Sunday, June 28, 2009


I knew this was bound to happen one day -- I would put something out there on the blog and then I would have to go back and retract it. This is why I avoid spilling my guts about politics, religion, and the European Union. But I had a niggling feeling when I posted a couple of days ago that I would regret having written Thursday's post because when my son turned 12 he was going to read it and resent me (as if my making him wear madras wouldn't be reason enough).

One of Casey's favorite activities is trying to prove me wrong, but it usually turns out kind of weird -- (Me) "Casey, you can't run around in your underwear when we have company over." (Casey) "Oh yeah? Well how about if I make macaroni and you have to stand in it?" I'm pretty sure Casey is not a regular reader of my blog, but judging by his willingness to put himself directly in harm's way today, I'm starting to think that maybe he gets up in the middle of the night, boots up the computer, clicks on the Internet Explorer Icon, pulls down the favorites tab, and links to my blog. Look at what he did today while we were at Heidi's pool (just to prove me wrong):

His dad taught him that in three stages: sitting on the edge and rolling in, then squatting on the edge and rolling in, then standing. So here's Casey teaching Ben how to do it:

Out of character: Casey doing something head first.

In character: teaching someone else to do something head first as if he invented the whole idea of going into a pool head first.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ahhhh, summer . . .

I know I've been stuck on this whole first child v. second child thing for a while now, but aside from the people who would like me to finish their bankruptcy filings, my church deciding to up and move to Lutz, and the new Praise and Worship Coffehouse Flamingo Joe has starting putting together for his mom's church, I just don't have much else to think about but how my two kids are so different from each other.

For example, when Casey was around 18 months old he said his first sentence: "I want a boat." But Mace has just started stringing words together at 28 months: "Daddy's home." The sad thing about that is that Daddy is usually not home when Mace says it. One of the two pickups we have is always in the yard (Daddy can drive only one pickup at a time, after all), but Mace will see a pickup in the yard when we drive up, so he assumes Daddy’s home, which he usually isn’t. So you can’t get all excited and say, “Yes! Good boy! Daddy IS home!” You have to say something like, “No baby, I’m sorry – Daddy’s still at work. But very good sentence building, sweetie!”

Swimming, and tolerance for dangerous activities in general, as we’ve already seen in a previous post, are good examples of how different these two children are. Here is a video from when Casey was taking swimming lessons when he was three years old (make sure you watch the whole thing because the best part comes closer to the end):

Casey cried through every single swimming lesson he had that year. Thank heavens there were only six. The odd thing was that he would do every single thing the teacher asked him to do, he would just cry and holler the whole time he was doing it. I tried every trick in the book to get him to stop – you can see I let him wear his cool Hot Wheels sunglasses in the pool. That was just one of my tricks. The week prior to the lesson in this video, he was doing his usual routine – sitting on the edge of the pool crying and hollering like he had just been stung by hornets -- so I went over to him and whispered in his ear, “If you will make it through this swim lesson without screaming, we will go straight from here to get ice cream when it’s over.” Casey loves ice cream almost as much as he loves Star Wars, so he tried to suck it up for a few seconds. But by the time I had walked back over to where the crowd of parents were standing, Casey started sobbing again and turned around and yelled at me, “I-I-I-I DON’T W-W-W-WANT ICE CREAM MOMMY!!!” All those parents looked at me and gave me the “nice try” face.

Joe says that Casey just takes longer to do the physical development things and I think he’s right. But I also think that Casey may be one of those kids who never learn to ride a bike. He’ll be accepted to MIT on a chess scholarship when he’s 12 maybe, but will probably never feel a need to roller skate. And that’s okay. We’ll just have to pick physical activities that are less threatening for him. At his summer camp this year, they have karate lessons a couple of times a week and he seems to enjoy that. But speaking of karate -- do you think I should be concerned about the karate teacher when Casey comes home and in response to the question “So what’d you learn in Karate today,” he says, “We learned what to do if someone is holding a gun at your back??” You’d think he was going to summer camp in the ghetto or something. I'm worried next week he'll come home knowing what to do if someone is trying to put his feet in a bucket filled with wet concrete.

Last summer, when he was 5, he finally learned to swim (his three year old swimming lessons were so traumatic for both of us that I didn’t take him the summer he was four), but it wasn’t easy for anybody. The night before the lessons (he took two weeks’ worth, every day) he cried and cried in anticipation of the horror he knew awaited him in the pool the next day. And then he would cry when he woke up. But when we got to the lesson, he would suck it up and get in and participate, just like he did when he was three. I will forever be grateful to the swim coach at Berkeley Prep for teaching Casey to swim. Before he started those lessons he wouldn’t even put his face in the water. By the end of the two weeks, he had moved up two levels and was swimming like a fish, underwater and everything. He still likes to swim on your back though, if it’s available:

But this summer we’re skipping the swim lessons and just spending tons of time in Heidi’s pool (thanks Heidi!). Mace is already loving the water:

Look, he's pretending to be asleep. So am I, apparently.

Maybe we won’t even need to pay for swim lessons for him. I'm thinking this approach could apply to most of the things we had to pay for with Casey, because Mace picks up pretty much everything from Casey. In fact, I'm pretty sure I won't have to pay for private school with Mace, I'm just going to let Casey homeschool him.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Shocking Discovery

Our house is baby-proofed for the most part. The knife drawer has a catch on it. The cabinet under the sink has a catch on it. We keep the steps leading from the porch down to the front and backyards blocked off. We are, for the most part, responsible parents. But we have no less than 130 electrical outlets in our house (this is really an estimate -- I tried to count them, but got lost in the east wing and had to call the dog to come find me and lead me back to the kitchen, so I lost track). Apparently, however, we have at least one unprotected (i.e., not covered with a plastic insert that is impossible to get out) outlet in our house. And here it is:

I really just don't have the words to express what I felt when I saw this last night. Joe nearly fainted when he saw it. Seriously, he went white. How on earth did the two year old survive his brush with death? I still haven't figured it out.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Case Study: First Child/Second Child Paradigm

And now, students, I shall present for your edification, a case study in the "First Child/Second Child Paradigm" --

Note the first child in the photo below -- see how he approaches the shoreline cautiously, not jumping in with the reckless abandon you often see in six year old boys, but only sort of, well, jumping for no apparent reason:

Pay particular attention to the "safe" activities he pursues when he first arrives at the beach -- jumping miniscule waves along the shore's edge, finding shells and showing them proudly to his mother. The snorkeling goggles, however, betray the first child's true desire to "go deeper" and explore beneath the dangerous waves.

See how he seeks out the company of younger children who will not dare him to venture further away from the shore, thus leaving him secure in his sense of safety and confidence:

Observe how the younger children look at him and wonder: 1) why the heck he's hanging out with them when clearly he can actually swim; 2) why he insists on being called "Aquaman;" and 3) why he wore his underwear beneath his swimsuit when he seems like just the sort of child to not wear underwear at all if he can get away with it:

Watch how, at least an hour later, the first child grows braver and ventures a smidge further into the waves. It will be, eventually, and at an agonizingly slow pace, a successful day in the waves much further out for the first child:

Now, the second child. Just where is the second child?

Bring that second child back here, I need him for a very important case study. How did you get out there so fast? We've been here all of three minutes!?

No. Seriously. That's too far. Bring him back.

For tomorrow's class, we'll be examining the dangerous maternal tendency to allow the second child to sit on an innertube in the ocean with the father while the mother wastes time trying to get the first child to actually get into the ocean.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sweet Sixteen Donuts and Other Supernatural Phenomena

With Grandma away, the children and I are left to our own devices in the afternoons these days. When Grandma is here, the highlight of the afternoon is the daily conversation that begins with Grandma saying, "Have you thought about what to have for dinner?" Then I say, "Not at all." or "Cereal." or "What do we have?" Like the entire conversation, my answer is irrelevant because Grandma has already decided what we're having for dinner and she is asking me my thoughts on it because she is trying to help me maintain the illusion that I am somehow running my own house, which we all know is simply not true. Grandma is also one of those women who can look in the cupboard and see nothing but Fudge Rounds and Cream of Chicken Soup and in 35 minutes a delicious casserole called Fudgy Chicken Surprise comes out of the oven.

So when Grandma abandons us for those fully-grown granchildren of hers in San Diego who can't possibly love her as much as we do, we fend for ourselves, or rather, I fend for myself. I also find out things about my children that I had not noticed because they are being fed their breakfast and snacks by someone else. For example, Casey eats A LOT. Tuesday morning, I made eight biscuits, figuring we'd all eat two. I ate one, Mace ate two, Joe ate none, and Casey ate the rest! He ate FIVE biscuits -- and not puny little McDonalds biscuits -- huge biscuits! And then at lunch he ate almost an entire Totino's pizza by himself, a grilled cheese sandwich, and yogurt. So he's either going to grow three inches in height this summer or he's going to grow three inches in girth. Either way, shopping for school clothes is going to be expensive.

I can't remember where I was going with this. Oh right. So to avoid wearing out our welcome at Heidi's house (we've been swimming in her pool and destroying her family room three afternoons this week already), I took the kids to the store to pick up some things. You are about to think even less of me than you did after you read that Grandma fixes most of the meals at our house. Here it is -- while I go to the store to do minor shopping and pick up whatever we're out of when Grandma is here, Grandma does all the serious grocery shopping. See, I told you. The next time you come to my house you will be much more judgmental about all the unfinished projects and dust bunnies. I realize how pathetic it is that it takes me, Grandma, and the Nanny/Housekeeper to run my house.

Anyway. We went to the store and I told the kids that we could pick out a toy for each of them as a reward for them having been so good all week. So Casey picked out a Ben 10 Alien Force Illuminator Summoner Doo-Hickey Thing. See, here he is summoning an alien to make him a snack with a lot of cheese on it:

Mace picked out a truck that has a Hot Wheels car to carry on its trailer. He's no dummy -- he knew to pick the toy that had two things in the package:

And I picked out these:

We got to the checkout line and I have to say I was a little embarrassed. I said (loud enough for the cashier to hear of course), "Casey! When did you put these cookies, donuts, and brownies in the buggy??" And he wasn't about to let me throw him under the bus and informed the cashier that, "My mother selected each and every one of these unhealthy items and probably won't share them with us." Okay, so those weren't his exact words, but that was the tone.

Sweet Sixteen Donuts, though. Do I need to say anything else? Just look at these faces -- these children will love me forever (just like I love my own Dad for this very reason) for having bought them Sweet Sixteen Donuts.

Okay -- Casey looks a little sick already, but Mace is ready for another round:

On a completely unrelated note, since we weren't talking about haunted houses . . . look at this spooky picture I took last night from the margarita porch right outside my bathroom:

Creepy, huh? It was like that stork was trying to send me a message from beyond telling me that today my broom would stand up all by itself in the kitchen.


Monday, June 1, 2009

The Aquarium Post

On Casey's first real day of summer, I took the kids to the Aquarium and discovered the real challenge of having two kids -- taking decent pictures of both of them at the same time. This one's not bad:

But I took a lot more that looked like this one:

What is up with Casey? He already has that teenage malaise going? (He's just, like, so bored, sitting on a freshly hatched turtle.)

I'd get one of them into position and then the other one would turn around, causing the one in position to make a weird face. This is not a weird face, really, on either of them, no matter what you think Casey really looks like. Six year old boys just take goofy pictures.

I do better when I can just take pictures from behind:

See -- this one's better -- it's an action shot. Can't you almost hear Casey saying, "Look Mace! It's a shark!" -- and hear Mace say, "SHAAARRRR!!" (He's not big on ending consonant sounds yet).

I eventually gave up on getting a good shot of them together and let them play in the water. Mace did really well with the ladies. He kept just enough of a respectful distance not to appear too eager, but maintained enough eye contact so they would know he was interested. (I think all he was really interested in with this lovely lady was her hat, a nice floral number that she couldn't seem to keep on her head -- and Mace was testing out the rule Casey set down in our house in regard to toys, tools, and cookies: if you drop it, it's mine.) In this picture, though you can't actually see the hat, Mace is staring at it with great intensity, waiting for his opportunity.

He was very concerned for the well-being of the little girl below -- her mom kept putting her face in the water and Mace did not like it.

Casey took an enemy stationary ship captive, switched sides, and then captured his own stationary ship:

Here's Mace refusing to walk over the plexiglass window because there are sharks under there. It just didn't matter how many times we showed him that the plexiglass wasn't a hole in the floor, he wouldn't walk across it. He's no dummy -- he knows there's a first time for everything.

This is how a picture taken by the driver in the front seat of someone in the seat directly behind them looks:

Sweet dreams!