Big Announcement

Big Announcement

Just wanted to take a moment to say I have a big announcement, something really ground breaking and earth shaking.

I’m getting married.

“But Brigid!” I can hear you exclaim, “you’re already married!”

I know, I know. I thought I was too!

But very soon, I will be marrying an old friend, Elliot.

“But Brigid,” you continue, “Isn’t Elliot married to someone already?”

That was my question, also! But apparently Nesko and John (Elliot’s husband) have secretly married EACH OTHER and now Elliot and I must wed.

Nikola and Beka sit at a table, talking.

Nikola and Beka discuss the upcoming nuptials.

Nikola and Beka spent the day together and decided that they are siblings. Niko is the big brother and Beka is the big sister and Baby (you all remember Baby, right?) is the baby sister, and Elliot and I are getting married.

They discussed the wedding in detail.

Beka is going to be the flower girl, and Niko is going to be the ring guy. You know. The guy with the ring. And Elliot and I are going to get married and I’m going to wear a big fancy dress. I might get turned into a bear at some point, in fact it’s pretty much assured that I will be, but don’t worry! Beka will turn me back and then I will be A PRINCESS. I’m not entirely certain how I’m going to break the news to Nesko but apparently he’s been playing house with some dude so whatever to him. WHATEVER.

Beka and Nikola read a book.

Beka and Nikola read a book.

Niko and Beka had a really good time. They get along well together and of course it’s always great hanging out with Elliot (my future husband, remember) because we’re nerdy in a lot of the same ways and can really dig into super dorky stuff. The kids spent hours playing together. At one point Baby fell on her head and broke her head and all her bones stuck out, so they took her to the doctor (but only after she finished eating her breakfast) and Niko doctored her by cutting her head off and examining it and then putting it back on. They also played Barbies (they are equally interested mostly in playing with the baby Barbies), played with big tunnels, drew pictures, ate pizza, and stuck googly eyes on a bunch of stuff.

Playing Dress Up

Playing Dress Up

At one point, Niko got upset that Beka had a princess dress and he didn’t, so he put a bucket on his head as a hat and became a watermelon salesman and sold her a watermelon for one coin. As it turned out, it was an enchanted watermelon and everyone it hit in the head turned into a watermelon princess. I… got hit in the head a lot. Maybe I’ll craft myself a watermelon themed wedding dress.

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As Promised, Princess Dinosaur

As Promised, Princess Dinosaur

Niko’s been watching some Princess movies recently (“Tangled,” “Cinderella,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Brave,” etc) and also talking with a friend of his who is very keen on Princesses in general. He’s been practicing drawing Princesses for her because she’s more interested in that than in dinosaurs and he’s trying to branch out a bit, and also talking about Princesses… including describing a show that he wants to see. It is a show about Princess Dinosaur.

“Is she a princess who is a dinosaur, or is she a princess who rides on dinosaurs?” I asked.

“She isn’t either of those things,” he explained. “She is a princess who travels back in time to STUDY dinosaurs.”

Which, I mean, if “Dinosaur Train” can feature dinosaurs who travel through time to study other dinosaurs, certainly there’s a market for a PRINCESS, perhaps with a cuddly animal companion, who travels through time to study dinosaurs as well? I’ll press him for more details and share some drawings with you as I can.

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The Worst Thing, The Best Thing

The Worst Thing, The Best Thing

Niko’s been sick.

He hasn’t been take-him-to-the-doctor sick, but he has been two-severe-colds-in-a-row, miss-almost-two-weeks-of-school sick. His coughing-till-he-vomits has been way less than previous sicknesses, so either he’s growing out of that or he… just wasn’t that sick. I don’t know, but dang am I glad he only barfed once, although he did it all over a pillow that I made BY HAND and stitched BY HAND out of fabric I selected personally years before he was born. And it’s not the kind of pillow you can wash (too big, wrong kind of fill) and it was VERY soaked in barf, so… I put it in the trash can. GOOD BYE PILLOW.

So that’s the worst thing. Not that I had to throw out a pillow (although I miss that pillow. sniff.), but that my poor sweet baby has been so tediously ill. It’s really not fun being sick and starting to feel better enough to feel antsy and then feeling sick and ill again. He’s been a trooper through the whole experience, though, and hopefully we’re in for healthier times.

The best thing recently is that Niko has kind of leveled up in his art. He’s been bugging me lately to copy the art on some dinosaur flash cards he has, and then after I do so he critiques me heavily. So the other day I was all DUDE, DO IT YOURSELF and he was all I CAAAAAAAN’T and I was all DO ITTTT DOOOOOO ITTTTTTTTTT JUST TRY and he did and it was really cool! He impressed himself. So he’s been copying pictures HIMSELF and it’s super interesting to see what he picks up on as important details, and he’s started adding more details to his dinosaurs… which are essentially really stylized stick figures. But now they are really stylized stick figures with crests and feathers.

He also, and this is even more cool, has started making little still lifes and dioramas with his dinosaurs and plastic trees etc and then… drawing those scenes that he has made. That is absolutely the best and most awesome thing he’s been doing lately.

Well, other than coming up with Princess Dinosaur, but that’s a topic for another post, I think.

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Happy New Year! It snowed.

Happy New Year! It snowed.

I haven’t been posting too much to my blog recently because nothing really exciting is going on other than HA HA HA the most boring, tedious, developmental issues possible. Temper tantrums! Lying! Separation Anxiety! Not sleeping through the night! WHO CARES! Who wants to read about this bullshit? Ugh, nobody. So life’s been both boring and frustrating and I didn’t want to just unload complaints all over this blog.

Our Christmas was very nice, and very laid back. My parents, brother, and brother’s girlfriend came over on Christmas Eve since Nesko had to work on Christmas Day. We set out a spread of crackers and crudites and dips and cheese, a bunch of cookies, and I made shredded Buffalo chicken in the slow cooker. My mom brought up a spanikopita she made. It was way nicer than trying to plan, coordinate, and juggle a big sit down dinner. We even ate on paper plates.

Our New Year was equally laid back. Nesko had to work New Year’s Eve but got off earlier than usual. We ordered pizza and watched movies and spent New Year’s Day sitting around the house… minus the grocery run I made Nesko take because we were low on food and it was snowing heavily outside. I was worried there’d be a run on groceries and since we only had one roll of toilet paper and that’s one of the first things to go in Blizzard Shopping, I had The Fear. Two days and about 8 inches of snow later, we’re snug and warm in our house. Nesko has shoveled the sidewalk four or five times, and we unleashed Niko to wade around in snow that reached up to his hips.

Nikola In The Snow

Nikola In The Snow

Nikola’s school is on Winter Break right now and we were both really looking forward to sending him back to school. But the forecast for Monday is about a million degrees below zero and I don’t feel comfortable having him walk half a mile in that, so I might keep him home. We’ll see what happens.

How’s the weather by you? Any snow? Anything unusual?

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Pulling Teeth

Pulling Teeth

Cleaning house with a four year old is like pulling teeth, if the person whose teeth you’re pulling keeps jamming the pulled teeth back into his bloody gum holes while also running around the room naked and screaming fart jokes at the top of his lungs. It’s kind of an exercise in futility is what I’m saying. And it’s the reason we don’t have a Christmas Tree up yet, because Niko’s been promising to clean up his toys for two weeks now with zero follow through… or he’ll clean up a thing and then get distracted and start playing and then toss the original cleaned thing all over the floor along with a fine layer of shredded tissue paper and also a bunch of mashed up Pringles crumbs or something else nasty. “Why don’t you help him,” you might ask. I have tried! And I either end up doing all the work SOMETIMES WHILE HE WORKS TO UNDO IT, or else he gets mad at me because I’m doing something wrong and seriously pissing him off and throws a fit. Either way, almost nothing gets done except we both get hostile and gassy.

Our living room is currently reasonably clean (Nesko even took all the cushions off the couch and vacuumed them because he is my hero) with a few small things needed to make it Decorating/Company ready. Or it was. And then I spent most of today 1) making cookies and 2) cleaning the bathroom and Niko seized that opportunity to scatter toys all over the place and pull a bunch of leaves off my house plant and scatter them around the floor.

I guess he’s just most comfortable LIVING IN A GOD DAMNED FILTH HOLE OR SOMETHING.

Anyway, I was cleaning the bathroom today and got all done except for taking out the garbage and sweeping/mopping the kitchen floor. I took a break to take a shower and then run to the store so the floor could dry before the sweeping. The bulk of our cleaning products are currently stored in a plastic milk crate in the bathroom and I shoved them out into the hallway outside the bathroom so the floor under it could have a chance to totally dry and then I hopped in the shower. The thought flitted briefly through my head that I should perhaps put the cleaning supplies someplace else, someplace Niko couldn’t get at them. But I banished that thought immediately. HE IS FOUR, I scolded my baser instincts, HE KNOWS BETTER.

I was wrong.

I am a fool.

I need to trust my baster instincts.

I took a lovely shower in a clean bath tub, got out. I went into my bedroom to get dressed and discovered a crayon in the middle of my bed. I called Niko in to put it away and when he took it from me, I noticed that his hands were cold and wet.

“Your hands are gross and wet,” I said. “Did you have an accident? Did you make a mess?”

He hesitated and then said “YES. I did make a mess. But it was on ACCIDENT. It LOOKS like it was on PURPOSE but I ASSURE YOU it was ON ACCIDENT. I did not do it on PURPOSE.”

I noticed that his pants were soaking wet.

I walked, naked, into the living room to take stock immediately. And internets, it really did look like he’d made the mess on purpose. The coffee table was covered with wooden trains, soapy water, and wet play dough. Also: remnants of his lunch, and soaking wet tissues. Do you know what happens when playdough gets soaking wet? It turns into gooey snot, super slick and gross. And it was smeared all over his trains and the table. and he’s tried to clean it up with foaming hand soap (taken from the crate of cleaning supplies), tissues, and half a bagel. Why use a bagel to clean up a mess? I don’t know… because he’s four?

That’s my answer to every baffling thing he does, by the way. “Because he’s four.”

The playdough smeared into the cracks and crevices of his trains was bad enough. Adding the water made it even worse. But squirting the foaming hand soap everywhere? Goddddddddd. And he apparently dropped the bottle and cracked it, leading to even greater messes… stealth messes… messes discovered later.

One of my big parenting things, one of my personal parenting rules I try to follow, is to not yell at Niko when he tells me that he’s made a mess or had a problem– especially if he comes to me to tell me about it or ask for help. This is a hard rule to follow because it’s so, so tempting to give in to anger and holler, or to ask WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR or WHY DID YOU DOOOO THATTTTTTTT (because he’s FOUR, duh) or remind him that YOU KNOW BETTER THANNNN THISSSSSSSSSS. I am, of course, not perfect with this. But I try. And the main reason I try is that I WANT HIM to come to me when he’s made a mess or has a problem. Because quite frankly, I’ve seen how he handles cleaning up his own messes (it is TERRRRRRIBLLLLLLLLLLE) and while I know that he’ll get better at physically wiping up spills, the messes he makes will get more complicated as he gets older. And I want him to feel comfortable coming to me for help when he’s older and his messes include failing classes, crashing cars, STIs or unplanned pregnancies, anything like that. I want him to feel comfortable coming to me for help, knowing that he can count on me to support him.

Which, of course, doesn’t mean that I protect him from consequences. I cleaned up his table mess and I’m cleaning up his trains, but those trains are going into time out for a while. I want to be able to help him, I want him to turn to me, but yeah… he’s going to be dealing with consequences. That’s another parenting goal of mine, a guiding rule.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got these pliers and somebody needs to clean these torn up leaves off the carpet.

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The Worst Thing About Starting School

The Worst Thing About Starting School

Until he started school, we’d never taken Niko to the doctor for anything other than scheduled check ups. He had no big illnesses, no big accidents, nothing. I mean, he whacked his head HARD once and I debated taking him in, but there was no urgent YES MUST GO IN NOW moment. Then he started school and started getting sick all the time. We’ve taken him in twice for illness since August and I expect that we’ll take him in a few more times. A very nice and helpful nurse assured me at our last visit that after the first year’s exposure to germs he’ll be back to hardly getting sick at all. Which is lovely to think about, considering that Winter Vomiting Sickness is apparently sweeping through Niko’s school right now, and there’s a lice outbreak in his classroom even as we speak.

That’s not the worst thing about starting school, though. It’s irritating and sometimes a little bit scary, but it’s not the worst.

The worst thing is that Niko is now exposed to 17 other kids on a daily basis– kids with a variety of backgrounds and behaviors and lifestyles. And while it’s great to think that kids can get together and teach other things good habits and behaviors and ways of being, the truth of the matter is that kids are jerks and they only pick up negative things from each other.

We’ve seen all KINDS of negative behavior that’s totally new and frankly some of it utterly baffling. Also making an appearance: whining. He flirted with whining briefly about a year ago but we were able to nip it in the bud. Now it’s a daily thing, nasal and drawn out and as irritating as fingernails on a blackboard is to most people. And I know EXACTLY the kid he’s picked that up from. He’s picked up some very bossy turns of phrase, and has started demanding things instead of asking for them. It’s like my kid is channeling someone else, some other personality; acting as a medium to the most irritating ghost in existence. I hate it so much.

And, you know, my kid is far from perfect and I cringe at the thought of the other kids bringing home his less than sterling habits (which include screaming fits, I’m sorry to say, and also licking snot off his upper lip. I’m not sure which is worse.)

It’s really frustrating to see certain behaviors that we’ve worked hard on establishing go completely out the window the first time he interacts with other kids.

Any suggestions on how to deal with this?

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Breaking Christmas News: Santa Has A Cloaca!!!

Breaking Christmas News: Santa Has A Cloaca!!!

We hauled the Christmas Bins up from the basement, where they’ve been stored, but haven’t started setting anything up yet. Niko’s been rummaging through the bins, though, and has pulled out his Christmas books (including “The Polar Express,” which we’ve been reading 3-8 times a day lately) and toys. His Christmas Toys include a snowman hand puppet, some finger puppets, and a bunch of stuffed animals I picked up when I worked at Fannie May right before they declared bankruptcy and were bought by Alpine Confections. He also dug out his Santa Claus Mr Potato Head.

As such, Santa Claus has been flying around the house delivering toys, which he keeps stored in his butt.

(Santa Claus also has his ears under his arms for some reason. “That’s just how Santa Claus Mr Potato Head does it,” says Nikola, and who am I to argue with that?)

While playing The Polar Express Breakdown Train At The North Pole Niko doubled down on the story that Santa Claus stores toys in his butt. “And he poops and pees out of the same place.” “What place is that,” I asked, because I am a sucker for off the wall kid stories. “Out of his pedis,” he said, both mispronouncing “penis” and also for some reason forsaking the Serbian word we usually use. “But you can’t poop and pee out of a penis. That would be a gross medical problem. If Santa Claus was pooping and peeing out of his penis he would need a doctor.” “Well, he used to poop and pee out of his butt like you do, but he has toys in his butt.” “I don’t poop and pee out of my butt,” I said, launching into yet another explanation of penises and vulvas and anuses and urethras. “Ya ya ya you have a pelvis I KNOW,” he retorted, continuing to say “pelvis” instead of “vulva,” which may well lead to serious confusion when he takes an Anatomy class. I tried to explain about butts and anuses and poop and bladders and urethras.

“Well SOME PEOPLE and SOME ANIMALS poop and pee out of the same place.”

“You mean like a cloaca? Like a chicken or some dinosaurs? How they poop and pee and lay eggs out of the same place?”

“YES YES MAMA YES” he said in the tone of voice (which comes more and more frequently) that manages to imply that I’m a barely functioning fool who is only dragging him down. People talk shit about teenagers but four year olds are just as bad while being too short to cook dinner or wash their own laundry. Worst of both worlds.

“So you…. are saying… that Santa Claus has a cloaca.”

“YES mama that is what I said. And he keeps it very clean and cleans it every day so it doesn’t get bugs.”

“He’s worried… about bugs… in his cloaca?”

“Yes, he doesn’t want bugs and mice getting in his cloaca and eating up the toys in his butt and eating all the wood in the toys.”

It all makes internal sense, I suppose, if you can simply accept that Santa Claus 1) stores toys in his butt and 2) has a cloaca. He is a concerned guy! He doesn’t want bugs eating up the toys! That are in his butt.

Later he revealed that Santa has many elves (which he just calls ells) and some are boys and have pedises and speak in English and some are Gworwuls (girls) and have pelvises (vulvas) and speak in a language nobody else understands but them. Which kind of sounds super sexist like whyyyyyy are you saying these women elves just spout gibberish? Is that what you think women do? That they don’t speak? That they don’t make sense? That they aren’t worth listening to? But then he clarified that they speak the same language as The Minions from “Despicable Me” and he loves those minions so much and has renamed all his stuffed animals after them and possibly this is how he’s trying to explain why there’s no female minions… they are all hanging out with Santa Claus at the north pole. (NB: there may be female minions I guess, but all the named ones have very male-typical names)

He’s a weird, creative kid who is not willing to let himself be bound by things like common sense or mammalian anatomy. I absolutely love that about him.

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Baby’s First Controlled Substance

Baby’s First Controlled Substance

One of Niko’s prescriptions is Codeine, which is a controlled substance – it’s an opiate, and it’s habit forming, and it can also be dangerous (especially in little kids). When we dropped it and his two antibiotic prescriptions (one for his general lung funk and one for an unrelated butt rash) the pharmacist gave it a good long side eye.

“He’s just got a cough?” he asked.

“He’s got a cough that keeps him up at night, makes it hard for him to breathe, doubles him over, and causes him to vomit,” I answered.

After typing in a bunch of stuff on the computer, he informed me that our insurance wouldn’t cover it until Niko was 5 years old, which seems odd to me but WHATEVER. Although it wasn’t too expensive, it was still more money than we really had at the time (it was the day before pay day and we’ve had a series of unexpected expenses) so we elected to pick it up the next day. I spent the rest of that day, that night, and the next day doubting myself for two reasons: both for not picking it up right away even though that would have left us with absolutely no money at all in case of emergency, and for having it filled because Niko is FOUR do I really want to dose him with an opiate?

Nesko picked up the codeine last night on his way home from work. It was a bigger bottle than I expected. I opened it and sniffed it because I was curious. I remember taking codeine syrup and having it be a sickly chemical-y fake cherry This codeine smelled… wrong. Bad. I stuck a finger in the bottle and licked it. Nesko laughed at the face I made, then he did the same.

“Oh, that’s not so… URGH.”

It takes awhile for the flavor to really bloom on the tongue and throat, you see.

I am a person– a weirdo, you might say– who does not find the taste of NyQuil or Robitussin objectionable. Part of this is because I was so sick so often as a younger person and those medications made me feel better, if even a little bit, so I have a positive reaction to them. But this codeine? blargh.

Nikola, as I think I’ve mentioned, is A Delicate Flower, and certain textures AND TASTES cause him to gag and sometimes vomit. So we prepared him for the bad taste.

“This tastes bad,” we said. “This does not taste good. But it is medicine and will help you feel better, and after you have it you can have an ice cream sandwich.”

Nikola took it, agreed that it was DISGUSTING, and then ate an ice cream sandwich. And then he turned into a horrific whine beast, staggering around the living room and finding fault with everything. Was it the codeine, we asked ourselves, or was it simply a sick four year old who was up too late waiting for his medication to come home? We all tucked ourselves into bed, him wedged between me and Nesko, and he was Full! Of! Comments! And! Commands! for about five minutes while Nesko and I both advised him to shut up shut up shuttt upppppppp already. Five minutes later, he was sacked out.

Niko slept, without coughing, for twelve hours and woke up chipper and alert and in a great mood.

After eating breakfast, he joined me in the kitchen, and was seized by spasms of coughing. I asked him if he wanted more cough medicine. He shook his head no, then yes. He calmed down. I asked him if he wanted more cough medicine. He said no. He started coughing again. I asked him if he wanted more cough medicine. He nodded yes. When he’d calmed down again, I asked if he still wanted cough medicine. He looked. so. sad. but said yes. I gave him some more and he drank a bunch of water and had a piece of candy and bopped off. I heard him coughing a few times, although not as bad, and have heard no coughs at all for the past hour which is amazing.

For a long period in my life, I would get bronchitis 2-3 times a year. Each time, I’d be sick for 2-4 weeks and would miss at least a week of school. I’d cough until I puked. I’d cough my throat raw and bloody. I’d pull muscles. I’d get so tired from coughing that I was no longer able to really cough and would make pathetic almost-cough sounds and people would mock me for faking it and acting pathetic for attention, while I struggled to breathe. Super fun! I spent a lot of time sleeping sitting up in chairs because lying down resulted in suffocating on my own snots.

This is absolutely not something I want my kid to experience.

On the one hand, I don’t give him fever reducers when he runs a fever. I want his body to fight off the illness, and for the most part it does. I’m very aware that antibiotics don’t do anything for viral infections and if Niko’s doctor said “Welp, this is viral, only thing we can do is wait it out and keep him hydrated,” I’d be fine with that. On the other hand, good lord this cough. It’s gone on so long and it’s so rough on him and he has asthma so I worry about him being able to breathe.

So I filled his codeine prescription, and I’m super glad that it seems to be working for him. The deep shadows under his eyes are much lighter than they were, he’s got a lot more energy today. He could just be improving on his own, sure. But this really seems to be helping him.

He’s already missed a week of school. I’ll be glad to see Monday.

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We watch a little tv, and I’m picky about it. How about you?

We watch a little tv, and I’m picky about it. How about you?

Niko’s been sick lately and doing his best impersonation of a couch barnacle, so we’ve been watching a lot of tv including “Despicable Me” on repeat. We usually watch maybe an hour of tv a day, after school, while he and I both decompress, and I’m pretty picky about what he’s allowed to watch. One of my not very secret wishes is the ability to black list stuff on Netflix so that certain shows just don’t show up. Anyway, I’m going to make a little list here of the shows I allow Niko to watch, and the ones I’d rather he not watch. I’d love to hear your opinion on these shows, and on what you let your kids watch.

We’ll start with shows I approve of and let Niko watch pretty much without objection.

You’ll probably recognize that some things I find valuable in kid programming include:

      A cast that isn’t all white dudes/centered around only a white dude
      Shows that have involved fathers/father figures
      Shows that are legit educational, not just ~~THE MOR U NO~~
      Shows that portray women/minorities in positive light and as fully developed characters
      Shows that emphasize emotional/social growth/skills, and working together/problem solving

join-daniel-tiger-image
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is an animated update of Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood, produced in part by the Fred Rogers’ Foundation. It’s set in The Land Of Make-Believe and follows grown-up versions of his original puppet characters and their adorable children. When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be Lady Elaine Fairchilde. Well, she grew up to marry a super hot musician and have a super cute little girl. Anyway, the show focuses on emotional and social development and growth and offers helpful scripts for challenging times. If you’re not aware of what scripting is, it’s when you prepare for a negative thing ahead of time, rehearsing how you’ll deal with it. Some of the things the show has dealt with include starting school for the first time; being nervous about parents/guardians going away; waiting patiently; dealing with anger/tantrums; working together/sharing; trying new food; visiting the doctor; and the like. The cast includes a mixed marriage and mixed-race child, a single mom raising her kid, and an uncle who is the guardian of his nephew, so there’s a variety of families represented. There’s a lot of emphasis on kindness and working together and supporting each other, and the fathers who are present in their kids’ lives are very present and are equal parents.

dinotrain
Dinosaur Train sounds like a marketing-driven dream, a mash up of two things little kids (stereotypically boys) love: Dinosaurs, and Trains. Also there’s time travel involved. I scoffed at the show initially, but if you overlook the talking dinosaurs riding around in improbable trains through time, there’s a high level of actual factual information going on. Additionally, there’s an emphasis on social skills and friendship and kindness. Both parents are very involved in raising the kids, and the dad does emotional heavy lifting. One of the dinosaurs protagonists is obviously adopted, and this is discussed in various ways. There’s emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving. While the main character is a male, there are many supporting female characters who are fully developed and exist in their own right.

Doc_mcstuffins_family
Doc McStuffins follows a Black American girl who is a toy doctor, following in her medical doctor mom’s footsteps. Her dad is a stay at home or work at home parent who cooks and cleans while her mom pulls down a professional income. It’s mostly a light and fluffy show, with Doc trying to solve the little mysteries of why various toys and stuffed animals are broken, and figuring out how to fix them. Niko bounces between wanting to be Doc McStuffins and wanting to “be her boyfriend,” although when I ask him what he means when he says that he can’t give me an answer. He’s a white boy who identifies hard with a Black girl, though.

The_Magic_School_Bus_title_credit
The Magic Schoolbus is a tv show based on a series of Scholastic Books which most people I know grew up watching. I didn’t. If you’re not familiar with it, an elementary school teacher named Ms Frizzle has a magic school bus, and she takes her (incredibly small, mixed race and gender) class on field trips to outer space, dinosaur times, inside the human body, etc. Like a lot of television of its time, the cast is very diverse. What happened there? Why, in general, has kids television moved back to the primarily-white-or-non-human mode? Anyway, there’s a lot of sciencing going on and other than Ms Frizzle there’s no single POV character, which I think makes it easier for kids to relate to the entire cast. Niko goes through Magic Schoolbus phases. We watch it on netflix. The picture quality isn’t very high and the clothing etc are fairly dated, as is some of the science. But it’s still a pretty solid show.

peep
Peep and the Big Wide World is a kid show that explores and discusses science concepts both via utterly adorable animated shorts starring Peep, Chirp, and Quack (a baby chick, fledgeling, and sassy duck) and live action bits featuring human children doing experiments and discussing what they’re learning. It’s a great introduction to basic science concepts and ideas, but it’s also fun to watch, witty, and very cute. Also. Megan Mullally has a guest voice appearance for two hilarious episodes. Every time I watch them, I pretend she’s Karen from “Will And Grace” but in duck form.

pingu
Pingu is stop motion animation from Switzerland and follows the adventures of Pingu (a penguin), his family, and his friends. The characters all speak a kind of universal gibberish, designed to make it easy to export the film to various countries without having to rewrite and rerecord dialogue, and the body language and facial expressions are very expressive as a result. Pingu and his baby sister Pinga are sometimes at odds with or jealous of each other, but generally are united and loving. Their dad knits, and is a fully involved parent. The show’s an interesting look at life in a different country.

sid_science_kid
Sid The Science Kid is yet another science concepts show following Sid (who has a Black American mom who works with computers (designing video games? designing web sites? something like that) and a Jewish dad who is a construction worker. Like most of the shows I’ve touched on, both parents are fully involved in the kids’ lives, and Sid’s dad is a very hands on parent who cooks and cleans and does emotional care. Sid’s friends are diverse in a pretty fleshed out way, and both male and female adults work in various science related fields. The show heavily pushes the idea that kids are natural, innate scientists because they are eager in investigating the world and asking questions and provides examples of how kids can do hands on science experiments at home and in school.

signing_time
Signing Time is a show that’s existed in many different incarnations (many of them with really bad graphics) and a solid basic premise: that American Sign Language is something that kids and adults can learn and use to communicate with each other. The show is geared mostly toward the hearing, in part because there are benefits to providing a means of communication to pre-verbal kids, and in part because hearing kids (and adults) can and do have Deaf and hard of hearing family members. Unlike a lot of “baby signs” books and material, the focus and emphasis is on actual ASL and provides a groundwork for actual communication. There’s animated bits, live action bits, and lots of songs.

And now for a list of shows I’d really rather he not watch, and why. It’s a shorter list because I don’t let him watch a lot of tv period, so he’s been exposed to less shows than a lot of kids.

babar
Babar (warning: autoplay video at the link) is an absolute no at our house. It’s a colonialists dream, with the jungle savages (Babar et al) being rescued from the wilds of the jungle after the violent murder of parents, brought to “civilization” by a nice white woman, and taught to wear pants and eat with a fork. Then they bring that back to the jungle and walk around on their hind legs wearing expensive, restrictive clothing. If the show were just animals wearing clothes, that’d be one thing, but the actual back story is hugely gross so I’ve pre-emptively banned it, and flick past it quickly when we’re looking through netflix.

chuck
Chuck And Friends is an old-school commercial disguised as entertainment. Every character in the show is available as a toy, and the “lessons” are tacked on and awkward. Every character (except for Chuck’s mom) is coded male. There’s a lot of in-fighting in the show and a lot of violent play and general meanness with the “be nice” lesson feeling like an afterthought. It’s pretty irritating in general.

jake
Jake and the Neverland Pirates picks up after Disney’s racist, sexist “Peter Pan” leaves off. The main characters are two white boys and a faintly olive skinned, dark but straight haired girl who exists as a kind of literal manic pixie dream girl (she can fly and sprinkle pixie dust around). The show is tedious and, like Dora the Explorer, is non-interactive but set up as interactive… you know, inane questions with long pauses for an answer, multiple choice “puzzles” that the characters solve, side scrolling type adventures. It’s like watching someone play a computer game aimed at little kids. The kids have smug expressions and all do ‘extreme’ sports like BMX biking and skateboarding and snowboarding and roller blading and outwitting the incredibly unintelligent Captain Hook.

sofia
Sofia the First is about to be “accidentally” erased from our DVR. You know what background radiation is? “Sofia the First” is full of all kinds of low level background racism, including OMG MYSTIKAL GYPSIES and white people being dressed in Edwardian/Psuedo Victorian clothing while POC characters are dressed almost entirely in “ethnic” clothing. King Roland the First has a huge castle and grounds, and virtually everyone who lives/works there is white unless they are visiting from another Magical Ethnic Kingdom. Disney made sure to mention that Sofia is half-Latina-analogue (with her mom being full Latina-analogue and her dad being, I don’t know, Germanish or something) but there is nothing in the show to support the claim at all. The writing in general is lackluster, and Sofia generally is triumphant in the end because of her naive sweetness, or because someone else solves the problem for her, or because of her magical amulet. Like “Chuck and Friends,” it seems to exist mostly to move toys and keep the Disney Princess line relevant.

There’s other shows he watches that I don’t really feel strongly one way or another about (hello there “Chuggington” and “The Backyardigans,” among others) or that I hate with an abiding passion but he isn’t interested in watching (“Caillou”).

I might do a rundown of movies next, I’m not sure. He’s been on a big “Despicable Me” kick.

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Thankful for… a 504 Plan

Thankful for… a 504 Plan

When i entered Kindergarten I was already reading on a 2nd or 3rd grade level, could write, knew all my letters, could count pretty high and do basic addition. I was also socially awkward, clumsy, and super bored by the class. The kindergarten teacher took stock of the situation and decided I was developmentally delayed, and had me assigned to a special ed class. My mom found out over a year later, based on something I said. She went down to the school, raised hell, and had me actually tested, at which point they offered to skip me a grade or two based on my test results. This would have been pretty disastrous, actually, as I hadn’t actually learned anything in that year or so. She pulled me out of that school and enrolled me in a (private, religious) school at my grade level, where I was incredibly behind in math and remained so until Geometry class in high school, where for the first time I had a teacher who encouraged me and didn’t dismiss me as just a girl (literally, I got a lot of “well, of course you don’t get this, you’re a girl” and “oh well, you don’t really need to know this, you’re a girl.”). Skipping a grade or two with that level of math deficiency? Ugh. Horrible idea.

Nikola has asthma. It’s mild, and it’s cough variant, so he’s never had a classic wheezing panicked asthma attack. Instead, he gets this weird cough that to me is very distinctive but most people don’t notice it as unusual. He takes montelukast/singulair every night and uses a rescue inhaler a few times a year. For instance, we gave him a dose before bed tonight because he has a cold, so it was kind of a preventative thing. He may not have needed it, but you know. It might help him sleep better. His teacher is aware that he has asthma, and when he had his sinus infection, she called me to get him early one day because he had an asthmatic coughing fit in class. It wasn’t a big deal, and if I hadn’t told her I’d be near by and to call me, she probably wouldn’t have and just would have informed me of it at pick up.

She told me that because he has asthma he’s eligible for a 504 plan.

The term “504 plan” refers to a specific section of the Americans With Disabilities Act prohibiting discrimination of special needs students from federally funded schooling. It covers accommodations like peanut-free lunch rooms or tables, wheel chair ramps, ASL interpreters, special keyboards, and similar. Since he has asthma, which can require medication and can be triggered by specific things, he may need accommodation. So the school social worker, school nurse, his teacher, and I sat down at a meeting to discuss his needs.

I got a written notice and had to sign a form saying I consented to the meeting before the meeting was even scheduled. Once I signed the form, I was given an appointment date and some paper work about what a 504 plan is, and some confidentiality information. The meeting went well and everyone seemed on the same page about providing Niko with the best care they could. The school takes asthma really seriously and all teachers and staff have been trained in asthma care and on dispensing asthma medication from a variety of inhalers. I stressed that he had COUGH VARIANT asthma and so doesn’t have typical wheezing etc and everyone seemed to know what I was talking about. They talked about potential accommodations he’d get during the full day program next year, including when he’s in gym class (eg, be able to take a break from physical activity to catch his breath, being able to get water as needed).

While in the meeting, I brought up some concerns I had about his speech (he has trouble saying sh, ch, f, v, and some r sounds. For instance, he says “doll” and “girl” in very similar ways), and about some fine motor difficulties he has with his hands/fingers. His teacher said that upon me bringing it up, she remembered that he had some fine motor issues but since the kids are so young, they mainly focus on pincer-grasp motions which he’s great at (he is) and she was quick to reassure everyone that while he doesn’t consistently hold a pencil in the “correct” grip, he also doesn’t hold it in a fist. IE, it’s not super serious but they can look into it. So they arranged to have an informal session with the school’s speech therapist and occupational therapist to assess his speech and fine motor skills.

They were really responsive to my concerns and I feel like the meeting was a positive thing.

I know that a LOT of people have difficult and stressful 504 and IEP meetings, but I’m super happy at how ours went. Part of this, of course, is that his accommodations are super minor and, at least so far, don’t cost any money. But I got the feeling that the school he’s at is very concerned with extending educational opportunities to all students to the best of their abilities and meeting every need they can.

And, of course, the meeting made me think of my early education experience and the high handed way that a single teacher decided I had special needs and, without consulting or informing my parents, had me shunted into a classroom where I did nothing but pet bunnies and watch film strips. We weren’t even allowed to use safety scissors. Times have changed and there’s a lot more legal protection for kids and parents. But the more closely I look at Niko’s school the happier I am with it. It really feels like his teacher, the staff, have his best interests in mind.

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