B-R-O-T-H-E-R spells Trouble

Happy Halloween!

Bookgirl, this is very timely for me, because I knew you were waiting.

The boys have been in their costumes almost every day for a week. There was the Boy Scout Halloween party where Trouble won a bucket full of candy. Yes, joy, a bucket full of candy. Way more exciting for him than it is for me. Then there was the school Halloween dance, then Trouble's Karate class party, then Trick-or-Treating, and finally, LT's Karate party this morning. I'm a bit Halloween-ed out. I can't wait until they're old enough to enjoy the spook trails and haunted houses.

Blackstone decided to be a construction worker at one party.


Cone Head and Mork from Ork


Heat Blast from Ben Ten


Marshmallow Shooting


Karate Class


Pouting Stitch


My Son, the Sycophant

Trouble can be as sweet as pie when he when he feels like it, especially if there's some motivation to be sweet. Some of you may have been on the receiving end of his unbelievably endearing and considerate remarks. Sometimes, I think he's sincere. Other times, I know he's completely full of crap. He can sound like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. He can also sound like he's seven going on fifteen. I blame myself. He's learning, at a very alarming rate, to dish my sarcasm back at me. How can I expect him to learn to control his tongue? The only way I've ever learned to control mine is to shut up completely. I told a group of men in a meeting the other day that I thought I'd left my little boys at home. Don't worry, they asked for it. It's good and bad because some people, like this group, encourage my sarcasm, find it amusing. That emboldens me and causes me to hold my tongue less. That can lead to trouble.

Trouble brought home a paper he wrote at school the other day. It read something to the effect of: "The thing I like best is my family. And the thing I like as much as my family is the teacher." His teacher had responded, "You're so sweet." He's got her completely snowed, at least so far. The kid's going to go far in life, he's got skills. Maybe he'll learn to ooze sweetness off his tongue instead of constantly stinging with it. He could go either way.


Musical Beds

I wonder sometimes, when so many things seem to be made of a much cheaper quality than they were decades ago, how much cheaper the quality can possibly get in the decades to come. You know you're getting old when issues like this concern you, when you're the type of person that laments for cars, furniture, and houses from days long passed. Not that you can't still buy quality, but you'd better be willing to shell out the money to get it. What I've learned about furniture is, unless you're ready to pay top dollar, you're way better off shopping old and/or used than off-the-shelf cheap.

When Trouble was about two-and-a-half, we bought him a set of bunk beds. We figured with two kids, they'd come in handy, and we could set them up separately if we wanted, so it should give us some options. And they have been set up as bunk beds and as separate beds. We've had them about four years now and they've moved around several times and to say they have not held up well is a serious understatement. They're not exactly the greatest quality of furniture, but when I bought them I expected a little more. They are a pain to take apart and put back together, all the nuts, bolts and screws. If you don't put it together exactly right, then you're screwed. In my mind, it really shouldn't matter which side of the bed the runners go on, they're identical, or one would think, but not so much. The damn things have splintered more each time they've been put back together. It's almost impossible to keep track of all the little pieces and remember where everything goes.

I've known for a while now that these beds were on their last legs, so when my mother started cleaning out her garage this summer and asked if I wanted some old beds, I took them. Good thing to, because Trouble sat down hard on his bed the other night and landed on the floor. So we moved in what used to be mother's bed when she was little. That bed went together so easily it seemed like a crime. We did screw in the slats, but you don't even really need to do that. Just pop the runners into the headboard and footboard, pop the slats in, drop the box spring and mattress on top and your done. No worrying about whether you're putting the runner in on the right side, doesn't matter. No keeping track of countless screws and bolts. No damn splintering because the bolts won't go back in without cracking the wood. It couldn't be easier, is infinitely sturdier than the one we'd bought, and gives Trouble a little piece of family history.

Now, my mother had given us two beds, and seeing it was obvious that LT was going to crash his to floor in the very near future, we figured we'd chuck that one while we were at it. The other bed was my grandfather's when he was a boy. It has a metal headboard and footboard and was a bit rusted. So yesterday, I sanded and spray painted it. Now, this bed should go together just as simply, but after removing the cheap, dilapidated bed, we realized that we don't have the right pieces for this one. It has this large spring base that we expected to just pop into the headboard and footboard, but doesn't. We're missing runners I think and it may be that this spring thing, not even sure what to call it, it takes the place of a box spring I think, doesn't go to the bed at all.

Today, my nails are blue from painting, and we've spent much of the weekend playing musical beds, but LT is sleeping on his combo mattress/box spring on the floor. Blackstone killed the other one taking it down. I'm thinking we may just need to buy a frame and see if we can screw the headboard and footboard into it. That may be tricky seeing they're metal. But at this point, the last thing I want to do is go buy a new bed. Especially after the sanding and painting.



I woke up early and couldn't go back to sleep this morning. There are butterflies in my stomach and I feel a bit on edge. It's the same feeling I'd have on my first days of school, except this time it's not my first day, it's Trouble's.

Trouble likes to complain about having to go back to school. He doesn't like all the work he has to do. However this morning, he was in good spirits and ready to go. Not at all nervous or excited or grouchy, just bright-eyed and ready to start second grade. The bus showed up five minutes early and he just made it. I'm hoping they manage to send him home on the right bus this year. Last year on the first day of school, when his bus showed up, he wasn't on it. It took another twenty or thirty minutes for the bus he was on to drop him off. After that, we didn't have too many bus issues. But that first day of school, with the buses and new teacher, new classroom, new grade, new classmates - it's nerve racking. At least it is for me, even if it isn't for him.

We were watching coverage of the convention on the news this morning. Trouble was asking us all sorts of questions about John McCain and Barack Obama and what they want to do if they are elected President. He takes much more interest in these issues than I did at his age, I have to say. I find that encouraging. He was so cute. He asked me this morning, "What's a Barack Obama?"

I'll be thinking about him all day. What teacher did he get? I'll want to scour her web page when I find out. Will he like her? I know all the second grade teachers are women. Will his best friend be in his class? I certainly hope not. I wouldn't wish the two of them in the same class on any teacher. Will he find someone to play with at recess? Trouble can be a bit sensitive. Will he get targeted by a bully? He is learning some karate skills, but I'd prefer him not putting those to good us. Have you been watching Weeds this season? When Shane starts his new school and is all wound up about trying to fit in, his tactic is to identify the most popular kid in school and then wack him in the face with his lunch tray and tell the kid not to fuck with him. I totally get that. He's NOT going to be a target for tormenting after that. I'd prefer Trouble not be driven to such lengths to make school socially bearable. He's a little young for such drastic actions, but I'm sure middle school will be on us before I know it.

We're not there yet, though. To Trouble, butterflies and school probably makes him think more of Don't be Silly Ms. Millie and her saying, "Butterfly, children," rather than the stress of fitting in or disliking his teacher. I'd like to be able to make it stay that way for him, but that I have absolutely no control over. Hence, my own butterflies, which are not at all silly.


Wild Things

I hate to make universal judgments about boys and girls. I know some little girls who are pretty rough and tumble little girls, but somehow little boys just seem to run, fight, play in the dirt, and love bugs more, at least in general. And more parents than not, when they discover I have two boys, will kind of open their eyes a little wider and ask apprehensively what that's like, unless of course they have two boys of their own, then the look is much more commiserable. It's kind of crazy and dirty. I doubt it would be exactly the same if I had two girls, or even a boy and a girl, I think it might be more similar to having two dogs, but then I've never had dogs, so maybe not.

But even as having boys go, mine are almost in a class all their own. I've always watched their crazy antics, boundless energy, and absolute fearlessness, and shrugged it off as just boys will be boys. And maybe that's true to a degree, but I'm starting to think that my boys are kind of at the forefront of that assumption. They have always been the little toddlers in their swimming classes not the least bit afraid of the water. They could barely walk, but when they put that flimsy mat at the edge of the pool for the kids to jump off of, mine flung themselves with their unsturdy legs, racing to the edge of the mat and jumping with every ounce of momentum they could gather into the water, not even taking the time to assess whether Blackstone or I were there to catch them. Getting a good dunking didn't phase them a bit.

They're constantly finding new ways to hurt themselves - sliding down the banister, climbing the outside of stair cases, climbing out windows, sliding down the stairs in a sleeping bag, climbing fences and trees. They've recently started karate lessons and I find the other parents gazing at me in a combination of fear and awe as they watch my boys run and jump. They are both easily the fastest runners and highest, longest jumpers in their respective age groups. You may be wondering what running and jumping has to do with karate. I have no idea. Maybe nothing. They run relays and jump over bars at certain heights. I think it's about listening, precision, athletic ability and keeping it fun for them. And then there's all the kicks, punches, and combinations. It's not like they've got all that down yet, but they're enjoying the hell out of it, no doubt.

Trouble, being in an older age group, has some competition. There's a girl whose got about a head of height on him and she can outrun him occasionally. Especially, once his asthma kicks in and he starts coughing. It's enough to slow him down a bit, but not for him to want or need to stop. LT, being in the four-year-old group and used to running around with older kids, there's no one who can touch him. I watch the other kids and see their apprehension in running up to the bar and sort of putting one foot, then the other over, not really jumping but stepping over. One little boy runs right up to the bar and stops and says, "I can't do it!" and has to be coaxed into stepping over. LT has no hesitation whatsoever. He runs and launches himself into a flying leap that clears the bar three feet high and three feet long, in a move that would make experienced hurdlers jealous. And he's got nothing on his older brother, that's where he learned it all.

I'm thinking lately, that it may not entirely be about them being boys, that perhaps not all boys are quite so fearless, boundless in their energy, and blessed with such speed and agility. They're night owls too. I could hear LT playing in his room last night while I danced on the edge of consciousness around 10 PM. I have no idea what time he actually decided to go to sleep. And I know Trouble's been putting on his television and watching TV until who-knows-when after we put him to bed at night. At least he's quiet about it. Going to be a rude awakening when he has to start getting up before seven in a few weeks, though.


They Grow Up Too Fast

LT has a girlfriend. Well, if you ask him, he says he doesn't, but his girlfriend would beg to disagree. She calls him her boyfriend, they go to the dance studio together. Well, at least they do until tomorrow, because after that we're taking the summer off from dance and starting swim lessons and karate instead. So, she'll have to find some way to deal with not seeing her boyfriend for a while. I think she'll manage. She's sixteen . . . and completely smitten with my four-year-old. He gives her hugs and kisses, but insists she's NOT his girlfriend. His exact words when I asked him if he had a girlfriend were, "Not yet." I asked him who his girlfriend was going to be. He gave me the name of a five-year-old girl in his dance class. Very adorable and sweet little girl. Only one problem with that. She's all moony-eyed for his brother, and Trouble seems rather affable towards her too.

I hope this is not foreshadowing of what the future holds.


It's All About Perspective

Trouble brought home piles of paper work from school yesterday. One of them was a sheet that had people staring at a lake and the instructions were to draw a picture of a monster. Trouble had drawn a big monster with blood shooting everywhere. No big surprise there. And the monster was saying, "I hate you," to the people. The unusual thing is that "I hate you" was written backwards, and when I say backwards, I mean written from right to left, each letter written backwards. It was an exact mirror image. I asked him why he had done that and he had no answer. Not only did he have no answer, he didn't understand that he'd written it backwards.

This is not the first time he's done something like this. We went to a family day when he was in pre-school and there was a teacher sitting across from him at a table and she asked him to write his name. He picked up the pencil and wrote his name upside down and backwards, so it read correctly to her sitting across from him, like it was the most natural thing in the world. She said she'd never seen a kid do that before.

Most of the time his writing is normal. Occasionally there's a letter that's backwards or something. His writing's not that great and the spelling is still very imaginative. But every once in a while, I'll see he's written something completely mirror image. I don't know quite what to make of it. I don't think that's dyslexia. My understanding is that would cause him to read and write with the letters randomly backwards and forwards, more jumbled. And that's not what he's doing. I wonder, if in drawing the picture, he was seeing the words from inside the picture, like from the monster's perspective?

Trouble's also a lefty, and I know that can be associated with different brain activity, different ways of thinking. Not sure if that might somehow be connected. We have several left-handed people in the family, and none of them seem to have done that.

Anyone else have a kid that does this? Is it as unusual as it seems to me? Trouble absolutely has his own ideas about things. He is undoubtedly wise beyond his years in many respects, but just making grade level in others. He's a great critical and abstract thinker, he already has a shocking aptitude for negative numbers. His reading is on the lower-normal range for his age. But this backwards writing thing. It's just baffling. I'd have a problem doing it if someone asked me to, and he has trouble even comprehending that he's done something strange.

P.S. - Amazing what you can find on Google. Suppose it can't be that troubling when he's in the company of da Vinci.






A Strong Sense of Self and Desire for Order

At first, I thought it was just Trouble that had this almost OCD-like compulsion about needing things to be a certain way, but it's LT too. Now, they are messy kids. You can't walk in their rooms without stepping on a toy, they leave their dirty clothes on the bathroom floor, their shoes are always lying in the middle of a doorway. So no, it's not OCD and they are not neat-freaks. But it is the most bizarre things that they feel the need to exercise order over.

Trouble had a fit on my grandmother one day when he was about two. She was giving him a piece of cake and she couldn't figure out why he kept screaming and crying and pointing to the cake, obviously very upset. The boy LOVES chocolate cake, what could all the screaming possibly be about? "What's the matter?" she asked me, when she couldn't get a clear answer out of him. Mother's know these things about their kids. "The cake isn't standing straight up on the plate," I told her. "You're kidding!" she said in surprise. But she stood the cake up and Trouble was completely satisfied and started eating it. He's always done strange things like this.

We took the kids to Niagara Falls when Trouble was three and LT was just an infant. Trouble threw one of the worst temper tantrums in the lobby. I was holding LT and chasing Trouble around a crowded lobby. He wanted to go to the pool or something and wouldn't get in the elevator. He kept laughing and falling on the floor. I had to carry the baby and a kicking and screaming three-year-old onto the elevator. I'm not big on spanking the kids. We generally try other means of discipline first, but when we got up to the room after that fit, I spanked him. And he yelled at me, "YOU DON'T DO THAT TO ME!!!"

I NEVER would have yelled at my parents growing up. Not at two, not at seven, not at sixteen. NEVER. And it's not that either of my boys yells at me much. There are rules, consequences, and mostly they respect them. It's that complete sense of understanding of the way things are that Trouble has that astounds me. It's not about whether he's right or wrong, it's his unwavering belief that he is right that makes me uneasy. I never remember being that way as kid. I was timid, questioning, uncertain. So different from Trouble, and now it seems my LT as well.

LT had a fit on me yesterday while I was getting him dressed. The tank top I put on him had a picture of Scooby-Doo, but Scooby was located on the side of the shirt, not the middle, and LT wanted me to put it in the middle. I tried about six different ways of explaining to him that I couldn't move the picture. I tried to get another shirt. LT wasn't hearing any of it, he just want me to move Scooby. "JUST MOVE IT!!!" he kept yelling at me. He refused to put on his underwear and shorts. I told him to finish getting ready when he was done screaming and just left him there. Eventually he did stop screaming and finish getting dressed. After that I didn't hear any more about it, thank God!

I'm not sure if it's just that this is their own personalities, or if it's the difference in their upbringing, or maybe it has something to do with them being boys. I'm also not sure if this is a positive character trait or a negative one. Self-assuredness is good to a point, but then there's demanding and expecting the impossible. Hopefully they learn the difference between those things which can be controlled, those that can't and those that just don't matter. I mean seriously, you're going to eat the cake, it doesn't matter if it's on its side. But there's no explaining that to a two-year-old. Actually, there's no explaining anything to a two-year-old. There's just talking until your blue in the face, feeling you'd be accomplishing more if you just stood there and whacked your head against the wall. Luckily when they're four, you can just walk away and leave them standing there with no pants on until they come to their senses. I love reasonable beings, even if it takes them a few minutes to realize that they are one.