The good news is that the rain stopped and it feels like Spring. The better news is that I finally have the chance to sit down and write (and exercise and run errands and think and plan and socialize…) again. Those were a loooooong few weeks of falling off the goal wagon again and again which would have resulted in quite the case of road rash had I actually been falling off a real wagon. I realized that it wasn’t just all my freelance work hitting at the same time (although that was the biggest part), but it was R’s social life (currently on hold for this week), and working through some bumps with Monkey (which I’m happy to say we are on a “one step forward” track for the moment). Sometimes I’m at the top of my list, and sometimes I’m not. Mostly not, but I usually try to put myself in the top 5 if I can. The last few weeks I didn’t even make the list.
As I said, I did take notes along the way so that I could remember things I want to write about. At the top of that list today? Ham. You heard me right. Ham. For those of you who know Monkey, one of his defining characteristics is that he likes chicken nuggets. A lot. He has eaten them every single day since the first day he tried one several years ago (and he is only several years old). I’m not saying I go out and buy McDonald’s nuggets daily (or even weekly…bi-monthly maybe). We’ve tried all kinds of frozen nuggets from plain old chicken nuggets to throwing in the occasional fish stick that looked nuggetesque (which only works sometimes). I’ve even made homemade nuggets which he refused to consider even when drenched in ketchup. He’s allergic to soy, so the vegetarian nuggets are off limits, but if it’s breaded and nugget-shaped, it might be eaten by Monkey. He is enthusiastic about his meal and if you ask him what he wants for dinner he will happily give his patented battle cry: “Nuggets!!” When the McDonald’s commercial came out that had the chicken nugget wedding cake, we knew they had heard us talk about Monkey’s future wedding plans if he only found the right nugget-loving girl.
Enter Ponyo. She’s a goldfish who falls in love with a little boy, Sosuke, and wants to be a human girl. The movie is Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki’s story of The Little Mermaid and is insanely cute. We are huge fans of Miyazaki’s anime movies (my personal favorite being Porco Rosso), and I had taken the kids to see Ponyo at the theater when it was released here in the US last Fall. The kids both loved it and when it came out on dvd this week, it was my pleasure to buy it for them. Aside from Sosuke, one of Ponyo’s favorite things is ham. As a little fish, Ponyo swipes the ham from Sosuke’s sandwich and from that moment on, she is a fan of ham.
Apparently this made quite the impression on Nugget Boy. I happened to have some ham in the fridge and made myself a sandwich on Sunday after Monkey and R watched the movie. Monkey asked me if he could have some, so I ripped off a little piece and handed to him. The reality of a new food was not exciting as the thought of imitating Ponyo and before my hand even reached his plate, he said, “Uh…no thank you.” This was no surprise as he had done something similar with all kinds of new foods offered to him in the past.
Yesterday, after having his lunch (which consisted of “crabby patties” made of—wait for it—chicken nuggets with cheese and ketchup between 2 Ritz crackers) he asked again for some ham, so, again, I ripped off a piece and handed it to him. This time it got to his mouth (miraculously before Zoe snatched it out of his hand) and he put it in, made a face, and pulled it back out again. I told him he had to actually chew it and not just leave it on his tongue so he tried again and liked it. So I introduced him to ham and cheese. The heavens opened up and the angels sang. He really liked that salty combo (me too!) and ended up having it for dinner last night (between the requisite crackers, of course). If I could have laid my hands on Ponyo, I would have hugged her into a red squishy mess. Instead, I hugged Monkey until I thought his nuggety insides were going to pop out. I seriously was wondering if he was ever going to try new foods. Luckily, Monkey is a fruit fiend. He will eat pretty much any fruit you put in front of him and generally chooses fruit over sweets for snacks which is the only saving grace to his nugget habit. But now! Now maybe it’s becoming less of a habit and more of an option!
This change is also indicative of other changes in him that might seem a matter of course to others but to Monkey, they are significant and remind me that he is not on my timetable. For a kid who’s been rather stalled for the last few years, the last couple of weeks have been so hopeful. Of course, my first reaction is always to call K and share with him first since he and I have spent many a day worried about Monkey and his many issues. I have to stop myself mid-dial, run through the short list of people I like to curse when I have to go through these milestones without K to share in the fun. Then I go shoot him an email and hope he has the connection and time to read it before seeing it posted here or on Facebook. I am the lucky one because I get to be the recorder of memories and the praiser of Good Deeds, but I feel bad that both K and the kids are missing out on each other.
I know K’s absence is starting to kick in with both kids because R has told me as much not just in words, but in the fact that I am finding pictures of K in places they weren’t before. Monkey’s been a little odd in his communication, but I get it. Yesterday and today he was peeking in K’s car looking for his Daddy. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to handle these moments. Mostly I just let them happen and acknowledge to the kids that what they feel is normal and that K misses them too. Sometimes the timing is right to go send an email or draw a picture or something else to send to K, sometimes the moment comes and goes. We’ve got a long way to go yet, and I’ve learned how to build some rather impressive walls over the years, so I do my best to be sympathetic with a double-dash of emotional neutrality. This may prove to be a problem in my future, but I see no point in wailing and gnashing my teeth in front of the kids over something that cannot be changed. So I don’t. I hug them, suggest an outlet for their feelings and go about life like always. It’s the way I do things and so far it seems to be working because for the most part, the kids are happy and not letting this deployment impede their forward progress. It’s a lesson I hope they remember in the future when they face tough situations.
No doubt though, the lesson they’ll really come away with will be to try things they saw on TV. Better go cancel the cable subscription and hide the dvd collection…