Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Olive you

What's the one Must Have item for your Christmas stocking?

For my husband, it's baseball cards. His, Santa Claus...always put a pack or two of baseball cards in the toe of his stocking when he was a child. When we got married, the task transferred over to me.

For William, it looks like it's going to be a small Lego set of some sort. I think this is the third year in a row he's gotten something Lego in his stocking, and I guess that makes it a tradition, right?

For me, it's olives. Yeah, you didn't see that one coming, did you? Not unless you are my friend Giles from church, who is the only other person on the planet who absolutely must receive olives in his Christmas stocking. Frankly, I'm amazed that that it's not just me.

And I actually don't know how it started for me. I just know that from the time I was very small, Santa's little red-haired elf (that would be my mom) always put a can of black olives in my Christmas stocking. Back then, I derived great pleasure from shoving my fingers into the little hollow olives so it would look like I had big swollen black fingernails. So appetizing, no? Since I got my own can of olives, no one could tell me to cut it out either. They were all for me, for me! for me! so I could do whatever I wanted with them. Ah, the good old days.

When I got married, the chore of buying olives and making sure they found their way into my stocking fell to my husband. That got tricky when we were flying back and forth between California and Tennessee at Christmas. Since we weren't allowed to even carry water bottles onto the plane in the post-9/11 era, there wasn't much chance that David could get away with sneaking a heavy glass jar of olives in his carry-on bag. So my mother-in-law or my brother-in-law had to step in and make a last-minute run to Kroger to scoop up a jar. I love that they all did this, even though I know they must have thought it was utterly absurd.

And yes, it was a jar by then. My taste got fancier as I got older, and a plain old can of generic black olives was no longer quite as desirable. Santa and his elves took to buying jars of Kalamata olives. Last year, I even got TWO jars. That was all good. One jar even featured olives that were stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes. I'm feeling a little dreamy, just remembering. But still, every year, there was always, always, always a container of olives. Of some sort. There had to be. And there was.

This year, my poor husband got a indescribable (trust me on this) case of stomach flu on December 22. He even stayed home from work on Dec. 23, which should tell you something because it practically requires an Act of Congress to convince him to call in sick. But he managed to somehow get to the store and buy a jar of olives (green this year, interestingly) and put them in my stocking on Christmas Eve. Along with an iTunes card, it was all I got, but it was what mattered. Don't get me wrong, I love the olives themselves, but what I love most is that someone loves me enough to humor me every year and indulge me in my quirky little affinity. David also puts ice cubes in my orange juice, even though he also thinks that's weird. That's love, kids.

What about you? Does Santa always bring you lip balm or a grapefruit or slippers or what?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I'll give a full recap later, but I just wanted to wish you and your families a very merry Christmas from me and my boys.

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Hope it was quieter at your house than it was at ours!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kids say the darndest things

A few random out-of-the-mouths-of babes from my house today...yes, just today.

*William: "The PBS Kids shows are supposed to be educational. [Pause.] I'm not sure what 'The Cat in the Hat' is teaching."

*Andrew, upon listening to the page with "Goodnight mush" in his much beloved copy of "Goodnight Moon:" "Bye, oatmeal!"

*William asked if there was an opposite of "dehydrate." I explained that, yes, "hydrate" is the opposite. And then I tried to get all scholarly and explained the Greek root of the word "hydrate" means "water." Except that I said "hydra" instead of "hydro" or "hydros." And William immediately corrected me. "Mo-om," he said. "A hydra is a mythical creature that when you cut off its head, three more grow back in its place." Yeah, wow. Did you know that when you were five years old? (Except don't be too impressed: he apparently learned this from an episode of "The Super Hero Squad.")

Monday, December 19, 2011

Santa's ersatz little helper

So help me figure this one out, kids.

When I was at Target today, I realized that I really needed to pick up a couple of extra things for Andrew's stocking. We have tons of stuff stashed away for William's, but only a few for his baby brother. I figured that I could sneak a couple of things into the shopping cart without William noticing.

Except that I couldn't. Somehow, perhaps with his x-ray vision, William spotted the little package of Sesame Street figurines beneath the pile of other junk on the conveyor belt at the cash register.

"Hey, you're getting the Cookie Monster and Telly set," he said, happily. (Andrew adores Cookie Monster nearly as much as he loves Elmo, and he doesn't have a Telly yet. By the way, did I mention that Andrew can now say "Elmo"? He used to say "Elba" but just this week made the leap to the real name. It's terribly adorable.)

Thinking fast, I said, "Um, yeah, Santa asked me to grab a couple of extra things for Andrew in case he needs anything for his stocking. What do you think?"

William thought about that and shook his head. "No, I think you should just give them to him, and let Santa do the stockings himself."


So now what?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Say cheese. Please?

Every year about this time, I begin the process of trying to get a good photograph to use for a Christmas card picture.

And I am here to tell you: it is SO unreasonably difficult to get a good photo of both boys.

I mean, I've done some hard things in my life...I've given birth, I've written and defended a master's thesis, I've driven all the way across the United States with my mom...but getting a good picture of both my kids? Just about impossible.

If Andrew's smiling, then William's looking away from the camera. If William's smiling, Andrew's moving and blurring the shot. If they're both actually looking at the camera at the same time, then Andrew is likely to have his hand in his mouth. Or William has his patented Fake Smile on his face.

Last year, I got lucky. Andrew was crawling last year, but he wasn't walking. It was much easier to plunk him down somewhere and then cajole William into the picture next to him. Yes, there was a little drama, but it wasn't insurmountable. I managed to get a few good pictures of the two of them together in their matching Christmas outfits and cobble together a decent card.

This year, not so much.

I mean, when this is the best I can do...

it leaves you hoping for something better. Well, it leaves me hoping for something better, anyway.

Same for this:

You'd think from this photo that Andrew never smiles, and he's almost always smiling.


Well, what can I do? I guess I'll keep working on it. Insert comment about the Holy Grail here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Does everyone's family go around the dinner table at Thanksgiving and say what they are thankful for?

No? Yeah, neither does mine. I wish we did, though. I have so much I'm grateful for, and I think it really hits home when I sit down and list it out. Usually, however, various family members are champing at the bit to EAT ALREADY, so we do a short blessing and then have at it. This year, at least, we all sang "God Our Father," under the direction of William, and those few seconds, at least, were magical enough to make me feel profound gratitude.

But I still think this is a good exercise, so I'm going to do it anyway.

I am thankful for:

my husband, David;
my mom and daddy;
my brother;
my grandfathers;
my in-laws, Diane and Aaron, and BIL Mark;
my nice warm house;
my friends;
my church;
my life in Nashville;
my health and the health of my loved ones;
my career as a writer;
all the good fortune that I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy;
Diet Coke, Mozart's Requiem, Red Vines, Trader Joe's, good books worth rereading, cashmere and my iPhone.

But most of all, I'm thankful for these two little guys:

They make my heart full.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Random November pictures of the boys

Just a few random photos for your enjoyment, if you have a bit of downtime over the Thanksgiving holiday...

Tooth No. 2: Gone. Gone but not forgotten. In fact, not even really gone. William wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy to ask if he could keep this one, and she magnanimously acquiesced. She's a good egg, that Tooth Fairy.

Here's a shot taken on the very last day of the fall soccer season. Why yes, it was bitterly cold that morning at 7:50 a.m. Why ever do you ask?

Young Master Andrew and his train. He has had a haircut since this photo was taken and put on more clothes.

Here's William, with the rest of his class, all costumed up for the class Thanksgiving program yesterday. Just so you know, the program was glorious. They did the Turkey Trot and the Turkey Tango, and it was awesome.

Also, a little boy read a Thanksgiving "play," in which half the students were Indians and half were Pilgrims. Despite the fact that he was an Indian man for most of the play, William also played the role of the Pilgrim minister. So every few lines, when the other boy read the words "And the Pilgrim minister...." William got to shout "Amen!" like he was leading a tent revival. While still wearing his Indian costume and feather headdress. It was very mysterious. But still kind of awesome.

Hope you all have a marvelous Turkey Day!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What is most important?

Isn't it amazing, how children can sometimes cut through all the junk and really hone in on what's important?

A few weeks ago, William and I were in Target. A good friend of mine is expecting a baby in January. I had gotten her a sweet little jon-jon for the baby to wear to church, but I was dithering back and forth about whether to buy something extra to stick in a package. Should I pick up a package of binkies, I wondered. Maybe a little package of diapering essentials, like diaper cream and wipes, I thought. Or maybe I should pick up a few random little things like socks and extra burp cloths.

But I couldn't decide. I looked over at William, who was deeply immersed in the Lego Hero Factory toys. For a five-year-old, he usually has pretty good ideas, so I decided to ask him.

"Hey, William," I said. "What do you think a new baby needs? What's the most important thing for a new baby to have?"

I expected him to say something like "a pacifier" or "a lovey" or even "diapers." I figured, I'd go with whatever he came up with.

William didn't even look up from the toys. "Love," he said immediately.


And if you ever wanted to know why I am so incredibly glad that I am a parent, that is the reason why. Because I have a son who instinctively knows what's important in life and can remind me. It is the little tiny miracles like that that keep me going.

(I meant to post this anecdote sooner, but someone suggested I make sure to preserve it for posterity, so here it is.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Happy Halloween, the 2011 edition

So a frog and Darth Vader walked into a bar...

The bummer about William being Darth Vader for Halloween this year was that you can't actually tell that it's him, with his smiling face, beneath that grim evil costume. But he was happy. He loooooved being Darth Vader. Or Darth Wyckoff, as his friend Sammy dubbed him.

Okay, this is better:

And here's Little Brother, also delighted with his costume (thank God!):

Notice that he's a frog carrying a spider trick-or-treat bag....looks like pretty good coordination on my part, huh? Totally accidental, I'm sad to say.

And here we are with the Tarkingtons, right before we unleashed the boys on the neighborhood for some heavy duty trick-or-treating. Thanks to Diane for getting the group shot!

A typical shot of William and Sammy going for candy while Andrew tries to keep up:

I should mention that Andrew had a ball. I had worried initially that he'd be a little overwhelmed with all the activity and people in costumes. Nope. He delighted in toddling along behind the older boys, climbing stairs and trying to get into people's houses. I finally convinced him to start saying "trick or treat," which came out "teeek tee!" And of course, he would also say "tock too" when someone put something in his spider bucket. He also enjoyed seeing all the dogs that were out. And then he discovered that people were putting things in his spider bucket and he could--gasp--take them out!

See, here? He sees the M&Ms in Diane's hand, and he wants to investigate:

Everyone wants to be in a picture with the frog!

All in all, Halloween turned out very nicely. There were a few touch-and-go moments, like when William was dying to go out, but David wasn't home yet. And then there was the moment when I thought the zipper was broken on Andrew's costume, and it was already 6:15 p.m. and there was no time to put anything else on him, not that we had another costume for him anyway. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I figured out how to get the zipper back on track. Thank goodness.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

A visit from the Tooth Fairy

We knew it would happen eventually. William lost his very first tooth yesterday. It's been wiggly-wobbly for days and days now, and every time he bit into something crunchy, I braced myself. Of course, I never thought an egg roll would be the culprit but you just never know, right?

Unfortunately, he didn't wind up with a little nubbin of tooth to show for his big milestone. We think he must have swallowed the tooth while he was eating his lunch. Poor thing, he burst into big sobs when he realized that his tooth was gone but GONE.

"Now I won't get a dollar from the Tooth Fairy," he managed to get out. Then he wailed, the blood welling up in the hole in his lower gum and the tears welling up in his eyes.

I knew that's why he was crying even before he said it.

"It's okay, sweetie," I soothed him. "The Tooth Fairy knows you've been so close to losing that tooth for a long time. I know she'll still bring you a dollar. She'll understand."

Finally, the tears subsided. He agreed to have the Obligatory First Lost Tooth Photo Session on the front porch....

And we decided to cover all the bases, just in case. William dictated a letter to me yesterday afternoon, then painstakingly copied it in his own handwriting onto a piece of red construction paper. The letter read as follows:

"Dear Tooth Fairy, I lost my tooth, but I lost my tooth after it came out. I hope that I will get a dollar from you. Bye, William."

The Tooth Fairy, for what it's worth, immediately turned to Facebook for guidance. "What's the going rate for a first tooth?", she posted. The general consensus seemed to be $5--five whole dollars!!!--for the first tooth and a dollar for each subsequent tooth, preferably in those cool gold dollar coins that no one actually uses as real currency except for Tooth Fairy Transactions.

I...I mean, the Tooth Fairy wrote a very nice note to William, congratulating him on the loss of his first baby tooth and explaining that she was leaving a little extra for him this time, as it was his first tooth. The Tooth Fairy also noted, very specifically, that she would not be able to leave such a large sum the next time, but she felt that this occasion warranted the five bucks. The Tooth Fairy did not want to set any dangerous precedents, you see.

(Side note: I'm still marveling over the five dollars. I think I got 50 cents for my first tooth, back in the dark ages. By the time I lost my last few teeth, I might have gotten a dollar. I don't know why I'm acting surprised, honestly. College now costs twice as much as it did when I went there, and that wasn't even that long ago.)

The Tooth Fairy did refrain from mentioning in her letter that she had been flying up Holly Trace Way in her pink bathrobe when she realized that William had lost a tooth. You see, the Tooth Fairy who visited me when I was a little girl always seemed to wear a pink bathrobe when she was flying up my street late at night, just like my mom wore a pink bathrobe. She also had handwriting that was remarkably similar to my mother's handwriting. And she also used my mom's notepaper for her notes. William's Tooth Fairy nearly used Jennifer's monogrammed stationery for her note until she realized what a boneheaded move that would have been and dug around for a nice box of plain blue notecards instead.

The Tooth Fairy also squirreled away the red construction paper letter. That's going in the VIP box (Very Important Paperwork).

By the way, William's first baby tooth to go was not, as I was wondering, the first tooth that William ever got. I had to look it up to be sure. The tooth immediately next to it was his first tooth, as you can see here:

I admit to a few moments where I got dangerously sniffly, in the oh-my-baby-is-growing-up way. Luckily, I am still able to go over and nuzzle on Andrew when I need that kind of quick hit. Andrew, God love him, has all four molars now...but he can't seem to grow any other front teeth on the bottom except for those first two. Oh well. It doesn't seem to be holding him back from eating.

I must add an item to my To Do list: stop by the bank and ask about the Tooth Fairy coins.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Andrew's first day of "school"

Andrew started school last week!

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Okay, let's revisit that. Andrew started "school" last week. He will be spending two days per week in the older one-year-old class at our church's preschool, William's alma mater.

However, he has teachers, a backpack and a lunchbox..

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There's a class directory, plans for a Christmas party and an upcoming Back to School night. So, if you ask me, that's school.

And there's even a classroom pet: Bugsy the Guinea Pig:

Andrew adores Bugsy. He's a dog person at heart, but he has an affinity for most furry animals.

I have to admit that I've been so consumed with worry over William's new school and all the, ahem, issues I've had that I didn't really spend much time thinking about Andrew starting school. Or "school." I did give in to the urge to get all his stuff embroidered with his name, of course.

But then, all of a sudden, it was Andrew's first day in his new classroom. His first classroom! Luckily, it's also the room that he often visits on Sundays when we go to church. That helped. He was familiar with the room, which was reassuring to both of us.

I was all prepared for him to cling tightly to me and bury his face in my knees, as he so often does. He's never been very good at transitions, and usually I have to peel him off my body so I can leave.

Well! Andrew was full of surprises. I put him down in his classroom, as I prepared to sign the class sign-in sheet. He stood there for about three seconds, waffling as to what he should do, and then I swear, he almost shrugged and just toddled off to check out the toys.

Just like on William's first day of school last month, I braced myself for some tears--from one of us, at least--and they never came. So I shrugged and said goodbye and left the classroom. Andrew's classroom has a two-way mirror on one wall, so I stepped into the darkened office adjacent to his classroom and peered at him through the mirror. But he didn't miss a beat after I left. He just continued to toddle around and investigate everything. Even the wailing from the little girl who arrived after him didn't seem to faze him. I breathed a sigh of relief and ventured out.

I guess if I'd had more time and energy to worry about him, I would have worried more about him. But I didn't, and as it turns out, I didn't need to, after all. Well, good. One less thing for me to feel guilty about!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

New stuff to worry about

When William was a baby, there were so many times that I wished that he would just get older already--because, I imagined, surely things would get easier as he got older.

Well. William did get older. Some things did get easier, too. Now that he's five years old, I pretty much only have to do his laundry and cook his dinner and remind him to please grab his backpack/lunchbox/hat/jacket. He dresses himself, feeds himself, makes his own bed, goes to the bathroom himself, gets himself in and out of the car and booster seat, brushes his own teeth, and puts his own dishes in the dishwasher. Not all at the same time, of course.

However, I now face a whole new set of challenges as his parent. Now I am responsible for helping him learn how to read. I may not have to wipe his bottom, but I do have to make him sit down with a book and help him sound out words, and holy geez, let me tell you exactly which one is exponentially harder and takes longer.

To complicate that situation, William actually can read a fair number of words. But he insists that he caaaaaaan't, and then he flops around in a histrionic fashion and bemoans how he caaaaaan't, he caaaaaan't, he caaaaaan't. And then I have to sit on top of him, and, OH THE DRAMA. It does not seem to do much good to remind him that 1) the Great Pyramids weren't built in a day (he's currently fascinated by ancient Egypt, so we're going with that reference here instead of Rome), and 2) he had to learn to ride a tricycle before he could ride a bike. He seems to think that if he can't read, say, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he's not really reading.

Plus, the surrounding issues are more complicated now. Everything involving his education is now much more complex. Once upon a time, I just dropped him off at preschool with a lunchbox and a nap mat, and that was that. Now, I have worry about whether his teacher got the note about him taking the school bus home from school. And then I have to worry about what happens if I accidentally miss the bus and no one is there to meet him at the bus stop. I find myself worrying about the fact that no one's around to intervene at lunchtime or recess if someone starts to get him all riled up and agitated. I fret about whether he's going to get enough individual attention to encourage him to, yes, work harder at reading. I fret that he adores math but what if his teacher doesn't have enough time to work with him and nurture that affinity? I fret that he's the only Encore kid in his class, and what if the other kids make fun of him for being the smart kid? (Because let's face it, the smart kid always gets picked on at some point for being smart, not that I have any residual leftover post-traumatic stress syndrome about that. Nope, not me.) Argh.

It almost makes raising Andrew seem easy. Almost. Andrew has a mind of his own, too, and he has very definite Opinions now. But luckily, most of that seems pretty straightforward in comparison. Andrew's a little daredevil, it's true, but he can mostly be contained with doorknob safety handles, car seat straps, safety gates, and keeping a sharp eye on him at all times when he's not inside. Mostly contained.

Do not tell me that it continues to get harder, please. I'm going to stick my head in the sand for awhile and pretend that this is as hard as it ever gets. Please leave me to my delusions. Thanks.

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Magic Toy

Do you have a Magic Toy at your house?

What's a Magic Toy? It's a toy that is absolutely guaranteed to enthrall your children. Every time. No exceptions (or very, very few). They never get tired of it. It's...magic.

For William, it was the Batcave. He received the Batcave for Christmas from Santa in 2009. It became our go-to toy. He always was happy to play with it. It went on all our trips with us. Whenever friends came over to visit, he immediately brought them over to show off the Batcave. And the Magic was transferable, amazingly enough. Two-year-old boys loved it. Six-year-old girls loved it. They all loved it.

It no longer is quite that all-encompassing anymore, but you know, he still really loves to play with it. It might not be a Magic Toy, per se, but it was a Magic Toy for a really long time, and it's still a Pretty-Close-to-Magic Toy even now. Andrew discovered it when he started crawling, and he often sits over there by the Batcave and tinkers with it for quite a long time. Oh yes, the Batcave still has some of that old magic.


The Batcave may have a little competition now.

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Like many other toddlers, Andrew has discovered Sesame Street. He doesn't watch the television show yet, but he has discovered a deep affinity for Elmo and Cookie Monster and the rest of the gang.

One morning, I discovered a little Sesame Street village toy in Target and showed it to Andrew, only to have him seize the village like his life depended on it. I pried it out of his hands, only to have him begin loudly sobbing. The next time we went to Target, I decided, "Ah, what the heck" and bought it for him. The way I see it is that almost all of his toys are hand-me-downs. What will it hurt for him to get something new every so often?

Plus, the village came with Elmo and Cookie Monster, his faves!

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I picked up a package with Ernie and Bert, too, because, okay, yes, Ernie is my lifelong favorite, and there cannot be a Sesame Street without Bert and Ernie. At least not at my house.

We got home, and I wrestled the toy out of its packaging. I set it on the floor. Andrew was, yes, entranced. He settled down to play. And play. And play. And now, whenever we come home from someplace, he immediately runs off to check on his Sesame Street toy. Eventually, he always comes toddling back over to me, with Cookie Monster and Elmo in hand (see picture above), saying happily, "El-bah! El-bah!" (His pronunciation for "Elmo.") Then he scampers back to his toy, where he plays, plays and plays some more.

William is not immune to its charm either, despite his sophisticated five-year-old self. Nothing is better than when he sits down next to Andrew and plays with the village with him. In fact, William has begun lobbying for me to buy the Sesame Street fire truck to go with the village. "It comes with Grover," he told me, adding quite reasonably, "We really need Grover."

William has also tried to cajole me into buying a set of figures that comes with both Cookie Monster and Telly. "But we already have a Cookie Monster," I pointed out.

"Yes, but we don't have Telly," he argued. "We need Telly. And it wouldn't hurt to have a back-up Cookie Monster, just in case."

My child, the future lawyer. Still, would it really be a bad thing to have a back-up Cookie Monster? I mean, given how much Andrew adores him, and all, and it's a good thing to be prepared for emergencies, right? A Cookie Monster emergency could happen. It could.

Hmmm. Perhaps the Sesame Street village has begun to pull me under its magic spell, too...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

18 months old

This little guy

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turned 18 months old yesterday. I'm fixing to take him to the pediatrician for his 18-month well baby visit, in fact.

You can't turn your back on him. I have learned this the hard way. When we come home from wherever, I tend to put him down just inside the kitchen. He immediately makes a mad dash for the stairs, and before I know it, I can hear the gate at the top of the stars clanging. That's how fast he is. You can practically feel time warping around you.

Of course now that he has learned how to climb down the stairs, he usually races up the stairs and then begins climbing backwards back down. He's pretty careful, but it's still new enough to be somewhat terrifying for his old mom.

I jokingly asked David what all we needed to do to prepare Andrew for his 18-month check up, and he mentioned that most babies should know somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 to 20 words. We began counting up all the words that we know Andrew can say, and of course, what kind of a parent would I be if I didn't document them here for posterity, given how meticulously we documented William's growing vocabulary?

He regularly says: Okay. Yeah. Uh oh. Ball. Thank you (although it sounds more like gang goo). Mama. Dada. Eye. Ear. Cracker. Apple. All done. Bye bye. Hi. Shoes.

There are a few others that we've heard him say a couple of times, but I never know whether to count them or not. For example, he started saying Upstairs a few days ago. David was standing at the bottom of the stairs when Andrew (allegedly) said it, and he called out to me that Andrew had just said Upstairs. I, of course, was skeptical, but sure enough, he said it again when he neared the top of the stairs. He hasn't said it much since then, so does it count, or not?

I can't believe he's 18 months old, y'all. He's a toddler. I mean, he's been a toddler for awhile now, but I'm just now really coming to terms with that.

Vital stats to come.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Scarface plays soccer

Check him out: William in his new soccer uniform!

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What you cannot see, however, in this picture is the big gash right above his right eye. At some ungodly hour of the night on Friday, William either fell out of bed (which he has done maybe one other time in his entire life), or he stumbled over something when he got up to go use the bathroom. He managed to cut a gash out of his upper eyelid, near the bottom of the brow bone.

Luckily for William, he has a personal physician who lives in his house and does middle-of-the-night consultations. David determined that it could wait 'til morning, so we cleaned him up and sent him back to bed. They went in to David's office on Saturday morning so one of the other docs could take a look at the cut. The other doctor decided that William didn't really need stitches, so they came home and prepared for William's first soccer game with his new team.

To keep William from getting too upset over the cut, David and I talked up the cool factor of having a scar. "Indiana Jones has a scar," I told him. "You're just like Indiana Jones." And David showed him the scar that he acquired under his chin 30-odd years ago. William somehow juxtaposed those two things and announced that his daddy was just like Indiana Jones. Sure he is, kiddo. We'll start putting some Mederma on the cut as soon as it's healed up a bit more.

In the meantime, he wore a hat for soccer practice. And then he shed the hat for the actual game, which went quite well. William even scored! a! goal! On purpose, no less! As someone with virtually no athletic ability whatsoever, I was especially excited that someone with my genes was able to achieve something like that. I mean, my dad's nickname is Tanglefoot, and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, if you'll recall my little dishwasher incident last summer. Maybe David's genes are the dominant ones in this instance.

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But the best part of the whole experience was that the new coach singled William out in front of his whole team and praise him for not retaliating or responding when a child on the opposing team was rude to him. I thanked her afterward for that.

Incidentally, William did not acquire any injuries at all on the soccer field. But he managed to wipe out on the sidewalk in front of our neighbor's house last night and cut both knees open and skinned both palms. So this morning, he went off to kindergarten with a big old cut above one eye and Star Wars bandages on both knees. And none of those wounds were acquired from an activity that you might expect would result in cuts or bruises. David remarked ruefully that he hoped no one would call Child Protective Services on us.

William was much more upset, somehow, about the cut on his knee than he was about the cut on his eyelid. Indiana Jones, you know. Anyone know any famous people with scars on their knees?

Friday, August 12, 2011

William's first day of school

When I was six years old and preparing to enter the first grade, I made a sign that said, "My first day of school is today." I drew a picture of myself, with two brown pigtails and a blue dress. On my first day of school, my dad took a picture of me standing in our driveway holding that sign. My mom stood next to me, holding my blue Pluto bookbag and looking a little stunned.

More than 30 years later (yes, it was that long ago....that was August of, gulp, 1980), that sign--and the dress and the Pluto bookbag--are what I most remember about my first day of school at the little elementary school near my childhood home. I remember sitting next to a little girl who wore pants and had an unusual first name and wondering if she was a boy or a girl, and I remember my sweet little teacher, a new teacher who was barely taller than her students. But that's about all.

(Mom remembers crying after she thought I could no longer see her. I don't remember that at all, of course. She told me about that years later.)

This picture may be what William remembers most about his first day of elementary school:

That is the picture that William colored as his very first assignment on his very first day of school. Granted, William's first day of school, which was yesterday, Aug. 11, 2011, was actually his first day of kindergarten, but I think it should still count. He's still at a big school with big kids. It counts in my mind, anyway.

And y'all, I could not be any prouder of him if I tried.

He woke up early, dressed himself in his uniform (including tucking in the shirt and fastening the belt), and made his bed. He was calm and agreeable and cheerful throughout breakfast and the inevitable rushing-around that we always seem to do before school. He didn't even object to having his picture made. And oh, he was so pleased to be such a big kid at last!

Somewhere, my parents have a picture of me on my first day of school that is very similar to this one:

In my photo, I'm wearing my sweet little blue dress, holding that Pluto bookbag that I inexplicably adored so much, just as William adores that gaudy Justice League backpack that's nearly as big as he is. I'm standing on the sidewalk in front of my new school, and I look...hopeful.

William looks a little more nervous in the picture above than he does in any of the other pictures I took of him yesterday morning, perhaps because he is actually standing in front of the school in this one, preparing to walk through the front doors. I think it's perfectly okay that he was likely feeling a few nerves at that point. I know I sure was.

He behaved so beautifully once we got into the school too. Even though his classroom was a sea of strangers, some of whom were having a few transition issues, he didn't freak out or hang back. He found his seat, and he immediately began to check out the school supplies on his table.

He didn't even seem to notice the leak in the ceiling or the trash can that was still sitting on the end of his table. He began to work on his drawing, as I snapped photos and looked around to see if I recognized anyone. (You will notice if you go back to look at his artwork that he found a crayon that exactly matched the color of the shirt that he was wearing. He's very proud of that shirt. He picked it out himself.) We stayed for the Pledge of Allegiance and showed him how to hold his hand over his heart. Like some of the other parents whose kids seemed to be doing just fine, David and I stood there awkwardly, not sure what exactly we were supposed to be doing.

Turns out, we were supposed to be leaving, so as not to drag out the process for the kids who weren't adjusting as well as William was. One boy kept making a break for the hallway, and his parents kept having to drag him back into the classroom. Another child was sobbing and thrashing around, prompting the teacher to shoo all the remaining parents out the door to the parents' breakfast in the cafeteria.

So I kissed William goodbye, told him I'd see him in a few hours, and...walked out. He didn't cry or cling to me or anything. He smiled and turned his attention to the teacher. He was...ready.

I know what you might be wondering. No, I didn't cry either. I didn't even feel the slightest prickling of tears. It was anticlimactic, actually. I'm relieved and delighted and surprised and happy and did I mention relieved?

There was no school today, but Monday is a half-day. Andrew and I will deliver William to his classroom for a few hours and then return to pick him up at lunchtime. We're already discussing the possibility of William riding the bus home from school soon; a handful of other kids in his class are doing it, and heck, if they can do it, he certainly can. I'm going to let him adjust to the new school, the new hours, and the new morning routine, and then we'll see about arranging for him to ride the bus home in the afternoon.

So we survived. It turned out just fine. Oh my God, what a relief that it's over. Onward to the rest of the year.

The Big Kindergartener says hello!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Twas the night before school starts...

I am not going to throw up.

I am not going to throw up.


But I'm still going to fill anxious and queasy.

No, I'm not pregnant again. (Thank God.) It's just the night before the first day of school. William starts kindergarten at the Big Massive Elementary School tomorrow morning, and I am having the 11th-hour freak-out about it.

Actually, I started feeling the little butterfly wings of anxiety over the weekend. I've known that the first day of school was coming, but after I surveyed the mounds of school supplies piled up in my dining room, it hit me just how very close that day was.

Then I attended the orientation meeting for parents of kindergarten students this afternoon. Laden with the bags of those school supplies and classroom supplies, I stumbled through the door and realized that, holy mother of God, this is really happening. I took my seat at the little table that will be William's seat and tried to ignore my dismay at the leaking ceiling* above my head and listen to the teacher.

With the yellow No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil that was thoughtfully provided by the teacher, I took notes on dismissal times and lunch ticket prices and snack time and the best way to communicate with the teacher. I glanced around at the other parents to see if they appeared to be handling this better than I was (that would be an affirmative for the most part). I asked a few questions, since I can never truly shut off the reporter in me, and I snapped a few quick pictures of the classroom with my phone so I could show them to William.

Tonight, I got his backpack ready, and we laid out his clothes for tomorrow morning. I read a few more pages of his Harry Potter book to him, and then we talked a little bit about tomorrow. He's nervous. I've been doing my best to 1) validate his feelings while still reassuring him that it's going to be fine, and 2) hide the fact that I'm so nervous. William knows that I was a little nervous about the orientation today, but I tried to convey that I was also excited about it. Was that entirely true? I think so.

So tomorrow really is the big day. My elder child starts kindergarten. He starts school. Not preschool. Real school. He'll store his stuff in a small locker, and he'll eat lunch in a cafeteria. He'll wear a uniform (of sorts), and he'll get report cards. He'll have the option of riding the bus home from school someday if he wants to do that, and he'll be able to say he attends an elementary school. School.

I am not entirely sure that I will sleep tonight. Like all parents, I just want what's best for my child. I want him to be happy, safe, secure and all those good things. I want him to have fun, and I want him to be challenged. Rationally I know that kindergarten is going to probably be a very good experience for him. He makes friends easily, and he loves to learn. Just because I am nervous doesn't mean that there's anything he really needs to worry about. But he's my child, so it doesn't surprise me that he's fretting a little bit. I will continue to do my best to stay calm and enthusiastic, yet reassuring, with him because that's what good parents do for their child.

Even if, inside, they feel like throwing up.

(*The teacher claimed that a work order has been filed. Let's hope it gets addressed quickly.)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

My little athletes

William is playing t-ball this summer. Technically, he is playing t-ball on a team full of other kids who are playing baseball. We're not sure how that happened exactly. But it doesn't seem to bother him.

Look how hard he's concentrating on hitting here. He's trying to get his swing to be level:
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Sometimes he succeeds. Sometimes he doesn't. rains.

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Also, sometimes--often--he knocks the tee over.

Here's my other little athlete.

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Andrew is talking up a storm these days--oh, my God, you should her him say "Mama" because it is To.Die.For--but his favorite word still seems to be "ball." He says it with a very drawling Southern accent, so it comes out sounding like "baawwwwwww-www." Why he was crying in this picture is sort of a mystery to me, and I took the picture. He had been toddling contentedly around the yard, clutching the soccer ball. Who knows. There is no crying in baseball, but apparently there is crying in soccer.

Editorial note: And actually, there is also crying in t-ball. William forgot his glove last night, and he bawled until another mom offered him a spare glove. Problem solved. Crisis averted. Play resumed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

School supplies: they're supposed to be fun

I'm currently obsessed with school supplies.

I've been writing about them all over the place. I mentioned them on my blog for Nashville Parent's website, and I blogged about my fondness for the Trapper Keeper at my writing blog.

The reason for my fixation is that William is starting kindergarten in just a few weeks. And his new school has a very long and, shall we say, detailed list of supplies that each student must bring to school. In fact, the list is rather freakishly specific. He can only bring one particular brand of No. 2 pencil, for example, and he will be turned away at the door if he shows up with anything but the washable Crayola 8-count markers.

Also, he must bring 20 gluesticks of a particular brand and size. That's right: 20 gluesticks. I trust that I'll see some Serious Artwork that utilizes large amounts of glue at the end of the year.

The rather rigid requirements are threatening to take some of the fun out of shopping for shiny new school supplies. There's no room at all for choice or personal preference. But that's okay. It's still fun to look at all the new crisp boxes of markers and crayons and pens, even if I'm not actually going to buy any of them. I still get to peruse the racks of colored pencils and ballpoint pens and pencil boxes and, yes, Trapper Keepers.

And anyway, William doesn't seem to share the same love for school supplies. He's mildly interested in them, yes, but he'd rather scamper off to check out the new Star Wars Lego sets. Or the Hero Factory Lego sets. Or the Toy Store Lego sets. Or the Harry Potter Lego sets. Really, any Lego sets at all. If they made markers or scissors that somehow incorporated Legos, however, he'd be all over them.

So I will dutifully fill my cart with 20 gluesticks, and 24 Ticonderoga No.2 pencils and the "suggested" reams of copy paper and containers of cleaning wipes. But maybe I'll get myself a new box of pens while I'm there. New office supplies, after all, are almost as fun as new school supplies. I'm still enjoying the multicolored paper clips that I bought at Staples last year.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A new kind of camp

Back in February, I blithely registered William for a week of camp at Cheekwood, the local art museum and botanical garden. We go there frequently, and he adores it, so I thought it would be a good summer opportunity for him to go to day camp there. Plus, his friend Leland was attending, too, and they could go together.

A couple of weeks ago, I started having second thoughts. Much to my marker-and-crayon loving dismay, William's not much of an arts-and-crafts person. However, he is very good with his hands. In fact, he has excellent fine motor skills; he can correctly assemble a complicated toy that's designed for children several years older than he is without much trouble. And he's fast, too.

But hand him a paintbrush and watch the exasperation creep across his face. He's the kind of kid who, when asked to draw a picture, tends to scrawl a few lines on the paper and announce, "I'm done" twenty seconds later. If he can't successfully bargain his way out of doing an art project, he'll at least try to get it over with as quickly as possible. He's just not that into it.

So I started talking up all the good parts (read: the non-artsy, non-crafty parts) of the camp to prepare him for what could have been a big disappointment. "You'll get to hang out with Leland," I said. "You might meet some kids who'll be in your kindergarten class this fall. There might be some friends from Encore there, too. And you'll get to see the art museum and the train exhibit." He seemed to be pleased by those aspects.

We arrived for registration this morning and turned in the paperwork and picked up his t-shirt. Then I escorted him to the appropriate studio for his session. The studio was full of children sitting quietly at a large table, all carefully coloring and drawing. Quietly. Did I mention the quietly part? The teacher welcomed William and asked him to have a seat and start to draw. "We're having some time for free drawing, while we wait for everyone else to arrive!" she said enthusiastically.

William flashed me a look of concern. I could almost hear him thinking, "This? Sitting quietly at a table? Drawing? This is camp?" And the previous weeks of church day camp--with the hours of playground time--began to flash before my eyes.

But I guess my pep talks worked. Or else, I underestimated him. To his enormous credit, he nodded confidently, then walked back over to me and kissed me and Andrew goodbye. Then he took his seat at the table and resolutely picked up a marker.

When I picked him up a few hours later, he happily chattered on about making a sketchbook and drawing a picture of a building and a sundial and making something out of clay. And since it was William, he also talked about snack time and what the other kids brought to eat and could he have a fruit bar next time, along with his Goldfish crackers and raisins?

He's a good kid, my older son. You can throw him into almost any situation, and he does okay.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Our fourth anniversary of moving to Nashville

Four years and five days ago, the boys' father and I brought forth on this family a new home, conceived in liberty (from the scorching desert heat), and dedicated to the proposition that all family members were created as Southerners.

Translation: four years and five days ago, we moved to Nashville from Twentynine Palms. We traded in the desert rat lifestyle for a lifestyle drenched in summer humidity, barbecue sauce and sweet tea.

We have now lived in Nashville for four days longer than we lived in Twentynine Palms. When we lived there, I used to think we were never going to get to leave. And now we've been gone longer than we stayed there. Amazing.

Here's the house we lived in, the weekend we had a freak snowstorm:

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That was a giant palm tree in the front yard. It was weighed down with snow. The only thing weirder than seeing a palm tree with snow on it was seeing a cactus with snow on it.

And here's one of the oases located in Joshua Tree National Park, not far from our house. (I was about seven months pregnant with William in this picture.)

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Thinking about that aspect (the being pregnant with William) makes me realize how long ago it really was.

David mentioned that we should really take William to see where he was born one day. I said, "Why?" He said that he thinks everyone should know where they come from. And yes, he's probably right. One day when Andrew's a little bit older, we'll take the boys to San Diego and we'll drive up to Palm Springs for part of the trip. And then David can take William up to Twentynine Palms and show him where we was born.

(I think I'll stay down in Palm Springs, find myself a nice place to relax and have a drink by a pool or something, maybe visit with some of my old coworkers, if any of them still live there by then. I figure, I saw enough of Twentynine Palms while we lived there, and I can't imagine it will have changed very much by the time William is eight or nine years old.)

Also, William was indeed born in California, but I don't think of him as really being from California. He doesn't remember it. He didn't even live there as long as David and I did. All he knows is what we've told him about it. His home is here. He is a Nashvillian, as much as David and Andrew, who were born in the same hospital 36 years apart, are.

But as much as I love to rag on Twentynine Palms, we did meet some very good people there. And we did come away from there with a lovely baby who's growing up to be a very nice little boy.

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His little brother's turning out pretty well, too. He can now "brush" his own teeth:

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Monday, July 04, 2011

Sand, shrimp and miniature golf

Once upon a time, a little family went to the beach....

Actually, let's start over with the real beginning to this tale. The day prior to our beach trip, my washing machine broke. No amount of cajoling, threatening, crying or manual-reading could bring it back to life.

But by a great stroke of luck, a repairman was found and managed to fix the thing that afternoon. And while we were waiting, my mother-in-law washed several loads of pre-trip laundry for me.

Thank GOD. Who wants to go on a vacation with dirty clothes, right? Especially when you have two messy kids. And you're headed to a beach house with a coin-operated washer in the basement of the building.

At any rate, we had no more mishaps along the way to Pensacola Beach, and we actually arrived in good spirits. As we coasted over the bridge to the island, we all gazed at beautiful white sand and turquoise water. And I sighed happily, since I remember a similar sight from all the years that I spent going to Florida beaches as a kid. Don't we all love the places where we spent our childhoods the most? And the beaches in this part of Florida really are gorgeous; the only beaches I've visited that are more beautiful are in Maui.

But mindful of Murphy's Law, I couldn't quite relax at first. I told myself that even though we had weathered the great washing machine debacle, there were still plenty of things that could go wrong. And sure enough, we ventured out to the sand on Sunday hear that jellyfish had been spotted in the water and on shore. Lovely. I was just waiting for my husband to shake his head sadly and note that he'd never once encountered a jellyfish on his favorite beach.

Then there was the wildfire. Apparently, a fire started in the state park in Gulf Shores to our west, and when the wind shifted, we got a steady breeze of smoke-scented air.

It was quite the trifecta of bad things happening. Dirty clothes, jellyfish and smoky air. All we needed was a hurricane or at least a solid tropical storm, and we'd probably never return to a Florida beach again.

Luckily, the wind shifted, and the smoke went away. And the jellyfish slithered back into the deep. The rest of the trip was blissfully uneventful. Uneventful in a good way, that is. The weather was gorgeous. We enjoyed being with our good friends, the Tarkingtons. William jumped waves and built sand castles and played with his friend Sammy. Andrew wasn't so much a fan of the beach, but then we discovered that he loved the swimming pool, so we spent a lot of time there. William developed enough confidence to swim by himself in the pool, with the aid of his inflatable Spider-Man vest. We even drove over to Destin one morning, while I reminisced along the way about all the various places I'd stayed, growing up. We (David, William and I) got to eat lots of shrimp.

And by the end of the week, Andrew was even enjoying the beach, too.

Oh yes, and we finally got to play some miniature golf. In typical fashion, William objected when we announced the first annual David Wyckoff Memorial tournament would be played. Having never played putt putt, he assumed he'd be bad at it, and he doesn't like to do anything if he's not pretty sure he'll be good at it.

Well, it wasn't so much that he was good at putt putt, but he got hooked anyway after the first hole. He put on his game face and enthusiastically plowed through the remaining 17 holes.

And what's a rousing tournament of no-score putt putt without a ceremonial picture atop the giant fake crocodile?

And we returned safely home, where I'm unpacking and doing laundry in our fully-functioning washing machine. Success.