Sunday School, Weenie Sabers, and The Sign of the Cross

I confess:  I miss the lazy Sunday mornings, the mornings where I could stay in bed, or if not in bed, at least in my pajamas, until almost noon, reading a book while Snags watched cartoons.  If we went to church, it was to the last mass of the day, but mostly we didn’t go at all. 

Now though, Snags is enrolled in Sunday school.  Our neighbor is his teacher. Her son is Snags’ friend. Two more of his friends from first grade are in his Sunday school class as well.  He enjoys it, and I’m glad.  Some weeks my neighbor drives him to Sunday School and my husband and I pick him up at the end and we all go to Mass together.  Other weeks we drop him off ourselves and go to mass while he’s in class.  Snags has decided we should alternate this.  One week he’ll go to church, the next he won’t.  I think he wants to ease back into it.

Most recently, Snags learned how to make the Sign of the Cross.  Last Sunday he happily reported: “Mom!  I earned a gold star for doing the Sign of the Cross right today!  I only had to do it twice to get it right!” 

“Wow,” I say in response.  “That’s great!”  I think back just a few weeks prior to this when he held up both hands and made an X with his forefingers.  “Isn’t THIS the Sign of the Cross?” he asked.  “No,” I said, “That’s more like the sign against vampires.”

Snags goes on to explain that it was difficult to make the Sign of the Cross in front of his Sunday school class because he was facing the class and because he holds the Wii nunchuck in his left hand… And no, I don’t have any idea what the Wii gaming system has to do with making the sign of the cross.  We have Wii Sports and We Ski, Star Wars the Force Unleashed, and Star Wars Legos, the Complete Saga.  Nowhere in that mix have I happened upon Wii Catholic Church, the Sign of the Cross (nunchuck required).  Go figure.

Next up in Sunday school learning, if you’re in First Grade and want to earn another gold star, is memorizing The Our Father.  “We can’t read it,” Snags informs me.  “We have to memorize it.”  I worry that he’ll mix it up with the rules of Tae Kwan Do he has to memorize.  Our Father, Who Art in Heaven, I’ll always finish what I start, sir!”

I didn’t realize that I was supposed to be teaching the rules of Tae Kwan Do to Snags.  I’d read them myself, of course, but when I got to number two, “I will always be a good brother or sister, sir!” I put the book away figuring that didn’t apply to Snags, as he’s an only child.  A week or two later his instructor corrected me, put it into perspective, and said to think about it in the biblical sense.

Which brings us back to Sunday school.  As Snags was going on about having to learn the Our Father, I thought to warn him that the Hail Mary is HAIL Mary, and not Hell Mary, as I once thought.  But before I could even form the sentence completely in my head, Snags took another breath and said, “And then we have to learn the Hell Mary!”

Hail Mary,” I said, trying to suppress a laugh.  It’s “Hail Mary.”  There isn’t a cuss word in the prayer.  Snags started to get upset, he hadn’t meant to say a bad word.  I tried to reassure him, told him how I also thought it was Hell Mary when I was a kid, but that it’s not.  The apple, they say, doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Or is it, Great Minds Think Alike?

I keep meaning to tell my neighbor, the Sunday school teacher, about the Hell Mary.  That maybe she ought to explain to the children the difference between Hail and Hell, Fire and Brimstone, whatever.  But then her son was playing in my yard the other day, playing with plastic light sabers, fighting a battle against evil.  He took the light saber, stuck it between his legs, and deemed it a Weenie Saber. 

I’d mention this to my neighbor, but then Snags has been going around and using his favorite tag blanket as a whip. We recently let him watch the first Indiana Jones movie, the one where Indie goes in search of the Ark of the Covenant, the container that held the tablets of stone that the Ten Commandments were written on.  Only Snags doesn’t call it the Ark of the Covenant, he calls it the Ten Commandments Box. 

I wonder if it’s big enough to hold a Weenie Saber?

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Filed under boys, church, humor, kids, life, parenting, Snags, Star Wars

Room Mom Woes and Wars

Let’s go back in time a bit, shall we?  Let’s go back to this time LAST YEAR, when I was the room mother for Snags’ kindergarten class, busy planning the Fall Party.  It’s the “FALL PARTY” because we cannot, in this era of political correctness, call it was it is, which is a Halloween Party.  No matter that parents send in decorations of bats and witches and mummies.  Those things, as everyone knows, are signs of AUTUMN, just as surely as the leaves changing color and the air turning crisp.  In fact, if you play your cards right (no, it’s not politically correct to admit to gambling), you just might find bats and witches and mummies hiding under that colorful pile of leaves you just finished raking.

But I digress.  The FALL PARTY.  I was the room mother.  My duties as room mother were to coordinate with the teacher and enlist parents to help donate supplies, food, crafts, and their time at the party.  I had a particular interest in this because Snags has food allergies, and without some role in the party planning, especially the food, the classroom could quickly turn from a party atmosphere to a danger zone.

And I gather, from talking to other room moms, that I was lucky.  Snags’ kindergarten teacher had a thing for SIMPLE.  One snack.  One game.  One craft. Perhaps two crafts if time allowed.  The party ran for approximately 2 hours, and all 18 children had to get a turn at the snack, the game, the craft.  Or two.

And things went well.  I survived the fall party, the holiday party (it’s really a Christmas Party, but please don’t tell anyone), the Spring Party, and the End of Year Party.  Things were simple, things were fun.

When first grade rolled around, I volunteered once again to be room mom.  I was told at first, by Snags’ first grade teacher, that another mother had “expressed interest” in being room mom.  When I explained that I’d like to be involved somehow, because of Snags’ allergies, I was told I would be THE ROOM MOM.  But that somehow morphed into being CO-ROOM MOM.  And I was okay with that.  Until…  My co-room mom called me, in SEPTEMBER, about planning the fall party.  The fall party is the day before Halloween.  So we had plenty of time, no?  And co-room mom went on about how she and ANOTHER CO-ROOM MOM (How did we get three room moms?), had been planning the craft activities and wanted to talk to me about the food situation.  And it was SEPTEMBER and OMG!  I can’t even decide what the hell to cook for dinner TONIGHT, let alone plan the snack for a party that is over 30 days away.

Eventually I agreed to meet, in person, with my co-room mom and HER co-room mom (whom I shall now call Thing One and Thing Two).  Thing Two seemed somewhat new at room mom duties and genuinely concerned about having the party be safe for my son, as well as the two other children in the class who also have food allergies.  Did I mention that food allergies are on the rise?  Note that three children out of 22 in ONE CLASS have them?  Thing One, however… Thing One.  Thing One was IN CHARGE.  She has taken it upon herself to be THE ROOM MOM.  Somehow, somewhere, and I don’t know how and don’t know where, CO-ROOM MOMS got dropped, and Thing One TOOK OVER ALL PARTY PLANNING AND PREPARATIONS THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

The Fall Party THIS YEAR?  Starts at 2:30, Ends at 3:20.  Those times are PER THE TEACHER.  So we have, if I remember first grade math, 50 minutes.  To accomplish the following activities planned by Thing One, THE ROOM MOM, with 22 children:

• Frost and decorate pumpkin shaped sugar cookies.
• Eat frosted and decorated pumpkin shaped sugar cookies.
• Eat grapes.
• Eat potato chips.
• Eat Fritos.
• Drink juice.
• Play Bingo.
• Play Bingo.
• Play Bingo.
• Hand out Bingo prizes.
• Hand out Bingo prizes.
• Hand out Bingo prizes.
• Read a Halloween Story.
• Decorate Halloween Bags.  And no, I don’t know why we are allowed to read a Halloween story or call them Halloween Bags, but Thing One and Thing Two thought the children could use the bags to collect their Trick-or-Treat candy the next day.
• Count and weigh pumpkin seeds and compare the weights for dry roasted pumpkin seeds verses wet pumpkin seeds.

Now, if ALL THAT wasn’t enough to keep 22 kids busy for 50 minutes, Thing One met THING THREE who had an idea:  Stuff popcorn into gloves and paint finger nails on the gloves to make “monster hands.”

But wait, it gets better.  Thing Three wants to bring in an air popper to the class room and let each kid pop their OWN popcorn. In the class room.  At the party.  And then the kids will take that freshly popped and burning hot popcorn and stuff a plastic glove with it.  Then they will dip the ends of the fingers of the gloves (which, if I may point out, will probably be MELTING from the hot popcorn) into paint to make finger nails.  VOILA!  MONSTER HANDS. (and no, I’m not sure if the monster hands are meant to be the melting gloves stuffed with hot popcorn or the children’s hands that now require a thick slathering of burn cream).

And OMG people!  FIFTY MINUTES.  TWENTY-TWO children.  I hope these kids are fast.  Because I just pulled out a calculator and 50 divided by 22 is 2:27 minutes.  Less than 2 ½ minutes PER child, to accomplish all of the above.  Granted, they aren’t doing things one at a time.  They won’t be standing in a long line waiting for the classmate in front of them to just move along already, you’re eating into MY 2:27 minutes of party time, but still.  Fifty minutes.  Twenty-two children.

And so I’m thinking, hey, what the hell?  Why don’t we go ahead and have the children plant the corn, grow it, harvest it, shuck it, dry it, break it off the cob into kernels, THEN pop it and stuff the hot popcorn into the plastic gloves.  We’ll have time for that, right?  We’ve got a full 50 minutes, after all.

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Filed under Fall party, Halloween, life, parenting, party planning, room moms, Snags

Wii Are Not Fit

Fifteen years into this marriage and Wii has validated what I’ve come to suspect.  We are not fit.  But at I’m fitter than my husband by some 13 years. 

Our fifteenth wedding anniversary was today.  The traditional gift for fifteen years of marriage is crystal.  But let’s be real, who has time to pull out the good crystal these days?  And with the economy like it is, what would you drink from it anyway, some Deer Park water?  Wine from a box?

The modern day gift for the fifteenth anniversary is a watch.  I love watches.  But truth be told, I have quite a few and neither one of us really needs another one.  I browsed for some fancy watches on the internet thinking I could get one for cheap for my husband from Overstock’s website, but it seems my definition of cheap, and theirs, well… let’s just say the difference was something like the Greed on Wall Street and people being tossed from their homes on Main Street.  In other words, I didn’t have the money.

This summer we spent a week in Seattle for a family reunion.  Some of the cousins had a Wii and the three of us, my husband, son, and I, had a blast playing with it.  That says a lot coming from me, because I don’t like video games.  It’s not a moral or philosophical dislike, it’s just that well, I more or less suck at playing video games.  So for years I had sworn we’d never own a Play Station, or an Xbox, or God forbid, one of those handheld games that kids can’t seem to go anywhere without these days.

But here we are.  It’s 2008 and we have an XBox which my mother-in-law bought my husband for Christmas one year.  It’s mostly kept and played with in the basement where I don’t have to look at it. And then there’s the Game Cube, which, surprisingly enough was gift given to my son from my parents and brother AT MY SUGGESTION because I wouldn’t let Snags play the Xbox, and they had a GameCube at the place he spends time after school, but the older kids hogged it, and Snags was sad about that, and I thought this would an acceptable solution even though it went against my no video games mindset. And lastly, there are the two Nintendo DS systems.  Because as Santa pointed out a year or two ago, you can’t just have one, there are games that require two players, and those players each need their own DS. Yes, I bought that one hook, line, and sinker.

But all of those game systems left me with nothing.  Okay, I did get Dance Dance Revolution for the Xbox one year for Christmas, but it seems as if the dancing gene is akin to the video game playing gene, and it skipped me. 

Then came the trip to Seattle and the playing of Wii bowling.  I LOVE THAT GAME.  Because, FINALLY, something I am good at!

When we returned from Seattle I casually mentioned to my husband that maybe we should consider buying a Wii, and before I knew it, he went and bought one.  We didn’t tell Snags, and we hid it away.  It was to be a Christmas present for the three of us.

That, of course, was before Star Wars, The Force Unleashed came out.  My husband said he’d like that for his birthday.  But his birthday comes more than a month BEFORE Christmas.  And since crystal and watches were out of my price range, and I was plum out of other ideas, I figured The Force Unleashed could make a nice anniversary present.

Snags, when I told him about our 15th wedding anniversary, simply looked at me and said “That’s Impressive.”  When my husband unwrapped his anniversary gift, Snags said, “Ummm, but Mom?  We don’t have a Wii!”

So imagine his surprise and delight when we told him that yes, actually, we did have a Wii, and it was our anniversary present to each other and that he could play with it too.  He danced, he sang, he spent the money and gift cards he got from friends and relatives for his birthday on the Wii version of Star Wars, The Complete Saga.  Because as he said, “It’s better to play it on a big screen!”

The night my husband set up the Wii, the two of us discovered the part where Wii can assess your fitness by having you punch a punching bag, play some tennis, hit some baseballs, and do some bowling.  Our scores weren’t so good.  My husband, whose 41st birthday is coming up next month, was given a Wii age of 60.  And I… well after a pretty disastrous turn at baseball and tennis, where I feared I’d be scored as dead, was saved by my tremendous bowling skills, and scored a Wii age of 47.  It could be worse, I guess.

In truth, I shouldn’t be surprised at this.  I’ve heard that as people age, their reflexes aren’t as good.  If my husband’s Wii age is really 60, then that might explain how he managed to run over his foot with the lawnmower last summer.  It might also explain how he managed to mangle some fingers with his table saw last weekend.  The lawnmower incident truly can be explained as an accident, his reflexes you see, weren’t fast enough to stop the lawnmower from rolling over his toes.  But this latest incident was totally preventable. My husband, after all, was the one who removed the blade guard from the saw blade so he could cut a small piece of wood and then his fingers.  That decision more or less backs up Wii’s assessment.  His reflexes aren’t so hot and he’s maybe got a little bit of dementia going on there.

And so to my husband I’d like to say: “Happy Anniversary, you old fart.  I’ll see you at the bowling alley!”

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Filed under anniversary, fitness, Snags, video games, Wii

What Seven Looks Like

Seven looks like a boy uncharacteristically still in bed at 6:45 in the morning.  Look closer and you’ll see he’s mostly feigning sleep, eagerly waiting for the clock to turn so he can FINALLY get up and open his birthday present.

Seven looks like a smile when a boy unwraps his gift to find the set of Star Wars LEGOs that he wanted. 

Seven looks like a boy blowing out the candles on his favorite kind of birthday cake. Cake that he insists on eating for breakfast.

Seven looks like a slice of birthday cake the size of a dinner plate. And Seven looks like a boy whose eyes are larger than his stomach.

But Seven… looks happy.  And Seven looks like it’s going to be good.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY KIDDO!  I LOVE YOU!

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Filed under birthday, Snags

Back to Normal

Strange things have been happening around here lately.  Strange things with my son.  Or should I say, strange things with this stranger who looks like my son, and sounds like my son, but is… strange.  A stranger.  And it’s all of a sudden, and while I should be happy, at least about some of it, I’m not, not so much.

This is the kid who for 6 ½ years could not hold a pencil correctly.  He started out, naturally enough, using a fist grip, eventually moving on to some mangled version of a half fist grip.  When he was 3, and then 4, and then 5, daycare told us they would correct that.  Their main “goal” every year, was to teach him how to hold a pencil correctly.

They failed.

At a parent-teacher conference last year I discussed Snags’ odd pencil gripping ways with his teacher.  I expressed my concern that while yes, his hand writing was very legible, perhaps there was something we should still do? Some way to teach the kid to hold a pencil correctly? Because everything I’d tried had failed.  She suggested rubber pencil grips and where to buy them, then confessed that she had never learned to hold a pencil correctly herself. Then she proceeded to prove this sad point by writing a note on a pad of paper with a nearly identical half-fist grip.

And so.  Snags started first grade with the same bad pencil holding form.  And mostly I didn’t care.  He could write clearly.  But still. When Snags’ first grade teacher sent home a form where parents could write down any concerns they had, I made a quick note about the way Snags holds a pencil.  I turned in the note and didn’t give it another thought.  If six and half years had taught me anything, it was that this pencil thing just wasn’t that important.  Or Snags was very stubborn.

But then.  Snags came home from school this week and said he had a surprise for me.  He smiled as he showed me the new way he was holding a pencil.  The new PROPER way to hold a pencil!  And then… he wrote his name, holding the pencil in the new and proper way!  I fainted.

Okay, I didn’t really faint.  Instead I asked, “Who ARE you and what have you done with my son?”  I was laughed at in return.

But this pencil thing?  It’s the tip of the iceberg of strangeness around here.

Suddenly, Snags, the child who can’t be bothered to put away his LEGOs, wants to clean.  He wants to FOLD LAUNDRY.  He WANTS to MAKE HIS BED every morning. He wants to WASH WINDOWS.

This morning?  He asked if he could shake out some area rugs and then he got a broom and swept the kitchen floor.  He wanted me to hold a trash bag open so he could dump the dust pan into it.  And I was all “Look, this is really nice of you to want to clean up but OH MY GOD it’s only 6:30 in the morning and all I really want to do is relax a bit and eat my breakfast.  Can’t you do this LATER? Tomorrow? After school?”  Tonight he wants to vacuum.

In an effort to have a few moments of fading morning quiet in the midst of a million repititons of “I’m bored, what can I do, PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE?”, I agreed to let him “wash” the windows.  He pulled out a bottle of Windex, ripped off a single paper towel.  He spayed and wiped haphazardly over the inside of the glass door in the kitchen, quietly humming to himself before stepping outside into the dawn to clean the outside of the glass.  He worked away at a few spots, singing.  

He picked up the bottle of Windex again, holding it at eye level, working hard to pump the top and spray the door.  Except he had the nozzle turned the wrong way.  He sprayed himself directly in the eye.

He’s fine, now.  I watched as it happened from inside the glass.  The spray bottle dropped to the ground.  Snags, temporarily blinded in one eye, staggered inside.  “I sprayed myself in the eye!  Will I be able to see again?” He asked, alarmed, with the Windexed eye squinched shut.

I led him to the bathroom, where I flushed his eye with water, assuring him he would be fine, and sent him on his way.

When I came downstairs, I fully expected him to be cleaning the glass again.  But the dropped bottle of Windex was gone, the lone paper towel had been thrown away. Snags’ urge to clean had, apparently, been wiped clean by one shot to the eye.

I found him, like in days of old, like last week, before he learned how to properly hold a pencil, before he turned into Mr. Clean, on the floor of the library, in the middle of a large pile of LEGOs.  He looked up as I walked by, he asked a single question:

Aren’t you going to PAY ME for cleaning the windows?

I think about this for a moment, and tell him maybe.  Maybe later.  I don’t have any cash on hand at the moment.  And also, I think to myself, I didn’t ASK him to clean the windows.

But I might pay him later.  A few dollars for his ambitious in thought, if not in deed, effort.  And then I think I’ll bill him back for the medical care I had to administer.  Eye flushing is mighty expensive these days.  And accidents are preventable if you know which way to aim the nozzle.

And that Windex?  It’s pretty good stuff.  It brought my child back. I can finish the rest of my breakfast in peace, without some crazed Mr. Clean running around me in circles with a bottle of cleaner and a paper towel, begging me to plug in the vacuum.  Instead, I get to listen to him whine that he can’t find a particular LEGO piece amidst the hundreds and hundreds of LEGOs he’s spilled all over the floor. And I know, life is back to normal. A new and improved normal – one in which Snags can hold a pencil correctly.

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Filed under cleaning, kids, LEGOs, Snags

My Fault

Last Thursday night my husband and I returned from Back-to-School Night to find Snags and the babysitter relaxing on the sofa as they raptly watched Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase.  Actually, I think the babysitter was probably itching to leave and go home already, but Snags begged her to stay until the very end and so she sat, for the remaining 20 minutes of the movie, and did exactly as Snags instructed: “Watch this!  Watch!  Watch this part!  Watch!”

When we finally let her make her escape, Snags announced that he had a sore throat.  My husband gave him Children’s Tylenol and sent him to bed where all was well…  Until 2:30 in the morning, when Snags woke up felling very ill, and vomited.  “I feel better now!” he said, somewhat jubilantly, as he stepped back to flush the toilet. 

Friday morning dawned, and Snags, while not feeling entirely up to snuff, was able to eat a slice of toast and drink some water.  Since he kept that sustenance where it belonged, in his stomach, and he had no fever, just the same sore throat as the night before, I decided that he should go to school.  Because that vomiting?  Maybe it was just a fluke.  Maybe the Tylenol didn’t agree with him. And also?  It was only the second week of school.  You can’t start raking up absences in the second week of school.  Because the school?  They’re keeping score

It was also show and tell day.  Snag’s first grade teacher was bringing in a snake skin that her dog had sniffed out in her yard.  I mean, how cool would that be?  A kid with just a sore throat wouldn’t want to miss that, right?  Plus, said kid with sore throat had his own cool item for show and tell: a hornet’s nest knocked down from our roof (don’t worry, we sprayed it with killer bug spray and stuck it in a ziplock bag).

And so Snags got dressed and set off for school.  I kind of expected a call from the nurse that day, but it never came.  Snags soldiered on and stayed in school all day.  That afternoon I even took him, with his sore throat, to get his hair cut.

Saturday dawned dark and gray and the skies opened and rained upon us.  But it didn’t matter.  Snags was still fighting that sore throat so we stayed home where it was warm and dry and we could watch TV and play board games.  But by evening, Snags was decidedly miserable.  His throat still hurt, and he had a slight fever.  He was so miserable that he decided it was all MY fault.  As if I’d opened a box a sick and poured him a big bowlful of it for breakfast.  Here, eat this.  It will make your throat sore and you’ll get really grumpy and mean and blame me for your illness.  Good stuff.  He blamed me because I’m not.a.doctor.

“This is the WORST virus EVER!” he cried, over and over as he shot piercing accusatory glances in my direction. 

I tried to make him feel better.  I told him how I bet a bunch of kids in his class at school had sore throats too.  Because that always happens when school starts back up in the fall.  Kids get sick.  Viruses go around.  Snags, I said, could rest assured that he wasn’t the ONLY one feeling under the weather. It was just a virus, he’d fell better in the morning, I was sure.

And the thing about a bunch of kids in his class having sore throats too?  Ahem…cough… cough…  It’s probably true, NOW.  Because this morning we took Snags to one of those health clinics that’s open on Sundays with the hope that they’d do something to stop his whining and complaining and blaming… and they did!  They gave him an antibiotic for his STREP THROAT.  His STREP THROAT that I unwittingly sent him to school with on Friday.  His STREP THROAT that he started complaining about on Thursday night.  When the babysitter was here.

And so I’d just like to remind the babysitter, that I paid her very well, and she should think of anything else that she may have received on top of the cash I handed her as she walked out the door, as a special kind of bonus!

Mea culpa.  But then again, Snags was right.  I’m not.a.doctor.

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Filed under illness, kids, life, parenting, Snags

Perfect Insanity

There are certain things that drive me to the brink of insanity and they are these:
The sound of the dog licking her paws at night when I am trying to fall asleep.
The sound of cellophane crackling.
The sound of Snags playing Perfection in his bedroom at five o’clock in the morning.

That last one?  Heard it this morning.

The rule is, the kid is supposed to stay IN BED, and preferably in bed ASLEEP, until 7:30 a.m.   And that is the sole reason why I bought him a digital alarm clock.  So there could be no mistake on the hour. 

When I decided I’d heard enough, heard enough plastic pieces rattling around, heard enough small explosions as the timer ran out and the Perfection pieces flew into the air, I shakily climbed out of bed and opened his bedroom door. All the while repeating to myself, “it’s just a noise, don’t kill him.  It’s just a noise, don’t kill him…” 

GO.BACK.TO.BED! I nearly barked. 

He looked at me mildly, said, “But Mom, I’m just playing Perfection.”

GO.BACK.TO.BED!” I said again, perhaps a bit louder this time. “You don’t play perfection in the middle of the damn night,” I added as I turned out his bedroom light and yanked the door shut behind me.

“It’s not the DAMN NIGHT!” he cried back at me from behind his closed door. 

He’s been crying a lot lately, this child of mine.  I’m not sure but I think it’s the stress of first grade. Summer is over and now he can’t spend endless hours playing video games or building starships out of LEGOs.  In first grade, unlike kindergarten, there are no naps.  The kids have to be up and alert like the rest of us, for a full six hours straight. That kind of paying attention can wear you out, wear you down.

Snags comes home from school in the afternoons and lies upon the sofa.  He watches whatever cartoon he can find on Nickolodeon, his eyes glazed over.  He denies being tired even as he yawns, even as he “rests” his eyes.

And little things are getting to him.  Little things are setting him off.  Like yesterday, when I made him set the frog free. Snags caught a frog, or maybe it was really a small toad.  I don’t know.  I’m calling it a frog.  He brought it home and made a home for it inside an old aquarium that he set out on our front porch.  He put in some water, and some rocks and the frog.  And then he more or less left him there, in the aquarium, all alone.  He played with the frog sometimes, but he didn’t feed him.  He dropped the frog at least half a dozen times on its head, on the pavement.  I’m sure the frog, if he had the ability to think, must have wondered if he’d been captured and sent to Gitmo.  There was the small room where he was kept, Snags the guard who occasionally tortured him by manhandling him and dropping him on his head, and there was the isolation. Left all alone in the aquarium, in the bright sunlight, for days on end.  Five days to be exact.  And then there was the starvation. I’m not sure what frogs eat but I assume they eat bugs.  And no bugs were flying into the aquarium.  And the frog wasn’t let out to hunt on his own.  By yesterday I’d had enough and told Snags he had to set the frog free.

He went out to do so, but reluctantly.  I followed him out to make sure he did as I had instructed. He told me that he’d opened the frog’s mouth and looked inside.

 “HOW?”  I asked. 

“Want me to show you?” He said. 

“Yeah,” I said, curious now. 

But Snags wasn’t having any luck.  The frog’s mouth wasn’t opening.  In fact, the harder Snags tried to open the frog’s mouth, the harder he pressed upon the frog’s… chin? neck?, the more I feared he was going to rip open the flesh of the frog’s throat. I couldn’t bear it and so I asked Snags to stop.  I yelled at Snags to STOP.  Let the frog go NOW.

And Snags got upset.  “YOU NEVER LIKED FROGGY!”  He screamed, tears streaming down his face. “YOU DIDN’T LIKE HIM FROM THE MOMENT I GOT HIM,” he cried.  His face was red, contorted in anger.  His eyes bulged. Except for the tears I think he was a perfect picture of me, the way I felt when I heard him playing Perfection in the middle of the damn night. In the blink of an eye, the leap is made from peaceful calm to perfect insanity. Over a noise. Over Perfection.  Over a frog.   

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Filed under anger, boys, frogs, kids, life, parenting, Snags

First Grade

First Grade.  My son is starting First Grade today.  He breezed through Kindergarten last year and summer vacation has disappeared in the wink of an eye.  I don’t know where the time has gone.

We met my son’s first grade teacher last week.  The school holds an open house so all the kids can come and find their new classroom, meet their new teacher, and drop of their new school supplies at their desk.

Long gone are the days when I was a kid and you could show up to class on the first day with nothing but yourself and some money for your lunch.  I always insisted on wearing my new school clothes, a pair of jeans with a new top of some sort, both of which turned out to be too uncomfortable for the first day of school.  I was always hot and sweaty and sorry I’d chosen that particular outfit to wear the first day. I was always miserable in the new school shoes my mom had chosen.  They were too stiff, too formal.  I wanted Keds, or Docksides, or Vans like the other kids.  Not nerdy brown leather lace-ups with a slippery sole.

I remember coming home the first day of school and insisting that my mother HAD to take me out to get school supplies THAT.VERY.NIGHT.  I NEEDED my new Trapper Keeper notebook for the second day of school for sure.  The stores were always crowded.

Now the stores are crowded in advance.  Our local Target has a binder in the school supply aisle that contains lists of all of the needed supplies for each grade at each school in the county. I found it two months ago, surrounded by a circle of women, like a coven of witches, mumbling to themselves.  It wasn’t a spell they were casting. They were simply committing to memory as many supplies as they could from the list so they could gather the necessary items before returning again to elbow their way in to check the list for more. More pencils, more pens, erasers, pocket folders, spiral notebooks, more glue sticks, crayons, scissors.

We went to the school and we met Snag’s first grade teacher, found his desk, his locker. We went back to his Kindergarten classroom from last year to see his old teacher, let her see how much he’d grown.  She told Snags that she’d met with his first grade teacher and told her all about him.  She told her that Snags liked to eat brisket, and in the understatement of a lifetime, that he liked Star Wars.  I told her we were going to see Clone Wars that very night.  Snags was very excited.

And we did see Clone Wars.  And Snags pronounced it one of the best movies he’d ever seen.  In the very beginning of the movie some words scrolled across the screen, something like: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” and as they did so, I leaned over to Snags to read them to him.  He shushed me loudly then added angrily, “I can READ, Mom!”

I had to admit, it was true.  He can read.  He learned how in Kindergarten.  I guess he’ll learn even more in First Grade.  I hope he pays attention because there is one thing he doesn’t really know the answer to and that is this: How did Jabba the Hutt have a baby?

I pray that my son isn’t the only First Grader out there concerned about the reproduction methods of the nasty green Hutt.

“Maybe Jabba was married at one time,” I offered.

“No,” Snags said.  “That isn’t it.”

“Well, um, I don’t know then,” I said, giving up quickly and hoping he would give up too.

He didn’t.  He pondered other ways the baby Hutt may have come about:

“Maybe something grows on Jabba the Hutt and then if falls off and they put it in a jar with some chemical stuff and it turns into a baby Hutt…”

Hmmmm.  Maybe.  It’s Star Wars, after all.  But YUCK. I cringed.  I took slow, deep breaths, trying to pretend that I wasn’t having a Hutt sex talk with my six year old.  Why do these conversations ALWAYS happen to me?  And why do they always happen when I’m driving, and hit me out of the blue?

“Or maybe,” Snags continued.  “Maybe Jabba the Hutt laid eggs and they came out of the end of his tail and hatched into the baby Hutt!”

And me, shuddering: “Yeah.  That sounds possible.  But let’s not worry about that right now!  We need to think about what kind of new clothes to buy you for school. And shoes, we’ve got to get you a new pair of shoes too.”

First Grade.  Do they teach Hutt sex-ed in First Grade?  Does anybody know?

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A Beer by Any Other Name…

I was fixing lunch for my six year old son, Snags, the other day when he asked me, “Mom, how did you and Dad name me?”

“How did we decide to name you Snags?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.  “Where did you get my name?”

I thought this was an interesting question.  I wasn’t sure what prompted his interest, but I figured he deserved an answer. 

The larger truth is, we just liked the name Snags.  The details behind that larger truth are what I explained to Snags.  But maybe I shouldn’t have.

“Well,” I said to him, “When your Daddy and I were in graduate school together, we knew a man with your name, and he was a really nice guy, just like you are.  So right away we kind of liked the name.”

“And then one day,” I went on, “You’re Daddy and I went out to lunch at a restaurant in the city.  This restaurant made their very own brand of beer called Snags Ale.  They even had coasters they served your drinks on.  They’d bring your glass of iced tea or soda or beer, or whatever you ordered to drink, and put it on a coaster that said Snags Ale.  Ale, by the way, is a kind of beer.  Anyway, when we saw the coaster it reminded us again how much we liked the name Snags.  And I even took one of those coasters home with me!”

“And now,” I said, “We even have these glasses, like the one you are drinking out of that we bought from that very same restaurant, and the glass as you can see, says Snags Ale on it.  So you have drinking glasses with your name on it!”

That is when Snags interrupted.  “So let me get this straight,” he said.  “You named me after a BEER?!”

“Well, uh… not really,” I stammered.  “Remember, your Daddy and I liked the name Snags.  There was that nice man at graduate school.  And OH! also there is a character in a movie with your name, and it’s a good movie too, and so when we saw the coaster with the name of the beer on it, it just reminded us that we liked the name Snags.  So you see, we didn’t really name you after a beer.”

“Actually,” Snags said, “You kind of did.”

I guess now that the truth is out I have nothing left to do besides wait for the day that Snags is given a homework assignment to research his name.  I can see his classmates standing up to report that “I am named after my grandmother, Mary…” or “I am named after my great uncle Paul.” 

So now I’m thinking, that to avoid the inevitable meeting with the principal when Snags stands up to report that his parents named him after a beer, I am going to teach him to recite this: 

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Snags.
What’s Snags? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a beer. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a beer
By any other name would taste as good;
So Snags would, were he not Snags call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title…

Or maybe I ought to just leave well enough alone.

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That Ain’t No Cat

I was in the sixth grade, when a male classmate, David, asked our music teacher if she had a pussy.  I don’t recall how much sex education we’d had at that point in time, but certainly we’d had enough to realize, at least on some level, that there was some kind of forbidden sexual connotation to his question, and the class sat and watched in fascinated horror as the teacher turned from her seat at the front of the class toward the boy.

She asked him to repeat the question, (WHAT DID YOU SAY?) and feeling emboldened by the barely suppressed nervous giggles of his classmates, he did. She was not amused.  Nor was she placated when he insisted that he was talking about a cat.  Did she have a cat?  A PUSSY cat?

David was sent to the principal’s office.

He was, I suppose, the kind of boy who, had this been the 1950s, would have been considered a bad boy.  The kind of boy who girls might like, but parents wouldn’t like at all.  He might have been like Arthur Fonzarelli from Happy Days, or Danny Zuko from Grease, or even Eddie Haskell, from Leave it To Beaver. Except he had big blonde hair, and this was 1979.

David, as it turned out, liked me.  Or more specifically, he liked my chest.  There were few girls in the sixth grade with a stack like mine.  He asked me to be his girlfriend.  I think I asked my mother if I could have a boyfriend.  I don’t remember what her verdict was.  But I remember going to the pool one summer afternoon and seeing him there.  He tried to kiss me.  I was a good girl, and he scared me.  He talked about my boobs too much.  That made me uncomfortable.  I hated my boobs.  In all truth, I still do. I avoided him after that.

A few days ago, my son Snags was bored.  Bored, bored, bored.  Bored out of his skull.  He played Star Wars LEGOs on Xbox.  He got bored.  He played Star Wars LEGOs on his Game Cube. He got bored.  He moved on to Star Wars LEGOs The Complete Saga on his Nintendo DS.  He got bored.  He built some ships with his Star Wars LEGOs.  And what do you know?  He got bored.

I suggested that he play outside.  He said it was too hot.  I suggested he go outside and ride his bicycle.  He didn’t want to.  “I don’t want to change my shoes,” he said.  He was wearing Crocs.  He was too lazy to kick them off his feet and switch to tennis shoes.  I suggested he go outside and ride his scooter.  His eyes widened with interest, but just as quickly returned to normal when he realized he couldn’t ride his scooter wearing Crocs. 

In a last ditch effort to get him outside, I offered to walk with him to the nearby playground.  “I’ll push you on the swings,” I said.  That was something I knew he liked, and so finally, he thought that sounded like fun. An escape from his boredom.

As we started up the sidewalk toward the playground, Snags said to me, “Mom, there’s this thing called a pussy…”

Sixth grade music class came back to me in a rush. I wasn’t ready to give a sex talk.  Snags is six years old, not sixth grade. And this was summer vacation.  I couldn’t send him to the principal’s office.

I didn’t want to hear any more, but warily I said, “Yeah?”  I waited, with dread, for him to go on.  

“Yeah, there’s this thing called a pussy and I don’t know the rest of what’s it’s called or I can’t remember what it is exactly?”

What should I say I wondered.  Should I explain that boys have a penis (which he knows) but that girls have a, um…  No.  I can’t, I thought.

But before I could decide how to respond, he went on…

“And this thing called a pussy… something, it grows in a pond!” he said.

I died with relief right there on the side walk. As I lay there dying, my sixth grade life flashed before my eyes.  I saw my music teacher point David toward the door.  I heard her reprimand as she sent him to the principal’s office.  My final words, right before I died for good were surprisingly strong for a dying woman, and nearly shouted with joy: “PussyWILLOW?  You mean a PussyWILLOW?”

“Yeah!  That’s it!” Snags said, all smiles.  “A pussywillow!”

And then a miracle happened.  I was brought back to life and we walked on.  To the playground.  And the swings.  Where Snags wasn’t bored at all.

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