Independence and Reality

Hal is at that stage of life when a person desperately wants to be independent but isn’t quite up for the task… yet.  This is in contrast to people at the other end of the spectrum who desperately want to be independent but aren’t quite up for the task… anymore.  There are some remarkable similarities if you stop to think about it.  No one likes to regress.

Hal likes to pour his own milk, which makes me quite nervous.  He wants to get things out of cabinets.  He wants to buckle himself in the car.  And brush his own teeth.  And put the DVD in the player by himself.  And operate the remote.  And walk the powerful, difficult-to-manage dog.  And feed said dog.  And put her in her crate.  Pick his own clothes.  Brush his hair.  Choose the dinner menu.  Pour the salad dressing.

And that last desire brings us to last night.

He hates vegetables.  His only solution to this problem is to insist on Ranch dressing anytime vegetables are served.  Cooked or raw – doesn’t matter.  The only vegetables consumed without Ranch are peas… presumably because they are too small to dip.

Yesterday, he made it clear that he did not want green beans – the most despised of the “regulars” in our house.  Never mind that the green beans consumed on Easter were fresh and lightly steamed and everyone else loved them.  I agreed that we would not have green beans.  I fixed broccoli, cauliflower, and… asparagus instead.

He was not amused.

“I said no green beans!” he protested as he got close enough to the table to see that there were long green stalks waiting on his plate.

“I know.  There aren’t any green beans on the table,” I responded.

He approached his plate cautiously.  “What are these?”

“That’s asparagus.”

“It looks like green beans.”

“Well, it’s not.”

He spied the strawberries on the table and reached for them.

“No,” I said.  “No one is getting strawberries until they’ve eaten all their vegetables.”

For Hal, that meant the single stalk of asparagus, broken in two, a half dozen small pieces of broccoli and cauliflower, 2 raw sugar snap peas, and a handful of raw baby carrots.

“Well, then,” he said, “I’m going to have to have some Ranch.”

“That’s fine,” I said.

An old hat at getting the Ranch out, he headed to the fridge and then returned to his plate.  I didn’t hover nearby.  Big mistake.

“Hal!” My husband’s booming voice drew my attention back to the table from the kitchen where I was filling glasses with water.  “That’s it!  You can’t pour the Ranch by yourself anymore.  You’ll have to get someone to help you.”


That’s Hal, head down and crying.  He’s not crying because he wasted half a bottle of Ranch.  He’s not crying because his Daddy yelled at him, nor because his siblings are laughing.  He’s crying at his loss of independence.  For him, it’s as devastating a loss as an older person losing the right to drive.

The Adventures of Hal

We had dinner at Chick-Fil-A tonight. Our local restaurant hosts “Spirit Nights” for various organizations. Tonight was for Destination Imagination, an activity that Daryl is involved in. A friend and her kids were there as well so we ate with her and her son while her daughter waited tables to help with the fundraiser. Jane stayed home and Daryl was, ironically, at his Destination Imagination practice.

Hal was a little wound up by the time we sat down. As he bounced on his chair, our friend commented how much she enjoyed reading about his antics on Facebook and on this blog. This kicked off a rapid-fire retelling of several of his more colorful tales from her and her young son, all centered around poop.

First, a favorite of our friend:

Jane and Hal were arguing about something that I don’t recall now.
Jane: “I am not going to argue with a four year-old.”
Dad: “You mean you are going to stop arguing with a four year-old?”
Hal: “Doodie Poopie bottom!”
Jane: “Yes.”

Then they talked about the time he rode his tricycle down to the neighbor’s house without permission. When I started to panic that he was missing, he rode back up and calmly announced, “I pooped in my pants.”

Then there was the day I found Hal in the bathroom, donning a pair of the blue latex gloves that we would wear while scrubbing the poop out of his underwear. When I asked what he was doing, he patiently explained to me that Sobo-be-nye-nye, his imaginary friend, had pooped in her pants.

I don’t know if Hal was listening and wanted to give them some firsthand exposure to his adventures or if it’s just not possible for an hour to go by without him entertaining those around him. Fortunately, the new tales do not involve poop. We sincerely hope to have permanently moved beyond those particular adventures.

Hal headed off to the play area while the rest of us sat around the table and talked. At one point, a lady approached our table, pointed at my husband, and said, “Excuse me, but your son is stuck between the slide and the wall.”

We all popped up to where we could see. Sure enough, Hal had managed to wedge himself between the slide and the wall. His face was already red from having been running around and now he was starting to look slightly panicked. His dad walked in and started talking him through it. Most of the dining room was now watching. One man asked me if he was trying to talk him through it or if he couldn’t figure out how to get him unstuck. I told him that my husband was the type of parent that makes a kid get himself out of a situation he got himself into.

Eventually, Hal was freed and resumed his running around. When he returned to the table, he was hot and sweaty and extremely thirsty. First he tried my lemonade but it was empty. He loudly proclaimed himself thirsty and then tried to stick a straw in Jane’s cup that I was going to take home to her. “No, that’s Jane’s,” I said. He loudly proclaimed himself thirsty.

That’s when he reached across the table for the other cup he saw, which belonged to Mary, our friend’s daughter who had finished with her volunteer work and was gathering her dinner before heading off to softball practice. Mary pulled it back and I told Hal that it was hers. He loudly proclaimed himself thirsty.

Now, there’s something you need to know about Mary. And about us. We are not a family that is overly concerned with germs. We will drink out of each other’s cups, share food off the same fork, even share a toothbrush if the situation is desperate enough. Mary is not like us in this regard. She is not the least bit interested in swapping germs with anyone. At all. Period.

Before I had the opportunity to find a solution to Hal’s parched problem, he had reached for the cup again and managed to get his lips on her straw before I pulled him off.

“Mom,” said Mary. “I need a new straw.”

So… I stole her straw and put it in Jane’s cup and then let Hal drink some of Jane’s tea, the whole time wondering what Mary thought of me giving Jane a straw that both Mary and Hal had touched. Oh, well. When you live with Hal, you do what you gotta do.

The Continuing Saga of Jane and the Microwave

As I was preparing my breakfast plate for the microwave this morning, Jane jumped ahead of me and put a small apple-juice bottle full of ice in it. This is the bottle that she deliberately partially fills with water and places in the freezer so that she can have cold water at lunch.

“Why are you microwaving that?”

“Because I want to melt it.”

“Well you just prevented me from fixing my breakfast,” I said as I stopped the microwave, removed the ice bottle, and added my plate.

“And me too,” added her dad.

“Well, fine! I won’t melt it then.”

“Why would you want to melt it anyway? I thought the point was to let it thaw slowly so you’d have water at lunch?”

“Because I wanted it melted!”

“Then why did you freeze it?” asked her dad.

“Uggh! Because I wanted it frozen but now I don’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because I want to put apple juice in it.”

“No,” said her dad, “you can take the water. Besides, you don’t put a bottle like that in the microwave with the lid still on it. It’ll explode.”

“It will?”

It still amazes me how many fundamental microwave mistakes she makes. I don’t recall my mother having to teach me to use the microwave. I think I will write an instructional manual for the boys based on their sister’s mistakes. Here is what will be in it so far:

1) Ask a parent or another adult for a suggestion on how long to microwave your food. You do not yet possess the skills to make this estimation on your own. Three minutes is a long time for a single slice of pizza.

2) Do not reheat items in Ziploc or fold-over sandwich bags, especially if you haven’t opened the bag. You will most likely melt the plastic onto your food and it is never a good idea to eat plastic.

3) Do not place bottles or storage containers in the microwave without first removing or at least unsealing the lid. Failure to do so will likely cause an explosion. This may sound really cool and exciting to you. Just remember that you will have to clean up the resulting mess.

4) Never, ever attempt to microwave clothing to get it dry or warm. This will start a fire and destroy the microwave. Now that you have been warned, you will be required to purchase the replacement microwave if you do this.

5) If you are uncertain on how to proceed with the microwave, do not ask your sister. She is not to be trusted.

Soggy Animal Crackers and Charred Jackets

Jane is enjoying having access to a microwave at school this year. Yesterday, she took two slices of pizza for lunch. Today she took scrambled eggs and sausage. The eggs were in a square container that she put on its side in her lunch bag. The box came open. The eggs spilled out.

“And that’s why I didn’t get to eat my animal crackers.”

“Why didn’t you get to eat your animal crackers?” I asked.

“Because they were all soggy.”

“Why were they soggy?”

“Because we don’t have any Ziploc bags except the gallon size.”

“That’s funny,” said her dad, “I got a quart sized bag out of the cabinet for Grandma Dot just this morning.”

“Well, we don’t have snack size.” (She had used a fold-over sandwich bag instead.)

“You could have used a quart sized bag.”

“But they are too big and why would I use one anyway?”

“So your animal crackers don’t get soggy,” we said in unison.

“No, my animal crackers won’t get soggy if I don’t put the box on its side. Oh, and I almost caught the microwave on fire yesterday.”

“You certainly have a talent for that. How did you almost catch the microwave on fire?”

“I put the pizza in the microwave still in the bag. The bag was all shredded when I was done.”

“Did you open the bag before you microwaved it?”


“I think maybe she doesn’t need to take leftovers to school until she has completed some remedial microwave usage training,” I said.

“I don’t know,” replied my husband, “She’s not microwaving her jacket anymore. That’s quite an improvement.”