Youngest is off to kindergarten

Blaine started fourth grade last Monday but only got in one day before Fay shut down school for the rest of the week. (We got about two feet of rain in three days with Fay.) Since Evan was supposed to start kindergarten on Thursday, his first day was delayed.

But he started today. Here are the two together in their uniforms:

And here’s Evan as seen through the school bus window:

Aww. I hope his first day is great.

A mother’s pride

Evan’s school photo came this year with a note attached saying that the school was sure I’d want the photo retaken, because it hadn’t come out well.

Here it is:

So…yeah, the photographer didn’t do the best job cropping; and yeah, Evan is squinting in the sun. But all I can think of when I look at that photo is, “Damn, my son is gorgeous!”

I kept it. :-)

Conversation with my five-year-old (or “Exasperating mother”)

Him: Mom, are boys and girls different species?

Me: Species? No, we’re the same species. Why do you ask?

Him: Well, because, like, boys like video games and girls like–

Me: But I like video games, and I’m a girl.

Him: I don’t mean you. But aren’t boys and girls different species? Because boys like video games, and girls like makeup.

Me: But don’t you think I’m a girl? And I like video games!

Him: But…Oh, just never mind, Mom.

Me: Do you know what “species” is, hon?

Him: Just forget about it, Mom.

No saying that this proves his point. >-/

Evan’s Birthday Interview

My son turned four today, and I’m amazed at how much he’s grown up, even in the last few weeks. I conducted a birthday interview with him over a period of several days, because his body is as physically active as his imagination is mentally!

And no, I didn’t make any of this up. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I could.
Evan4 1

Evan, what is your favorite thing right now?

Superhero toys!

Oh? What do you like about superheroes?

They have powers!

I have powers, you know….I can turn into a bear.

Really? My….

Yes. A robot bear. And I even can turn into a bumblebee and all kinds of stuff. Lots of robots.

So you can turn into a robot bumblebee? What do you do as a robot bumblebee?

Well, there’s this gate that you open, and you push this red button, and you go up to the moon, in outer space. And there are these windows. You close the windows so you don’t see the planets. Because planets are very big. And scary.

…So you can turn into a robot bumblebee spaceship?

Uh-huh!

My. Well…Those are some pretty cool superpowers! So…hm. What do you think about girls?

They kiss me a lot.

Oh, really?

Yes. Morning and night, morning and night, morning and night, morning and night, morning and night, morning and–

Well, where do all the girls come from?

They parachute out of the sky, and they think I is Jesse McCartney, and them run around and say “Aaaaaa!” and them hide under my bed!

What? Does Mommy need to go check for girls under your bed?

Uh-huh! You need to! Because those girls are still there!

Well, what are they doing under your bed?

I don’t know!

Hm. Well, Evan, if you could have one thing in the whole wide world, what would it be?

You. [And he gives me a big hug and kiss]

Awwww. :-) I’m a happy mommy.

Birthday interview

Blaineat8 1So my darling daughter turned eight today, and I was so enamored of John Scalzi’s “Exit Interview for the Seventh Year” that he did with his daughter that I thought I would like to do one with Blaine as well (and probably for Evan in a week, on his birthday, so brace yourself for kid stuff from me :-)). I think it will be a delightful thing for them to look back on someday. :-)

So, Blaine, have you learned anything in the last year that you’d like to share with people?

Well, in my school, we’re learning multiplication and division, and I really like this math in my school called “color rods”–

I meant kind of like advice for people.

Well, kind of as you get older, math gets harder, because you pass by a year in school, and year by year you learn things more. Like for an example, you might learn, say, Spanish in first grade, and Japanese in second grade. And like in third grade, Chinese. And in my school I’m in second grade, and we’re learning landmarks, and I’m doing the Washington Monument.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

If there hasn’t been a female president, then I would really like to run for president. And if there has been, then I would love to be a rocket scientist, because I love science. It’s actually my first favorite thing. I also love learning new words, and I really love school. . . . Mom, I think that would be a paragraph, wouldn’t it? Because I’m talking about something else.

So you only want to be a president if there hasn’t been a female one already? Why is that?

Because I can’t choose between rocket scientist and president. But my first pick is president because you can do more when you’re president than any other job.

But you still only want to do it if you can be the first?

Yeah, because I want to step forward for women. I mean, women already have a lot of rights, but…

I haven’t decided what I would say yet. I have a lot of time. I only turned eight today.

What do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned in life so far?

Just be yourself, and if you mess up, your friends are always there for you. And if they’re not there for you, then they’re not really your friends. Because a lot of friends you can really trust.

How do you think you’re different from a year ago?

Well, I don’t really feel any different.

What’s your favorite thing about yourself?

I’m very extroverted.

You want to say anything else?

My favorite food is seafood; if I had to pick my favorite foods, it would probably be shrimp, lobster, and crab legs.

Can you think of any questions I should have asked but didn’t?

No.

No because you can’t think of anything, or no because you don’t want to answer any more questions?

I don’t want to answer any more questions.

Okay, then. That concludes our exit interview for the seventh year!

(Really, I think we need to get Blaine, Athena, and Jay Lake’s “The Child” together at a con sometime. I expect they’ll take over the world someday. :-))

Space and aliens

While Blaine was in space camp at Kennedy Space Center, she and I got matching T-shirts, and we just had the opportunity the other day to dress up in them!

Are we not adorable? And we match my blog! :-D The shirts, in case you can’t see, say “I Need My Space” followed by a NASA logo; they can be bought here, if you just must have one for the girl in your life.

So that’s my girl and space. Here’s my darling alien son, in an outfit he made himself:

Life is good with such sweet ones. :-)

The Work-at-Home Parent

Note: None of the below is to be taken as any indication that I don’t absolutely adore my kids. I love them dearly, but it would be nice to be able to talk openly about the challenges of being a parent working at home without the fear that you’re going to be accused of not caring about your children.

Both my kids went back to school yesterday, after being home all summer, and having the house quiet after three months of screaming and squabbling and joyous screeching and constant interruptions was just…glorious.

And this touches on something that a lot of writers (who also, of course, work at home) have to deal with: this perception that if you work at home, you’re able to be some kind of super-parent to your kid(s) and manage work well at the same time, all within the bounds of a normal working day. You can’t.

Well, okay. I won’t speak for you. But I can’t. Something has to give.

That “something” varies from person to person, I’m sure. With me, it’s downtime for myself that goes first. Well, that and housework. I hate housework anyway (and am far from being a neat freak), so it just goes by the wayside when I’m busy. There are tons of messes kids make that absolutely have to be cleaned up right away. Broken glass jar of jam? Bodily fluids of any kind, anywhere? Stuff spilled on the dog or a bed or a sibling? I have to take care of those immediately. One hundred little tiny cars spread out all over the living room, or all the books pulled off a shelf? Those will stay there till I finish my current project and take a “day off” to clean the house. (Yes, I can make the three-year-old clean them up himself, and he ultimately will: but that takes more time in supervision [and encouragement or discipline] than cleaning them up myself.)

People envy me for working at home; I envy people who get to go to work and just work. I averaged about sixty hours a week all summer, with both kids home. Without kids, sixty hours a week when you’re working at home is completely doable–you don’t have any travel time cutting into your workday, don’t take lengthy lunch breaks, and so on. With kids, sixty hours a week meant that I pretty much sat at my desk trying to work (and having to get up every few minutes to do something for the kids, and then reread whatever paragraph I’d marked my stop at when I came back, so I don’t miss something) from the minute I got up in the morning (usually around 4 a.m. so I have at least a few hours of quiet) until the minute I went to bed, seven days a week. It really was not pleasant.

Yet when I meet people and tell them what I do, their first reaction is often something like, “How wonderful you get to stay home with your children!”

Right. Yeah, I get a lot of quality time in (this is sarcasm)–and then I suffer a lot of guilt over it. I’m not sure when people think you’re supposed to work, or how they suppose that happens. There seems to be this notion that your day can just be broken down into segments: work for three hours, play games with the kids, take a lunch, work for an hour, read to the kids, work…

Small children aren’t that convenient. They’re great big bottomless pits of want and need.

I know I do more for my kids when I’m working than the vast majority of daycares would. But am I sitting around reading books to them for long stretches, or playing cards or Candy Land? No. When I’m working, my kids watch a lot of TV (which before I became a parent I swore they’d never do) because I’m least likely to be interrupted when they’re doing that than anything else. My daughter takes care of her little brother quite a bit (and I tell her all the time how much I appreciate it). I encourage them to do everything for themselves that they can–and I’m willing to endure the mess that results from them learning to do that, which is substantial.

Every parent who works at home must manage it in their own way. I don’t know what other people do, honestly. There’s so much guilt wrapped around parenting that it’s not something you can even talk about without fear that you’re going to be accused of not loving your kids enough–whatever that “enough” is. Everyone has an opinion on parenting.

People say, “Oh, you don’t have to work that much!” Well, no. In my current circumstances, I don’t “have” to work at all, frankly. I do this job because I get enormous satisfaction from it, and I know I’m good at it, and I know that many of my authors and editors really appreciate what I do. I know because they request me for their books, and those requests make up the vast majority of my work–to the extent that to take any substantial break from work, I inevitably have to turn down those requests, which I hate to do. I get far more satisfaction out of this job than I would from being a full-time mom, whatever “full-time mom” means. (I think I already am a full-time mom, just with a full-time job, as well.) And again, that does not mean that I don’t love my kids.

I need the mental stimulation that I get from my work. My kids, of course, need mental stimulation, too, and so I spend loads of what I make through working my brain on a fancy private school for them that works their brains very well, with teachers who (it seems) get satisfaction from their jobs.

And in the process I get five hours per school day to work in peace.

Does that make me a bad parent? Well, I certainly hope not, though I think it’s in the nature of good parents to worry. I have great kids who are typical kids–with all the noisiness and rambunctiousness and neediness intrinsic to childhood. My sincerest hope is that they’ll turn out to be great adults who recognize their own value in all the aspects of their lives.

What will little girls be made of?

I have my daughter signed up for this really cool camp at the Kennedy Space Center. The kids get to ride in motion-based simulators, work on designing space vehicles, talk to an astronaut, perform a space shuttle mission simulation, and all kinds of other fascinating stuff. Blaine, of course, is thrilled with it.

But when I dropped her off today, I was surprised to see the boy/girl ratio in the camp. Her age group–those going into second grade–had thirty boys…and seven girls. The counselor said it’s always like that.

And honestly, all day long I’ve been wondering why on Earth that would be. I don’t think it’s just what the kids themselves express an interest in, because at this age I think you tend to guide their interests–certainly in a summer camp. And maybe I’m spoiled by my daughter, but I just can’t envision telling any seven- or eight-year-old about this camp and them going, “Meh. That doesn’t sound much fun.”

So what is it? Lots of people just decide for their kids that it’s a boys’ activity? They just don’t encourage their girls to try it, or even tell them about it? Or they’ve just trained them not to be interested in such things from the beginning, so that the girls really don’t want to do it?

I just do not on any level get that, and yet I don’t see other explanations for the ratio at this age. Now given, I’ve been moved to absolute fury by the utter inequality accepted as a given by many of the women in this area, but this just completely boggles my mind. I like to think that my girl is growing up in a place where that’s behind us, and yet if a majority of other parents are still guiding their girls in such a direction, it clearly isn’t.

What is going on here?

Me and my boy

It’s a day for pulling pictures off the camera. :-)

Evan was giving me a concert the other day with the guitar I bought him while shopping with the inimitable Esther Friesner at WFC last year. He and I were playing and having fun; I took some pics of him, and he took some of me.

Here he is, looking quite the future rock star:

And here’s one he snapped of me. It’s not a very flattering pic, but I love it because I can tell how much fun I’m having with him. I hope he sees me like that often. :-)