Thursday, July 25, 2013

Seattle or Bust

As if things aren't consistently chaotic in my home, we are now in frantic mode as we prepare for a trip to the Seattle area to visit Joel's family.  Save for a wintertime flight when Cael was barely two months old, we've never attempted to squeeze the boys' larger-than-life personalities into the cabin of a Boeing 747. 

Prayers go out to the people sitting next to us.

As Saturday's flight approaches, I'm doing my best to organize our belongings so effectively and efficiently that we can carry on everything and not have to incur any checked bag fees.  And while most of me is pretty well certain that the experience will be horrendous and might replace water-boarding as an effective torture method, I have to admit that the Type-A part of me lives for the opportunity to make lists, cross off achieved tasks on said list, and for the satisfaction of zipping up that last suitcase knowing that everything is included and arranged precisely.

Until I realize that Graham shoved the cat in the suitcase, of course.  After unburying him, the shirts have usually lost some of their luster.

I guess I shouldn't complain that the boys want to help, but their brand of "help" isn't usually very helpful at all.  Just yesterday, as I was reading through my bag list (yes, I made a list of each bag and its contents) I noticed that Graham had made a few additions to the list that I had apparently omitted.

It is during moments like these that I refer back to my iPhone's extraordinary autocorrect feature.  I still maintain that my phone, perhaps angry at me for its accidental swim in the toilet, jumps at every possible opportunity to change my typos into laughable and often inappropriate suggestions. 

Thanks to this overzealous smartphone feature, I will be sure to include "juggleguppies", a spittoon and a tit mouse in our activity bag.  That won't make the flight weird at all.

Seattle, here we come.

(Because of our trip, I will be taking next week off from blogging, although you are welcome to follow along with our adventure on my Facebook page or through Instagram photos.  I'll be back on Monday, August 5th to share the whole story!)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


This afternoon, my husband, my kids and my nephews are all headed out for a "man-camp", and my boys couldn't be more excited.  True, their real enthusiasm comes from the knowledge that when no women are present the rules are lax, and as the frequency of bathing goes down, the frequency of bodily functions seems to go up.

While he was packing up the gear this morning, Joel chatted with Graham about their plans for the trip.

"Graham, are you excited to go camping with the boys?" 


"And are you going to grill meat and cook over the fire?" 

"Yes!  And Daddy, I want to eat bikinis!"


"Yes, I love bikinis!  They are so good.  They taste so good."

"Wait, Graham-- bikinis?"

"Yeah, that green vegetable that we ate the other day at dinner."

"Oh, zucchini!"

So good luck, boys, roughing it tonight.  I wish you no mosquito bites, the freedom to scratch without persecution, and the most delicious bikinis in all the land. 

I'll be in the jacuzzi tub with a mojito.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Coming Attractions

Happy Monday!

Wait, what-- it's Tuesday?  Very sorry.  On Sunday I was stricken with either a barely tolerable migraine or the worst plain ol' headache I've ever had, which kept me in a nearly-delirious haze until this very morning... whatever day this is.  Sorry for the absence.

Cael's first movie, 2010.
It's too bad, because there is just a handful of days left before my kids return to school, and there were so many other things I'd rather be doing in the last few weeks of summer.  I'd wanted to go mini-golfing with my nephews.  I'd wanted to visit Adventureland, our local amusement park.  And likely the most achievable activity, I'd wanted to go see a movie.

Even though that might have been the easiest option, there are very few movies in theaters today that resonate with me.  I don't plan to fight zombies; I have enough battles with my five year-old.  Although Graham moves at the speed of smell when I ask him to complete a task, I'd hardly describe him as a computer-generated snail.  And as much as he fancies himself a superhero, Cael is no man of steel.

Sometimes I wish one of the big production companies would come out with a movie that truly shows what daily life is like with a house of full of kids and a grating migraine.

But then again, if you want something done right, you often have to do it yourself.

Not even popcorn or Excedrin Migraine will help you now...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dear Outdoorsmen

Dear Gander Mountain,

I'd like to begin this letter with an overdue apology.  For many years, I loathed your existence and your unparalleled ability to draw my husband in your doors.  I, along with many other unsuspecting women, did not (and admittedly still do not) understand the magnetic pull of your many outdoor products and athletic gear, but today I must say "I'm sorry" and additionally, "thank you".

Please accept my apologies for the many disparaging words I've uttered about your store, like comparing my spouse's interest to "the inability of a drug addict to simply walk away from a cocaine sample display" or your halls to "a half-way house for men who think they are Bear Grylls".  My husband does not think he is Bear Grylls.

And I'm sorry.

My gratitude comes after the welcome discovery that my husband's preoccupation with your store has lead to an acceptance of my preoccupation with Target and Ulta.  Now I can wander the halls of Target, lulled into a dream-like state by its modern home furnishings and affordable clothing, without fear of persecution for my actions.  You've brought a whole new kind of equality to my marriage.

So, thank you.

Might I simply ask that, when contemplating changes and additions to your store-brand tents, you consider using materials that not only seal out water, but allow for more air-flow when closed?  My two young sons, already fans of your manly gadgets and child-sized weaponry, are enthusiastic about future hunting and camping escapades.  But said children are also fans of Mexican food and baked beans, and as their mother I am expected to share this small enclosed space with them.

Perhaps some mesh venting is in order?

Mary Foreman

P.S.- Your rarely used women's restrooms are always sparkling clean.  Keep up the good work.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ism of the Week

"Is it Amy's birthday yet?"

"Yep, it is!  Today is her birthday!"

"Today?  Wow!  How old is she?"

"Well, she's"--

I'm no idiot.  Let's not go there.

"How old do you think she is?"

"She is nineteen!"

"You think so, Graham?"

"Well I think she's thirty eleven fifty one sixteen and two."

"Whoa, that would be really old.  Do you think Amy looks that old?"

"No!  Then she's twenty-two, I guess."

"How can you tell that she's twenty-two?"

"Because she's pretty and she smells good all the time.  And when you're twenty-eight you start to smell bad.  And your hair is green."

Happy Birthday, Amy!  You make twenty-two look good. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Every Day a Holiday

Somewhere along the parenting road, I got into the habit of proclaiming every day to be a holiday.  Not in the sense that I was embracing every day to be a joyous maternal experience (because let's face it, when there's spit-up in your hair and your shirt is on backward, joy is the last thing on your mind) but wielded as a tool to turn around a disastrous car ride...

"Cael, guess what?  It's 'Silence Day'!  For the next ten minutes, no one in the whole world can talk!  Ready?"

...or to put an end to a lengthy dinner...

"Graham, did I tell you that today is 'Vegetable Day'?  Today only, if you finish your vegetables, you'll grow twice as many muscles as you normally would?"

...or even for my own twisted pleasure.

"Boys!  It's 'Help Your Mother Day'.  What would help me the most right now is a cookie and a diet soda.  Think you can make that happen?"

While my fictional holidays have been quite effective, they have the unfortunate side effect of making me very skeptical of authentic holidays.  But when Joel, hot from our family bike ride in this sweltering heat wave, announced that it was National Ice Cream Day and worthy of a cold treat, I suspended my skepticism and embraced the excuse to cool down with a Pecan Chunk Freeze from Parlor City Ice Cream in Cedar Rapids.

It was good and creamy and it was so cold.  And the best part was that it was guilt-free because it was our national responsibility to celebrate these important holidays that enrich our lives and celebrate our patriotism.

But then a quick internet search revealed that National Ice Cream Day isn't until July 21st.

Clearly we've yet to encounter Honesty Day.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Psychology of Thrifting

Other than for travel purposes, airports are only good for people watching.  Whenever I fly anywhere and am forced to wait through a long and tedious layover, the psychologist in me always finds it entertaining to watch the other travelers and how they behave.  What they wear.  Where they are going.  The things they say.

If airports are good for people watching, however, garage sales are a gold mine. 

After the three days I spent thinking of nothing other than affordably priced onesies and ridding myself of the squawking rubber chicken I'd mysteriously accumulated, I was grateful for the opportunity to sit back and watch as people took my things to clear my house and clutter their own.  But very quickly, the influx of cash took a back seat to the thrill of guessing how our patrons would respond.

The young mothers all checked out the plethora of baby clothes I'd carefully displayed, sorting through them respectfully and making their selections.  The few men that stopped by were all on a mission, walking only a few steps up my driveway and shouting out their requests.

"I need fishing tackle!"

"Sorry, we don't have any of that, but we do have--"

"--See ya."

Apparently garage sales are a case study in the psychology of men, as well.  If only I had a football game on tv and a case of beer, we could award credit.

But the last faction of our customers, the die-hard garage sale-goers, were a quirky bunch.  The older women sauntered up in their wide-brimmed hats and rifled through the piles of good-quality (and often new or unused) items I'd placed on tables only to emerge with the one piece of junk I'd thrown out on a lark.  One woman thought she had hit the jackpot when she discovered my stash of dentist-provided toothbrushes, useless in my house thanks to our more effective electric options.  Another lady jumped at the opportunity to own a spice rack with no spices and a tether ball with no tether.

I suppose I shouldn't laugh too hard or bite the hand that feeds me.  I am frequently guilty of placing a collection of items on the checkout belt that would make the store clerk glance at me sideways.  After all, what use could a person have for a bungee cord, two boxes of jello and some Q-tips?

I only hope they didn't assume the same things about me that I thought about the eccentric gentleman at our sale that bought a lobster oven mitt and that rubber chicken in exchange for $.25.

On second thought, maybe people-watching is best left for the airport.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ism of the Week

During a lunchtime conversation with our neighbor boy this week, Cael shocked me with not only his randomness, but his geographical prowess.

"Cael, I went camping with my family the other day and we were really, really, far away from here," the boy said.

"Like on a mountain?  Or a volcano?  Or with an elephant?"

"No, Cael.  Far away like where we  go for a derby."

"That IS really far away.  Farther than a mountain."

"How do you know that, Cael?"  I had to ask, curious about how he'd know where our neighbors went for a derby race.

"Come on, guys.  Derby?  That's all the way in England!"

In an unrelated note, Cael will be filing next year's taxes and unveiling a new jobs package to Congress this fall.

* Wish us well this weekend as we try to pawn off our excess stuff on unsuspecting thrifters in our area have a garage sale.    You can blame any blogging interruptions on the compulsive pricing that has taken up much of my week, but you can also hope that it will provide some website fodder. 

But not too much.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fear Factor

Because my kids have cornered the market on weirdness, I often jump at the opportunity to share incidents of their normality.  Or in this case, of my own strangeness.

In the last week we've seen evidence of budding fears in my boys' minds.  After an attempt to give Graham a piggy back ride ended in tears and a tuft of my hair ripped out at the root, we discovered that our youngest is afraid of heights.  He also fears being carried on the deck or on stairs, but all of those fears are relatively common, and while I will do what I can to encourage his trust in me, I am confident he will grow out of them.

On the 4th of July, Cael had a sudden panic attack when faced with the prospect of seeing fireworks.  Regardless of the fact that we've watched them twice each summer for his entire life, something in his brain registered fear at that loud boom in the sky, while his brother lit up in anticipation.

So what was wrong with me?  As a child, I remember clearly my biggest fears, and none were as common as those that torment my boys.  Grasshoppers were terrifying.  Bike spokes with those clicking plastic beads spread goosebumps across my skin.  But there was one thing more terrifying than bike spokes and grasshoppers and fireworks and heights.

These two.

If you ever watched kids' programming in the 80's, you probably saw Sesame Street, because fledgling networks like Nickelodeon were just getting started and didn't offer much to a young child.  And if you did watch Sesame Street, there's no doubt you remember the "Yip-Yips", two aliens with googly white eyes, very little English skills and no ability to adapt to life on Earth (save for a relentless desire to chat on the phone).

They were horrifying, their gaping jaws certainly ready to devour me and their pipe cleaner antennae surely capable of stinging or poisoning a small child.  I would hide behind the recliner until that segment of the show was over and slowly crawl back to the sofa, wishing for fireworks or a tall building to jump from should the martians reappear.

Even now, as I gathered the photos and video clips for this post, I got chills thinking of how terrifying those puppets felt.  So I'm going to do my best to be patient with the kids as they learn to deal with being scared and to be grateful that they are exceedingly normal in this one regard.  I guess that's one less thing for me to fear.

"Ahhh... Mommy!  Cael is shaking the maracas.  HE'S SHAKING THE MARACAS!!!"

Anyone know a good therapist?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Everything Goes!

"Why are we having a garage sale, Mommy?"

"Because we have so much stuff that we aren't using.  I'm excited to make some room in the house after these things are gone."

"What things?"

"Well, a lot of it is clothing that you and Cael can't fit into anymore.  But I'm also selling some kitchen things, some decorations, old toys, lots of bags and shoes, and Amy has a lot of things to sell, too."

"But I don't get it."

"What don't you get?"

"Why are we having a garage sale?"

"I already told you, Graham.  We need to get rid of some things."

"But how?"

"I'm not sure what part of this is confusing to you.  We take the things we don't need anymore, put a price on them, and then people come to the garage sale and see if they want any of our stuff.  That's all there is to it!"

"But Mommy, we still need the garage!"

Apparantely my sensitivity has already been sold.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

"Fourth of July, Cael!  And happy Independence Day to you, Graham!"

"Happy 'In-the-Pants' Day to you too, Mommy."

Hope you all have a great time filled with friends, family, food and fireworks.

And a happy In-The-Pants Day to you, too.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wired for Trouble

That is the real question, isn't it?  In my house, at least, I feel as though I am constantly ushering my kids outside, or downstairs or simply out of the kitchen to go "play".  But for whatever reason, my kids weren't blessed with the "auto-play" gene.  Pretend doesn't come easily to them, and they can't scan the room and see in it a world of possibilities made of toys and games and colors.

Instead, my boys tend to see a different kind of potential.  For example, when they look at their bookshelf, they see dozens of books that, when placed end to end, create a believable and architecturally challenging paved surface on which to drive cars, wrestle, or quite possibly pee, if the mood strikes.

When they enter my bedroom, they don't see a place for Joel and me to rest.  Instead, they see enough linens to create the mother of all blanket forts, in which they could drive cars, wrestle, or quite possibly pee, if the mood strikes.

Even in the kitchen, where cabinet locks bar the contents of the pantry, Cael and Graham don't see ingredients for family dinners, they see late night snacks that are best consumed in a late night heist.  And it is then, at two o'clock in the morning and on top of a layer of crumbs and melted chocolate, that they will finally decide to play, driving cars, wrestling, or quite possibly peeing, if the mood strikes.

Lather, rinse, repeat.  Repeat in every room.  Repeat until you don't have the energy to fight it anymore.  Give up and drive the cars yourself.  Eat some crumbs off of the floor.  You probably won't have time to cook for yourself anyway after you're done cleaning up the mess.

But what do other mothers do to combat the innate desire for destruction?  The way I see it, I only have a few available options. 

- I could hire in full-time help to monitor them every moment I have my head turned, despite the fact that I've already sacrificed any career I might have had so that I could monitor them myself.  But this no good because any disposable income I have is already committed to replacing the home goods they've demolished.

- I could simply throw away anything in my house that isn't virtually indestructible and made of hard plastic or metal.  As appealing as that idea is, however, I don't think that my boys would sleep too well with plastic tarps for sheets.  Plus, the pee would just pool on the floor, and that's just gross.

- The only remaining option is to buy an outdoor playset with swings and a slide, so that Cael and Graham can work out their superfluous energy in our big open backyard rather than on Graham's dresser.  Right?  I think so.  Thanks for your input.

In a completely unrelated and non-solicitous or sarcastic note, I'm now taking donations for Cael and Graham's birthdays!  Donations may be made in increments of $500.00 and applied toward this.  Thanks so much for your support!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Ism of the Week

"I think it's time for a photo shoot, Mom."

"You think so?"

"Yeah.  You took all of those pictures the other day, but you didn't take any of me."

"Those were for some friends.  But I take lots of pictures of you.  Almost every day, in fact."

"Well, we need more.  Lots more."

"Why is that?"

"Because I'm so handsome and the world needs to see me!"

"Is that so?  Wow!"

"Yes.  It's true.  Don't hurt the world, Mom."

Monday, July 1, 2013

Baseball Blues

Now that t-ball is over for the season, Cael has resorted to more inventive techniques for getting his baseball fix.

First he thought that watching baseball coverage on television would fill the void.  But after a brief SportsCenter update mentioned Albert Pujols, the activity quickly devolved into a potty talk extravaganza. 

"Where should I hit the ball, Cael?"

"Put it in your poo-hole, Graham!"

"That stinks, Cael!"

That obviously wasn't a great choice.  Instead, I encouraged him to go outside and play baseball himself.  But what began as a simple game of catch quickly devolved into target practice, with Graham playing the role of the target.

"I thought you were tough, Graham."

Getting desperate, I hopped on the bandwagon when Cael wanted to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game".  Sure, it seemed like an unlikely substitute for the game itself, but we'd exhausted our other options.

Only a few words in, however, and the song quickly devolved into something different altogether.

"Sing with me, Mommy!"

"Take me out to a baseball game,
Take me out to the crotch!
Buy me popcorn, peanuts and crapperjacks,
I don't care if Graham ever comes back!  Really, he can stay there forever, Mom!
So you should toot, toot, toot for the only team,
If they don't win it is a shame,
For it's ONE!  THREE!  NINETEEN! strikes and that's all you get
At the baseball game!"

So... who is ready to start a July-August t-ball league?