Thursday, August 29, 2013

I Have A Dream

Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I have a dream" speech, and all of the morning shows were commemorating the event with clips of MLK's life and updated dream speeches for today's generation.

I'm very lucky, because I was born in a time and place that has allowed me a lifetime void of persecution, and the freedom to make whatever choices I want.  Well, until I had kids, that is.  Motherhood has led to a whole new set of bonds, and while I would never deign to compare my struggles to those of King and his followers, as a mother I have dreams.

I have a dream that one day, date nights won't be punctuated with grocery runs to Walmart.

I have a dream that mothers everywhere will be able to leave the bathroom door unlocked without fear of interruption or invasion of personal space.

I have a dream that the day I am no longer worried about my boys sneaking candy at night is not the same day I worry about them sneaking out of the house.

I have a dream that every family dinner won't have to include tater tots,  hot dogs or applesauce.

I have a dream that I won't always have to tread carefully in my own home, avoiding land mines of Lego pieces and tiny plastic pistols.

I have a dream that Cael and Graham will never appear on a reality TV show.

I have a dream that one day, my phone won't be a video game, my kitchen utensils be weapons or my bra a slingshot.

I have a dream that my children won't document or mock my mistakes and stumbles in my old age.  I also dream that they won't feel I've done that with them as children.

I have a dream that my patience will be greater than my threshold for chaos.

I have a dream that mothers won't always degrade each other for how they raise their children.

I have a dream that my marriage will stand the test of time, and serve as an example to my kids.

I have a dream that I will leave them a legacy, surely not as widespread as Dr. King's, but one that my children will remember to be full of integrity, love, faith and humor.

What a sweet dream that would be.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sandwich Artist

There are a lot of little details about elementary school that have escaped me.  I don't remember the color of the halls, or the sound of the bell, but I can remember vividly my green lunch box, and the anticipation of opening it to see what my Mom had packed for me to eat.  

She was more creative than I am, packing my lunch with interesting wraps, or thermoses filled with soup and crackers.  And I don't know if I was less picky than my sons, or if I am simply too frazzled as a parent to attempt anything so adventurous, but day after day we seem to remain trapped in sandwich land.

In an effort to include some fun surprise for Cael, I drew a little picture of a flag (something we'd discussed earlier that day) and slipped it in his lunch bag, since his reading skills are still limited and a lengthy note about having a great day at school would be a wasted effort.  Upon picking him up from school, Cael pulled out the crumpled flag picture from his bag and told me how he had shown all of his friends and wanted to keep it "totally forever". 

Crap.  I wanted him to like the idea, but now, two weeks into the school year, I'm already struggling to come up with new ideas while Cael is just gearing up.

"Mom, would you draw me a spaceship, please?"

 "Hey, Mom, a puppy would be really cool."

"My friend at school says you should draw a hot air balloon."

So I did.  I did them all, and then some.  But with 96% of the school year ahead of me, Cael is going to have to cut me some slack.

"Today, Mom, I need a picture of a cat up in a tree, but not a tree with leaves, like a tree in the fall with the leaves on the ground.  And then I need a fireman getting the cat out my spraying it with the water from the hose.  But the firetruck should be green, not red.  And the cat should be orange, not black."

"I'll get right on that, Cael."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Now that we are almost two weeks into the school year, I have noticed and tracked a very consistent pattern in Cael's morning routine.  He gets up (far too early for a five year-old) and sneaks around the house to locate any of several handheld devices to work in a secretive game of Temple Run.  He eats breakfast, puts on clothes and then changes his clothes after I catch him wearing Graham's clothes and not wearing clean underpants.  And after teeth are brushed and shoes are on, it begins. 

"Mom, my stomach hurts!  It's so terrible, I think I can't go to school!"

"I think my foot is broken!  I had better not go to school or the doctor because I can't wear shoes.  I should probably just sit on the couch."

"Mommy, my skin is turning green on my back.  I don't think I should be around the other school kids.  But you won't even be able to see it because it you don't have it.  You are so lucky."

The onslaught of faux illnesses is a new phenomenon this year, and one I'm sure he learned at school while he was busy avoiding Shingles or attending a seminar about the tragedy of Lou Gehrig's disease.  But the most confusing aspect for me is that Cael loves school, wants to go every day, and knows with absolute certainty that his ploy won't work.  I am hypothesizing that another boy in his class, an unfortunate soul who was stricken down with Gout, spent one day at home on the sofa watching tv and eating ice cream, and returned to school to tell the tale of his relaxing morning away from school.  I'm sure they all pooled their piggy bank change to raise money for Multiple Personality Disorder research.

I hope Cael will be quick to drop this new scheme and that Graham won't pick up the habit himself.  I simply don't have the energy to battle them day in and day out.  In fact, I feel a little achy and the soles of my feet feel hot...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Ism of the Week

"Mom, what is a record?"

"Well, quite a while ago, that is what music was played on, instead of a CD or just a file on an iPod.  Records are round and black, and you play them on a record player."

"Do you have any records?"

"No, I don't.  When I was little we had a couple, but most of my music was on tape."
 "Wow, you are so old.  I've never seen music on a tape."

"I might have one around here somewhere.  I'll see if I can find one, but know right now that I can't play it since we don't have anything with a tape player."

"Okay.  But Mom, will it still be sticky?"

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book 'Em, Grammo...

I have to confess to a huge parenting mistake on my part.  I am constantly, although unintentionally, underestimating Graham when it comes to skills and milestones.  I don't think he's less capable than Cael by any means, but he is younger and quieter and I am simply less likely to notice when he does something outstanding or worthy of praise.

He's the second born.  I have to give him something to talk to his future therapist about, right?

In the past, Graham's unbelievably early mastery of letters and writing nearly went unnoticed.  But those oversights don't compare to the shock I felt when I overheard Graham reading an entire book to himself as I played with one of my day care kids.

I asked him to do it again.  And again.  I recorded it the third time and had him read the pages in reverse order the fourth.  And let me tell you, it just got cuter each time.

Okay, so he's really just reciting a book he has memorized.  But I'm still super proud of my boy, his book, and an obviously enthusiastic interest in reading.  And you can bet that I won't miss it when he reads that book for real.

Now where did I put my copy of "The Grapes of Wrath"?...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Go Big or Go Home

If you've never taken a Myers-Briggs personality test, you were clearly never a Psychology major.  You're also missing out on the eerie accuracy of the 16 distinct personality profiles outlined by the test. 

A few weeks ago, my sister and I sat down and profiled all of the members of our family, and we were stunned by how spot-on many of the profiles were.  I'd taken the test before and already knew my own, but in order to determine the others', I had to read through several descriptions until I was hit with a startlingly exact representation of my husband, minus one very simple but important phrase.

Go big or go home.

Joel is one of those if-you're-going-to-do-something-do-it-right kind of guys, and when he gets invested in an idea, it would take a zombie apocalypse to stop him from his goal.  The top lawyers of today should be very glad he pursued a career in music rather than law.  To illustrate this point, let me tell you a little story.

Once upon a time, a mother wanted a swing-set for her kids.  "Something simple", she said, a wish that was repeatedly met with hesitation from her husband who didn't want to mow around obstacles or challenge the integrity of his lawn.  This continued until one day, when a delivery truck deposited a VERY big load of wood into a VERY large pile on the driveway.  And after a VERY long battle with some VERY inept salespeople, the world's largest residential structure was erected before a VERY surprised mother.  "If you're going to do it, do it right", he said.  And the father, the mother, their kids, and their fortress lives happily ever after. 

In fewer words, Joel "went big" again.

The kids are thrilled, of course, and by kids I refer not only to Cael and Graham, but to the thirteen children I had in my yard last night, swinging, climbing and horsing around in what has become the newest neighborhood hangout.  So, although it might not be in my Meyers-Briggs profile to admit it, I'm glad Joel decided to go all out on this one.

We'll see if those feelings last until the whiffle ball field is complete...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Who is Cael?

"Okay, Cael, tomorrow is your day to talk to the class.  Your teacher wants you to decorate this bag and fill it with a few things that will show all of the kids who you are."

"Like a boy?"

"Well, they already know that you are a boy, but now they want to know what kinds of things you like.  I was thinking that you could put Iron Man in there because you like the Avengers so much.  Or you could put a piece of chocolate in there."

"Oh, okay.  I was going to put in a picture of our family and my vacation bible school necklace because I love God.  But the chocolate is fine, Mom."

Ouch.  I'll make sure to put my "Mom of the Year" award in my bag, too.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Conversational Bonus

Have you ever had a conversation with someone that made so little sense to you that your confusion made you look like a complete idiot?  I'm not an idiot. 

At least not a complete one. 

I was, however, completely overwhelmed and exhausted after going rounds with the saleswoman at my local Clinique counter.  (I'll be in bold for this post so that reading it won't be as confusing for you as it was for me to live it.)

"Hi.  I need to buy the lotion pump from the 3-step cleanser set."
"Okay, I can do that for you.  But if you wait a week, you can get the Clinique bonus."

As she said "Clinique bonus", a beam of light shone down from the the sky and I think I heard a gospel choir singing.  (The economy must be improving because I didn't know that Younkers could afford such amenities.)

"Thanks, but I am completely out of the lotion and can't wait.  But maybe I can come in next week and buy the 2nd step, the toner, and get the bonus then."

"That won't work because the toner doesn't count toward the bonus."

"The toner doesn't, but the lotion does?  Isn't the toner more expensive?"

"Well, it does count, but you'd still need to buy something else."


"Oh, okay.  Well, I could buy an eyeshadow or something.  How much do I need to spend?"

"You need to spend $25.00 to qualify for the bonus."

"Okay, and how much does the toner cost?"

"It's $26.50."

"Okay, wait-- I'm confused.  If the toner is $26.50, won't that be enough?"

"What if we did a presale?  Today you could buy the lotion and the toner to get the bonus, and then you can come in and pick them up next week when the bonus is available?"

"Thanks, but I need the lotion today.  Can I keep the lotion today and get the toner later?"

"No, you can't have the products until you pick up the bonus."

"It seems to me that either the toner OR the lotion should qualify me for the bonus.  How about I buy the lotion right now and take it with me?  Then you could ring me up for the toner separately and make that a presale?  I could come in next week and pick it up with my bonus, right?"

"No, you see, the toner alone won't qualify.  You'd have to have something else, like a lipstick or an eyeshadow."

That gospel choir sings a mean funeral march.  Almost mean enough to make me walk away, but I thought I'd give it one more shot.

"Does your eyeshadow cost more than $25.00?"

"No, the shadow singles are $15.00 and the duos are $20.00."

"So that wouldn't be enough, would it?"

"If you also get the toner, it would.  You could pick it up next week."


I literally snapped at this woman.  Practically lashed out with talons to rip at her perfectly applied makeup.  What was worse than the confusion and the frustration was the look of utter pity on her face, the clear-as-day mocking expression of "oh, dear, this woman simply cannot understand the intricacies of skin care sales" on her face.

I ended up leaving with only my lotion, choosing to walk away rather than to pee my pants in a fit of anger and dry skin.  But now I'm out of toner, and at a loss about what to do. 

Anybody like Estée Lauder? 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ism of the Week

"Mommy, you know what would be cool?"

"What, Graham?"

"If Cael had school every day, all the time, and he stayed there forever.  And we could go to Panera and get peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and play baseball and snuggle and watch Elf and it would just be us always and no Cael."

"Oh, Graham.  I love to do those things with you, but I love Cael, too.  It's not nice to wish he'd never come back."

"Oh, okay.  I'll just have a cookie, then."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Small Fish, Big Pond

Today is Cael's first day of school.  Sure, he has spent the last two years preparing himself with preschool classes, but today makes it official.  My boy is growing up.

I was prepared to be emotional about his first day.  Not sad, but overwhelmed, perhaps, by the rapid and unstoppable passing of time that takes me increasingly further from the moment I held that tiny baby in my arms.  But as this day approached, I realized one thing very clearly.

I want him out of this house.

I love the kid with a fierceness that knocks my socks off, but over this past summer he has become lazy and glued to the couch by an oppressive heap of Netflix television shows as well as his one Wii video game, Pitfall.  Within days of the end of the school year, he replaced his interest in reading with an interest in slingshots and Shamans and other digital concepts that outweighed the appeal of fresh air and summertime.

And the noise... oh, the noise!  Graham, while certainly not a saint, is a naturally quiet boy and quick to share or wait his turn.  But with his older brother around the house all of the time and pulling rank with undue authority, my boys have been shouting, whining and assaulting each other relentlessly.

So instead of savoring camp-outs, bonfires and bike rides, I've been counting down the days until school starts and the Wii turns off.  And that day is finally here.

He's ready.  I'm sure of it.  And what's even better is that he is excited about school again.  Yesterday's "Meet and Greet" was successful in acclimating him to his new environment and brushing off some of the nervousness and fear that accompany becoming a small fish in a very big pond.  It made my heart happy to see him embrace this new phase with enthusiasm and renewed energy.

"Mommy!  I love my teacher, she's really nice.  My classroom is cool, too.  Did you see that I have a guinea pig?  And look, Mom!  It's a pause button, just like on Pitfall!  Last time I played, I paused the game right before one of the monkeys..."

We'll turn off the Wii before his birthday.  Christmas, tops.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


"Graham, how was your nap?  Did you have good dreams?" 

"I didn't have a dream, Mommy."

"Why not?  I thought you always dreamed about frogs."

For over a year now, Graham's standard response to any inquiry about his dreams was that he'd spent the night thinking about "red frogs, and green frogs, and blue frogs, and orange frogs...".  I have experienced the same consistency about Channing Tatum, but I decided to keep that information to myself.

"I didn't have a dream because I wasn't wearing socks."

"So you never dream if you are barefoot?" 

"Yep.  Only with socks."

"And you always dream when you have socks on your feet?" 


Here's where we get into the meat of my son's psyche.  This is also where I'd normally let the conversation drop off, but I was curious about where this was going and he seemed happy to let me continue.

"So let me get this straight.  If you are barefoot, you never dream.  If you have socks on, you sometimes dream, but not always."

"I know when I'm gonna have a dream."

Either I've been sucked into a badly executed "who's on first" skit, or I'm three layers deep in an Inception-style dream of my own.

"So how do you know if you're going to have a dream?"

"I know because I have socks on."

And in my dream-like stupor, that make perfect sense.  Because as long as I know I have feet, I'll probably dream about Channing Tatum. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Units of Love

When looking back, I often think that my own childhood reads like a Laura Ingalls Wilder book.  Sure, diphtheria was a thing of the past and our hemlines were a bit shorter, but we were kind to each other, and my parents took every opportunity they could to teach me something.

Sometimes it meant scrambling from the dinner table to look up a new word.  Other times it meant watching my Mom and Dad do a ridiculous dance just so that I'd remember that nine + seven = sixteen.  I'm sure my mom was grateful she never had to do that one in bloomers.

Perhaps the most relatable for me as a parent was the time my Dad taught me the distance from the Earth to the moon after I had informed him that I "loved him to the moon and back".  The trip to the sun was clearly longer, and I could no longer argue with his logic that he loved me more.  It was scientific.

That is the memory that surfaces every time Cael uses an arbitrary unit of measurement to describe his love for me.  And although they never make sense at face value, maybe I'm simply not taking advantage of a good teaching opportunity.  Yeah, that's it.  Cael simply needs a little more education. 

Let's try this out.

"Mommy, I love you twenty-four."

"Cael, I'm afraid you've neglected to qualify your numerical representation of love.  Are you referring to 24 hugs?  Or 24 kisses?  Perhaps you would prefer to use a more scientific unit of measure, like watts or amperes?  Furthermore,  if you are choosing energy as your system of measuring love, my undeniably larger mass would produce more energy than your five year-old frame, despite your body being in nearly constant motion.  In fact, as I am practically twice your height and more than three times your weight, I think it would be safe to estimate my love for you to be around 74 or 75." 

"I love you more than a cow."

"I'm honored, Cael.  Cows are very productive members of the farmyard.  There was a time when horses were necessary to pull plows and power various machines in order to plant and subsequently harvest crops, but with the boom in production of modern farming equipment, the horse and the small family farm became nearly obsolete.  Farming has become a large enterprise, encompassing many more acres than were previously required to support a family.  Today, the beef provided from raising cattle is nearly as necessary to the successful farmer as the crop itself.  Thank you."

"I love you like a coffee cup with hot coffee in it like Amy and Papa drink and a piece of cake like that one you made for Daddy with all of the chocolate frosting and chocolate sprinkles but not with ice cream.  Well, with chocolate ice cream, or twist, but not boring vanilla.  I don't love you that much."

"Um, I-- okay, well...  have you ever heard of diphtheria, Cael?"

Guess not.  G'night, Cael-boy.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Four Letter Words

Cael, like many kids that have unfortunately picked up some key pieces of profanity in their young years, is always testing the boundaries and finding ways to incorporate his new vocabulary into everyday conversation.  And every time he hears anything that sounds even close to inappropriate, he confidently and unceremoniously throws us under the bad language bus.

"I wonder what put the driver of that truck into such a funk."

"Whoa, Daddy, you just said the 'f' word!"

"No, I didn't Cael.  I said 'funk'.  Not the 'f' word."

"Oh.  But is there an 's' word, Daddy?"

I knew that Joel wouldn't tell him the "s" word, but I also knew that he wouldn't take no for an answer.  Cael never takes no for an answer.  Especially when the question involves ice cream or chocolate, but that's a topic for a different post. 

"Cael, the 's' word is 'sweet'."

"Oh, I'm sweet!  Is there an 'r' word?"

"Yeah, it's 'really special'."

"I'm that too!  What about a 'c' word?"


"Yeah, it's 'cute'."

"Mommy, you are cute, so that one is for you.  You're the 'c word'."

"Thanks, Cael.  Just promise not to compliment me at church, okay?"

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ism of the Week

"I'm going to throw that flower picture away, Mommy.  It's not good."

"Oh, I thought it was really nice, Cael.  I'll keep it and put it in your art box."

"But it's not even finished!"

"I know, but I like it when you draw pretty things and not just color in your Avengers book." 

"But MOM!  Why are you always taking my art?  An artist needs to decide about his own arty... picture... stuff.  And you're not an artist like me, so you wouldn't understand.  That's like stealing art, Mom, and you can go to jail for that.  Wow, Mommy."

"But you were going to throw it away."

"Oh, yeah.  You can have it."

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


I can clearly recall one time in my life when I was forced to sit through the cliched vacation photo slideshow.  And anyone who has experienced a broken bone or the pain of childbirth will attest to the fact that they don't even compare to the agony of feigning interest in Aunt Loretta's photos of her favorite display at the National Doorknob Museum.

But this will be different.  And you know why?  Because these photos, thanks to Instagram and its various filters, look as through they were taken with a poor quality camera in the early 1970's.  Get ready.

Graham ready to fly.

Mt. Rainier from the air.

Garden envy.

Lunch with Bamma at one of our favorite places.

Fresh fish and chips!

Clear skies and red umbrellas.
Happy boys with Bamma.
Bubbles by the water.
Mommy on a rock.

Cael and Graham can't be outdone.

Paulsbo, Washington.

Look who wandered into Bampa's yard?

Graham enjoying the ferry ride.
Ships passing in the night, err, day.

Daddy, Cael, and some shades.
"Mommy, New York is so cool."  "Yes it is, Graham.  But this is Seattle."
Seattle from the water.

Cael's curls in the breeze.

Pike Place Market.
My favorite Seattle snack.

So many colors!

Beautiful fresh produce everywhere.

Joel's souvenir head-wear.

Cael imitating Daddy.

The city can tire out a guy.

Baseball at Bampa's house.
Cael attempting a home run.
Mommy vacation snuggles are the best!
Fresh crab from the sound. 
Catching a Tacoma Rainiers game while the Mariners are away.

Graham enjoying the 7th inning stretch.

Cael kissing up for more peanuts.

Baseball and Bampa - a good combination.

Graham dreaming of Iowa and his own bed.

A foggy Seattle morning.

Finding shells on the beach.

Uncle Seth teaching Cael to skip rocks.
Our last day in Washington, having fun in Fountain Park, Bremerton, WA.


Friendly Seattle seagulls.

Family photo at Fountain Park.

Graham snoozing back to Iowa.

If you made it to the end, you're probably as exhausted as I was at the end of the trip.  So take a nap, have a drink, and I'll see you tomorrow.