Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Fan Club.

Posted on | January 17, 2015 | 6 Comments

Look who stopped by.

That’s right.  One of my good friends left her 3 year old son, Luke, with me while she took care of some business in town.  Luckily, I still have one closet shelf and one drawer filled with toys for the Under 5 crowd.  The pickings were slim but even though the Rescue Heroes only got a quizzical glance, Thomas the Tank Engine and his cronies were instantly recognized.

“Got more Thomas?” Luke asked sweetly, pulling 3 little engines from the drawer.

I refrained from mentioning how the insipid Thomas the Tank Engine videos made me want to drive off a bridge and the merchandising made me want to either burn down the Mattel executive offices or just fill their every inch of workable space with expensive train tables covered with non-interchangeable track systems.

“No, honey, just those ones,” I said.  We burned the rest of them at the stake.

He was just settling into Matchbox cars and vroom, vroom noises behind the couch when I heard a strange dog barking outside.  I looked at Big, who was at home because for the next 2 weeks the high school students only go to school on the days that they have exams.  When they aren’t already home from school because it’s cold.  Or icy.  Or MLK day.  Or a teacher work day.  It’s a tough life and Big has only been to class once this week so I figured he could investigate the barking dog.

“Do you hear a dog outside?” I asked.  Which, in mother-speak, means “Go see if there’s a barking dog outside.”  Which he understood because I’ve been his mother for 15 years.

Luke peeked over the back of the couch.

“Dat my dog, Herk,” he announced.

“No, baby,” I corrected him.  “Your dog’s at home.”

The dog barked again.

“Dat my dog, Herk,”  he insisted.

“Nope,” I repeated.

“Um…,”  Big said as he looked out the back door onto the deck.  “It’s a really fat chihuahua.  I think it is Hercules.”  Big opened the door and Hercules marched right inside.

“Yep, ” said Luke.  “My dog, Herk.”  And he came over and patted him on the head.  Because it was Herk.  Hercules.

Hercules is 15 years old now and while I was starting my family, my friend was also starting hers.  Except while I was loading a Suburban with car seats on my way to the pediatrician, she was jumping in her Geo Metro with her baby chihuahua on her way to Charleston.  Or Hilton Head.  Or Charlotte.  Or all the other places people with chihuahuas can go that people with infants and toddlers cannot.

And despite having 2 kids of her own now, she continues to load Hercules in the car for road trips.  Except this time she loaded him up, let him out at my house to pee, handed off Luke to me, then jumped back in her car and drove away.  Without Hercules.  Oh, the life of a beloved dog after the kids arrive.  But Hercules is no fool.  So when he was done with his business, he trotted up to the back door, and barked to be let inside.

“Huh,”  I said as I looked at him.  “Hi, Herk.”

Sure, he had a bit more gray than the last time I saw him.  I’m not going to pass judgment on that.

And his waistline was a bit more filled out.  I’m not going to pass judgment on that.

Also, he had to pee constantly.  Even if it meant on the fridge and the kitchen chair and the wheel of the chopping block table.  As of right now I manage to make my frequent trips to the bathroom just fine.  I guess I’ll have to withhold judgment on that until I’m 105 years old like him.

Once Hercules was recovered, we moved on to serious play time.  It was just the way I remembered it.

Cars.  Provide enough vehicles for crashing into each other and then get out of the way.

Blocks.  You build it, he knocks it down.

Slinky.  Stairs, again, stairs, again, stairs, again.

Pinwheel.  Is there anything cuter than a 3 year old spitting, I mean, blowing on a pinwheel?

For a while Luke was really interested in a tiny handheld clicker, like the kind used for dog training, that he found at the bottom of the Under 5 drawer.  For some reason the Highway Patrol gave away a bunch of these at the State Fair one year.  Allegedly, it was to promote their “Click It Or Ticket” seat belt campaign.  In reality, it seemed like some bizarre test to see how many miles you could drive home before ripping that clicker out of your kid’s hand and flinging it out the window.  Which seems detrimental to their anti-litter campaign.  Anyway, it seemed like the perfect toy to give to a friend’s 3 year old kid.  Until I realized it was only the perfect toy to give to a friend’s kid about 5 minutes before he leaves for home.  Not 2 hours before his mom arrives to pick him up.

When we hit the bottom of the toy drawer, I considered what was in the craft cabinet.

“Do you like Play-Doh?” I asked.

“Yeah.  No.  What’s dat?”

No.  Freakin’.  Way.  No way has my friend raised 2 children and avoided Play Doh.  The mess on the table.  The chunks all over the floor.  Play Doh under their fingernails and ground into their clothes.  That could not stand.

“Play Doh it is!”  I exclaimed.

He had no idea what Play-Doh was, even when I got out the little yellow containers.  First, we threw out all the dried stuff, then we picked dried stuff out of the tools and extruders (unfortunately, we didn’t have the latest and greatest Play-Doh tool), then we went to work.  I showed him how you could form Play-Doh into shapes then smoosh it all up and start over.  We practiced rolling out Play-Doh with the rolling pins so we could make cut-outs.  Of trains, of course.  And every train had to be given creepy eyes on its head with the Play-Doh pencil because well, you know….

We filled the figurine makers and popped out dinosaurs, Bob the Builder, and the Hulk.  Luke didn’t know who the Hulk was but the name made him laugh and he was suitably impressed with his physique.  We went free form and made our own spaghetti with meat balls, ice cream cones, and pancakes.  I suggested making pies but he said he didn’t like pie.  Cupcakes were also vetoed because “dat’s bad for you”.  (????)  Cake was fine but we had to peel the neon orange Play-Doh frosting off the black Play-Doh cake before pretending to eat it.  Yeah, all my Play-Doh was from a 75% off bag of mini-sized Play-Doh containers in Halloween colors, designed to be passed out to trick-or-treaters.  Which is almost as bad as the pencils passed out on Halloween but not half as bad as the toothbrushes that some people pass out.  It’s Halloween, people.  Play the game right or don’t bother.

But, of course, the best part was squeezing the Play-Doh through all the extruders.  The hand held, the table top, the ones that made long, thin noodles of Play-Doh and the ones that thick star-shaped chunks.

I have never figured out if the appeal of extruders to kids is that it is one of the first gadgets that they are given free rein over (heralding their future of remote controls, video games, smartphones, etc) or that once a long strand of shaped Play-Doh is produced it can be cut, sliced, and tortured with a variety of Play-Doh knives.  Some of the Play-Doh knives, excuse me, “cutting tools”, are practically suitable for the Inquisition with their variety of blade choices and brutal edgers.  Regardless, it may be the first knife a child handles unsupervised and supports a whole new generation of humans wielding folding knives and multi-tools.  Is Play-Doh owned by Leatherman, people?  Do we know?  Do we really know?

Of course, the cutest part was watching him push the Play-Doh through the tools.  I forgot how little kids grunted and groaned, clenched their teeth, and pushed until their hands and arms shake with effort, trying to force the Play-Doh through the little holes.  A-dor-able.  Also, I want it noted for the record that I did not first lay out the plastic play mat on the table and insist all Play-Doh stay on the mat before opening the Play-Doh containers.  Nor did I freak out about the mixing of Play-Doh colors.  If black and neon pink Play-doh mixed together is your thing, go for it.  Apparently, I am more laid back as an Auntie than as a Mommy.  Who knew?  We did have to put all the Play-Doh tools neatly back in their container and stack Play-Doh cans back on their shelf in the craft cabinet.  Ditto with the correct blocks back into their box and cars back into the car drawer.  I might be an Auntie but I’m not a Grandma.  There are still some rules.

As we headed outside for the swings on the playground, I wondered about Luke and reviewed our day.  I couldn’t decide if 3 year olds were more advanced now or if Luke was just an old soul.  I thought of how quickly he identified Hercules’ bark outside.  Just a fluke, I thought.  Kid has a dog, kid hears a dog, kid thinks it’s his dog.

Then I thought about how we turned on Curious George for him while I dug out the toys.  Since we don’t have a cable or satellite, we just make do with an old TV and an antenna.  We can get PBS but the picture occasionally freezes or the screen goes blank, flashing “No Signal Found.”  Just as Curious George was about to stop Charkie from dashing into a busy city street, the picture froze.

“Aaagh!”  Luke groaned, slapping his head and threading his fingers through his hair.  Me and Big laughed out loud.  Because it was just like watching an anguished grown man, standing in front of the TV during a particularly horrible fumble by his favorite football team.  When I shoved in a Wiggles video (I know, I know, I’m aging my parenting) that I knew wouldn’t freeze, he looked at me as if I had tried to compensate for him losing $100 in his fantasy football league by turning the channel to a soccer game.  After a moment of stunned silence, he sighed heavily.

“Got Thomas?”  He asked.

Dear God.  That character was created by a Reverend.  What were You thinking?

Then there was that moment when we were playing blocks.  As I built up towers to support the car ramps, Luke kept holding up one of the street sign pieces.

“Ex, ” he said.

“Yep.  Stop sign,” I replied.

“Ex,” he repeated, holding up the sign.

“I know, stop sign,” I repeated as I tried to get the right incline.  Luke got up and carried the sign over to Big.

“Um, Mom,”  Big said.  “It’s not a stop sign.  It’s an X.”

Huh.  Go figure.

Big looked at me funny.  Like if he just realized that for a lot of years I was pretending to listen to him.  When I was really just playing blocks.  Oh well.  His turn at brain-numbing, endless-chatter, years of child raising will come.  Besides, Big had his own lessons to learn during Luke’s visit.

I told Big to put away his new, expensive, fancy remote control helicopter before Luke arrived.  Instead, he left it on the kitchen counter and then actually flew it in front of him.  Luke immediately held out his hand for the remote.

“Now I try it,”  he said.

“Sorry,”  Big said smugly.  “Batteries are dead.”  He learned that trick from me.  But Luke wasn’t fooled.

“OK, den.  Put new batteries in it,” Luke said with a smile.  Hah.  Big took the helicopter and put it away.  Guess he doesn’t like listening to back talk as much as he likes to give it.

But it wasn’t the last time that Luke left us with nothing else to say.  He and I were writing on the chalkboard for a while.  I wrote his name and then he made a few swipes the chalk.  I figured he was trying to make an “L”.

“Dat’s me,” he said.

“Kind of,” I said.  I wrote his name again.  He made a few swipes again.

“Dat’s me,” he repeated.

“Nah,” I said.  “Look, here’s an L for your name.  Luke.”  I wrote his name again.  He made a few swipes.  His marks were close to an “L” but more like a capital “I”.  We went through the process a few more times.  Finally, he put his hand over my hand as I put the chalk to the board.  He looked into my eyes.

“Dat’s me,” he insisted.  I looked at the chalkboard again.  Oh.  I get it.

Very existential, Lukie.  Very existential.

I pondered all these things as I pushed him gently on the swing and Hercules wandered around, emptying his Great Dane-sized bladder in the yard.  Luke hummed softly to himself.  He twisted back and forth a bit, laughing at the sound of the swing chains jingling.  Just a little kid, I decided.  A simple, sweet 3 year old little boy.  Special to me because he was the son of one of my closest friends.  I mean, really close.  So close that last weekend I went along on her anniversary dinner with her husband.  Just them, me, and a fancy restaurant.  Because there are rules about going out with your husband on dates.  You’re not supposed to talk about the kids.  Or the house.  Or work.  All that stuff is unromantic.  Better to invite along a good friend to tell scary disgusting funny EMS stories.  Why settle for romantic when you can be sitting at the table where the people are laughing louder than is appropriate for the setting?  That’s the best table.  Everyone knows that.  As I was thinking about that delicious anniversary meal, Luke announced he was done swinging.

“Wanna go in the barn and see the animals?” I asked as I helped him down and took his hand.  He nodded and then said something that stopped me in my tracks.

“What??”  I asked.  He repeated it.

“Tell me again,” I said.  He did.  I knelt down and looked at him.

“One more time.  What did you say?”  Not because I didn’t understand him.  I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

Luke looked at me seriously.

“Da chickenz not poop on my head like you,” he said slowly and clearly.

O. M. G.

Was Luke reading my blog?  Maybe even a subscriber?  Before we could discuss it further, his mom pulled into the driveway.  They had a long drive ahead of them so it was a mad rush of greetings and an exchange of kids.  I lifted Luke into the back and told my friend he had kept himself dry.  I made sure that Hercules also made it into the back seat.  Because he had not kept himself dry.  I shamed my friend for not introducing her son to Play-Doh, but assured her that I had remedied the problem.  Then I pointed out that he had some Play-Doh ground into the knees of his pants that she’d need to wash out carefully.  Because that’s what good friends are for.

I’m still not sure if Luke is just a little boy.  Or something wiser and more mysterious.  Regardless, he can come back anytime.  Any.  Time.  Seeing as how he’s a fan and all.


6 Responses to “Fan Club.”

  1. Laura
    January 17th, 2015 @ 12:11 pm

    A-dor-able. And fun-ny.

  2. Tanya
    January 17th, 2015 @ 6:30 pm

    Thanks for not mentioning that Hercules peed all over your house, but Luke told me about it on the way home. Thanks for the play doh lesson, because he asked me to get it out 50 times today… Sorry about the chicken poop comment from him, I guess I laughed too hard at your last post and he remembered it…

  3. admin
    January 17th, 2015 @ 7:01 pm

    Don’t buy him any Play-doh!!! Me and the kids are picking out a huge box of play-doh and accessories for a late Christmas present. I am searching stores for the special Play-doh extruder. Muwhahahahahahaha!

  4. David Lam
    January 18th, 2015 @ 11:30 pm

    I couldn’t figure out the chicken poop comment until I readTanya’s comment. You are right, Luke is exceptional and wise for his age (3). I showed him a Melona ice cream bar over FaceTime many months ago. When Tanya, Gordon and the kids came to visit us in Hawaii this past summer (we are the grandparents), the first thing he asked for was the Melona bar. He remembered.

  5. Lin
    January 20th, 2015 @ 6:26 pm

    Dang. I miss having the kids around to play with Play Doh and Legos and stuff. Sounds like a great day all in all….

    well, except for the dreaded kid videos. Ugh.

  6. Jill
    January 21st, 2015 @ 5:28 pm

    Aunts rule!

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