I’m Sorry About Your Cat

My mom and dad had to put their cat to sleep today. That’s slightly better than “put their cat down” and not nearly so clinical as “euthanize” but, the fact is, he’s no longer alive. Of course, my mom didn’t mention it. There were mentions in the morning Bubba’s leg isn’t working and he hasn’t been feeling well for weeks and then Well, he was probably bitten by something, there was slobber all over his back. 

Typical.

I mean, not the slobber or how it got there (I can’t think about it, it’s so heartbreaking), the abrupt passing of things. Dogs, cats, cars, grandparents, houses. Their passing from our lives to another is a blip on her radar. She watched RR today and she would have left without mentioning Bubba’s passing to us had we not ferreted it out.

Death and loss seem to me a practical, essential part of life. Sometimes a really shitty, horrible, awful, part of life and sometimes freeing, or a relief, or a shedding. And around here, it’s coming on fast and strong. I don’t have a way to meet it without turning to face it. It’s facing it gently that’s difficult.

So it wasn’t a conscious decision to tell RR about Bubba. That he had died. Do five year olds understand “passed away”? Is it passed when it wasn’t his decision (although no judgement – it was a sound one)? So, “died” it was. That he was old (which he sort of was) that he had an accident (which he did) and that grannie is very sad (which she is). Five year olds do understand empathy, though, at least a bit, and so over dinner RR decided to make grannie a card:

bubba

I felt badly telling her (she might never have noticed Bubba was missing) but it’s also practice. I shouldn’t have to think about that. She shouldn’t have to practice. We should, not. have. to. It might not help her but, I’ll be honest, it helps me. It means the first time I say those words to her won’t be when I have to tell her that her grandfather has died.

Teeth

So I don’t know if this has ever happened to you but something I thought I was totally okay with, no, even indifferent to, turns out to be something that makes me want to duck behind the nearest tree and lose my lunch.

Teeth.

Teeth. Loose teeth. Wiggly teeth. Horrible, loose, flopping, twisting, waggling, hanging loose teeth. TWO of them. Right in the middle.

I had no idea I was horrified by loose teeth. A couple of weeks ago she said one of her bottom teeth was loose. I smiled and nodded as she stuck her finger in her mouth. I thought, oh, my sweet girl is growing up. I didn’t see the tooth move. Not that I didn’t believe her, just that the foreshadowing music was playing so loudly in the background I was distracted. Then the second one turned up loose.

And then they started wiggling.

And flapping.

And turning my stomach.

I had no idea I had a thing about loose teeth. And there it is. Teeth are going to fall out. I’m going to continue averting my eyes ever so slightly. I’m going to try not to actually die. It’s likely though, I’m telling you. Before my death, I did make sure we had plenty of chocolate gold coins which is the tooth fairy currency of choice (according to RR). And do NOT talk to me about what the tooth fairy is going to DO with that tooth. Keep it? I’d like to live to see tomorrow, thank you very much. Throw it out and have someone do terrible things with her DNA? No I know, you don’t need to tell me I’m crazy. I’m okay with it. What do you do with pieces formerly of your child’s body?

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Fifth (holy shit) Party

On the eve of RR’s birthday my wife and I had our own crisis. She asked for a party. We invited people to a party. We did not actually plan a party.

Oh sure. We put a location and time on the invitation (park, Sunday afternoon) but we didn’t think much past that. It’s unlike us (well, unlike Debra) but we’ve had too much on our minds. Have. RR isn’t much of an asker of things so the most we’d gotten out of her, birthday-wise, was a “white cake with pink icing” and “Olafs for everyone.”

olaf

We don’t put a lot of pressure on ourselves generally. Last year RR had friends over to run in the sprinkler in the yard and our biggest effort went into making sure we could catch the World Cup match on the deck. We let the kids ice their own cupcake cones. They ate on the grass. We hosed them down. Winning.

So no pressure. Not even when RR came home from a party the day prior having made fairy wands and eaten fairy food and bearing wings and nets and giant bubble wands. Debra’s face was pale when she walked in the door with a happy, crazy-eyed kid. Well, so we felt a a little pressure. I know, I know. She’s five, who cares! And really, I don’t care. And she really doesn’t care. But that still left us feeling unprepared and much more noticeably. I mean, they had tuna salad stuffed pea pods.

We managed to order a cake. White with pink roses. We are generally party equipped so it was easy to toss carrots, cucumbers, and watermelons onto trays. But that left the kids. What do we do with the kids? We had them sack race. We had them three-legged race. They balanced eggs on spoons. They dressed in a goofy costumes and had a relay. They ate cake. RR, as usual, was happy as a clam (and would have been if there had been no cake, no friends, and no races). We declared it a success.

I want my kid to be well-liked. Not more or less so than anyone else, I suppose. But I admit that it gave me a bit of joy hearing her repeat her friend’s words the day after the party: RR that was the best party EVER!

birthday

Five

On the eve of her fifth birthday, RR had a crisis. She did not want to be five. She didn’t want to remain four but no, she didn’t want to be five. I’m sure this was my fault (isn’t it always your mother’s fault?) because after bedtime stories she curled up in my arms and I told her about all the things that she will be able to do when she’s five.

You’ll be able to swim and you’ll be tall and you’ll be a kindergartener and you will swing high on the swings and you will laugh harder and be stronger and you will…

You can see the mistake. I saw it, at least, somewhere in between you’ll be able to ride a bike and you’ll get to do work all day long at school. This child is not a person who wants to learn to pedal anything. Not even the promise of work all day could lessen the bike blow*. It’s more than that though. She’s our baby. She’s not an old soul. She’s not the sort of person you look at and think: this person has seen multitudes. She is fresh and wide-eyed and new, and well, bikes are dangerous creatures best observed from a distance.

But like it or not, she is five and I tell you, she is going to seize five and twist it into pretzels.

rr

 

 

*We didn’t get her a bike. It has taken five years but we have learned at least one thing.

Hush Little Baby

Today is the last official nap.

I KNOW.

Not the last one forever, I hope, I assume, it had better not be. But, it will be the last school nap. After today, RR will officially be an almost-kindergartener and as one of those vaunted souls, she has to ditch the nap. Summer camp won’t include naps for her and next year she’ll be expected to keep her eyes open all day.

All day.

I’m pretty sure every kid comes standard with at least one amazing perk. Our particular model comes with the sleep function. And believe me when I say that I have never, will ever, take that for granted. It makes up for all the urine-soaked underwear I have had to wash. No, really.

A year and a half ago, RR flirted with giving up naps. She tells us that at school she “rests” mostly as opposed to actually sleeping. But we know that, given a dark room and time to herself, she sleeps for two hours or more. Sure, some days (and we’re talking weekend days) she hangs out in her room crafting elaborate dioramas, composing songs, fashioning capes and forts from towels but most days we assume that she’ll lay down at 1:30 and we won’t hear another peep until after 3:30. You guys, I don’t know what I’m going to do when this stops.

And it will stop. Now that she’s not napping at school, how much longer will it be til she’s not napping at home? I predict our quiet afternoons are numbered. On the other hand, maybe we’ll get an upgrade in the form of bladder control. What? Wishful thinking?

Right Now

bob-ross

Tell me you’ve seen Bob Ross. Tell me you’ve watched his show. Ok, stop. Just hang on right there and go reacquaint yourself with the tone of his voice, his pacing, his whole deal (by the way, autoplay). He’s a mellow dude, soothing, and not very dynamic. I mean, he’s a dynamic painter in that…holy shit I could not do that. But he isn’t dynamic in the way that a four-year-old would stop to watch. And then keep watching. RR has been drawing happy little clouds and happy little trees ever since.

trees

Debra said today at soccer, rather, watch-RR-spin-and-grin-in-the-middle-of-the-field, that at least the social time with her teammates is valuable. And it is. But that pretty much sums up what RR is getting out of it right now. Well, and handfuls of mini muffins and oranges slices brought by the other parents. I say without judgement that RR loves everything that she does and does exactly what she wants to do, which is not flipping over the bar in gymnastics, moving her arms in the water, or kicking the ball in soccer. Sports, maybe, are not her thing right now*.

orange

Which leaves us wondering whether it’s time to return to music and try dance. But what she loves to do right now* is to color and draw and paint and dream on paper (and walls, and floors, and today on our quilt). It seems strange to let her try everything else in a formal-ish setting except art. I mean, are there even art classes for the almost five set? I feel weird thinking about sending my kid to art lessons, like it’s somehow pushing her. But how is it different than soccer, or swim lessons, or piano? I don’t want to make a mistake.

cool-Bob-Ross-birds-painting

Mostly, I just want her to have fun instead of focusing on planning for the future (and I mean I’m the one focusing, not her). Because that’s what everything is. Swimming so she doesn’t drown. Or can get a job as a lifeguard. Or can be on the swim team. Gymnastics so she can run fast and jump high. So she learns practice, perseverance, and a tolerance for risk. So that she feels part of something. Music so she can keep a tune when she sings to her own children or can belt out Bob Marley with her arms wrapped around her friends at a beach bonfire. So she can join a band. Or read music. But what she wants to do right now* is art. Nothing but art.

stream

Of course, I don’t mind leaving stacks of blank paper everywhere and endlessly replenishing her colors. But when I think about it, it’s not really different than kicking the soccer ball with her in the yard while also letting her play on a semi-organized team. And so I think it’s worth considering. Art. If only to save my walls. And really, if she’s happiest painting, so why not.

happy

* all things subject to change at a moments notice and thank goodness for that

Live Pets

Maybe you had a hamster. Or was it a guinea pig? Fat and furry and brown and white and a little smelly but you didn’t care because he was yours and that nose. So cute. Maybe you had a puppy. Lucky bastard. Me, I have sisters.

I did have a string of pets though:

dwarfhamsterlizard snakes

I even went so far as to get a job in a pet store when I was 15 and was fired, unceremoniously, a few days before I turned 16. I suspect it had more to do with the ability to pay a 15 year old under the table than it had to do with “hair in the cat’s water bowl.” Working Saturday mornings in a pet store gave me access to every variety of small furred creature, a fleet of parakeets, and a stack of box turtles. The wall of fishtanks always smelled vaguely salty and dank, the big goldfish casting baleful glares from bulging eyes. Nothing exotic though, nothing satisfying. Not when what I really wanted was:

skunk

My parents held firm and I settled for one aging black Lab after another and a kitten that couldn’t outlast the coyotes. Arizona is still the wild west, at least if you’re soft and slow.

Someone has given RR a Caterpillar. It lives in a tiny plastic cup, has its own Caterpillar Cake to munch and appears to be building a Caterpillar Chrysalis before our very eyes. This birthday party favor came with assurances that it was an ethical Caterpillar Company and that the charming fellow would become a Butterfly Native to the Area. In fact, it came with an entire Caterpillar Information Sheet. In a recent conversation with the other Caterpillar Mothers, the ringleader admitted she hadn’t considered what might happen if all of our new friends died unceremoniously before fulfilling their fate. Furthermore, no one has considered what exactly to do when there’s an actual Butterfly to release. It’s not a big cup.

caterpillar

there is only one in our cup thank goodness.

I figure, we’ll cross that particular invertebrate bridge when we come to it. I told you all that to get to this: RR and all of her friends say CALA-PITTER instead of CATER-PILLAR. You guys. Calapitter. Just imagine a huddle of four-year-olds giggling and waving plastic cups shouting LOOK AT MY CALAPITTER MAMA!

I may not dig having our very own pet insect but I very much love hearing this particular kid-ism. So if you walk past some woman on the street muttering calapittercalapittercalapitter then you should ask me out for coffee. Lord knows I need it lately.

Calapitter. Love.

Wii Are Tired of Winter

That’s right, this winter drove us right over the edge. After being trapped for one snow day too many (which, if you ask me, is the first snow day) we were all wishing long spring hikes weren’t so very far away. So we dusted off our aging wii and called my mom to ask if she still had a wii fit board. She did have one, she allowed, and we could have it. She did not confess that it had been stored so long that the batteries inside had corroded but, with a bit of care, it’s operating again.

hulamy record is 964 spins in 6 minutes. debra says she thinks invisible hula hooping is hot.

I don’t remember when these were trendy. It wasn’t recently, but the premise is that you take on a character and the board acts a scale and game controller in one with a host of aerobic, strength, and balance games. I’m a particularly good hula hooper, it turns out. Debra is a class act skateboarder and slalom skiier. RR runs.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone.
So with snow pouring down and piling up in drifts, we gave our kid a controller and let her run, her game character racing through a course chasing kittens and puppies. And she ran. Ran for three minutes. Ran for ten. And ten more. The next day she asked to run while we showered (separately. you saw the size of our bathroom. not even the hula hoop can conquer that.) She likes the biking course but can’t figure out how to control the handle bars. She likes the snowball fight game but can’t dodge and throw at the same time. In fact, she can’t master many of the activities beyond yoga and running.
I don’t want her to be an ace gamer. But when outside isn’t an option it’s kind of awesome to watch my kid run anyway.
This post is brought to you by 2007. Also a wii fit image search turns over tons of pictures like this. I’m not sure why so many people are watching so many other people’s butts.
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Kapow

Everyday we witness brilliance.

I go through each day with my mind blown wide open as my child peels back layers. The tiniest things are a revelation to her. She takes the world apart and puts it back together in fresh ways. I wake up and my own world is full of promise, but hers is packed with innovation. And so, from the moment I step into her sun, I just wait for the newness to wash over me.

This moment is a privilege. I’m soaking it up with the expectation that this is four, maybe five, and that she’ll eventually settle into life like the rest of us. That she’ll outgrow it like she’s outgrowing my lap (that’s a little heart-breaking, isn’t it – she’s so long). It’s all I can do to keep my eyes open and watch. Not to guide or to suggest, just to sit and wait and listen. This is nearly impossible but it’s my ever-present goal.

I smiled in relief this morning, a little, a smidge, when we dropped her off at school. She can pour this constant discovering onto someone else and I can go to work with the very reasonable expectation that the upper limit of surprises at a library is perhaps three. I feel like the edges of my mind are rubbed a little raw after two full days watching her read, add, invent, uncover, explore, surprise after surprise. She reads words everywhere all of a sudden. Watching her sound out a word and then produce it, fully formed from her mouth, it’s the tip of the iceburg. The math. The intricate building designs. And my god, the physical (and terrifying) explosion.

Once she told me (as she scaled a trash bin and then edged out on to a tiny ledge nearly flush with the wall) that things like this were dangerous. In fact she said “Dis is so dangerous, mama, but I yove it.” And I said, “Yes, it’s dangerous, but sometimes dangerous is also fun.” See above about keeping my mouth shut. She is fearless about retaining walls with dizzying drops onto concrete. We are constantly catching her arms to get a better grip, bracing for a wrong step. Convincing her to look the other way, that she doesn’t NEED to balance on top of that fire hydrant. This weekend, she tried to shove my hands off of her legs as she attempted to spring to the top of a railing overlooking a river. She’s so FAST. Does every parent have a disaster plan for the emergency room?

Some folks dread Mondays. Sometimes I’m among them. But my dangerous, smart, four-year-old is safely tucked away at school, unleashing her particular brand of discovery onto other people. And, thank goodness, I can take a deep, predictable, breath.

Elsa

RR has never been that kid, the one who wants to be a part of something bigger. She is a tiny, self-contained, ball of fire. She burns bright until she flares out, sleeps, lights again. Not a joiner, but a maker. Not a follower, but a watcher. Parts age and parts personality, right?

This Halloween she dressed as Elsa and we tried the large, kids’, costume event in town. We skipped it last year in favor of our own sanity. The draw is the festivity and the joy of seeing so many kids and adults celebrating. She enjoys candy, but as we all know by now, is not particularly motivated by it. What’s the key, RR? What IS your motivation?

grin

So we were there for the atmosphere and she soaked it up. She got to practice trickortreat…thankyou…happyhalloween! on college kids who thought she was terribly sweet and adorable. And she got to mingle with hundreds of other terribly sweet and adorable children. And also, a million Elsas. There were large Elsa and small Elsas. Storebought Elsas and cobbled together Elsas. Blonde or bewigged. Tiaras or not. Gloves on some. Snowflakes on others. Anything went, so long as there was a somewhat blue dress involved. Many were accompanied by Annas or Olafs (big and small, particularly favored by the Dads). Some were friendly, others were in the candy zone – unable to recognize a fellow cheery Elsa or, maybe, a bit flattened by seeing so many others dressed in similar costumes.

swen

There was a Halloween Elsa drinking game. There were a lot of Elsas. We stopped counting somewhere after 21 Elsas and 15 Annas. We gave RR a heads up that there would be other Elsas and rather than seeing it as a disappointment, she looked at every passing Elsa with delight shouting, Hi ELSA! HAPPY HALLOWEEN! She was thrilled to see Annas HI ANNA! IT’S ME ELSA!

elsas

It was a shining moment. RR was an Elsa among Elsas. She glowed. And she was just as happy to leave them and be a single Elsa again. It was a super Halloween. An Elsa Halloween. And RR? Well, it flowed right over her and past her and it’s gone. More chocolate for us!

kapow

Also, thank goodness Grannie can sew satiny fabrics because apparently my costume fabrication skills cease at fire fighters, raggedy ann, hippies, and mermaids.