Friday, June 29, 2012

The Money Pit

Did you ever see the movie "The Money Pit"?  In it, Tom Hanks and Shelley Long buy a dilapidated mansion in the hopes of fixing it up, only to find that it is a lost cause.  Throughout their efforts, they manage to lose most of their money, a great deal of their sanity and eventually, their relationship.

If you haven't watched it, you really should.  But the problem is that it was made in 1986, three years after I was born, effectively making it "vintage" and not available almost anywhere.

But guess what?  It's being remade in Iowa-- right here in my house.

Come on over, but do it at your own risk.  Everything's falling apart here. 

We are in the middle of a crazy heat streak, with every day reaching nearly 100 degrees and a heat index only a few degrees shy of the surface of the sun. 

Because my kids are fair-skinned like me, they burn to an oiled crisp after only a few moments in the summer sun and because they are wimpy like me, they wilt and melt into a quivering puddle if not stabilized by artificial arctic air from May to September.  So guess what happened yesterday?

Our air conditioner quit.  Still want to come over?

I thought about having a brief memorial service for it like I did with my beloved iMac, but as I drafted a eulogy, I realized that it was less than glowing.

"For four years I knew and tolerated 'Super High Efficiency 9000' as it struggled to cool our home.  The glory of the warm summer sun was repeatedly tarnished by its costly repairs, darkened by handing over money that could have been applied toward the repair of any of the other dysfunctional appliances in our home that, despite their misbehavior, didn't threaten our health or well-being.  As its health waxed and waned, my patience with its antics diminished until June 28th, 2012, when its manipulative battle came to end, alone and sweltering in the sun."

Decidedly not glowing.

But the fact remains that I can't hold it against the unit too much, because it's in my house's DNA to fall to pieces.  Even before our furnace surrendered last December, it was preceded in death by our refrigerator, microwave, oven, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer and water softener.  Even just last week, our hall bathroom flooded, making that event the 13th time a part of our home was submerged in water not at the hands of my sons, two stacking buckets and an open toilet.

So say a little prayer for us this weekend that "SHE9000" rallies and cools our home like the steely chambers of its icy heart. 

I don't think the dog (or this money pit) can take any more.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ism of the Week

"Mommy, how old are you?"

"I'm twenty-nine." 

"Mom, when I'm twenty-nine and I'm your age, will I be older than you?"

"Huh?  Cael, as you get older, I get older too.  We'll never be the same age."

"But I'll be twenty-nine someday."

"Yes, and when you're twenty-nine, I'll be fifty-four."

"But when will I be older than you?"

"That won't ever happen, honey." 

"Aw... that's not fair!  You're mean.  And smelly.  And you're old."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mail Call

For the most part, it's a challenge getting my kids to truly play.  If those born around my generation thought that we were the products of a technological age, they simply need to look at today's toddlers, iPhones/iPods/iPads in hand, to understand that board games are out and video games are in.

Because of this, Cael and Graham aren't especially interested in using their imaginations.  Sure, they can erect a blanket fort with the best of 'em, but initiating pretend play is often a lost cause.  That doesn't stop me from trying, of course, because if my boys have taught me anything, it is that a person can easily be worn down if the questions are repetitive enough and one's voice is sufficiently whiny. 

"Cael, why don't you guys build a city with blocks?"

"No, Mom.  I don't want to."

"You could pretend to be cowboys again." 

"I don't think so."

"What about using your kitchen toys to make me a meal-- like a real chef!"

"Not gonna happen, Mommy."

Okay, so I may not have the influence I like to think I have.  But I do have one trick up my sleeve that seems to work every time.

"Fine.  Do you boys want to read your mail?"

"Yea!  Graham, let's get our mail!"

I remember vividly walking up to the post office with my mom, who would quickly sort the "real" mail from the "junk" mail and hand me a stack of ads that she assured me were addressed to me.  And even though the Wii and the PlayStation are nearly irresistible, my boys would agree that a glossy advertisement for Viagra beats MarioKart any day.

But the mail had been picked up.

I'd already made the promise, though, so I hunted around the house until I found a stack of Better Homes & Gardens magazines I'd been saving and offered the oldest one up to the boys, knowing full well that they'd probably shred it.  If it bought me even half an hour of unplugged play-time, it was worth sacrificing the sage advice of potted plant tutorials and down-home chili recipes.

Within minutes I heard giggles, immediately followed by the ripping of paper.  The same cycle was repeated.  Voices shouted, "Delivery for you, Sir!" and "Bills, bills, bills.  Nothing but bills!"  Eventually, little feet bounded up the stairs and I saw that each of them had just one paper, torn clean from the magazine.

"What do you have there, Bubba?"

"It's a silly kitty!"

Graham proudly displayed the cat litter ad he'd chosen as his "mail" for the day.

"Oh, that is a silly cat.  Cael, what do you have?"

Silently, he gazed at his paper.  The "Ten Minute Workout" guide showed three steps to better health with a scantily-clad woman demonstrating the exercises. 

"You liked this one?"

"She's not wearing a shirt, Mommy!"

"Well, she's wearing workout clothes.  Maybe you should find a different piece of mail."

"But her shorts are SO short." 

On to plan B.

"Who wants to play MarioKart?"

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning

Today's post is rather short today, so I'll offer my apologies now.  You see, I'm running rather short on rest these days ever since Graham decided that he'd like to one-up the current world record for most consecutive days without sleep.

And truth be told, if he found himself awake at 3am, or 5am or even 7am, a wake-up time I'd be beyond thrilled to see again, he could play quietly and not disturb the rest of the house.  But that simply wouldn't do.

His first order of business is assault all of the electronics in their room as well as the mini-blinds.  Once that task is complete, the room blanketed in darkness and the CD player skipping relentlessly on a classical lullaby, he wakes Cael and then all hell breaks loose.  They bound around the house, almost always pausing to take all of the discs out of the DVDs and Wii games because, well, because they can, and then stampeding upstairs to wake me in the most jarring manner possible.

This morning they encountered Joel as he was preparing to leave for work, and he kindly supplied them with a small bowl of chocolate Cheerios as a snack in an effort to buy me an extra few minutes of slumber before they'd down the pot rack or blow up the gas stove.

But this morning I woke up to a feeling.  Nothing tangible, just an overwhelming sense that something was going down.  I immediately noticed that my bedroom door was closed and I slowly tiptoed out into the kitchen to find them, wide eyed, in the center of the kitchen.

If their eyes were wide, mine were like saucers.  They both stood, pantless, with their feet crushing a heap of trampled Chocolate Cheerios.  Nearby, a trail of small foil wrappers led to the open pantry cabinet where the bucket of miscellaneous candy (from Easter and other celebrations) had been pilfered and ransacked along with the other contents of the closet, as though Graham were attempting to slave away in the kitchen assembling a gourmet meal of hollow chocolate bunnies, Mediterranean couscous and canned Vienna sausages.  Only then did my eyes trail to Cael, who revealed a pair of scissors in one of his frozen hands, and a bag of campfire marshmallows in the other.

Oh,and Graham wasn't wearing a diaper, either.

But the clock said 7:18am.  Hooray for small big victories... and big clean-up efforts.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Restaurant Wars

We've been having some restaurant confusion in our family lately.  We go out to eat with relative frequency, and my children can recognize most restaurants and businesses by their sign or store facade. 

When it comes to stores, the ones we visit the most are never confused.  Target, Walmart, Kohls, JCPenney, Menards.

But for some reason, both Cael and Graham have been having a difficult time retaining the appropriate names of our area restaurants.  And although you might think that by now I wouldn't be surprised by my boys' shenanigans, they have continued to surprise me. 


"Mommy, when are we going to see the monsters again?"

"What monsters?"

"The MONSTERS, Mom.  Those dirty monsters in the water at 'Red Monster'."

"Oh, do you mean at 'Red Lobster?"

"That's what I said, Mommy!"


That one was cute.  I could even overlook the blatant denial of his mistake because his slip was kitschy enough to give him a pass.  But sometimes the boys' mistakes are simply confusing.

"I think we should eat at Mindy's house!"

"Cael, I don't know a Mindy."

"Yes you do.  We ate there one time.  At Mindy's house!  And she made burgers!"

PhotobucketI actually sat back for a moment to ask myself if I did, in fact, have a friend named Mindy that I'd simply dropped from my memory because my brain was too bogged down with memorized Dora The Explorer dialogue or lyrics to "cheeky" Thomas The Train ditties.  And even though I was pretty confident that I was right about this one, the evidence-- the fact that Cael knows the exact whereabouts of the television remote, or can recall the stitch pattern of the shirt he wore on Tuesday, January 16, 2010-- gave me reason to pause.  But alas, there was no Mindy to be found in the recesses of my mind.

"Cael, we don't know a Mindy, and there is no restaurant called 'Mindy's."

"You don't remember her, Mom?  She had red hair and they made good chocolate ice cream in the yellow cups."

"Are you talking about Wendy's?"

"That's what I said, Mommy!"

PhotobucketIt was clear that I'd have to be more discerning when analyzing their daily banter.  Maybe I could pick up on a clue that would help me decipher their conversations.  Unfortunately for me, Graham was next to strike.

"Boys, where should we eat tonight?" 


"Nope, Cael, let's try and choose a place that has real, good food and not just a plastic play yard.  Graham, where would you like to eat?"

"My fav'rite place is Damnit City!"

"Excuse me?" 

"Yep.  That 'damnit' place!"

"Watch your mouth, baby.  Cael, do you know what he's talking about?"

"Duh, Mom.  He's talking about Granite City."

"OH!  Of course."

PhotobucketThere's nothing cuter or more novel than a toddler audibly swearing because he just really, really wants quality chicken strips.

"Graham, did you mean that you want to eat at 'Granite City'?"

"Ugh, Momma.  Dat's what I said!"

Of course it was.  Any more attitude and I'm feeding them to the "monsters".

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Preferential Treatment

It's well known that children go through phases, and my kids are certainly not immune.

We had the tractor phase, the Mickey Mouse phase, the train phase, the dinosaur phase and most recently the hunter/"outdoorsman" phase, and each time the phase has overstayed its welcome and I've been grateful to wave it goodbye and usher in a new era of obsession.

The last few weeks, however, have dragged us through the "Mommy vs. Daddy" phase, and while it does provide a bit of an ego boost to the preferred parent, it makes the other feel like second choice.  And I guess that's fitting because, in fact, we are.

You see, Cael is ALL about Daddy these days.  When Joel is at home they are attached at the hip; Cael follows Daddy around with a decade-old decommissioned cell phone and pretends to be involved with his "work" and has taken a liking to any food, television program or extra-curricular activity that Daddy deems worthy.

But when I make a move to hold his hand-- oh, how all hell breaks loose. 

"Mommy!  I don't want to hold your hand!  I'm a MAN like Daddy!  Daddy doesn't need you to walk him to the car!"

"Mommy, I'm going to take a shower all by myself!  And I'm going to wash my hair and my tummy and then I'm going to drive to WalMart and do something with Daddy."

"See?  I don't need you Mommy."

Ouch.  I have to keep reminding myself that it's not personal, and it's not permanent.  Besides, if the kid has to be enamored with someone, I guess I should be grateful that he's modeling after his Dad and not someone with lesser values or even worse boundary issues than Cael already exhibits.

The good part of this debacle is that Graham, in contrast to Cael, is hooked on Mommy.  All day long he tells me of his undying "wuv" for me and begs for "squeezy hugs" while dousing me with slobbery kisses.  And as much as I appreciate his affections, I'm feeling desperate for some personal space again and a few early morning moments not spent with a toddler pressing a urine-soaked diaper up against my side because he refused Joel's offer to change it.

But even the sleepless mornings and exhausting grocery trips are worth it when that tiny boy looks at me with eyes that shine with nothing but love.

"I wuv you, Mommy."

"You wook wike a princess, Mommy!"

"Can I has big, BIG hugs and tisses?  Because I fink you're perfect, Mommy."

So while I'm bothered that my oldest only has eyes for Daddy, I can still bask in the glow of Graham's affections. 

And that's better than tractors, trains or dinosaurs any day.

Ism of the Week

"Mommy, did you know that I'm a grown up?"

"Really, you think so?"

"Yep.  I'm soooo big."

"Are you going to get a job, then?"


"Grown ups have to work, you know.  They have bills to pay." 

"Nope, I'm not gonna do that."

"Then how are you going to pay for the things you need?" 

"I'm gonna be like you, Mommy.  My job will be to sit on the couch and play with Graham.  And I'll eat and read a book and talk to people on the phone and drink Diet Dr. Pepper."

Whoa... low blow.

"Who is going to do the laundry and cook the food?  Who will wash the dishes and change diapers?"

"I don't need to do those things, Mommy.  I have you for that."

I hope he offers a dental plan.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thumbs Up!

I think I read once that babies (and baby animals) are cute by design.  They have features that we instinctively find endearing and cause us to want to protect them not only from predators but to prevent us from putting them on the curb with a "free" sign when they drive us crazy.

And now that I have kids, I totally get it.

 Not only are Cael and Graham a perfect genetic blend of Joel and me, but they possess a perfect combination of skills that have been genetically engineered to irritate the daylights out of me.  And what's worse is that they find it so, so funny.

I could tell them knock-knock jokes until I'm blue in the face.

I could make a funny face and hop on one foot.

I could sit them down in front of the television and show them both Hangover movies back-to-back and I wouldn't get a smirk.

But let them shout about their thumbs at the top of their lungs while trapped in the van, and they are set for life.

Watch out, Hollywood.  There's a new comedy duo in town.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Celebrate Good Times (Come On!)

We had a busy weekend. 

My birthday was on Saturday, and after being reminded of the event on Thursday, I mentally geared up for the last official year of my twenties.  I say "official" because, for the first time in my life, I feel the magnetic pull of my thirties tugging me to the top of the proverbial hill that I will eventually topple over, and I can't guarantee that I won't be 29 for the next six or seven years. 

You just play along.

And for what I expected to be a real non-event, my birthday turned out to be a pretty big event.  My sister Amy and I had an amazingly rich and authentic lunch at a tiny French patisserie and I gorged myself on French cheesecake before trying on random dresses at a store.  I get such limited time away from the kids, so I was eternally grateful for an afternoon of silence and was glad to spend it with Amy.  Joel just doesn't have the coloring for a leopard print halter top.

The portion of the day that I influenced, dinner, was ironically the part that made me feel more like 79 and less like 29.  I'd asked to eat at one of my favorite restaurants; a place that serves up amazing flatbread pizzas, and after a forty-five minute wait in the stifling heat,  we were finally seated.  I opened up the menu and gaped in horror.  Yes, horror.  Yes, about flatbread pizza.

Did they remove my favorite item from the menu?  Yeah.
Did they eliminate my two back-up favorites as well?  Yeah.
Did Graham cry through the entire meal?  Yeah.
Were the people seated next to us three-sheets-to-the-wind and shouting profanities two feet from my sons?  Yeah.
Did they seat us in a crowded, wood floored and paneled banquet room designed to amplify sounds?  Oh, heck yeah.
Did my husband, in an effort to quiet them while appealing to their raucous nature, carry Graham over and ask them to lay off the language so that our youngest wouldn't "drop an "f bomb" during church on Sunday?  Hrmph.  What do you think?

But even though dinner did not play out the way I'd imagined, I came home to an even bigger surprise.  My husband, never one to pass up the opportunity to surprise me, had ordered a beautiful cake from a local bakery because he knew how much I enjoy beautiful desserts but also knew I'd never devote the time needed to make one for myself. 

So my family sang, showered me with generous gifts, and as we called it a night, I looked out the window to see a complete double rainbow that was so pretty it almost inspired me to make my own viral video in which I'd hoot, holler and probably wail on about my longing for Mediterranean flatbread pizzas. 

I swear it was complete.  I was just too close to capture the whole thing in one shot!
Instead, I took a picture, went it the house, and hugged my boys as my husband tucked them in bed and I soaked in the tub.

I think I'm going to like being 29 for the next seven years. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ism of the Week

"Mommy, you have a really long nose."

"Gee thanks, Cael."

"You're welcome.  And you have really wide legs."

"Yeah, I'm aware of that."

"And your hair is messy."

"It's not, really.  It's just curly.  But Cael, these aren't nice things to say to people.  Those things hurt my feelings."

"No Mommy, it's okay.  Because I'm handsome and smart and silly and everybody loves me."

"That's very true, but that doesn't really make me feel better about the bad stuff you said about me."

"Oh, sorry.  There just aren't any bad things to say about me." 

I'm taking Monday off for my birthday (which is actually tomorrow) so I will be back on Tuesday.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Many Faces of Graham

Cael has a pretty limited awareness of his internet "fame".  He knows that I share stories about him on a blog, and he is confident that all of my readers find him handsome and incredibly alluring.


He's not wrong, of course.

But Graham is adorably clueless.  He's too young to grasp the concept of the internet or even appreciate his own cuteness yet, but yesterday he finally sought equality in my postings.

As I was preparing my "Ism of the Week" which I will post tomorrow, Graham caught a glimpse of "The Many Faces of Cael" and immediately demanded to participate.  So, in the interests of fairness, I present the many faces of Graham.

"Baby, do you want to show me the faces Cael made?"



"Do you want to do different faces, or the same ones?"


Riiiight...  so, same?

"Okay, show me a surprised face."



"How about an angry face?" 



"And 'happy'?  I know you can do that."



"Now be 'sad'."



"Can you be 'embarrassed'?"



"Cael also did 'confused'.  Can you make that face?"



"What about 'skeptical'?"



"That was interesting.  Can you be 'ecstatic'?"



"Or maybe 'confident'?"



"The last one Cael did was 'overwhelmed'.  Let's see it!"


Photobucket"Great job, Grammy!  You're very smart and handsome." 

"You like my pittchers, Mommy?"