Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hurricane season, year-round

(Or, Why I'm Not Writing Right Now)

If you're a parent, you're already aware that some days you can tolerate your children's little quirks, and some days it turns into an experience more akin to Chinese water torture or surviving a force of nature.

My youngest son is ten. He is and always has been... exuberant. And fearless. And a tad forgetful. The combination, as you might imagine, is good cause for a number of the gray hairs on my head. He's still working on learning to swim with a degree of consistent results, for instance--not because he hasn't had lessons or isn't trying, but because he'll get halfway across the pool and simply forget that he's supposed to be swimming instead of giving me a thumbs-up.

He is brilliant at math and understands concepts at a level I don't quite get. I can't count the number of times, when we were home schooling, that I would plan out a lesson that should take half an hour and wind up spending 10 minutes on it, because he figured out where I was going before I got there. He's good at his other school subjects, too, and he has that uncanny ability to listen without appearing to listen at all. But he is bouncy. (Raga would love him.) I've been known to state that he vibrates--this is not an exaggeration. If he were a cartoon character, he'd have those little wavy lines around him at all times. He rocks in chairs and car seats; he rocks side to side to put himself to sleep at night. Send him up to his room to get dressed, and pretty soon you'll hear him bouncing around and telling himself a story, and you'll know it's time to call up and remind him. "Michael?" "What, Mom?" "Are you getting dressed?" "OH YEAH! I forgot."

He CAN be still. When he sleeps, he doesn't move all night. He's just boom, out, and that's that until morning. Give him a book he's really into, and he's... well, mostly still. His current habit is to hang his increasingly long legs over the arm of the chair and use his toes to flip the piano bench open and shut, open and shut, open and... "Michael!" "Huh? Oh. Sorry, Mom."

I'm only half kidding when I say that this child has not just a guardian angel, but an entire flock. And I'm betting they have to rotate assignment on a pretty frequent basis, to cut back on on-the-job stress. Watching him hop-skip-dance his way up and down stairs is an exercise in motherly composure. Every once in a while he'll miss the last step or two and finish the trip down on his butt. The first time, I thought it'd cure him and make him more careful. It did--until the very next time he used the stairs.

This morning, I had to run to the store when I first got up, so I was late getting around to writing time. By the time I sat down, Michael had used up his morning video game time, so just as I was opening my Power Writer file, he came hop-skip-dancing up the basement stairs, whammed the door open and shut, whammed the bathroom door shut, whammed the toilet seat up and down, ran the water full blast to wash his hands, whammed the door open again, and bounced down the hallway and into the kitchen, which is open to the living room, which is where my laptop is set up. By this time, I already had an inkling that today is not a day where my tolerance threshold allows me to not notice the banging and bouncing.

Fridge opens and whaps shut. "How long do I need to microwave the jam, Mom?" (Joey and I made refrigerator jam with fresh strawberries the other night. They got almost too sticky, so we heat them a smidge to loosen them up again--and warm jam is yummy, too.) "About 10 seconds, Michael." Whap, microwave open, whap, microwave shut. Whirr, ding. Whap open, whap shut, slamming of jam container on counter. Bounce, bounce, bounce of bare feet on the kitchen linoleum. I glance over my shoulder and see him dancing around the kitchen island with no apparent goal other than dancing around the island. "Michael?" "Yeah?" "Are you going to put the jam ON something?" "OH YEAH! 'Wholesome grain goodness,'" as he drags the bread wrapper out of the basket. I look away at this point; I know the bread will be balanced precariously at the edge of the counter, I don't need the extra twitch seeing it will give me. Whap whap, toaster oven open and shut, and craaaaaaank on the timer. More bouncing while he waits. Ding!

At this point, I didn't see exactly what happened. "UH OH! OH NO!" Smack, the (thankfully plastic) jam container hits the linoleum. Now, this was on the far side of the kitchen. By the time I looked up, it was rolling on its side under the table, which is on the nearest side of the kitchen AND on the opposite side of the island in the middle of the kitchen. The dog, having amazing OMG FOOD reflexes, was a step ahead of me, wagging her tail in an "Oh, for me?" manner. Michael grabbed the dog, I grabbed the jam, and we scraped away the section of jam that we thought she might have actually managed to get her tongue on. "Sorry, Mom." "Just try to slow down and be more careful, OK? I think it's one of your extra-bouncy days, pretend you're moving in slow motion and you should be moving about the right speed." (Yes, this is a common instruction. When he remembers to follow it, he does pretty well.) Back he goes to his toast, jam and spoon in hand. I get back to my computer, glance over my shoulder, and see him holding the jam-laden spoon over the toast and whipping it up and down in an attempt to dislodge the sticky jam from the spoon.


"Yeah, Mom?"

"Use a knife to scrape the jam off the spoon and spread it around."


I'm going to settle for browsing the web for historic events and other miscellania from 1976, the year my Q3 short is set in, and call it research, and wait for my nerves to stop jangling before I try to write for real. I'm not complaining, really, or upset. I'm laughing too hard. Because some days, that's just what you have to do.

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