Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Goats and things

I taught Miriam how to play (a very basic version of) cat's cradle this evening. It took her a few minutes to get it down but she's practically an expert now and she loves it.

"This is a really fun game!" she said. "How did you learn it?"

"My friends and I played it when I was younger. I don't remember who taught me, exactly, but the game has been around for a long, long time so it could have been anyone."

"Oh. When was the game invented?"

"A long time ago," I told her. "The game is so old that no one really knows where it came from, though I think it may be from China. Speaking of which, there's also Chinese jump rope, which is like cat's cradle but, like, with your legs. I don't remember how to play but my sister had a Chinese jump rope when we were kids."

Wikipedia tells me that in Canada we call it "yoki" but, uh, my family didn't. We always called it Chinese jump rope. Perhaps I'll look into those as well. I just ordered another jump rope kit for the kids because Miriam found the remainder of our last set, which I guess we left in North Carolina when we moved, and strung a rope for herself today and was trying to learn how to jump (which was a very frustrating experience for her, though she did make a lot of progress).

It's time for us to get back into jumping rope again, I guess. I've been meaning to be better at offering my kids physical activity this next school year anyway (aside from let's go for a walk and play at the park) so this is something fairly rigorous but simple enough to just pull out and play with in the cul-de-sac. And goodness knows we need another outlet for our energy.

I mean, we have the trampoline and the swing set and bikes and scooters and a basketball hoop and other little odds and ends but sometimes I just need a foolproof method of wiping the kids out.

Benjamin has been particularly on edge lately. It's been a little rainy-ish lately as well, which I think typically goes hand-in-hand with Benjamin's general demeanor, not because the rain affects him but simply because he doesn't enjoy feeling cooped up. And we are spectacularly cooped up (though we did visit with our neighbour for a minute (from a good, safe distance); they just got back from a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which Rachel thought was an excellent idea. "Then we could have cabin fever in an actual cabin instead of at home!" she joked).

Yesterday he went to the garage fridge to get a yogurt and as he walked back into the house (through the family room, past the stairway, into the dining room, toward the kitchen) he was tossing the yogurt in the air. I didn't know he was doing this. I was in the kitchen doing some dishes.

But I did hear a clatter when he dropped the yogurt and I called out, "I don't know who is doing what but it sounds like someone is tossing and dropping something and that someone had better start being a little more caref..."

"No, Mom, it's okay!" Benjamin interjected as he appeared in the doorway of the kitchen. "I only dropped it once. I'm catching it most times!"

And with that he tossed it in the air again...and did not catch it.

This time it exploded on the floor, spraying yogurt hither, thither, and yon.

Very few readers have been in our house but my mother will appreciate this description:

Benjamin was standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room. There was a big puddle of yogurt at his feet with a long line leading to the dishwasher. There was yogurt behind him, leading towards the big window in the dining room. There was yogurt to the left of him, along the credenza (and on the boxes/drawers of the credenza where we keep the plastic dishes). There was yogurt on the stairwell.

The stairwell!

Like, the stairs all the way across the dining room and the hallway from where the yogurt exploded.

He spent so long cleaning the yogurt off the floor that he forgot he had been after a snack in the first place and when he finished cleaning up the yogurt (and that yogurt, and that yogurt, and the yogurt over there) he just wandered off to go play, leaving his half-empty yogurt cup just sitting out.

So that was fun.

And then this morning Zoë screamed a terrible scream and Andrew and I both raced to where she was, ready to reprimand her because she has been very scream-y lately and it's driving everyone a little bit wild. Like, she just screams all the time. She got upset with the kids earlier in the morning and started screaming at them in turn. "You, Rachel, are being so mean and bossy! You, Miriam, are just doing whatever Rachel says and you never do what I say! You, Benjamin, won't let me have anything every way I want it!" This dissolved into incomprehensible banshee screams. It's terrible.

Not that she doesn't have a case. Her frustrations aren't baseless. Being child #4 is not an easy job.

But, seriously, use your words.

Alexander likes to sing Daniel Tiger songs sweetly to her, "Use your words to say how you feel!" or "Take a deep breath and count to four!"

And, like, seriously, she should take that advice because her temper tends to run a little high.

Anyway, Andrew and I raced to the basement ready to reprimand her but also we like to make sure we have the story before we start ripping into our kids. So we said, "What is even going on?" And we may have yelled this because she was still just screaming at the top of her lungs, with her eyes closed and her mouth wide open, so high-pitched. So high-pitched.

"Zoë!" I snapped. "Quiet! Tell us what is going on!"

"Probably nothing is going on," Benjamin mumbled with an eye roll.

"He. Hit. Me!" she gasped out.

"I didn't hit her!" he said.

"LIAR!" Zoë screamed.

"I didn't hit her!" Benjamin said again.

"He hit me with a block!" Zoë said.

"Accidentally," Benjamin said.

"You just said you didn't hit her," I said.

"I didn't hit her...on purpose. She didn't let me finish."

Sure, kid.

"Benjamin, did you hit her with a block?"


"YOU DID IT ON PURPOSE!" Zoë wailed.

She was clutching her hand.

"Let me see," I said and she showed me. Her poor little finger had a big purple welt and a blood blister on it. Maybe. Or was it? "Is this...marker?" I asked her.

"It's from Benjamin hitting me," she said.

"So it is a blood blister. Huh. I just don't see how an accidental hit with a block could do something like this," I mused. "Tell me, what block did he hit you with."

She picked up not a block but, like, a thick dowel that, granted, had been thrown in with the blocks (it's great for tower-building but I have no idea where it came from, really). It's a pretty sturdy stick of wood.

"Benny hit you with this?" I asked.

"Yes," she sniffed.

"She broke one of my towers!" he raged.

"So you hit her with a stick?!" I asked.

"No!" he said. "I didn't hit her! I just, like, threatened her with it but accidentally got too close and whacked her by accident."

Utter nonsense. So he ended up with the punishment instead of Zoë, who got a gentle reminder to treat others' creations with respect (though later in the day I told her that if I heard her screaming "like that" one more time I would wash her mouth out with soap and she was remarkably poised this evening). Now that I think about it, this might be all my fault.

Yesterday I was working on a puzzle in the basement (which Rachel and Miriam started and then left neglected on the table, but which I didn't want to put away without having put it together because then we wouldn't know if we were missing a piece or not (we are missing a piece and I'm not sure why it's better knowing that now rather than finding out later)) and Rachel and Benjamin were really going at it, just pushing each other's buttons.

"Would you two stop goading each other?" I asked.

"We're not goat-ing each other," Benjamin said. "We're just bugging each other."

"That's what goading means. And it's not goat-ing. It's goading."

"Well, I know what a bug is, and I know what a goat is, but what's a goad?" Benjamin asked.

"It's a kind of a stick that people used to use to prod cattle, to kind of get them moving. If you want your animal to keep moving you'd poke it with your goad and it would remember that it doesn't like being poked by the goad so it would keep working. But goading isn't very pleasant so it usually means you're provoking someone or irritating them or bothering them in some way just to get a rise out of them. And you need to stop goading your sister."

"Oh," he said wisely. "So it's kind of a metaphorical goat-stick. I get it."

"Not a goat-stick," I said. "A goad."

"Goat," he said.

And, boy, did he ever internalize the principle of goading. He picked up a lovely little goat-stick and less-than-metaphorically goat-ed his little sister! I should have never taught him about goat-ing.

Now that I think about it, perhaps I should get those Chinese jump ropes because that's a nice physical activity we can do in the basement when it's raining cats and dogs outside and everyone (mostly Benjamin) is going stir-crazy. That child has been driving everyone crazy the past few days.

He and Rachel were at it again this morning (while I was finishing up that puzzle with the missing piece) and I eventually separated them because they simply could not refrain from...going after each other's goat...which isn't really related to the concept of goading at all. But, you know, we could just verbify that and say they were goating each other. So many ways to goat/goad each other!

They were driving each other crazy and they were driving me crazy so eventually I split them up.

Rachel went to read in her bedroom and Benjamin went to draw on the whiteboard.

"I'm going to draw some natural disasters!" he said.

And from across the basement Rachel voice came floating over to us saying, "You're a natural disaster!"

"Would you let it go, already?" I asked. "He's not even talking to you or about just let it go!"

It was not, as she later admitted, her finest moment. But it was kind of a good come back. She's a pretty witty kid.

1 comment: