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

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.

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 (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 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 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 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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God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.

God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.

Sometimes I feel like I’m fucking up this whole parenting thing.

Niko is very, aggressively, brilliantly, loudly, ferociously, FOUR (and a half). He’s stubborn and loud and has been refusing to sleep in his own bed for the past six months or so, and has been acting out his frustrations of not having his tata around as much as he used to be with his new job and longer hours.

Today we hit the playground after school and Niko was trying to play with some bigger kids. They rebuffed him, kindly, and he was disappointed and kept trying to play with them. And then a big kid knocked over a two year old accidentally, and the little girl started crying, and Niko teleported over there to make goofy faces at her and dance until she stopped crying and started laughing.

He spent the next 15 minutes telling her “jokes” (NB: the jokes told by 4 year olds are comprehensible only to other 2-4 year olds), holding her hand, leading her up steps and across a shakey bridge, encouraging her to slide down a slide and be brave, and the like. The only reason he stopped was that her mama took her home. He followed her to the gate saying good bye, and then got distracted by a little baby and paused to coo over the baby and make faces and talk about how cute that baby was (IT WAS VERY CUTE).

If nothing else, we’re managing to raise a kid who’s kind and considerate toward other kids, especially kids younger and smaller than he is. And that’s something I’m so, so proud of. He’s a good kid with a big goofy smile and a huge heart. He’s very loving. It’s so great. HE is so great.

At least we’re doing something right, I guess.




Thanks to my parents, we managed to drag Halloween festivities out over multiple events.

Niko at Brookfield Zoo, on a lion statue

My parents have a family membership to Brookfield Zoo, so we met them up there on the last weekend DINOSAURS ALIVE! was there. Niko had previously decided he wanted to be “a fancy Baryonyx” which is to say a Dinosaur (Baryonyx) in a top hat and fancy clothing. We picked up a assemble-it-yourself out of felt and foam stickers costume for $10 at Target, consisting of a mask, tail that hooks into a belt loop, and gauntlets that slip over the hands/lower arms and have foam sticker “claws.” Since October in Chicago is usually pretty gross, we suited him up in his fancy red wool coat. The pants he selected didn’t have belt loops so we added a belt, and wound up putting it on the outside of the coat so the tail didn’t get squished/bang against his legs.

Niko pushes buttons on a plaque to make an animatronic dinosaur move and roar.

He wasn’t too fond of the mask or gauntlets when it came to actually wearing them, but he kept the tail on. We saw a bunch of animals including lions, wolves, and bison, as well as free range peacocks, geese, pelicans, and guinea hens.

A Wandering PeacockNiko admires geese in a fountain.Guinea Hens wandering around the zoo grounds.

And, of course, we saw Dinosaurs!



He also sat on a Polar Bear statue.


Two days before Halloween, his costume already purchased, we got a letter from the school saying that masks and face paint are both not allowed.


We brainstormed at home the 31st to decide what to wear instead. We weren’t able to get to the store and buy a different costume, so we had to stick with stuff we had on hand. Possible suggestions included:

  • A Magician (he had a top hat from his fancy dinosaur costume)
  • A Paleontologist (jeans, plaid shirt, bucket hat, bucket with shovel and paint brush and dinosaur skeleton toy)
  • A Pirate/Captain Hook (we had NO items to make this costume, but it’s what he wanted)
  • A Ballerina (see above)
  • A Firefighter (he had rain boats and a rain coat that were vaguely fire fighter looking)

He settled on firefighter which actually turned out to be a great costume because it was a gross chilly rainy day.

Once in class for his party he promptly stripped off both the boots (hard to walk in) and coat (hot) and didn’t look like he was in a costume at all.

DSCF5186-cropNiko at school, not in costume.

Nesko and I stayed in the classroom for the whole day, walked home in the rain, and then finished carving the pumpkins we hadn’t had a chance to carve earlier. Nesko works 12-15 hour shifts so wasn’t around to help with them, and if you carve a pumpkin too early it just rots.

Niko demonstrated the face he wanted on his pumpkin, I drew it on a paper, and Nesko cut it out.

Niko demonstrates his pumpkin's face.

Because it was still raining we wound up trick or treating at the mall, but most of the stores had run out of candy, so Niko only got about 5 pieces TOTAL for an hour of walking around. He did, however, get to ride in a train.

Nikola riding a train ride.

.Niko has the day off school today and is working on every nerve I have OH MY GODDDDDDD. It’s not even a too-much-candy issue because I’m super mean about candy consumption and put it all high up pretty much right away.

How was YOUR holiday?


We Have Achieved Sinus Infection!

We Have Achieved Sinus Infection!

Not this most recent weekend, but the one before it, my best friend flew in from out of state along with her husband, who we’ve never met before. (NB HE IS AWESOME WOW) (And also loves where he lives and will probably never move to the midwest. DAMMIT.) We had a super fun time with them all weekend, including eating out a huge bunch and going to the Museum of Science and Industry. Niko was exhibiting cold-like symptoms, or precursors to cold-like symptoms (cranky, small cough that came and went, sleepy, kind of generally off) and on Sunday he crapped out on us while still at the museum and wound up needing to be toted around by his Tata, head on Nesko’s shoulder. He also mentioned a few times that his stomach hurt and didn’t eat much. We all got home and, while trying to sort out dinner plans, he fell asleep on the couch. Nesko transferred him to bed. He was very warm to the touch and later explorations with a thermometer (he woke up a few hours later interested in dinner, but didn’t eat much) revealed a fever of 103*.

(ACTUALLY, our established dinner plans, involving Italian Beef from a place around the corner, fell through. So we ordered from Noodles Party, a local pan-Asian place with an emphasis on Filipino food. Niko LOVES getting Yakisoba from there, and will inhale almost an entire adult-sized portion of it. He was very excited about his Yakisoba but fell asleep anyway. When he woke up again, stumbling around and still sleepy, he mumbled about not wanting to miss “The Noodles Party.” “I just want everyone to share The Noodles Party. We have to have The Noodles Party!” I heated up his Yakisoba and he sat down and dutifully ate some of it, then crashed again. He’d made it to The Noodles Party.)

On Monday he complained once again that his stomach hurt, adding “what’s UP with that?” and then he barfed all over the floor. ALL. OVER. all over. SO GROSS. He spent most of the day lying limply on the couch. We had big plans for that Monday, since he had off of school, but we spent it watching “Chuggington” on tv instead. UGH FOREVER. I kept him home on Tuesday also, but packed him off on Wednesday, where they called me to pick him up early because he had a coughing jag that turned into an asthma attack. I kept him home Thursday, send him back on Friday and staid with him in class all day so his inhaler would be handy and also it was picture day. He seemed to be doing better, and had no fever, but then this most recent weekend was a tough one. He was sleepy acting, cranky, asking for food and then refusing to eat it, and coughed so much he vomited more than once.

On Monday, Niko was still coughing, enough to wake himself up at night. His eyes were shadowed, almost bruised looking, and his head full of snot. I added up his symptoms, including both complaining outright of a headache and acting like he had a headache (insisting that tv/radios be turned way low, even when he was watching them) and his long running cough, and called the nurse triage number for our clinic. After about ten minutes of questions, she transferred me to the person who sets appointments. That person cheerfully stated we needed to come in RIGHT NOW TODAY.

We set an appointment for 4:00 and I looked up how to get to the clinic’s new address.

Niko went to school as usual, and I did my usual volunteer work upstairs. I picked him up after and we hot footed it to the train. We got to the clinic exactly on time despite missing a train thanks to somebody’s lollygagging, and we saw a different pediatrician than we normally see… one who was brusque and interrupted and felt up Niko’s arm and commented on how he doesn’t have much in the way of arm muscles. Gosh, sorry my FOUR YEAR OLD isn’t all muscled out. What?

Anyway, he diagnosed Niko with a sinus infection (but  not an ear infection, which is surprising given his parents and their history of rampant ear infections) and gave him a prescription for Amoxicillin (“Is he allergic to any antibiotics?” “I don’t know, he’s never had one before, but my entire family pukes if given erythromycin” “Well, let’s avoid that then.”) and a nasal spray, and stuck him with a flu shot to Niko’s horror, and then we went to the library to pick up a book I’ve had on hold for over three months. (I queried what was taking so long for that book and was told it may have “gotten misplaced” but I should keep it in my holds que “in case it shakes loose” which I guess it did.)

Niko had his first dose of antibiotic last night and oh GOSH does he hate it. He tolerates the nasal spray much better, to my delight, and does a huge fake sneeze after taking it. The fakest of sneezes. I gave him another dose of  Amoxicillin this morning and it went pretty terribly until I finally diluted it heavily (which the instructions say is OK as long as the entire dose is taken) and let him sip it through a straw. I then followed up with candy. Because it really does taste gross.

The bruised look under his eyes is already lightened and his appetite has returned, and he’s interested in coloring and playing a little more actively.

This is the first time I’ve taken Niko to the doctor for anything other than a standard check up. It went pretty well. I second guessed myself quite a bit before taking him to the doctor. On the one hand, if it’s just a cold, there’s nothing you can do for a COLD. On the other hand, what if it’s something serious? Niko has asthma, and it’s not uncommon for someone with asthma to get sick and then get a gross cough that lingers for a long time but can be treated with steroids/a different inhaler/etc.  I’m really glad I dragged him in because wow, a sinus infection is pretty awful.


Playing Hooky

Playing Hooky

I have a lot of adult nerdy friends who take personal days from work or schedule vacation time around midnight showings, release dates of video games, and the like. The final Harry Potter book drops at Midnight? Go get dinner with friends, stand in line for a few hours, then go home with some coffee and read the book in one sitting, enjoying your glorious vacation time and the memories you made. Some of my adult nerd friends have kids who are following in their footsteps, and have had to ask themselves hard questions about supporting child nerdery.

Me, I made my decision while waiting in a long snaking line for the first midnight showing of the first “Lord of The Rings” movie with friends. There was a lot of banter, among strangers, about the books and the Silmarilion and the early rotoscoped cartoon. There were a few kids there as well.

I should step back a bit further. Apologies for this very non-linear post.

Nesko is a huge Tolkein nerd and re-reads “The Lord of the Rings” at least once a year. When we were first dating, it was one of the many things we had common ground in. I have extremely fond memories of my mom (who has a learning disability and doesn’t normally read for FUN although she loves stories) reading LotR to me chapter by chapter at bedtime as a kid. Nesko and I broke up for about a year, for REASONS, and it was good that we did. But during our break media buzz for LotR started and I kept thinking about Nesko and how much he loved those movies and how it wouldn’t be the same, watching them without him. And then 9-11 happened and I realized I didn’t want to live in a world without him, and I called him, and we decided to be friends. Taking it very slowly we ultimately decided to try dating again, and it was successful. I don’t remember if we were in the “dating again” phase or not when we stood in line discussing LotR trivia. But it was a special time, with special friends, and I’ll always remember it as something important.

Midnight showings are something special, something out of the ordinary. They’re a special occasion, a moment better remembered for their rarity.

I don’t think they should be preserved for adults only.

By which I mean, when Niko is old enough, I have no problem with escorting him to late night functions on a school night if he’s in a good place academically. What do I mean by “a good place academically”? I mean he’s trying very hard at school, up to date with his school work, and not having disciplinary problems.

I know people, including some family members, who really disagree. Kids need to be in school! School is important! They can skive off work when they’re adults and have PTO to spend!

Except what if he winds up working a job where he doesn’t get PTO, he can’t afford to take time off? Which, honestly, is where Nesko and I have been for most of our adult lives.

I have a lot of regrets about my youth. Some of them have to do with applying myself more and working harder, but most of them are about being too serious. I wish I’d known how to take myself less seriously, how to have fun more. Like a lot of people, I was told to wait until I was out of college and in “the real world” to take vacations or have fun. Well, I’m 34, and the only vacations I’ve had since I was 18 were a road trip to Texas in January several years ago and a family reunion in Indiana this summer. Adults have more responsibilities and more  places their money needs to be. I wish I’d gotten more piercings and dyed my hair more colors and had more fun during the time when it was acceptable to do so. Now when I think of getting another piercing, I’m quickly reminded of all the better uses my money could be put to (new couch! new shoes! new kitchen! DENTAL WORK!).

I know that Niko’s going to grow up and disagree with a lot of our parenting choices, and probably regret and/or resent some of them. That’s how parenting works! But I’d like to give him as much joy as possible, and teach him that the entire world doesn’t rest on his shoulders and it’s ok to take time for himself sometimes.

Where do you stand?

If you have kids, would you let them take time off school to do special things?

What rules would you set up about this?


Introducing Felicity

Introducing Felicity

Hello, hello, hello everyone.

I’d just like to take a moment and say hello to our newest family member, Felicity:

Niko's New Name


Ha ha yes, it is!

But after reading “Funny, funny Lyle” and hearing the name “Felicity” he’s decided that Nikola is a crap name for craps and from now on he shall be known as Felicity.

Apparently his teacher, bless her heart, is playing along.

But he has a hard time remembering the name Felicity so he keeps asking me “What’s my name, mama?” and I say “Nikola” and he says “NO MAMA WHAT IS MY REAL NAME” and I say “Felicity” and he says “OH YES! Felicity. Hello, I am Felicity.”

He’s a pretty Felicity type of person, to be honest. And Felix is a name we briefly considered for him.

I don’t expect he’ll stay Felicity for very long, though. Sooner or later he always comes back to Niko.