30 August 2011

The First Day

So...this Hurricane Irene thing happened. It took out some trees and generally wreaked havoc, though it was nothing like Isabelle a few years ago. At our house, it only knocked out the power for about 30 hours, and destroyed some branches. The worst was Hurricane Eamon, who unfortunately ingested apple and spent the majority of those 30 hours ridding it from his system in the most expedient, but messy, ways possible. We went through a lot of diapers, to say the least.

BUT. It was nowhere near as important as what happened today.

Because today, Eamon Wolfe went to school.

That's right. Today was the first day of many, many years of academia to come. Heck, I'm 31 years old and still trying to finish my doctorate, and already looking at programs for instructional technology, or maybe Spanish, or possibly curriculum with an emphasis on teaching mathematics when I finish (Shh. No one tell Aaron this. He might divorce me.)

We decided awhile ago that we wanted to get Eamon into a Montessori school. Aaron and I are huge fans of their child-centered approach and focus on individualized education, critical thinking, and inquiry. Luckily, just when we were considering putting Eamon in some sort of daycare/pre-school, the Hampton Roads International Montessori School about 8 miles from here started a Toddler Program (I'm not saying that they started it just for Eamon. I'm just saying that it's an awfully big coincidence).

Yesterday, Eamon went to meet his teacher, Miss Lauren, and her assistant, Miss Savannah. They are both young and pretty, so predictably, Eamon fell in love with each. He's out an out-going little bugger, so we weren't too worried...but then again, he has never separated from family for long period of time. So Tuesday was met with some anxiety. Of course, it was all mine.

The Montessori school has a rule that you drop students off promptly, then just...leave. When you pick them up, you sit in your vehicle and they bring the child to you. Which is great...if you have a kid who can accurately verbalize what went on between pick-up/drop-off. Toddlers, as it happens, do not particularly excel at this skill.

My mom dropped off Eamon. She said that he looked ambivalent about the prospect: excited to see his new soul mates, Miss Lauren and Miss Savannah, but wary because another little boy was crying so loud you could hear him from the front of the school. My mom tried to follow the rules, so she gave Eamon a quick goodbye kiss and walked briskly away once Eamon had taken Miss Lauren's hand and walked off to look at some toy animals.

I picked Eamon up at 11:45. He ran out the door holding the hand of another assistant. She was not the assistant from his class, so I couldn't even ask her how his day went. He was smiling and shrieking, "My mommy! That's my mommy!" and pointing excitedly to our car. He almost jumped into the car.

Tentatively, I asked, "Eamon, how did it go?"

"I pway with animals, Mommy! I ate crackers! School's fun!"

I didn't realize I was holding my breath until I suddenly breathed out.

(But do you see what I mean? I kept trying to ask him about other parts of the day, but he just kept repeating about the crackers and the animals. If I didn't know better, I would think that school was just a big zoo that sold Saltines at their concession stands. When I asked him if he cried, he said proudly, "I stopped crying." Because he's no Shakespeare when it comes to the English language, though, I had no idea whether he understood that to "stop crying" one must first "start crying;" therefore, I had no idea whether he cried or not.)

Later that day, after she finished with the kids who don't have grandparents to watch them for the rest of the day, Miss Lauren dutifully called Eamon's over-anxious, borderline crazy mother as I made her promise the day before.

"He did great," she said. "He helped cut the strawberries for snack. He played nicely with the other kids. He played with the animals and had a great time."

"Did he cry?" I asked.

"Nope, not a bit."

So, there you go. First day, over. I've promised Aaron that I'll be a little less crazy now that I know that his adjustment period...well, there was no adjustment period. Eamon loves school.

Wait...where are we going?

School, huh? Hmm.

And you're saying that even though there will be two pretty young ladies there, I have to share them...with other kids?

Eh, all right.

On my way to SCHOOOOOOOL!

Wait, what do you mean I can't bring my plastic dinosaurs?!

Oh well. I'll just play with them in here.

All right, let's do this. Let's go to school.

18 August 2011

Toys Story

At some point, Eamon came to the realization that there a finite number of small, plastic dinosaur sets available in his own personal Nirvana (Toys R Us), and he owned just about all of them.

At first, trying to convince everyone that he needed MUTLIPLE sets of each amused him…but really, how many squishy ankylosaurs can one person have before the novelty just wears off?

In an awesome feat of deduction, Eamon came to a startling and life-altering conclusion: the more interests you have, the more merchandise is available.

And thus ended the reign of the dinosaur in the Wolfe household.

Don’t get me wrong. He still LOOOOOVES dinosaurs. He would still rather wear dinosaur t-shirts and sleep on his dinosaur sheets and look at his dinosaur flashcards (who needs stinkin’ phonics when you can memorize 40 different DINOSAUR SPECIES?).

But when it comes to toys and tv, his interests are starting to diversify.

So up there, next to dinosaurs on the pantheon of I AM TWO AND THIS IS COOL, comes Toy Story. He specifically loves “Toy Story Number 2” for reasons I cannot actually determine (I like to think that it’s because of the Star Wars references; even though he has never seen and has no knowledge of Star Wars, I really want to believe that it’s just in his DNA to love anything related to it). He wants to sleep with his Woody doll and his new favorite phrase, which he will utter at absolute random moments, is “Go Infinity and Beyond!” (I know he has the words wrong. Again, I am inferencing here, but I suspect that the sentence fragment “to infinity and beyond” simply offended his burgeoning grammatical sensibilities).

Just below those two things are the X-Men. Eamon suddenly LOVES the X-Men, specifically the cartoon. Although, he doesn’t really seem to care about the plotlines as much as watching the opening credits and getting to name all the characters, which yes, he has memorized right along with his dinosaur flash cards.

My child still doesn’t understand exactly how he goes pee, but he can tell an iguanodon from a velociraptor and Gambit from Wolverine.

(Favorite moment from the last few days:

I show Eamon a flashcard at his request. “Eamon, can you say pachycephalosaurus?” I ask him.
Eamon blinks several times, stares at me, then finally says simply, “No.”
“Fair enough. Here’s a picture of T-Rex.”)

Eamon is also branching out into traditional 2 year old obsessions. He’s decided that he mildly likes Dora, or at least enjoys her admonishment of Swiper and his nefarious Swiping.

He also likes some Curious George, which I find delightful because in my opinion, Eamon looks just like Curious George: round, big head atop a thin, long-limbed body. They even have the same brown eyes and brown hair. Moreover, they both chatter constantly and are well-intentioned but into everything. In fact...they are so alike, it occurs to me...I have never seen Eamon AND Curious George in the same room together. Have you? COINCIDENCE?


The upshot of all of this is that we have plenty of options for Halloween costumes this year.

And plenty of new toys to trip over.

And if it means I get to watch less Land Before Time, well, that’s just awesome. Bring on the Dora.

06 August 2011


Daylight lazily begins its saunter through the blinds, dancing teasingly on the brow of The Angel. The Angel blinks his eyes once, then twice, merging slowly into Reality from dreams of riding a brachiosaurus bareback.

Tentatively, The Angel asks, “Mommy?”

He waits, then gaining a stronger foothold on wakefulness, calls with assurance, “Mommy!”

Mommy enters, a tall and stumbling tower of bleariness, and murmurs, “Hey, baby.”

The Angel smiles. He leaps from his bed, and as she crouches down to catch him, throws his arms joyfully around her beck. “I wuv you, Mommy!” he exclaims, the light from his heart mirrored in the shine of his bright brown eyes.

“Well, good morning to you, too,” says Mommy, her voice still thick with sleep but obviously deeply enamored with this darling, this cherub of sunshine and delight.

Together, The Angel and Mommy clasp hands, animatedly chattering of the possibilities of the day. They pause for a moment on the top of the stairs.

That pause is their downfall.

For in that moment, The Shadow creeps in through the window, into the hall, and into the heart of The Angel.

It starts when they reach the bottom of the stairs.

“Milk?” asks The Angel…the last sentence he utters as himself, before The Shadow takes full possession.

“Sure,” says Mommy, still elated with this seraph of joy she calls her offspring. She fills a cup with milk, only to turn and offer it…not to her little Angel, but the angry, defiant Shadow.

“NO MILK!” roars The Shadow. He attempts to slap the milk from her hand. The Shadow is not Evil itself, but it sees Evil everywhere. It is angry, and hurt, and frustrated without cause. It is paranoid and desperate against all reason.

Mommy takes a deep breath. She has seen this before. “No hitting,” she reminds, trying to maintain calm in the wake of the upcoming torrent of doom.

But the Milk is now The Shadow’s sworn enemy. It is Evil and needs to be Destroyed.

Or at least Refrigerated.

“PUT AWAY, MOMMY!” commands The Shadow. “Put milk in fridge!”

“Say ‘please,’” Mommy says gently.

“PUH-WEASE!” comes the banshee-wail.

Careful not to react, Mommy puts the offending milk back in the refrigerator.

This is not enough for The Shadow. Mommy, the person who brought him this accursed nectar of Satan, she is a treacherous fiend who deserves nothing but his contempt and vengeance. “GO AWAY, MOMMY! WEAVE ME AWONE!” Thus follows the desperate wail of betrayal and hopelessness. The Shadow throws himself onto the floor in a swirling, imagined agony of despair, while Mommy stands and looks on, feeling, but trying not to show, her helplessness.

This is a new but not unknown enemy. The Shadow, it is whispered, is hungry. It is hungry for power, desperate for control. But more specifically, it literally HUNGRY, and needs sugar in its bloodstream in order for the helpless rage to subside.

But The Shadow does not want to subside. It does not want to eat. It wants to stay in its dark pit of misery and drag everyone down with it.

So Mommy must act carefully. The Shadow thrives on negativity. You can yell at The Shadow. You can threaten it, you can bully it, you can beg it, you can scream at it—but all of these make only it stronger. It glories in the apparent Evil of your controlling ways and fights harder, thrashing the little body it inhabits wildly, flinging tears and hurling cries at anyone it sees.

No Mommy can defeat The Shadow. In fact, nobody can defeat The Shadow.

Nobody, save one.

The Angel.

But to regain control, the Angel needs strength, he needs sustenance, he needs…food. Food that The Shadow will not accept.

So Mommy takes another deep breath…and walks away. She leaves her darling, her beautiful boy, a sobbing, heaving mess on the floor. There is nothing she can do for him now, except be quiet, be gentle, and be firm. She reminds him with a whisper and a quick hug that no matter what, she loves him so very much; and even though he struggles wildly to escape her embrace, she knows that somewhere inside there the Angel is fighting to come back.

She walks into another room, sits down and reads a magazine. Of course, she is not really reading, only giving the appearance of it so that The Shadow will not sense her anxiety. She tidies a bit. She checks her email. The Shadow screams on in the kitchen.

Then all at once, the screams stop. The air is still.

Mommy resists the urge to run into the other room. He’s okay, he’s okay…she tells herself. She knows what this means. The war is not over, but it has moved inward. The Angel must fight his own battle.

In another minute, a small figure will enter the room. His face will be red from screams and stained with tears.

He sees Mommy, who offered him the original offending milk, who still is trying to offer him…a Clif bar, toast, bacon, berries, potato chips, jelly beans…ANYTHING if he will just eat and get sugar back into his system.

And sometimes, The Shadow rears in defiance and throws himself back on the floor, kicking and screaming again. He bats angrily at any attempt to feed him. The world is full of darkness and deserves to be punished in as mighty a fashion as his two-year-old self can muster. So Mommy continues to wait, continues to be patient.

Because eventually, sometimes after a minute, sometime after an hour, the Angel wins. The Angel always wins. And the little boy comes and sits quietly next to Mommy on the couch, takes the Clif Bar and begins eating. Five minutes later, he ventures a little smile. Twenty minutes later, he is off the couch and playing eagerly with his toys, politely saying “please” and “thank you” and sometimes just running over to his Mommy to throw his little arms around her neck again and say, “I wuv you, Mommy.”

And like that, this battle is over.

There will be others, of course. Battles caused by fatigue, battles over un-purchased dinosaurs, battles because the sky is blue and the grass is green. For awhile, they were a constant, never-ceasing barrage. But each day, there are fewer and fewer.

Because slowly, The Angel is winning the war of the Terrible Twos.

One day at a time.

Hello, Angel. Welcome back.