* Tricksy Hercules

Another recap from Nana. Look's like little Hercules is testing his boundaries, as usual:

It's Thursday and this Nana is tired but still very much in love with our Hercules! Where do I start? It's one adventure after another with this Herculean Warrior!

Let's see, we went to the pool after I got home from work one evening. I swam after him for an hour, what a work out! No gym time needed that day! We had a ball!

The real fun for Rio started when we were leaving. It was time to really test Nana's patience….

Test # 1: To leave our pool area you have to push a green button that releases the exit/entrance gate, which I did for Rio. He ran to the gate, opened and held it, while watching a tired Nana make her way to the gate. And you probably guessed it . . . he closed the gate just as I got there. The look of glee was adorable, even to tired Nana. Now I had to go all the way back to the green release button, push it, and walk back to the waiting Rio at the gate. He again opened it up for me, smiling sweetly as I very nicely reminded him Nana was very tired and to please not do that again. But, with that now not-so-adorable grin on his face, he again closed it just as I got there! This replayed itself for about another 3 or more times before Nana's voice and "You’ll regret not listening to me" look got through to him and I was let out of the pool area!

Test # 2: I remotely unlocked the truck and Rio jumped into it.and of course as Nana came up to the drivers door I heard the auto lock click! Now, believe it or not, it hit me funny. I could not believe he would DARE test me again so soon after my "You’ll regret not listening to me" look!

I kid you not, he would unlock and lock the door, as he watched my arms approach the door handle at least 5 or more times! It took a lot to keep the laughter from my insides not to show on the outside! I was thinking just how funny I would think this all was a few weeks from now, when he was back home, and I was missing him and his "Nana tests." I finely was able to convince him enough was enough, and I was allowed to enter the truck.

Test # 3: The other day I was very late getting home after work, due to a flat tire. I was stuck on The Howard Franklin Bridge between St. Pete (where I work) and Tampa (where we live). I did not get home till 8 PM. I explained to Rio that dinner would only be scrambled eggs and toast, to which I heard a wail from Rio, "Oh, no! That is not fair! I want a real supper!" This time, I turned on my tired feet and faced him eye ball to eye ball with a "Don't you EVEN go there" speech, which worked the first time! He ate his egg and toast dinner without any further argument. I think I came out on top on this test.

Then it was off to bed and a story, a great time of cuddling, loving and enjoying a great book. We share a love for reading, and cuddling!

That's all for this time. This happy, but tired Nana is signing off.

* Journey to Florida

Not only has Rio's Nana agreed to fill in as our guest blogger while he's in Florida, but she has proven to be much more prolific than I am. I'm already have a backlog of entries and photos, so here's the first one, in which Hercules arrives in Tampa after his first solo airplane ride:

Hercules arrived safe and sound, and according to his stewardess he was a pure joy, entertaining the passengers and crew throughout the flight.

I got a chance to speak with the folks he sat next to. The young woman said he was a bit teary-eyed when it hit him that he was “all alone”. He told her this was his first flight without his Nana or Mom, and he was only 6 yrs old. She said it only took a few words of encouragement to dry his tears, and then he was great. He even got some dear soul to switch seats with him so he could sit by a window.

He loved his stewardess, as you can see from the good-bye hug she got when we left! As soon as we were off he spotted the Southwest Children's Play Area, and Southwest knows what they are doing. This area is set up with very large heavy foam/plastic airplanes and clouds. The children can leap from one to the other, and they have controls for steering, too! Rio was literally bouncing off every one of them, at the same time he was on the cell phone with his Mom, letting her know he had arrived safe and sound. I let him “bounce” for a while, because I figured it would keep the inside of our truck in one piece for the ride home, and it worked great.

We arrived home to greet Uncle Ron, Aunt Katina, Alan, and Elise,. He bounced off them for a while, too. It was a great family reunion! See pics (click the photo above to see more at Flickr).

More to come soon!

* Belting it out!

Belting it out!
So here's Hercules, performing live on stage in Plevna, Kansas! He did a lively rendition of The Swimming Song, accompanied by Pa on banjo and E on bubbles! Yeeehaaaw!

In other news, the new daycare center is working out beautifully. It's like night and day compared to the last one - the people are incredibly friendly and helpful, the children are happy and active, and there are no LOUD BUZZERS that go off for a whole minute every time someone opens the front door. How refreshing!

But after tomorrow he won't be going back there until August, because on Sunday Rio is flying to Florida to see his Nana and Papa. Yep, that's right: Hercules will be on an airplane all by himself! Well, not exactly. He will be supervised by a dedicated, unsuspecting flight attendant.

You may think that would worry me, but surprisingly it does not. Denial? Perhaps. But I'm a pretty pragmatic person (most of the time), and I know that he'll be well-supervised. It's a direct flight, and once I turn him over to the flight attendant, he will be on the plane the entire time, until he is handed over to my mother at the other end. And really, as far as safety is concerned there really isn't anything to worry about, other than the plane crashing. And let's face it, if that plane is going to crash, would it really make any difference if I were on it with him? No, we'd just both go down in ball of flames. But let's not dwell on that scenario. It's much more fun to imagine the REAL excitement: all the other passengers at the mercy of Little Hercules.

In fact, I think I should get him a T-shirt made just for the flight, to make things clear to his fellow travelers:


Because the two words Rio says to me more than any other are: WATCH THIS! I'll probably come up with something lots better as soon as I post this entry and put some thought into it. I'd love to hear some more suggestions for Hercules T-shirts!

He's most likely to flirt aggressively with all the female flight attendants, and any other woman within 3 rows of him. He's already praying that his personal attendant will be a woman. I really expect him to keep the other passengers thoroughly entertained, as long as they have a decent sense of humor. Let's just hope he doesn't end up sitting next to someone who's hoping for a nice, quiet flight. Luckily, he's flying Southwest, which means people can sit wherever they want. So all the grumps, child-haters, and other humorless muggles can go sit in the back.

Hey, there's a T-shirt idea:

It's probably a good thing I'm not a T-shirt designer, eh?

Anyway, it'll be three whole weeks of no Rio for me. It will be both liberating and heart-breaking all at once. Pa and I will take some vacation time to work on the house, and then it's business as usual for the remaining 2 weeks. I'm sure we'll manage to amuse ourselves somehow;)

Meanwhile, maybe I'll see if my mom would be willing to do some guest blogging so we can keep tabs on Hercules while he's in the Sunshine State. Mom?

* Life Goes On

Sorry for the rather abrupt termination of that last post. I actually got the phone call while in the middle of writing that entry, so it was angst in real-time! Drama in real life!

Since then I have calmed down considerably. I am gradually learning not to take Rio's mishaps so personally, and not to despair with so much melodrama. So this time I only spent one day in tears. That's progress!

Rio's counselor was very instrumental in my consolation. Although she was also disheartened by this little setback, she reminded me that the events leading up to his expulsion were actually not that extreme, at least in relative terms. She is used to dealing with kids with extreme problems, and on her spectrum Rio is in a class of angels (she, like most adult women who are not prissy prudes, adores Little Hercules).

Lest anyone thinks that I am condoning his aggression or not showing enough sympathy for the children on whom he has taken out his aggression, let me elaborate. Or rather, let me provide an excerpt from an email I sent to The Diva. Because I'm just too busy to retype it all and it makes my point very well:

I’m feeling a lot better about Rio’s most recent debacle w/summer school. His counselor definitely helped eased my mind on Friday. Although she’s taking his behavior issues seriously, she reminded me that there’s really no cause for despair (as I am prone to do whenever Rio gets kicked out of school). She said that 10 years ago Rio probably would’ve been considered a normal, though especially active, little boy and the consequences for his problems wouldn’t be so drastic. The System (insert ominous music) has become so hyper-regulated that even minor offenses are dealt with harshly. For example, there was a time when climbing UP the slide wasn’t outlawed, and subsequently Rio wouldn’t have been condemned so quickly by another kid and wouldn’t have had cause to kick him. Not to mention that it seems to me like he’s become an easy target for antagonistic, bullyish kids who like to get a rise out of him because it’s oh-so-easy to do. Ya know? In addition, Rio claims that the kid he kicked had been hitting him and his friend in the “weiner.” AND the day he got booted, he was in a kicking match with 2 other kids, and I got the impression that these were the same antagonists from previous incidents. And given that Rio has a very righteous sense of justice, he doesn’t deal well when he gets in trouble for taking matters into his own hands. And because, unfortunately, Rio fights fire with fire.

So, the point is that Rio has a flair for the dramatic, a hot temper, and no impulse control, which together make for a lot of conflicts on the playground. The good news is that he doesn’t fly into a blind rage and beat kids to a pulp for no reason at all. His more aggressive behavior is usually provoked, impulsive, and fleeting. Sometimes he overreacts to less antagonistic behavior, such as shoving someone who cuts in front of him in line, which also has more dire consequences in Rio’s case because he’s so much stronger than other kids his age. Somehow this comforts me, because I don’t have to despair that my son will grow into a callous sociopath. With some proper coaching, patience, and persistence, he’ll eventually learn how to deal with all the annoying kids out there in the world without giving them a swift kick in the head.

There are two key points here. First, Rio is an easy target for antagonistic kids. That has recently become apparent and accounts for most of the trouble he's been in at the last 2 schools he's attended. Second, the fact that he's bigger, stronger, and heavier than just about every kid his age and many older kids, means that when push comes to shove somebody's far more likely to get hurt. Which of course makes it all the more important for Rio to learn to manage his anger and his impulses. Which is also why he tends to get in more trouble more often than those antagonistic little brats that love to mess with him. It's all fun and games until someone gets a swift kick in the head from the Foot of Hercules.

All this makes me wish I could be there for him. I wish I could be there on that playground, looking out for him, ready to prevent problems before they escalate into a brawl. Hercules needs exactly that, a dedicated guardian to look out for him. I don't mean someone to ward off the bullies and the brats in the world, because he most certainly needs to learn to deal with those people. They are everywhere in the world, young or old. But I do think he would benefit if someone could hover nearby, and when those kids come around and a disagreement ensues or the subtle teasing begins, that's the cue. That's when they need a conflict resolution coach who can say "What's a better way to work this out?" And it wouldn't just help Hercules, it would help the other kids, too. This is what I try to do when my stepkids come around, whenever I can (which isn't nearly as much as I'd like to). Because they could all use a little coaching in the conflict resolution department. Hell, I know plenty of adults who have never mastered this skill.

But this post is about moving on, and so I think I need to do that. Someday I would like to master the art of short, frequent posts so that I am not so intimidated by the bulk of material that I need to discuss that I fail to post at all. There, now you know my weakness.

Once Rio was kicked out of summer school, I was then faced with the problem of where the hell to put him while I go to work every day. This was no small dilemma, because when it comes to affordable short-term childcare, there are very limited options in this town. But find one I did, and it seemed so ideal, at first. They take drop-ins anytime! I will never have to worry about missing work again!

Alas, it was indeed too good to be true. The first red flag was that they don't allow the kids to play with the toys. Yep, you read that right. WTF?? Apparently the toys are only for the full-time preschoolers or some such lame excuse. So what can the children do, you ask? They can watch movies. All day. Unless they are playing outside, or eating, or napping. Otherwise, that cursed TV is spewing out animated hypnosis for hours on end.

But that's not the worst of it. It wasn't long before Rio was coming home with reports of suspicious practices on the part of the caregivers. Like boxing the little kids in the ears. Not the bigger kids, because they might know enough to speak up to another adult and get the place shut down. But they didn't reckon on my little Hercules, heroic whistleblower that he is! Ha!

So we spoke to Rio's counselor and she's going to file a report for us. And I'm happy to say that today is Rio's last day at that godforsaken place, may it burn to the ground (at night, when it's empty, of course). I was fortunate to find just one other place that will accept him on short notice for just one week this month, and it costs the same as the other. I had originally ruled this one out because it's located in kind of a bad neighborhood. Not too bad, in fact, it's about the same as the one we live in (and very nearby). But I'm going by there after work today to look it over. So far I already got a good vibe from the director over the phone. She at least speaks intelligible English, which is more than I can say of that other director. And I can at least hope that it can't possibly be any worse than the first place. Right? Let's hope not, because if this one fails me then I'll have to get a second job just to pay for childcare.

Next, I'll post some pics from our Fourth of July trip to Kansas for my husband's family reunion. There was a talent show and Little Hercules was on stage, stealing the show of course! Photos soon to come!