Sunday, December 31, 2000

Do I Miss It?

Some days, I'm struck with memories and feelings: the weight around my neck, the smell of the pads and oils, the taste of the reed, the feeling of the keys under my fingers. It's palpable and almost painful. I want to feel the instrument, breathe with it, live it.

It doesn't happen like that often, any more. Not often enough to break open a new box of reeds. I think it eventually will, again, later. We'll see. Singing and directing fills that niche. But, every once in a while, I see a saxophone and feel again.

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The Boy is, in a lot of senses, your typical oldest brother. (And, yes, B, I'm talking directly to you.) He's bossy, a know-it-all, and most devoted to procedure and routine. He's a close reflection of my personality: early to wake up in the morning, enjoying repetition in my daily life, and a deep, deep love of reading. He and I had a serious conversation yesterday: he was grumpy, out of sorts, and uncooperative all day yesterday for no good reason. He was just exhausted - he was going to bed a little too late and still waking up with me to exercise in the morning. Little boys require a lot of sleep, and he just wasn't getting it.

Weird thing? He was really, really excited about going to bed early so that he could get up with me. And, it worked, to an extent - I was up at my usual 5:00 this morning, but he didn't get up and moving until almost 6. We still had enough time for him to watch some Phineas & Ferb before we had breakfast together. I enjoy my mornings with him. It's a comfortable, easy silence that we share - talk a bit, watch television for a bit, but just enjoy being with each other. He watches me exercise, watches me take notes in my book, occasionally does the exercises I'm doing, and takes some careful steps on the elliptical machine once in a while. (I stand within arms reach of him when he does that - that can go south in a hurry). Sometimes, he sits at the desk (that's where my desk is for the days I work at home) and does some schoolwork. He usually bugs me (good-naturedly) to put the bench up in the "incline bench press" formation - that's how he likes to sit.

With his brothers, at this point, he's usually pretty good. He and Little Bear wrestle a lot. Pretty much, that's their default behavior position. That definitely runs in our family - my father will tell the story that, when we all met in a small town in Germany for my middle brother's wedding, the three of us boys and him were wrestling in the middle of the street. It's rarely serious fighting, although it tends to escalate quickly, depending on who is armed with what. With The Baby, he tends to be patient and will usually share reasonably well with him. Ultimately, though, he's a lot like me: very sure of himself, almost fatally so; very confident of his intelligence, and seems to be willing to work however hard he needs to work.

Little Bear seems to have taken the self-consciousness and embarrassment / shame that I and The Boy lack. Even at his age, he's very aware of the shame feeling and very apt to take setbacks and failings personally - his own personal failures that need some repentance. I have no idea where he gets that from - we don't punish the children often and, I must say, quite reasonably - and Little Bear hasn't been the recipient of anything more substantial than "go to your room until you're ready to be nice. At least half the time when we do that, he curls up in bed and goes to sleep. He recognizes the connection between being tired and misbehaving. However, when he makes a mistake playing violin, he gets very sad and upset about it, instead of - as we position it - using it as an opportunity to play the song again. The other day, I was teasing him like I do the other boys - "I can see your butt!" when he was getting dressed - and he threw a fit. He was truly embarrassed that I pointed out that I could see his butt.

That's kind of weird for a 4-year old. Granted, a large percentage of time, his response is to bend over, smack his behind, and say, "Look at my butt!" However, the embarrassment response happens often enough that it isn't a one-off. Between myself and my wife, I've always been the more hyper-emotional one - I'm way more sensitive than she is, and I tend to react more viscerally to things than she does.

As a side note for Little Bear, he read the entire "Pete The Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons" book at Barnes and Noble yesterday. He said he hadn't read that book - had read another Pete the Cat book, which makes it that much more impressive. That child is only four and not even in Kindergarten, and he's reading strange books independently. More amazing: the "My buttons, my buttons, my four groovy buttons" part was chanted in a song-like rhythm every time he did it. That's pretty amazing for a kid to pull that out like that.

The Baby and I had a nice moment last night. He had another late nap, which meant that he was awake until nearly ten o'clock. I took him downstairs around nine o'clock while The Wife was doing some schoolwork. He and I did some puzzles and read some books together. He's a delightful little guy! "Where's THIS piece go?" he'd ask, then study the puzzle intently. "Oh! THERE it goes!" We love doing the Look'n'Find books together. I'll ask, "Where's thi?" He'll say, "I don't know.... right THERE!"

He likes to get himself dressed in the morning, and he's very specific about what he wants to wear. He's following Little Bear's example and wearing Superman shirts when he can (shockingly, we have Superman shirts galore that fit him). He wants to get into underpants, but he's not consistent enough with the potty to do it. Little Bear has started a habit of taking his little brother to the potty, which is nice; The Boy wants nothing to do with that.

Faces and Santa

Little Bear - the same boy who so bravely took five stitches in his chin after jumping off the top of the slide at preschool - was playing cusions at Grandma's house on Sunday when he slipped (or so he said), giving himself a black eye. Sigh. Two injuries in the face in the same week? I'm expecting a call from CYF (Children, Youth and Family Services) any day now. This boy needs to learn not to lead with his face.

Side note: the other night, he read the entire book of "The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid Of Anything" to me. It wasn't just memorization; when he made a word mistake, I'd point the word out and he'd correct it. There were some words that he was kind of sounding out / slurring through, but it was pretty darn impressive for a 4 year old. I love having smart children.


Yesterday, I took a sick day from work because of asthma issues. Long story short, I wound up meeting The Boy at the bus at the end of his school day; he came off the bus in tears. The kids had been talking about Santa Claus at school that day, and the teacher was talking about her version of the Elf on the Shelf. (If you don't know the elf, look it up. It's kind of cute, but outside the purview of a Jewish family.) It finally hit him yesterday, that Santa Claus wouldn't be coming to his house to bring presents. This was causing a bit of an existential dilemma to The Boy, as he knows he's a generally good kid that SHOULD be getting presents from Santa. The disconnect of not getting Santa presents, as a good kid, because he's Jewish kind of broke his brain for a while.

Santa Claus is firmly my wife's territory. Santa was the hardest bit for me to concede when we decided to raise the kids Jewish, and I've avoided any mention or explanation of Santa. Frankly, I'm still not sure I agree with the decision to remove him from the equation, but if that's the worst objection to raising the kids Jewish (and it probably is), then I can live with it. However, she wasn't there and wouldn't be there for another couple of hours. I'm not going to let that child cry over that.

I got him calmed down by reminding him that, on Channukah, he got presents every night for 8 nights, then he also gets presents from me (and my father) on Christmas Day. He was okay with the quantity of present-giving days over the whole Santa thing. It winds up being a tricky thing - how do you explain Santa in a way that does NOT single him out for being "differently" Jewish? You kind of don't; you wind up telling him, basically, that Christian mommies and daddies tell their kids that to keep presents on Christmas a little bit more magical. And, you tell him that in such a way that he is NOT tempted to ruin Santa Claus for the first kid that's giving him a hard time this month. "Oh, yeah? Well, Santa doesn't exist! It's your mom and dad!"

This, of course, begs the question about how to tell him about Santa (so it calms him down) without ruining the Tooth Fairy. The Wife and I are 95% certain he knows that the tooth fairy is me - okay, the Tooth Fairy brings HIM comic book action figures. The rest of his friends get a buck or so. The trail of bread crumbs is not challenging to follow. He's playing along nicely, partially because it's fun, and (I'm sure) partially because he is sure that the flow of loot will cease once he spills the beans. I'll find out later.


I had some nice The Baby time yesterday afternoon. He was going to go with Little Bear to Grandma's work party, but he had a nasty stomach issue crop up immediately before leaving, so he stayed home with me and my wracking cough. He was grumpy, anyway; I know he would have fallen asleep in the car before it left the driveway. He wouldn't fall asleep while watching an Elmo show, so after that I decided to play Playstation with him on my lap. Pixeljunk Monsters - which has very hypnotic music and simple, fun graphics - wound up knocking him out. He was asleep during the game, the drive to Grandma's, picking The Boy up at the bus stop, and discussing Santa Claus.

I was struck with the rarity, nowadays, of The Baby falling asleep on my chest. He still curls himself into a tight little ball on my lap - the Little Ball of Boy, I like to call it. He's so sweet, and so precious - even though he's a big man now (almost 2 and a half!!!), he's still our little baby. He's still sleeping with us full-time, but he's starting to fall asleep with stories and snuggles instead of just shows and Mom. I realize that these snuggles and these times are fleeting, and once they're gone, they're gone; but I'll enjoy them as much as I can.

We're removing him from the 100% gluten-free diet now; he's only mostly gluten-free at the moment. We still don't want him eating much of it, but we've decided it's more the crazy oils that are giving him the stomach issues. It's helping a bit - he's making poo on the potty once every other day or so, which is a much better average than before.

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