* Life with Hercules

MHT w/Hercules
This morning I was getting my daily dose of Dooce, when this particular passage resonated with me:

"Leta is not like normal kids. She’s not even like most difficult kids. She’s far worse, far more
intense, far more advanced in her tantrum throwing techniques."

Which is exactly how I've felt about Rio since the day he was born. He has always possessed an intensity that can be terrifying at the worst of times, and exasperating at best. And so it is great fun for me to read Heather's hilarious accounts of her own adventures in motherhood because I can sit back and reminisce about Rio's infancy and toddler years. The joy! The hell!

There are two memories that haunt me from when Rio was still an infant. First, he nursed around the clock, for 2 hours at a time and 20 minute breaks in between, so I didn't sleep for the first three months of his life. It wasn't until much later that I admitted to myself that I had suffered from post-partum depression, but my mother knew. I think her first clue was the time I told her, "I'm not his mother, I'm his MILK WHORE!"

My poor mother, she was so scandalized.

I also remember taking Rio out in public with me, which was rare because it was so stressful and exhausting, and invariably some well-meaning stranger would approach me in the grocery store and say, "Oh, what a beautiful baby! Don't you wish they would stay this tiny forever??"

And that's when by sheer force of will I would suppress the urge to scream "NO FUCKING WAY ARE YOU INSANE? I can't WAIT for the day when he can feed his own damn self!"

So yeah, it took me a while to adjust to my new role as a mother. It just wasn't anything like all the books told me it would be. My biggest mistake was reading The Magical Child by Joseph Chilton Pierce. No mother-to-be should read this book, unless you want to feel like a failure because you cannot anticipate your baby's every bowel movement. Because, you know, if you were really bonded with your baby like those African women, your baby wouldn't need diapers, you would just KNOW when he was about to poop.

Of course, it's entirely possible that I'm just a little too hard on myself and my expectations were unrealistic. But motherhood has been the single most difficult experience of my life, and of course the most rewarding as well. Because someday when my little Hercules has become the most benevolent Emperor of the World that the planet earth has ever seen, I will proudly take all the credit:)

* So far, so good

The first day was a success! Turns out Rio's arch nemesis is nowhere to be found, not in his class or anywhere else for that matter. So that's one less worry for our little Hercules. This was the kid who reveled in antagonizing Rio, and as a result Rio ended up getting in quite a bit of trouble. Since Rio is pretty good at getting into trouble on his own, it's particularly frustrating when another child comes along and starts trouble for him deliberately. This is sometimes an issue with my stepchildren, one in particular, and it can be pretty frustrating.

But it's just SO exciting to make Hercules mad! WOW!

But I digress. Rio's first day was pretty great. The only problem he had was that his pants developed a tear right down the front that grew bigger and bigger as the day progressed. Luckily, these were nylon pants that had a liner, and the liner remained intact so at least he wasn't exposing himself. But still, the poor kid was pretty embarrassed. I wish someone had called me, I would have brought him another pair of pants. I told Rio to do that next time, and he was like "Why didn't you tell me that before??" Because, you know, that should have occurred to me.

The best thing is that his confidence has really been boosted by his success so far, and that makes all the difference. Of course, he's still in that honeymoon period and that will last a couple of weeks, and then the novelty will wear off. I'm sure he'll have some rough days and he's bound to spend some time in the ABLE room eventually. But that's ok, that's still progress! My goal for this year is to make it the whole year without any meltdowns - where Rio has to be dragged kicking and screaming from the classroom and isolated somewhere. If we can just avoid that, I'll be pretty damn thrilled.

My other goal is that he learns to curb his aggression - so no one else gets hurt this year. I can't tell you how much guilt I feel whenever another child gets punched or kicked by Hercules. It makes me feel like a horrible mother. That one will be a little trickier, and I may have to settle on fewer incidents of aggression. It really depends so much on his emotional maturity, and it's pretty hard to guage how that is progressing. He does seem to be doing much better with his stepsiblings in that department, so I'm quite hopeful.

It's hard to balance hopeful with overly optimistic, because too much optimism can quickly turn into bitter disappointment when things go awry. And the lesson here is non-attachment. Oh I've got a lot of work to do on that one!

Here's joke for you:

Me: Knock knock.

You: Who's there?

Me: Control freak. This is the part where you say "Control freak who?"

Get it? If so, then you're probably either a control freak or you live with one. I made the mistake of telling this one to my husband. Now whenever my control issues surface, he says "Knock knock!"

It's not easy being a perfectionist, you know! The world is so imperfect!

* First Day and Other News

For fun, here's a photo of Hercules in the shower. Dig the goggles, baby!

It's the first day of school for Hercules today, our heroic first-grader! I'm pretty sure he'll start off just fine. I don't start to worry until the novelty has worn off and the honeymoon period is over with his new teacher. But I wrote the story for Rio as planned and we read it the last three nights. He immediately noticed that Max the Mighty was just like him (what a coincidence;), and we discussed the lessons in the story at great length. I wanted to post the story here, but it's kinda long. Maybe if enough people are interested I will make it public, so speak now or forever hold your peace. I gave a copy to Rio's teacher, too, at Meet Your Teacher Night. It seemed like kind of a weird thing to do, but I did it anyway. I told her it would explain Rio very well, which I thought would be a good idea since she wasn't familiar with any of his history yet. I want her to know what to expect.

I plan to write some more stories about Max that are geared to some other recurring issues that Hercules deals with on a regular basis. We'll see how it all goes.

The last couple of days have been nice in that I stayed home from work and got to spend some quality time with Hercules before school starts. We biked the MKT trail and made a birthday card for his Grampa in NH. And we got to play with our new puppy! Yep, we got another dog! His name is Chico. Check him out, he's the little black dog:

So that's been fun and er, messy, but he's still doing his puppy thing so I'm very forgiving. This morning I decided it was easier to simply remove the area rug from the living room, rather than attempt to clean it one more time. Because the spots that I treated previously still smell like pee and I'm pretty sure that's why he continues to go potty there. Luckily I wasn't overly attached to that rug anyway, especially since Bongo had chewed off the fringe in one corner.

When you have six kids and two dogs around, carpeting is just a headache. Floors are a mother's best friend!

* Plans!

So my plan for a new routine has not been fully realized, but we've made some progress. For one thing, Hercules and I have been riding our bikes every day to his daycare center. He's really excited about that, and I can keep riding to work after I drop him off. His daycare is really very close to the house, so it's a great arrangement. Unfortunately we won't be able to keep it up once school starts next week:( But we'll enjoy it while it lasts!

The funny thing about biking with Hercules is that you get a running commentary from 30 feet behind you at all times. Have I mentioned that Hercules likes loves to hear himself talk?

And I don't know what Nana and Papa were teaching him down there in Florida, but he's been an exceptionally cooperative little Hercules these days! Well, at least for me. I can't say that has carried over at school so well. But I'll take any signs of progress I can get! He's still rambunctious and impulsive and hyperactive, but the big difference I'm seeing is that when I correct him or ask him to do/not to do something, he responds very agreeably. This is very welcome progress.

Still, I'm pretty anxious about the beginning of first grade. I'm eager to meet his new teacher, which happens Monday night. School starts on Wednesday. That gives me one week to prepare myself and Hercules for the first grade. I just hope his teacher has a good sense of humor.

I have a new plan. Yes! More plans! Have you noticed yet that I am an obsessive planner? That's right. I always have at least one plan, if not two, and they're always brilliant and likely to change with my next mood swing but here goes: I am creating a character for Hercules, based on Hercules, and his name is Maximus Marshall. I will write a story about Maximus Marshall's first day of school, and it will be about how Max faces all his fears and worries and makes the best of them. So Max will be Hercules at his very best, but with all the qualities that make Rio the Hercules that he is. Brilliant, right?!

Only if it works. I'll let you know how it turns out . . .

Meanwhile, I have another plan (of course!). I'm scouting out some yoga videos for children, and I hope to find one that suits Hercules. I think yoga would benefit him immensely, especially the breathing/relaxation aspects of it. I just hope it can captivate his attention long enough for him to follow along. He's seen Pa and I do yoga quite a bit, and once in a while he'll try to follow along with us, but it doesn't last long. But there are some good reasons for that, and I think that since he's shown even a little interest, then a video will do the trick. Because if there's someone talking to him from inside the TV, he will be mesmerized. It's like magic, that idiot box. I must learn to force it do my bidding, and silence those other voices that continually bombard my boy's impressionable young mind.

* He's Back!

At long last, my Hercules is home! What a relief! Now life shall resume its normal mayhem:)

The best thing about the last few Rio-free weeks is that Pa and I have accomplished wonders in our house. We've remodeled the bathroom, painted the kitchen and the hallway, and rearranged the furniture in the other 2 rooms (living & dining). Whew! Not to mention some major reorganizing projects and whatnot. So even though we've been working like oxen for the last 3 weeks on what was supposed to be our vacation, I can now enjoy the feeling of immense satisfaction whenever I walk around my house. Weeeee!

We bid farewell to our childless freedom by spending Sunday in St. Louis. We visited the Art Museum in Forest Park, and then hung out in University City. It was terribly lovely and I can't wait to spend more time in that part of the city!

Finally it was time to meet Hercules at the airport. He arrived safely and happily, and was still bidding farewell to his fellow passengers down in baggage claim. I never did get any details, but it seems that Hercules made some friends and everyone enjoyed their flight:)

But it was a late flight and he slept all the way home. Then he went straight to bed and we had a little time to go through his bags this morning so he could show me his new goodies. But it wasn't nearly enough time, and he must have sensed my regret because he tried to persuade me to take the day off from work today. Oh, I was tempted! But my pragmatic side prevailed and I made it to work on time, leaving young Hercules at our new favorite daycare.

I promised to take him to the library today after work, and that pleased him. He and Nana were reading Heidi together but they weren't able to finish it, so I'll get a chance to revisit that book with him (I read it when I was quite young - I was a hardcore bookwork at a very young age). And then we'll resume the next book in A Series of Unfortunate Events.

I've decided that this post-vacation time is a great opportunity to establish some better routines. I had been finding it very difficult to get any quality time with Hercules in the evenings, since we get home around 4:30, and the bedtime ritual begins around 6:45, and in that timespan I have to prepare dinner and sit down to eat with everyone. And there are always errands to run! And Tae Kwon Do two nights of the week, to boot. And when Rio sees his counselor I have to make up the lost work time by working late 2 days of the week. So yeah, scheduling quality time is a bitch. But something's got to give.

My new plan is to try an activity as soon as we get home. I'd like to take a walk with Hercules and Bongo, and exercise both of them (and me!). I'd also like to make time to practice reading and writing with Rio before school starts. The logical time to do this would seem to be bedtime, when we already read together (but I'm the reader and he's the listener). However, asking Rio to read or write at bedtime is problematic because he's just too tired. He gets frustrated too easily and he gives up too quickly. So maybe we'll try that before dinner, too. We'll see. I'll let you know how the implementation of my brilliant plan goes after we've had some time to work out the details.

* Florida Boy

Here's the latest news from Florida. Nana's getting pretty worn out by our boy wonder Hercules, but she's hanging in there!

Here are some new pics of Rio's fun here with Nana and Papa. He's hung out (briefly) with his cousin Collin, gone Kayaking with Nana, snorkeling with Papa at the pool, and fishing with Papa outside our front door. He caught a HUGE ONE! [see pic] At least that's what he ran into the house yelling, "Nana, ya gotta come see the huge fish I just caught! I was expecting to see at least Jaw's son, but as you can see it was only Nemo's little brother. He actually caugth 8 fish and he finally had to stop fishing "because his wrist hurt so much from bringing in so many BIG ones"! He's a trip:)

I took him shopping the other day. He's been playing with the two girls next door to us. One is 4 years old and the other is 10 and they have played great together. He wanted to give them both a gift, so I agreed to take him to a thrift store and finally found a "Goodie Bag" full of "girl stuff" that was just what he was looking for. So we brought it home, he found a box, filled it with bright colored tissue paper, and we wrapped it just right! Watch out girls, he's a charmer!

Enjoy the pics! I'll try to get some of him with the girls next door too.
One more week and he's all yours. He's really starting to miss you all, especially at bed time or when he's tired. He'll be more than ready to get home by next Sunday.

Love ya,

Yep, that's one proud fisherman there, don't you think? But I'm afraid maybe my little Hercules has had a few too many french fries from McD's. Look at that gut! But no worries. We'll have him back in shape in no time:)

And don't forget that you can always click on the photo to see more pics on Flickr.