Category: Sierra

January 6th, 2012

Last night Kerrie and I went to a short seminar on Getting Your Child To Sleep, put on by Sierra’s preschool, and we sat at tables and listened to a woman talk about why children don’t want to go to sleep, and we fidgeted and played with our phones because it turns out the information didn’t apply to us, and then the woman put in a video of a 1980s-era episode of 20/20 about solving sleep issues, which featured a family that had issues getting their son to sleep through the night despite their routine of rocking him WHILE LISTENING EXCLUSIVELY TO LIONEL RICHIE ALBUMS every single evening, and we all laughed and thought that was WONDERFUL because, honestly, who could sleep with that kind of party going on?

And now I can’t find a video clip as evidence.

And I’m afraid it was all a dream.

Please don’t let this be a dream. Please let the Lionel Richie family be real.

Please?

Category: Isaac, Sierra

December 29th, 2011

Santa isn’t real, but don’t tell my kids. They still believe in him, like the little fools they are.

That sounds harsh, and it is. But that’s how it feels when, willingly, I continue to convince my kids that the presents they got for Christmas came from some dude that broke into their house, some guy that was initially set up as a representation of sainthood – Saint Nicholas! – and has morphed into a ninja-like spectre of gift-giving.

Saint Nicholas of Myra gave gifts to the poor, devoted his life to his religion, and became the patron saint of children, sailors and the local pawn shop. St. Nicholas of the Netherlands is a character of folklore. In Germany, St. Nicholas is an approximation of Odin, a god in human clothing not unlike Jesus himself. These stories have been twisted, adapted and changed from their original celebration of giving, to the point that Santa has become a THING; no longer a representation of charity, Santa is now How We Get Presents.

We all know that. But my kids don’t. My kids don’t understand that Santa represents an abstract thought, just as they don’t understand that Dora the Explorer represents growth through following directions and learning language. There’s one difference, though: my kids don’t think Dora the Explorer is a real person.

So we lie to our kids for tradition’s sake. There’s nothing that we’ve given to our children that we haven’t want to claim ourselves, but there’s this unspoken rule that, yes, THIS gift is from Santa. Yes, that Santa. Yeah. The fat guy who ate the cookies.

It’s so ingrained that we don’t feel icky about it. But this year, I did. I felt downright AWFUL about pretending there was a Santa, that I took advantage of our four-year-old’s trust and our two-year-old’s naivety by keeping the charade up. I hated it. But I did it. And I’m questioning whether I do it again.

If you were raised in a typical Christian-based house as a kid, you remember the time you found out Santa wasn’t real. You remember it because it was one of the first times you realized your parents lie. That they’d lied to your face, for years, about the person who brought the gifts. You either accepted it for what it was, or you were sad and Christmas was ruined for the year, but one thing always remained: you wondered what else your parents lied about.

What else is simply a facade? What else should I question, refuse to trust, and all of that Rage Against the Machine worry.

Dramatic, yes. But Kerrie and I have made a point not to lie about things to our children. Outside of occasional lies of omission, we’ve done a decent job – as decent job as one can with two inquisitive whippersnappers wandering around.

But SANTA. Oh. Santa, Santa, Santa.

Next year? I hope Santa has gone away.

Category: Isaac, On..., Sierra

November 22nd, 2011

If there’s any question as to why blog output as dropped over the past several months, let’s just assume that the sudden uptick in questions and declarations from our 4YO and 2YO can be of some blame.

SIERRA: Who takes care of all of the babies?
KERRIE: When a baby is born, that baby’s parents take care of it.
SIERRA: But who takes care of ALL of the babies?
COREY: Do you mean who takes care of EACH baby? The baby’s mommy and daddy.
SIERRA: But what about when everyone was a baby?
US: …
SIERRA: Who took care of YOU?
KERRIE: When I was a baby, Grandma Cici took care of me.
SIERRA: But who took care of Grandma Cici?
KERRIE: Great Grandma took care of Grandma Cici.
SIERRA: But who took care of Great Grandma?
KERRIE: HER mother took care of her.
SIERRA: …
SIERRA: Maybe God took care of all of the babies. But then when he turned around all of the babies crawled away. *laughs* THAT’S SO HILARIOUS.

ISAAC: ONE…TWO…THREE…FOUR…
ISAAC: …
ISAAC: I LOVE TO COUNT.

What a bunch of nerds we’re raising.

Category: Isaac, Sierra

November 20th, 2011

So we moved the chairs and piled the blankets and even though my knees hurt I crawled inside.

It was small. Too small for the three of us, at least, though for the little ones it was perfect. It was three chairs long, two chairs across, with every blanket from every closet – this one was her baptism gift and this one was from his grandma and this one matches his room and this one is her favorite. And though it was dark, it wasn’t scary, because it was filled with giggles and stuffed animals and two little kids.

Nothing’s different under the blankets, really – the same toys doing the same things, the same people in more uncomfortable positions – but then again everything’s different. It’s a house. A cave. A cove for whatever the kids are going to conjure up. It’s the same floor and the same chairs, but it’s a different angle. A different atmosphere.

And then, it was dinner time. We needed the chairs. So it all came down.

In response to the tears, I promised that I’d help build a bigger one. Tomorrow. In the basement, using the sectional sofa and the quilts. We’d be able to keep it all up. Occupy Basement, I guess you could say.

“Can we play Memory again? Like last time?”

Of course. Of course we can.

Forts, you guys. They still rule.

Category: Family, Isaac, Sierra

October 18th, 2011

On Saturday, we found a caterpillar. A yellow caterpillar, crawling up the side of the south-side Target, impossible to miss, reckless to ignore.

“Sierra! Isaac! Come check this out!”

Sierra fell in love, and we brought it home. We put it in a plastic bug carrier that she had received for one of her birthdays. We gave it two leaves and a bit of grass. And we watched as it tried to crawl the sides.

It never ate those leaves, and it never touched the grass. Last night, it died.

You and I know that this caterpillar could have died from any number of things. The cold, the new location, some sickness or old age or whatever. Nothing to do with us; in fact, nothing to do with anything other than the random cycle of life.

If everything had gone according to plans, this caterpillar would have turned into a moth. Instead, it died.

Sierra asked about it, and we were blunt. We tried to explain that it was probably sick before we got it, and that there would be more caterpillars in the future, and that we should be happy that we gave it a good home until the day it died, as if we were some kind of moth hospice and the kitchen counter was some kind of converted hospital bed.

Tears. All of them, at that moment. Tears until there couldn’t be any tears left.

Explaining death isn’t that easy. It shouldn’t be. It should be something that’s felt, not explained away as a cold scientific fact. This encounter with death was Sierra’s first conscious brush with the concept; there will be many more, and it will never get easier. Never.

That’s okay.

So Kerrie took Sierra out to the garden. One trowel, one clump of dirt, a hundred or so tears. And there Alicia the Caterpillar lies, in our garden, next to a dying tomato plant, surrounded by worms and soil and compost. Sierra is convinced those worms will take care of her favorite caterpillar in the entire world, and we’re not dissuading her.

She came back inside, read a few books, and began to let it go.

She hasn’t gotten over it yet, though.

That’s okay, too.

Category: On..., Sierra

September 21st, 2011

She didn’t want to go to school. She was tired. She cried and she cried. “I don’t want to go to school,” she said.

“I’m tired.”

And so then there it was. The doubt. The unending problem of the parent, wherein we’re saddled with thoughts of ineffectiveness, when we question our abilities as parents, when we look back at each issue and think “At which exact point did we completely lose our handle on our child?”

Last night, it was probably when, after dinner, I threw back the covers of logic and decided, yes, we need to extend bedtime and, yes, we need to get frozen yogurt and, yes, we understand this will cause our kids to turn into whirling dirvishes, unable to sleep. Unable to close their eyes, or even comprehend the concept of bedtime.

We did it. We got home. We yelled a little because they weren’t listening, and we got frustrated and scowled at each other as we tried to be PARENTS and then slumped into chairs, still cursing the yogurt.

Everything we do is dedicated to helping them grow up.

And so with everything we do, we wonder which thing will break them.

We teach them to go to bed on time and not be upset if we get frustrated and eat your dinner please because we worked hard on that and oh, god, why are you getting down from the table? We let our dark sides come out, and we feel awful about it, and this is because we, as parents, understand how each nugget of time can persevere for years; how every lesson can either be learned or not, and when they’re learned they become Laws and Laws cannot be broken, even if all we want to do by that point is break the Law and get things back to the way they were before.

The pressure is always there. Be a perfect parent. Don’t let your kids down. Never do what is easy; always do what is right.

We try. Every day. We’re doing all right.

But there are days when all we can do is say, “Ah, screw it.”

“Let’s get ice cream.”

It’s absolutely necessary. Then: we start all over again.

Category: Isaac, Sierra

September 11th, 2011

Sierra has a junior-sized Shakespeare fishing pole. It’s pink, of course. She got it for her birthday from Grandpa Dennis – my father – who I suspect spends Sundays fishing because it is as close to religion as he can find. I suspect that is why my grandfather used to fish on Sundays, too.

So we dropped lines and we told the kids to watch the poles and they ran all over the place and we didn’t catch many fish. We certainly didn’t catch anything we could keep. “That’s why they call it fishing,” my dad said. “Instead of catching.”

Sierra was determined, though, despite her distraction.

She’d grab minnows out of the bucket and show them to Isaac, giggling as they flopped, accidentally squashing them as they tried to get away. (Isaac just screamed.)

And then she tried to cast the pole, and with our help she did it. And then she ate some scones and her brother ate some scones and we realized how posh we had made this little fishing excursion. She ran up and down the dock. She checked her bobber once. Twice. Then, distracted, she went back to the minnows.

And then she baited her own hook.

She grabbed a minnow, pushed it onto the hook with full concentration – no squirming or squealing or shuddering. Just a four-year-old girl and a hook and a minnow acting as if they had gone through this dance a million times before.

The sun was hot out there. My grandfather would have been proud. Maybe the heat came from his smile, recognizing that this girl – this granddaughter he’d never had a chance to meet – was already beginning to follow in his footsteps.

In other words, just another Sunday in the church of the outdoors.