posts tagged with 'zion'

happy birrrrthday, Zion!

On Saturday, we finally finished up celebrating Zion's birthday with a party for his friends. It was our first ever themed party.

the presents harvey and I wrapped for Zion, and a treasure map

embracing the theme

Since we'd never done one before, our friends weren't sure how we'd manage; and their concern was warranted, since especially in our destroyed-by-tiredness state we weren't really on the ball with forward preparations. For example, I had no idea what I was going to do for a cake until Friday morning. But in the end I was pretty pleased with how it turned out!

a cake: blue sea with island, sea monster, and pirate ship

it looked bigger in real life

Of course, not everything had to be pirate-oriented. Rather than jerked meat we had plain old hot dogs, along with mac-and-cheese and chips. General kid food.

hot dogs cooking on the fiery grill

think it'll be enough?

Not being used to themed parties, the kids were all happy running around after lunch, like they would any other time—the only difference is that lots of them were in pirate hats. I really had to work to get their attention for the planned activities. First they painted telescopes and treasure chests.

the kids, many in pirate hats, sitting on the grass painting

do pirates concentrate on their work?

Next up was a treasure hunt—two treasure hunts, actually, since I didn't want the older siblings to take over all the thinking for the birthday boy and the three other kids he actually invited to the party (there were ten kids total). So the older kids had a picture-based scavenger hunt, while the five-year-olds got to do a real treasure hunt with digging and everything! They only hit each other with the shovels twice (by accident!).

Zion and friends digging by the shed

collaborative digging

The treasure was bead necklaces and chocolate—those Hershey miniatures that look like gold bars. That was Leah's idea, and it was a great one. Finding the treasure stirred up Zion's acquisitiveness, so then we went inside so he could open his presents.

Zion opening presents with friends watching

what is it?!

There was some good stuff, including a stomp rocket that occupied the crowd for the next half hour.

Zion airborne about to land on the stomp rocket

ready, go!

Then his new lego sets took over Zion's attention; lego-building is less communal, but they made it work.

Zion assembling a lego set on the front porch with a crowd around him


Some of the kids—like Harvey—really really wanted to help, but Zion wanted to do it all himself, and we managed to make it happen. He also blew out the candles himself (in three puffs). But we all could share the cake!

Zion blowing out the candles


And also the apple pie that I made on Zion's request, only to have him say, at the table, "actually I meant pumpkin". Oh well.

The party started at noon and was still going pretty strong at 5:00, when we packed up and moved venues—rather than making dinner we thought we'd just head over to another party we were invited to. We brought what was left of the cake and stayed until almost 8:00. So I trust Zion now feels properly celebrated, and can start acting like a five-year-old!


happy birthday Zion

Zion turns five today! Seems like just yesterday we were meeting him for the first time. No wait, no it doesn't! Zion, you're pretty awesome; we're lucky to have you in the family.

Zion at a picnic table holding a carrot

our intense, silly boy

formal "T"

Zion's language is vastly more conventional than it was when he was two—as you'd expect! Except when he's using his cutesy baby voice (which isn't more than half the time) his speech pretty much follows the normal patterns of American English (since we're in Boston he doesn't lose points for dropping his Rs). As he adapts to conventional language, it's interesting to notice examples of hypercorrection he makes—most notably his use of /t/ to replace /d/ when he wants to sound official. "Here comes Spiterman!", as he pronounced very distinctly in his announcer voice this morning.

It makes perfect sense as a replacement. Clearly, he's noticed that our dialect effectively has a /d/ /t/ merger in many cases: in an intervocalic position the two sound exactly the same. He knows when we say "butter" it sounds like there's a D in the middle of the word, but also that it's really a T: a T that one might pronounce when one was being particularly formal. His "Spiterman" T replaces an identical sound—one that just happens to be spelled with a D.

If I were to draw a larger point from his little mix-up, its that we sometimes give kids too little credit: we point out all the things they do "wrong" without very often noticing why they're making a particular mistake—or realizing the tremendous amount of processing and development they're doing in order to come up with a way to systematize the craziness around them.

But never mind that, the real point is that Zion is awesome and I wish I could record everything he says to enjoy later. The things he says when he's not whining, that is.


"yion? yion?"

Leah sometimes feels that she has to go about her daily work with Lijah permanently attached to her—probably because often she does. That's why they call it attachment parenting, I suppose? But as he approaches two years old, he appreciates his brothers more and more. This evening he was delighted when Zion came home from watching video games at a friend's house full of energy and ready to run and wrestle with his little brother; but disappointed when Zion moved on to other things, like eating dinner, looking at a book, and using the bathroom.

"Yion? Yion?!" he asked, with increasing urgency. Zion was happy enough to bolt his food and leave the table—he does it enough on his own anyways—but a little more frustrated when Lijah tried to pull him off the couch as he looked at a book (ok, the new American Girl doll catalog). I'm not sure how he felt about his little brother yelling and banging on the door of the bathroom, but I bet that Leah was thrilled to see someone other than her getting that treatment! Especially as she sat at the dinner table enjoying a civilized conversation with her husband and charming eldest son.

They're all three of them changing all the time. I wonder what next week will bring?


stepping out

Harvey and Zion bowling on neighboring lanes

first time at the lanes

Ollie's birthday was yesterday, and for his party Saturday he invited us to join him for bowling. The boys had never been before, and, while they were excited to be there, they were super nervous at first when it came time to actually roll a ball down the lane. As I expected they would be!

They're generally nervous of new things, both of them, and they may a fear of bowling birthdays in their blood; I still cringe when I remember forgetting, not once but twice, to wait for the machine to clear the pins fully before sending another ball down. I was 10 or 11 and bowling big balls—being away from New England at the time—and it turns out that if the ball hits the sweeping mechanism it stops, and gets stuck down there at the end of the lane. Someone needs to go get it, and the whole thing is very embarrassing.

Of course it's also embarrassing, as a father, to have both your older boys seize up and refuse to take part in a party where they're the only guests. So I encouraged them a little, and I'm proud to report that they both rose nobly to the occasion (much better than I would have done at their age, I'm sure!). Harvey took just one hands-on lesson before he saw that the thing was neither complicated nor particularly scary and he was launched on his own as a competitor in the kids' game. Zion, who as the youngest of the six kids present had to play with the adults, took a little longer to warm up to the proceedings; but after three frames of a substitute bowling for him (twice me and then once Harvey) he had it figured out, and took over for himself. Being Zion, he quickly developed his own way of doing things.

Zion lying down to watch his ball hitting the pins

interesting technique

And not only did they manage to participate, they did surprisingly well! In his first game Zion managed to finish ahead of Bridget—despite rolling his ball so slowly that once it reversed course two thirds of the way down the lane and slowly, slowly made its way back to him (all the other times we saw that when a candlepin ball hits the pins at such a slow speed it bounces sideways among them, potentially doing a great deal of damage). And Harvey won the second of his two games with a score of 92, which was also tied for the highest score of the day by anyone (tied with me, natch; clearly lucky bowling results are also in his blood).

After the bowling and some ice cream we were back at the Stevenses for the birthday dinner, where again the boys impressed. They didn't eat much 45 minutes after giant ice cream cones, but how polite they were!

Harvey sitting next to Ollie and Eliot at the birthday dinner table

birthday buddies

Bowling was the top moment of the day for Zion when I asked at bedtime. Harvey had different choice: playing King of Tokyo with the kids downstairs after the birthday dinner. But he liked the bowling too, and he's asking when we can go again.

And then yesterday morning was the big Kids Church Christmas performance. I don't have any photos because I was busy being in charge of the whole thing, but I can report that Harvey played a pivotal role. He didn't want to act (nor yet sing, under his father the musical director) but he jumped right into his job as set crew, designing sets and painting backdrops under the direction of non-family adults and then volunteering to be a part of the stage crew proper, bringing props on and off stage (ok, a prop; it was a short play). Yesterday evening the play—specifically, painting stars—was his day's highlight, and as he went to bed he asked—again—when he could do it again.

And it seems unbelievable to me, but for next year he's even thinking about pushing himself a little further. "Maybe I can be an actor next year," he told me. "Because I'll be a year older!"

Absolutely! And he's already braver today then he was two days ago; just imagine what he'll be managing to accomplish in 363 more!


this moment

Zion smiling, Lijah moving too fast for the camera, in front of the light blue wall

lighting test

A moment from the week.

the patience of stubbornness

The boys have a hard time resisting the cheap-toy dispensers by the doors of the Burlington Market Basket. We now have a fair collection of tiny plastic dinosaurs, so a few weeks ago Zion switched it up and opted for a blue lobster that grows when you put it in water. You know the type.

I was dismissive, and after a couple hours of soaking produced maybe a ten percent increase in size I was ready to call myself right. "It's only a little bigger," Zion noted. "Maybe it needs more water. Maybe the water needs to be higher."

"I think that's as big as it's going to get," I told him. "You can't expect much for 25 cents."

He wouldn't listen, though, and he wouldn't give up. He added more water to the tupperware where Crabby was soaking (despite living all their lives in New England neither Harvey nor Zion have ever managed to acknowledge the existence of lobsters as distinct from crabs) and left him sitting there on the kitchen table for one day, and then two.

And Crabby kept growing. Twice, and then even three times his original size, his bulk pushed at the sides of his container as he continued his slow, steady growth. I watched in wonder; Zion was merely quietly content. He knew that was going to happen.

I don't know what made him decide at some point to take Crabby out of the water. He sat for a few days on the table: large (well, two inches or so), bulbous, and damp-looking. We had some thoughts that he might shrink again out of the water, but he didn't to any noticeable degree. I only wish I had taken a picture—or better, a pair of before-and-after shots. Zion didn't play much with the post-transformation Crabby, but I suppose he didn't need to: the entertainment we got from him was already worth well more than 25 cents. Zion, you were right!


on poop

This post is about poop. It is only about poop. Not metaphorical poop, real actual poop that came out of someone's butt and spread all over my home and furniture. This post is about how my child pooped over twenty times last thursday, screaming and kicking and running away from me when I tried to clean him off. But I can't start at that part of the story, I have to go to the beginning. Let me back up.

Haha, get it? That was the first pooping joke.

From the beginning of his life, Zion was a baby who only POOPED every few days. But in between he would (poop) tiny little amounts all the time. Every wet diaper had a (poopy) smear, but no big as the POOP which sometimes emerged only with grunting and hiding in a corner. Still, up to age two the difficulty rarely bothered him, and berries seemed to make a healthy difference. I figured I was doing my best and the streaking would stop once he stopped wearing diapers.

Fast forward to potty training. This transition was difficult. Zion is stubborn and he doesn't like being told what to do. It wouldn't be a stretch to say he views his life in our family as some sort of perpetual fight club. So if I tell him to sit on the potty, he hits me. With Zion, the first rule of potty training is WE DO NOT TALK ABOUT POTTY TRAINING.

He decided he didn't like to poop in the potty, so although he was toilet trained for pee pretty early he waited until his overnight diaper to drop one. When we found out his diaper was dry all night (but filled with poop ten minutes into the morning) we stopped diapers all together. This was easier for me because I stopped getting punched in the morning when I said, "It's time to take off your diaper."

But on Zion it was considerably harder.

Harder, get it? That's another joke about poop. Let's laugh at the fact that my child is now constantly constipated.

The past few months have seen Zion saving his POOPS for once or twice a week, and then (pooping) in his undies all the frigging time. Sometimes he goes through five pairs of pants in one day. When I see some spot on my floor or furniture, I look at it sideways and think, "Is this dirt, chocolate, or poop?"

Kind of like a fun gameshow except ending with considerable more wet rags.

The kicker though, (in addition to Zion himself) is that Zion won't eat when he's all stopped up. So he doesn't eat, he's tired and grumpy, and at his last physical the doctor noted that he's dropped down to first percentile for weight.

I explained to the doctor about his POOP and (poops).

"Some kids do this for emotional reasons," the pediatrician said, "but I'd try giving him a stool softener and a laxative to get a clean start."

So last weekend I started the recommended stool softener once a day. One cap full of MiraLAX mixed in with chocolate milk. Unfortuantely, Zion wouldn't drink more than two sips of his chocolate milk, or anything for that matter, so I kept mixing more MiraLAX with more liquids in the hopes that Zion would consume some.

Two days went by with no POOP. On Monday morning Harvey called me into the bathroom.

"I don't feel sick," he started, "but I think I may be sick. Because my poop smells like it does when I'm sick."

"Is it all watery?" I asked.


"Then stop finishing Zion's chocolate milk for him."

On Tuesday I gave Zion a chocolate laxative chew. He didn't poop. On Wednesday I gave him another one.

I was starting to think that Zion had bowels of steel. That maybe he was really and truly holding the universe together with his anal sphincter.

Then the medicine caught up to him and the universe fell appart.

On Thursday Zion pooped his pants while we were out at the Museum of Science. Twice. Then we came home and he pooped his pants immediately upon entering the house. I bent down to take off his shoes and they were covered in poop. That was the first of something like twenty poop explosions. He'd fought me through three baths and countless other wipe-downs, sometimes screaming, sometimes running away, sometimes kicking water in my face like the dog I used to bathe before I had children. There was poop smeared on all the toilets and the floor and we used every single rag we own. Then we used towels. Meanwhile the baby was screaming because he wanted me, or he wanted more attention, or he wanted to put his hand in the toilet. Somehow we survived the night and got everyone into bed. In the quiet darkness Dan and I looked at each other like we'd just been through a war.

I hadn't known until this incident how much emotion Zion had been channeling through NOT POOPING. Not pooping is, I believe, the way he deals with all the tragedy of his current life situation. Not being the baby, not being the fastest, wanting to make his own decisions but needing to sublimate his will to that of his big brother. He loves his baby brother but he's jealous of him too. All that feeling he couldn't deal with he dealt with via not pooping. With the bonus of when he did make a mess Mama had to stop everything and clean it up.

So when the little dictator fell via coup d'exlax he started taking his emotions out on us in other ways. On Friday he pushed the baby down every time he passed him. He kicked each one of us when we tried to touch him, and tried to hit Elijah with the front door. When we got out of the car to go to lunch at the nursing home, instead of walking out to the median strip like normal, he ran ten feet away and hid behind a parked car. I climbed out of the car holding my purse and the baby and Zion was nowhere to be seen. I called, "Zion? Zion where's you?" with increasing levels of panic.

When I found him I was so glad he was alive I wanted to punch him in the face. Instead I yelled at him until I was sure he was crying for the right reasons.

He was too scared to poop in public after that, so we had a lovely lunch. But he shit his pants as soon as we got home. Literally, in the car, in the driveway.

We were having people over for dinner on Friday. I cleaned the bathrooms diligently. I took all the poopy laundry to the basement. Even so there was a lingering smell, and we served food out on the lawn.

While I was eating, Zion ran up to me and leapt onto my lap. Suddenly I felt poop running down my leg. At the same moment of our guests kneeled down to kiss his daughter and realized he had stuck his knee in a small pile of human excrement.

On Saturday Zion napped for four hours and when he woke up he was happier than I've seen him in weeks. Maybe he really did need a cleaning out, or maybe we should NEVER EVER GIVE HIM A LAXATIVE EVER AGAIN. I'm not sure how to interpret the situation.

In reality, I think the issue is bigger than digestion. Perhaps I cannot solve his pooping problem, because he does not just have a pooping problem. He has a LIFE problem. The problem is I straight up f-ed up his life by having a baby. He is mad and he doesn't know how to express himself. Given the opportunity, shitting on everything seems like a good start.


Zion's blue monkeys

When asked what he wanted for his birthday this year, Zion would pout and mutter, "Everything," or "Nothing." Sometimes he would just put his thumb in his mouth and scowl at me. To other people he announced that he was turning two, not four.

The pour child. He has some issues.

Despite his obstinant regression, I still wanted to make Zion a present to commemorate his birthday. I still love him, even if he's not the baby anymore. Even if he craps his pants four times a day and tries to kick me in the tits when I unbuckle his carseat, I still love that little gremlin. He had asked a while back for a sock monkey just like Harvey's, only BLUE, so I whipped up this striped lady.

blue because Zion likes blue

But that didn't seem to be enough, given the emotional intensity of the situation. So I sewed an additional component. Zion had a pair of wool socks he never wore. He is super particular about his socks; they have to be dark blue cotton with scratchy letters on the bottom. Indeed, he's said to me, "Even when I grow as big as you I'll still wear socks with scratchy letters." So in honor of Zion's definitiveness on this and every other subject I took his non-standard wool socks and turned them into a baby monkey.

baby because baby is an important concept in our emotional universe

Mama and baby monkeys both have velcro hands and feet, so that they can hug Zion or each other as he sees fit. It's my subtle way of saying to my stubborn child: You can't get rid of me that easy. Hit me, hate me, my love for you is like mother-f-ing velcro.

i love you Mama monkey

Zion is going to be okay in the long run. I's legitimately hard being four. It's hard not being the baby, being little, being bossed around by the person you love most in the whole world, your dominating older brother. Zion's anger is good and honest resistance to the difficulties he faces. As a resistor myself I want to tell him something like: Go on with your bad self. It's okay. Just come to me when you need a hug. You crazy little monkey.

i love you baby monkey.


Zion starts to turn four

the cake: white frosting with blue sugar and blueberries

blue cake

We had Zion's "friend party" today, kicking off at least three days of birthday extravaganza for our favorite middle child. Should be four days, now that I think about it. Since he's a little brother, the red candle in the cake pictured above is a hand-me-down, but the rest of the cake is blue to his specifications; those blodges on the top are meant to be flowers.

There were 15 kids kicking around at one time or another, but it felt like a pretty small, relaxed gathering. We started off with lunch: spaghetti, chicken nuggets, and quesadillas as requested, plus watermelon and chocolate milk. Ollie made sure to get a good seat for the feast.

Ollie enjoying lunch on a big lawn chair

concentrating on the food

Then we opened presents—we decided to do it before desert when we found Zion sitting on the stairs inside. "I'm lookin at my presents," he told us. From his friends he got bubbles and a golf set, a pirate puzzle, and a popgun that instantly captured his attention.

Zion shooting his new popgun, birthday guests in the background


I didn't have anything for him, but Mama more than made up for me with a pair of beautiful blue sock monkeys (I also expect she got some good pictures that she'll put up here soon!). Both of them are tucked in bed with the birthday boy now, along with the blue cow that Harvey sewed him last year.

I suppose my part in the celebration was the cake, and I had a great time making it with lots of help from Zion this morning. The frosting was a great frustration later, but I'm almost ready to let that go, and I'm grateful to Zion that he happily accepted my icing "flowers", never mind they don't look anything like the ones on the cakes at Market Basket that gave him the idea. I bet they were a lot tastier, though.

While he enjoyed the flowers and the top layer of blueberry cake, though, he saved most of his desert appetite for his true love.

Zion concentrating on his chocolate ice-cream cone

that's the stuff

Over the past couple weeks Zion's been showing some apprehension about his birthday, so we were glad to see him having fun. When I asked him at bedtime what was his favorite part of the day, he said, "my birthday party" (never mind that he could have picked a more specific moment out of the five hours of fun). He also said, earlier, that he didn't want his party to end. I had good news for him on that: there's lots more celebration to come!