Thursday, November 4, 2010

Toy Story Cereal

I am not the kind of mom who generally showers her kids with stuff when we are out and about. I don't buy things to bribe my kids at the grocery store. I don't give in to the whining and crying for things they see in the store. They don't need it, I don't want it, and just because you got to come shopping with mommy is not an excuse or reason to get something for the sake of getting something. Period.end.of.story...Normally. The key to this last sentence is, "normally".

Alexander is rapidly approaching four years old. Where those four years have gone, I'm not entirely sure but he'll be four in March. With his "advancing age," it makes it harder and harder, if not impossible, to go to a store, cafe, or drive-thru and buy something for myself, whilst excluding him--and it's not fair to him, either. So yesterday morning, I did something I generally try my best to avoid--I took both kids grocery shopping with me. Now some will say that was my first mistake, and generally, I would agree. But there are times when it just can't be helped and with me they must come.

I began by trying to give Alex a rundown of our him a heads up as to what we would be doing, how long we'd be gone etc... "Alexander, our first stop will be for coffee." Alex knows, like rest of you, that mommy is a coffee fiend. He also knows that coffee means Starbucks and Starbucks means treats. He's a smart boy, what can I say. So when he asked me, "Mama, can I have a treat at coffee too, please?!" it melted my heart. He asked so nicely, even used the word "please," what could I say but yes?! Off to Fred Meyer we trek, stopping first for a shopping cart, which broke his heart when we could not take the "race car" cart because the straps were broken and there was no way to strap Anna into the cart. Heartbreak number one.

We continue our trek to the Starbucks inside Fred Meyer. Having worked for a Starbucks corporate store for nearly two years, I'm generally not a fan of the franchise stores. They're OK in a pinch but I don't find them as reliable as my local cafe. But today was a special day and some coffee was most certainly better than no coffee and with two kids in tow, a compromise was in order. Alex knows that his normal choices are a chocolate milk, a mini cookie, or mini scone. Today, he wanted a mini-cookie. As we approach the pastry case, Alex immediately notices, "Mama, there are no cookies!!" Sigh, he is correct. There are nothing but whole pieces of coffee cake, large scones, and biscotti--none of which qualify for Alex's special treat. So I ask him, "Alex are you sure you don't want a chocolate milk?" Nope, no go. He is set on a mini-cookie. Heartbreak number two.

As I begin ordering my grande, two-pump, white mocha, Americano with room, the negotiations for Alex's treat continue. We talk a little bit in line, waiting for my coffee, about other choices he might have for a treat. We settle on getting him and individual yogurt while we are grocery shopping. Mind you, I am not talking about the $3.95 yogurt parfait from Starbucks. I am instead talking about the .79 cent individual yogurts found in the dairy case of your local supermarket. This we agreed, would be the "perfect" treat for Alex this morning. And for two nano-seconds, I begin patting myself on the back, thinking, "yogurt is far superior to a cookie anyways--Yeah mom!"

Alas, anyone who has tried to shop with a 3.5 year old and a 16 month old can tell you, it's rough stuff. Anna, who much like her mommy, has a habit of demanding to be HEARD already, has started to get fidgety in her seat. We have not even started the actual grocery shopping yet. So my brain begins to race, just a little bit, thinking, OK, let's get this done already! Instead of heading directly to the dairy case, which is of course, is on the other side of the store, I begin in the produce department. Heartbreak number three for Alex, who just really, really wants his yogurt and is doing his best to wait for it.

After the potatoes, broccoli, spinach, and onion have been procured, it's on to the middle isles of the supermarket--again, if mommy had not been distracted by said children and if my brain had already not started racing, I would have chosen differently. Instead, we find ourselves having wandered down the cereal isle. What on God's green earth persuaded me to venture into shark infested waters, I'm still not quite sure. Cereal is Alex's golden food. It is his, "nectar from the gods." There is no other food on earth he would rather eat than cereal. Anytime of day, night, snack...ever. Cereal is gold. The only thing that could possible make an already golden food shine brighter is the marketing to be found on the outside of a cereal box, which leads him in .2 nano-seconds to spot the golden shining box of, "Toy Story Blueberry Kellogg's Mini-Wheats." This, no doubt, sinks my battleship. At this very moment time stood still. The world fell off it's axis and my son was in-love. In-love with the Buzz Lightyear that was calling his name..."Come on Alexander, To Infinity and Beyond with blueberry mini-wheats." There was nothing, nothing in the world that would now stand between Alex and his Buzz. No yogurt, cookie, book, sticker, BMW would have persuaded him to give up that box of cereal.

Now, being the intelligent mommy I like to think I am, I offer Alex the box of cereal IF he is good for the rest of the shopping trip. Mind you, I am hoping beyond all hope that he will instead forget about it by the end of the trip...and I must say, he is an angel for the next 35 minutes of shopping. As we proceed to the checkout, he reminds me, "mama, don't forget my Toy Story Cereal!!" Yes, son, yes, how could I forget? Damn it! And we find ourselves once again in shark infested waters, this time, placing the box of beloved cereal in our cart for purchase. Heartbreak number one for Mommy.

As we drive home, Alex is smitten with his new box of not just cereal, but "Toy Story" cereal. It is special and I get that. Upon arriving home, getting baby sister down for her much needed nap and putting the groceries away, Alex asks for what would be his first bowl of beloved cereal. It's lunch time and although the good parent in me says to feed him a real lunch first, I again cave to his request. He receives his bowl of cereal, which is devoured in approximately 2 minutes--from start to finish. Upon finishing, he of course begs, borrows and pleads for more. This time, mommy wins. There is no second round of cereal for lunch.

Fast forward to about 4pm on Tuesday. I am gone, our babysitter, Caleb is here watching the kids while I run some much needed errands before going to tutor...when my cell phone rings. It's Caleb, who is having a hard time convincing Alexander that "Toy Story" cereal isn't dinner. Caleb hands the phone to Alex, who promptly wastes no time in asking, "Mommy, can I have Toy Story cereal for dinner?!" No, no, you can't have cereal for dinner! Good grief, what have I created here? It is at this very moment that I begin to understand that by giving into my loving, sweet, well-behaved son at the grocery store this morning, I have a created a monster for this evening. I explain to him that there are two choices for dinner...chicken nuggets or leftover meatloaf. Cereal, is not on the menu. Alex begins to fuss and whine and scream on the phone, at which point, Caleb comes back on. Our babysitter is a bright guy--he knows the deal and reiterates to Alexander, chicken nuggets or meatloaf. No cereal. Disaster is averted, as Caleb makes the choice for Alex, chicken nuggets, and leaves them on the table for Alex to decide to eat. Heartbreak number four for Alex.

It's now 7:30pm when Rodney and I arrive home. Rod from work and me from tutoring. And of course, what is the first thing out of Alex's mouth...."I want Toy Story cereal!!" Sigh. Heartbreak number two for mommy. Rodney and I convince Alex that he has had enough cereal for one day but that he can have another bowl when he wakes up in the morning. Let me repeat, "Alexander may have another bowl when he wakes up in the morning." One more time, just in case you didn't get it..."Alexander may have another bowl when he wakes up in the morning."

Fast forward to 6:20am this morning. Yes, I said six-twenty AM this morning! Yesterday's dear, sweet, well-behaved boy has become this morning's, woke up way too early, over-tired, whining and screaming for "Toy Story" cereal demon. Are you kidding me?! NO! No, I'm not kidding. Alexander tantrums from 6:20am, which includes kicking, screaming, whining, crying and begging for "Toy Story" cereal. It becomes so bad, we decide that rather than locking him back in his own room, we would lock him out of our room. This is only marginally more successful. Finally, at 7am, Rodney graciously decides to get up and go downstairs with Alexander. After trying for several minutes to calm him down and stop the tantrum, which is not working. I come downstairs and promptly put said demonic "Toy Story" cereal in the trash, come back inside and make oatmeal. Alexander heartbreak number four. Mommy win number two.

Not that I'm keeping score but the moral of this story is to say no at the beginning. Having had the will-power to have said "no" in the beginning, perhaps my morning from Hell could have been averted. But then again, maybe not. It's more likely that this is just one of the many such experiences that I will look back upon with great humor. I'm already smirking as I write this evening. Character building, right? Yup, for both of us. My dear, sweet, loving little boy is back this afternoon, after school, lunch, a nap and dinner, he is currently chasing his little sister around the house and "dancing." It is quite the sight and only endears him more to me. I love my little guy. Heartbreak number three for mommy. As for the marketing department at Kellogg's and Disney...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Simple Minds

Hey, hey, hey ,hey

Won't you come see about me?
I'll be alone, dancing you know it baby

Tell me your troubles and doubts
Giving me everything inside and out and
Love's strange so real in the dark
Think of the tender things that we were working on

Slow change may pull us apart
When the light gets into your heart, baby

Don't You Forget About Me
Don't Don't Don't Don't
Don't You Forget About Me

Will you stand above me?
Look my way, never love me
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down

Will you recognise me?
Call my name or walk on by
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down, down

Hey, hey, hey, hey

Don't you try to pretend
It's my feeling we'll win in the end
I won't harm you or touch your defenses
Vanity and security

Don't you forget about me
I'll be alone, dancing you know it baby
Going to take you apart
I'll put us back together at heart, baby

Don't You Forget About Me
Don't Don't Don't Don't
Don't You Forget About Me

As you walk on by
Will you call my name?
As you walk on by
Will you call my name?
When you walk away

Or will you walk away?
Will you walk on by?
Come on - call my name
Will you all my name?

I say :
La la la...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans

Fall has been an intense season. From the time we arrived home from Hawaii on Labor Day, life has been swirling around at hurricane's pace. And not just Hurricane Alex, but truly, life in general. So many events, friends and kids compose the make up of our life--at times it's hard to comprehend.

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans," John Lennon.

Lennon pegged it right. While I frantically begin to plan and prepare for the holidays, life is busily passing me by. I need to remember to take more time to sit down, think, reflect and most importantly ENJOY what we have. Enjoy my kids. Try not to stress so much over nap times, missed nap times, toys, messes, dishes, dinner, preschool...the list continues, ad nauseam.

So many wonderful things have taken place, whilst I've been stressing. Alex's German has improved so much this Fall. He has made huge strides in comprehending and listening to directions in German. He still isn't responding back to us or his teachers in German but it will come. I know it will. He is talking in English so much more than he ever has in the past--it's wonderful to hear. It is such a relief to be able to communicate and truly understand what it is he wants or needs. This goes without saying, but I'm a talker. I could talk all day long and never tire of it as a sport--Alex is not. A shy and somewhat quiet child, who has taken his time learning to effectively communicate and therefore driven me nearly stark raving mad. I am not by nature a patient person. Alexander has forced me to be patient, as there is no other alternative in watching children grow.

Anna is also becoming such a true little girl--no longer a baby. She is walking, trying to talk and very independent. Attempts to keep up with her brother and gives him a run for his money. Gee, I can't imagine where she gets any of those traits from?! She is a joy everyday and I love watching her attempt to interact and mimic the things her big brother does. She is my cuddle bug, in ways that Alex has never been. Loves her mommy and is freely giving of her hugs. I am excited to see who she will become. While somewhat afraid of having a little girl, knowing all of the pitfalls that might lie ahead of her before she becomes an adult. Girls can be mean. Viciously cruel and the pitfalls that lie before them are innumerable. It is yet another stress for me, raising a smart, strong, and independent daughter who will be able to navigate those pitfalls with grace and dignity. Only God knows the true outcomes which lay ahead. And it is yet another thing I will have to be patient for. An old friend, reminding me of the mistakes I made as a teenager, recently said, something to the effect of, "raise your kids the best you can and support them no matter their mistakes." Sigh, it's easier said than done but so true.

Monday, October 4, 2010

About me

I'm articulate, witty, cute, and fun! My mouth runs about 3 feet in front of the rest of my body. Don't take it personal. I'm willing to listen, even when I don't like what you have to say. Don't be afraid to post a comment. I don't bite. If I you feel you need to knock me down a peg or two, do it! You're probably right. And try, try very hard, not to take anything I write too personal. It's just a snip-it of how I'm feeling at that very moment. It will change, I will mellow, and sometimes, even see the reason in what you have to say. I'm impulsive, no doubt about it but that is what makes me, me! Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tales of a Fouth Grade Nothing...

Today was my first day tutoring for the Kirkland Homework Helpers, HH for short. I was first approached about tutoring last spring by friends from church. People who knew my background in education and thought this would be right up my alley. It is. Although, I'm tutoring a fourth grader. I haven't worked with intermediate aged students since college--a little more than 12 years ago. It was never my professed "favorite" age group but tonight was special and fun. What struck me most about my student is how ready, how eager he is to learn. He was ready with his homework, ready to start and knew where to begin. Which was more than I could say for me.

We worked on math and spelling. Ahhh, math. Those of you who know me well, know there is a reason I majored in English. Even fourth grade math is enough to give me goose bumps. Alas, it was money math. Ahhh, yes, this even I can do! I know where the decimals go, ones, tens, hundreds...yup, if it's money, I can play too! Please don't start in on the amortization of anything though. The rest, we'll see how it goes and take it as it comes. Honestly, my math skills are worse than my three year old's spelling skills. They suck. Or, so I think. But sometimes, sometimes I surprise myself.

There are times, when even I understand the math in my life--sometimes. Not very often, I admit but it happens. I wonder, how much of my inabilities stem from my lack of confidence? I have been told since *I* was in the fourth grade, that math is not my subject. My grandfather hired a math tutor for me in the fifth grade. I remained with that tutor for four years--for all the good it did me. I staunchly believe that I would not have graduated from college without the math skills of my husband. Rodney helped me with every Natural World and Quantitative Science and Reasoning class I had to take to graduate. Those were all his skills, not my knowledge. But it was fear holding me back.

My student has a variety of problems in his young life. This was clear from our first introduction. But his eagerness to learn, to come, to have a tutor, were also clear. It is not my job to make sure he gets every math problem right. Lord knows, during the course of this year, there will be problems I cannot help with. My job is to support and build his confidence. To make sure that this young student doesn't sabotage himself before he ever really begins. It is a teacher's job to make sure that he is on track, believes in himself and is given the opportunity to learn. It's going to be a great year!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Speed Wars

I love to drive fast. Exceptionally fast. Perhaps it is in the German in me but there is nothing I love more than a 6 speed, stick-shift, with wide open road and good pavement beneath me. As a teenager, there was little I liked better than seeing how fast we could get the car going down, "Roller Coaster Road." Could we possibly catch enough air to get all four tires off the ground this time? Let's find out... Duvall Road SE, just beyond Dairy Queen and leading back into Maplewood, used to be a sleepy, sparsely-populated residential street in Renton. It is now, much like every other street in the Highlands, an over-populated, over saturated street full of over priced, under lotted cracker box houses.

I was 15 when I first discovered the thrill of cruising this 25mph street at 60+, riding shot-gun, in Matthew's 1984 Peugeot. Clearly, not the BMW 5-series I covet today but more car than I personally owned in 1994. Riding in that car, at speeds that defied the law, our parents, and all facets of common sense, gave me my first taste of ridiculous freedom. It was undoubtedly a stupid game of chicken. How fast could we go without, A. crashing, or B. getting a ticket? Luckily, we never found out. My love of driving fast was only further fueled by traveling to Germany, repeatedly as a teenager. I have a long standing love affair with the Autobahn, that is, when it is not cluttered in Stau...congestion.

Given all of this, you would likely think I am the last person to bitch about the traffic, specifically the teenage traffic cruising up and down our street in Kirkland. I live approximately equal distance between the high school and Starbucks. A deadly combination. As both a resident and a teacher, I know all too well not to get in the way of a junior in need of a caffeine fix at 7am. I am, however, also 31 years old with two very small children. I would like to think I could stroll to my mailbox with my dog, or children, at one in the afternoon and NOT get hit by a car. Alas, it is that very wish, which seems to be the impossible, no matter where we live.

Our first house, was not really a house at all, rather a condo in a high-rise in the heart of downtown Seattle. At a mere 610 square feet, it served us just fine for the five years we lived there. We did not own a parking space, instead, I did my best to find free parking and fed a lot of quarters to the parking meter gods. I never once, in all five years there, gave two snits of a nanosecond of thought to how fast people flew down Hubbell Place. Not only did it not bother me, I am quite sure I was one of the speeding offenders. Our second home, a 2,200 square foot, five bedroom house was purchased in the spring of 2003. Having looked at houses from Renton to Redmond and all parts in-between on both side of the lake, we settled on this one in the Judkins Park neighborhood of Seattle. 26th and Massachusetts was to be our home for the next five years. It was a brand new house, of the cracker box variety I spoke of before. A coveted corner lot with lots of room to "grow." And grow I did. Three years after moving into that house I was pregnant.

Almost over night I began noticing things that never bothered me before. The traffic on Massachusetts. The mind-numbingly loud trucks that rumbled up and down the street between the I-90 on/off ramp and MLK, with my abode stuck smack in the middle. The semi-trucks were so loud they shook my china and crystal wine glasses with the fierceness of an earthquake--every 3 minutes another one came rolling by. Because Massachusetts was the main through street between I-90, Rainier Ave South and the Central District, it bared far more than its fair share of traffic. None of this was new but hadn't been noticed until the imminent birth of a child. And it was, as my husband feared, even more noticeable after our son was born.

Over night, I not only had this small, wonderful bundle of joy to care for but I was home, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Home to hear what I missed during the working hours of 6:15am, when I previously left, until 4:30pm when I arrived home again. Home to hear and feel the noise rattle my son awake from his naps. Home to see the close calls of other neighbors, who dared to cross that busy street during the day. Home. As my son approached his first birthday, we began looking for a new, quieter place to call home.

This led us to where we are now, in Kirkland. A suburb. My husband came kicking and screaming to the burbs, at my insistence that things, that schools, that people, that TRAFFIC would be better here. Aren't things always greener on the other side? When it became apparent that moving back to our hometown of Renton was not an option for him, we settled on this house, a mere one mile from his office. On what seemed to be a quiet, tree lined street straight out of "Pollyanna." There is a cemetery at the far end of our street, nestled in-between the high school and the Starbucks, and with the quietest neighbors in the world, or not, I was sure this was going to be the perfect place for us.

And it is very, very nice. Except, for the traffic. I better than anyone understand a person's need for speed. What I fail to comprehend, as an adult, is why that need must be exercised by grown people on my residential street? We are a street lined with small children. There are no children over the age of 7. None. Yet, the number of times I have been flipped off, nearly run down or flat out ignored by speeding drives...well let's just say I lost track eons ago. My husband has petitioned the City of Kirkland to conduct, two, yes, count them, TWO traffic calming studies on our street. The end of the first study commenced with white shoulder lines and "25 MPH" being painted on the street. That was it. The second study has produced nothing. Nothing more than the realization by the city that our street is wide and long. Two very poor characteristics for a residential street. Neighbors have suggested asking the Kirkland Police to sit on our street. But this, as a speed trap dodger, I know is only a temporary fix. As soon as the policeman and his radar gun leave, the speeders return.

What I want are speed cameras. I would like to believe that our police have better things to do than wait for someone like me, to speed down the street. I spoke earlier for my love of driving in Germany...I also love their speed cameras. I can see you now, scratching your head, thinking, "she's lost it!" But no, I like them for several reasons. After a while you know they are there. They are a permanent fixture on German roads--especially residential roads. The cameras are no secret. You only need to get caught once to learn not to speed down that street again. They're cheap too. When you compare the cost of a policeman's salary to sit out side my house 24 hours a day, a speed camera pays for itself pretty quickly. And mostly, they work. They work well. Germans who feel they can afford to speed and get caught repeatedly, do so. Ok, no problem. Easy money for the city. Those who can't afford to speed, don't. And therefore make the neighbors happy.

If I could, I would go back to the old neighbors on Roller Coaster Road to apologize. I never gave any thought to how upsetting it must have been to have obnoxious, stupid teenagers speed down their street at all hours of the day and night. Alas, they are gone. Their homes have been demolished in order to make room for new homes. Stop signs have been installed at nearly every intersection on that street. I have heard, though I cannot confirm, that late at night there are kids who blow through those stop signs, looking for the same buzz I caught traveling down that road at 60 MPH. Perhaps, speed cameras on that street could put a stop to it?