Monday, April 28, 2008

Why Newsweek may soon be banned from my house

The other morning I got up and sat down at the desk to type a quick email. Ben was already up and dressed, sitting on the couch reading Newsweek. For reasons that would soon become even more apparent, I had told him Newsweek was not really appropriate kid reading.
But it was early. I was sleepy and eager to get the email written and breakfast underway.
I typed. He read. And then I got hit with this:

"Mom, what's oral sex?

Now it seems that when faced with such questions (which never, ever come at good times or with proper lead in) you can either refuse to answer, lie or tell the truth.

I stalled for time. Where, I asked, did you hear such a thing (I was immediately trying to figure out what friend I could blame)?

It's in Newsweek, he said. It was. Not kid reading! I said (obviously, too late). Ben said he'd been reading about the presidential candidates (a recent obsession) but he'd also (obviously) read about a girl forced into the sex trade.

"I don't want to talk about it," I said. How's that for good parenting? It was, however, so very, very true.

But that sort of thing doesn't work with Ben the pit bull. Maybe there was a good out, a good way to avoid explaining this to my 9-year-old. But I couldn't think of it, not on my feet like that.

And I'm no good at lying. Plus, I had never taken that tack before when it came to sex questions. So the truth. Well, um. I was vague as I could be, but he still said, "That's disgusting." Maybe that's good.

Another issue of Newsweek was in the mail that evening. I put it right in our room. He can go back to reading Sports Illustrated Kids or Highlights or something meant for KIDS!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sporting life in photos

Soccer and baseball - or our busy Saturday mornings.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

You must be 4 or 5, right?

Sunday was my mom's birthday, so the kids and I called to wish her well. Ben chatted with her first, then Kisae insisted on taking a turn.

"Happy birthday, Grandma," she said in her cute, little voice.

This was followed by: "You four or five?" Apparently in her universe, these are the only viable options.

I heard my mom laugh and say "68!"

Saturday, April 19, 2008

"I like a bird, up in the sky!" Kisae jumps off the diving board

Kisae loved water almost from the moment she came home. So it wasn't really a surprise -- nor a credit to anything we did -- that she learned to swim like a champ last summer at age 2 and 1/2.

We recently did a four-session swim class just as a refresher. On the last day, she jumped off the diving board, three times in a row. Each time, she landed in the water, swam to her teacher and then said, "Again!"

Of course (argh!) I did not have my camera with me.

When we got home she told Jim, "I go diving board all by myself. I like a bird, up in the sky!"

(photos - top, spring 2008. middle, summer 2007, bottom, summer 2006).

Our Sporting Life

Kisae had her soccer debut last weekend. I'll have to post photos later, but of course she was cute in her uniform and baggy soccer shorts. She was a little nervous -- she's among the youngest on her team and in her little division - but she played. She didn't cry, as some of her teammates did, just seemed a bit unnerved by the bigger, more aggressive kids.

Her big interest in playing soccer is that the rest of us would sit and watch her. I guess after 18 months of watching Ben's games (soccer, flag football and now baseball), she figured she was due. "Mommy watch me, Daddy watch me, Ben watch me. Whole fambely!"

Trouble is the whole "fambely" couldn't make her debut because Ben's baseball game was at the exact same time, on another field, in another part of the city. Ugh. So this past weekend, we thought we were good to go. Ben's game was moved to Friday night, so Saturday morning would be all Kisae. Except just as we were about to leave the house Saturday, we got a call. Game canceled, thanks to a broken water pipe under the field. Argh. We will try again in another week.

In the meantime, I ponder this: Why do some mothers put giant (and I do mean giant) floppy bows in their daughters' hair for soccer games? It always looks to me like they are desperately saying, "She's still feminine! She's still a girl!" Maybe that's not fair. Maybe they always put big floppy bows in their daughter's hair. But I don't get why it's a soccer accessory.

And this is why sometimes being a working mom is just no fun: I was stuck at work late on Friday and missed half of Ben's baseball game. And it was in that first half that my kid hit his first-ever home run! He told me about it later, how he had smacked the ball down the right field line, how it rolled to the fence and how he rounded all the bases.

Jim was there, Kisae was there. He was sorry I missed it but hardly devasted (in fact, and not surprisingly, he was a bit cocky). Still, I wish I'd seen that hit.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

patience (needing some)

Later, these things are sometimes funny. Like the morning of that lovely Spring Break day at the beach really wasn't so lovely. We barely got out of the house on time -- the early part of our outing was a school science club event that had a set start time -- and when I went into the kids' bathroom I found hair everywhere. Huh? Hair? Why is there hair all over?

Oh, Ben said, I cut my hair. I'm not even sure I could articulate a response. It seems some of his hair was sticking out, so, well, he cut it off (and now 2 weeks later it is sticking up even worse, but that's another issue, I guess). Isn't this something 3 year olds do? Couldn't he at least clean up after himself?

In the end there was no real harm done and some where along I-4, I calmed down. Patience. Need more.

So tonight, I needed another dose. Ben loves to read. This is a good thing. This is a thing that makes me really, really happy. He is truly a reader, a kid who plows through books, takes them in the car, reads them at breakfast and hates when I tell him it's bedtime and he needs to stop reading. This drives me crazy, of course, as he acts like wanting him to get a decent night sleep makes me the worst mom ever -- sometimes he even says as much.

It makes for a lousy way to end the night. But probably in the morning I'll have my sweet boy back, at least until I tell him to stop reading and get ready for school.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

African Reading Challenge

This idea (started here) was posted on the CHSFS adoption forum a few weeks ago, and I was immediately intrigued. The idea is to read six books in 2008 that either were written by African authors or are about Africa. You're suppose to pick books from a variety of African countries, though my selections are a little Ethiopia heavy. Anyway, here are my six, though a few may change:

1)Notes from the Hyena's Belly: An Ethiopian Boyhood by Nega Mezlekia (Ethiopia)
2)The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu (Ethiopia)
3)28: Stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie Nolen
4)Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria) In 10th grade social studies we were assigned to read 1/2 of this book, if I recall. Half a book??!! The same was true for The Good Earth, I think, though I just finished that anyway. So I think this classic deserves another chance.
5)A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (Sierra Leone)
6)Held at a Distance: A Rediscovery of Ethiopia by Rebecca Haile (Ethiopia).

(Kisae and I at the Muger River Gorge in Ethiopia, July, 2006)

Asking why I brown? But seeming happy to be so

Kisae has asked me several times in the last few weeks, "Why I brown?" She hasn't asked but, of course, I wonder if she is thinking the corollary, Why are you guys so pale?

I've told her that people come in many colors (though she then asked if there are blue people. Well, no, not that many colors). And I've told her that she is brown because her birth parents are brown. It's hard to know at age 3 how much of this sinks in.

That Chakisae won't feel good about the way she looks is one of my fears about transracial parenting. We think she is the most beautiful little girl imaginable. Really, she just takes our breath away. But will she see things that way? Or only that she doesn't look like us?

So I know these are very small incidents but both made me happy. I was doing Chakisae's hair, so she was watching PBS Kids. There was a PSA by a staff member of our local PBS station. This woman happened to be black. Kisae pointed to her and said, "Her pretty girl."

Yes, I said, she is. Silly, perhaps, but I was so happy that she saw that black woman as pretty (and yeah, we'll work on that thing about calling grown woman girls later :) ).

Then Ben was playing with his Wii and created virtual versions of the family. Kisae wanted one of these Miis, so he did one for her. He picked the brown skin color (she didn't object), but asked her how she wanted her hair. She smiled, put her hands on her cute twists and said, "Like this!"
Now maybe she didn't quite get that she could have picked something that wasn't true to life, but still I was happy she hadn't been immediately drawn to something blond, straight or otherwise unlike her lovely, dark curls.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ben turns 9

Ben turned 9 this week. It didn't throw me too much (okay, just a little), maybe because I'm just saving to be really thrown when he turns 10. (10! My baby is going to be 10! Wait, next year, not now).

Or maybe because those moments when you are really thrown by how in the blink of an eye your child has gone from baby to boy come more unexpectedly. Like that day last summer in the pool when I looked up to watch Ben jump off the diving board. Only he didn't just jump, he did a flip. And all summer he practiced those flips and got better and each time I had the sense that I was literally watching my kid fly away from me. Flips? How can he be big enough, coordinated enough to do flips?

Anyway, his birthday was on a school day, so we stayed home but he's going to have a party with friends next weekend. I let him pick the menu for dinner. His choices: Hungarian goulash with noodles, mango ("for my fruit," he said) and cream soda. So that's what we had (well Kisae and I skipped the cream soda). We jointly settled on chocolate fondue for dessert, which he had with pound cake, strawberries and pineapple. Very tasty.

He was so excited that it was his birthday that in the morning he put on a polo shirt with his shorts instead of the usual t-shirt. Then he asked me if I liked what he was wearing. Yup, I did.

And, despite our reservations, he got that long-wished for Wii (it had been his top Christmas request but we could not find one anywhere, perhaps because we were so conflicted about the darn thing that we started looking way too late).

As I was already looking through my little notebook, in honor of Ben's 9th, here are 9 Ben quotes that still make me smile.

On his sister: "She's so funny, and she keeps me company and nobody can deny her cuteness." Aug. 2007

On the tooth fairy story: "Tell me the absolute, honest truth." March, 2006.

On my request that he not talk so much in his kindergarten class: "But Mommy, I have so much to say." Spring, 2005

On my singing: "Everybody is good at something. Singing isn't one of your main talents." July, 2005.

On football: "How come they call it football when you hardly ever use your foot?" November, 2005

On a chandelier we saw at Costco: "I wish we were that fancy." July, 2004

On his parents: "Daddy, can I tell you something? Do you know how much I love you and Mommy? As much as the universe." July, 2004.

On why he seemed to be scowling during his soccer game: "I'm just making my tough face, Daddy." March, 2003

On wondering about himself: "Could you go flat if you play with your belly button too much?" February, 2003

Spring Break in photos

So on Ben's Spring Break we spent a few days (crazy though it was) at the Nickelodeon Hotel.
The kids and I (Jim had to go back to work) also spent one lovely day at Cape Canaveral National Seashore, which I think is my favorite close-to-Orlando beach.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Why the bunchy pocket title?

I was a bit stumped on a blog name. Didn't want our last names or anything too sappy. Jim suggested I find something funny one of the kids had said. This prompted me to pull out the little notebook I keep in the kitchen to make note of such things (occupational hazard, I guess).

So I read lots of funny Ben quotes (got a lot more from him, obviously) and came across, "Mommy, I told you a million times 'NO BUNCHY POCKETS!" This was when he was in the throes of his most-insane clothes period (yeah, I know lots of kids have these sensory issues and, really, I did try to be accommodating when possible but in the moment -- when you're toddler is yelling, "my pants not working!" -- it all seems pretty insane).

He only wanted "super slick socks" and "fake-button pants," as non-slick socks and real buttons (and God forbid zippers or snaps) drove him crazy. So did tags. So I cut them out, of t-shirts, shorts and even from a pair of underwear -- while he was wearing it. That I neither drew blood nor ruined the underwear is probably one of my finest parenting accomplishments. I did not know about "bunchy pockets," however, until that morning when he came out of his room in a near fury. And even if I knew about this issue, how the heck was was I suppose to know if the shorts had pockets that bunched? It's not like I could try on a pair of size 5T and assess. Sheesh.

Jim often says that parenting makes him feel like his life is being run by small, crazy tyrants. Yeah, it's not a democracy around here, and we try hard to be the parents. But still the craziness often triumphs. And somehow "No Bunchy Pockets" just sums that up.

Joining the blogging world

I've been thinking about it for awhile (and even started, and then abandoned, a blog two years ago) and figured I'd finally give it a shot.

Maybe because I must blog for work, so I've kinda gotten into blogging but thought it might be fun to try it when I wasn't so constrained by, well, work.

Maybe because these two leave me so many stories, or exasperating moments, I want to record (like this on the way home the other day -- Ben: Mom, can I get a skunk? Kisae: Pee-U! No Skunk! Ben: Kisae, they take the smell out! Me: No. Ben: But why? Kisae: Pee-U! No Skunk!).