Monday, December 21, 2009

A Toothsome Tale

Calyssa lost a tooth last night. It was her third. This one had been hanging by a thread for several days, so I wasn't at all surprised when she spat it out with her toothpaste into the sink, and very nearly ran it down the drain before she realized it.

It brought back memories of a few months ago, when she lost her first tooth. She had two that were equally loose, so we were kind of curious to see which would go first. Friday night, she went to sleep with all of her teeth still present and accounted for. About 3 a.m. on Saturday, I was awakened by my daughter's sobs. Many moms come awake instantly when their child cries; I'm not one of them. Fortunately, nights like these are a rarity in Southernland. So, bleary and groggy, I shook myself and asked her what was wrong.
"Mommy, I lost my tooth and I can't FIND it!" she bawled. (This was right before we moved to our new place, so at that point she didn't yet have her own bed, but slept with me.) So, I turned on the bedside lamp and confirmed that, yes, her tooth was, indeed, missing. Like, GONE. Not under the pillow, nor anywhere else in the bed, which meant that there was only one place it could, reasonably, have gone.
"Binky, you know what? I think you must've swallowed it," I said. "It's probably in your tummy," which statement served only to make her cry all the harder.
"Don't worry, it won't bite you," I assured her, because at that hour, I couldn't see any other cause for such extreme upset.
"Mommy, I don't have my TOOTH! Now the Tooth Fairy not COME!" she wailed. I tried to reassure her that the Tooth Fairy has likely seen this kind of thing before, so I was sure that she'd understand and come anyway; this line of reasoning didn't work. Then her eyes alighted on the notepad that I keep with my Bible, next to my bed.
"Write a note," Calyssa begged. Since at this point I simply wanted both of us to get back to sleep as quickly as possible, I agreed.
"Dear Tooth Fairy," she dictated. "Can I give you this note instead of my tooth? I swallowed it, and I'm really sorry I can't trade it for my dollar. My Mommy says I can't look for it in the potty. Please don't be mad at her."
"Okay," I said. "Here you go. Get a cup from the kitchen, put it on the dresser with the note inside, and come back to bed."
"Wait, I have to write my name," she insisted. So she took my pen, added, "Love, Calyssa" to the bottom, folded it up, and set it on the dresser inside a cup. About twenty seconds later, she was fast asleep, with a smile on her tear-streaked face, so I quickly got up, grabbed a bill from my purse, hid the note to use on a future scrapbook page, and snuggled down next to her. All was right in her world again.

In case you were wondering, the Tooth Fairy visited us again the very next night; that other tooth fell out later that day, and now lives, hidden, in the locked bottom of my jewelry box.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Real, or Fantasy?

Tomorrow afternoon I am scheduled to attend the first Parent-Teacher conference of Calyssa's grade school career. I will receive her fall report card, and discuss her progress in class. On the front seat of my car are a few of her more recently completed, graded assignments that I plan to discuss with her teacher. One assignment in particular shows various cartoon-y drawings of a pig in various poses. Calyssa was supposed to circle the pictures that show scenes that could actually happen, such as the one where he's eating at a trough in a barnyard, and put an X on those that are fantasy, such as the one where he's frying an egg in the farmer's kitchen. "NEEDS HELP WITH THIS" is marked in big, red letters at the top; Calyssa circled every picture.

I know that my child is, shall we say, rather imaginative, but I didn't realize that she had so tenuous a grasp on reality. Frankly, as a realist myself, I was horrified! So both I, and my teacher sister, have begun quizzing her regularly, to see whether she can identify situations as real or fantasy.
"Calyssa, Mommy reads a book. Real or fantasy?"
"Real, Mommy!"
"Good! How about this one? Betsy [one of our kitties] reads a book. Real or fantasy, Calyssa?"
"That's fantasy, Mommy. Betsy can't read!"

This has been going on for a couple of weeks. (It makes good drive-time conversation.) Then, this morning, she asked me, "Mommy, is Santa Claus real or fantasy?"


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lesson Learned!

This past summer, Calyssa had an assignment: she was to learn her telephone number. One evening, as I drove home from daycare, reciting my cell number for the umpteenth time, I chose to expand the lesson a bit. I decided we needed to talk about who she could call in an emergency. After all, it's just the two of us; it could happen.

"Calyssa, if Mommy ever gets hurt or sick and you need help, who can you call?" I asked.
"Papa!" she cried, referring to my dad, who lives about 12 miles away. While certainly he would do whatever he could to help in an emergency, this wasn't quite the answer I was looking for... "Okay," I agreed, "but do you know how to call the police or fire fighters? In a real bad EMERGENCY, you can call 911." "Okay, Mommy. I remember that," she replied.

Then a thought occurred to me. Calyssa has a hard time understanding much of anything on the telephone. I usually put on the speakerphone, but that's only a marginal improvement. Suddenly, I recalled 911 tapes played on the news, instances where young kids have called for help. The dispatcher usually asks them all sorts of questions; questions which Calyssa would be unable to hear, much less answer in any useful way. So quickly I continued, "Now listen, Binky. If you ever have to call 911, you need to say right away, 'My Mommy is hurt. I'm five years old and I'm deaf'."

A gasp arose from the backseat. I glanced in the rearview mirror, just in time to see my kidlet put her hands on her hips, shake her finger at me, and declare, "Mommy! It not matter I'm deaf!"

Now, who do you think could have told her that, over and over? =]

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

On This Day In History

Today, as I read my daily "On This Day" e-newsletter from Encyclopaedia Britannica, I realized that I recall precisely what I was doing whilst the "top event" of the day occurred (Britannica cites Arnold Schwarzenegger's inauguration as the "Governator" of California as the most historically significant event to occur on 17 November).

Strange. Understand: I am a news junkie. Under normal circumstances, I can't go for more than a few waking hours without hearing a newscast or visiting MSNBC, and my car radio is perpetually tuned to KCBS All-News 740 AM. (Like any junkie, I need my fix!) But, while I was vaguely aware that he was due to be inaugurated sometime that cold, dark, blustery November, I had absolutely no idea when it actually occurred...
until I read Britannica's missive, that is.

So, what was I doing on this date in 2003, when I was oblivious to Arnie's taking of the Oath of Office? I was hanging over an oscillating ventilator isolette in the UCSF NICU, monitoring the various machines keeping the immobile scrap of humanity that was my precious 2-week-old daughter alive. Every couple of hours, I'd withdraw to a warm room furnished with comfy rocking chairs to express copious amounts of breast milk, praying all the while that, someday, she'd be able to drink it. My world, for those 4 agonizing weeks, extended no further than the shuttle bus route between the Ronald McDonald House and the Parnassus campus of UC San Francisco. At the time, I couldn't have cared LESS what was happening in the world at large, so long as I could roll up my sleeves, slipcover my shoes, scrub up, and visit my baby. I didn't turn on the news even once that whole month.

Six years later, there's a race going on for Arnie's successor in Sacramento. And here I am, writing this blog post just before dawn. It's about time for me to go shake that little girl awake, because school starts in a little over an hour...and because the alarm clock isn't loud enough for her to hear.

All kids do this at one time or another...

(Allow me a shout-out to @ST_Rachel, whose blog post yesterday reminded me of this recent experience. Thanks. =])

Calyssa and I were at Barnes & Noble in Pleasant Hill one recent Sunday, after church. As we were awaiting our turn at the cashwrap counter, she decided she wanted...I don't recall exactly what, but some board book she really didn't need, as she has long since outgrown board books. I shook my head "no", which set off the mother of all temper tantrums. Complete melt-down. Kicking on the floor. The works. The sort of tantrum which causes one to immediately look heavenward and pray for an earthquake, so that maybe the floor will swallow you up.

Calyssa's screams, begging for the book, continued to escalate, and I repeatedly told her that, no, we would not be buying that particular book today. Finally the woman who had been ahead of us in line, paying for her purchase, completed her transaction and turned to us. As she approached, I steeled myself for the lecture I knew must be coming. (I was wrong...)

As she opened her mouth to speak, I looked her in the face, and was thunderstruck. "Mrs. K?" I asked, just as she asked "Julie?" Yes, it was my Girl Scout troop leader, from grade school! I hadn't seen her in at least 25 years, and, other than having slightly grayer hair, she hadn't changed much.

"I see you're a mom now," she observed. "Yes," I sighed. "That IS my darling daughter, Calyssa. She's 5 now. I apologize. I'm a single mom, she's deaf, and I don't know what to do!"

"Apologize for what?" Mrs. K inquired, clearly confused. "All kids do this at one time or another. We've all been there. I was just coming over here to tell you that I was thinking, 'What a good mom she is!' Most moms would've caved. Good for you for holding your ground!" Knowing what a sweet, encouraging Girl Scout mom Mrs. K had been, I've no doubts that she truly was thinking that.

I stepped out of the checkout line, and we chatted for a moment or two. Seeing that I was no longer paying any attention to her, Calyssa promptly calmed down. I carried that bit of encouragement with me the rest of that long, long day.