Parenting Feels: First Times

It’s always the heaviest rain happens in the minutes during school drop-off, or pick-up. I’m thinking this as rain pours down my back from the tilting off my umbrella, unable to hold it steady while I juggle closing the two others. My 3rd grader and 1st grader are several minutes gone. I don’t even remember if they waved good-bye before being swallowed into the anonymity of hundreds shoes squeaking on the linoleum floors. I walked Elliot to his room the first two days of 1st grade, then he didn’t need me. I walked Zach to his class only on the first day, not because he needed–or wanted–me to, but because those bags of classroom supplies are heavy.

I’m not even thinking about it until I see a red-eyed woman hurry past, and then Oh, It’s the first official day of school for the kinders.

The Feels between Zach’s first day of kindergarten and Elliot’s first day? Different.

The kind of different that twists just the tiniest bit of guilt. It always be harder, I think, navigating those First Feels, which will largely belong to Zach. I hope that doesn’t make Elliot think I am less attached to him. He’ll get his First, many long years from now. Or not so long.

Once they left the baby/toddler stage, it became harder to see time passing in changes to their faces. I’m with them every day, there is more subtlety in the changes to their appearance now: taller, longer hair, shorter hair, missing teeth, new teeth. Dr. Who wasn’t talking about parenting, but it applies here: It’s a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff.What I can’t measure in my own kids sneaks in from other sources. From my first nephew starting high school this year; my former boss’s 2-year-old also in high school; a former co-worker’s two-seconds-ago 5-year-old who has somehow skipped all of the years in between to freshman year of college.

The faint, smokey smell of time burning, blown away before it can settle.

I know it will happen in an instant, the moment, that final First, when my last child leaves home. That will be the First time those First Feels will belong to Elliot. Bless his heart, I hope he’s ready for them.


Air Force One

President Obama traveled to Chapel Hill today, which means Air Force One landed at RDU. After dropping Z at school, I asked E if he might want to take a little ride, maybe see some planes.

And… 3 hours later, we got to see Airforce One take off– totally cool. Because I’m a dork.

Most of this adventure from Elliot’s POV? Perhaps not as exhilarating, though he met bunches of new friends to play with, so all was not lost.

A pictorial representation of a 3 year old’s first Air Force One sighting
Why does Mom keep laughing and mumbling about “seeing the Force through the trees”.

Is there something Starwars going on over there? Nope, just some blue plane.

Now, that guy has a big camera. Let’s make faces at him.

I believe someone told me not to climb this…

I hate the wind. I hate the cold. I hate planes. Why won’t she take me home? Are there snacks in this giant suitcase thing? Dammit, not even a crumb. Perhaps it can double as a blanket? Since I have negative 25% body fat. UNLIKE THE WOMAN WITH THE CAR KEYS UP THERE.

Ahhhh… a windbreak over here in General Aviation. And a GIANT plane. Why exactly where we on the other side, freezing our arses off?

An ADHD 35 year old’s take on seeing Airforce one for the first time.

Oh cool, a tail fin
Refrain from inserting a hundred photos taken of randomness; because I could, and because I was bored.

Hello Mr. Not-Fancy Pants Photographer with a Press Pass. I’m taakkiinnnggg your piccctttuuurreee.

Wait. Scooter Man with Guitar? HAS ANYONE CHECKED TO MAKE SURE THAT’S NOT A SAWED OFF SHOTGUN? Because who rides a scooter to the airport?

A bunch of cars
See those teeny-tiny lights over the building? That would be the presidential motorcade. Which JB saw in traffic on his way to pick up Z from preschool. 30 feet away. Did he take a picture with his smart phone? Nnooooo….. *sob*

Finally, I see the end of my own boredom, when what do I hear from down below? From a tiny voice that is now wrapped in his coat, and my jacket, and using my purse as a blanket?

Mommy, I really have to pee

Y’all. I looked at him and thought– just for a second–

how bad would it be to let him just wet his pants?

Then I shook off asshole-mom– because what mom would do that?– and took the child to the bathroom.

And still made it out in time to see Air Force One taxi down the runway.

I can’t help it– every time I see one of them I start singing “here come the men in black”.

Then a little field trip over to General Aviation, because the motorcade vehicles roll separate plane, y’all. Of course, I kept calling this a C-130, which it’s not. Thank google for the correction– U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III .

It’s like watching a tiny fish swim past an orca.

I’m not sure how this random family got a tour of the plane, but having your picture taken by the pilot of this massive beast kicks ass!

This plane has nothing to do with anything, but I love how the picture turned out, so here ya go.

His New Imaginary Friend?

E has a new imaginary friend. Well, y’all tell me– does a dead guy count as imaginary? Or is the Smallest of the Small People seeing Dead People?

My Dad hated getting his picture taken. I’m unsure whether this was a lifelong thing, some kind of post-Vietnam freak out, or if he really thought that the camera ate a bit of your soul everytime the flash popped. The latter being the straight-faced reason given for not wanting to be photographed. For the picture in this frame, however, the Man Who Caught Big Fish won the battle over the Man Who No Like Pictures.

I got excited when I found it, not because of the fish, but because all of the other pictures that Zach has seen of my father were taken in 1976-1980. And because I’m a moron, it didn’t occur to me until much later that seeing young me with young Phil would start spark a bevy of mortality anxiety in poor Mr. Z’s brain.

But I am, and it did. An older picture of Grandpa Phil– proving that the man had indeed survived my childhood and teen years– seemed just the ticket.

That Elliot would become freakishly attached to said picture, carrying it around to various locations about the house, only to finally settle it facing his chair at the dining room table? Who could have predicted that?

I mean, he talks to him.

He decides G-pa Phil needs his own chair, thus the chair became a table.

“What” he says to me?

It’s surreal, yet funny. Unlike the very difficult questions that Zach always has for me about death and dying, Elliot is just sharing his life with the Man Who Caught Big Fish.

I might be using G-pa Phil’s current celebrity status for other things. C’mon now, if deepening my voice and saying “Please taste your shrimp, Elliot” will make the child taste new things? I have no shame, people. Now if a child just sits there with already-been-chewed-but-refuses-to-swallow shrimp in his mouth, prompting a frustrated temper tantrum from his mother? Followed by a mother who then totally shifts the blame for that temper loss on a dead man in a picture? Well, that would just be so wrong. Who would do such a thing?


Elliot, Mom is Sappy Today

Elliot, mom is sappy today.

My second son. My baby. But–as you are insisting and I am realizing–you stopped being a baby a while ago. You’ve been on this earth for 20 months, 13 days. It’s completely surreal for me to look at you now and remember that you it wasn’t so long ago that you were an an 11.8 pound, 6 month old.

I should have known from the moment of your birth that you’d do things your own way. Labor was quick–we arrived at L&D at 6am and you were born at 7:20-ish. Epidural? Nah, Elliot wasn’t interested in waiting. Nor was I. I believe I responded to the nurse’s edict to “not push until the doctor arrived” with a “fuck you, someone better get down there to catch.” Doctor got there and caught. Yes, he charged us full-price.

You were a tiny thing, with a dimple in your right cheek and baby blue eyes that didn’t turn. I was grateful to you for being a reasonable 7 lbs. since it made that unintentional natural childbirth much easier. That and the lovely nurse in training who had just finished an elective class on Lamaze. Since I hadn’t even bothered to watch a YouTube video on breathing techniques, he was most useful. His name was Mark and you were his first birth. Someone else who will never forget you.

November and December 2008

Hummus- 1; Elliot- 0

In some ways you are easier than your brother. From the beginning you put yourself to sleep. I can count on one hand the times you’ve “requested” that I rock you to sleep. You started attending playdates at 5 days old–totally passed out in a Moby Wrap. You didn’t poo a whole lot, which made cloth diapering a breeze and was deemed normal breastfeeding behavior. We wouldn’t find out about your food allergies until later.

You loved staring at shadows. You’d just lay there and stare. You definitely let me know–loudly–when you were quite done with Elliot-alone-time. You still do.

January/February 2009.

In many ways you are harder. My child, you and I share a lot of the same personality traits. Words that would not be used to describe us; laid-back, patient, and easy-going. Your father and brother are those people. We are not those people. I can see struggles in our future, because I’ve lived those struggles in the past. We have a battle of will every day. I assume I’m still winning, though probably not as often as I think. You’ve finally started to get the whole “learn/use words” thing, for which we are grateful. I chuckle every time I hear you yell “no,no,no,no,MINE, SHOO” to Zach when he’s trying to re-appropriate your toy. Zach isn’t as pleased with your verbal progress.

Your curiosity gets you in the stuck in the damnedest places. You see a mountain and start a plan on how to climb it. You are tenacious and driven. Redirection has always been more of a challenge with you. You’ve been chasing the big kids since you could move. Now you almost always catch up.

Stubborn, Tenacious and Driven are also Attributes

All of that is a nice way of saying that you can drive a person crazy, turn an entire head of hair to gray, and disappear in less than 2 minutes. You did stuff at a year that your brother didn’t think of until he was 2.5. Because you had your brother to learn from.

You are determine to boldly go where you haven’t been before.

To Boldy Go

Elliot, you might be little but you have never let your size stop you. Ever. I laugh each and every time someone gives me that look. It’s the one I’ve gotten your entire life from moms who don’t know you: “Oh my, bless her heart, look at that mom letting her 6 month old (when you were a year) climb up that slide.” I love smiling so sweetly at them when you proceed to climb/slide/ride/run/hold-your-own-with-big-kids. Because you, my dear boy, are deceptively strong. Not just that, you are also full of joie de vivre. And sometimes you are full of piss and vinegar.

The Many Faces of Elliot

Cardboard Box Train

If you are a person with a son who loves train, an overactive imagination, and not enough things to keep occupied during those long afternoon naps, you probably get in the same kind of trouble that I do. The trouble that revolves around having ideas and making plans off those ideas. Perhaps you think of building a playhouse train out of a cardboard box in your kids’ playroom closet.

Or perhaps you don’t. But I do, and did.

My inspiration came from the local kid’s museum—they have all kinds of static play-on structures; ambulances, boats, etc. I thought about my love of upcycling. I thought of the large wardrobe boxes (had to buy these)…I thought of silver paint (had lots of this)…I thought of a fake driver seat (had one of these, too). I thought of everything.

Well, not everything. I didn’t remember that you can’t paint oil-based paint over water-based paint and expect adhesion, especially not when the painting surface is cardboard. Nope, I didn’t think of that until after I fighting with the installation of the train roof and noticed I had silver fingers.

I have once again been foiled by the ADHD and my attention-to-detail problem.

Even had the paint not rubbed off and the end result of my idea was an actual train, I spent far more time on this than I intended. My original estimate was that it would take about 5 hours—to include paint/dry times—to create a square train from two boxes.

Well, the train wasn’t going to be square (mistake number 1) because I told a certain Small Person what I was doing (mistake number 2) and he got all excited and said SIR JOHN?, and I agreed (mistake number 3). Giving a rough guesstimate, I would say the whole thing took 16 hours. Not 16 hours of actual work, I’m billing some time to “thinking” (my former co-workers will remember this work-code). I spent about 10 minutes being really annoyed by the dismal end, and then I got over it.

Because regardless of there being no fancy silver train—I have another wardrobe box. They can use their own imaginations and pretend it’s a train. No further involvement from me is necessary. It’s only what I should have done to begin with…had my own imagination not gotten the best of me!

Now…my real fantasy is to build a train-shaped playhouse in the back yard. I think I’ll wait until the silver dust settles to bring that idea up with Joel.

The End of Quarantine

Tuesday, Day 4
Mildly sick-ish kids–low fever and snot, but they’d have to like a person in the eye to spread any germs. Off to the Cary train station before the end of quarantine.

They have lots of cool stuff—like route maps.

A bench with an older man who spent more than several minutes playing pass the paper with Elliot.

Instead of being punk’D, I was ADHD’ d and managed to insult the game-playing stranger. If a clinical definition for social Tourette’s Syndrome doesn’t already exist, it should. I don’t even remember how I managed to transition an innocuous conversation about plane vs train travel into a Yankee crack. In Cary. Cary, the city that is (lovingly) referred to as the Corral Area for Relocated Yankees. Thankfully, the train arrived soon after, saved by the…whistle?

In the afternoon Zach and I made play dough. I even let him stir it on the hot stove stove, with burner on super low.

Oh gracious, he could have burned himself! What if he ended up in the ER. Said with all of the Southern-ness of, Bless your heart, you moron. Why ever would you let let your 3.5 near the hot stove?)

I have to constantly remind myself (and a few others) that Zach is not as spastic as Elliot. Activities that Elliot can’t do–both because he’s Elliot and he’s only 18 months old–Zach can do, just fine.

Also, for anyone who thinks that homeschooled kids don’t learn as much as schooled children…let me point out a few of the conventional topics I taught to my 3.5 year old.


      Review of capital versus lowercase letters.


    Reading–recognize simple words, learn new words.


      Review of whole number ID


      Introduction to fractions–1 cup of flour versus 1/2 cup of flour


    Counting–3 cups of water


      What is energy–for cooking, the energy is heat


      Phases of matter–How does energy affect the matter? Liquid starts to solidify


    Describe the some of the differences between a liquid and a semi-solid

All of that looks like formal learning to me. And we got some playdough out of it. 😉

Then there are the points that I re-learned, too

      A kid who goes more than a little crazy after


      red dye #40 will have the same reaction he uses it with bare hands to color his dough orange.


    Food coloring is more water resistant than Crayola paint

Wednesday, Day 5.
Yet another regularly scheduled playdate that we are missing. The fevers broke on Tuesday night, so they were both feeling better, which meant they were antsy. It’s hard to explain the 24-hour-without-fever rule to Small People. We were all bored and getting annoyed with each other.

A random bag of hidden (from them, not me) toys provided a happy diversion when tossed into rubbermaid containers of moonsand.

We ended up having a spontaneous–and quick–birthday party for several members of the Stuffed Animal crew. Complete with cake (bread, cream cheese, and fresh strawberry preserves) and pointy birthday hats. Take that, Tea Party.

Even though hanging out with them turned out to be a lot more fun than I anticipated we are happy to be rejoined in the healthy world of with the other Small (and adult) People.

Mud and Grubs

I participate in the unschooling method of preschool. For us, this means we learn about new topics as they come up and not as part of a formal plan. In reality it just means I haven’t been so great finishing all of the ideas I’ve gotten from other moms. No matter.

As a side note, if one of you super-motivated folks could start a preschool-question-wiki, that would be awesome.

I am desperate to rid my yard of pesky vermin, including voles, grubs of various sizes, and slugs. Zach likes learning stuff and he definitely loves bugs. We did lots and lots of science today. And some letter-writing (mud + stick = awesome). Mostly I took this perfect opportunity to teach Zach about the life-cycle of beetles, cementing his legacy of grub-hatred. Then he helps me hunt ‘em by digging with his shovel, yellow mud-boots, and little plastic bucket. When he gets bored he goes and plays king of the mountain or splashes in the mud. I keep the bucket.

Elliot wanders. Mostly he just enjoys having his own king of the water table time. He sneaks some drinks here and there—I have to keep him in my line of sight. But at least he isn’t face-diving in it anymore. Progress!

That said, I screwed up today when I took them for a wagon ride around the block. After we got back they wanted to play in the backyard. Zach changed into the rain(mud) boots first, but I forgot to change Elliot’s shoes. This was bound to happen—and it’s the real reason I cringed over paying $40 bucks for a pair of damn shoes. E’s small though, and clothes are lasting longer for him, so I had hoped to have more time with those shoes.

Well, I didn’t change the expensive pair for the dirt shoes. They played in a hole that we dug yesterday. A wet, clay hole. See where I am going with this and the expensive shoes? Stride Rite claims they are washable–I guess we are going to find out.

It was still fun. And totally worth it. Check out one of our birds eating at the Grub-Bucket-Buffet!

What I didn’t get for Valentine’s Day…

this year was pregnant again.  Phew.  You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but I’ve gotten pregnant on love day not once, but twice.

Our first pregnancy (2006) was as much of an accident as two well-educated people can claim.  I mean, we knew where unprotected sex could lead, but according to my uber-regular schedule we were as safe as can be.  Except the sperm that would create one-half of Zach wanted desperately to fertilize that egg, and thus hung around for five extra days or so.  On the other hand, maybe it was just lost and refused to ask for directions–it did carry male DNA.  Or stopped for a magazine and a cup of coffee.  Who knows?

Fast forward to February 14, 2008.  The older that Zach got (ha–old at 14 months) the less I wanted to start over again with a newborn.  We tentatively talked about maybe trying to get pregnant again.  I assumed that being older, heavier, and the new host for a few ovarian cysts that it would take longer to get pregnant a second time.

After a delicious dinner out—sans existing kid—we did what attached people all over the world do on Valentine’s Day.  For the second time ever (except during pregnancy) we did the deed without a condom.  Even though we were technically trying, I wussed out after that one time and we went back to using protection.  Alas it was too late, and 5 weeks later yet another positive pregnancy test stared at me from the bathroom counter.

This year we celebrated Valentine’s Day with me wearing the ugliest jogging pant/t-shirt combo I could find.  I didn’t shave my legs.  My husband ate ice cream.  We watched basketball.  This might not sound romantic to anyone else, but I have gotten really attached to not nursing every two hours, which by definition, also includes that whole getting regular sleep thing.

A small part of my Fertile Myrtle biology tries to plant little seeds of newborn-baby longing.   I don’t have to work too hard to declare that part clinically insane.   Thankfully, I have an ongoing supply of pregnant friends available to scratch that newborn-baby itch without having to, you know, have another one.  We are done having kids and Joel has an appointment with the snip-snip doctor next week.

We did make purty babies though.

Dear Cap’n Crusty,

From the moment that those two pushes (un-medicated, on accident) brought you into the world, and I saw those big blue eyes and that dimple, I was utterly and foolishly in love.

We’ve suspected blocked tear ducts since your 1-month appointment.  You were always a little crusty.  In the beginning we were battling so many other issues (failure to thrive, allergies, etc.) that crusty eye snot simply didn’t hit the radar. Plus, lots of infants have blocked tear ducts—they usually open up all by themselves.

Over the past several months, those blocked ducts progressed from a little goopy crust to a prolific production of green crust resulting in annoying comments from strangers.

“Poor baby, is that pink eye?”  Said while snatching children behind a force field created by hand sanitizer.

“Oh, do you need a kleenex?”*

*Let me pause for a minute here.  Thank you, random stranger, for thinking I might have missed the dried, green mucous under my son’s eyes.  I assure you that I not only noticed the problem, but I also spend a fair amount of time correcting it.  However, since the child cries every time he sees a washcloth headed in his general direction, and being that it is the TEAR ducts that are blocked, making him cry every 15 minutes is counterproductive.  Since it’s the tears that produces the crust to begin with. *

But Elliot, not being the one to do anything the easy way, the membranes of your ducts did not spontaneously clear.  This past November, at your 12-month appointment, the pediatrician referred us to an ophthalmologist.  He took one look and scheduled surgery.  For 5:30 am.  On a Saturday.  Urgh.

Anytime I need to be somewhere early I don’t sleep well.  Factor that into my 15 month old getting a small wire with a teeny-tiny balloon on the end inserted into his tear ducts while under general anesthesia, after $1100 co-pay (spending that much money before 6 am should be illegal), and I am a tired and cranky human this evening.

The whole surgery/recovery part took about 30 minutes.  Let me repeat, 30 minutes.  How much did we have to pay up front again?  For 30 minutes?  Really.  I guess ophthalmologists have something in common with plumbers and mechanics.


You looked like this when you woke up from nap yesterday.

You looked like this when you came home.

Granted, you look a lot like a crackhead coming off a binge, or a seriously hung-over college student, but the goop is gone.  I laugh thinking that the nurse told me you’d likely have no appetite for the rest of the day.  Considering you polished off an entire english muffins with cream cheese, after eating an apple and drinking 8 oz of milk I guess you are a hungry drunk.

Bloody tears are also normal.  You’ve had a few of those today.  I considered taking a picture, but it creeped me out and I decided not all memories need to be persevered.


Reading  a “booh” (translation, book) both fascinates and delights Elliot.  An equal-opportunity lover of books, he even refrains from eating them.  Most of the time.

The love of reading is my family thing.  My Mom loves to read, as did my Grandfather.  I’ve been reading since I was three (apparently my mother’s answer to no-naps was for her to sleep while I read out loud).

I demonstrate my love of reading every day, thanks to my ever-growing obsession with faery/vampire/preternatural “literature”.   Before you judge my tendency toward literary smut, I’d like to point out that, in this instance, what I’m reading matters not since neither of them can–you know–read.

I used to spend all of my free time arguing politics via online debate forums, but it was killing my blood pressure, so I went back to books.  I showed my three year old that there is no greater power for the imagination than the written word.  Zach has sat quietly “reading” since he was six months old.  I have evidence–the pictures below are at 6 months and at 18 months, respectively.

He will now sit quietly reading “floppy books” (i.e., books with easily ripped pages therefore not-to-be-shared-with-younger-brother) spelling out the words he knows and trying to sound out the words he doesn’t.  I glow with pride.

For my youngest, however, reading presents more challenge than hobby.  Desperate to speak English—everyone keeps doing it around him, much to his disgust—he yells “BOOH” while head-butting whatever part of me he can reach.  If I should dare to try and delay reading said “BOOH” he redirects his energies into a glorious tantrum. Have you ever tried to continue to read while a small person screams and kicks the floor?  It’s most distracting.

I came up with a plan when Zach began to recite the words to Brown Bear with me one afternoon.

Me: “Hey, why don’t you read this book to Elliot”

Zach: “No”

Me: “Oh, c’mon.  You know all of the words.  You read to him, I’ll read to myself, and we’ll all be reading…together.”

Zach—walking away: “No, I doesn’t want to.”

Elliot: “BOOH”

Well, dammit.

Me: “Brown bear, brown bear…”