So we took a recent scouting trip to a Big Box Toy Store — the POINT of which was to figure out exactly which Transformer he was talking about, which I completely blanked on while scrolling through Amazon because THEY ALL LOOK ALIKE and there are fourteen million variations of the same robot and now I'm utterly amazed at my parents' ability to always get me the exact pose of Strawberry Shortcake I had my heart set on.
"The Strawberry Shortcake with the watering can! The GREEN watering can. And not the BENDING DOWN one. The STANDING UP one."
While we were there, I figured Ezra might want to have a say in Bloon's party dress selection as well, so after some disoriented wandering around in search of the doll aisle, I asked an employee where we might find doll clothes.
"Like for [DOLL BRAND I'VE NEVER HEARD OF]?" he asked.
"Um, I dunno," I answered. "It's for his bear. I don't know what brand will fit, so is there just an aisle we could look at?"
"All we really have is [DOLL BRAND I'VE NEVER HEARD OF], but it's, you know. For girls."
"Well," I bristled, hoping that Ezra didn't hear that, because NOPE. "His bear is a girl."
"Oh, okay," he laughed and started walking away. We trailed after him, until I realized he was just walking towards the employees-only area of the store.
I asked again where we might find those doll clothes, please. He looked surprised, then gave us the aisle number and general direction.
It turned out that the clothing for [DOLL BRAND I'VE NEVER HEARD OF] was perfectly Bloon sized. Ezra very seriously considered each option, pointedly turning down anything blue or gender neutral.
"That's not beautiful enough," he explained.
He chose this.
Isn't she beautiful?
Just like Ezra, my beautiful, amazing boy. He's Transformers and Plastic Battle Droidpod Whatevers and Dirt and Defiance and Stubbornness and the most loving, gentle, and nurturing little person I have every had the honor to meet.
I started his birthday video the usual way, set to some song that he loves or was just the right blend of sappy/peppy, before realizing that...no. He doesn't need a soundtrack anymore. The one he provides — his singing, dancing, talking — is a better representation of life with Ezra this year than any old rapid-fire clip montage ever could.
So what is going on with me? Why do I keep disappearing? Where do I even go? What happened to my seemingly infinitely endless capacity to talk about myself?
I don't know. Work is pretty busy. Okay, really busy. And life is pleasantly monotonous. I'm switching closets over to fall/winter and am unprepared to deal with the actual number of closets that involves now. I took Ezra to the dentist last week and then spent the rest of the day nursing a thrashy head-butt bruise with an ice pack while starting at the ceiling like a shellshocked zombie.
("Does he have any SENSORY ISSUES?" the hygienist asked me, as Ezra proceeded to flip the fuck out for 20 agonizing minutes straight. "No," I said, while attempting to gently hog-tie him to the chair with my own limbs. "Except for THIS ONE RIGHT HERE, apparently.")
We saw Gone Girl over the weekend but arrived late and had to sit in the front row and my neck is still killing me, plus Jason has a cold with the number-one side effect of breathing so loudly at night he wakes me up and I get to spend hours lying awake, trying to ignore something he can't help while also fighting the urge to kick him in the shins and/or thwack him with a pillow.
And then Ike woke up from a nightmare — a nightmare that involved me eating all his ice cream. This was so upsetting he cried himself back to sleep on Jason's side of the bed because he was too angry with me. I was sympathetic and all, but child, I stayed up late and watched that killer clown on American Horror Story all by myself, so forgive me if I hastag your ice cream dream as #3yearoldproblems.
Well hello there, blog full o' tumbleweeds. How's it hanging?
So I went away for a few days there to a conference in Santa Barbara, California. A non-blogging, non-just-an-excuse-to-squee-and-party conference, where I actually spent every minute of my time either in conference sessions or in a semi-circle with coworkers while we worked and planned and over-strategerized our marketing funnels.
At night there was good food and even better wine, but still like, Business Wine. (You know, where every delicious sip must be weighed against the ever-increasing odds of Saying Something Dumb or Regrettable in front of work people.)
Overall, it was pretty uneventful. I didn't show up at the wrong airport or lose my luggage or cause any sort of international incident. I didn't get much sleep or free time, and the entire trip sort of faded into a hazy, four-day quest for either decent coffee or a place to charge my phone.
On the flight out, the middle seat in my row was empty. A pregnant mom with a baby in her lap asked the woman with the aisle seat if she'd possibly consider switching to HER aisle seat just one row up, so she could put her daughter in the empty middle seat.
The lady refused. She didn't want to move, because she'd already plugged her phone into the outlet under the seat.
NOTE: I plugged her damn phone into the outlet under the seat, because she couldn't find it, and my offer of guidance help ultimately resulted in me getting down on all fours on the floor, with my ass wedged between the seats while stabbing blindly at an outlet located directly behind her calves.
Sp I offered the mom my window seat. (I like aisles better anyway!) She climbed over the One Does Not Simply Unplug An iPhone lady and silently mouthed teary thanks at me. I felt quite zen and noble. We were all going to be kind to one another on this flight, so help me God. Don't make me live-tweet a bitch.
In the end, though, a whole other seat swap/trading thing happened so another family with small children could all sit together, and the middle seat next to me ended up empty ANYWAY. Then the first baby screamed for about three solid hours of the flight. My original seatmate shot me a few dirty looks, like it was all my fault, while I put my headphones on, feeling less zen and noble and much more GOOD. SERVES YOU RIGHT.
My coworker took this photo of me. I texted it to Jason and told him to tell Noah that I was hanging with Ben Franklin.
About 10 minutes later Jason texted back. "He's like, Dad that's just a stone character."
Nine years old and already completely over my sense of whimsy. Go home, Mom. You're lame.
I got back laaaate Saturday night and still have no fucking idea what time it is. I brought the boys chocolate bars and a box of peanut brittle, and then accidentally somehow maliciously ate all the peanut brittle. They didn't seem to mind and were all very, very happy to see me. "We can kiss each other now," Ezra exclaimed. "Because I'm in love with you again!"
There were a lot of pile-ons and head hugs. It's good to be back.
It's been a few years since one of their birthdays really and truly unnerved me. Nine, for some reason, is an age that does.
One year until TEN.
I don't feel old enough to have a nine year old. But obviously I am. My years of parenting babies and toddlers are almost completely behind me now, and that's only "almost" if you include Ike under the toddler umbrella, which: Okay, but barely. I've got maybe six more months before that's officially ridiculous.
He's a quirky nine, but self-aware of his quirks and self-accepting of most of them. Frustration swirls to the surface occasionally, sometimes anger, but mostly an over-the-top positivity and excitement that can only be expressed at top volume while he tells you absolutely everything he knows about Ninja Turtles.
He can stop himself now, though. He'll ask you first now, like an earnest, door-to-door missionary: "Are you interested in Ninja Turtles? Would you like to talk about them?"
A yes brings a look of immense relief and happiness to his face, a deep breath before he can uncork the thoughts and words in his brain and let them out. All of them, at once right at you. Sorry, polite obliging adult. This is just how it goes.
We hung a hammock swing in the middle our basement, so there's clearance to really move and spin and rock. He knows exactly when he needs to go swing in it for awhile. He created a "cave" in his bed out of pillows, blankets and a Bilibo he wears like a helmet over his head. It freaks me out every night because I'm convinced he can't breathe, but he can. It's his safe place, his sensory-free zone, something he'd already built for himself by the time we even learned it was something we should consider creating for him. (Non-sponsored plug there: The videos and training tools on that website are brilliant and chock-full of OMG DUH lightbulb moments.)
I said autism out loud to a stranger for the first time recently — it was time to take Noah for a "real" haircut, vs. one of those kiddie salons with TVs and one-cut-style-fits-all. We'd put it off for far too long, and his hair was getting increasingly bushy and out of control. He had a specific style he wanted and seemed motivated to try getting his hair cut by someone new. So I took him to my hairdresser, who knows him and understands him, and who has a nephew just like him. I took him at lunchtime so the salon would be mostly empty, and it was.
She had to use thinning shears on his crazy thick hair, and the wisps of hair were falling on his face and neck and the polyester drape was driving him crazy and she was cutting as fast as she could and I was holding his hands and brushing hair away and whispering to him about Ninja Turtles. He was trying his hardest to stay still but the sensory overload was building and his volume was increasing and people were staring and another stylist came over and started scolding him, asking him how old he was, then telling him to act like a big boy and to stop yelling.
Then she winked at me.
Like she thought she was helping.
"He's autistic." I said. I hope I said it politely, matter-of-factly. I probably hissed it a little though. "He's doing the best he can. Just give us five minutes."
She apologized. "Oh, I didn't know."
Of course she didn't. We didn't either, really, for a long time. But knowing has made a huge difference for us, and for him. It's not an excuse or an apology. It's an explanation. It's who he is.
So I have this pair of shoes. They are red with pink trim. I don't wear them very often because they are red and pink, already two colors I don't wear much in general, and because they are a very SPECIFIC shade of red and pink. They either clash or look too matchy-matchy, which...is a thing, I guess. Matching too well. Sign of an unimaginative dresser. Or of somebody who didn't read that once in a fashion magazine in the dentist's office when she was 15 while wearing shoes that matched her shirt and purse perfectly, and who then sat there convinced that everybody was silently judging her matchy-matchiness, because when you're 15 you really sincerely believe that people actually give enough of a shit about you to be constantly judging your matchy shoes and/or the fact that your parents are there and they EXIST, oh my God.
Anyway, I bought the red shoes a reeeeeally long time ago, but they're a ballet-style flat that tends to stay relatively in style (???), and since I've worn them maybe three or four times, they still look brand new. So I refuse to get rid of them. Plus they have this adorable striped lining that, in retrospect, is probably why I found them irresistable in the store even though DUH, WHO CARES WHAT THE INSIDE OF A SHOE LOOKS LIKE. I always blame the color for how rarely I wear them, and I scold myself sometimes when I spot them in my closet. "Those are cute shoes," I say, "Stop overthinking them and just wear them with jeans and a t-shirt or something."
I wore them yesterday to an all-day meeting. I wore a blue-and-white striped dress that has a single reddish stripe on the skirt and I left the house feeling very put-together and at maximum capable adult.
And very soon remembered that...oh. It's not just the color. These shoes are too damn small.
These shoes are at least a half a size too small and way too narrow for my hobbit feet, and by the time I arrived at my meeting I could feel my skin swelling up and over the tops of them, deja vu style, because this is what happens every time. I sat down and curled my toes to relieve some of the pressure, and within an hour I gave up and kicked the shoes off under the table and hoped no one would notice. (Or if they did, they'd be enchanted by the pointless yet adorable striped lining!) Bathroom and coffee breaks were weighed against How Badly I Needed Either vs. How Badly I Did Not Want To Put My Shoes Back On. When I finally caved and got up to walk somewhere, I hobbled around so awkwardly you'd think I was wearing six-inch stripper platforms rather than goddamn ballet flats.
By the time I got home six hours later my feet were perfectly outlined with two indent rings — one from the shoe itself, and one from the slipper-sock thing I wore underneath that I never thought was substantial enough to leave a mark, but I guess anything's possible when your feet swell up that badly in super-tight shoes; I'm probably lucky the slipper-sock thing didn't just disintegrate under the pressure and disappear into my bloodstream.
I am telling you this story because 1) My life has gotten that boring that the adventures of the too-small shoes I've inexplicably held onto for close to a decade is seriously all I've got at this point, and 2) I feel like if I write this story down I will remember going forward.
BLOG NOTE TO BLOG SELF: STOP WEARING THOSE SHOES. THEY ARE TOO SMALL, THEY WILL NOT "GIVE," YOU WILL NEVER EVER "BREAK THEM IN" BECAUSE YOU CAN'T KEEP THEM ON FOR MORE THAN AN HOUR WITH CUTTING OFF THE CIRCULATION TO YOUR TOES. JUST GIVE THEM AWAY ALREADY AND BE DONE WITH THEM.
(SECOND BLOG NOTE TO BLOG SELF: Speaking of things you seem to go selectively senile on, you know how you use those two hair products most days? The volumizing goo and the smoothing/de-frizzing cream? You know how about once a year you come up with the BRILLIANT idea to to combine them together in your hand and put them on your hair at the same time, thus potentially saving you FIVE ENTIRE SECONDS of time in the morning? You know how that ends, every time? The goo and the cream merge into a sludge that leaves hundreds of tiny white goo-cream-sludge balls throughout your hair, and those hundreds of tiny white goo-cream-sludge balls will neither absorb into your hair nor comb out. And so once a year you either have to shower and wash your hair a second time or go about your day with your hair full of hundreds of tiny white goo-cream-sludge balls.)
RIP dainty red shoes made for dainy feet that are not shaped anything like mine. I have another meeting tomorrow and will probably just show up in bedroom slippers.
Ezra's love affair with school lunch ended somewhat predictably, and abruptly. Cafeteria-style pancakes are better in theory than reality, as anyone who has ever gotten their little hopes up over a bad hotel breakfast buffet can attest.
"I would like you to pack my lunch tomorrow. I will buy lunch again in five days. When I'm six. On Tuesday."
(Leftover chicken banh mi with extra pickled carrots and cucumbers, go-to granola bar of laziness, and a freshly-baked chocolate-chip banana muffin.)
Jury is out on whether his dissatisfaction with the school lunch offerings was the deciding factor or, you know, the freshly-baked chocolate-chip banana muffins.
I feel like I've mentioned this before, but in case I'm senile: We make this outstanding recipe from King Arthur Flour, ommitting the rum/coconut flavor, walnuts and cinnamon chips. We use mini muffin pans instead of the standard size, and also found that nine times out of 10, you can skip the paper liners if you just grease the pans really well.
(And even they stick a little on that one time out of 10, we find that our children could not give less of a shit over slightly misshapen muffin bottoms.)
We double the recipe and freeze them after a couple days. You can pack frozen ones right in a lunchbox — they're so wee they will definitely defrost in time. If you absolutely positively need to eat a frozen one RIGHT THIS FUCKING SECOND, just pop it in the microwave for like, 5 to 10 seconds and it will be warm and delicious.
(Not that I have ever personally needed to eat a frozen one RIGHT THIS FUCKING SECOND, or anything. Oh no, no no no.)
So after all that lunchbox talk, Ezra decided that he DID want to buy lunch at school after all.
He decided this on Thursday but didn't tell me. Instead, he simply "forgot" his lunchbox at school, on purpose. Because he figured no lunchbox = no lunch from home = buying lunch at school = PROFIT.
But he didn't tell me the "on purpose" part, and still made no mention of wanting to buy lunch until Friday morning. I handed him an older, back-up lunchbox and was in the middle of reminding him to bring BOTH lunchboxes home when he promptly lost his shit.
HE HAD A PLAN. A PERFECT PLAN. WHY WAS I RUINING HIS PLAN.
I usually float the idea of buying the school lunch to Noah a few times every year, once the lunchbox fatigue really kicks in and we're out of milk boxes and I'm making sandwiches using the end pieces of the bread because that's all that's left. An emphatic NOPE is always the response, which I guess is fine because I haven't really heard much praise for the school food, and I know Noah would ignore every available option that wasn't pure starch-n-cheese.
(Their school's website has photos of some of the selections, and I'm pretty sure I've seen more appetizing food styling on Orange is the New Black.)
But Ezra was up for the adventure of trying something new. He really wanted to get in the Buyer's Line* and get his own tray and pick his own lunch items.
He just caught me off guard, and completely out of any damn cash. So I explained that hey, SORRY, but I packed lunch for you today and I will sign you up for the lunch money account onlinely thing later today so you can buy lunch next week.
He was so mad at me, you guys. I'm guessing that day's sandwich was the worst one ever.
I did track down the district's lunch money account onlinely thing (technical term) and started to create an account for him but stalled when it asked for his student ID number. Which. The hell if I know. I think I have it around here somewhere but I'd have to dig through a lot of paper and get off the couch and meh, I'll do it later.
SO. ANYWAY. WOW THIS STORY IS JUST A MADCAP ADVENTURE OF ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENING, HUH. Ezra asked last night if I'd set his account up so he could buy lunch. I hemmed and hawed and said something about needing to find his ID number first but that I would, promise.
"Oh," he said, and then clearly wanting me to drop the bullshit and get this lunch thing finalized: "My teacher told me the number is...9...8...6."
Jason and I both snorted at the adorable earnestness of this completely made-up lie. He's been doing this a lot — if you ask him a question he doesn't know the answer to, he will make something up and then deliver it with as much authority as a five year old can muster.
Ezra, did you ask your teacher when you'll start getting homework? Oh, yes. She said homework starts next July.
Ezra, where are your shoes? Oh, yes. A bully stole them and lost them. They're gone. They're in the sewer now.
"No," I chuckled, "That is most definitely not the number."
He stood there for a second.
"STOP LAUGHING," he ordered, and then ran upstairs to his room.
Oooooohhhhhhhh snap and burn. I'm sorry, kid. This lunch thing is really, really important to you. I get it.
I couldn't find his ID number, but I did find two dollars and fifty-five cents this morning. I put it in an envelope labeled "EZRA'S VERY OWN LUNCH MONEY!" and drew some smiley faces on it for him. This delighted him to no end.
So I guess we'll see what he thinks of the actual food. Don't disappoint him, cafeteria staff! This is apparently a very, very big deal for him.
*One time I forgot to pack a milk box in Noah's lunch, so his teacher spotted him some money to purchase milk at school. Every morning after that day, Noah would ask if I remembered his milk box and express relief that I did. "Otherwise there will be MILK FIRE," he'd explain. "I don't want there to be a MILK FIRE!" Which...the hell? Milk Fire? This went on for months until one night the translation suddenly hit me and I bolted up in bed and hollered MILK BUYER! out loud and scared my husband and the pets. This was a deeply satisfying moment in my life.
As I have previously, excruciatingly, thoroughly documented, my children are hollow. Possibly hobbits.They are never NOT HUNGRY. They eat and they eat and they eat. An entire box of cereal can be emptied by the end of breakfast, and apparently fully digested an hour later, which is when they start pestering me about lunch. Can I have a snack? Is dinner ready? What's for dessert?
Last night, after a dinner of fish, sweet potatoes and corn, they finished off all the ice cream in the freezer, and THEN mass-demanded the peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches I'd just finished making for their lunchboxes.
Fine. I'll make more. Just don't eat me.
(In other words: If I'm asked to do a sponsored post that involves me getting free food, I'm going to hurl myself at said sponsor and hug their leg while quietly weeping on the floor. Save me! Feed them!)
So let's talk about snacks. So, so many snacks. When Noah was little he liked to ask for "a tiny, tiny snack" while scrunching up his face and pinching his fingers together, supposedly to represent the minuscule tininess of the snack he was requesting. Just a few bread crumbs, is all! One particularly wee raisin! Please, Mother, you cannot deny such a modest and reasonable request!
And then 10 minutes later there'd be an empty box of granola bars on the counter, surrounded by a land-mine-like explosion of shredded wrappers. Tiny, my ass.
Speaking of my ass (NICE SEGUE, SELF!): we don't buy snacks around here with HFCS, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, but that still doesn't mean everything in our pantry could be considered "healthy" or "good for us." Jason and I were definitely a testament to that: We added "no late night snacking" to our health and fitness behavior chart because it was a chronic bad habit of ours. Eat dinner, head to the couch, get bored after an hour and then open a bag of something carb-y and eat the entire stupid thing.
And while my children have the metabolism to inhale late-night peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches with a chocolate cookie chaser, we very obviously do not. Or did not. We've gotten better. We each lost more than 15 pounds over the summer (NICE BRAG, SELF!) thanks to regular working out and drastically improving our eating choices and portion sizes.
So when I was originally asked if I'd consider writing about NatureBox — a monthly subscription service that delivers a big ol' stash of snacks that meet all my ingredient-related twitchiness standards — I figured it would be great for the kids. Fun new things to stave off lunchbox boredom!
Turns out it was pretty great for ME, too, finally getting to indulge in some delicious snacks that fit in with our new eating habits without having to resist the siren call of the Doritos bag at the grocery store. I went to their website picked five snacks to try, which, okay: I'm downplaying the ease of that step because there are well over 100 to choose from and I agggggonized over my choices for days until finally I got yelled at by my nice project manager for taking too long.
You can search and screen for dietary concerns like nuts, gluten, soy, milk, vegan, low-carb and non-GMO, in addition to sorting by sweet or savory. After finally winnowing down my top 50 favorites to five, here's what we got:
Apple pie oat clusters, baked sweet potato cracker sticks, sunshine chips, Sriracha roasted cashews and whole wheat blueberry figgy bars.
Perfect lunch-y sizes. I got about five portions from each bag, as long as I kept them up and away from the children themselves, who would have likely inhaled the entire shipment within minutes, like the cow-feeding raptor scene in Jurassic Park.
Ezra loves anything and everything sweet-potato like (these had a great spice flavor too); Noah loves anything in chewy bar form. The apple pie oat clusters were like if apple pie married some granola and had a cookie for a baby.
And despite being my pickiest eater, Noah has always, ALWAYS loved any type of spicy cashews. These Sriracha ones became his go-to homework snack. Jason and I loved these too — a little sweet and spicy handful of protein.
And then there were these. These I picked just for me. I am a sucker for a good crunchy sweet/savory vegetable chip.
This is me attempting to practice good portion control.
HA HA HA HA HA yeah right. Even Max is judging.
Okay, so I think the bag actually lasted maybe two days. Nobody else got a bite, and I refuse to feel even a little guilty about that. I would drop-kick a bag of Doritos in exchange for another bag of these.
GIVEAWAY TIME YAAAAAAYYYYYYY!
Two randomly chosen commenters will win a free 6-month subscription to NatureBox! Think of all the sunshine chips you will get to eat that I will not! So unfair! Here's how to enter:
2) Come back here and leave a comment telling me which snack you'd like to try. (THE CORRECT ANSWER IS "SUNSHINE CHIPS.")
On September 17th, I will chose two winners using random.org and will absolutely not actually judge you if you chose a snack that is not sunshine chips. I'm sure your choice is delicious too, WHATEVER. Please leave a valid email address so I can contact you if you win.
Never win anything? Don't even see the point in trying because life is already meaningless and random enough? Want to try NatureBox anyway? Join using this link and get a FREE sample box of their most popular snacks.
(Free trial is available for new and US subscribers only. Not valid on gift subscriptions and may not be combined with any other offers.)