Saturday, January 31, 2009

The birds, the bees and the imaginary video game creatures

Guess what I learned today?

Pokemon characters breed. Just what we needed in our house - Pokemon sex.

My husband assures me it's done in a PG-rated way. According to E, you put the boy Pokemon and the girl Pokemon you want to procreate in the day care center, and they grow levels (whatever that means - I think it has to do with power). Finally, you get an egg, even if the two mating Pokemon are of different species. Then you run a certain number of steps and the egg hatches into a level 1 Pokemon.

Pass out the cigars, folks.

Does this make it an educational game? Which would, of course, assuage my guilt for allowing my children to spend so much time playing it....

Monday, January 19, 2009

A question

When my boys have pimples and underarm hair and body odor, will I love their physical beings as much as I do now, when they are smooth and silky and sweet-smelling?

Friday, January 16, 2009

The moment

Last night I spent 10 minutes with 10-year-old E before he went to sleep, massaging his arms and shoulders, playing with his hair, and tracing the lines of his eyebrows over and over. So relaxing for him. So relaxing for me. He was almost asleep when I left, but just awake enough to smile with his eyes closed and melt me with a soft "I love you, Mommy."

As I closed his door, my first thought was: Why don't I have the patience to do that more often?

By the time he's bedding down it's normally 8:30pm or a little later. I'm tired. I'm cranky. I want to wash my face, get into bed and watch mindless reruns of Law & Order: SVU until I fall asleep myself. Understandable, since I get up with the kids early and am usually going, going, going all day.

But would it kill me to give my kid 10 minutes? It would make him so happy. And how much longer, really, is he even going to want me in his room at bedtime?

Must carpe diem. Must try to stave off collapse long enough to play with child's hair before sleep. Must try to remember just how pleasant it was last night, touching his soft skin and silky hair. Must think of it as something good for both of us.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The invisible son

Should I worry that my seven-year-old doesn't seem to want to come home anymore?

Let me start by telling you how lucky we are (he is). One of his best friends from school lives around the corner. Literally. Around the corner. Three houses down, one house over. So close that when W needs to be picked up I can send E by himself to get him. This is ideal for impromptu playdates, carpool, and trading kids on non-school days.

Most of the time, however, W goes to his friend's house, rather than the opposite. For one thing, W's friend has a two-year-old brother, who is greatly amused and occupied when W is there. The two seven-year-olds can entertain the two-year-old long enough that the mom can make dinner, return a few phone calls, and possibly even catch a nap. She tells me it's much easier for her when W goes there. And for another thing, W prefers to go there. Always.

Two problems with this. One, I feel guilty for pawning off my kid (even though she prefers it that way - guilt just shows up, whether it's justified or not). And two, this means that there are at least a few days a week when W doesn't get home until 6:30pm, at which point he practices the violin, takes a shower, plays a little Pokemon on his DS, and goes to bed.

I kind of miss him. But I remember how important it was to spend time with my friends when I was a kid. I certainly don't want to deprive him of that.

Is he going to grow up and say "You never wanted me around - that's why I spent so much time at X's house"? Really hope not.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My 10-year-old gourmand

E, who turned 10 yesterday, is often ruled by his appetite, as I think I've mentioned once or twice before. And so, when he declared that he wanted to celebrate his birthday this year with a dinner party for a handful of his friends, I wasn't really surprised. He likes to eat, thus he assumes his friends like to eat, and what better way to celebrate a momentous occasion than - to eat?

He was very methodical. He and a friend took out one of his favorite cookbooks, Small Bites: Tapas, sushi, mezze, antipasti, and other finger foods by Jennifer Joyce, and went through it methodically. They came back to me, very excited, with a list of more than 20 - I kid you not - "small plates" they wanted to include on the menu. For 10 10-year-olds.

Now, I consider myself a good mom. And a good cook. And I was willing to indulge him in the dinner party idea. But 20 dishes? No. Too many.

We pared it down and ended up with 11, plus a birthday cake. Of the 11, three were bought rather than homemade. And I took a few shortcuts. But the upshot is that I spent two days shopping, cooking and serving an elaborate dinner for a group of fifth-graders.

And you know what? I loved every minute of it. The kids were wildly appreciative and ate everything. Tasted everything, even saffron-coconut soup with edamame-shrimp dumplings, tandoori chicken skewers, and crispy pork larb in wonton cups. Loved sitting down to a table set with china and crystal and candles and place cards and menus. Toasted my son, who beamed with satisfaction that his friends were enjoying the dining experience as much as he was.

And, as my husband pointed out, it was a lot more personal than taking a bunch of kids ice skating or to the laser tag place.

So will I do it again next year? Probably. But I'll try to factor in more time for E to help me in the kitchen. Doing it together has to be more fun than doing it alone.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Not in the zone

Lately I have been feeling very guilty for being a bad listener.

I know it's because I'm distracted by other, larger things - the economy and its effect on our personal pocketbooks, my recent push to find a paying job, health issues. That isn't an excuse, though. It's just wrong that one of my kids starts talking and I find myself nodding and saying "Yep, uh-huh, really!" and I have no idea what he's been saying two minutes later because I Just. Wasn't. Focused. On. Him.

I might have noted in the past that my mother, despite any differences we might have had then or might have now or in the future, is pretty much my ideal parenting role model. Wracked with guilt, I've been scouring my memories to see if I can find any times when I remember her paying less than full attention to whatever I was blathering on about as a kid. I can't remember a single one. I remember her looking me in the eye, paying attention to whatever I said, responding in kind, making me feel like what I said was important. Idealized, maybe, and I'm sure she'd agree that my memories are rose-colored. But it's about perception, right? And I perceived her as always having been listening.

Why can't I do this?

A few years ago my New Year's resolution was to try to be more "in the moment" with my kids. Apparently it didn't stick. I find myself very often completely out of the moment - and then, when the moment passes and E walks away frustrated because he's been trying to tell me about the funny quote on his daily calendar and I've shooed him away and shut him up, I feel horrible.

Well, E, if you're reading this (and I know you are), please know that I don't mean to shut you up and shoo you away. I want to hear everything you have to say. Because I know that if I listen to you now, when you're 10, then maybe you'll still want to tell me what's on your mind when you're 12 and 15 and 17 and the issues are more weighty.

I just have to try harder. I need a mantra. I will listen when my kids talk to me. I will listen when my kids talk to me. I will listen....