June 16, 1988
Jamie just left for her last day of kindergarten, a vision in pink ... my old party dress, her pink and white "varsity" jacket, Kacie's pink-striped socks. She'll be home in an hour, since this is an abbreviated school day. I told her that when she comes home she'll be an official first-grader! ("If you don't flunk kindergarten, that is," I teased her.) I don't know if this is much comfort to her. She is very sad about kindergarten ending. My poor baby.
Jamie's OK. That wonderful resilient streak in her has taken over, and she appears to be surviving the end of kindergarten. She's already as brown as toast, by the way: it's positively sickening.
Major sources of stress in my life this summer:
- That asshole neighbor of ours upstairs who plays his rap music night and day, at such a volume that we literally can't hear ourselves think.
- The lady in the hot pink bikini (she's blonde, of course) who lounges around the swimming pool directly in front of my apartment all day.
- The mildew smell in the kitchen.
- George Bush.
Jamie and I are clashing a lot this summer. She is moody and mean-mouthed, and asking her to do anything - fetching a clean diaper for Kyle, picking up her toy mess, whatever - is maddening. She rolls her eyes and makes this awful "tcch" noise. It drives me crazy.
Then there's this other thing she does that sends me up the wall: I call it "The Mutter." I'll be out of the room, perhaps in the kitchen making dinner, and Jamie and Kacie will be in the living room watching TV. Then I'll hear it: this low, steady stream of muttering. I'll peek around the corner at them and see Jamie muttering, softly and steadily, while poor Kacie looks increasingly agitated. Sometimes I've been able to figure out what Jamie is saying, and it's horrifying ... it's almost always some sadistically convoluted version of something I've said. An example: I announced, half-jokingly, that I was going to start charging the kids a dime every time they left their bedroom door open. But in Jamie's twisted, "muttered" version, I was going to take their allowances away completely. "Every time you forget to shut the door," she muttered to Kacie, "Mom's gonna take away one of your dollars." No wonder Kacie looks agitated. Lord knows what other atrocities and half-truths Jamie has been feeding her.
She has also become a Master Tattle Tale. I've made it clear that, as far as I'm concerned, tattling rates right up there with nose-picking and playing with matches on my list of Irritating Kid Habits. Naturally, she is never, ever to blame for anything. It is always someone else's fault, and as a matter of fact she is usually the hapless victim. Isn't that interesting?
Jamie's tattling itinerary this morning:
9:35 a.m. "Kacie was playing with GLASS." (Kacie's explanation: "We was tryin' to frow it away.")
10:00 a.m. "Kyle broke Daddy's ice tea!"
10:40 a.m. "Christopher's playing in mud."
Kyle got up a few minutes ago. I was kneeling beside the stereo sorting through albums when he suddenly came bursting into the room, his empty bottle in one hand and his beloved toy gun in the other. "Ha-LO!" he said, in this new deep voice he's been cultivating; I call it his Big Voice. He waved genially at Zaydra, Jerome and Jamie, and then he ran to me for his good morning hug. His love for me is so unrestrained. He literally leaps into my arms and hugs me tight, with his entire little body.
The girls spent the night at Peg and Don's last night. Grandma picked them up at lunchtime yesterday and will bring them home sometime this afternoon. Kyle and I thoroughly enjoyed spending the evening alone together last night (Ray is on swingshift); we sat on the floor in front of the TV and ate dinner together, I gave him a nice cool bath, and then we snuggled into my big bed at 9:30 and went to sleep. Heaven. He is speaking in complete (albeit somewhat halting) sentences now. Last night he said "I play Jo-Jo a'minute." One of his longest sentences to date! He's also started noticing the airplane noises, hard to miss considering that Sea Tac is practically in our backyard. "PANE! PANE!" he shouts, whenever he hears the rumble in the sky above us.
Summer 1988, two years old
Right now he's outside playing with the "big boys" (Jerome, Christopher and Jeffrey). He gave me this funny look when he was walking out the door: it seemed to say, "Is this OK, Mom? Am I a big boy now, too?" And when I assured him that yes, it was OK for him to go outside and play, the look on his face was unadulterated joy. I can see him out on the playground. Next to the older boys he looks very small and dear. He's wearing his red shorts and his yellow Spiderman tank top and his new blue high-tops. His hair is much too long, as usual - he has to tip his head back, a little, to peer out from under his bangs - but in the morning sunlight it glistens like new pennies.
Jerome and Chris just went strolling past my window, and right behind them, skipping a little and shouting "C'mon!" was my little man.
I wish I could freeze-frame him at this precise age and moment, in spite of the fact that he's a pain in the neck 75% of the time. Every day he does something new and wonderful. His verbal skills are really taking off, and it's exciting. "Bat-MAM!" he shouts merrily when the Batman theme song comes on in the morning. "I busy!" he shouts crossly when I ask him to go get a clean diaper. "Daddy be wight back?" he inquires sweetly when Ray goes to 7-11. The kids he plays with have taught him to say "I tell on you!," "Dud-up!" and "Cry Baby!" (He has also begun to parrot some of the four-letter stuff he hears Mom saying.) And then there's the stuff he's made up all on his own. He has this funny thing he says when he's feeling frisky - "Na na, boo boo!" I have absolutely no idea where that came from, but now the whole family says it.
He has discovered a handful of TV shows that he really likes, I mean to the point of delirium when they come on -- Pee Wee's Playhouse on Saturday mornings, ALF on Monday nights, and now (what a surprise) Sesame Street every morning and afternoon. (He loves Oscar the Grouch, and Bert and Ernie.) These are Kyle's shows, and he loves them.
Kyle's sentence last night: "I WIKE CAN-NEE!"
The girls start school in a couple of weeks, and I'm preoccupied with thoughts of getting Kacie registered, buying school clothes, juggling our schedules, arranging transportation, etc. etc. Last weekend Mom and I took them to Pay 'n Save to buy school supplies. Kacie got a two-pocket folder, pencils, erasers, a little bottle of white glue and a new box of crayons. Jamie got pretty much the same thing, except she also got a lunch box and Thermos. Oh boy! It's pink plastic, with pictures of Barbie all over it. Sunday evening she just sat on the sofa and held her new lunch box, caressing it and playing with the Thermos and sighing. "I wish school was tomorrow!" she said.
Kyle: "Owee, owee, my weg! My weg! Need Ban-MEE!"
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I am utterly astonished by the way Kyle has exploded into talking this summer. One minute it was "Ma-ma" and "ba-ba" and "ni-night" ... now all of a sudden it's "I not spit my Ko-Layd outside now, MOM."
Mom: "You know what?"
Mom: "I love you, Kyle."
Kyle: "Know what?"
Kyle: "I yuh you, too!"
The girls have gone back to school! Yesterday was the first day, and a crazy, lopsided, memorable day it was. Kacie P. -- brand new kindergartener! She strode into the classroom with confidence and eagerness (along with Jerome and her new best friend, Tracy Pinkney). While other more timid children clung to their mommies, my Kacie ran ahead of me with barely a backward glance, found herself a desk and immediately began cutting and pasting. I was pleased and relieved but not especially surprised ... that's just the way Kacie is! Absolutely fearless!
Jamie is in first grade now, Room 1, Mrs. Rhodes. I walked her to her classroom, shook hands with her new teacher and showed Jamie where her desk was (labeled "Jamie P.," right next to "James B"). Right away she put her notebook in her desk and walked over to the coat closet to hang up her jacket, and then she posed for one quick snapshot before I kissed her goodbye. She suddenly looked very little and vulnerable to me; I had to battle the impulse to pick her up and run with her out of that classroom and down the street and all the way back to Kirkland, back to 1982, when she was my baby and school seemed millions and millions of years in the future ...
September 29, 1988
Ray mentioned something yesterday about how "fast" time seems to be passing these days. So it's not just me. I thought maybe I was the only one living in perpetual Fast Forward.
Jamie woke me up at 8 a.m. with a frantic, whispered plea. "Mom! You've got to fix me a lunch today -- it's fish sticks!" As a matter of fact it isn't fish sticks today, it's chicken nuggets, but I got up anyway. The girls have been in school for a month now and they're both doing well. Jamie had a tough time in the beginning, learning to like Mrs. Rhodes ... after a couple of weeks, happily, she seems to have settled in with her new teacher and her complaints have lessened. At one point she even said "I like Teacher now." That's another thing: she always calls Mrs. Rhodes "Teacher," never calling her by name. A far cry from last year's "Mr. Gallagher this" and "Mr. Gallagher that" ... She seems to like a lot of things about first grade: recess, assemblies, learning to read and write ("I wish I had some homework!" she remarked wistfully this weekend), going to the school library every week, and eating her lunch at school.
Kindergarten couldn't have come at a better time for Kacie. She was literally bouncing off the walls this summer: a little structure is just the ticket. Her best friend Tracy, who lives next door to us, is in her class. This is her first real "best friend," and they're like two peas in a pod. Over all, Kacie is a very happy little girl these days.
Kacie: "Mommy, how many days until Hallowe'en?"
Kacie: (look of extreme exasperation)
Ray is laying in our big bed watching Pee Wee's Playhouse on the portable TV we've borrowed from John and Lori. I just carried a cup of coffee in to him. "You can't dink around for too long," I said sternly. He is supposed to do some yard work for Grandma V. today, and we need the money. "I can't drink my gulag?" he repeated, confused. "YOU CAN'T DINK AROUND FOR TOO LONG!" I said, louder this time, and he finally gave a little "hrrmph" of comprehension.
It's 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and showing every indication of being a fine, beautiful autumn day. Clear, crisp and cold: just the way I love it.
There is a gigantic pumpkin sitting on the floor a few feet away from me, bearing a hand-written name tag: NORMAN. The girls and I were going to carve Norman last night, but I had a sore throat and a fever and I simply wasn't up to disemboweling pumpkins. But we'll probably get around to it today: I'm feeling better, and Hallowe'en (as Kacie reminded me this morning) is two days away.
Unmentionable. As they say, I've got my work cut out for me today.
Speaking of monsters
Kyle is driving me crazy. The other day Ray and I were watching him pitch a fit about something or other - his zillionth temper tantrum of the day - and we just looked at each other and sighed. "This is it," I said. "The last two year old." I honestly don't think I could survive another Terrible ...
He actually believes that the world revolves around him, and if everything, I mean EVERYTHING, isn't done precisely the way he wants, there's hell to pay. No one else in this family is allowed to turn the TV off or on, open or shut doors, flush the toilet, bring in the evening newspaper or feed the goldfish. ONLY KYLE. I can't pick out his clothes or throw his wet diaper away: he has to do it. When I fix him a bottle, only he can get the milk out of the refrigerator, and then I must put the milk into the bottle before the Hershey's Syrup, never after, or else we have to dump it out and start all over again. No one is allowed to ride his car or his horse. He might let you play with some of his Matchbox cars, for a minute or two, but if he decides he wants them back be prepared to forfeit them right now. He hits, kicks and throws things at us all the time. (Just now he came up to me and announced that he wanted "chockit milk," and when I said no he tried to tear this page out of my journal, then pinched me hard on the arm.) He yells about everything, and last week he called me a "fuck bitch." I get so weary of the sound of him yelling, sometimes, that I have to leave the apartment and just walk around for a while, just until my brain stops rattling. He is infuriating, tyrannical, destructive, mean, selfish and generally very unpleasant to be around ... 50% of the time.
And that's the problem. The other 50% of the time he is our wonderful, affectionate, beloved little angel ... the little son Ray and I both adore. The changeling disappears, the horrid little monster in diapers, and in his place is a sweet-faced little boy climbing onto my lap and saying "Know what? I yuv you!" And then I think to myself, "This is not the same little boy who spit on me five minutes ago ..."
The next morning:
Kyle and I were laying in my bed last night, watching The Wonder Years, when he suddenly initiated one of his "Know what?" games. "Know what, Mom?" he asked merrily. "What?" I said, expecting the usual "I yuh you" punchline. But this time he surprised me. "You're cute!" he said, and I burst out laughing. Why does he do something so outrageously adorable the very day his mother wrote three pages in her journal about what a demon he is ... ??
December 2, 1988
Kacie is sitting here at the kitchen table, singing "Then He Kissed Me" under her breath and contemplating the remains of her chocolate doughnut. She scoops some icing off the top of the doughnut and sucks it absentmindedly off her finger. "Did you know I'm at Table One now?" she asks suddenly, smiling. Life is good for Kacie right now. She loves school, she adores Mr. Gallagher, she loves her new best friend Tracy ... the world is an interesting, friendly place filled with doughnuts, Christmas cartoons and endless possibilities.
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" I ask her, and without a moment's hesitation -- her enormous, denim-blue eyes unblinking in their resolve -- she says, "A singer. Is that OK?" I smile at her and say yes, of course, she can be anything she wants to be. (Your standard enlightened-mother-of-the-80's answer.) But actually I'm not smiling at her career ambitions ... I'm smiling at her nose. I love Kacie's nose. It's one of those sweet, upturned little noses you see on Dutch dolls, made all the sweeter by a sprinkling of caramel colored freckles.
As holidays go, this one was fine. I've stopped measuring the success or failure of this family's Christmases by my own level of "holiday spirit" ... mainly because I rarely seem to feel much, anymore. Now I simply take it as it comes, good or bad. All the essentials were there this year. I did a slapdash job of Christmas shopping, and some of my choices were real stinkeroos ... umbrellas and raincoats for the girls (although I still maintain it was a great idea), a cheapo watch for Ray that he didn't like, nothing but a card for my sister because I ran out of funds. But other gifts hit the mark ... Barbie stuff for the girls, framed pics of the kids for the grandparents, Kyle's big yellow dumptruck. My favorite gift this year was a set of small framed "collection" photos of my kids, from Mom.
The best thing about Christmas 1988 was that we spent it at home. Ray's folks were in Tucson for the holidays, so once again it was Ray barbecuing a turkey on the Webber, the kids and I spending Christmas Day rummaging through piles of presents, me sipping champagne and cranberry juice, a quick trip to visit Grandma V., and a wonderful, sumptuous dinner eaten at leisure in front of the tube! No exhausting freeway drives to Bellevue and back, no P. family tensions, no in-laws. Heaven.
I don't see how we could ever afford to move into a house. It's beginning to seem more and more like an impossible dream. Every Sunday I go through the classifieds with a fine tooth comb, but the rents are just outrageous. I've stopped dreaming about extra bedrooms and bigger kitchens and fenced yards and fireplaces ... it hurts to dream about something so far out of reach.
Mom: (hearing noises in the kitchen) "Kyle. What are you getting into?"
Kyle: "I not doin' any NUFFIN', Mom!"
Kyle: (runny nose dripping) "I need a towel-paper."
Mom: (to Kyle) "Eat your cereal, honey ... it's got bananas in it."
Kyle: (solemnly) "I can't. It's got itches in it."
February 9, 1989
We've just lived through the Great Freeze of 1989.
On February 1st, we were hit with an honest-to-God blizzard. I've never seen anything like it: the "big snows" of January 1980 and November 1985 were peanuts compared to this! We had eight inches of snow on the ground (some of it lingers today) and nearly a full week of sub-zero nights. The kids were out of school for a few days, and Ray missed work the first night because driving was out of the question. It was so cold that all our windows and the patio door were frozen shut. We wore heavy sweat clothes to bed, and the kids were only allowed to play outside for 15 minutes at a time. I took them out on the playground that first morning, while it was still snowing gangbusters. The kids were bundled up like Eskimos, even Kyle. They ran around in the snow (knee-high, to them) in pure glee. It was so dry and powdery it wouldn't pack into a decent snowball, but they had fun anyway, clomping around and throwing snow at each other. Kyle enjoyed himself for a while, but it was really cold, and his mittens kept falling off, and the wind was blowing snow directly into his face. Finally I brought him back inside. Later in the afternoon, while it was still coming down - more softly, by then - the girls and I went for a walk around the apartment complex. It was wonderful.
A month later:
Got up this morning, flipped the calendar over from February to March, opened the kitchen curtains, and - vóila! - snow. Not just a few half-assed flakes, either. Another blizzard! It shows no signs of letting up, but it'll probably be gone by nightfall. I mean, it's March. How long can snow last in March?
The next day:
OK, so I was wrong ... it wasn't "gone by nightfall." Would you believe: seven goddamned inches?? The entire astonished city has more or less come to a standstill for the second time this month. No school for any of the kids, so I've been stuck in this apartment with all six of them (Jerome, André and Chris Snyder included) since very early this morning.
It rained nonstop for weeks after the snow disappeared, and the kids and I had cabin fever like crazy. Now, though, they are able to spend all their free time outdoors. Kyle goes outside in the morning and spends practically his entire day scooping up rocks on the playground, or riding his Big Wheel up and down the sidewalk in front of our apartment. With him out of diapers and all this newfound independence - he dresses himself in the morning, too - my load has been lightened considerably.
Jamie has an earache this morning. I woke up tired (after another night on the living room sofa) and found her standing next to me, tears in her eyes, her face pink and flushed. "My ear hurts!" she whimpered. My first sleepy/grumpy thought was, "Good grief, I haven't been awake five seconds and it's starting already." But that lasted for only a second or two. The Mommy track kicked in immediately, and within minutes she was tucked on the sofa, I was on the phone borrowing Tylenol from Joe upstairs, the cartoons were on the tube, and she was munching on toast and o.j. She lay on the sofa like Queen Victoria, luxuriating in the royal treatment. Ray teased me: "I wouldn't want to go to school, either!" he said, when he saw the way I was catering to her every whim. (To Jamie he said "You big FAKER," and she grinned.)
Kyle just came stomping into the apartment to proudly announce that he and André "went potty outside!"
Several weeks later: spring has sprung. Hard to believe that little more than a month ago, we were battling with snow. Suddenly the world is in bloom ... one warm sunny day following another. The apartment complex has come to life after months of hibernation.
Kacie celebrated her sixth birthday. We had a small after-school celebration for her: the usual stuff. Jamie and I made a huge banner that said HAPPY BIRTHDAY KACIE, which we hung in the kitchen. I decorated the dining area with balloons, and baked her a coconut cake shaped like a bunny. Ray had to work that afternoon, but his folks drove down for the celebration, as did my mom and Grandma St. John. Jerome, André and Chris were here too, as well as our neighbors John and Lori (who have become our best friends) and Tracy. So the apartment was full! Ray and I gave Kacie a new Barbie (just what she needed) and some other odds and ends, pens and a notebook and stuff like that. She got clothes from her grandparents and an arts & crafts kit from John and Lori. It was a high-spirited afternoon. After the relatives and the babysitting kids had all gone home, John had some pizza delivered to the apartment and he and Lori visited until very late.
Kacie is growing into a delightful little girl ... she is a freckled sunbeam, a blithe spirit, a pigtailed gypsy with scabby knees and a perpetual grin ... so quick to say "I love you, Mama," so generous with hugs and smiles and candy bars, ready to drop everything and help Mom with dinner, or to climb onto my lap in the evening and lean her head against me and say "You're the best Mama in the world" ...
I love you, Kacie.
Kyle's third birthday! He is now the proud owner of his first pair of cowboy boots, size 8 ... his birthday gift from Mom and Dad. I baked him a chocolate chip cake, and Lori and I decorated the kitchen with balloons and streamers and the customary hand-lettered birthday sign (HAPPY BIRTHDAY KYLE). Kyle got some nice presents: besides the cowboy boots, Ray and I also gave him a squirt gun and some G.I. Joe sunglasses, Lori and John gave him a set up cowboy pistols and holster, and my mom gave him some summer clothes. The piece de resistance, though, was the wheelbarrow from Grandma and Grandpa P.!
If you ask him how old he is, he holds his fingers up in a lopsided "OK" sign - that's three fingers, the only way he can manage it right now! - and pipes up "Dis many!"
He's very secure about who he is, too. Ask him what his name is and he automatically says "I Kydo Chrisuffa Poden!"
He got his hair cut last week, very short (now that the hot weather is on the horizon). It has somehow changed the whole texture and color, even, of his hair. I was rubbing his head this morning while he sat on my lap, and I was surprised by how wiry and blond it is now. He looks like an honest-to-goodness little boy, especially when he's wearing his new cowboy boots and lugging his baseball bat around the apartment ...
... This is his new love, incidentally: baseball. Ray bought him a plastic ball and bat, and Kyle loves going outside in front of the apartment to "play ball" with Daddy. The amazing thing is that he's pretty darned good at it. He can hit and throw with surprising accuracy for someone as young as he is.
Kacie was given an enormous honor this month: she was chosen as the Highline School District's only kindergarten "Writing Focus Award" winner! One student was chosen from each grade (K-6) to receive this award, and Kacie was it for the kindergarten category. The award was for a paper she wrote in class last month, about good health. On June 7th Kacie was invited to attend the School Board meeting and receive her award personally from the Superintendent, Dr. Mathison. Jamie, Mom and I went with her and watched her receive her certificate in front of the whole School Board (Mr. Gallagher was there, too). The proudest moment of her life!
We took the crib apart and hauled it out to the dumpster this week. No one sleeps in it anymore, and it's just taking up space, so I asked Ray to get rid of it. While he was dismantling it I suddenly felt very sad and teary, and I ran next door to Lori's for a while so I wouldn't see the crib being hauled away. "It's like a door is closing," I told Lori. The Baby Years are over for real, aren't they?