Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Papa in Mexico, Day One Continued

I spent most of the day getting into arguments online and dealing with varying paperwork and assorted emails and whatnots. Plus I talked to Anna on the phone incessantly, as I always do. The kids ran amok, forcing me to make lots of snacks for them, tearing apart the couch, drawing on their skin with marker, and dumping out vast amounts of toys that they alternated playing with and simply throwing at each other.

I discovered Idle Parenting, which was a nice bolster to my usual laziness. I particularly loved this brief paragraph towards the end of the first article in the series:
There are more worries. Is it mean to deny a child an iPod Nano for his birthday and instead give him a ball of string and The Dangerous Book for Boys? Should I really put a broadband connection in the tree house? Should I work even harder so that they can go skiing and wear expensive trainers? Would I be less grumpy if I drank less alcohol?
That last one is a question I ask myself with some frequency. It is odd, however, how the tendency to drink coincides with both the tendency to be grumpy as well as the tendency to be stressed beyond human endurance. So in that sense, it is an unanswerable question.

*The following paragraph is sorta gross, so feel free to skip it.*

After spinning in circles while eating Cheddar Bunnies, Bastian threw up. Luckily, he was naked and threw up on the hardwood floor instead of on a rug, so it was easy enough to clean up. Unluckily, he had some on his hands and shook them when I asked him what happened. I stuck him in is second bath of the day (that is, if I'm counting correctly - I also had to wash him off in the tub a couple of times, so it's hard to be sure).

More chaos ensued, as well as a few attempts by Aleks to leave the house on his own, which has been our most recent dilemma and which I have almost no solution for. Today I told him that since Papa was gone for eleven days and I would have no help if anything happened to anyone, that we must all stick together at all times and be inside altogether and outside altogether and never alone. I don't like the idea of never being alone for the next many days, but he does need to not go running off down the street infecting all the old Russians at Musicians Tower with chicken pox (we attended a pox party twelve days ago and are in the highly-infectious incubation phase...maybe), just in case some of them never had it as children or have some elderly auto-immune disorder or something. We don't need to accidentally be responsible for anyone's premature death or a horrid case of pox.

Many hours late, I finally took a shower, picked up the house a bit and got us all out the door to prevent any further crazing of the stirred. We were just going to go on a walk, but after reading that our attempts at pox might have been so poorly executed as to be futile, I was very dude-like and decided to just screw it and go to the park. There weren't that many kids there anyway and everyone looked particularly healthy and/or vaxed enough. So we're just gonna hope that no one got it from us. Or pretend that we are not in fact at all contagious currently for anything other than our lousy cold.

The boys spun on the swings while I eavesdropped on the stroller brigade. Bastian did some nice Montessori-style pouring with the sand from bucket to dump truck. Later, Aleks attempted his usual giant hole dig, but when Bastian backed his dump truck to his construction site and let loose, Aleks hit him and gave up hope for digging all the way to New Zealand or the seventh ring of Hell or wherever he was planning on going.
They did play with a bunch of other kids. Aleks sat in the tunnel and told Conner all about Super Sumo something-or-other from Ben Ten, which this poor kid has probably wisely never been exposed to and whose poor sheltering parents would never allow such violent nonsense anyway. Which would of course be the approach I took if we lived in the middle of the English countryside and I was the true idle parent that I long to be. Alas, here we are in the middle of the city, necessitating all manner of electronic gadgets to help us work and be entertained.

After seeing Nicah and her three children and making mud pies with them, we came home and I failed to make a proper dinner because just as I'd predicted, the boys were hungry before I even began and demanded peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with sides of Cheddar Bunnies and super unnaturally healthy juice (in tiny glasses). So I heated myself up a chick patty and ate some corn chips and salsa and cried about my long lost husband, so very very far away both in time and in space.

Papa in Mexico, Day One

Papa left for Mexico this morning. We were supposed to drive him to the airport at 6:30 a.m., but after some late-night debauchery I convinced him to find another ride instead. Our friend Heather got up early before work and drove him across town in his linen pants and short-sleeved shirt that are far too chilly for this cold weather we're having. Bastian woke up when Jon got out of the shower and Aleks woke up when Papa wanted to say goodbye, so we all ended up mostly staying awake anyway, though we did lay in bed for awhile. Bastian nursed and Aleks pressed himself against me, all knees and elbows.

At one point, Aleks asked if there were 6 more years left. I asked him, "until what?" He said, "Nothing. Just are there 6 more years left?" I started thinking about the infinence of time and space and how much they scared me when I was roughly six-years-old and first started wondering about the space beyond space and the hollow vacuum of forever. I told him that there were far more than six years left, that there would always be years, that years went on forever and ever. He didn't say anything, so I don't know if he understood or if he was confronted with the terrifyingly huge concept of infinity and the impossible task of imagining what it looks like or if he even understood what I meant or if I answered the question completely inappropriately or what.

The question itself scared me though. I have this superstitious curiosity about the psychic abilities of children and when they begin to throw around the concept of an end to everything, it freaks me out a bit. Does Aleks know something I don't? Is he somehow specially attuned to the universe and is subconsciously sharing his unique awareness like how house pets behave oddly prior to earthquakes? Is what Jon and I call the "zombie apocalypse"* on its way? I tried to just put it out of my mind.

*Zombie apocalypse is how we refer to the end of days, the crumbling of infrastructure and/or modern/American civilization due to any number of factors: nuclear war, global warming, peak oil, radical revolution, et cetera. Gives a little fun, kitschy flare to the whole terror of surviving nuclear winter or severe world-wide drought/flood cycles, food shortages, infrastructure collapse, roving bands of militia, et cetera.

It is odd though too, how his question sparked in me a lingering dread that comes with the attempt to encapsulate in my head, where there remain boundaries and limitations even in the trillions of neurons firing every second, the very idea of everything, forever, infinity. After all, the 17 mind movements that form each thought are so decidedly finite, so quantifiable, and in being calculable, practically antithetical to infinity.

The children eventually got up and retreated to the living room where I heard them getting out the drawer of metal cars and the drawer of wooden cars. I laid in bed for some time longer, trying to sleep again, and was almost there when the incessant creaking of one of the side chairs in the dining room drew my attention out of semi-sleep. I hurried out of bed to discover Aleks perched on the two car drawers stacked on top of his small wooden chair which was standing on the sky/water side chair. He had just managed to procure a bag of 40 million miniature resee cups from atop the plant ridge above the built-in china cabinet when I came in. I retrieved him from his pointedly precarious position, gave the boys each one miniature resee cup and found a new hiding place for the rest of them, not quite as far from their reaches, but which will work for the time being due to the effort involved in attempting to recoup their loss.

Figuring the boys were hungry, hence their quest for chocolate, I put two organic flaxen toaster waffles in the toaster for them. Then, of course, only one of the letter plates which must hold all their food was clean, so I had to wash dishes. Not just the one dish because the sink was too full for that, but all of the dishes. Then the butter wouldn't melt properly, so I heated the waffles in the oven for a couple of minutes to melt it. Thus, I was up. I cleared a space in the dish-drying area for the coffee pot, started up the laptop, chucked a good five scoops of organic fair-trade ethiopian blend into the reusable coffee basket, and began my day far, far too early.

The boys watched cartoons on Cartoon Network dot com (so much for being TV free) and I sat down at the dining table to catch up on my forums and long for my husband. He will return in 11 days. It wasn't quite until this morning that I realized how very much I will miss him. Not just long for reprieve in the constant care of two children, or someone else to make dinner every night like usual, but actually miss him.

On his way out, I told him that I can't live without him and to say hi to my peeps in Mexico and bring me back some Aztec gold. It's not precisely true that I can't live without him, and I doubt he'll send my regards or bring me back gold at all, much less Aztec gold, especially seeing as it was largely the Mayans in what is now Mexico, wasn't it? Nonetheless, that's what we parted on.

And I do miss him already. It is terrifying to have no contact with him. I may get an email at the beginning of his trip and likely at the end thanks to the remarkable prevalence of internet cafes in places other than Ohio, but in the time when he will be hitchhiking in Oaxaca, there should be a long stretch of nothing. Such silence is heart-wrenching.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Nature Boys

On the way back from running errands, I convinced Aleks that we should go to Shaker Lakes instead of Turtle Park because we were passing it and it was far more interesting and more shady. I already got sunburnt once this week.

First we stopped and examined some large black ants that were running about on some tree roots. Bastian had one on his hand for awhile and it crawled up his arm and down the front of his shirt. Eventually we lost him and couldn't figure out where he'd gone. They moved too quickly to even photograph.
Then Aleks tried to catch fish with a stick, as he is wont to do whenever we go on nature hikes or get near bodies of water. This time, there were lots of fish. A whole school of them trying to make it through the shallows and failing, but making lots of jumping noises. Whenever we approached, however, the fish fled.
You can sort of see some of them in this picture, if you enlarge it. I had trouble even getting the boys to be able to see them because they kept swimming off, scared by our shadows and noise.
Aleks used his fishing stick to scare some ladies on the bridge above, being a Trip Trap Troll.
Bastian joined in the scaring of the fish as well.
Aleks turned over a big rock to see if anything was living beneath it. There wasn't anything at all. Perhaps it's not warm enough yet, or maybe it's a bad spot, but there were no bugs, no salamanders, no worms or spiders, nada.

Trout lilies in bloom:
The ladies on the troll bridge were talking about all the signs of deer they saw. We found some tracks too:
Bastian examines a tree tag, identifying the tree as a sugar maple.
And of course, they like to climb on all the walls, just like last time:
Aleks and I spot a bat box up on a tree. I tried to look inside to see if there were any bats, but couldn't see any as it was dark in there. Aleks suggested using a flashlight, but I told him I didn't want to disturb them, not to mention that I didn't have a flashlight on me at the time. Now that I think about it though, the bats wouldn't have been able to perceive the light anyway. I explained how they come out at night and eat bugs and he warned against vampire bats. I told him that vampire bats live in warmer climates.
We trekked our way all the way to the lean tos beyond where the path ends. These have been changing and growing for many years now. This one used to be open. Aleks tried to find a way in, but couldn't. He concluded, however, that there were no animals asleep inside.
We visited the lean-tos several years ago as well, when Heather had more hair and Aleks was just 3:
Here are the remains of former lean-tos, now destroyed, presumably to construct bigger better structures:

Bastian headed back to the creek, trying to move a branch many times his size.
Aleks found some moss floating in the water.
The biggest, most recent lean-to sits at the far end of the park, just a hundred or so yards from the road.
The boys look inside.

Aleks crawls through a hole and up to the top.
The whole park is covered in tiny bits of green, flecked amidst the brown of dead leaves and the wood of trees and fallen limbs.
Bastian digs around inside the rotting log with a stick. The inside is turned nearly to dust and surely many bugs live and eat within.
Aleks and I find more evidence of deer: poop.

The boys head back again to the creek to explore some more.
Bastian climbs right in.
It reminds me of right after Bastian was born, when Aleks was the age Bastian is now, and his father somehow let him climb right into the pond at a reserve in Geauga County where we were attending a home birth families picnic. I believe, in fact, that they were wearing the exact same shoes in both of these instances.
I point out a tree growing entirely sideways. It's near one of the dismantled lean-tos, so it might have once been a supporting portion, possibly resulting in this odd angle.
The boys, of course, decide to ride it.
A rare photo of all three of us together.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How Awesome I Am

I am a super awesome mom. After a full day of working from home, keeping things tidy and the children fed, followed by a long excursion to the library where we checked out 54 items, I baked chocolate chip cookies. The only reason I did it is because we were going to go to the coffee shop after the library, like we normally do, but Aleks ran off to the big park and through a parking lot, so I was upset. Plus, Papa was at home making dinner, which would be nearly ready anyway. Aleks was very upset and cried and pleaded a lot of the way home, but we really needed to get back and the wagon was heavy.

After dinner, I had to take some Domestic Greening postcards to Jenny for her booth at Tri-C today, and we had just realized that we were out of birdseed, so I stopped at the grocery on the way back and picked up chocolate chips, brown sugar, extra butter, some more of the last of Conway's Irish Ale, and a 20 pound bag of wild bird seed. After dishes, I set to work making something like four dozen chocolate chip cookies, some with nuts for me, and some without for the boys. Then I gave them Amish milk and cookies warm from the oven while they watched one of their movies from the library.
Some days, I absolutely rock.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Grandparents' Visit

Grandma Cat and Grandpa Jim came to visit Saturday night for my (mama's) birthday. I had a performance with some other folks from our hometown in a bookstore in Tremont. Grandma Cat had had to work and Grandpa Jim had a big rally for Darfur, so they just came straight to the reading, rather than stopping at the house, which was best because they were late anyway.

Afterwards, we went to The Prosperity Club, which is a darn good bar, and ate greasy food and talked about Hoggy Dahs. A Hoggy Dah is someone who knows-it-all and is happy to tell you. Often an oldest sibling who tells all the younger siblings what to do and how to do it. I myself am a bona fide Hoggy Dah, no question about it. The word comes from our friends the Kambitsch family and the second-to-youngest (of thirteen), Patty, who is promoting her memoir, Looks Like Howard, from which I learned the word.

The next day, Grandma Cat, Grandpa Jim, and I took the boys up to Big Fun because Aleks was really keen on Grandma buying him something (I guess for my birthday). She seemed fine with this arrangement. It was a warm day, even though it was misting terribly, and the boys needed to run to get their energy out. In Big Fun, Aleks headed straight for the Star Wars section.They have so much Star Wars stuff. The place is stocked floor-to-ceiling with vintage and not-so-vintage toys and general kitsch. Its really awesome, actually.
Bastian bangs on the glass to the vintage Star Wars toys. Aleks once practically got us kicked out for doing the same thing at the old location because the employees act like they're rock stars. And actually, come to think of it, Aleks didn't even bang (amazingly enough for him), he just leaned. Jerkwads.
Each of these action figures costs at least $25. Which is why we own new action figures instead of old ones. I still really want a carbonite Han for Jon since he's my carbonite husband. But they're in the hundred-dollar range.
Grandma picked out a Darth Tater for the boys and a dashboard Vader that talks when your car moves. Here's Bastian waiting outside Tommy's with his new toy.
Grandma helped him put it together at the table while we waited for our order.
Jim shows off the dashboard Vader. I still need to put it up, actually.
Aleks sits and peruses two new Star Wars books I also picked up at Mac's Backs, which is attached to Tommy's. Sundays are super-duper busy at Tommy's, so I had to entertain the kids for awhile before our name was called. Buying them stuff seems to work well. We also sang The Christmas Song in the glass-enclosed entrance while dancing, went to the ATM, and made lots of silly sounds.
At Tommy's, you write down your name and the number of your party on this sheet at the front then stand crowded around a thin strip of seats waiting until your name is called. I always write down our name as Aleksander Guitar-Hero. Aleks once decided that he had changed everyone in the family's middle names:

ANNA: Aleks decided we needed to all change our middle names.
JON: Yeah, to what?
ANNA: My middle name will be Pumpkin-Heads, he wants his middle name to be Guitar-Heroes, and what did you want Sebastian's to be Aleks?
ALEKS: Micey-Cookies!
JON: What is my middle name going to be?
ALEKS: Spiders-Show-Up.
ANNA: Jonathan Spiders-Show-Up Wl****k.
JON: Im doin' it.

On the walk back home, since it was trash night, there was some furniture on the tree lawn, which is not at all unusual. Mom and I spotted this great shelf, which is antique, solid wood and totally scratched and dinged, but nothing a refinish won't cure or my children won't add to dramatically in the next few years. I tried just carrying it down the street at first, but I had two boxes of leftovers and a child-sized smoothie in my hands. Grandma Cat had one smoothie and the two boys who were running off, so she couldn't help, and Grandpa Jim had gone back to Big Fun for some yiddish magnetic poetry and my umbrella I'd left.

I got a few buildings down and tried to call Jon to come get me, but he couldn't get out of the driveway because of the Grandparents' car. After we all got back to the house, I took the car and picked it up. The only problem now is that I'm completely out of wall space to put it against without moving paintings. For now it sits in my bedroom, oddly off-center and sort of in the way. Bastian enjoyed shelving himself, however.