Boys Will Be Boys

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Not this innocent face. No. He would never throw spitwads at church…

The wadded up piece of paper shot across the music area right in front of me while we were kneeling for the Eucharistic Prayer. A minute later, Alex started snorting. I looked at him with a scowl developing, and he whispered, “Was that Michael’s nametag?”

And I realized: yes. Why, yes, it was. My kid made a spitwad of his “nametag Sunday” sticker and flung it across the music area.

Every time I think I’m done being caught off guard by the antics my kids are capable of…boom. There they go.

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Fragility and Indestructibility

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This is a post about this boy…

…who yesterday, while I was running siblings to various lessons, punched (yes, I did say punched) the light switch in the kitchen, with this result:

But at three this morning, the cries started up in his room. I hauled myself out of bed and across the hallway to find out what was the matter, expecting a bad dream, but the choking cough alerted me that it was something more serious. My five-year-old has croup. The seal-bark cough, the stridor breathing, the absolute panic of not being able to draw breath.

As I gathered him up into my arms, it struck me how still, his little boy body fits so perfectly against me, like puzzle pieces. He’s all arms and legs now, shooting outward, just waiting for the weight gain to fill them out. But he still likes to snuggle with me—on top of me, although now when his head rests on my chest, his toes dangle past my knees. It’s about the only time of day you can get him to be still, that snuggle time.

He was wailing, panicking, and I thought of the many times we went through this with Julianna, and I felt a deep gratitude, there in the wee hours of the night, that I had those experiences, because I know not to panic. “Michael, I need you to calm down,” I said, holding him close against me. “Crying makes your body need more oxygen. You need to calm down. I’ve got you. As soon as you calm down, I’ll explain what’s happening to you.”

And he did. It took a minute, but he settled down against me, and I was able to convince him he wasn’t dying and he didn’t need to panic. It was a bit surreal, having a child with croup who was old enough to have a rational conversation about it. Even more surreal when you consider that this is the child who rips off drawer faces and considers tackles an acceptable form of greeting.

It seemed rather useless to put on the vaporizer, considering the windows are open and the humidity is already high, but I got some Vicks (well, Target generic) and smeared it all over his chest and back, and set up all his big stuffed animals with his pillow in front of them, and propped him up against it, then tucked him back in.

“What’s ‘oxygen’?” he asked sleepily.

You’ve got to love science lessons at three a.m.

After I explained oxygen and carbon dioxide, I kissed him goodnight and promised him we’d go see the doctor in the morning.

And although his breathing was still raspy, he shot upward and wrapped those long, lean, yet still so very baby-skin arms around my neck and kissed my cheek. “I love you,” he said.

These are the moments motherhood is made of.

Michael Mayhem Graduates Preschool

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Michael, with his toy guitar: “This next song is called “Starlight Can Never Destroy A Death Star So I will Use My Laser.”

I went to his end-of-year celebration at his preschool yesterday, which consisted mostly of him attacking me at frequent intervals with flying leaps and fierce hugs interspersed with little girls coming around to take pictures with him.

It floors me to see how advanced academically he is. He is actually writing messages to us–all caps, no lower case, and asking us how to spell words–but writing nonetheless. Julianna does this app on the iPad for homework. It’s called ST Math. It’s graphic math, with no instructions of any kind, which has on more than one occasion made my head want to explode, but apparently the kids do pretty well with it. She’s doing the first grade curriculum and as we were trying to show her grandparents how this worked on Mother’s Day, Michael watched upside down and then started doing it for her. I had to get pretty firm with him to back off.

In part, it floors me because he’s in a special ed preschool, one where the primary focus of the instruction is the kids with developmental disabilities. We enrolled him as a “peer model” through the school district when he was three to try to develop sensitivity and awareness toward kids with disabilities–because of all our children, only Alex, who witnessed and participated in her early childhood therapies, really has an inherent awareness of and appropriate interaction with her. To her younger brothers, she’s just their sister. They don’t tolerate her desire for hugs, and their power struggles over the iPad and books and so on look like every other sibling struggle. They don’t give her one inch.

There’s great value in having that relationship–Julianna is always trying to get away with things based on her disability, whether she’s doing it consciously or instinctively–but I still wanted Michael to at least be capable of making a distinction.

When it came time to move him to a traditional preschool for his preK year, to make sure he got the needed academic preparation, we found ourselves waffling. He seemed comfortable, and the school was right here in the neighborhood. Often, we bike to and from. The kindergarten teachers at the Catholic school said, “Ah, don’t worry about it. He’ll be fine.” And so we left him in place for a second year.

His teachers at Early Childhood Special Ed have told me repeatedly how seriously he takes his job as peer model, but I always thought that was just teachers being nurturers; I didn’t take it that seriously until one day, Michael and I went out with my friend and her son, who is a couple years younger than Michael, after Jazzercise. The boys jumped around, climbing on and under things and generally being normal little boys while we talked and tried to keep their exuberance (and potential for damage) contained to one corner of the cafe. When it was time to go, Michael’s little friend did not want to go. It was like a switch flipped in Michael. His tone of voice gentled, he helped his friend put his coat on, he held his hand and led him out the door. My jaw hit the floor.

It will be interesting to see how the experience of being a peer model shapes his future character. In the meantime I highly recommend it for anyone looking for an inexpensive and extremely enriching option for preschool. Because clearly, it didn’t harm his academic potential at all.

In any case, such is the world of my littlest guy as the school year closes. I’m having so much fun with him.

Photo Friday Funnies

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If you’re on Facebook, you already saw these, but it’s worth preserving in our family history this way, too. Two nights in a row, this week, we went upstairs to go to bed, checked on the kids, and discovered this:

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By morning, it looked more like this:

Morning Butts

Happy Friday!

The Thing About Boys…

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Michael AlexThe thing about boys is that they’re confusing.

Like my laundry pile. It makes no sense.

On Friday of one week I fold six loads of laundry (I got behind. So sue me), and nine days later, on a Sunday afternoon, I do the next three. And if the laundry pile is to be believed, in that week Preteen wore nothing but six pairs of socks, while Second Grader wore eight uniform shirts. Even though there were only five days of school.

As Miss Clavel said: Something is not right!

The thing about boys is that they sit down with me to watch the Sound of Music and the big 43-year-old boy whines and makes fun of it as much as the 11-year-old one. And somewhere around the wedding scene, when we turn it off for bed, the 11-year-old asks if this is the end, and I say no, everything’s about to fall apart for them, and he lights up and says, “Is there gonna be an explosion? Is somebody gonna DIE?”

And 43-year-old boy goes on a little riff about helicopters exploding in the movies. Talk about collectively ruining the moment.

The thing about boys is that they get wildly excited about Brain Ice.

Brain Ice

 

The thing about boys is the way they like to climb up on the barrel of a cannon. (And what’s most telling: the ROTC guys don’t bat an eyelash.)

Michael Nicholas cannon

And then, of course, there are the practical jokes. Because what else would you do when forced to clean the bathrooms?

Prank 1

Prank 2

Perhaps you’d care for a closeup on that one?

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Raising boys. It’s a glorious mystery.