Because I am the cool aunt - or possibly because I am insane - my response to this was, "Why don't you send him to me one morning a week."
Thus began my mission to become a brilliant school teacher, guider of the young, and fosterer of learning bliss. Or, you know. My mission to keep the Monkey child alive, for six hours, without feeling the need to set my hair on fire during the process. And really, with a kid like Monkey Boy, it hasn't been that difficult. Oh, we've had our meltdowns. We've had some battles relating to the noise level of the keyboard in my living room. We've had serious discussions about why it is very, very naughty to stick toy cars into the VCR. But for the most part, we've had a lot of fun.
This is going to be long. There's no hope for it. You'll have to forgive me. Or quit reading. Whichever you prefer.
A couple of weeks ago, we had our first "school" session. I say "school" because I think Monkey boy spent more time trying to tackle the Super Duper Cooper Pooper Puppy than he did anything else. Yes - we did letters. We did numbers. We did flash cards. We even cooked. But for the most part, he did things like this:
Then there was some of this:
I'm not sure whether they were having a fight for dominance, practicing some new kind of Monkey-Dog arm wrestling technique, or displaying a sign that they are truly in love.
Clearly, something was going on here.
Then again, today, the kid told me that "Dogs can talk!"
"They can?" I asked.
"I can talk to dogs!" He responded.
Obviously we need to get some kind of expert in here. If this kid can talk to dogs, he's worth millions.
And then there was this.
How I love to see this. My two favorite boys, coexisting peacefully. It's moments like these that give me hope. Some day, these two will be best friends. I can make the Monkey walk the Super Duper Cooper Pooper Puppy, and he'll be glad to do it. I'll be able to take them both outside, hand the Monkey a ball, and tell him to play fetch - Cooper will be thrilled, and I'll be able to put my feet up, drink a wine cooler, and bask in the success of my Tom Sawyer like manipulation.
Just kidding. Mostly.
Needless to say, Monkey Boy and Cooper are tight. Unfortunately, Cooper is not conducive to much learning - unless the Monkey really is talking to dogs, in which case we don't even need to bother sending him to school because he'll grow up to be independently wealthy, have a book deal, and probably a television show.
Of course, this is also the kid who thinks that fish are sad in the water and should be taken out. But I digress.
This morning, Kelly showed up on my doorstep with the Monkey Boy, decked out in his grubbiest clothes. She told me to go to town.
Intent on making sure the Monkey had a lesson other than zoology today, Cooper found himself a comfortable spot outside on the patio. (You know... there's just something fishy about that sentence. Must. Resist. Urge. To. Use. More. Animal. Words.)
Either way, there was much fun to be had. We did some letter writing and some addition. That is, after I convinced him that 10:00 AM was not, in fact, lunch time. We had a curious conversation. After sitting down at the table with his Kashi (he'd nicked it from his bag), he told me that it was lunch time. I explained that no, lunch time would be closer to 12:00. He then told me, "But I have to eat lunch now so I can burn off some energy!" Giggling, as I recalled Kelly saying that he needed to burn off energy at least once a day for the past three years, I tried to explain that he couldn't burn off energy if he was sitting at the table. "I AM burning off energy!" He insisted. "I have to eat this lunch so I can burn off my energy!"
Something tells me that the kid has the concept a little backwards. But once we got past that, we got down to work doing letters.
His Q was particularly impressive.
We learned that it's hard to write well while sitting on the floor.
We learned that red magic marker will, in fact, be rubbed off legs with only spit and a finger.
But hey. After on particularly long red mark, he looked at it and said "Hey, does that look like a 1?"
I'm counting it as a victory. Excellent number recognition my boy, excellent. Now hold still while I lick my fingers and start scrubbing your legs.
Next, we tackled the thing that Kelly sent him to me for. Painting. Monkey Boy had never painted before today. Kelly was afraid of the mess. And up until a few months ago, even I would have questioned his ability to use paint without doing something silly like, oh, painting the dog.
I painted the dog the last time I did a major painting project. He got in my way and had a stripe down his back for weeks. Does that make me immature?
Anyway, somewhere along the line, we determined that I was better equipped to deal with painting mess without panicking. I'm not sure why this is, really. I am, after all, the Obsessive-Compulsive of the bunch. Am I not the one who nearly has an aneurysm every time she has to use a public bathroom? Do I not compulsively alphabetize? Am I not the one who likes to vacuum in straight lines? Oh well. Life is funny that way. I figure, kids are messy. And I happen to love this kid. So I can deal with his mess.
All that said, painting was a MASSIVE success!
I trekked to Michaels yesterday in search of something wooden and paintable, and I came out with a tiny wooden truck, two miniature birdhouses, and a foam fish. He painted one birdhouse and the truck. Both of them look a little as if they've been stain-glassed. Actually, the little birdhouse is kind of pretty.
I report success on the apron/smock wearing front as well! After being told by Kelly that he did NOT like smocks, I set out to find a way to convince him that he should wear an apron while painting. At first, he told me that he didn't LIKE to wear them - but after explaining that it was kind of like a bib for painting, he got right on board with the idea.
He did a great job washing out his brush in the water and wiping it on the newspaper, and he used every single color in his paint set.
Kelly reported that he didn't put down his house and his truck the whole way home. He must have been very proud of his work. I was just happy that my carpet remained paint free.
Following our exploits with creativity, I determined that it was time to make lunch. My plan was to have the Monkey Boy help make a pizza - it's something he's done before, and I know he enjoys it. When I told him of my plan, it was met with a resounding, "I want to eat the cheese!" I smiled.
And then turned around and smacked myself in the forehead, while doing a mental recalculation of my shopping list from the day before.
Wooden toys? Check.
Pizza kit? Check.
Provolone cheese? Um. Houston? We have a problem.
For about two point three seconds, I considered trying to explain to my extremely hungry nephew that there was not, in fact, any cheese. That maybe he'd just imagined the cheese the last time. That it didn't really exist. There's no cheese on pizza! Nope! None at all.
And then I remembered that the kid has a memory like a sponge. Clearly, our only option would be to walk to the grocery store and purchase some cheese.
Luckily, I live within walking distance of a grocery store. But I have to be honest. The prospect of taking a three year old to a store that requires making two street crossings at stop lights to get to was daunting. But, because I was feeling brave - or possibly insane - I decided to go for it. On went the shoes and off we went.
I'm not sure what I was so worried about. Clearly, I had forgotten the fascination that buttons hold for Monkey Boy. I had forgotten that Monkey Boy loves trains, and all kinds of signals. Thus, when we reached the stoplights, and I pointed out to him the button he had to press to let the light know he wanted to walk across the street, and the Walk/Don't Walk sign that would change from a big, red hand into a little white running man, he was fascinated.
So much so that he was a little upset we only got to cross the street four times. Our cheese mission was successful - punctuated by moments of sheer hilarity when he explained to a woman in the check out line his theory about taking fish out of the water when they aren't breathing. Yup. That's my boy. Already charming the ladies.
And when we returned, the pizza making started.
Monkey Boy helped mix. Monkey Boy squished dough. Monkey Boy spread sauce. Monkey Boy laid out cheese.
Monkey boy insisted on trying EVERY SINGLE ingredient - including the flour we used to help keep the dough from sticking to our hands. I tried to explain that four is yucky, to no avail. Some things you just have to learn for yourself. Besides that, the sight of him with flour on his nose was priceless.
He has a real knack for cooking, this one does. I think I shall teach him the art of fine food preparation, move him in, and keep him for a slave. Or not. Come to think of it, my kitchen would be even more of a disaster than it already is.
If you can't tell, pizza making was an unmitigated success.
The funniest part of it all though was this: When the timer beeped, Cooper was in the house. Monkey Boy proceeded to run to the kitchen, followed by Cooper, and squeal with delight. He then immediately flung his arms wide open as if to block the oven. "No Cooper Puppy. You hafta stay away from the oven. It's hot! Get out of the kitchen, Cooper Puppy." He then attempted to physically remove Cooper from the vicinity. It's a good thing the dog is tolerant. He outweighs my Monkey Boy by at least 40 pounds.
It kind of reminded me of the time when the Monkey Boy sat down next to Cooper on the couch while I was rewinding a video for him. Kelly and Dave don't watch VHS tapes, but I have all of my old ones, and was introducing the Monkey to Winnie the Pooh for the first time. Since he only had ever watched DVDs, the concept of rewinding was foreign to him. I explained it. He seemed to get it. Then he promptly turned around and repeated what I'd said to Cooper.
Maybe what he means is that he talks to dogs, not that dogs talk to him. That would certainly be appropriate. Though less lucrative. I guess I'll have to keep schooling him after all.
So, Cooper was protected from my scary oven of doom, and the pizza was quite yummy. I, of course, had no luck in getting the Monkey Boy to eat the pizza right side up. Did I mention that he only eats his pizza upside down? Despite all coaching to the contrary?
The kid is quirky.
I wouldn't have him any other way.
We finished our day with some non-educational Mario Kart. Trust me, we both needed it. After all, we learned a lot today.
By next month, I predict we'll be doing trigonometry. And I'm hoping to teach him to do my economics homework. Do you think Dr. Bucco would mind if it was done in crayon?
I'm going to bed.
Did I mention I love that little Monkey Boy?