Washable Paint

There’s comes a time in every mother’s life when she must discover for herself: exactly how washable is washable paint?

Jonah’s been waking up around 6 a.m. all week. He’s doing a bang up job of sleeping through the night (most nights), but as soon as that sun rises (that’d be 5:59 a.m.) he rises with his own brand of hoppy spunk. Room darkening shades be damned!

Collectively, John and I spend a fair amount of time keeping brother Gabriel in bed, so when the J-man scooted into our room at six I blearily rose and followed him to his room. He wanted the iPad. Of course he wanted the iPad. He was hungry. We settled on him helping himself  to a yogurt and some soy milk. I okayed the iPad with the stipulation “nothing trashy.” We were good to go. I stumbled back to bed and slept intermittently—waking periodically to J’s boom boom booming down below (like I said, hoppy spunk)—until 8, when I heard him enter his room and close the door behind him with just enough resolution to concern me. Of course, not enough that I couldn’t doze off for another ten minutes.

But there were unfamiliar noises coming from his room. Nothing terribly troubling, per se, but I knew something was going on that isn’t usually going on in there. At this point I realize that part of the reason I’m so bleary-eyed is that I slept in my contacts, which I never do and I do not recommend, though in this situation, being able to (half-way) see did allow me to more quickly assess the situation.

Jonah met me at the door with a full cup (which probably equaled about 1 1/2 cups liquid proper) of blue finger paint and a drenched paintbrush. I looked down: paint on the floor. I looked at Jonah: paint on his clothes, paint on his face, paint on his legs, paint on his hands. I looked at the wall: yep, paint on the wall in, I must say, a very lovely and free sort of circle about the size of a saucer (I was nearly inclined to “Leave It Like It Is“). Paint on the full length closet mirror. Paint on the closet door. Paint on the closet floor. Paint on the bookshelf. Probably paint on the bedspread, but it’s already blue, so I chose to pretend there was no paint on the bed. O yes, and goldenrod colored pencil scribbles all over the wall surrounding the framed pictures of his his beloved cousins and grandparents.

“Jonah,” I said/sighed/questioned, “what are you doing?”

“Are you very mad?” he replied.

“But what are you doing?” I repeated, still trying to wake up, still trying to make sense of all that blue in all those places.

“I needed to paint my whole room,” he stated. “Will Dad be very mad?”

“Daddy will be upset, but probably not very mad,” I answered.

Come to find out, Rufus and Wainwright* (our very tiny, very mischievous, very invisible, imaginary dogs) told him to do it. That, combined with him watching and rewatching the Casper (the Friendly Ghost) movie, which instilled in him a very real need for his own haunted house.

And can he really be faulted all that much? We left the kid completely alone, unsupervised for two hours. He wakes up at the crack of dawn raring to go and we hand him the iPad. Inspired by Charlie and his remarkable parents Kristina and Jim (read more at We Go With Him)—who collectively walk and bike probably more than a hundred miles a week in order to satisfy Charlie’s need for exercise and movement—I have decided a walk first thing is in order. I have so directed Jonah to wake me when he wakes and we will do it in the cool of the morning when the birds are just coming out, when his jubilant energy is at its most exuberant.

When I told John of my plan, he responded, “Do you think you can do it?” I sure am going to try. We agree it’s just the thing. And maybe, eventually, I will even become a morning person. Nah.

[Postscript: By the way, this particular brand of washable paint is quite washable. All of the blue came up off the floor and the greater part came off the walls. Unfortunately, the blue had set a little too long and you can still see the outline of that lovely open circle the size of a saucer. Kudos also go to Sherwin Williams satin finish paint. It doesn’t claim to be washable, but it comes darn near close.]

*Footnote: Rufus and Wainwright came into on our walks home from school. To keep Jonah on the sidewalk and in my general vicinity (this was before he could remember to look at every street corner before crossing), I tell him stories about the generally naughty exploits of R & W. His first question as we round the corner toward home has invariably become, “What happened to Rufus and Wainwright today?” I must add, in an attempt to cover my own ass, R & W are not always rascals. They have been very helpful in a pinch—like when Rufus squeezed behind our stove to retrieve the car keys Gaba tossed in a fit of wild abandon.

In lieu of physical evidence, here’s the little imp in the woods yesterday, laughing at a song I made up about Jonah Caedmon Estes being all kinds of sunshine and happiness.

About the play

“The play’s the thing,” wrote Shakespeare (via Hamlet). In context:

I’ll have grounds
More relative than this—the play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.

Hamlet’s hatched a plan to surprise the conscience of his uncle, who Hamlet believes killed his father to ultimately gain the throne. I did a little reading (nothing too thorough, just eNotes), and discovered that about ten years after the first production of Hamlet, another play was being staged by playwright Thomas Heywood. As the actors staged a gruesome murder, a woman stood up in the audience and confessed killing her own husband in like manner.

Speaking of plays (but not of murder), Jonah had his own first school production this week entitled Bugz. It’s typical elementary fare. Cute costumes, funny dances, and entertaining one-liners (delivered with consistent verve by the boy playing the Maggot). Jonah and his fellow Kindergarteners (the boys) were Army Ants. He had one line, which probably only his father and I understood: “I hope they have cheese souffle and tuna casserole.”

The play’s definitely “the thing” for Jonah, but rather than revealing the guilty conscience of a murderer, his play is usually about trying something on. It’s about the suit. “I’m going to dress up as Yoda,” he declared the other night before bed. He donned neon green Toy Store pajamas turned inside out. John found him a cane and an old southwestern flannel shirt (also turned inside out) to approximate a ragged robe. He hobbled around on Sophie’s army green dog bed (“the swamp”) and informed us he would be Yoda for sharing time (it was his turn) the next day. He followed through on that, with John’s help, but he went all quiet and lost most of his dramatic enthusiasm.

Yesterday he went all Harry Potter. Disappeared in his room and reappeared having made a two-tone lightening bolt attempt on his forehead. He tried to use a magic marker to make his hair brown, to little effect (thankfully). He cut and taped several pieces of black construction paper to his pajamas for a cape. He even made Harry Potter feet, though for some reason didn’t cut them apart and so was hopping around like he was on a pogo stick until they ripped and he abandoned them for the swing.

Then there’s this funny self-narration he’s taken to using. He’ll go into Jonahland for a spell and spiel off different voices or comments, usually playing them in a loop. Sometimes it’s something that happened at school. A phrase someone said to him at lunch. Sometimes it’s a few lines from a video. This isn’t new. What’s new is the addition of, “said Jonah.”

Example: there’s a girl in his class who’s a little on the bossy side. She drives J batty, and so we talk about her a lot. Mostly about why she makes Jonah crazy and some things Jonah might say to tell her how he feels about it. So while I was making dinner a few nights ago, I heard him say, “You’re not my boss, said Jonah.” And then, “Quit buggin’ me, said Jonah.” (Which happens to be the logo on one of his favorite t-shirts, complete with a big black beetle.)

That’s the kind of play we’re talking about around here. He was great in Bugz, by the way. He knew all the actions, he knew his line, he even sang a little. He, not surprisingly, also knew some of the great lines his classmates delivered. Like the Yellow Jacket: “Don’t forget it folks—it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that sting!” But it was the suit that he truly loved. Who wouldn’t want to wear a camouflage hat with pipe cleaner antennae?

The Gaba Logs, Part Two

I fear the end is coming. G refuses to nap. John and I take turns sitting outside his room to at least ensure an hour or so of “rest” (yeah right, as if), attempting whatever modicum of patience we are capable of that day. I must admit, as I come to expect less, I find it easier not to care what he does, leaving him to his own devices. As long as he stays in the vicinity of his bed.

Today while I was talking to John in his office (i.e. enormous desk in small hallway) after lunch, we turned around to see G at the door with a fully peeled banana, just munching away. After eating most of an entire peanut butter & jelly and half an apple, he had been excused to play until nap time/spend-time-in-his-room time. Hungry to do something on his own, he had quietly drug a chair into the kitchen and managed to peel the banana, extracting the fruit without annihilating it. He quietly showed up to show us his work.

Earlier he helped me make morning coffee. After that, while waiting for the garbage truck, he enthusiastically gathered yard rubbish—twigs, sticks, weeds I’d pulled, fallen leaves, nuts hollowed out by hungry squirrels—and placed it in the bin at the curb. I had him running an entire hour. He carried a large rock that must have weighed at least seven pounds from the front yard to John, who was working at the table on our back porch. And still, no sleep.

Did I say I’d like to take a nap? That John is probably now sleeping on the grey couch? The wind seems to have shifted since I’ve sat here this past hour. In more ways than one. And yes, we have two and half years until preschool.

Meanwhile, Gaba stomps while he counts: One! Two! Free! Four! Five! Six!

The Gaba Logs

Poor Gaba. In the dramatic annals of life-with-Jonah, G’s day-to-day triumphs, tantrums, and wonder fully typical milestones go unannounced, similar to a second child’s baby book I suppose.

Every child is different from every other, and I am averse to making too many comparisons…but really, how can it be helped? Jonah and Gabriel have progressed so distinctly along their own paths, it sometimes feels as though we are parents again for the first time. Maybe every parent feels like this. Maybe parents of autistic children feel it especially. Sometimes it seems like “boy” is the only label they share.

Trucks. Tractors. Buses. Heavy machinery. The boys love the highway for entirely different reasons. The car noise and vibration have always had a soothing effect on J. Driving naps with a hot coffee (or iced coffee) in hand got me through many a morning, and afternoon, and evening in Jonah’s infancy. For G, the highway means looking for lots full of backhoes for rent or a dump truck hauling a heavy load. He lets out a shriek and yells “Arbage guck!” [Garbage truck]. He’s even got J on the lookout for him. If G’s not along and we come upon a steam roller or crane, Jonah will demand I take a picture so G can see it later.

Then there’s the shovels, the rakes and the buckets. G will occupy himself by the hour, with nothing more than the dream of a big hole: “Gaba gig big ole ou-sie” [Gaba did big hole outside]. He likes to dig for worms. He’s figured out that the robins pecking in the wet grass are looking for worms too, and he demands to do the same. He’s stringing words together in longer sequences too. “Jo-Jo take Gaba iPad,” he cries, as John and I look at each other in disbelief. Right. Gaba’s iPad.

Just now he’s settling himself in the space at the base of a tree that is three trees, which I have named The Three Sisters. Before long he’s backing his plastic foot-powered car into the sage with a devilish look on his face. Barring injury, there’s really no stopping this boy child, this baby who’s barely a baby. He’s two-years-old and, as John likes to say, he’s already out of here.


Surgical Leisure

Strange the ways life can give you a break.

Take pain. I recently had minor surgery—though I’ve been told there are no “minor” surgeries, and while initially skeptical of this comment, my point of view has decidedly shifted. Pain provides its own perspective. I’ve never been so happy to be confined to my bedroom. Never have I relished the thought of staying in bed the whole day through. I read, I doze. I drink. I pee. It’s all pretty simple, and I’m loving it.

I just spent a good forty-five minutes perusing documentaries for addition to my Netflix queue. The treasures that await me! Sweetgrass—the story of a family of Montana sheepherders. Into Great Silence: a study of the Grande Chartreuse monastery. Janisof Joplin fame. Araya—the story of three families dependent on the Venezuelan salt trade. Helvetica—yep, it’s a documentary about a font. How great is that? And here’s one for Jonah: To the Limittwo German speed rock climbers race to the top of Yosemite’s El Capitan. And let us not forget Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World. 

Of course it will take me months to make my way through this (partial) list, but it’s the possibility of the thing that opens me up. Not doing can have an expansive effect (or is it the Vicodin?). Leisure. The word is almost foreign to me, but I’m slowly reintroducing it to my psyche. The German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper has a good deal to say about work and leisure. I especially need to consider this thought about work:

The world of work begins to become—threatens to become—our only world, to the exclusion of all else. The demands of the working world grow ever more total, grasping ever more completely the whole of human existence.
Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Like most writers, Pieper really has one thing to say, which he says in a dozen different ways. Here he talks about leisure in his book Happiness and Contemplation:

Repose, leisure, peace, belong among the elements of happiness. If we have not escaped from harried rush, from mad pursuit, from unrest, from the necessity of care, we are not happy. And what of contemplation? Its very premise is freedom from the fetters of workaday busyness. Moreover, it itself actualizes this freedom by virtue of being intuition.

All of this contemplation is possible because my husband is taking care—of me, the kids, the house, the food, his work—for which I am most thankful. I’m hoping the fourth day of recovery is as magical as they say (things really take a turn for the better I’m told by those in the know), because the guy needs a break. But while I’ve got this space to myself, I think I’ll flip on Janis and explore my inner rocker. That woman can sing.