OK. I give up. Weeks and weeks of writer's block. What on earth did I find to say to you every day before I fell off the wagon?
Prompt me. What do you want to know?
OK. I give up. Weeks and weeks of writer's block. What on earth did I find to say to you every day before I fell off the wagon?
Prompt me. What do you want to know?
When a child deliberately misunderstands what is said, it is obnoxious. Mrs Piggle-Wiggle, I believe, called it I-Thought-You-Said-itis and treated the afflicted by filling their mouths with frogs. Or something like that, it's been a while.
When a parent does it, however, it is perfectly acceptable corrective tool. A mild, playful reminder that when you talk as if your cheeks are stuffed with hard-boiled eggs no one can understand you.
Exhibit A, pretty much always:
Edward says, "Uhwnnrhhmchuzsangitch."
I reply, "I'm sorry? You want a hamster sandwich?"
Hilarity ensues and Edward then clarifies in rich yet dulcet tones that he would like a ham and cheese sandwich. Eventually this need for repetition will lead to self-modification and Edward's future peers, colleagues... all of humanity really... will thank me for the time and effort I put into getting my children to keep the E N U in enunciation.
Well, most of my children. Caroline always speaks like she's about to hand it over to Trevor who is reporting live from the scene and Patrick. Ah Patrick.
Exhibit B, yesterday, driving home:
Patrick says... god only knows what.
"Mister delicious said yes?" I offer.
"Yes," Patrick replies, coolly. "Mr Delicious Said Yes. That's exactly what I said. It's the title of a romance novel I'm writing."
"Glurk," I answer.
"Why? Why is it called that? Is that what you want to know? Because 'Mr Delicious Said No' wouldn't be a romance. It would be... a tragedy."
PS Today is my birthday. I! Love! My! Birthday! I'm not so crazy about the eye wrinkles and this new wibbly action that seems to be taking place under my chin but apart from that... birthday! Yay!
Do you think it is possible to have a really prolonged build up to a migraine? I have been feeling flat and sleepy and unfocused for almost two weeks and as I am sitting here waiting for Patrick it is dawning on me that I seem to be on the verge of a truly massive headache. Like, my teeth hurt and I cannot button my sweater and it has taken me ten minutes to write this, massive.
I think there is a word for it, the before something happens feeling, but I can't think of it. But weeks, do you think?
I need to get home and I need my medicine to kick in. Not in that order. Hell, I can't get my sentences to button either.
"Madam," Edward said to me this morning as I tried to expedite his zippering, "I can put on my own jacket."
Every time I think of it I start laughing all over again. Madam! I think the Dickens must've seeped into his very marrow.
[Nothing, and I mean nothing, going on over here. I could say that I didn't want to bore you with my minutiae but then you might point out that that has never stopped me in the past. I plead laziness. Also hours spent playing a game called FTL but I am not necessarily admitting to that aloud, merely hinting at it. And my mother is visiting.
In other nothing, I just finished listening to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and despite the fact that I have read it before I cried my way through the entire thing. It is great as an audiobook. Usually I dislike multiple narrators but it really worked with the epistolary form.
What's your favorite audiobook? And if you don't listen to audiobooks what do you do while you clean the kitchen? Whistle?]
I might have been speaking metaphorically when I said that I decided to watch the Euro qualifiers this past weekend rather than attend a giant party but I was not. It was the literal truth. Also - and this is key - whether I went or not Steve was going to attend and he would be taking the children with him.
You see my dilemma?
Drive three hundred miles into Wisconsin to... I don't know... socialize and dance before ultimately sleeping in a tent with my entire family OR stay home all by myself for over twenty-four hours with hot and cold running football and potato chip dip.
To me the choice was so glaringly obvious that I use the word 'dilemma' ironically, but I was amused when it highlighted an unexpected personality divide. When I explained my weekend plans to my ebullient friend Katie; rather than gnash her teeth in envy over my upcoming solitude, she said things like "Oh the party sounds so fun!" and "Are you sure you don't want to go?"
I thought about clarifying the situation for her (ALL ALONE in my house with NO OTHER PEOPLE AT ALL) but instead just shook my head. Extroverts. I love you but you are deranged.
So Steve packed for himself and the kids and after the Saturday morning soccer games they all headed off to our co-farmers' house way down yonder for an enormous outdoor Fall gathering
[When I say enormous I mean huge. Think 200, 300 people.
Edward said, "The police officer complimented my kilt!"
I said, "What?"
"He said, 'Hey, cool kilt!'"
I said, "No. Not what did the police officer say. I meant, what police officer?"
Patrick chimed in, "One of the ones who came with the first noise complaint."
Caroline clarified further, "It was a totally awesome party!"
"TOTALLY!" Steve shouted from his office.
Meanwhile I took a two hour nap on the couch, watched football and then a surprisingly depressing rom-com - have you ever watched Muriel's Wedding? - reorganized the books in the living room, downloaded the remastered version of Secrets of Monkey Island and had cheese and apples for dinner. It was divine. The next morning I woke up at the precise moment I chose and vacuumed every chair a cat has slept upon in the past three years. Then I went into Caroline's closet and ruthless gathered up every stray fairy shoe and Fisher Price Little People tricycle she has crammed into those bins over the years and donated them.
[Or rather, I meant to do so. I got as far as putting it all into a bag and then I put the bag in the garage and then the football started again and I got distracted. This is what is known in the parenting world as a rookie mistake.
Last night at bedtime Caroline produced a baby doll with one working eye and thrust it in my direction.
"What," she asked icily, "was this doing in the trash?"
"Ah," I said. "Yes. The bag in the garage. That. Well. I found a few things while I was tidying and... and that is where I put them."
"But I love this doll!" she wailed, throwing her arms wide in distress and accidentally bashing its head against the wall.
"Caroline. You have not seen or touched that doll since you got it three years and, now that I think about it, you never even had anything to do with it back then. You don't even like dolls."
"But I was using it! I need it!"
"Really?" I asked and I hope you can tell that my voice was dripping with incredulity. Because it was.
She hopped out of bed, went over to her little pink footstool, crammed the doll under one leg of it and then looked back at me.
"See? Now that won't wobble so much."
Caroline once had a preschool teacher who, upon overhearing Caroline telling Edward the right way to eat a cracker, said, "Aw, she's like a little mother! So nurturing."
BWAH HA HA HA HA HA HA.]
Where was I? Oh right. Explaining that although I had plenty of time to check in with you over the weekend I chose not to do so because I was too full of the serenity of solitude to muck around with words.
PS Seriously. Pick one: home by yourself or attend a giant party?
Patrick's (co-ed, rec league, very low key and surprisingly - to him - enjoyable) soccer team had their last practice tonight and the coach sent an email asking everyone to bring a parent with them for a team v parents scrimmage.
I forwarded this to Steve who forwarded it back to me. I forwarded it again; and again it returned.
Apparently when one watches eleventy billion hours of football and refuses on the unimpeachable grounds of Euro Qualifying Weekend to drive to Wisconsin this Saturday to join friends who are throwing some big springtime pumpkin dance hoedown, one becomes the de facto sacrifice when a parent is expected to participate in a scrimmage.
I struggled at first, asking Steve why we had spent so much money fixing all his knee meniscus if he wasn't even going to use it; and pointing out that his inability to raise his arms after the shoulder surgeries is actually an advantage since he is less likely to get a hand ball.
But eventually I embraced the inevitable, sighed and rummaged through the drawer where I keep bathing suits and jogging bras and other things I don't need that often, like the betamax, looking for something to wear.
Patrick blinked and said, "Wow. I have never seen you in pants that... tight."
I fled back into the bedroom and removed the exercise shorts, then re-emerged wearing something that might be yoga pants or might possibly be pajama bottoms. Then I put my hair into a business-like ponytail and found my sneakers.
"Alright," I said grimly, "this is an act of love that you will appreciate for the rest of your life. Also, anyone who kicks me in my unguarded shins will get slapped within an inch of their lives regardless of age, sex or familial relationship to myself."
We got to the field ten minutes late (hey, I had to change) and as we walked up a kid came running over yelling, "Are you playing? Are you playing?"
I said, "Who, me? Um, yes?" and thought "Can't you tell I came to play? Do you not see that I am wearing trousers suitable for the playing of the soccer?"
He called over, "They have eight! We can play one more! The parents have eight!"
Which is when I glanced onto the field and saw the rest of my team: Coach Futbal, Ultramarathoner One, US Navy T-Shirt Guy, Ultramarathoner Two, Assistant Coach Soccer, Eight Foot Tall Goalie and the Wiry Canadian Man. I felt like the token non-athletic girl - for obvious reasons - and without even asking where they wanted me I went to the token non-athletic girl position: left defensive back; which eventually merged into left right center back because the rest of my team was too busy racing around scoring to bother defending the goal, which was more or less completely blocked anyway by the Eight Foot Tall Goalie's body.
The game started and I prepared myself to feel like a fool but actually it was really fun. Truly. It helped that the kids would come down and hesitate because, yikes, it's someone's mom, I can't, you know, kick at her or anything... and in that moment's hesitation I would slam into them and steal the ball.
"Areyouokaysorry" became my trademark field call.
I got four headers and only fell down once; an unfortunate incident I blame on my lack of cleats but which might lead to awkward questions at my next slumber party: how did you get that grass stain on the knee of your pajamas?
PS It really was terrific but full disclosure two hours later: Steve just had to come into the living room to cross my legs for me and I am typing with my face.
Jenny F Scientist (who I always picture in a lab coat, pencil skirt and expensive shoes) wrote -
"Speaking of handwriting, I went to school in the Dark Ages when we did cursive handwriting exercises- and, in fact, I first learned something that was probably D'nealian and which has to this day left me unable to print legibly. It's this awful half-cursive. Anyhow, I once sent my spouse off to the store for salad fixings and he brought back a two-liter of Coke. That's how legibly I write."
Which reminded me of the following story.
Back in my own Dark Ages when Steve and I were living in Chicago, he was once wrote out a grocery list for me to take to the store and as he wrote I suggested things that needed to be added to it: feta cheese, tomatoes, soy sauce... oh and we were running low on the, uh, product that is, um, you know, water-soluble and located in the, ah, adult, that is to say, the intimate personal care aisle.
"The what?" Steve asked innocently.
"Oh just write it," I said. "But be subtle!" I added.
Thus, when I got to the grocery store and unfolded the list, I saw the words
YK* LUBRICATING SEX JELLY
neatly printed in letters about six inches high across the top of the page and
across the bottom.
Holy hannah, I do love you so much. So many excellent ideas about Edward the (Unsub)Scribe. As for your questions, the short answer is: yes, everything you said seemed possible if not probable.
Yes, I looked up dysgraphia and my layparent's opinion is that he exhibits eleven out of the ten signs (I have a call into his OT to see if there is a reason we haven't looked into this sooner.)
Yes, he probably thinks that if he just holds out long enough it will simply go away (but! his teacher this year has sent home every unfinished assignment and he has had to complete it at the dining room table while Caroline - the ant who did not sing and dance pendant tout l'été - lies on the couch playing Angry Birds, loudly. So that's not working out so well for him.)
Yes, he no doubt thinks five sentences about his own tall tale character is stupid (he'll happily give you fifty, orally, on the cod industry, though.)
Yes, he is a perfectionist and as many times as I tell him to just take a stab at the spelling he will write and re-write and re-re-write a word that he knows looks wrong.
Yes, his thoughts probably overwhelm him until he doesn't know where to start.
And yes, when it is a struggle to put your pencil to the paper and not press too hard or too lightly and try to keep in the darker lines while using the lighter lines as a guide and remember that the lowercase d goes that way not this way and you are supposed to start on the upward stroke for a capital B... I think content gets lost in the buzz and all he wants to do is be done.
As for Edward's opinion, I hadn't talked to him yet when I wrote about my brief encounter with his teacher but I am not much forwarder in my understanding now that I have done so. I told him that she expressed some dismay over the blankety blankness of his written responses and Edward seemed interested and concerned but also a little remote; as if I were describing the after effects of an earthquake on Java. Terribly sad, of course, but what can one do?
He reiterated his primary and oft-repeated complaint that it hurts to write. He also said that he thinks he needs to work, and I quote, one-on-one with an adult; which made me laugh until he started laughing too.
"What you mean is that you want some grown-up to follow you around like a sucker, pencil in hand, and do all the irritating scribbly bits for you."
"Well, yes," said Edward. "That would be great. I hate writing."
Which takes us neatly back to square one.
Edward came home last night with a big stack of corrected papers, mostly math but some written work as well. His teacher has obviously been letting him dictate some responses to her - did I say sucker? I meant dedicated humanitarian - which I think is damned decent of her considering the fact that there are 21 other little squirming bodies in her class. I don't think this can be a long-term solution but it did get him through their first unit and he felt good about the work he had done, which is my only real concern. Eventually this will be a non-issue; either because he outgrows it or we provide him with useful assistance or he simply reaches an age at which a disinclination to print things no longer matters. In the meantime I don't want him to get frustrated or distressed by his perceived shortcomings.
I told him last night that I got a G- (that's a good minus if you don't speak 1977 elementary school grading; Edward said, "Is that like a bad plus?") in handwriting when I was in first grade and I still have terrible handwriting and it really doesn't impact anything. You just do your best and keep going and assume that for the rest of your life no one will ever understand the affectionate/nasty notes you leave for them. And you will leave notes for yourself that you are never able to read either.
"Then why write them?" asked Edward. Good question.
Oh and speaking of his teacher, I think that she was just asking me if I had some insight on Edward - early onset teenage recalcitrance, recurring temporary paralysis of the fingers, alphaphobia - that would help her work with him, rather than asking me to solve the problem. Patrick did once have a teacher - one who loathed him, actually, and I believe the feeling was mutual - who asked me to get Patrick to stop saying he was bored in her class.
Stop being boring, seemed the obvious response, but I am a Minnesotan by choice if not by birth so I think I said something like, "Oh, oh dear, I'm so sorry, well, I don't know, um, I'll try."
Then I pulled Patrick out of her school.
The longer answer is: this will require additional investigation and I thank you for giving me lots of good places to start.
Huh. Funny. I wrote the short answer sentence and then the longer answer sentence and then I went back and filled in the bits in between, thus rendering the short answer a billionty times longer than the long one.
Me? I love writing.
I know it's been at least five minutes since I mentioned football and I suppose you think that I have been sulking.
I don't mind that Chelsea is awful. Really. It's fine. Delightful even. I take morbid satisfaction in watching them play 19th place Newcastle to a draw. It feels like a more authentic football experience, somehow. Yes I enjoyed it when Hazard would pirouette his way through defender after defender last season, but seeing him use his feet to slap at the ball like it's a picnic ham covered in wasps is fun too. And I hope that Diego Costa doesn't think that his inability to score in any way diminishes his value to the team: eliciting penalties through skullduggery is a Machiavellian skill that few top-tier players can stomach; so carry on, you wily trickster.
As Chelsea slipped further down the tables you might have worried that I was spending all of my time brooding over them; furrowing my brow as I watched match after match, trying to figure out what has gone so hideously wrong. True, I did that for several weeks but then I had a flash of blinding clarity and I got it all sorted. The team has only two problems: offense and defense. I feel much better now.
And, lest you think that I am succumbing to a state of pure masochism, saving myself for Chelsea and the Scottish National team; fear not. I am a football fille de joie. You know, what the French call a whore. I will get up at six in the morning to watch Chelsea, yeah, but I also record Arsenal and Manchester United. The Spurs. Swansea. Man City. And then I watch all the other Premier League games that seem to show up on our DVR at random. I watched every Euro qualifier that played on American TV and featured Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Latvia, Scotland or Wales. I watch all four premier league teams in UEFA Champions plus some others and not only because there is always a strong possibility that a jingoistic drone will land on the field and a fight will break out - with rockets. I will watch the US play Mexico next week.
The family is starting to look at me funny and Steve has been asking some pointed questions about just how many competitions I am following and how many games a week I watch on average. Do I watch alone? Do I need to watch a match in the morning to get me going and then another at bedtime to help me sleep? Do I keep switching leagues because I think that will make it easier for me to cut down? Am I really drinking moonshine by myself in the basement like I've claimed or am I using the TV down there to secretly follow Celtic in the Europa League?
I am following Celtic.
PS Thank you thank you thank you re. Edward and I will be back to talk about that because you gave me some very good insights and I have more thoughts. Also, to give you a migraine update.
PPS Packers! But the Redskins are still, ever, always, so, sad.
Did you ever see The Kids in the Hall where the magician asks someone to pick a card, any card and that person says: no. And then the assistant shrieks, "Evil, evil, impolite and evil!"
Because the social contract states that one generally goes along with things. You don't say 'no' to pick a card (seven of diamonds.) Or knock knock (who's there.) Or I am breaking up with you (ok) or (I see) or (wailey wailey wailey.)
So when I ran into Edward's teacher today and she told me that Edward isn't doing his writing assignments I just sort of blinked. What did she mean: isn't doing? How does that work? What does he do during writing time then, just... sit there all spacey?
No, she said. No no no, not spacey. She's seen spacey and that's not it. Edward, she reported, looks like he is very deep in thought. He looks at the paper and he twirls his pencil and he... thinks.
Well, thought is good, I said. People ought to think more before they write things. Take the comment section of every single place on the internet except right here, for example. It'd do everyone a world of good to sit there and think very very deeply before trying to stuff a political argument into an article on the best way to remove gum from hair.
Yes, she agreed, but at the end of all of his thinking he still does not have anything written.
Ah, I said. Well, that's a problem.
She agreed again and asked me to think about ways to motivate him and I said I would.
But to be honest with you it's so far outside of my experience, both personal and as a parent, that I don't even know where to begin. A teacher tells you to do something and you at least take a stab at it, right? I once missed the entire semester of 14th century French cultural history (things kept coming up - I meant to go) and I admit that I was nonplussed when I sat down for the final but I tried. I picked up my blue book and I licked my quill and I proceeded to fill page after page with everything I knew or thought I knew or could make up about France, culture, the fourteenth century, the thirteenth century, butter, monasteries, the plague, Erasmus... and while my answers bore only the most tangential of relationships to the questions asked, at least I didn't hand in completely blank pages. Which seems to be what Edward is doing.
On the plus side - on the very very plus side - Edward likes his teacher, he likes his school, he has friends, he seems appropriately challenged and when I stop the car in the morning he gets out and walks into the building without needing to be pried off my bumper. It's all good.
And in his defense he has been doing occupational therapy for two years to help with the very same small motor skills that make printing a misery for him. He has improved tremendously but writing is still hard for him. I know that.
But to just... not do it? Like I said. I am baffled.