Cognitively Speaking…

Noah turns eight on Wednesday.

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His overachieving (and awesome) summer camp (Camp Straight Street) sent him a birthday card last week. Which is great and kind and made him feel special and….when mixed in with the 4-5 Christmas cards we receive every day, also made him feel rather inferior and needy of more, CONSTANT birthday cards.

Every day he’s been running to the mailbox, absolutely perplexed at the quantity of Christmas wishes and the complete lack of birthday wishes. Indignantly he will announce, “WHERE are all my BIRTHDAY cards??”

One night he was being especially moody, so we had this little conversation about it.

We tried to explain that it’s a whole WEEK until his birthday and usually you only get cards right around the day of your birthday…and also you only get one or two birthday cards total and you shouldn’t compare your birthday mail volume to Christmas (which is dang hard to do when your birthday happens to be on the 19th of December.)

But alas. He’s only seven. Such concepts of self-coaching and setting realistic expectations are completely and absolutely lost on him.

Building radios, however, is within his grasp.

He got several Snap Circuits kits last Christmas (best, most fun toy for the spatially-minded child ever, if you need some last minute Christmas shopping ideas.) Last year, I usually had to help him with them, which I rather enjoyed. Then they got lost in the horror that is his room for a few months. But, due to a forced cleaning of his room, he has rediscovered many fun toys, and Snap Circuits are one of them. Except that this year, he’s an excellent reader and putter-togetherer, and he doesn’t need me anymore. So he’ll thunder down the stairs to announce his latest invention, all rather proud and much more excited than he was when I used to be his lab assistant. (Which, by the way, he no longer has a bedroom – he now has a LAB.) (Which I kinda love.) (Except for the pain doled out to the bottom of my feet when I try to walk through the lab in the dark to give him his good night hug.)

His favorite invention, the aforementioned radio, happened yesterday. He admittedly didn’t think a radio would function as an actual radio until he built the thing, turned it on, and started hearing Christmas music and commercials about incontinence.

He was immediately enthralled – especially when he realized how to channel surf. All afternoon he’d run to me and say things like “Mom!! Someone’s grandkid is having to have brain surgery!!”

“Whose?”

“I don’t know! They’re talking about it on the RADIO!!”

His radio is quite portable, so I didn’t notice when he’d taken it in the car last night, and he proceeded to surf those channels all the way to dinner, while keeping us all informed as to what was going on in the world.

“Camila Cabello hasn’t had a vacation in six years!! But she’s taking some time off now that ‘Havana’ has done so well.”

“They’re talking about jail cells now! I think they’re in one!!”

And then, when he realized the sheer amount of potential knowledge he held in his hands, he cackled gleefully and announced,

“I AM GOING TO KNOW EVERYTHING BY THE END OF THE WEEKEND!!!!”

I side-eyed Chris and smiled. “So this is our life now.”

As I was reading in bed last night, Noah came in with his radio, on which he’d dialed to some smooth jazz Christmas music. He turned out my light. (Because jazz requires mood lighting.) He cuddled up in bed with me, with a sigh of accomplishment for his invention of transmittable music. And then reminded me that he hadn’t gotten any more birthday cards.

Inventors have fragile egos, yo. I’m sure Alexander Graham Bell had these same exact struggles.

When The Intersection Rule Failed Us.

In our hiking club, we really only have one rule. (Aside from the obvious rules like don’t pick up snakes but CERTAINLY don’t scare them away because Miss Rachel will definitely want to see them and photograph them and maybe pick them up if she’s mostly sure they’re not venomous.)

The one rule is this: Stop at every intersection.

This rule is a rule because it is a regular occurrence for the kids (especially the older ones but sometimes the younger ones) to run ahead of the adults, who can sometimes be dragging a toddler behind them or on their back or hanging off their legs like a monkey.

On the particular hike for which this post was recorded, I was taking on the responsibility (and fun) of being hiking buddies with Elsa, my favorite first cousin once removed. (Please don’t tell my other first cousins once removed. This is between us.)

…As an aside, I googled and now understand very well what the difference is between a second cousin, first cousin once removed, third cousin, and second cousin once removed. Would you like me to explain it?

(I know you would. It’s fascinating and makes so much sense.)

It all depends on what level you’re on with reference to each other. The same level means that you share a grandparent, great grandparent, etc. A level apart means that my grandmother is your great grandmother. Following so far? So, first, second, and third cousins are all on the same level. First cousins share a grandparent. Second cousins share a great-grandparent. Third cousins share a great-great grandparent.

(Fun Fact: Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip are third cousins: their shared great-great-grandmother is Queen Victoria, who incidentally was married to her first cousin, Prince Albert. Because the British are weirder than Alabamians.)

Removed cousins are on different levels. First cousins once removed happen when person A’s grandparent is person B’s great-grandparent. So another way to look at it is you are first cousins once removed with your cousin’s children. You’d be first cousins twice removed with your cousin’s grandchildren. Got it?

…So back to Elsa, who is my favorite of all of my cousin’s children.

Elsa is four, and she’s just starting to grasp hiking expectations, rules, and standards. So she asked me, “Aunt Rachel, (because “First Cousin Once Removed Rachel” is pretty long for a four year old), what is an insterstection?”

I explained carefully that an intersection is anytime you can go more than one way on a trail. If you have to choose directions, it’s an intersection. And it’s very, very important that you always wait at every intersection for the adults, because if you chose the wrong way, and we assumed you chose the right way, you’d be lost, and it would be hard to find you.

She silently pondered my words, an unspoken gravity resting between us of what it would be like to be four and lost in the woods.

We plodded ahead, perhaps a tenth of a mile behind the big kids. As we came up a hill, we saw the big kids all piled in a semi-circle at an intersection. It was a “T” intersection, with a bench sitting opposite of the T. A teenage couple was sitting on the bench, and it appeared that they were having a silent standoff with our kids.

Then the teenage couple stood up, walked toward us, laughing slightly, politely said hi to us, and took off down the trail.

As we reached the children, they were all coughing, waving hands in front of their faces, gagging, and complaining in general about what was the worst skunky smelling cigars they’d ever smelled.

Yeah. That is not a fog of cigar smoke you’re standing in, children.

Our Stop-At-The-Intersection rule had…

– Forced the children to stand in a thick cloud of pot smoke,

– Created an awkward staring/social interaction, because the poor high teenagers had no idea why 10 children had just crowded around them in a semicircle.

(They’re probably still puzzling about that. I bet every time they get high they’re all like “yo, man, remember that one time, when all those kids surrounded us like they were the freakin’ Marine Corps or something?” “Yeah man. That was….weird.”)

– Totally killed their buzz.

Were the children better tempered for the rest of the hike?

Chill, might one say?

Perhaps.

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So maybe The Intersection Rule didn’t fail us after all.

(Then again, twenty minutes later, Noah did get exceptionally hangry and demanding as to why I hadn’t brought SNACKS on the hike, so the dreaded munchies may not have been worth it.)

Two Sprinkles of Life.

I got a much needed haircut last Friday. It’s been at least a year since I got a trim and the ends of my mistreated hair felt like Rumplestiltskin’s Straw (before turning to gold). I had to find a new hairdresser because mine moved out of state, so that’s something I can put off for forever.

But I found one. And I went. And my hair felt so free and happy and light and bouncy and healthy and shiny and all the things.

Half an hour later, I was walking down the block when I heard a whistle.

I looked up, and there was a septic tank cleaning truck. It was painted up on the side with a joyful bee flying in circles, and it stated proudly that it was “The Honey Wagon.” As that’s how everyone wants to think of their poo – synonymous with honey. (Which is, in fact, bee barf. So I really don’t understand the connection at all.)

My eyes made their way up to the driver’s window, and I made eye contact with a completely legit Santa Claus, minus the red suit.

He had bright, long white hair (with no split ends I’m sure) and a white beard at a length and breadth that Dumbledore would be jealous. And as he waved and winked at me, acknowledging that the whistle had indeed come from him, I definitely saw a Santa-like twinkle in his eye.

(Gross, Santa.)

So clearly my haircut was successful.

And let’s all take a moment to be relieved that Santa has a job in the off-season. Even if it is still hauling everyone else’s crap all over town.


I have an entire category of my personal sleepwalking stories (most including injuries.) Thankfully I haven’t partaken in the hobby in quite some time (or at least not violently – sometimes I’ll wake up in other rooms, but I haven’t thrown myself at a slice n’ dice dresser handle, or run into a wall, or dived off a bed in a seriously long while.)

Unfortunately, the disease of sleepwalking is genetic. And both my children were unlucky enough to receive that gene, rather than their father’s superior sleep gene that allows him to be the one in our marriage that falls asleep in two seconds and never rises in his sleep to ambulate from place to place.

(By the way, I have the theory that in every marriage, one spouse fall asleep in seconds, and one spouse has to lie there and rehash every conversation they had that day before they fall asleep, along with several rolls from their side to their stomach to their back to their other side. Is this true? Discuss.)

But sleepwalking.

It’s creepy enough to wake up where you’re not supposed to be, but there is nothing – NOTHING I tell you – creepier than a child sleepwalking in the middle of the night, their little zombie eyes staring three inches to the right of you with a dazed and blank look on their face. It’s as if they can see the ghosts having a soiree right next to you and you have no idea.

Friday night, I was enjoying a moment of quiet reading in my bedroom when I heard Noah’s door open. I looked at my watch – it was 10:24. Too late for sleepy gummies (We have a rule that if you’re still awake at 10pm, you can come get a Melatonin Gummy. Noah has been known to stay away staring at his clock to earn a sweet treat. So we had to get a bit more militant with the idea of “if you’re still awake.”)

I put down my book and silently waited to hear if he was headed to the bathroom.

No sound.

I got concerned, so I got out of bed and peeked into the hallway.

He was standing at the top of the stairs, in full-on zombie stare, his comforter wrapped around him and held by both hands around his neck like a cape, the bottom trailing the ground and wrapped around his feet in a very trip-and-fall-waiting-to-happen fashion.

Oh no. No no no.

I grabbed his shoulders just as he hovered his left foot over the stairs, as if he was going to walk down them but was sure they stretched out in the space in front of him and not in a downward fashion – a downward fashion that he was surely about to fall into.

I tried to disentangle his feet from his comforter and led him back to bed, all the while as he protested “But I’ve got to get (garble gobbledegook.) I need to get (you never can understand a whole sentence spoken from a sleepwalker.)” I begged him to stay in bed as he snuggled back in and resumed sleeping in the normal horizontal fashion.

Then I went back into my room to calm my nerves and curse my genes. And to take at least thirty minutes longer to fall asleep.