a whole three months, I will be bussing kids to just ONE school.  I am in heaven.  No, really, I am in heaven.  I can’t imagine my world any other way, and there is something so empowering about being grateful for nearly every aspect of your life.  Gratitude is a major healing element in our lives.

Be Well,

tiff

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Captain Dimples Takes a Shower

Alex has discovered the shower.  That is not to say he chooses one every time.  There is a great advantage to the landscape and play potential in a bath, but he now sees the allure of the shower.  How did I get here?  David Byrne is so right.  I am completely at a loss to understand how it was just moments ago that I was holding a tiny, warm, peeing dark-haired puppy in the palm of my hand.  Now he is taking showers and handling it all in super-hero fashion.

He will be entering Kindergarten in September and if he maintains the independence that he has thus far exhibited, he will be just fine.  I, on the other hand, will be walking away from the classroom holding tightly to Sam’s hand and crying like a lunatic.  It is our goal, right?  We strive to create these miniature beings who are strong and independent.  We want them to walk away from us, excited for what comes next.  We want to help create little people that don’t cling or whine or throw tantrums.  Having said that, I find it bittersweet that Alex is about to graduate preschool.  He will be entering into the vast and sometimes judgmental world of public education.   I hope he will retain his colors.  His favorite shirt is his rainbow shirt, and his favorite sweater is the rainbow sweater that Nana and Opa gave him.   I want him to excel, but know that he can still show all of his true colors.   I want him to be able to follow directions and plan for three square meals a day, but still be open to the idea that every so often it is okay to have a s’more at two in the afternoon or wear that rainbow sweater with shorts and sandals.

I think my own eccentricities (yep, those things that drive Chris nuts) can actually help my kids to know that they can choose to vary their path.  They don’t always need to follow directly behind the lemming that precedes them.  Of course, this also means that occasionally THEY will be the one at the front of the pack that chooses poorly by base-jumping, organizing a protest, getting a tattoo, or worse—dating someone with a tattoo. But at least it will be their own original production.  They will be able to claim all the credit for their poor judgment.  And with any luck, they will also reap the rewards of a positive learning curve by choosing differently when next they are confronted with another gloriously tempting menu of really bad ideas.

Be Well.

love, tiff

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Super Belly

 

I have never been a fan of baby talk.  It annoys me when a grown adult speaks to children in a way that reinforces inaccuracy in the English language.  When Zach and Alex were about four and two, I remember sitting in the New Frontiers deli talking with them about their day.  A woman beside us came over and asked if I really talked to them that way all the time.  I guess she was not familiar with kids that age using two and three syllable words.  It made me feel almost guilty that I was forcing the kids to speak in a manner for which they were unprepared.   That having been said, my third born is also able to manipulate the sea of two and three syllable words that I throw at him however, he braves the sea of Mom’s big words through a variety of speech impediments that I have come to find annoyingly endearing.  I fear that I will have pangs of loss when I finally hear an ‘L’ venture from his sweet lips (as in, “Alex” rather than “Aye-ix”);  I may go through withdrawals the first time he is able to pronounce an ‘S’ before a consonant (as in, “I spy…” rather than, “I pie with my little eye…”).  It is that sensation that you have when you see pictures of a puppy that was adopted into the family and you are sitting on the couch next to the sweet 95 lb. labrador beast that they have become.  Sam is probably going to end up on the debate team or be the speech writer for the presidential candidate in 2038, but for now I am so happy just enjoying his quintessential ‘Sam-ness’.

We decided to come up with Super Hero names recently and we have two out of three of the boys named.  Alex is Captain Dimples (pretty self-explanatory) and Sam is Super-Belly (because wherever he goes, he seems to lead with his belly.  But if you ask him what his super hero name is, he will tell you with the utmost confidence and joy, “I am Supuh-Beh-Wee.”  The son of an English major, what can I say.

Be Well.

love, tiff

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How Can My Baby Be Seven

Zach is seven today.  We got him several little gifts that he has been wanting, but the biggest one involved real estate.  He got to move into his very own room.  I spent the day yesterday trying to make that happen.  The process of  pulling out the allen wrench and breaking down the crib that has been a physical presence in that room for SEVEN years did not escape my bittersweet gene.  I was crying like, well, a baby, as I loosened the bolts on the bed that has sheltered my three boys so well.

I also spent yesterday thinking about what I was doing seven years prior.   I remember laboring at Neen and Rick’s house.  Little Ricky (who is a grown man, but I still call him little Ricky) and Ru were there to witness the madness.  Both were single and seemed very young to me in years and experience.  I think they probably saw the whole thing as a kind of freakish episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, but at the very least it was probably a profoundly effective means of birth control for  both of them.  The following morning, very early, Zach was born.  I remember seeing his reddish curly hair and saying aloud, “Oh Baby, I’m sorry.”

Chris drove us home at a blistering seven miles an hour the next day, and that, my friends, is how it all began.  This amazing, frustrating, exhausting, insanely painful, constantly rewarding journey that is my family.  Before there were kids, it was just us. When Z. came along, everything changed in every conceivable way….for the better, I know.  I cannot fathom my life without him, without them, without.   I was an okay girl before, but they have made me so much better.  Thank you, my sweet boys.

love,

mom

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Fat Tuesday

I am such a WASP, I am not even sure what Fat Tuesday means.  I think it has something to do with wretched excess before the fast.   Sam also is not truly versed in the concept, but his favorite sentence of late is, “And ME”.  Sam asserts himself and takes a stand by telling me that whatever the big boys are getting he should get some too.  Sometimes, all that means is an opportunity to take a bath, clean up their rooms, or get a timeout, but darn it, he wants to be included.  I watch as he runs when Alex runs, and jumps when Zach jumps.  I worry sometimes that he will just be the little lamb following the rest of the flock…..and then I see it.  His Sam-ness surfaces like some extraordinary sea creature cresting the waves.  I was making meatballs tonight, to go with our spaghetti  and salad.  I figure if at least one element of the dinner is actually made from scratch then it can still qualify as a decent meal.  And considering I am a vegetarian smooshing ground beef together with parsley, parmesan, and bread crumbs in order to get my boys to eat their dinner, I think I have some karma points coming my way.

So anyway, I am up to my elbows in hamburger and listening to Rosanna, by Toto, off the computer when I glance down and see Sam doing a little boogie with his fingers up in the air like a bad combination of John Travolta and Elaine Benis.  Where do they learn to dance so poorly.  It must be genetic.  I hate to admit it, but I can’t even keep rhythm in a step aerobic class.  But it isn’t the awkwardness or the ineptitude that floors me, it is his passion.  He is so fervently in the moment, shaking his tiny hips and shooting  his fingers in the air, ala, Annie Oakley.  So once again, surprise…surprise, I am being taught by my children.  Listen to the song.  It is pretty cool…..with a beat you can dance to (albeit in a rather awkward manner), but still….you can dance to it.   And I should do that far more often than I do.  Listening to the music around me keeps me here, right now.  And that is where I need to be.

love to you,

tiff

 

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Just Another Lazy Afternoon

Alex had a buddy over the other day for the afternoon.  They call these things play “dates”, but when it involves four boys playing within the confines of a single family dwelling it simply transcends a single-word descriptor.  In case there is any confusion….that would be Luke Shelly (NOT LUCAS) on the left next to Zach, Alex, and Sam.  Alex and Luke spent the afternoon building forts, and debating the merits of laser-shooting eyeballs over lightning bolts for arms.  At one point I thought they were fighting, but when I got closer to the closed door of Alex’s room, I realized that they were using there “Guy” altercation voices.   As in, “My ‘guy’ has super freeze powers and can freeze your ‘guy’ for  a grillion years.  This is said in a much deeper voice and with animosity that would ordinarily never flow between Alex and Luke.  They had a  ball.  At one point, Luke came tearing out of the room and asked if he could have one of Alex’s special chocolates (of which I did not know, and which Alex has been hoarding since Valentines Day)…..I said, “uh sure”.  As he raced off he turned back and tossed over his shoulder, “Hey, don’t tell my mom, okay?”   So that’s great, now I am co-conspirator with a completely unrelated child as well as being one to all of my own.

Sam is finally talking; it’s mostly discernible, and very passionate.  He knows how to convey the essentials.  Milk is “Monk”.  Chocolate is “Chwochate” Alex is “Ackie” and Zach is “Zeeka”.  That is really all he needs to know.  His accent is reminiscent of a mechanic from Jersey, but then, Zach had quite a Middle-Eastern ring to his words for awhile.  It is so fun to see this strong, smart, lippy, little person emerging from his cocoon (okay, the lippy part isn’t so great).  But, I am reminded daily of how quickly fall becomes winter and winter begets spring….and then comes cell phones (I shudder to think of it).

love to you all,

tiff

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Santa Claus Came to Town…

…..and he looked a bit like Kenny Rogers before the cheek implants.   The kids had a blast, but I am always somehow disappointed that afterwards they say their favorite part was having the parade people hurl candies at them.  These end up coming home with us and the majority are shattered or smooshed behind recognition.  But, oh the joy of having a complete stranger dressed in a Santa hat and cowboy boots flinging candy missiles at your head.  When you are six and four, I guess that really is the bee’s knees.  Sam, bless his heart, is still far more impressed by the Clydesdales, and the random goats and dogs dressed as reindeer.   I know he will turn to the dark side soon just like his brothers.  He will tolerate the animals, and the sweetly off-key elementary school marching band, while he waits with baited breath for someone to fire a handful of stale candy (probably from Halloween) at his perfect little head.   So I try to take great pleasure in watching his eyes light up when he sees the livestock marching past; and my eyes get just a little full when I see him stand up and wobble his little hips to the melodious and almost indistinguishable sounds of Jingle Bell Rock as played by the Santa Ynez Bobcats.  Then, finally the last float is Santa and Mrs. Claus (who I am fairly certain are dating).  His beard is a dirty, mottled gray….but, darn it, it is real.  He has been our local Santa for eons it seems.   But, Sam doesn’t see any of that.  His eyes dance when they see Santa on his sleigh (a flatbed trailer pulled by a pick-up truck.)  I am so small town.  And I am so very proud of that.

Here is wishing you Peace and as little horse poop on your parade route as possible.

Love,

Tiff

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Question: How Many WoodChips Does it Take to Fill The Rolled Cuffs of a Two-Year-Olds Pants? Answer: An Infinite Number

 

Well, we survived Thanksgiving….and my list of things to be thankful for is endless.  Let’s see, hmmm, here are a few of them:  I am thankful that we went to my Auntie Jan’s house, so that I didn’t have to desecrate any part of a sacred bird with my inept vegetarian hands.  I am thankful that there were no serious injuries aside from perhaps a few overextended elastic waistbands.  I am thankful that we were home, bathed, and jammified by ten after six.  In fact, I was asleep before the Charlie Brown special ended, which is somehow both pathetic and wonderful.  Chris spent today having wood chips delivered via dumptruck (a spectator sport to small boys) and then proceeded to haul them around back in order to get us much nearer to completing the Bloyer Playground.  We will be dedicating a bench or special rock to all the brain cells that he and I have lost in our efforts to keep the kids physically engaged and occupied in the interior of our house for the last six years.  Chris is under the impression that I will be able to simply kick them out in the backyard, lock the side gates, and have unlimited time to focus on my nails and bon bons.  However, (as evidenced by the photos of my monkeys climbing ON all the structures, I think SOME supervision may still be required.  Regardless, we are sooooo very proud of him for doing this for all of us.   Everybody say, “Thanks, Dad”!   At which point Sam (a man of few words) says, “Dee Doo”, with just the right, grateful inflection.  Here’s to everyone keeping this holiday simple and peaceful.  We should all remember to say,  “Dee Doo”, to those who deserve it.

Much love to all,

tiff

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How Many Firemen Does It Take….?

So Chris’ back blew out (much like a tire while cruising down the 101, but there is no spare).   It seized up on him for good as he drove to work last Tuesday.  He made it back to our curb, but was in the unenviable position of being inner-auto with no means of extrication.  He called me and I let him know that I was still a good fifteen minutes out.  “If you are in too much pain and you think it is causing irreparable damage, just call 911.”, I said.  He did.  So upon arrival home, having just entrusted my last school-aged charge to his teacher’s care, and with Sam fast asleep in his car seat…I turned down our street to see Station 31’s rig parked in front of our house.  And my poor, immobile husband was lying prostrate (or is it prostate?) in the front seat of his Grand Marquis (a hand-me down from Dad, who also, coincidentally has back troubles). (Note to self: Investigate the possibility that Grand Marquis’ actually CAUSE lower lumbar damage.)   So, I, being the sweet and sympathetic wife that Chris knows and loves, proceed to joke and tease with the fireman (all of whom, I knew, as it is in my blood).    They were attempting to put an I.V. in his arm to give him fluids and/or morphine, but couldn’t find a vein.   (Note to self: Investigate the possibility that Chris is, in fact, a vampire due to absence of veins.)  I suggested they put it straight into the carotid artery in his neck…..oddly, Chris scowled a bit.  Then when they still couldn’t move him from his position, I suggested the Jaws of Life (hmm, another scowl from Chris).  I was merely trying to add some levity to a stressful situation.  I reminded him of all the jokes he attempted when I was in my cumulative thousand hours of labor and pushing with his three boys, but he simply did not see the correlation.  The ambulance finally arrived and  carted him off to the hospital.  After picking up Alex from preschool, he and Sam and I visited Chris in the emergency room.  Chris was very doped up on dilaudid and/or morphine, which was probably good since Alex surmised, out loud, that perhaps the reason dad hurt his back is because he is sooooo old.  God bless the little children and their pristine lack of artifice or tact.

Epilogue: Chris is doing well, having spent two glorious days in Cottage Hospital sharing his room with a junkie on methadone.  Despite my total lack  of sympathy and support, and Alex’ biting diagnosis of the true problem, he is thriving at home.  With any luck we will kick him out the door in the general direction of work by Monday or Tuesday.  I suspect he will go happily and willingly.   Hug the ones you love, even if they are sarcastic snipes like me.

Much love to all,

Tiff

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