the good stuff

This week–well, this month and even next month–are crazy.

I’ve taken on some extra teaching obligations that will have me in the classroom every day; the kids have a dance recital and then a far-away-ish dance competition; our possessions seem to be staging a coup by breaking, one after the other (car, dishwasher, picnic table–picnic table! really?–upstairs plumbing). The schedule madness means that I’ll barely see Conor during the week.

But all the same, this is the last week of school for the kids, and they’re excited. And they get more interesting to be around every day. The weather is beautiful (after yesterday’s monsoon). And I’m excited about the book I’m working on and enjoying the class I’m teaching.

So–not that I’m not looking forward to the part of the summer when the classes I teach are over and I get a break and our schedule returns to a normal level of crazy–I keep thinking, this is the good part. This is what I’ll think about when I’m old and the house is empty.

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informed criticism

Last night I made risotto for dinner.

Wesley asked, “What’s dinner?” and I said, “Risotto and fruit and sliced vegetables.”

He said, “I’m not eating that.”

I said, “Well, you’ll have to take a tasting bite if you want anything else, but that’s up to you.”

He stomped his feet furiously, stormed out to the porch, and jumped around angrily, repeating “I’m not eating that! I’m not eating that! I want dinner but I won’t eat that!”

This went on for about five minutes. Sometimes he came over to the door to stomp directly at me.

Then he wandered off.

About five minutes after that, he came up to the door again and said, “Mama?”

“Yes, Wesley?”

“What’s risotto?”

Take THAT, Darth Vader!

Wesley and Mary have been playing Star Wars in the yard. He pointed his finger and said, “I’ll get you, Darth Vader!”

Mary shouted, “I have TWO light sabers!” [Query for nonexistent editor: lightsaber? light saber?]

Wesley replied, “I have NINETY-NINE light sabers!” And then, after a moment’s thought, “And 100 hands, so that I can use them all and STILL point at you!”

a Mary weekend

So, this weekend, Mary has a dance competition today, and Wesley had a birthday party yesterday. Conor took Wesley to his party, while Mary and I ran errands (including stuff to get ready for the competition). It was a ridiculous list of things to do–dropping off some newsletters, going to the strawberry patch (not to pick, just to buy some berries), Target, Costco. Mary is excellent company on such an outing, because she doesn’t think anything is boring.

It was a beautiful day, and the strawberry farm had a truck selling ice cream, so we shared a milkshake, and as we were drinking it, Mary said (after a contented sigh), “You must be so happy to spend the weekend with me.”

Mostly because she’s so modest?

She is right, of course, although I wouldn’t have minded having Wesley and Conor along as well. She loves to go places with just Conor or just me, though. She added, “And you can have a whole Mary weekend!”

not tired tonight, eh?

8:15 p.m.: I kiss Mary good night, close the door, and come downstairs.

8:36 p.m.: I hear a suspicious THUMP from her room, followed by “Don’t worry about it!”

8:45 p.m.: I hear what sounds suspiciously like a chorus of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” coming from her room.

9:20 p.m.: I call up the stairs, “Go to sleep! No more singing and thumping!”

9:40 p.m.: Mary comes down the stairs and asks, “Do you want me to wash any dishes?”

trip downtown

So, we had tickets to see “Hello, Dolly!” today–turned out to be quite an outing. The kids got dressed up for the occasion:

After the show, we went out to dinner.

The kids drew while we waited for our dinner to arrive:

Mary loved the soup.

 

We walked around town a bit:

Wesley took this picture of Mary:

We wound up the evening with another walk around town and popsicles. The kids said that their favorite part was the ice cream cart and some ducks we saw while wandering. Just in case you wondered whether the afternoon of culture excited them.

in the car

So, I was feeling a little guilty the other day for how many dinners my kids eat in the car. Mostly, this happens on dance class nights; I pack an after-school snack and a “snack dinner” for each kid.They sit in the back with their lunchboxes, and I drive. (Or Conor does.)

They both end up doing their homework in the car, too. We have a “homework box” with paper, pencils, pencil sharpener, glue stick, scissors, etc.

Anyway, I was thinking, isn’t that lame? I mean, family dinners are supposed to be around the table. And we’re all supposed to be there. And eat together.

But then I thought about it a bit more, and I realized that the dinners in the car are great. I just hadn’t thought it through.

For one thing, while I think snack dinners would get boring, the kids love them. Sometimes I wonder, “Who would want to eat turkey, a roll, and sliced vegetables for the three hundredth time?” But then I remember that the answer to this question is “Mary and Wesley.” They are totally happy to eat the same thing over and over again, and they’re willing to eat healthfully as long as I pack healthfully. It seems boring to me, especially because I prefer my food hot, but they eat well and they’re happy, so who cares?

More importantly, though, I have also realized that the lack of a table doesn’t matter: they tell me about their day, have conversations with each other, and generally do all of the things that a family is “supposed” to do during dinnertime.

Sometimes I ask them to relate the best part and the worst part of their day (Wesley’s “best” part is usually the food he’s eating).

Sometimes we talk about what they learned in school. Or they discuss a movie or a book they like. Or we talk about their homework or their friends or what we’re going to do this summer.

The best part is, I’m driving. I’m not feeling like I need to be putting in a load of laundry or grading a paper. Driving means that I can have a conversation, but I can’t do anything else. So I’m not distracted from what they have to say (unless, for example, someone cuts us off on the highway–but then we can talk about safe driving or good manners or the appropriate–and inappropriate–use of curse words).

So I don’t feel guilty about it anymore. It’s nicer on Fridays when all four of us are in the car, instead of just one parent, but in any case, it’s a family dinner. It counts.