Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Perfect Summer

Summer

As I type this, the children are sitting in time out. Andrew is doing a repeated sigh, I can only assume he’d like me to know that he does not enjoy time out. Jordan is sobbing, because it’s not fair to have a time out for choking Andrew when Andrew deserved to be choked.

We’ve entered the hazy, lazy days of summer vacation. The ice cold drinks in the sun are punctuated only by the joyful sounds of children. No, wait. That’s not joy, it’s the sound of two little boys choking each other.

In summer, one day blends slowly into the next. It’s hard to say when one day ends and the next begins, as we sit in the endless twilight, enjoying the company of beloved family.

No.

No, it’s 3:17 in the afternoon, which means that we’ve been on summer vacation for three and a half hours. Three hours and twenty minutes, if you only count from the time the children got off the school bus.

Here’s what I’ve done on my summer vacation:

11:45 AM

I put on my hat and walk to the end of the driveway, waiting for Jordan’s bus. It’s beautiful out. I scroll through twitter on my phone while I sit on the retaining wall at the edge of the driveway.

11:55 AM

Jordan arrives home. His bus driver, who adores him, wishes him a wonderful summer.

11:56 AM

Jordan is on the floor, sobbing. He wanted to drive to New Jersey to visit my in-laws. Today. Because it’s summer vacation now, isn’t it? Our trip to visit them at the end of May was too long ago, and “also it was boring because it was too short and short trips don’t count as trips and I don’t love Bubbe and Zayde anymore anyway and I do not want to see them. EVER. AGAIN.”

12:01 PM

Jordan has calmed down, and would like a snack. I explain that we’ll be having lunch in about five minutes, as soon as Andrew’s bus drops him off. Jordan sobs again.

12:03 PM

Jordan curls up on the couch with his stuffed cat. I go to meet Andrew’s bus.

12:05 PM

Andrew’s bus arrives.

12:12 PM

Andrew hates lunch, but he’s glad we’re eating outside on the new patio. Jordan spilled his milk, and he “hates lunch even though I ate it all and if you make the same thing again I will not eat it and I will not eat lunch outside again. NOT. EVER. AGAIN.”

12:24 PM

All of the boys’ toys are boring, and the only way they will have any fun this summer is if I take them out to buy new toys or let them play on the Wii U.

12:47 PM

Andrew tickles Jordan. Jordan chokes Andrew.

1:06 PM

Andrew takes the Lego pieces Jordan was playing with. Jordan slaps Andrew.

1:18 PM

Andrew would like to do some homework. So he does.

2:00 PM

One hour of Mario. No one hits, no one bites, no one screams, no one scratches.

3:00 PM

The hour is over. Jordan is on the floor, sobbing.

3:17 PM

We’re in time out again, because we can’t stop fighting.

 

ENDLESS SUMMER.

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Breaking Eggs

Egg

I’m pretty good at breaking an egg with one hand.

I realize that this falls pretty far short of being a super power, but it makes me feel competent in the kitchen.  I don’t have any other particularly identifiable cooking skills. I do fine, but I make a mess, and I take longer than people who are actually good at cooking. But breaking an egg? I do great.

Whack side of sink. Crack over bowl. Shell in the garbage disposal.

This morning, I made myself some scrambled eggs. But instead of my usual skill, I goofed it up. Instead of popping open the first egg over the bowl, I opened it right down the garbage disposal. Not because I hit it too hard on the side of the sink and it leaked out. No, I just dumped it right down the drain.

I made a mistake, obviously. My first thought wasn’t, “Oops,” though. I went immediately to degenerative brain disease. It’s been ten years since my aunt died, and I remember the dismissal of her earliest symptoms. She complained that she’d find herself standing in a room with no idea why she had gone there, and my family said, “Yes, that’s called getting old.”

It’s not that the answer was a bad one. I’ve put the milk away in the cabinet instead of the refrigerator. I’ve put a tea kettle on the stove and come back an hour later to find a broken, dry tea kettle smoldering. These are signs of distraction, not a degenerative brain disease. Except that sometimes they are the signs of a degenerative brain disease.

My maternal grandmother is in hospice care. She lives in a nursing home, and has had a steady decline since my grandfather died four years ago. She’s moved from sometimes confused to often confused, from often confused to usually confused. Now we only get a rare glimpse of the person we know and love.

The staff at the nursing home have been wonderful, but they’ll never know my grandmother. My mother and I laugh whenever someone at the nursing home describes my grandmother as “sweet,” or “cute.”

“There are lots of words I’d use to describe Nana,” says my mother, “but ‘sweet’ and ‘cute’ will never be on that list.”

My Nana was an English teacher. She retired on June 19, 1978. I know the date because I happened to be born on the last day of school that year. She is whip smart, and possessed of a biting sense of humor. I like to think that she invented the side eye.

She could do flawless impressions of people. Not extended performances, but if she was telling you a story about something someone said, their words came out of her mouth in their voice, not her own.

In the mid 80s, when my brother was probably 4 or 5, she baked us a batch of chocolate chip cookies. My brother told Nana that her cookies were good, but “not as good as Almost Home,” a brand of packaged cookies my mother would often buy. I don’t think Nana ever quite forgave my brother for that slight.

Nana mostly sleeps these days, and if she happens to be awake, her speech is infrequent and incoherent. On Friday, when my mother visited, Nana was annoyed. She snapped my mother, snapped at my father, snapped at the social worker from hospice. When they went for a walk, the social director of the nursing home put her hand on my grandmother’s arm and said good morning.

My grandmother grabbed the woman’s hand and dug her nails in. My mother had to pry her fingers off.

The woman shrugged it off and said, “Oh, Agnes, you’re surprisingly strong.”

My mother laughed as she told me, “Now that’s the mother I remember.”

Four More Years

Hourglass

Thumpety-thumpety-thumpety thump.

Thump.

Thump.

Thumpety-thumpety-thumpety thump.

“Boys,” I yell, “what’s going on up there? You sound like a herd of elephants.”

Silence.

“It’s not my fault, Daddy!” calls Jordan. “Andrew made me do it.”

“I did NOT,” says Andrew, indignant. “You wanted to do it.”

“Do what?” I ask.

Jordan has come down to the kitchen by now, and he says, “Andrew was timing me, to see how fast I could go up and down the stairs.”

Now Andrew comes into the room, holding up one of those little sand timers you find in a board game. “I was just timing him, he was the one running on the stairs,” he says. Then he adds, “But I don’t know how long it took him, because this timer doesn’t really even tell you.”

“The rule is that we don’t run inside the house, guys,” I say. “Especially not on the stairs.”

We live in an old house, and the stairs are awful. Really awful. They’re steep. Steep enough that adults often put a hand out in front of themselves when ascending. They go around corners. Even just carrying a laundry basket up the stairs requires you to lift the basket practically above your head in order to fit. These are advanced stairs for advanced stair users. When I use the stairs in other homes, I get a little jealous.

“Oh, your stairs are so comfortable to use!” is a thing that I have actually said, out loud, to other people.

So I’m a little annoyed that Andrew would convince his little brother to run up and down our stairs. Jordan works with a physical therapist and an occupational therapist every week, and stairs have always been a challenge for him. Especially our awful stairs.

Secretly, though? I’m proud of Jordan for running up and down those stairs. That’s a big deal. He may not run like the other kids, but he’s getting closer and closer. And he’s worked really hard to get there.

Andrew has worked really hard, too. When he was four, no one could understand what he was saying. He had lived with us for months before I was able to understand his speech with any regularity. He used to have to repeat himself so many times to be understood. We used to work on using different words to say the same thing, on the theory that if you said, “Can we go to the park?” and “I’d like to visit the playground,” you were increasing the odds that someone would be able to puzzle out what you were saying. And that’s a tough skill for a four-year-old; they have a hard enough time coming up with just one way to turn their thoughts into coherent sentences.

I remember the week that Andrew’s speech therapist told him a story to teach him how to make the K sound and the G sound. She told a story about a little boy whose necktie was on too tight, nearly choking him, and all that came out was a coughing “K-k-k-k-k-k-k!” sound. Then, once he took the necktie off, he gulped down a giant glass of water, swallowing so much so quickly that it went, “Guh-guh-guh-guh-guh-guh!” down his throat.

Andrew came home from that appointment and worked on nothing but G and K for the next 48 hours. Finally, he managed to choke out the word cat. He was shocked. I was shocked. His therapist was shocked when he showed up for his appointment the next week and said, “Hi … Katherine!”

I ran into Katherine last week, and it made me realize just how long ago Andrew’s struggle to be understood seems. Everyone understands him now. No one who meets Andrew today has any idea that he was ever hard to understand. Just a couple of weeks ago, his teacher was talking about his “remarkable vocabulary,” just casually mentioning that he really knows an awful lot of words for a second grader.

Next week, it will be the fourth anniversary of The Day The Boys Moved In. It’s an interesting combination of “I can’t believe it’s been four years,” and “Really? It’s only been four years?”

I guess it’s time to get going on the next four years. I’ll get out a big sand timer.