Lame

“I’m lame,” Anya said out of the blue a few weeks back, in the car on the way home from school.

“What? Where did you get that idea?” I ask. This girl is a beacon of self-esteem and personal flair. She not only follows her own drummer — she’s the head of her own parade. A follower she is not, nor is she likely to ever be.

“Everyone says so.”

“Define everyone.”

“The kids at school.” She names a handful.

I counter with names of kids she’s mentioned are her friends. “Do they say you’re lame?”

“No,” she admits.

“So it’s not ‘everyone.’ Did you tell the teacher these kids are calling you names?”

“No,” she says. “Anyway, nobody said it. I just am.”

I press her for a bit, but she’s clammed up. Either she is telling the truth when she says that nobody called her lame, or they did say it and she is covering so I won’t take the matter up with her teachers. She fights her own battles, this one.

I try a different tack. “Why do you think you are lame?”

“I’m so stupid,” she blurts. “Everyone can read and count and talk better than me.”

Oh, dear.

“First of all, I highly doubt that’s true.” And I do. She’s nearly a year older than a lot of those kids, and highly intelligent. Plus, she went to pre-K, and many of them did not. She may have speech issues, but in all other areas she has an advantage. “Secondly, you are great at reading and counting and letters and stuff. I couldn’t count as well as you at your age.”

“Really?” she asks, incredulous. She is intimidated by the fact that I could read when I was her age — not in the halting way she does, but fluidly. I could also write in cursive. (But not legibly. I still can’t.)

“Really,” I told her. “Words came easy to me, but numbers have always been hard. I have always had to work harder at math because of that. But that doesn’t mean I’m bad at math; I’m not. And just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re bad at it, either.”

“Numbers are hard for you?”

“Still. I mix them up, and I have to double-check everything because I make mistakes really easily. I don’t like doing math because it is hard for me. But that doesn’t mean I’m bad at it.”

“Oh,” she says quietly, digesting this information.

“You’ve been working really hard at your speech, and you’ve come such a long way. I know that if you work that hard on your letters and numbers and reading, you’ll get those, too.”

I parked the car and looked at her in the rear view. “I am proud of how hard you work,” I told her. “It means more than if it came easy for you. If you work hard, you can do anything you put your mind to.”

I don’t know if she believes that. She says she does, but because I’ve been a child I know that her classmates’ words hold more weight than mine. It’s why I wanted to homeschool her. It’s why I wish I could have been homeschooled. Kids are mean. But she wants to go to school, so I will help her navigate as best I can.

I think some of the message sunk in, though. She’s brought home several worksheets with a WOW! on the top of them — her teacher’s version of a gold star. She’s really been applying herself lately, and has progressed in leaps and bounds. She’s reading and writing better than ever, and has moved on to a new speech sound for the first time since pre-K.

Lame. My girl? No way.

 

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Anya’s first holiday parade

I haven’t been to a small-town parade in something like 30 years. For one, I’m not really a parade person — I don’t even watch the Macy’s parade on TV. Standing out in the cold to watch a parade of people I don’t know seemed silly. Then, even when I had a kid to take (thus far she’s yet to participate in the event), something always came up. It was cold. She was sick. I was sick, or pregnant, or had a small baby. But this year the stars aligned: The weather was good, we were well, and off to the parade we went. (Just Anya and I; Kai was sick. And also, he’s 2; he’d have been bored. As would his father.)

Parades aren’t what I remember. I don’t recall anybody throwing candy at the parades I attended. The kids attending this one brought bags from home — and filled them. I remember the floats in the parades of my childhood being far more elaborate than these. But I don’t remember the emergency vehicles blaring their sirens.

Anya was taken with the Shriners in their tiny cars, as I always was. Unlike me, she was enamored (and envious) of the beauty queens, perched primly on the back of a convertible, with their shimmering smiles and twinkling crowns. Like me, she grooved to the bass drum line, bopping her head and tapping her thighs with her hands. And even though the kids in the parade calling out names and waving in our general direction weren’t waving at her, she waved back enthusiastically and yelled encouragement.

The drums were always my favorite part. But I paid attention to the rest of the band this time. And the flag girls, and the kids with the wooden rifles. (I never understood what those are all about.) I looked at their determined smiles, their carefully rehearsed precision, their proud shoulders as they performed their hearts out.

And suddenly, I saw it. The community behind the parade. I’d never felt that cohesive hometown pride here, but there it was.

This is Anya’s hometown, I realized. This is our town. And it’s entirely possible that she will grow up here. Someday she could be wearing a crown and waving from the back of a convertible. Or performing a carefully rehearsed flag routine. Or playing the bass drum. And that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, I don’t guess. It would be pretty wonderful, in fact.

I feel suffocated here at times, I admit. I never planned on staying this long. I always thought we’d move away, or at least move back to the city. But I see now that we could make it work here. We’ll get out of it what we put into it, at any rate. And that starts with getting involved in local events. Like parades.

To the skincare kiosk clerk

While we were in Nashville, we visited Opry Mills Mall. We’d planned on eating at the Rainforest Cafe, but we went in the wrong door, and thus had to walk a gauntlet of kiosks on our way to the restaurant. I’m pretty adept at fending off the kiosk salespeople, despite the limited amount of time I’ve spent in malls in the past decade. I don’t straighten my hair because I don’t like to. I have skin and respiratory allergies, so I don’t use [insert beauty product here]. I don’t wear jewelry because I have small children who would rip it from my person, and possibly eat it. I don’t even take the proffered free samples most of the time; I thanks-but-no and keep walking.

I don’t know what made me slow down to take the hand cream from the skincare kiosk sales clerk. I was tired, and Anya was in awe of the whole mall experience and thus dragging her feet while gawking at everything, and boom! She got us. I was content to shove the packet of hand cream in my purse (along with the straightening cream packet thrust into my hand from another salesperson in another kiosk), but the clerk looked at my face — really looked at me — as I turned to murmur my gee-thanks-bye. “Oh!” she said. “I have something you will really like. An eye cream!” And she starts jabbering at me about how it’s like a face lift and pulls out this scary syringe-looking cream dispenser.

Stunned into speechlessness, I was working up a refusal when R and Kai dragged us away. Which is good, because when I caught my breath, what surfaced was anger.

Ignoring the fact that a) I’m not a face product person and b) the skin allergy story is actually the truth, I in no way wanted whatever snake oil she was peddling, all because of the way she was peddling it. She was content to sell me hand cream until she saw my face — and then she got excited! It could not have been more clear that she thought I looked old (or, to put a kinder face on it, tired) if she’d come right out and said those words.

Since neither of us got to finish saying what we wanted to say, I’ll put my piece here.

I’m over 40. Faces look like this if you live long enough. Especially if you’re tired. Which I am; I got less than 4 hours of sleep last night.

Two days ago, I got married. I handled almost everything about the ceremony and reception myself: I designed and printed the stationery, made the bouquets, decorated the venue, cooked all the food, baked the cake. My goal was to host a wedding and reception that was welcoming and personalized to both R and I as people and to us as a couple, so I skipped the wedding vendors in favor of an almost entirely DIY event. I then proceeded to socialize with — even hug! — all of our guests, even though I’m introverted as hell and so much social interaction drains me. We had a great time, and I enjoyed every bit of the wedding and reception, but I am running on fumes now.

Yesterday, I dragged myself out of bed and drove my family three hours to go on our first real family vacation. In a real hotel, with a pool and everything. My kids have never been in a pool bigger than a kiddie pool, so of course we went swimming. Only they can’t swim, and neither can I. Their father can; he was a lifeguard. But that’s 3 against 1. 

We had fun, despite all that. But I can’t say I enjoyed the pool time. I was too busy trying to be in two places at once, and not drown in the process. It was tiring. Especially after the long drive, the long week, and all of the excitement of the weekend up til that point.

Also, like every mom these days, I have the internet on tap 24/7, ready to scare the daylights out of me. So when my son suddenly awakened at 3 a.m., coughing and choking, I was convinced it was dry drowning. Even after he fell back asleep, I sat up, holding him in a semi-upright position so he could breathe easier. I kept one hand on his chest to monitor his breathing while I Googled up a storm, trying to decide if I needed to take him to the emergency room, call his doctor, or just wait and see how he was when he woke up.

Once it was clear that he was fine, just suffering allergies or perhaps a minor cold, it was daylight. We’re only in town a couple of days; I didn’t want to waste one of them napping in the hotel. Instead, I poured some coffee down my throat and dragged myself out.

We spent this whole day at a children’s science museum. I have been dragged all over three stories of exhibits by each child individually and simultaneously. I’ve been made to climb higher than my acrophobia can smoothly handle, dragged into conversations with total strangers I wasn’t prepared to join, and subjected to a few heart-stopping moments in which I couldn’t locate one child or the other. They napped on the drive over here. I didn’t.

So yeah — I’m 43, and exhausted, and probably sporting the deluxe set of eye luggage. But I earned every bag and crease and line, so holster that syringe. If you’re lucky, someday your eyes will look like this, too, and you’ll understand that it’s a privilege, not a flaw. 

But of course it wouldn’t have mattered a bit if I had said all this to her. She would still go on to accost the next not-twentysomething who walked past her kiosk. Hell, she’d have gone on to accost me, had I stood there long enough. It’s her job.

I learned something from the experience, though. I learned that the next time some pretty young thing tries to sell me something to make me look young enough to be my own kid, I’ll tell her “look, I earned this face” and keep walking.

Kai’s lullaby

Kai does not always like to be sung to sleep. For the days when he’s not in the mood for music but needs a little help drifting off, I tell him the story of his newborn days as we rock and nurse. The words vary, obviously. But this is the gist of it.

Do you remember?
When you were just born,
you and I nestled close,
gazing into each other’s eyes
as you nursed.

Our world was small.
All dim light and quiet halls
and soft music and Daddy snores.
I stroked your hair with my fingertips,
the softest hair I’ve ever felt.

When your belly was full,
your cheek resting on my breast,
you would sigh, and smile, and dream.
You were so sleepy still,
and unaware of how much you didn’t know.

I told you that you were safe
and that you were warm,
and that you were fed,
and that you were very, very loved.
For such a small baby, that is everything.

You are a big boy now.
Each day you dance, and sing, and draw, and learn
outside of my arms.
When you are tired, you return
to sleep safe, warm, fed, and loved.

Do you remember?
I do. I always will.
You’ll always have a place in my arms.
Relax. Sleep. Dream sweet dreams.
Mama loves you.

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Speech practice

Just last night, I struggled to get my daughter to work on her ts sound. I am happy to report that she has graduated from f and v, and is now moving on to s. Only s is a hard sound to master, so we have to ease into it using easier sounds. Like t.

Perfectionist that she is, the process is made 10 times harder by the fact that she resists with her whole being anything she’s not sure she ace. Cue the pouting, sarcasm, snark, kicking feet, rolling eyes, and sullenness.

The apraxia I can handle. The ‘tude might kill me, though.

I’ve lived with her speech issues so long that I tend to forget other people don’t have them. I am always startled when Kai says something, because when she was his age, Anya…didn’t.

I was also surprised when a series of videos appeared in my Timehop today: Anya, aged not quite 4 months, watching Doctor Who and babbling conversationally at the characters. I remember her as a stonily silent baby and toddler, but she wasn’t always. It was a reminder that the apraxia is not something she’s had since birth. She was developing normally, if not ahead of her age, and then just…stopped. Regressed. And is now clawing her way back to normal.

So I will work extra hard to maintain patience in the face of her ‘tude. It’s got to be difficult, having to struggle with something so basic as speech, which comes so easily to others. Even worse to know that at one point, it came easily to you. If she can put in the effort on her speech, I can put in the effort to keep my cool when her attitude leaves a little to be desired.

We both could stand a little extra practice with that.

NaNo — blog? No.

I have, you’ll notice, added a couple of Novembercentric metrics. This entry is also brief; I am laying down the lion’s share of my words elsewhere this month.

NaNoWriMo word count:

29,687

Wedding freak-out level:

Nearly all invited guests have accepted. I keep changing my mind about the menu. Which, remember, we’re cooking ourselves. We have not selected the music yet. Nor have we worked out the logistics of the wedding day. I have done nothing about the honeymoon except for reserving the hotel room.

Loving:

The weather. It’s been alternating between bright sunshine and cool rainy/misty. Both showcase the changing leaves beautifully.

Reading:

The Handmaid’s Tale. Finally. And very slowly. (It’s an eventful month.)

Watching:

Falling leaves. I know I’m supposed to be watching fall TV, but it’ll still be there in a few weeks. The leaves won’t.

Listening to:

Spotify, in search of wedding tunes. When I was 18, I could have filled a shelf of cassette tapes with love songs. But I’m 43 and a mom and my playlists don’t skew so heavily to the sappy side these days. This ish is hard.

Working on:

The house. I know we won’t have many wedding guests coming by the house, but we will have some. And the week after the wedding will be a freight train, between the honeymoon, Thanksgiving (which is to be a family affair — all grandparents on deck — at our house), and the start of the Christmas festivities. I would really really REALLY like the house to be clean the day before the wedding, so that it is relatively clean the day before Thanksgiving when I am cooking and doing familymoon laundry all day.

Anticipating:

Not planning a wedding anymore.

Making me happy:

I was contacted by a potential client the other day. I do so like it when the work comes to me.

 

I’ll get all the sleep I need when I’m dead. From exhaustion.

Kai has been up since 5. I have been up since 3, and awake (according to my Fitbit) since 1:50. Kai is sick. I am wearing a cute — and almost entirely seasonally inappropriate — outfit. Kai keeps wiping his nose on it. But he’s the only one around to see me, so does it matter?

Loving:

Kai is trying so hard to talk these days. As he was leaving for work, R tried to talk him through saying “Have a good morning.” But “morning” is hard to say (some would argue that mornings are just hard, period), so he said “Have a good good.” I like it.

Reading:

Anya is rocking the sight words. And showed me last night that leaving the subtitles on does help — she kept spelling out words from the screen she was unsure about, so I could define them for her. So I feel utterly justified in putting the subtitles on for every single thing I watch.

Watching:

I have watched one and a half episodes of the second season of Stranger Things. But otherwise I have been far too busy/tired/distracted to watch TV. I’ll get to it.

Listening to:

What I need to be listening to is music for the wedding. Because I have some half-baked ideas of what I’d like to play, but I’ve not really pinned anything down yet. And even when I have, I still need to run those things past R. Add to this the fact that I’ve still not decided where the ceremony itself is going to take place, and…yeah, I have nothing worked out yet.

Working on:

Insomnia has its perks. This morning I designed the allergy-friendly treats sign for tomorrow night, plus my wedding thank-you cards. I shopped online (fruitlessly, sad to say) for Christmas outfits for the kids and holiday jammies for us all. I tinkered with my Christmas card design. I cross-posted about the holiday card exchange. I researched store-bought party trays (and decided to make my own). I loaded up my Amazon cart with plates and cups and serving paraphernalia. I determined what size cake layers I need to bake. I freaked out over how close the wedding is, and how certain it is that I’m forgetting something. I considered, and ultimately rejected, buying a set of Thanksgiving dishes. I scoped out a couple of new recipes to try this week (sweet potato puffs, dressing bites). I sliced and peeled an apple Kai didn’t eat, and gave him medicine, and bribed him with candy to swallow it. I took Anya to school. I consumed nearly a gallon of green tea. I set out two loaves of bread dough to rise, and threw some laundry in the wash.

All before 8 a.m.

Anticipating:

Dinner tonight. Butternut squash soup, take two.

Making me happy:

This poem by Neil Gaiman, which I really want read at the wedding.