Eight is Great

Early this morning, at 5:22, my first-born turned eight years old. He used to look like this:

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Now, he looks like this:

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I am not an overly nostalgic person when it comes to reflecting upon the passing years of parenthood. It’s all still too fresh. I’m still in the trenches. Every hour, every minute at times, is felt and acknowledged. So, when people ask, “Can you believe Henry is eight?” my answer is always a resounding, “Yes.” I can believe Henry’s eight. Where others are taken aback by the dramatic passage of time, I’m not. Because, I’ve been living it. Day in and day out. So, eight seems about right to me. And, I remember just about everything from each of those eight years.

I remember Henry’s unwillingness to nap as an infant. How he compensated with excellent nighttime sleeping. How I learned to not hold a grudge.

I can remember how plopping him in front of a bin of board books would occupy him long enough so Bob and I could eat dinner. His little dimpled baby hands manipulating those heavy pages.

I can remember strangers stopping me in line at the coffee shop or grocery store to tell me how lovely his eyes were. How I felt when the doctor broke the news he would have to operate on them.

I remember the transition when the pristine soft baby skin on his knees and elbows gave way to the bruised, scarred rough skin of toddlerhood. How I realized with sadness that they would never go back.

I can remember wondering if he would ever run out of words to say or activities to narrate. He was always, always talking.

I remember his first day of Kindergarten when I could barely wait to pick him up. That one humbling morning we were all reduced to tears when he refused to go to school at all.

And, I will never forget the first time he read me a story with fluency and accuracy. That moment when I knew it had all clicked in his head.

All of those moments and so many, many more have led up to eight. Here we are. Henry is a kind, considerate, thoughtful, patient, loving, empathetic, smart and funny kid. A dozen times a day we are reminded of what an incredible young man our oldest son is becoming.

Frankly, we are absolutely enamored with him. Bob and I frequently exchange glances and smiles when he does or says things that prove his maturity. We’ve been parenting wee kids so long that when Henry acts even remotely grown-up, like comforting his sister when she is upset or retrieving a snack for his brother, we find it incredibly charming.

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And, lest you think it’s all rainbows and unicorns around here, let me point out that there are certainly times when Henry and I butt heads. He takes his role as Big Brother very seriously and, at times, has trouble remembering that he is only eight and not actually the parent-in-charge. There can be tears and lost tempers born from frustration but those moments are becoming less frequent as we pass through the glory years between irrational little kid and emotional tween.

So, for the most part, our days with Henry are filled with relative ease and his independence offers a break from the manual labor portion of parenthood. The years of diapers and bottles and hitting milestones have given way to more autonomy and deeper conversation and an expanding worldview. He’s fun to talk with and asks the most interesting questions about life and history and religion and the circumstances of others. A few of which, I am woefully unprepared to answer.

I am beyond excited for Henry’s future. Sometimes, I almost can’t wait to see what this handsome, bookish, glasses-wearing, Lego-obsessed kid grows up to be.

Happy birthday, Henry. Your heart is as big as your body. I love you for that.

A Deserving Break

In a move of monumental bah humbug-ness for the second grade set, Henry had a full lid of homework last week. The week before Christmas break. The week when you’re supposed to be gluing pipe cleaners and googly eyes to candy canes and watching a disproportionate amount of in-class videos and coloring a lot of “worksheets.” But, nope, not for us. The holiday spirit died every evening when we sat down to work on math and vocabulary and reading. It’s like the school system is dedicated to fulfilling their pledge to educate my child, or something.

Basically, besides all the smarts, the only upside to school I can see is all the hand-crafted presents that arrive home in backpacks this time of year. The Holiday Haul of Stuff that Didn’t Cost too Much, if you will. This year’s loot included a picture frame covered with Charlie’s fingerprints and a tissue paper-covered decorative votive holder that I’m pretty sure is an actual fire hazard.

I will never not love that picture of Charlie. (Even if the threat of lice is large from a shared preschool Santa hat.

I will never not love that picture of Charlie. (Even if the threat of lice looms large from a shared preschool Santa hat.

It felt like Christmas break truly arrived this past weekend. Our calendar was empty, our to-do list minor and the weather unseasonably warm. It was really, really nice. We lingered over coffee on the front porch and lounged in pajamas until inappropriate hours. There was lots of book reading and casual meals and long, lovely walks. It was enough to make me pledge that our life going forward should always be as unscheduled as possible. And, with a lot less laundry.

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Guess who demanded we bring the doll stroller on our walk? Now, guess who got tired of pushing the doll stroller after approximately one (1) minute? Go ahead, guess!

Today is the first school-free weekday and with Bob at work, we’ve been occupying our time by completely destroying every corner of our home. It’s a pre-Christmas free-for-all. There are trucks underfoot and Legos on every surface and baby doll clothes hanging from lampshades. It looks like a Sesame Street fraternity house around here. In fact, I just heard Millie dump the contents of the board game cabinet on the foyer floor. Hooray!

Thus far, my kids have had the most fun with two cardboard tubes (from the last of the wrapping paper rolls) that they fashioned into light sabers (of course). Apparently, pummeling your brother while making those swoosh-swoosh noises never gets old. Also, we played a rousing game of catch in the kitchen with an empty, balled up chip bag (classy!) from Chipotle (of course). That had them in stitches.

I should be glad that playing with garbage is so entertaining since the other option on this rainy day would be sitting in front of All the Electronics for hours. That is DEFINITELY my Plan B though, if we run out of trash.

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I am especially pleased with myself for buying all of those fancy presents, not made from cardboard, that are underneath our tree. Money well spent, obviously.

My feelings may change dramatically by the time dinner rolls around but, right now, I’m enjoying the break from our regular routine. School days can be so monotonous. They begin and end with lots of responsibilities and must-do’s and don’t forget’s. The early start, the lunches to pack, the breakfasts to force-feed, the shoes to tie, the bus to catch – go, go, go.

So, we will relish the lack of regular programming over the next two weeks. Then, I will slowly start to lose my mind just in time to send them all back to school. Which, doesn’t preclude me from complaining about homework as soon as that kicks in again. Thus completes the circle of life.

Tell me, what are you doing this Christmas? Are you celebrating at home? Traveling to be with family? Hiding in your parents’ bathroom while polishing off a bottle of Merlot and praying no one brings up Obamacare around the dinner table?

Rango Unchained

It seems like lately, we’ve been losing things around here. Random stuff. Disappearing. Gone. Never to be seen again.

Last week, in the span of twelve hours, every single pacifier we had in our home disappeared. And, we have A LOT of pacifiers. Millie was walking around one evening before bed with one pacifier in her mouth and a pacifier in each hand and by the next morning… POOF! No pacifiers anywhere. Not one. I looked and looked to no avail. I searched everywhere from kitchen drawers and behind closet doors to toy and truck bins to the deepest recesses of her car seat (SUCH a bad idea). Nothing. So, I reasonably decided that… WELP, I guess we’re done with pacifiers! What a great time to give up this teeth-destroying tradition. Good luck getting to sleep, Millie!

And, one of my good cereal bowls (WHAT? Good cereal bowls can be a Thing.) is missing. One whole bowl. It’s my favorite color of blue and has three matching friends and frankly, I’m very curious where it disappeared to. Every time I empty the dishwasher and only stack three bowls in the cabinet, I think of that fourth one. I’m going to go ahead and blame Bob for this. I bet he broke it and threw away the evidence and didn’t want to tell me. I’ve noticed him avoiding eye contact whenever I’m emptying the dishwasher and wondering aloud, “Where is that other bowl?” Well, he’s going to be playing dumb for a long, long time because I love that set of dishes and will never part with them so my questions will never die, Bob!

We’ve lost sweatshirts this year, brand new gloves (TWICE!), several of those Angel Dear lovies, too many Legos to count and one half of a pair of shoe trees that still has Bob shaking his head in confusion. So, in summary, our house is like a 3,000 square foot Lost and Found with only the lost part – never the found part.

It should come as no surprise then that my kids lost a DVD we rented from the library; the animation epic, Rango.

Where did you go, Rango?

Where did you go, Rango?

Here’s a good place to point out that I am NOT a fan of the hundreds of children’s videos our library offers for rent. A library is traditionally for books, right? Print media? Things with words? I mean, even the books-on-tape are books. There isn’t really anything literary about The Wiggles: Tinsel Town Tunes. So, I kind of resent the GIANT WALL of impossible-to-unsee movies that they beeline for the minute we enter the kid’s wing. It becomes all about the movies and a lot less about the amazing, lovely, imagination-building books. And, yes, I could probably put my foot down and just say no to the DVDs but I have so many kids, you see. I am so tired.

During a recent library trip, I reluctantly agreed to the rental of Rango, a Maisy video and one other tractor-themed DVD Charlie was panting over. I managed to grab a few picture books and chapter books on the way out but the kids were, of course, more excited about the DVDs.

Millie managed to break the Maisy video into three pieces within two minutes of arriving home. Apparently, she was struggling to release the DVD from its case and through brute two-year-old force, eventually won its freedom. Maisy, obviously, lost that battle but that’s okay because I hate mice anyway.

So, we knew Maisy was a goner, however, when library day rolled around again and I was hunting the house for the deliverables, I was surprised to open the Rango case and find no Rango. I knew I had spied it, sans case, laying around over the previous two weeks but couldn’t find it anywhere; not in any of the DVD players or portable DVD players or my laptop’s DVD player or… goodness gracious, we have a lot of DVD players. None of them held the movie in question. 

By the time Henry arrived home from school I was flustered, out of breath from tearing the house apart and totally irritated. Henry and I went around again and looked everywhere you could possibly think of for that DVD. In fact, think of someplace in our house right now in your head where it could be and I can guarantee you, we looked there. Rango was awol.

When the little ones awoke from naps, I grumbled on and on to everyone about the lost DVD and personal responsibility and how this is why we can’t have nice things.

Since honesty really IS the best policy, I marched three kids and two ruined and/or missing DVDs up to the counter at the library that afternoon and demanded my children apologize to the lovely elderly woman standing there. They did, after which she thanked them for telling the truth, punched some buttons on her computer and asked me for $64.94. I almost fired my kids on the spot.

After running some quick numbers in my head, I asked if I could just go to Target and purchase replacement DVDs for the cases and she stopped me mid-sentence to explain some complicated thing about ISBN code and how it has to be a special video ordered from the special library supplier and Target isn’t special.

I paid the fees, gritted my teeth and dragged my children over to the kid’s video wall long enough to let them gaze at the selection while I whisper-yelled, “NO MORE!” Then, they reluctantly agreed to look for books before we headed for home. I mean, books. How boring can you get at the library, right?

So, the takeaway here is that lying is warranted at times. Also, have you seen my blue cereal bowl?