Lasker Pool

Lasker Pool
Central Park, summer 2011

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ganging Up

Even numbers of children, I've learned, are easier than odd. So, four kids is simpler than three, in a bizarre way. With three boys, all close in age and emotional maturity (even though my oldest, Kyle, is three years older than his munchkin brothers), the competition is fierce and constant.
And the allegiances shift like, well, the wind.
Lately, it's Kyle and Seth against Jesse.
So, this morning, over breakfast (eggy bread for Jesse, buttered bagel for Seth and cereal for Kyle), Seth said, "Mommy, Jesse called me the F word."
I gasp in feigned horror. Kyle leans into me. "He did, Mom."
"No!" Jesse howls. "They're just trying to get me in trouble."
"They wouldn't do that," I say. "Right, Kyle?" This is accompanied by the piercing, laser-beam, no-nonsense Mom look.
"He did say it, Mom," Kyle insists.
When I demand context, Kyle continues, "I can't say the context. It's too inappropriate (one of the favorite words in my house)."
A moment later, as I'm threatening Jesse with a penalty, Seth giggles: "You fell for my trick!"
He and Kyle fall on each other, howling their victory laugh.
Jesse scowls into his eggy bread. "I told you they were just trying to get me in trouble," he mutter.
I pat his still-tiny hand. "You'll get your chance to get even," I promise.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Negotiator

So, my husband made a deal with Jesse: Behave for a certain period of time and we WON'T cancel his upcoming birthday party.
"A week, right?" Mick says to Jesse. "No arguing, no whining, no fighting."
Jesse nods his head. "I can do a week," he tells his dad.
Deal done, Mick returns to his magazine.
A few minutes later, Jesse pokes his head back into the living room.
"What, Jess?"
"I think we'd better make that four days."

It's All About Legos, Except When It's Not

My kids tend to be a bit, oh, obsessive, about their interests. When Kyle, my nine-year-old, was a toddler, he immersed himself wholeheartedly in the world of Thomas the Tank engine. He knew every one of the dozens of trains, their characteristics (cheeky, naughty, fussy, brave, really useful) and gave us all train names.
Mine was Percy.
Every day, he watched Thomas tapes and built elaborate train tracks.
He slept with at least one train and more than a few of the pricey wooden creations made their way into the bathtub.
I had the preternaturally chipper and chirpy "He's a Really Useful Engine" song ringing in my head for years.
Then one day, it was over.
Hurrah! (As they say in Thomas-Land.)
Or maybe it's Huzzah!
A new obsession emerged quickly: Legos. Or, more specifically, a robot cum monster cum alien known as Bionicles.
Kyle embraced the whole complicated back story with joy (good guys, bad guys, interplanetary travel, unintelligable names and language, a wide variety of weapons, masks of power--a real boy-fest).
There followed years of Bionicle birthdays, Bionicle Halloween costumes and thousands of Bionicle pieces strewn about his room, secreted into his school backpack and carpeting his bed.
At least the Bionicles didn't sing chirpy songs.
That Kyle happened to be unusually good at building was a bonus; nothing delighted the little cutie more than a new set with a loooong instruction booklet. We loved peeping into Kyle's room to watch his little fingers hard at work, putting complicated sets together.
It was his happy place, profoundly so.
All kind of other Legos made their way into the mix as well. Even the bigger (and presumably more babyish) Duplos held magic for Kyle, and for his little brothers.
Other items held sway for a while—second grade was the year of the Pokemon—but Kyle always returned to his Legos.
Until early this school year, when it seemed like his Lego lust had finally been sated.
The Legos sat unused for months, as Kyle and his little brothers turned to video games and Bakugan, a rolling monster/card game that held the kids at school in thrall from September onward.
I suggested we donate them all, just to get the thousands and thousands of itty bitty pieces littering our home the heck out of there. (Have you ever stepped on a Lego piece? It's shockingly painful.)
My husband, AKA Pack Rat Man, refused. "What if the boys get back into them?" he asked.
And he was right. Because, for reasons unknown, Legos once again rule in our home. All three boys now beg for Lego sets, build legions Lego armies (the Star Wars Legos are particularly good for combat, they tell me) and create everything from forts to robots to animals from the little bricks.
The floor is once again covered; my feet are dimpled with Lego injuries.
And all is right with our world.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

And They Call It...Fluffy Love

I was not a stuffed animal kid. Didn't have a roomful of squishy creatures to snuggle with at night and didn't care.
My kids, however, are passionate about their stuffies, including (shhhh) my 9-year-old.
In fact, he still talks about the two-foot-tall stuffed Pokemon stuffy we tossed a year ago. "I can't figure out where my Charmander went, mom. It's so weird."
Can you say trash bag?
But Seth, one of my first-graders, is particularly attached to Fluffy, a small, cute black stuffed Labrador. Cute it is, but what's most hilarious is that Seth makes clothes for the little creature.
Fluffy has hats, jackets, vests and what I can only describe as canine leg warmers--all created out of construction paper.
Each morning, Seth dresses Fluffy in the seasonally appropriate attire and off he goes in the backpack to school.
Seth's teacher, Ms. M., is fine with Fluffy being a constant visitor. And now all the kids in Seth's class know Fluffy too, and take turns hugging and cuddling him. It's all very cute in a first-grade kind of way.
Recently, Seth decided that Fluffy needed to become a bit more fashion-forward. So he begged my husband, who is rather crafty, to make Fluffy a vest. Mick obliged him and now on his forays to PS 199, Fluffy wears a white vest.
But, get this: The snuggly, cuddly little security object's vest is adorned—at Seth's request—with several black skull and crossbones drawings.
Because while my little guy still needs his stuffed animals, he is growing up.