Learning How the Heathens Learn, Especially When They Are Polar Opposites

It’s been quite a journey in adapting to the personality differences between my boys, especially when it comes to their education.

G-man pretty much breezes through school. I never have to check his calendar or assignments, because he is so freaking independent. We don’t have to tell him to do his homework, or harass him to turn it in. He always knows when tests are coming up, and tells me his study schedule after he’s already planned it out. If anything, his school experience has made me a somewhat lazy parent, because I take for granted that he’s got everything covered. I confess that I haven’t checked his homework calendar in months…he just does it all without us having to worry about it. However, as independent as my oldest child is, school project time dang near kills us both. He is so used to moving quickly and effortlessly through his day-to-day assignments that he has little patience for the lengthy process of planning and executing a book report. I really, really hate school project time, because he gets so frustrated when his aptitude of a subject doesn’t particularly decrease the time and effort a school project will take. We are still recovering from the social studies fair fiasco.

Bear, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. From the time he could toddle around the living room, he has always had the ability to focus intensely on whatever “project” captures his imagination, often to the exclusion of everything around him. Whether it is three-plus hours of Lego sorting, or convoluted maze drawing, his has my tendency to obsessively focus on something to the point of distraction, even if that something is not necessarily high on the priority list. I can watch him spend hours rearranging Jenga blocks, only to later tear my hair out when I can’t get him to focus on his homework for five minutes. Without fail, he will tell me daily that he has no homework, which I will quickly learn to be false when I check his teacher’s website. Is he lying? Not at all. He just has this amazing tendency to selectively focus on something until everything else around him becomes white noise. I have no doubt that the teacher tells the class their assignments, but by the time I ask Bear about them that evening, his brain had discarded that information to make room for whatever has since captured his attention. I’ve learned that I have to check and recheck when it comes to his schoolwork. He still breezes through the actual content; it’s just that we have to make sure he remembers to do the assignments in the first place.

So basically, I’ve got one kid who can keep track of everything under the sun, but struggles with his attention span for long projects, and another kid who can devote hours to a single task, but has the unfortunate tendency to ignore everything else. It’s always an adventure adapting to their differences, and they continue to surprise us daily.

Last week, Bear asked his father to use the laptop because he wanted to “write a book.” My husband loaded up Microsoft Word, and let him have at it. I figured this was probably just an excuse to play with the computer, so I didn’t think much of it at the time.

Bear spent the next several days working on “his book.” He played with the formatting until it looked like what he envisioned a book to be, meticulous typed the text, separated the content into pages, and left space for his planned illustrations. What fascinated us was that he wasn’t just idly playing around to avoid boredom; he really DID have a story in his head already laid out. Finally, he printed the pages of his book, drew the pictures, hijacked my stapler and presented us with the finished project. Though I wasn’t surprised that he could give a single project such obsessive focus, he impressed us with his careful planning and execution over the course of several days. And I have to say, it’s a really cute book.

Unbeknownst to us, Bear then took his book to school and presented it with pride to his teacher and his class. The only reason we found out was that he was featured in the school newsletter. I may be tearing my hair out that he can’t tell me his homework assignment for tonight, but seeing Bear have such confidence in his work makes me think that we must be doing something right.

Baby Gear—Figuring Out What We Need, What We Don’t, and What We Really Want

I realized today that we are exactly six weeks away from Bean’s arrival, assuming nothing unexpected occurs before then. I’m personally skeptical that we’ll make it all the way to our surgery date, because I can’t, for the life of me, fathom this baby growing any larger. Her cute kicking has morphed into painful ninja moves that give everyone the visual heebie-jeebies. If this kid gets any bigger, I won’t be able to walk upright because of the sheer force of my stomach’s gravitational pull. My lungs are already squished to the point that I’m constantly short of breath, and yes, I have officially hit the waddle stage.

My OB laughed manically when I asked her where the hell else this baby can possible grow, because my abdominal cavity is officially out of room. Clearly, she is used to those eighth-month blues, when a pregnant woman finally crosses the line between cutesy and glowing, to uncomfortable and fed up. However, as much as I’m starting to fuss, I really can’t complain with any degree of seriousness, because this pregnancy has been ridiculously easy and uneventful. We know we’re very fortunate for this, but it’s still easy to let the hormones and discomfort get the best of me sometimes.

With the six-weeks-until-D-Day realization, I’m also at the point when my hormones are kicking into nesting overdrive. Though I’ve slowing been purchasing the big-ticket necessities, we are still woefully unprepared in terms of baby gear. I’m having trouble prioritizing those “must-haves” from the “sure-would-be-nice-to-haves.” As my husband and I learned with our first two heathens, buying baby gear is kind of like gambling, because each item’s usefulness is sometimes entirely dependent on the personality of the baby. Take baby carriers, for example:

My oldest child barely tolerated being carried in one, while my youngest child practically lived in his (thereby saving my sanity). We also learned the hard way that some items are complete trial and error, and not to invest in too much of one thing until we’ve test-driven it first. I can’t tell you how many pacifiers, baby spoons and sippy cups ended up in the reject pile during the boys’ first year, until we finally found the perfect item they each would tolerate. Babies can be dang persnickety.

I know that some items are relatively safe bets, like a swing:


G-Man probably would have been an only child if not for the salvation of a good swing. A Boppy was a must with both, because C-sections incisions and newborns must be handled with care:


So, I went ahead and bought one as soon as we got past buying the car seat and the stroller…but then I hit a roadblock.

Despite this not being our first rodeo, I’m quickly learning that many of the “usual” items we normally would have stocked up on by now have changed A LOT in the past eight years, and I’m still trying to figure out how they all should be prioritized in the budget. Baby monitors can now come with cameras:


Receiving blankets come in specialized “swaddle” versions, which I have a feeling may be as much of a preference issue as the right pacifier is:

And don’t even ask me what the heck this is:

They even make strollers now with iPod jacks, and I confess my inner-geek took that into consideration when I was shopping.

Among my inner-debate about modern baby gear, I also have the secret yen for a few items I probably really don’t need, like an overly expensive diaper bag:


And cute nursing covers:

And this thing, which is a handheld device for sleep-deprived parents of newborns:

It keeps track of naps, feedings, timing and other important info. It’s either is the best idea ever, or a waste of money, but I have a feeling it’s another “won’t know till ya try it” kind of thing.

As you can see, I’m spending entirely too much time and brain power thinking about this stuff. Even as I keep telling myself that, my inner pregzilla keeps whispering “six weeks, six weeks, six weeks…”

Excuse me, I think I need to go find a large cup of Sonic ice and some chocolate. That usually shuts her up for a while.

Stealing Time

I’ve hit the point in my pregnancy when I have to see my OB every couple of weeks. Luckily, my doctor has been awesome in her timeliness, so these visits have not eaten up as much of my days as I feared they would.

Though I usually snag the first appointment of the day, I always have about 45 minutes from the time I drop the heathens off at school, to the time I need to report to my OB for another devastating date with her evil, lying scale. (note to self—that weight probably isn’t going to come off as easily as it came on, and I doubt Bean is 30+ pounds, so you really need to quit deluding yourself and put down the chocolate)

Annnnyyyway, those extra 45 minutes are a rare occurrence in my otherwise frantic days, and if I weren’t quite so exhausted, I could probably use them productively. For example, I could run home and fold a load of laundry, or clean a bathroom. I could probably even mop my kitchen floor, which still looks like a Rorschach test after an unfortunate orange juice incident earlier this week.

Sure, I could squeeze another iota of productivity out of myself during those few extra minutes on doctor appointment days…but I don’t. Instead, I go to Starbucks, order a hazelnut cappuccino and a cinnamon-chip scone, and spend 30 minutes lounging in a comfy chair, reading my Kindle Fire. As an enormously pregnant, sleep-deprived, working mom, those 30 minutes are like a mini-vacation, and stealing them for myself is a wonderful treat in this final sprint to the pregnancy finish-line.

The kitchen floor will still be there later, as will the laundry and the science-experiment-bathroom. Especially the bathroom…I live with three guys, after all.

Siblings, Pregnancy and a Lesson in Expecting the Obvious

As we get closer to Bean’s imminent arrival, I’ve started to consider just how the heathens are going to adapt to the uncharted territory of a new baby. This is new ground for us, because when Bear was born, G-Man was only two-years old and our house had just burned down. We were too busy trying to get through the day-to-day to even focus on the usual introspection that a new baby brings. It was sink or swim back then, and we were in the midst of so much chaotic change that a new baby was barely a drop in the proverbial bucket.

Fast forward eight years, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a whole new ballgame.

When we told the boys that our family was about to expand by one, they both took it in stride. Sure, a new baby sounded epic, but with nine WHOLE months to wait, their goldfish-like attention spans soon dismissed the news as exciting, but not really any big deal. At least, not any more exciting than a new episode of Swamp People.

As we progress, the baby is still kind of an abstract concept to them, though we have experienced some moments of pure hilarity. The first occurred when Bear decided that the best way to talk to Bean would be to yell into my open mouth…after all, if food travels from our mouths to our stomachs, why not sound?

As my stomach balloons to cartoonish proportions, Bear constantly eyes it with suspicion, and frequently asks, “After you have the baby, you’re gonna to go back to normal, right?” Of course, I have to explain that my stomach will not shrink overnight, because I just know I have a “But you still LOOK pregnant!!” on the horizon, and no post-partum girl needs that kind of confidence booster. He also has a habit of referring to Bean as “your pregnancy,” as in he will ask “how is your pregnancy today?”

Yeah, he’s a strange one, that kid.

Meanwhile, G-man seems to take it all in stride, though he does laugh hysterically when random baby parts start protruding from my stomach. Other than that, he’s just laid back about the whole thing…perhaps deceptively so.

In all this pregnancy madness, my husband and I somehow missed the most OBVIOUS issue on the planet, because it sure didn’t come up when we announced the pregnancy to the kids. However, a couple of weeks ago, a conversation cropped up that I should have seen coming a mile away. Should’ve…Could’ve…Would’ve….

As we were eating dinner at the table, the kids and I were having our usual recap of everyone’s’ days. Out of left field, Bear looks at me and says, “So, Mom, how exactly did the pregnancy get into your tummy anyway?”

Cue the deer-in-headlights look from me. Seven dang months into my pregnancy, yet I am still blind-sided by this question.

Not only did I have NO answer for my inquiring 7 year-old, but my husband and I hadn’t even discussed what kind of approach we wanted to take with this topic should it ever come up. And the lucky man was still in Boston, so I couldn’t even throw him under the bus with the good, ol’, “Ask your Dad” response. You’d think that two reasonably intelligent adults could have anticipated this moment, but nooooo.

While my brain scrambled frantically for an answer, G-man looked up from his pasta, shrugged his shoulders and said, “stomach acid…duh!”

And I am such a dork that, before I could even stop myself, I muttered, “Yeah, what he said.”

About fifteen seconds later, I managed to collect myself enough to scrape together some nonsensical response about Dad and me discussing it, then God deciding to bless us and yada, yada, yada, but by then, they had already moved on to the Lego’s they wanted to buy with their allowance money.

Yeah, this is about to get very interesting.

Yeah, He Loves Me.

While my husband was in Massachusetts last month, he technically had some free time on the weekends. If it were me, I would have filled my agenda to the brim, because even if a trip is technically a work thing, I still would want to sight-see if I had enough time on my hands. And let’s not even get into the way I would have planned out my meals; I firmly believe that all trips revolve around food, hence my constant battle to button my skinny jeans.

However, being the diligent guy he is, my husband spent most of his free time glued to his computer, ensuring that work back home was running smoothly in his absence…the nerd.

During one of our long-distance conversations, I joked that if he got really bored on a weekend, he could always find a local yarn shop and bring me back something fun to knit. Obviously, I was joking. The only thing my husband knows about knitting is that it involves pointy sticks, and that I spend a lot of time doing it.

Well, that man must love me a lot, because sure enough, he ventured out into the snow one Sunday and tracked down a yarn shop about 20 miles from his hotel. He brought me back a bag full of yarn, and I tell ya, it was like Christmas morning at my house. Even though he had no clue what he was looking for, other than something “interesting,” he spent an hour selecting various yarns that he thought would be fun for me to play with.

Yep, that’s love right there.

Overcoming Garden Trauma—Where Do We Go From Here?

With Spring not too far around the corner, I’ve realized that I better come up with some type of plan to rehabilitate our yard.

Last summer, my little section of Louisiana experienced both record heat and drought. It rained only a handful of times for five months, and even when it did rain, it felt more like the sky was spitting on us than actual precipitation. We had more consecutive days of 100+ degree temperatures than at any other time in history, many of those days reaching 110 degrees, if not more. As a result, huge sections of our grass died completely, or were overrun by weeds that could probably survive an apocalypse. We also lost several azaleas, and many other plants that were significant to our landscaping. Our raised-bed vegetable garden was hit and miss, with the exception of a bumper jalapeno crop. Go figure.

My husband tried to water everything as much as he could, to the point that our water bill rivaled our electricity bill for which would be the biggest budget-killer. By the end of the summer, we admitted defeat and hoped for better luck next year. Consequently, our yard is a wreck, and our gardening enthusiasm is at an all-time low.

I know I’ll have to replace the azaleas and other landscaping plants, but I am clueless what to do about the lawn. Should we reseed the dead sections? Weed-and-Feed what’s left and hope for the best? We also are having the mildest winter in years, so does this mean that summer will be as bad, if not worse than last year? How can I heal my balding lawn and help it thrive?

I am still an abject gardening novice, not to mention inexcusably lazy when 100-degree heat is involved. However, if I don’t get my butt in gear and come up with a plan, our home is going to be a whole lot more scraggly-looking come Fall.