Sunday, May 31, 2009

Benjamin Glam?

For those of you who might not know, I like to watch American Idol (my apologies to anyone who is shocked by this revelation). It's the only show I really watch--I have my mom tape it (since we've decided not to invest in cable), and by the end of every season, I am fully addicted.

This year, my favorite was Adam . . . so when the competition ended, I naturally wanted to read the articles about why people thought he came in second, etc. (By the way, a little piece of advice: don't search for pictures of Adam Lambert unless you want to see some really disgusting stuff--that was definitely not the most uplifting part of my Sunday morning!)


Anyway, one of the articles referred to Adam as "Glambert," which I thought was a clever word play (I always like that kind of thing).

It wasn't until a week or so later, though, that I realized my own little Benjamin was going through a bit of a "glam" phase of his own, all pirate-related of course.

First there was the gold clip-on earring (that I bought for 35 cents--it's going to be part of Jason's costume for our upcoming party). Ben was reluctant to try it on at first, because he thought he'd get a hole in his ear--but now he thinks it's a great addition to his pirate items.


Then there are all the jewels, necklaces, rings, gold, etc. that we've collected for the treasure chest. Ben loves playing with all this stuff--and wearing it, as any pirate would, to show off his riches.


Ben is even making his own jewelry with things he finds around the house--here he is with a necklace made of no more than string, ladders, and pieces of wooden trains.


So, what do we think of all this?

I have to admit I'm pretty impressed. But I'm also thinking seriously about hiding the nail polish . . . and the eye liner :)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ben and Janae's Grand Adventure


This morning when Janae got up she asked if she could watch Pooh's Grand Adventure, a DVD we've borrowed and renewed from the library for the past several weeks.

Instead, I suggested that we go on our own adventure. Janae and Ben were all for it, and Jason wasn't hard to convince, either. We decided to go to the Othello Tunnels in Hope.

As soon as Janae got out of the car, she took off running--no hand-holding, no pacing herself, and no fear of anything--even when we got to the long, dark tunnels.


She literally ran through the tunnels and refused to hold anyone's hand . . . until--on the last tunnel--she fell on her knees and elbows (pretty hard, too--and just as her old "owies" from her last uncontrolled bolt to the park had healed). After that, she thought it would be okay for Mommy to hold her, or even for Dad to push her in the stroller.


Ben was a little more cautious. He was hoping to see some bats in the tunnels, but settled for a spider. Later he claimed to have seen a skeleton, too :) He collected river rocks and granite and enjoyed looking down at the rushing water below the bridges.


We stopped at Jason's mom's on the way home and had fun watching the birds in the backyard, visiting a new chocolate store (not fair for the gestational diabetic Momma!), and eating hot dogs.

A pretty good day, and a pretty grand adventure, I'd have to say.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I'm Almost Ready for Kindergarten . . . And So Is Ben!


On Thursday I took Ben to visit his new school and attend an activity called "Ready, Set, Learn." We'd been looking forward to this for a while, and had already met Ben's soon-to-be kindergarten teacher at a small-group storytime, so Ben was pretty excited . . . and I was pretty sick to my stomach (my usual reaction to anything new).

Benjamin loved the activities and had so much fun meeting the other kids. As we were leaving, he ran across the school's field near the parking lot, shouting, "I want to see this side of my school!"

He also remarked that he didn't want to go to preschool anymore because kindergarten was "way cooler."


I have to admit that I had a good time, too, and for the first time felt that I might possibly be ready for kindergarten when it comes. Ben's teacher seems so nice and the school has a lot to offer--just being there made Ben really excited to learn. That night we read the new books from his "Preparing for Kindergarten" packet, and during each one Benjamin stopped me to ask, "Is this book getting me ready for kindergarten?" He is so eager to be ready!

Of course, later that night I burst into tears at the thought of my baby going to school 12.5 minutes away from home and every day--but I only cried until I thought about how absurd it would have been for my own mom to be crying because her daughter is 35 (or so)--or for her to have kept me home from kindergarten (or high school, or university, for that matter) because she wasn't ready for me to grow up. That's what is supposed to happen!


So, anyway, I think I'm almost ready--I guess we'll see what happens when September comes. . . .


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Uh Oh--I Have Something to Say


Most people (at least those outside my family) think of me as a quiet, soft-spoken or shy individual who doesn't stir up controversy or voice much of an opinion. I never take the lead in a group discussion--or often even contribute much without being called on. I like to listen, think, and then voice my opinion later, to family and close friends.

Well, all this has apparently changed now that I've become a member of my housing complex's board of directors.

You are probably wondering why I haven't mentioned this position of power previously on my blog. After all, when I was appointed to Ben's preschool's board of directors, I went on and on about it, trying to figure out what had led to such an honor, etc.

The explanation is simple: there is no group that is more hated or criticized, or looked upon with more contempt, than the board of directors here at our complex.

I ended up on the board through no fault of my own (as far as I know). A few months ago the chair called and said there was a vacancy caused by someone who'd moved out (i.e., been driven out by his extreme lack of popularity due to his board involvement), and the board was requesting that I fill the spot until a new group of representatives could be elected in June.

My first reaction was to say no, but knowing that Jason's landscaping contract was coming up for review, I thought maybe I could use my temporary position to influence the board to renew it (you can see how a little bit of power begins to corrupt . . . ). Anyway, I said okay, and then avoided the board meetings with a variety of excuses, including a trip to Disneyland, a parenting class at my church, a case of the flu--when it comes to excuses, I really am good (I used to be a teacher, so I've heard them all!).

Anyway, on Wednesday an emergency board meeting was called, and since I didn't have time to double book myself, I ended up sitting in an uncomfortable chair at the big rectangular table (clearly not a very prestigious board).

The emergency involved an individual (a friend of our family, kind-hearted, friendly to children, very "non-board") who was trying to do his best to serve his neighbors, by sacrificing his time and efforts to fulfill the role of "Parking Officer." He had the bright idea that to solve the "parking problem" we are currently experiencing, he would start ticketing and--15 minutes later--towing residents' cars that were parked in visitors' parking or any cars parked in front of units. Having gained board approval at the last meeting (which I obviously hadn't attended), he'd already purchased the no-parking/tow-away zone signs.

Well. I thought about the times I'd parked in visitors' parking because someone had been blocking our driveway to pick up our neighbor--and then left the car there while I made dinner or played in the backyard with my kids. My car would have been towed! What about the times when Jason had parked his truck on the side overnight so he wouldn't have to unhook his trailer. He would have been towed! And the times when my sister came in for a few minutes after her girls had come here to play. She would have been towed!

I couldn't keep quiet. I SPOKE UP AGAINST THE NEW PLAN.

To be honest, all I said was that I thought the Parking Officer (PO) should knock on the door or phone the person with the parking violation and ask him or her to move the car, warning that the vehicle would be towed.

Others agreed.

The PO said the matter was not up for discussion; we would either go through with his plan or he was not willing to continue in his role. He needed the full backing of the board.

The Parking Officer resigned.

I am now a hated member of the board.

Jason had a parking lot conversation with the Former Parking Officer (FPO), where the FPO informed my husband that he is not willing to work with a board that won't back him up.

How many times have I sympathized with neighbors who have said similar things? They had been doing their best to serve their community, but the board wouldn't support them, and so they had resigned.

I'd always thought the board was the enemy. Now I know better. At least until next month, when I use any excuse I can think of to GET OFF OF THE BOARD!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Breakthrough in the Sister-Sister Relationship


Before Janae was born, I really worried about how Benjamin would make the transition from only child to big brother. It was such a relief when he surprised everyone by loving his new role, becoming happier and gentler than ever before. He's a great big brother.

Now that Janae is a few months away from becoming a big sister, we are looking for signs that she, too, might make the transition smoothly.


But with her open hostility toward babies, this has been quite difficult.

It's not unusual for us to hear Janae say, out of the blue, "Hit the baby" or "Smack the baby," then look at me for a reaction. On several occasions, I've seen her pick up one of her baby dolls, shout, "Mad! Mad! Mad!" then beat the doll against the floor.

We don't know where this behavior is coming from--everyone else in the family loves babies, and we've tried to show her how to treat people kindly.


Anyway, on Monday I took Janae with me to my doctor's appointment. Before we went, I explained that we would hear the baby's heartbeat. (Janae is really interested in the body and will often remark that her own "heart is beating.")

At the appointment, when Janae heard the heartbeat, she said, "Want to see it." (Which I thought was a lot better than "Want to hit it.") But on the car ride home, when I asked Janae if she liked hearing the baby's heartbeat, she said, "No. It was too noisy."

Then last night Janae and I had this conversation:

Janae pointed to my big round belly and said, "Baby in Mommy's tummy?"

Me: "Yes, there's a baby in Mommy's tummy."
Janae: "Alaina?" (This is what we've talked about naming the baby.)
Me: "Yes, it's Alaina--she's going to be your baby sister. Do you like Alaina?"
Janae: "Yes."

Such a small breakthrough, but I was so happy to have this glimmer of hope. Maybe things will be okay. And maybe my kids will try a new vegetable, too. You never know :)


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Great Expectations . . .

Have you ever noticed that having high expectations only leads to disappointment?

This morning I thought I had a simple plan: we would go to the craft store, the vegetable store, and then to Ben's preschool to pick up a hanging basket we'd ordered.

Entering the craft store I had great hopes of finding supplies to make invitations for Ben's upcoming pirate party. Not being especially crafty, but not wanting to use any of the ready-made invitations we saw at the party store (too scary for little kids!), I thought I'd get some pirate-themed paper, stickers, etc. and put it all together. I didn't have much luck. I'm going to have to get crafty pretty quickly if I want to make anything piratey out of this!


Then we went to the vegetable store. We were only there for apples and oranges, but I got the bright idea that my kids might like to try something new. (Yes, I remember now, my kids don't try new things.) I showed Janae and Ben a kiwi, and they both seemed interested, so I bought two. When we got home I asked, very enthusiastically (maybe too enthusiastically--they knew something was wrong!), "Who wants to try the kiwi?" Neither of them did. So I ate it myself. It was rock hard and sour enough to make even my eyes water. So much for that little experiment.


And finally, the hanging basket. These baskets had been talked up by the preschool's administrator--who had gone on and on about the quality and value of the plants. So you can imagine my disappointment when I saw my $24 hanging basket . . . that looked like the ones they sell at Superstore (you know, that high quality nursery where the plants are so well cared for?) 2 for $25. I guess I was just picturing something a little less squished and with a few more flowers.


I realize that I expect a lot--I guess most other people probably would have been happy with all of the experiences and products I've described. Maybe if I lower my expectations, I'll have a happier, less stressful, and longer life.

Do you think I have a chance?


This is a picture of Janae whose high hopes of playing at the park were dashed after she fell flat on her face--twice--scraping her knees and forehead on the cement--poor girl! Hopefully she won't end up too much like her Mama :)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Argh Me Hearties!

Benjamin and his obessions. First it was cutting the grass (all the grass at our complex, sometimes twice a day) with a toy mower, then dressing up as Santa (this one lasted over a year). He went through a pretty strong Dr. Seuss phase, culminating in a Horton obsession (if we were having a baby boy, Ben is still adament that we would have to name him Horton!). A few weeks ago we were playing (and hearing about) nothing but bats, and now we've moved on to . . . PIRATES.


I have to admit that I've got mixed feelings about this. Grandma gave Ben a book all about pirates that starts off with the line "Pirates were robbers on the sea." I don't want to be a controlling, paranoid parent (too late?), but I'm not crazy about Ben pretending to be a robber, even if he's just stealing gold from the sea.

Sometimes I suggest that we pretend to be "nice pirates" (like Captain Feathersword, for example), but Ben doesn't seem to like this idea.

My worries about young Benjamin entering a life of crime were soothed a bit, however, when I visited another mom from church who also has a recently turned five-year-old son who was ALSO playing pirates--and from the amount of pirate gear he was hauling out to show us, I think his level of interest might even match that of my own son. Another mom of teenage boys (who was also in on this visit) admitted that her sons had gone through a pirate stage with Halloween costumes, etc.

So (having had no brothers) I can only assume that a pirate stage is pretty normal for boys.

Janae is still one step behind, understandably. Even though Ben calls her the "Pirate Queen" and gives her all of his "gold," she still insists that she is a "princess bat" and refuses to pretend a coathanger is her "hook hand." She has recently started to growl out a pretty fierce "ARGH, ME HEARTY" out of the blue, though.


Other than worrying about Ben becoming a real pirate, attempting to come up with pirate names for myself and getting a sore throat from trying to talk in a gruff voice, my least favorite part of Benjamin's pirate phase is the piles of treasure we have to organize and put away at the end of the day (or two). I find plunder stashed everywhere--and if I'm ever looking for something like a puzzle piece or a doll's shoe . . . let's just say it takes a while to find it.


But I have to admit that despite all the drawbacks to playing pirates, I do enjoy seeing Ben's imagination at work. He starts every day with the question, "Can we play pirates now?" and ends each night with "Can we play pirates again in the morning?" He has so many ideas of where we can find "gold" and what we can do with it once it's been found. When I'm not feeling well he lets me lie on the couch and be the "sick pirate" and when I'm making lunch or dinner I become the "pirate cook." It seems that whatever the situation, Ben can turn it into something "pirate."


What can I do but join in? ARGH!