Recently Said

The other evening Keegan was playing with his hair in the mirror after his bath. He had brushed it into a mess and it was sticking out every which way.

He said, “I look like a girl who has already worked out at the gym today.”

I couldn’t not laugh. I was curious so I asked, “Keegan, where did you hear that?” He said, “You. You’re the girl.”

Motherhood; Teaching Pride

Not to get all sappy, but today has been a truly joyous day with my son. No one was over-tired, no one had impulsively cut holes in their socks with their new red scissors, no one had been bullied at school, no one was asking impossible questions.

It all began with rain, rain which disallowed the status quo, the status quo which was to play on the playground after school. Now, considering my son is the third youngest of 22 kids in his class, and he’s only one of 4 veterans that were previously indoctrinated into Montessori civility, playground time hasn’t always gone smoothly this year.

It began with rain. We rushed to the car, and being a Friday we had the blue folder of his work for the week. Every Friday, parents are to empty the work from the week and then return the folder on Monday. He sat in his carseat. I climbed in the back seat with him and shut the door against the rain, and he began pulling out his work, telling me in detail what every single page was all about. Some pages were alphabet connect the dots; on one he noticed he’d skipped “I” and we had to talk about how that was really OK. Some pages were coloring pages and he told me about the colors he chose, always some colors he chose for Daddy and some for Mommy. He showed me the stencil inset designs he had made, which I know he is incredibly proud of because he’d been watching the older kids do stencil insets last year.

Then, he showed me a couple of frail pages of tracing paper with the cursive (!) alphabet written on them in a shaky hand. (He’s three!) I knew he had traced the letters since it was the first cursive I’d seen from him, and the lines were really straight, and it was tracing paper. So I said, “Oh, you traced letters in cursive. I’m so proud of you! That’s new work, right?” (So far, all of his handwriting work had not been cursive.) He looked at me and said “I didn’t trace them. I wrote them all myself from my head.” Well, we know this wasn’t exactly true. I told him “I am so proud of you. This is such wonderful work.” He grinned so hugely it made me melt. I had to give him tons of kisses.

Yes, take pride in your work. The best feeling is seeing your child have pride in his own accomplishments. I want to encourage him to be prideful, because I want to encourage him to have self worth, to value his pursuits in all aspects of his life. Sure, pride on some level is supposedly to be a sin, but if cultivated in the right way, in the right aspect of the self, it is a life force. Live for what you know is true and good and right and have pride in yourself for doing so. So many of us, especially women, let things happen in the world that we know are wrong because we don’t take pride in our own morals and beliefs. I do not want to raise my son to just let things happen, whether they are to himself or other people. I want to raise him to be a brave and loyal man who will stand up for what is right when he sees a wrong being committed, who will follow what is right when the wrong is tempting, who will be able to trust his immediate assessment of the difference between the two in any given situation, wholly. This all begins with having pride in ones self.

In his one bout of moodiness, he did request that I “please turn off the news so he could have some quiet” on the ride home. He asked in such a reasonable way that I did turn off the NPR. But, after a few seconds of quiet he put a hat on of his that was randomly in the backseat; it was blue, black and gray. “Guess what I am?” He asked. My guesses were wrong. “I’m a policeman,” he said, “An adult policeman!” Well, he did have on all dark blue: his uniform pants, and that hat.

Once we got home we played a lengthy pretend-game dictated by him, which had something to do with “checking our website” to “see what we earned.” Now, I know he doesn’t understand the intricacies of affiliate marketing. Checking the website had to do with peering at a piece of paper on which he had sketched a geometric design, then making checks on it with a marker. This was “seeing what we earned,” but then he turned and asked me “Mommy, what does earned mean?” So I tried to explain earning gold stars at school and earning money at work.

Then, knowing we had a birthday party to go to the next day, I pulled out the brown paper bag he needed to decorate for the party gift. I was floored by his consideration for the girl the gift was for: “Do you think she’d like Pooh stickers, or ladybugs, or honeypot, or, What do you think she would like BEST?” I told him he could put as many stickers on the bag as he wanted. He also drew, cut out, and pasted a few shapes. My error was trying to write Happy Birthday on the bag. Keegan screamed “NO! I want to do it.” He went and got me a fine black pen and asked me to write Happy Birthday lightly. Then, he traced each letter, painstakingly, with a purple marker. He was almost finished when he said, “I am so tired of this, can you finish it?” I said, “Honey, it is only four more letters. You can do it, and it will be all done by you.” He finished the tracing and we sealed up the bag.

We made dinner together, he sitting on the kitchen counter. We sauteed mushrooms and made organic mushroom mac ‘n cheese. He cut the cheese pack open and poured it in. He picked out his own dip for his carrots. Out of the ten choices we had he chose ketchup. He had peaches too, asking why don’t they please sell peach juice in big jars just like orange juice. Sorry, kiddo.

After dinner was bath time, which he always likes. He even washes his hair by himself now. It’s amazing how they grow in leaps and bounds; it feels like just yesterday I was trying to convince him to use the potty. After his bathtime he always likes to play the exact same game that goes along with getting dried and dressed. It’s a no-fail thing; ALWAYS this is the routine. I bundle him up in his oversized towel and he requests I put him on his bed and make sure all his parts are covered so he is bundled up like and egg. Then he requests (while hiding under his towel) that I make driving noises and go to the doctor to have the doctor hatch my baby. So, I make the driving noises, I arrive at the doctor, and then Keegan dramatically hatches out of his egg and clings to me talking in baby talk. Luckily, I have convinced him that newly born babies need to get dressed right away in awesome undies and jammies. Then he picks out four books, but keeping with his ‘baby’ role, he will only sound out a couple of the syllables of the titles phonetically, then look at me at little mischieviously to see if I’ll get what he’s talking about. Yes, I know you mean Harlold!

Once we cozy up for books the baby-act is all gone and it is now all interest in the books. About Harold and the Purple Crayon he at first said, “I am so scared he’s going to get in trouble for writing on the wall!” We’ve been working on explaining pretend premises and artist’s renditions…we’ll see. Then we read The Giving Tree, which is always a little bit sad. Today: “Why is that boy leaving his apple cores on the ground? That’s littering.” These two were followed by Do Unto Otters and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

After teeth brushing, sips of water, potty, and tucking in again, I tried to sing him the only song I ever really sing him, the one that begins with “Hush little baby,” but he requested the “ABCs.” Now, I’m no singer in the first place, so the ABCs over and over and over is not great. But he likes it. After he had his song, we made sure he had his elephant, his lion, and his funny-shaped red stuffed friend. And then we said goodnight and gave each other kisses.

The Words of a Three-Year-Old Boy

Last night, in scandalous fashion, we had breakfast for dinner, which is a low-effort way to please the kiddo while also making sure he gets some solid protein and nutrients from eggs. I made him scrambled eggs and waffles, and served some natural applesauce for good measure. Yes, there were no vegetables on his plate last night, dear lord. He consumed pounds of mushrooms and carrots in the previous week, so I don’t feel too guilty. Anyway, he likes to dip pieces of waffle in honey. We use honey because real maple syrup tastes too strong to him, and trying to find syrup without all sorts of crap in it is near impossible. As I’m trying to relieve a plastic honey-bear of the last bit of honey settled concave in his little upside down head, squeezing him to death, the honey comes out in little blops separated by huge farts of air. Solemnly and seriously, from across the table, Keegan says…

That is the sound my bottom makes sometimes.


Here are some more:

I want to be a policeman when I grow up. No, I want to be a fireman. Oh, [big sigh] I don’t know what I want to be. [You got time.]

That’s okay Mommy. Eric says underpants. [After I apologize for saying a bad word while driving.]

What are you wearing? [Workout clothes.]

Your earrings look like candy. [I was in an 80s mood.]

If you don’t know the names of the children in your class, you can put nametags on them. [Well, my students probably won’t go for that.]

Slow down. You need to lean how to drive. [Said out the car window. Hmmm.]

I will be a super-hero. I’ll be able to get kittens out of trees without even calling the fire department, because I will have super-hero magic to be able to always make a ladder. I’ll be a hero who always has a ladder. So I won’t need to go and get one.

You are so old.

Kid Quotes, Again

That boy sure knows a lot about money. [After watching Brother Bear explain fractions to Sister Bear, on the Berenstein Bears, using quarters.]

I don’t think you’re a teacher because you wear dresses. No teachers wear dresses.

THAT is crazy. [Laughing after I told him I used to work at Target when I was a teenager. Target is probably one of his top ten favorite places in the world.]

We had to raise our hand for peanut butter or chocolate dip for our crackers and banana and I raised my hand for peanut butter, but they gave me CHOCOLATE. I didn’t want chocolate and I know they had more peanut butter. They had two whole jars. I saw them. And I didn’t eat the chocolate because it was spicy. [Oh, the injustice!]

MOMMY! Please help me sew a dress!! [Holding spools of thread, ribbon, beads, and scissors. Sorry to disapppoint you, kiddo.]

Why do grown up girls have these things? [Making circular motions at boob level with his hands.]

I want to be a Batman for Halloween…A Batman that punches.

I fell asleep and my boat hit a rock and water was leaking in, so then I let down my anchor and had to fix it.

Here, you give one of these to your Mommy, Daddy, or Nanny when they pick you up. [Pretend school.]

Mom! My booboo was better but now it’s not and now it has boogers coming out of it. [Loss of first big scab: Eck.]

Mom, look: I’m stuck in traffic. [Sitting completely still in the cardboard car we made.]

The Voice of 3 1/2 Years

When I grow up, I’m going to be a teenager.

I know more things than you. I do.

You shave your legs. Why don’t you shave your arms? Your arms are hairy too.

Can I pee when it’s like this?

I don’t play with him, because he scratches me every single time I just try to say hi.

You pretend you’re drinking beer, and I’ll pretend I’m drinking hot chocolate.

Mom, you need to vacuum. And we need to do the dishes.

Yellow River P— Ranch. Or, What Mommies Do

I’ve been facing the challenges of working from home for a while. Over the last year I’ve had several part-time jobs at once, many of which I could do from home. Since the semester ended, I just finished teaching an English 1101 course. This required me to hold class at Georgia State, but most of the grading and lecture prep took place at home. I work for two literary magazines–I do all of that work at home. I work on my own fiction an non-fiction projects. And this won’t come as a surprise, but no one pays you for that stuff until you actually produce something great. Oh, and let’s not forget finishing up grad school. So, the struggle is to produce, to nurture that production, while ignoring the fact that there may be dirty dishes to wash, that you  may not be completely stocked up on special milk which a certain little someone might ask for when he gets home from school, that you need to do umpteen different life-admin tasks. But these things never go away. I’ve been re-learning this fact. There will always be more dirt, more field trips, more doctor appointments. And what am I doing right now?–blogging about this fact when I have a stack of submissions I need to read through. By tomorrow.

Then there’s a phenomenon I know all Mommies know well. It has something to with how a twenty-minute doctor’s appointment can take up four hours of your time or how a four hour field trip can take up eight hours of your time. I haven’t had to go to work, physically, for the last couple of weeks, and where has the time gone?

I spent one day accompanying my son on a field trip to the Yellow River Game Ranch. I love taking him there. One, because it is a place I went on field trips as a child and I remember how fascinating it was at the time. Two, he loves seeing all the animals. He feels proud of himself for picking out the right kind of food for each animal. The ducks like crackers, the donkeys like carrots…So, since the timing was right I decided to go on the field trip with my son’s school (a montessori school for infants through age six).

I’d read a bulletin earlier in the week that informed parents the field trip was from 10-2. Since Keegan’s father drove him to school that morning, I didn’t have any reason to be at the school until 10. However, there was some event going on at 9, something to burn an hour for parents who dropped their children off early and were sticking around to wait for the field trip bus at 10. This event had something to do with pearls, yes pearls, and all I could imagine was the equivalent of a Tupperware or Pampered Chef party, except for pearls. The imaginary scene I conjured up based on this premise was nothing less than horrifying, so I promised myself I’d arrive just before ten. But, the morning-of came:

I felt guilty for wanting to miss the 9 o’clock shin-dig. I have no idea why. Maybe it was because I like the school, I like my son’s teacher, and surely other moms were there sucking it up. I negotiated with myself, the self wanting to play hookie for the mystery hour and the self full of vague guilt, and decided I’d leave my house at 9. I got there at 9:20.

I was in the main hallway, locked eyes with another mom, and immediately thought we should bolt. We could hold hands and sprint. Then, the director of the school steered me by the shoulder, told us there were two empty seats in the back row, and we were ushered into a room. The front two rows were older couples in suits, the back row mommies–mommies looking tired, sipping free coffee. I had on my Doc Marten’s, grey curdorys, and my bringht yellow Ireland hoodie. I didn’t exactly fit in. There was a man at the front of the room giving a presentation about pearl harvesting and oysters. A documentary played on the t.v., which he kept pointing to and referencing. One of the older men kept taking pictures of us. At some point I realized the speaker was also the star of the documentary, which became obvious and baffling at once.

Somewhere, you may see me in the back row of a photo of a Kiwanis Club Meeting. Because that’s what this turned out to be. A weekly Kiwanis club meeting, the weekly guest speaker, and a bunch of visiting moms from the school. Who would have guessed? I could have used the extra hour of sleep, and I wasn’t the target audience here. I don’t see myself making time to join the nation’s largest service organization any time soon. I don’t see myself visiting the only independent seller of tahitian peals in Atlanta soon, either. I survived. I ate a donut out of distress.

The bus was an hour and a half late. Imagine: school bus with three seat belts per seat, at least thirty kids between the ages of two and six, lunches and animal food in tow, many parents and teachers, now running into the lunch-time of the kiddies. The initial plan was to see the animals, then eat lunch, then go home. Now, arriving so late in the day at the ranch, lunch-time was first on the agenda, which did not please Keegan, who wanted to see the peacocks right now. You know that terrible, sinking feeling of dread that comes from the bottom of your gut? That’s what I felt as we pulled into the parking lot at the game ranch and I counted no less that 12 other school buses. Holy crap. This was not a big place, people. That’s a lot of kids.

I won’t go into the details, but seeing the animals was great (most of the animals are rescue animanls who’ve been injured in the wild, or elsewhere, and otherwise wouldn’t survive) for a couple of hours. Our mood deteriorated as Keegan missed his nap, which he still needs, and became insanely unreasonable. The exhausted and hungry three-year-old unreasonable. Like, hey, I’m going to throw myself on the ground here because I wanted to feed that duck we saw ten minutes ago, this carrot which I just noticed I had, except I didn’t get to feed him this carrot, but Julia got to feed him one and I am so slighted and will just lie here and scream until justice is served. And the duck has fled from me which indicates the world has ended, so I’ll start hyper-ventilating now.

And then there were only two working bathrooms at the end of it all. And many toddlers who needed to go. And it had gotten warm. But this is what mommies do.

Keegan Said, version 32567

“Mom? Where do we go live when we die?”

“When will it be yesterday?”  “Is today yesterday?”  “Then, when will it be yesterday?!”

“How many laters are there?”

“What does inside and outside mean?”

“What is an end to something?”

“Gross, I am never going to grow hair under my arms.”

Friday Procrastination


DoorwayI’m sifting through old photos, thinking I should order some large prints, put together another book. Or, I could grade papers, dye my hair, vacuum…OH, or write. That would be good.

I stand corrected

I will be corrected for years to come.

 I took Keegan to The Schoolbox this week. It’s a neat school supply store with all sorts of things. We weren’t looking for anything in particular, but ended up picking out three maps: the United States, the World, the constellations. They laminate in-store, while you wait, so that was nice. In the store, he pointed at Antarctica on the world map and said, “This place is ice.” He’s three. He got very upset that Texas, on the US map, was blue. It is red on his map at school. He really wanted it to be red, which would be ironic if he had any idea of politics; the blue was wrong. This discrepancy in state colors continued. He knew where Georgia was. It wasn’t the right color.

In the car, I tried to explain constellations. I talked about stars, how they looked like dots, how people imagined making pictures by connecting the dots. I said people imagined pictures of animals and people doing things. He yelled, “And cups. There’s the cups.” He had to be talking about the Big Dipper and Little Dipper, right? Yes, I had forgotten those. Yes, cups, the cups. Kind of like ladles, or cups with handles. We also picked up Tangrams, which I used to be a complete whiz at in elementary school. Now, I feel like an idiot.

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