Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Long Goodbye

Hi, I'm Amanda. Some of you may not know me because you became a Pair-Ranting fan within the last thirteen months, during which time I've contributed approximately J-A-C-K to the blog. I won't go into the details of who I am or why I'm suddenly appearing, and writing in your favorite Michael Bairdsmith blog no less, because frankly it really doesn't matter. I'm here. Just buckle up for a quick sec while I catch those who vaguely remember me up on my life. Because they care.

First of all, yes, I am a terribly assholey slacker. I think about this from time to time - every time Mike posts something and it reminds me that 'we' have a blog that I haven't written anything for in a long-ass time - and I don't have any one good reason as to what has kept me away. So, I'll write you a list of all of the reasons, because if I remember correctly, you LOVE lists!

1. My kids: these two are the main reasons for the blog. When we began Pair-Ranting the two things I primarily wrote about were my kids and my sluttiness. Back then my offspring were still young and sweet and adorable, and while they still are all of these things, they now understand things like 'the internet'. They know how to Google things. Their school encourages this shit - I son has a goddam YouTube channel and motherfracking Twitter account, you guys!! He asked me to follow him on Twitter, and when he asked if he could follow me back I said "OHMYGOD NO NEVER!" At that time, my most recent tweet looked like this:

2. My sluttiness: this topic is super boring and non-existent lately. Ever since I met my incredibly sexy tall drink o' Mai Tai man over 5 years ago, it's been all Paulie, all the time. Which is hot, don't get me wrong. But I don't think stories about hiding from your date because you get cold sores are as funny when your date is actually your boyfriend who you live with and is technically supposed to still like you even when you have mouth herpes covering half of your face. Technically. It just doesn't make for humorously sexy blogging, I guess.

The sexiest thing to happen to me within the last day was accidentally hitting play on Of Montreal's "Famine Affair" as opposed to my standard "Bad Habits" by Maxwell for my solo sexytime soundtrack. Sometimes variety is hot, you know? But the only reason it was solo is because I'm on my period and we just don't climb up the Big Rock Bloody Mountain very often because Laundry. Why am I even telling you this?

Oh, right, sluttiness. Well, I try.

3. Math. Fuck math. Rather than get all riled up about math, you can read about it HERE. I can't even go into it again. I am now taking a statistics class because my nail-studded self-flagellator belt went missing. I miss it.

4. Work: Since closing my store, I've not only returned to school because I love a good humbling, I have also had to do some work for a paycheck. Most of this work involves writing and editing. So these days I'm either studying, writing, or editing which makes a very valid reason for not having any time or interest left over to blog about the funny things my kids constantly say, right? Right. Especially since they'll probably find it online and be all "dude, mom! What the heck, you're telling the whole damn world that I treated you to a Rick Astley song-and-dance show in the kitchen last night?! THAT WAS JUST FOR YOU!!!" and then doors will slam and bribery will be necessary. Oof.

Better to just go incommunicado.

So, it is with these and a pocketful of other reasons in mind that I have decided it's time to cease my contribution to the ranting. It's been super fun and I honestly don't know how I would have gotten through my scratchy divorce, all of the awkward dating, my kids' goofy antics, or that stage of my life in general, without this blog.

So thank you all, immensely, for reading and following along. And thank you especially to Mikey for deciding one day during a long spell of boredom that we should start a blog together. Love you buddy.

Farewell*, friends!

*(Until I become a grandparent, of which point all respect for my kids' privacy, needless to say, goes out the window).

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Shotgun Finn Saves the World

It is done. He did it.

On these dark days leading up to the inauguration of a feral Cheeto as our next commander-in-chief, my little Finn reminded me to never lose hope. There is still so much good in the world.

Last night, Finley Michael Bairdsmith pooped in the potty...for the second day in a row.

Yes, he's five-years-old. Here's a quick recap:

January 4, 2015

It started out promising. Jodee and I had just moved in together the summer of 2014 and the boys had settled in quickly. Just after Finn's third birthday in October, he was waking up most mornings with a dry diaper. It seemed like, despite the big changes in his life, the new year might be a great time for a milestone, so we got him the setup and made a modest goal: Potty-Trained by Age Four.

We weren't aggressive with toilet training, of course. The signs of his readiness were there, so we gently encouraged.  There were a few accidental successes over the course of the year, but as the fourth birthday approached without much progress, we streamlined Finley's daily "to-do list", downloaded some potty-only apps, and employed the help of his encouraging brother.

October 13, 2015

His fourth birthday came and went. He had no trouble peeing, but pooping was out of the question. We decided to kick training up a notch. No more diapers, period.

January 7, 2016, after stealing a swim diaper and hiding

This led to me learning a new medical term: Encopresis. When your child ends up in the hospital after refusing to poo for the better part of a week, you've lost the battle. So for the past year (that's right, YEAR!) Finn has been having his regular movements, every afternoon, in a diaper. He was practically changing himself.

But then, just a couple of days ago, Liam made an unexpected request. He has every Pixar and Dreamworks film at his disposal but he wanted to watch his old potty training video "Potty Power" featuring the criminally underrated song stylings of Ms. Jessica Cannon, who has allowed me to follow her on Instagram these past three years despite my twisted obsession with her because I'm such an appreciative fan. It's a really good video.
Liam's message was not lost on Finn because later that night Jodee discovered a little present left behind in the potty. We had a guest over, so it took just a few minutes of awkward interviewing to determine, with absolutely certainty, that Finn was the culprit. The fact that it happened again then next day meant it was official. My seven-year run of handling poopy diapers has come to an end. The next time I desperately want something from Finn, I'll have to remember which man of the house he actually looks up to.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Shotgun Finn Turns Five

Fall is the beginning of harvest, the beginning of school, and in our house this year it was the beginning of Applied Behavioral Analysis.

If you're unfamiliar, harvest is the time of year that I orphan my children so that I might provide the world with delicious booze. The beginning of school is the time of year that, like fine wine, has become something very precious and sweet with time. Applied Behavioral Analysis is something that sounds complicated, but it's just like dog training for kids.

The specialists in the field of autism have long encouraged us to get the boys going with ABA. "It can help them turn the corner" they said. My boys turn corners like they're on rails, so I don't see the point.

To be fair, the boys have some pretty classic autistic-y behaviors, like lining up cars.

Oh man, lining up cars. Lookout!! It's question number three on every autism test: Does your child line up cars? I can see Sally Struthers' voiceover now, "WE CAN'T ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN!"

Finn is the line-up car master. He can take the most inaccessible of flat surfaces and turn them into parking lots. So, naturally, we have two Behavioral Interventionists coming into our home for four hours a day, four days a week. They're great. No, they really are.

But because he's so great at lining up cars, and it's his FIFTH BIRTHDAY, we decided to encourage Finn's interests with one of these

Jodee built this while they slept

Which is better, watching your child unwrap a birthday present or seeing their reaction to a present first thing on a Saturday morning?

Answer: It depends how many parts it has.

I think we made the right choice:

" that?"

French toast almost wasn't enough to peel him away. So many spaces for cars to line-up.

After breakfast we headed to Nana and Papa's house for some next level spoilage. My sister Maggie's baby boy Cedar was is celebrating his first birthday and fortunately Finn is okay with sharing the limelight. We partied til the break of dusk.

The next morning we did more presents. These had fewer parts and therefore came wrapped. Luckily Liam was there to help since Finn was too busy gasping.

If it looks like we spent the entire weekend in our jammies with bed hair, it's because we totally did. Happy Birthday Finney my boy. If you're reading this after many more birthdays I hope you're still an all-singing, all-dancing, wacky, goofball, jackass, sweetheart. I love you more than words can say.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Best Second Day Ever

Finley was just fine yesterday. Hurling to a 4-year-old is what sneezing is to an adult; an efficient way to expel something irritating.

It's like their bodies are small countries with really xenophobic policies regarding immigration. If anything mildly exotic enters them it's immediately extradited. "You say you're a 'snow pea' eh? Nope. Don't like the sound of that. Out you go! No, not that way, back the way you came!"

So today was the second day of school, but Finley's first. He started "Transitional Kindergarten" today, which is reserved for kids born in the Fall who are a little too young for Kindergarten and a little too old for Preschool. Like Liam, Finley has been in special education up until now, and today marks his first day of mainstream education. Also like Liam, Finn has an aide, and as luck would have it, it's Liam's old teacher's aide Lupe. Liam pronounces it "Loopy". Loopy and Liam were total besties. I couldn't happier.

Finn was a little nervous at the drop off. As soon as he got out of the car his hood went up and his eyes went shifty.

"What is this place?"

This happened on his first day of summer camp and ended with him screaming pitiably while I fled the scene. When we got to his room I tried to be the comforting daddy, willing to stick around for a bit if the transition wasn't going well. I went in for a hug and he basically told me to beat it.


So I left. I wanted it to go easy, but not that easy. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Best First Day Ever

"Finn just puked."

I was sitting on the front porch, sipping coffee, anxiously awaiting the boys' arrival. I would never miss a first day. Earlier that morning I reflected back to the beginning of the summer. I mentioned to Jodee, "it seems like just yesterday I was blubbering after dropping the boys off at summer camp." Without exception, I've cried like a baby on every first day, whether it was the first day of school, day care, summer camp, what have you. I told Jodee today's mantra was "Keep it Together". She rolled her eyes. She figured I was doomed.

When my phone rang and I saw it was Erin, I incorrectly guessed she was just running late and wanted to meet me at the school rather than at my house. I only live a couple of blocks from Healdsburg Elementary, and I wanted to walk the boys to school their first day so that I could really let it all sink in. Jodee was right, I was doomed.

The news that Finn had just had, what the world of competitive eating politely refers to as "a reversal of fortune", was hardly surprising for some reason. Of course Finn puked on his first day of school, because Finn.

I downed the rest of my coffee and jumped in the car. Erin was going to stay home with Finn so I had 20 minutes to make the 40 minute round trip drive to retrieve Liam. When I got there Finn was surprisingly chipper and happy, until he realized Liam and I were going to school without him. Hopefully that means it was a one-and-done episode.

Liam looked great:

The first day outfit is critical. You want to look cool, but you don't want it to look like you're trying really hard to look cool. Mom nailed it.

Showing up to the first day of school 20 minutes late is actually kind of ideal, as long as you have a rock solid excuse to deflect the judgemental vibes you're going to get from the admin office. Rather than tossing Liam headlong into the fury, we got to take is slow. It was nice and quiet, and I didn't have to shout over the turmoil when explaining to Liam where we were going and what he could expect. He strode through the place excited and confident and when we got to his classroom his face got a little scrunchy, but he didn't do his usual pill bug impersonation.

The moment we cross the threshold into a new classroom is usually the moment I need to be talked down off the ledge. Liam has been attending special education classes his whole academic life, and please forgive me if this offends anyone, but the first day in a special ed class can look more like an asylum than a classroom. Leaving your child in a room like that can sometimes require a person to ignore every parental instinct in your body. In my limited experience, it's pretty heart-wrenching.

But this year Liam is going full mainstream first grade. Last year we'd had it, and while it's a long story, in a nutshell we had to convince the school that Liam's poor performance had more to do with his being bored than anything else, and it was time to challenge him. It took a handful of lawyers to get the point across, but they tested it out by putting him in a regular class with an aide for a couple of months at the end of the school year, and he thrived. Trust your instincts parents. No one knows your kids better than you do.

Walking into Liam's new classroom, this time, was like crossing over into paradise. I swear the room glowed. Everything was sunshine, rainbows, and lollipops. About twenty or so fidgety kids were sitting in their assigned seats, looking deceptively angelic. My entrance elicited the usual gasp I get every time I enter a room full of children, but a few of the kids whispered "Liam!"  My heart swelled. He put his backpack in the appropriate place and his new aide, whose name I committed to memory for a full eight seconds, showed him to his seat. I stole a quick smooch (from Liam), made my exit, and did not cry a single tear until about five minutes into typing this blog.   

Friday, July 8, 2016

Gotta Catch 'Em All!

I take pride in the fact that, despite my advancing years, I still have my finger on the rapid, thready pulse of nerd society. I hosted a Dr. Who trivia night prior to a viewing of the 50th anniversary special, I'm the one my friends turn to when they need the post-credit eater egg following the Marvel Cinematic Universe films explained, and yesterday I was one of the first to download Pokemon GO.

Here's a bit about it on NPR

Did you not follow that link? Of course you didn't. In a nutshell, the Pokemon people are using the GPS and camera on your phone to create an "Augmented Reality" game. AR is going to be the way of the future. Within a decade kids will be running through the park wearing goofy goggles and fighting dragons, making Pokemon GO seem pathetic, but for now it's AWESOME. The object is to walk around in the real world and capture little creatures in real places like the park across the street or the fountain downtown. You train these creatures to evolve from cute little cuddlies into ferocious killers and then you pit them against other players' creatures at cock-fight style arenas called "gyms" that are, again, in actual places. The reality of this world can only be seen through your phone (for now) and it looks like this.

That's us at home on the porch. The purple ring is "incense" to attract Pokemon

The park down the street has 8 Pokestops and a Gym where we can do battle once we reach Level 5

There was an "oddish" in our walkway! Liam is pretty good at throwing Pokeballs to catch them

This pig statue in our park is a Pokestop

So is the canoe in front of Liam's Boys and Girls Club. They give you Pokeballs and other cool stuff.
This game forces you to walk all around town, get exercise, enjoy nature, battle animated creatures. I'm into it. Liam is BONKERS over it. I can't wait until I get him back home on Wednesday. I should have leveled up by then and I caught this today in the parking lot at work.

I've named him "Liam-ra the Mighty" and he's destined to be the defending gladiator champion of the Giorgi Park gym, MARK MY WORDS!

All, for the kids...of course.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Summer 2016

I may have tried to intimidate a room full of grade school kids. Just now.

This was the first week of summer vacation. As a kid, the first week of summer was the single greatest week of the year. As a parent, it is the opposite.

All kinds of cool
This summer we decided to send Finn to the very posh Fitch Mountain Day Camp, while Liam is attending the good ole' Boys and Girls Club. A lot of factors went into making this decision, but ultimately I think we figured Finn was going to need the fancy camp with it's daily swimming, water slides, bouncy houses, carnivals, endless games, and high ratio of adult supervisors to campers, while Liam needs to see a little more of the real world. With his 7th birthday looming, he's practically a man, and we don't want him to lose his edge. The Boys and Girls Club is kind of like that low-rent gym Apollo takes Rocky to in Rocky III. Eye of the tiger, baby.

If you're thinking, "Way to toughen up and send that boy out of the nest, come what may," it's because you didn't see me on the first day. Finn cried out pitiably as I left him behind at his new Kinderspa. I knew he'd be okay, but it was enough to spark the waterworks. Liam and I walked into the Boys and Girls Club and he was mesmerized by the sight of it. There were about forty kids there already, a few teenagers lurking in the corners, and maybe three or four young adults trying to manage the chaos. I walked him around a bit, showed him where the bathroom is, panicked a little because I was just allowed unsupervised in the bathroom with a child and no one really knew who I was so who the hell is going to prevent some pervert from....(breathe, breathe), checked in with the club's manager, and said my goodbyes. He said, "goodbye Daddy", and, with nervous determination, plunged right into the mix. I managed to keep it together halfway across the parking lot before the image of him, getting bullied for not being able to speak properly and ending up playing all alone in a dingy side room with some busted old Legos, came flooding into my mind's eye. I couldn't go back to work for an hour afterward.

I insisted on being there later that day for the 1pm pickup time for both boys. Finn was fine, of course. No surprise there. I readied myself to go pick up Liam, certain I'd find him in a state of abject misery, which was of course the opposite of what I found. His group was in the art room doing some cool clay sculptures and when I said I was there to take him home, he had a little meltdown. I let him stay for another hour and went away to berate myself for freaking out every time.

The entire week just got better and better, with the exception of two small hiccups. On Tuesday my phone buzzed and it was the number from the Boys and Girls Club. This image from around this time last year immediately came to mind:

Summer 2015. Boo.

I answered in a panic and the club director said "LIAM IS FINE, but he had a little accident". Two days later I got an identical call from Finn's club. Both boys are in strange new places with more independence than they're used to, so I wasn't too surprised. I figure Finn's resort has everyone in swimsuits all the time, so I'm sure 95% of the kids, and 30% of the adults, are peeing their pants most days anyway. Liam had me worried though. Grade school feels like it wasn't all that long ago. I remember how we were. We reveled in our abuse of the kids who embarrassed themselves. We were merciless and cruel. We would search for any ammunition we could, and would use it indefinitely.

So at this morning's drop of I found myself standing a little taller and doing my best to look sinister. I didn't really plan to put on a show, but I hadn't dropped Liam off since his first day, and some animal instinct kicked in. I thought why not? I'm 6'8", 230lbs, and my angel son isn't well-equipped to defend himself. I walked him to his cubby, making sure to make eye contact with any kids looking my way. There were quite a few, ha HA! I knelt down and gave him a manly hug before walking out, making sure to duck slightly under the doorway as I left. Yes, I'm a little ashamed.