Category Archives: Monkey

The word you are seeking is ‘continued’…

We recently attended Marlena’s continuation ceremony.  She was recognized for her athleticism in cross county track. There was a slide show with images of the students during the school year, speeches from teachers and students alike, and a truncated graduation ceremony where each student walked across the stage and received a continuation certificate from the principal.

It was lovely.

There was one little fly in the ointment however. Multiple times throughout the speeches the adult speakers congratulated the students on having continuated. As in:

“Congratulations on having…um…continuated to high school”

Shudder.

“As you continuate to high school…”

Twitch.

I wanted to leap up from my seat and shriek “The word you are seeking is ‘continue’! As you continue to high school, congratulations on continuing!”

Instead I remained in my seat and watched my mother and father share in my horror as the word ‘continuated’ fell from the lips of educator after educator.

Is it because we congratulate people on having graduated, or on graduating? Were the two words mixed up in the minds of the teachers? Was it fear of public speaking or the stress of the two hour long event in an overly hot auditorium filled with hundreds of parents? Could it be the internet age with it’s emoticons and memes  slowly bastardizing the English language?

Whatever the cause the effect was jarring. I was pulled immediately out of the meat of whatever the speaker was saying each time I heard the misuse of continue and sent pondering the steps that led up to the use of that word.

Flying hand syndrome…

Tonight I found myself thinking about how much better a mother I seem to be when I am not working 40+ hours a week.

I don’t mean I am a better mother because I am spending more time with my children. I think working mothers can absolutely spend enough quality time with their kids and quite often do a better job of focusing on that than I do when I am home all the time. I mean that I am more patient with my children when I am not thinking about three gazillion things waiting out in the other room for me to deal with.

I came to this realization tonight when I started to get impatient with my sweet baby boy at bedtime. He had developed the “flying hand syndrome”, that bedtime things kids do to stay awake when you finally get them to lie down and be quiet. Otter will lie still and tap his finger rhythmically on the pillow, or pull at his forelocks, or fly his hand slowly back and forth across the backdrop of his comforter. Monkey did it too, this litany of sleep preventatives invented by brilliant children with too much “letter of the law” in them to outright rebel at bedtime, thereby necessitating an arsenal of subversive sleep avoidance behaviors.

These behaviors drove me crazy when Monkey did them but hadn’t bothered me with Otter until very recently. Tonight I figured out why.

When Monkey went through her subversive sleep resistence phase I was in college and would wait until she had gone to bed to whip out my books and study for hours on end. Every time I put her to bed there was this looming list of “to do’s” waiting for me. Each tap of the finger, every rhythmic tick of the foot, each little hum drove me into a state of intense frustration as I analyzed exactly how much less time I had to get back to my school work.

With Otter I just giggled at his obvious attempts to stay awake. I found them charming and cute. I enjoyed them until I went back to work full-time and began depending on the post bedtime hours for my law practice. Then suddenly each baby hand flight path chopped off valuable time from my night’s billable hours. I began to get cranky and frustrated and unhappy with our normal bedtime routine. This impatience resulted in less quality time at bedtime. It resulted in a less comforting and comfortable mommy presence helping the little ones drift off to sleep.

To be completely honest with myself I should be cherishing these little moments. I should love each minute spent snuggled against a soft baby body awaiting the even uninterrupted ebb and flow of sleeping baby’s breath. I know how fleeting this time is. I am completely aware of how soon he will leap up and get too busy to snuggle his mom, I have already undergone that transition with my daughter.

In reality my days dealing with this problem are numbered. Time will march on and my baby will find new and creative ways to delay bedtime that don’t include soft snuggles. Why am I letting myself view these precious times as impositions? The soft dusky moments spent at bedtime are the times I have been working for. I should be viewing the things that take me away from them as the impositions.

So my goal is to let go of the sense of urgency and simply enjoy my time with little Otter as he tries all the weapons at his disposal to delay bedtime. I am lucky that most of them involve sloppy baby kisses, soft pats, and quiet giggles.

On the right path…

This weekend Monkey was a part of something that made me very disappointed in her. She and a friend wrote a snarky little note and gave it to a girl much younger than they at a birthday party.
When I found out about the note I came to Monkey and asked her if she and her friend had written it. She took responsibility for her share in the smallness and said yes.
Then I asked her to imagine being a little girl at a party. I asked her to imagine trying so hard to play with the bigger kids and being so excited when they gave you a note. Imagine clutching the note in your hands the whole way home, proud of it, excited to hear what it says. Maybe it’s your first note ever. Imagine handing it to your Daddy to finally learn what it says only to see his face fall as he reads it. Imagine learning it’s not nice.

Then Monkey did something that made me so proud of her. She teared up, jumped out of her seat, and said “I need to write her an apology right now.”

Monkey was very upset that she and her friend had hurt this little girl’s feelings and cried when she thought about how disappointed and upset she must have been to learn the cherished note had been a mean trick instead of a welcome.

We designed a nice homemade card, picked out some stickers to give the little girl, and Monkey wrote out a lovely apology in her own words, ending with “I hope you can forgive me because I would like to be your friend.” Then she and I had a good long talk about how everything we do has an affect on someone else. I told her that each decision we make can make someone else’s day better or worse and that the best thing you can do is just be kind to people.

I am so proud that my kiddo was able to put herself in this little girl’s shoes and genuinely feel for her. I am still upset that she chose to behave in such an ungenerous way but I am pleased she was so ready to do her best to fix it. It makes me feel as though we are on the right path.

When did that happen!?!?

Here I was, just working too much and running around like a crazy person, when this little baby girl I once knew grew forty feet, entered the third grade, joined the band and got GLASSES!! Now she is playing the flute, reading everything she can get her hands on, playing chess on the computer in her downtime and borrowing clothes from her Aunty Mop. (Granted my dear friend is a very small woman, but STILL!)

Here is a look at the new Monkey. (Monkey 8.0)

Contemplative Monkey
Contemplative Monkey
Tall Monkey in Aunty's dress.
Tall Monkey in her Aunt's dress.
Monkey hard at work on her homework.
Monkey hard at work on her homework.

Pirate plunder…

Margot and I pose by the ship that love built.

Monkey had her pirate party yesterday so Saturday morning found Margot, one of my closest friends, and I knee deep in cardboard and duct tape building a pirate ship for the party. We began the plan for the ship with a fair amount of trepidation, certain that we were as likely to create a giant mess as we were to create a ship. However, we bought poster paint, we bought a used sheet at the Salvation Army, we got empty moving boxes out of the basement and we got our creativity on. Surprisingly we managed to create a rather respectable ship, for a pair of landlubbers.

This was the result:

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It was a hit with the kids, just enough of a ship to provide them with fuel for their imaginations. There were bits of ocean lying about, bits of shark and alligator, whale and fish. During the party they ran on and off the ship, which served as a great center piece for the party. The ship only took an hour to put together and paint. We even managed the sail with a rake, an old mop handle, some tape, and the sheet. We laughed and schemed, worked and plotted, talked and taped. We drank water and worked in the sun, painted bits of ocean or bits of plank, and throughly enjoyed ourselves.

I had more fun building the ship with Margot and decorating for the party than I did at the party. It was like being kids again ourselves, putting that silly ship together. I felt relaxed and energized in a way I haven’t for a long, long time. It didn’t feel like work, it felt like play, actual play, kid style play. Best of all, when we were done with our play, the kids got to have theirs:

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The party was a huge success for all attendees, parents and children alike. The generous flow of beer and margarita allowed the parents to relax and chill while the large expanse of backyard ocean allowed the children to play and scream to their hearts content. We provided each child with a pirate hat, eye-patch, ear-ring, and weapon of their choice and encouraged parents and children to dress in costume. Everyone arrived in colorful attire and shared hot dogs and hamburgers, chips and fruit, and sea serpent brownie cake with good cheer.

By chosing to make our decorations, Margot and I got to spend some really special time together. I think it is easy to forget how much joy can be derived from problem solving and how much simple fun can be had in creating something new out of something old. Birthdays have become such a huge money sink in our culture, and so much of the time parents are relegated to the role of money lender, grill master, and kitchen slave, while their children run around on someone else’s creation. We got to skip the money sink this year and join in the play, just by taking the time to make our kids party decorations, something I hope to remember for the years to come.