Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy halloween

Five sure is a sweet age for holidays.  Liam has been decorating the house and singing his Halloween songs for a week.

He carved the pumpkin all by himself, thankyouverymuch.   And he was so, so proud.  When I watch him work on things like this I see a lot of Will in him.  He has great concentration for these types of tasks, and a pretty clear vision of what he wants and an ever growing ability to execute. 

This year's goldfish costume required some explanation on front porches.  "Goldfish." Liam would say firmly.  "No, not Nemo."  But Liam likes it and it was easy as anything to sew.   In an act of good fortune he lost his first front tooth earlier today, so he had a jack-o-lantern face to go with his fish costume.

Thanks to my mother for handing out candy at the house.  And thanks to Grandpa and GoGo for walking the neighborhood with us, including all the way the 8 or so blocks or so to Liam's school, where his teacher had hot cider and pumpkin pie waiting and a yard full of magic pumpkin fairy houses, all lit up.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Boys' Brunch

A few weeks ago Liam and I thought up the idea of having brunch for all the boys at his new school and a few of the boys he really misses from school last year.  Liam still needs pretty quick drop offs at school to make the transition easily, and I'm usually rushing to get to work in the morning anyway, like most of the other parents.  Pick up is more relaxed, but I do this only about once a week.  I wanted a chance to meet some of the other parents, and to spend a little time with these boys.  Liam just loves the idea of a party at his house. . .any party for any reason. We invited 8 boys and 6 showed up, along with some older and younger siblings and parents. 

I think brunch is the perfect party meal for little kids.  It ensures that boys show up already having eaten once, but it's not too late in the day where tired may have set in, and it lets you serve food guaranteed to please.  We served whole wheat waffles with butter and maple syrup, scrambled eggs, and fruit.  We offered "green juice" (kale smoothie) or water to drink.  I have learned that it is key to not try to do too much or have too many choices at these kinds of things.  A surprising number of  boys wanted green juice and pretty much all the parents did.  

Thank goodness that brunch went off with out a hitch, due in large part to significant advance prep work and the fact that my mother showed up at 9:00 am with the fruit plate, hung out in the kitchen pouring coffee for the parents, and then put the waffles in the oven to reheat and scrambled the eggs right on time.   It helps tremendously to have a mother who will cheerfully stop at the store for you the morning of the brunch to buy eggs when you realize you have run almost out, and then just as cheerfully stand in the kitchen and cook them for six 4-5 year old boys, and their siblings and parents.  Thanks mom!

While she was doing all that, I was outside encouraging the nature treasure hunt to go off, and watching bemused as there was both yelling of the "Don't follow me!" variety and crying of the "I just want to play with you!" variety.  So much for boys growing in friendship and community, as advertised -- by me! -- on the invitations.  Although the boys did get over it, and after they ate their weight in waffles happily ran around the yard and played "house fire" all together, including rescuing Oliver from an upstairs bedroom (by tramping through the house, I did not let them get the rope ladder out).  So much for nature treasure hunts, I guess.

I had a neighbor write me after the brunch and ask how these parties come together, and it really is just those three things: keep the options simple and limited, do absolutely every possible thing in advance that you can, and make sure you have help day of because once people get there you will be dealing with them and you will not easily be able to stand in the kitchen and scramble eggs, you just won't.  I've promised Liam we can do this three or four times during the school year.  I think the next bunch will be in January.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Happy Anniversary Will

It was a pretty normal day.  Work in the AM, lunch with the vegan, Shane, you remember, work some more, then make the pizza for Pizza Friday.  We celebrated my mother's birthday a few days late today.  I made most of the cake last night but left the making of the 3rd kind of frosting and the assembly for today.  Not sure that was wise.  What kind of birthday cake has 3 kinds of frosting anyway for crying out loud?  (A: German chocolate, David Libovitz's recipe, with the rum syrup on each layer, except we didn't have any rum, of course, so I used a tiny bit of vanilla.  It was delicious.)  Whenever I make a chocolate birthday cake I always think about how you professed to hate chocolate but would go through phases of eating kit kat bars as if they were going out of style.  

The birthday crown still looks good.  You were by far the best at cutting the letters for the crowns.  I still don't understand how you made that look so easy.  

Liam loves to choose birthday presents for his grandparents.  He is on a run of selecting from those little wooden animal figures they have down at the hippy import store next to the fountain.  He got her a gray cat; looks sort of like hers that died.  You should see his face when they open the presents, I can't really describe the expression.  Some combination of happy, proud, glowing and yet still a little bashful.  It's something. 

Now I'm making waffles, many, many waffles because Liam and I invited all the boys from his preschool and their families to brunch tomorrow and I decided that I didn't want to be dealing with a hot waffle iron anywhere in a house that was trying to contain 6-8 boys, and their families, in good humor and safety.   In between batches of waffles I sort out the paint chips and draw little leaf shape cards for their nature treasure hunt in the yard.  My gosh, Will, the chickens have destroyed the yard. They have dug the dirt and eaten the plants pretty much everywhere.  And yet I just realized that between the eggs for the birthday cake and the eggs for the waffles I am going to have to call my mother in the morning and ask her to stop at the store and buy eggs to make sure we have enough to scramble for the brunch.  Boys sometimes eat a lot. 

I hope the boys all wear boots tomorrow.  I think about what nice leaf and plant cards you would have drawn for a nature treasure hunt.  Mine are just black and white, done with marker, emphasizing general shape.  I'm not going to hazard any color. 

I have new glasses, I wear them when I type on the computer.  Except I'm not wearing them right now.  Your mom's in DC with your sister, who is expecting a baby any day now.  We took Liam to see the family theater production of Go Dog Go last weekend and he wants to see it again this weekend.  Mushrooms are finally out, we'll be eating lots of them soon.  I miss you. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What a 5 year old really wants

The vegan was working at a house this week where they were off loading cast away kid gear so when he came to dinner on Monday he brought Liam: a motocross helmet, a life jacket, some kind of walky-talky radio type thing that you wear on your arm and which Liam calls a watch, and a baseball glove.  He proceeded to immediately help Liam put them all on at once.  What could be better?  Liam declared them his penguin handling clothes "Because the penguins, you know, the penguins you know, they peck; they really do."  This was cause for great fun.

The vegan came to dinner on Monday because we called him on Sunday to ask him to please come over and check out the bee situation at our house.  We think we might have a bee nest up at the very tiptop of the house, right before the roof.  Of course, it's never someplace easy.  Liam and I thought we saw bees going in and out on Sunday, but by dinner time on Monday no one could see any bees.  Maybe they were sleeping.

Or, maybe some of Liam's bee elimination tactics worked. These he explained in great detail and with great seriousness to the vegan over the phone on Sunday and included:  hammering on the side of the house (at least 40 feet away from the nest if-it-is-a-nest) with his plastic hammer to send a sound signal to the bees to tell them to leave; putting the plastic hammer in the end of a 8 foot plastic pipe so he could hammer closer to the bees; and, using the bicycle pump to "shoot air at them. . .which I really thought would work, but it did not work."

The vegan is very careful during these conversations and, except for a small cough-type noise at the bicycle pump idea, did. not. laugh.  Instead he said something like "Oh my, well, you know I think we'll need to look at it together, we maybe need to get a little bit up closer to the bees so we can figure out what is going on."   It was a very sweet conversation to witness, and it was almost just as sweet on Monday when Liam wanted to explain it all again: "Well, I know, I know I told you on the phone but I want to tell you again how I tried my best, everything I could think of, but I couldn't get rid of the bees.  I tried. . .."

Monday, October 8, 2012

Liam's pictures of chickens

Lately, every few days Liam will come bursting into whatever I'm doing to announce that he needs to use my camera right away, right now.  (Why he can't use his own camera I'm not quite sure.)  So I always say, yes, of course you can use it, just please put it back where you found it when your done.

He has been taking pictures of chickens.  Somehow, they are amazing to me.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A little trim and a little lie

Tuesday I came home to scissors on the kitchen table and a lock of hair on the kitchen floor.  I didn't notice it right away.  Liam was overtired and having a fit over something when I got home, he wanted extra TV (I am so temped to just get rid of TV entirely) and he wanted a snack "Not dinner!" and who all knows what else.

When I finally got the dreaded dinner on the table and things calmed down a little, I noticed.  I looked at Liam.  He still looked like he had a lot of hair.  I looked at the lock of hair on the floor more closely and hoped it hadn't come from the neighbor boy who had been over for a play date.  It didn't look blond enough.  I decided to say something, and Liam and I had the following conversation.

Me: Liam, I see some hair on the kitchen floor, do you want a shorter hair cut?

Liam: It's not hair; I mean, I didn't; I mean. Oh mommy, I just wanted to see what it was like.

Me: I'm so glad you told me the truth!  So you cut your hair.  What was it like?

Liam: Oh, you know, no big deal.

Me: Yeah, pretty boring.  You know, Lynette is the one who cuts our hair, if you want a hair cut, we go to Lynette.  Got it?  No more cutting it on your own, you could hurt your ears or the skin on your head and it makes a mess.  Plus, you'll never have a pony tail if you cut your hair.

Liam: Okay.

To me this is very interesting.  You read about little kids and lying (Well, I mean, if you're me and you obsessively read studies on little kid behavior.) and how experimenting with lying is normal, the way questions are asked is really important, and it's important most of all for them to understand that lying doesn't work to get what they want or avoid consequences.  I thought I did pretty well with my initial question; but, still the reflex was to deny, and it took a few seconds for the truth to kick in. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Saying "thank you"

I've never, so far up to now, had myself sufficiently organized to start to build a habit of thank you notes with Liam.  If I'm being honest, my own track record for written thank you notes, which 7-8 years ago was pretty reliable and natural, has fallen by the wayside more than I would like.  Same with my ability to remember most birthdays and other memorable days with sufficient clarity or advance warning to do much about it.  Another change. 

A digression: both these things fell away when Will first started getting really sick.  There were all these appointments and treatment so get through, and trying to understand it all so I could be a helpful and responsible advocate took so much bandwidth, really it took all I had left after work.  And for pity's sake that was just me.  I wasn't sick, or facing painful and unpleasant treatments, or confronted so baldly with the uncertainty of my life span and future. I shudder whenever I think about what it must have taken from Will, and remain amazed at how resilient he was.

So Liam is working on thank you notes these days.  I outline the letters and he colors them in.  This note is for his lovely school teacher who gifted him a piece of rose quartz.  On the inside he tends to draw a picture. These days trees are popular.

On the back he writes his name and I usually write a short note.  We've made 3 or 4 so far and I hope to continue.