Dinner Date

Every Tuesday night one of my best friends and I meet for supper – with kids in tow. It’s a great chance for us to catch up over chips and salsa while the children work diligently to see who can spill the most queso dip all over the table.

It’s fun. You should join us.

Last week my friend NK’s younger child needed a nap more than she needed to eat out, so they had to cancel. I decided that it would be fun for Alex and me to still go to dinner together, so we headed to a neighborhood deli for a little mama / son date night. The atmosphere might not be so great, but I knew the company would more than make up for it.

Once Alex had his cheese pizza and I had my salad, we started covering some of his favorite conversational topics: friends, Mickey Mouse, monsters, VERY VERY BIG MONSTERS, and SCARY! GIANT! MONSTERS! THAT GO! RARRRRRRRRR!

Eventually Alex decided that he was more interested in eating than talking, and I found myself staring at the little man as he devoured his pizza, wondering what he will look like when he’s older. And it occurred to me, as I watched him, that he’s going to grow up, and I cannot stop the process.

Before I knew what hit me, my eyes filled with tears. All I could think about was how the little man’s cheeks are thinner by the day, how his ankles are now slim and defined, how his calves have muscles instead of squishy rolls of baby softness. And with everything in me, I wanted to stand up in my chair and say: PEOPLE, WHAT IS UP WITH NOT BEING ABLE TO STOP THE CHILDREN FROM GROWING UP? IT MAKES ME VERY SAD.

You should probably keep in mind that I’m the same person who cried when I filled out a form for Alex’s Mother’s Day Out last week, because it’s the last form I’ll ever fill out for MDO since he starts preschool at a different place this fall, and clearly I am far too emotional and unstable to be a voice of reason in terms of this whole children-growing-up thing, and perhaps I should look into a prescription for a light nerve pill of some sort.

Anyway.

When I finally composed myself at the dinner table, I decided, right there on the spot, that since I don’t have the superhuman power of stopping time (sadly, I can only melt steel with my eyes and create wind where there once was none), I might as well embrace the fact that Alex can’t stay four forever. So I turned to him, determined to look his future square in the eye, and said, “Alex? What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Without missing a beat, he said, “Oh. A fireman.”

We talked about firemen for a couple of minutes, and then Alex grabbed my hand mid-sentence, looked straight in my eyes, and said, “Hold on, Mama. Just a minute, Mama. Hold on.”

“What is it?” I replied.

“Mama? Well, Mama? I just want to be Alex when I grow up. I just want to be Alex, Mama.”

And the tears, they started again.

I have no idea what Alex will look like when he’s older. I don’t know what he’ll do for a living, who he’ll marry, or where he’ll live.

But I do know one thing.

If, above all, he can “just be Alex” as he makes his way through different ages and stages?

Well, I think that’s the very best plan for the future that I’ve ever heard.

WAX ON! WAX OFF! WAX ON! WAX OFF!

So.

The pre-schooler and a couple of his buddies started a little KAH-RAH-TAY class today, and I’m not exactly sure what they did besides yelling “HIIIIIIII-YAH!” four or eight hundred times. However, Alex does seem to have mastered a martial arts stance / arm motion that’s eerily reminiscent of Elaine’s dancing on “Seinfeld,” so quite obviously we’re going to get our money’s worth (and then some) out of his first official extracurricular activity.

Anyway, as we headed to our car after his class, I couldn’t help but notice that he was even more excited than normal. And as soon as we were all buckled in he said, “Mama! I need to talk to my daddy! I NEED to talk to my daddy!” So I got D. on the phone, and A. told his daddy all about the KAH-RAH-TAY, did a few quick “HIIIIIII-YAH!s” before hanging up, and then we headed to Publix because, well, that is what we do on the days when the sun comes up in the morning.

The fact that Alex seems to come alive in public settings – like, for instance, at Publix – has been confirmed time and time again, seeing as how he likes to introduce himself to people he doesn’t know and engage them in lengthy conversations. In fact, when I recently took him to get his hair cut, he found out the names of everyone in the waiting area, made sure every child had paper and crayons, procured Little Debbie cakes from the coffee station and distributed them, then passed out balloons and candy to all the children (their names were Cameron, Ethan, Zachary and Morgan, and I know this because Alex repeated their names approximately four hundred and ninety four times while we were waiting).

In short, our child is a three year old camp counselor.

And let me just tell you: this afternoon? the extroverted child? after participating in an organized martial arts activity? with a bunch of other boys his age?

OH MY SWEET MERCY MAMA NEEDED A NERVE PILL.

I don’t even know how to explain what happened when we were in Publix, but I do know this: while Alex does typically talk in exclamation points (I can’t imagine how he inherited such a tendency!), this afternoon in the grocery store he was talking in ALL CAPS. ALL CAPS WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS! LOUDLY!

For example:

“MAMA! WE NEED SOME TURKEY!” (true that)

“OH, LOOK MAMA! CEREAL! I LOOOOOOOVE CEREAL!” (he doesn’t eat cereal)

“MAMA! BANANAS MAKE ME HAPPY!” (really? as far as I can tell, air makes him happy)

“YOU KNOW WHAT WE NEED NOW, MAMA? EGGGGGGS!” I LOOOOOOOOVE EGGS!” (he doesn’t eat eggs)

And please don’t misunderstand me. I am beyond grateful for the blessing of a happy, healthy child. It’s just that the happy, healthy child was a little amped up due to all the chopping and kicking and “HIIIIIIII-YAH”-ing he’d been doing, and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that a stranger or two craned their necks from adjoining aisles to see who was starting the pep rally for “CORRRRRRRN! LOOK, MAMA, IT’S CORRRRRRN!” over in frozen foods.

I tried to say things – calm things – like, “baby. let’s use our inside voice. our quiet voice. ‘kay?”

And Alex would look at me very seriously and nod his head and say, “OKAY, MAMA! WE’LL USE OUR INSIDE VOICE! THAT’S A GREAT IDEA! IT’LL BE SO! MUCH! FUN!”

When I had just about hit my limit – when I was just about to that point where you just pull the young’un out of the grocery cart and hope some shopper comes along who needs the exact combination of groceries that you’re about to leave behind – Alex looked at me, smiled, patted my arm, and said, “Oh, Mama. You’re my sweet girl, aren’t you, Mama?”

I melted. On the spot. Despite the fact that I was surrounded by large refrigerated coolers.

I paused for just a second so I could soak up the sweetness of the moment – and then I smiled, patted his little arm, and said, “I am your sweet girl. And you’re my sweet, big boy.”

And together, we marveled at THE PAPER TOWELS! and THE WINNIE THE POOH FRUIT CANDY! and THE ORAL B STAGES BUBBLY FRUIT TOOTHPASTE! as we wheeled our way through the rest of the store.

This post was published originally on January 31, 2007.

This Does Not Bode Well For Any Future Fine Dining Experiences

I am happy to announce that Fresh Market & Co. waddled back to our ‘hood this afternoon. All nine of them.

We took them some bread and then snapped an obscene number of pictures.

The mama and daddy were much friendlier today, by the way.

I’m guessing that had something to do with the whole bread thing.

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Which reminds me.

Today about 12:30 someone called me from Alex’s Mother’s Day Out and said that he had gotten sick. She said that he didn’t throw up exactly, but he got very still in the middle of eating lunch “and then some of it came back up.”

So I jumped in the car and headed over to pick him up, and when I got there about five minutes later, he was sitting happily in a chair in the director’s office, eating a popsicle and talking up a storm. His cheeks were flushed and his hair was sticking to his head – they’d been out on the playground right before lunch – but other than that he looked perfectly normal. I figured he must be in the early stages of a virus, so we thanked everybody for their help (“AND THE POPSICLE, MAMA!”), grabbed his backpack, and left.

Once we got back home, I immediately fixed the little man some Sprite and told him that it would probably be a good idea if he rested for awhile. He curled up on his bean bag in the playroom and watched a movie, and I was all “bless your bones” and “baby, do you need anything?” and he was all doe-eyed and uncharacteristically quiet.

But when the movie was over, he popped up from that bean bag, threw on his shoes, ran down the hallway at warp speed and announced (loudly) that he wanted to GO OUTSIDE! PLEASE, MAMA! AND PLAY BASEBALL!

Which seemed, you know, odd. Considering he was sick and all.

And by the end of the day, when there had been no more vomitage but a great deal of TALKING! AND PLAYING!, I started to get a little puzzled about this “virus.” So I began to ask him some questions.

Finally, after he had detailed most of the circumstances surrounding his lunchtime misfortune, he said, “Mama, I don’t need a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my lunch anymore.”

“But you love peanut butter and jelly, don’t you?”

“No, Mama. I don’t need it.”

And then it dawned on me: I bought a different kind of bread this week, a brand with little chunks of grains and berries and nuts and whatnot.

So I said, “Buddy, did you not like the bread I used today to make your sandwich?”

“NO, Mama – it had NUTS in it. And Mama, I SPIT IT OUT. I SPIT IT OUT REAL HARD.”

Which pretty much solved the whole “mystery virus” conundrum.

You see, apparently my child didn’t care for Nature’s Own Honey Wheat Berry bread when he started to eat his lunch today, so HE GAGGED AND PROJECTILE SPAT IT ACROSS THE LUNCH TABLE, thereby causing his teacher’s understandable concern that he was, you know, VOMITING.

And then he was rewarded for his pickiness with a popsicle.

Really, it worked out beautifully for the young lad.

But no worries.

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Because as you can see, Go Diego Go here thought that the Nature’s Own Honey Wheat Berry bread was absolutely delicious. As did his siblings and parents.

In fact, not a single one of them gagged, spat or threw up even a little bit as they ate it.

Alex may have them beat in terms of social skills, but they win the table manners battle by a mile.

Well, At Least The Lord Thinks It’s A Joyful Noise

A couple of nights ago I was shampooing Alex’s hair, and without even realizing it, I started to sing.

After a few moments of listening to my serenade, Alex said, “Um, Mama? Excuse me? Mama?”

“What, baby?” I replied, soaking in the sweetness of the moment, beaming with pride that my little man was using his manners even during bathtime.

“Mama, when you sing it makes me sad.”

Oh.

Well, then.

That’s interesting.

Because as it turns out, when my own offspring reminds me that I have no vocal talent whatsoever and as a result of that will never, ever BE ABLE TO FULFILL MY DREAM OF SINGING BACK-UP FOR CHRIS TOMLIN, THAT MAKES ME SAD, TOO.

You’ve gotta watch out for those four year olds, y’all.

They’ll take your dreams and stomp them flat.

Yes ma’am they will.

Our New Year’s Rockin’ Eve

We have been the Sneezy McSickersons at our house today, thanks to a monster of a cold / sinus infection that Mama was kind enough to pass along to all of us when she was visiting for Christmas.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Unfortunately, Alex is about two days ahead of D. and me in the recovery process, which means that the youngster has a major case of cabin fever and two parents who don’t much want to venture outside the “cabin,” as it were. To add insult to injury, Alex ripped up a DVD case (why? I have no idea, but the people at Blockbuster will be none too pleased with his handiwork), lost his TV privileges for the day, and do y’all have any idea how it’s taking every ounce of strength I have not to cave and let my child watch “Max and Ruby,” for pete’s sake?

You see, the problem with punishment is that you have to enforce it. Which totally stinks. Especially when your head is swollen to twice its normal size and stuffed with cotton.

So, to entertain himself, Alex has been removing the attachments from the vacuum cleaner and using them as microphones, mostly saying, “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, it’s MAAAAAAH-MAAAAAAAH!” And then I take the stage, sneeze, and blow my nose. Tickets are going for upwards of a penny, so you’d better order yours quickly because there’s no question that the show is going to be a sell-out.

We have also made pretend phone calls to Mickey Mouse, Batman, Superman, Donald Duck, Goofy, the grandparents, and all the aunts and uncles. And do y’all know what’s CRAZY? According to the information that Alex says they’re giving him, they all got Criss Cross Crash for Christmas. ISN’T THAT UNCANNY? Alex has also called Mickey Mouse to tell him that we’re going to make some chocolate chip cookies and to ask him to excuse him because he “pooted and had gas,” and if y’all would just remind me that the next time I have some sort of cold and Alex misbehaves, I need to come up with an alternate form of punishment that does not involve taking away the television.

(By the way, right now D. and Alex are playing Criss Cross Crash, and it’s so loud that I feel like I need to TYPE IN ALL CAPS JUST SO YOU CAN HEAR ME.)

So here’s our plan for the evening, once we get the child into bed:

1) Sneeze
2) Wipe nose
3) Repeat

If we get really wild and crazy I guess we’ll wipe each other’s noses, but maybe not, because, well, EWWWW.

I actually did get my Christmas decorations put away today, and that was a huge accomplishment because I kept breaking out in a cold sweat and having to sit down and fan myself (in a word: ATTRACTIVE), and I found myself getting a little reflective about 2006. I don’t know if that was because I was running a touch of fever or because I was actually examining my life thoughtfully (stranger things have happened), but I think I’ll probably write some of that stuff down and post it tomorrow when everyone’s too tired from their New Year’s Eve festivities to care. Because I like to bury the thoughtful stuff in places where no one can find it, you see.

So now it’s almost 10, and Alex is asleep, and the dogs are all snug in their beds (it took some doing because Maggie the lab is terrified of the sound of fireworks and had a full fledged anxiety attack about 7, right around the time when Alex was calling Mickey Mouse and telling him all about his gastric woes), and I think I’m going to watch a movie.

I know! A movie!

I think it’s pretty clear that I’m planning to LIVE ON THE EDGE in 2007.

Happy New Year, everybody.

Please Permit Me To Inundate You With Pictures

I have two words to describe Alex on Christmas Eve:

BUCK WILD.

I’ve never seen him in such a state, but he looked a little bit like this:

 

 

All. night. long.

At one point I expected that he would just crash completely through a wall, but I tried not to let it upset me because I hear that Santa’s elves do some really excellent sheetrock work on the side.

He finally went to bed around 10 o’clock, and we weren’t too much worse for the wear other than being utterly exhausted. I did take the time to make sure that this little note found its way to a prominent spot.

 

Fingers crossed that when Alex saw it Christmas morning he wasn’t puzzled by the girlish slant to Santa’s handwriting.

And don’t think for a second that my mama wasn’t secretly horrified that I left Santa’s cookies on a paper plate and put his milk in a Solo cup. She didn’t say anything, but trust me: she was mortified to her very core. Because, I mean, Santa was company, after all, and I could’ve at least gotten out a piece of china and a real glass.

Christmas morning was a blast, and Alex was (and continues to be) pretty carried away with his “big” toy, Criss Cross Crash.

What the commercials for Criss Cross Crash do not reveal is that it’s a very loud toy, one which prohibits conversation in anything resembling a normal “inside” voice.” So there was lots of yell-talking on Christmas morn, which really adds a certain special something to the day.

And, I might add, gives you a bit of a headache.

Did I mention that Criss Cross Crash is a very loud toy?

Also: there are few things cuter than a little boy in a red and white striped turtleneck shirt on Christmas afternoon:

 

 

Well, actually there is something cuter, because look what Santa brought us!

 

A baby!

Oh I’m kidding.

But my cousin Paige did bring her baby to our house last night, whereby we celebrated Baby J.’s first Christmas and his first road trip. He was a complete angel – and he even made his first (brief) trip to Steinmart(s) today, which is always a bit of a milestone for the children in our family. Y’all don’t even want to know how many times I nursed Alex in a Steinmart(s) dressing room, but let’s just say that I would not be surprised to see a commemorative plaque with a tasteful etching of what Jeana would call my “baby feeders” beside the dressing rooms at the back of the store. I’m just sayin’.

Tomorrow will find us on the road to Mississippi, where we’ll be celebrating Christmas with Martha and Sissie, and Martha will no doubt regale us with stories about how you just can’t find cute church dresses anymore, how she found a perfectly darling pantsuit at the Dillards in Hattiesburg but they didn’t have it in her size at the Hattiesburg store or at any of Dillards’ other 374 locations throughout the continental US, and how the Blue Bell ice cream hasn’t been on sale for weeks at the Winn Dixie, because you know she loves to buy peaches and chop them up and fold them into the Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla because it tastes just like homemade peach ice cream, and don’t tell anybody but one time she did just that for a United Methodist Women ice cream supper, and do you know that she got RAVES for that ice cream? She did! She got raves!

Last thing.

Remember the Christmas Card Tree?

FAVORITE. THING. EVER.

I’ve enjoyed it so much that I may not take it down until April.

If I even take it down at all.