Monday, September 30, 2013

My Ears Are Burning

Are you one of those people that is really bothered by the idea of people talking about you  when you're not around?  I am.  I am an eternal I-care-what-people-think person, and sometimes I let other people's opinions weigh more than my own. 

For people like me, however, it always helps to fall back on the knowledge that my family loves and cares for me, no matter how messy my hair is, or how much TV my kids watch or how many thousands of playground chipped-tire chunks are on my floor. 

But I'd never really considered what my kids say about me when I'm not around.  I figured that they appropriated a sufficient amount of adoration for me as their mother, but I also knew that my role as disciplinarian and vegetable monger probably leads to a few cold words now and then.  It occured to me, though, that in nearly six years of parenting (four for Graham) I'd never heard what my boys really think of me.

One night last week, I got my chance. 

While I was preparing a load of laundry, I realized that I hadn't gathered the dirty clothes from the boys' room.  Thinking that they would be asleep, I quietly crept downstairs and turned the knob on the door before I heard voices.  And if I was expecting to hear a glowing review of myself, I was in for a surprise.  A very confusing, bizarre surprise.

"Graham, do you think Mommy and Daddy are superheroes?

"Yeah.  I think that Daddy can break buildings and Mommy can start fires."

"Cool, Graham.  And I bet Mommy starts fires all day when we're at school.  I bet she starts them and puts them out right away so nothing gets burned.  But maybe sometimes things get burned.  Maybe that's where the Wii remotes went."

"Yes, Cael.  And when we're asleep at night, she's not upstairs with Daddy.  She's in New York City lighting bad guys on fire and making cold things hot with fire."

"Maybe when it's hot in the summer, she makes ice, too, Graham.  Like Frozone!  And if we get in really big trouble, like if we fight and break something, she'll put us in a block of ice."

"No, Cael!  Mommy wouldn't do that!"

"Do you think she'd use her fire on us?"

"No!  Mommy is nice.  She won't use fire or ice on us.  But maybe she would use the squirrels..."

"No, Graham, not the squirrels!..."

Photo credit here.
Maybe I can use this to my advantage.  After I assure Cael that I won't be attacking him with ice or fire, of course.  But I make no promises about the squirrels... 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Almost Royal

No one can resist Cael's charms.  He is so irresistible, in fact, that as Homecoming approached for the Solon school district (a neighboring area and where Joel teaches), Cael was asked to serve as the Homecoming prince for this year's festivities.

I didn't think he'd agree, to tell you the truth.  The prospect of standing in front of a large crowd with hundreds of eyes on me makes my skin crawl.  But for Cael, who thrives on attention, the prospect of standing in front of a large crown with hundreds  of eye on him is what sealed the deal.

Oh, and the fact that he'd be a prince.

I heard a lot about how his merits indicated that he was better suited for a role as the King, but given the alternative of living life as a commoner, he quickly agreed and plans were made.

Before we knew it, Homecoming was upon us and it was time for Cael to make his royal debut.  Prince or not, his undeniably handsome looks found him being pulled from one photo to another, probably in his element, while I snapped incessant photos from the sidelines where Graham had to be physically restrained from stealing the bags of unopened candy intended for the parade. 

Cael rode in a convertible with the princess, an adorably shy girl that shunned his friendly handshake when they first met but was undoubtedly taken by his presence and within minutes, was plotting their plan of attack for the parade.  Once out of my line of sight, we packed up and headed over to the stadium where my son would be presented to the crowd.

He was so cute.  Ever the gentleman, he held her hand. 

He waved to the crowd.  They smiled and laughed.

He escorted her to their position.  And then he pretended to assault her with an invisible weapon.

Because I was flanked by dozens of screaming girls, anxious for the Homecoming Kind reveal, I couldn't get to Cael to talk some sense into him.  So I called my husband, down on the field but off on the sidelines, to snap into action and prevent an even worse mimed attack.

Mock-fighting is nearly inevitable with rough-and-tumble boys.  But with no girls in our home and this very public setting making my palms sweat, I could feel my last vestige of control slipping away and I had to hold myself back from shouting loudly at him in full-on stage-mom fashion. 

Joel was able to give our young prince "the look", which miraculously kept his antics at bay until the pep rally was over, and Cael was free to burn off his excess energy on the football field. 

In the end, I'm glad he had the opportunity to do something special that most kids never get to experience, and I hope that Prince Graham will get to reign somewhere, someday as well. 

"Mom, I want peanut butter and jelly, not ham!"

"Sorry, you'll have to eat what I made."

"But I'm the Prince and the ruler.  You do what I say."

Maybe a Burger King crown will do...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ism of the Week

"Mommy, this is so cool!  Come look, Graham!"

"Whoa, Mom!  Look at your balls!  You have the coolest balls, Mommy.  And they are so tiny!  I really like your tiny balls.  Watch out, though, Mom.  You're gonna step on your balls."

"Marbles, Graham.  Marbles."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Incredibly Four

Well, it is done.  Graham is four and, with the cake eaten and presents opened, I didn't even have to crack a beer or any skulls.  And that's no small feat, considering that my perfectionism pushes me to great heights while my sometimes limited patience knees me in the groin.

Because we'd broken the bank on the world's largest outdoor playset, we decided in advance to limit the gifts a bit and let them pick a fun event, like going to the museum or a movie, or even, in the biggest display of selflessness a parent can display, take them to Chuck E. Cheese.  Unfortunately I never had the chance.

Nothing terrible happened, exactly.  I set out to make an Incredibles themed cake per Graham's request, and thanks to my inexplicably lazy and sluggish attitude, I spent nearly all day Saturday rolling, cracking, re-rolling and cursing at store-bought fondant that never did cooperate.  (Got a good fondant recipe?  I'm all ears...)  When I thought I'd reached an acceptable stopping point, the Omnidroid robot firmly affixed and supported with dowels, I heard a thump and turned to see that the robot in question had not only fallen out, but the dowel previously helping to support its weight had torn a sizeable hole in the red fondant. 

It just couldn't be easy.

I didn't want to start over, not when my time on Sunday would already by filled with church activities and Graham's birthday requests, so I poured another soda and turned up the music, hoping the added stimulation would keep me awake long enough to finish the cake.

I gave up at 2:30am, not because I'd finished (or really even done anything more to correct the problem) but because I'd been staring at the wavy pattern on the side of a Kleenex box for so long that I was sure I'd seen Elvis' face.  Perhaps I should have included in on the cake.

That's the worst part of cake decorating for me.  I have the vision and enthusiasm of a professional, but the tools and speed of a three-- nay, four year old, and the only hours I can work without interruption come between 8pm and 5am. 

When Sunday rolled around, we attended church and I returned home to complete the cake, which cause me much less stress once I'd used the hole as an exit point for the robot.  And, because time was running out, I didn't put too much effort into the robot's limbs and other remaining details, choosing instead to go ahead with Graham's planned birthday photo shoot. 

When I returned home with only 15 minutes to spare before dinner and only giving brief thought to the fact that Graham never did force me into eating pizza at that migraine trigger of a restaurant get to choose an activity for his birthday, I was met with Joel's concerned questions.

"Did you get your camera bag?"

"Why?  Where was it?" I asked, slowly remembering that I'd placed it on the driveway behind my van when Graham and I walked across the street to snap some photos in the cornfield.

"I thought you were going to run it over, so I put it on top of the van."

Maybe we should have just visited Chuck E. Cheese.

I jumped back in the car and drove nearly three blocks before I found my black bag, sitting open but miraculously full of my accessories in someone's lawn.  When I returned home, my family was already there and ready to party, so they spent the duration of the night celebrating Graham.

I spent the time trying to pretend that it was okay with me to cut into the Incredibles cake I'd devoted the last 36 hours to crafting.

But in the end, with chocolate on his face and a smile big enough to light the room, candles or not, Graham's excitement got me through. 

Cael wouldn't mind if I just made lemon bars, right?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy Birthday, Graham!

Today is my littlest one's fourth birthday, and although we celebrated with the family last night, I'm taking today off of blogging so that I can not only recover (you just know I made a cake) and so that I can pore over the 530 photos I snapped of Graham for his official birthday photo shoot.

Because when you are running on very little sleep, too much sugar and bleary eyes from staring too long at the computer, you could accidentally choose a photo like this...

Or this...

Or even this...

And you could miss one as perfect as this.

I'll be back tomorrow with all of the gritty details and averted disasters.  Until then, Happy Birthday, Bubba.

Four looks good on you!

Thursday, September 19, 2013


It's no secret that kids say the "darndest things".  Millions of dollars (and a substantial number of gray hairs) have been made on that very premise.  But as my boys expand their vocabulary and grasp of English, what continues to surprise me is how they view the rules of the English language as malleable, bending and stretching them to wish whatever nonsense they say into validity.

English is complex and fascinating just as it is, I wish they wouldn't mess with it.  My disdain for their gibberish is, like, totally ginormous.
Specifically, I've noticed lately that Cael and Graham can turn any word into a verb.  Whether they are "backyarding" or "Mickey Mousing", they get their point across very clearly by transforming the traditional person, place or thing into an action. 

Sometimes it is cute.

"Here you go, Mommy.  I arted this for you at school." 

Sometimes it is funny.

 "Where is Graham?

"He's downstairs underpantsing.  He's all underpantsed in Thomas the Train."

Sometimes it is just plain disturbing.

"I was hide-and-seeking you last night, Mom.  You didn't see me, and Daddy was snoring.  But I saw you.  And it was dark and quiet."

I think I might be nightmaring tonight.

If Cael's newfound writing and reading skills are any indication, their grammatical quirks should work themselves out after a few years of school.  And if not, they might just feel the pride of adding "naughtying" to the dictionary right alongside "selfie" and "twerk".


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Price of Not Knocking on Wood

With a few weeks of school for both boys under our belts, I have to step back and admit how easy life has been.  Sure, making such a statement is usually the kiss of death, or at the very least an invitation for an emergency room visit or another house flood, but it remains true nonetheless.  True enough, even, that it is occasionally a struggle to come up with something to contribute to the blog on a daily basis. 

This morning, the house quiet with the absence of my two uncharacteristically well-behaved toe-heads, I trudged slowly to the basement office to try and manifest an interesting story to share with all of you, knowing that I'd likely wind up watching clips of Ellen or funny cat videos on YouTube.  But as I wiggled the mouse to wake up the computer, I was shocked, irritated and mostly confused to see that my well-behaved school boys had been busy this morning taking some very candid photos and changing my computer's desktop wallpaper.

My new desktop wallpaper, plus some much-needed censoring...
At least I know they are learning.  Granted, Cael's Kindergarten teacher probably didn't teach him the basics of nude photography and Graham's preschool lessons aren't currently about uploading photos and desktop organization, but they have learned something nonetheless. 

I guess I should learn to knock on wood. 

Do I hear dripping water?

Monday, September 16, 2013

All Tied Up

I, along with millions of other women and wives, am guilty of accusing my husband of having Male Choice Hearing.  You know this affliction-- the ability of a man to shut out the world around him; the sounds of bickering children and barking dogs on the edge of peeing in the house, clanking pots and pans while a dinner is frantically being prepared between band-aid applications and battery replacements.  While those sounds vanish into silence, the six-note SportsCenter jingle is heard clear as day. 

It's a harsh accusation to make.  And it's not that he doesn't have Male Choice Hearing-- he does, mind you, but I am really in no position to be critical.  Because I have Selective Mommy Listening. 

There is a vast difference between these two diagnoses.  While Joel's aural blinders make him virtually deaf from all unwanted noise, I let those sounds in.  And while I hear everything and respond to much of it, nary a word is being absorbed.

"Hey Mom, look!  I tied my shoes!"

The first time, I actually looked.

"Wow.  If that's what you were going for, then you did a great job.  You'll have to keep practicing to do it the way I showed you, though."

After the first time, however, my Selective Mommy Listening kicked in, and grew exponentially each day.  Monday was problematic.

"Did you see my shoelaces, Mom?  Did you see?"

"Oh... yeah, cool."

Wednesday was challenging.

"I'm getting better at tying.  Pretty soon I'll be tying your shoes!"

"Sure, Cael."

By Friday, I wouldn't have known if he was singing his shoe-tying praises, or announcing his plans to drop out of school to steal and flip Airstream motorhomes for profit.

"There, Mom.  Perfect."

"Hmm, yeah." 

"No, really, Mom.  Look."

I couldn't believe it.  He really did it.  What's most impressive is that, aside from two or three practically failed backward attempts on my part to show him how it is done, he made the discovery largely on his own.  And I was too involved in  removing the cat from the scotch tape cocoon Graham had constructed to notice.

Thank goodness there was Daddy to give the praise needed.

"Dad?  Daddy?  Daddy!  Dad, Hello..."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

All Talk, No Action

Despite the fact that I don't watch much daytime television (save for the occasional episode of Ellen), Cael seems to be picking up on some very weird pop culture trivia from the other Kindergartners at his school.

"Mom, what is the view?"

"Well, a view is what you can see, or sometimes people say that a really pretty sight is 'a nice view'.  Is that what you mean?"

"No, I mean on TV.  What is 'The View'?"

"Seriously?  The View is a show with a lot of different women who have really different opinions and like to argue and tease each other a lot."

"Oh, okay.  And who is Whopah?"

"Whopah?  I have no idea."

"Yes you do!  She's on TV.  Whopah!"

"You mean 'Oprah'?"

"Yeah! Oprah!  Is Oprah the President?"

"No, Cael.  But there were a bunch of people who wish she was.  She is very famous, and she had a show, too, for a long, long time."

"Is she magic?"

"Not at all.  There are just a lot of people that like her, and she did good things for people that needed help."

"But is she Santa?"

"No, Cael."

Photo credit here.

"But--" (insert name of boy in Cael's class with outdated and somewhat questionable programming tastes) "--said that Whopah gives out presents to people at Christmas every year, and it's a secret."

"That is true, Oprah used to do that.  But her show ended a while ago, and she is not Santa."

"Okay.  But I still think I want to meet Oprah."

"Let's just go home and I'll get a snack for you and Graham."

"Thanks, Mom!"

 As if regulating his intake of play-fighting and junk food wasn't enough work, now I have to monitor my son's interest in daytime talk shows.  

"Come on, boys!  You get a carrot stick!  And you get a carrot stick!  You ALL get carrot sticks!..."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Deconstruction Zone

My boys love to build things.  Whether it be with blocks or clay or wood, they love not only the challenge, but the competition of seeing who will win in an epic battle of tower construction.

Problem is, what goes up must come down.

The thrill of construction can never be beat by the thrill of destruction, and my boys won't pass up an opportunity to disassemble and destroy whatever around them seems to be the weakest link.

For the last several months, that item was Graham's dresser.  The chest originally came in a set with Cael's crib and changing table, and later became Graham's when he took possession of the nursery.  As he grew more capable and demonstrated a mastery at pairing plaid shorts with striped polo shirts and just one of Mommy's pink socks, the dresser was moved to the boys' shared room so that Graham's apparel choices would be at his fingertips.

Here's how I envision the deconstruction began.  One day, Graham wanted to wear a very specific Thomas the Train shirt that he felt would bring out the rich tones of the ketchup stain in his khaki shorts, so he gave the middle drawer a tug, only to have the knob come off in his hand.  Now equipped with an imaginary hand grenade, and a makeshift shiv pointing out aggressively from the pre-drilled hole of his drawer, there was nothing to do but to pull and claw at the remaining knobs until they, too, were loose and a Bombardment-level knob war could commence.  A picture frame and a bottle of air freshener would be victims of this same event, but wouldn't be discovered for many weeks.

Two weeks later, while he was stealthily stashing away a bag of M&Ms that didn't belong to him, Cael leaned too hard on Graham's pajama drawer until he heard a crack, and the drawer became disengaged from the track.  And because Cael is, well, Cael, he pushed even more until the metal track itself twisted and fell to the floor and he could use it as a crowbar to pry open the closet with the outdoor equipment and throw basketballs at the cat.

And the pattern continued, mostly unknown to me, until the traditional irritation of doing laundry was dwarfed by the even bigger hatred of pinching my fingers between four splintered, crooked, trackless wooden boxes that had taken more hits, kicks and target practice than a punching bag.

So finally, on Sunday I wheeled and dealed with a woman selling a dresser on Craigslist, convincing her to sell it to me rather than the person coming to see the item on Tuesday, because out situation was dire, and Graham's dresser (and my patience) lacked the stamina to hold on much longer.

After an adventurous expedition to retrieve the furniture, during which the seller neglected to consider the importance of telling me where to find her or the dresser in question, it was finally in place in the boys' room, sturdily holding Graham's clothing and the promise of a better tomorrow.  Well, for one night, at least.

"Mom, we were playing and something came off of Graham's dresser."

I flew off the proverbial drawer handle.

"What!?!  I just spent a bunch of money buying a good, strong dresser for you guys and we talked a LOT about how to treat it so that it would last.  And what happened?  Did you stand on it?  Did you try to climb it?  Did you think it would be funny to attempt to mount it like a wild horse and swing your underpants around in the air?  Or were you simply not being careful like you'd promised to be?  ...Well?"

"Chill, Mom.  There was a paper sticker on the back that I pulled off.  But I can stick it back on if it's that big of a deal.  I'm good at putting things back together."

That is true.  But nothing compares to Cael and Graham's skills of deconstruction. 

And there's a child-sized easy chair that should be sleeping with one eye open...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ism of the Week

"Oh, I really wish I could get new countertops."

"Why, Mom?"

"These are not in good shape, and they don't match the rest of our nice kitchen.  And did you know, Cael, that you can use all kinds of stuff to make countertops?  They use different kinds of stone, like granite or quartz, but they also use wood or even concrete."

"I don't know what that meant, Mom.  But if you want to use different stuff to make your counters, there's a really big cardboard box in the basement that might work."

"Thanks, dude, but that wouldn't work as a countertop.  The surface has to be really hard." 

"Then you should use 'seven plus four'.  That one is really hard."

Monday, September 9, 2013

Wipe Out

Last Thursday, when I was escorting Graham into preschool, his backpack and my day care child in my arms and trusting Graham to walk calmly beside me, he tripped and fell.  His feet became tangled over a leaf or a shadow or quite possibly, nothing, and he went down faster than the stock market, managing to not only bounce but skid across one square of sidewalk and into a mulch bed outside the building.

I probably should have been concerned, but other than feeling a little bit of guilt from knowing that, if I'd been holding his hand, I could have prevented the splat, I just waited patiently for him to extract himself from the bedding plants and brush himself off.  Because when you are three (almost four), falling is a way of life.

My kids fall constantly.  Most are little trips, ala Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars, but sometimes they are grandiose, skier-down-the-mountainside wipe-outs that leave me cringing and readying myself to call 911.  But miraculously, they get back up every single time, if for no other reason than to save that emergency call for some future and much more embarrassing opportunity, like when they accidentally Gorilla Glue their hands to their armpits or get a tiny plastic soldier lodged... somewhere.

I knew there was a reason we bought that search and rescue tank.

They are so used to falling, whether accidental or during play, that there is no reaction when it happens.  But what would life be like if I was the one wiping out at every turn?

First of all, it wouldn't be graceful.  I'm too tall and too heavy to defy gravity like my boys.  I wouldn't trip over my own feet, though, either.  I'd probably catch the toe of my shoe on a Matchbox car or a petrified cat hairball that had gone undetected, and after a few brief seconds of arms flailing that would probably unearth a great deal of dust and still not prevent my downward journey, hurdle toward the ground, held there by my own embarrassment and the weight of my unused degree.

I might break something.  And I might even secretly enjoy the excuse not to carry around a fifty pound five year-old like a sack of flour.

So for now, in this one socially acceptable way, I'll be glad it's them and not me. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sibling Rivalry

Now that Graham and Cael are both in school, Cael has enjoyed nothing more than the knowledge that he is the big man on campus in the house.  Not only is he overjoyed to one-up his brother, but the mere fact that they are entering what I fear will be the first of many argumentative years, means that every one-upping discussion rapidly turns into a disagreement.

Our one saving grace, (coming unfortunately at Graham's expense) is that Cael is sly by nature while Graham is inherently trusting.  So over the last two weeks, I have noticed that most of their interactions sound like this: 

"Cael, guess what?  I have two teachers."

"I have WAY more teachers than that, because I'm in Kindergarten.  Not just baby preschool."

"I'm not a baby!  I'm a big boy and I know all of my letters."

"Well I know letters and numbers too, Graham.  And I know lots of things you don't know.  Do you want me to teach you something?"


"Okay, say this after I say it.  You're... a... butt... munch..."

"You're... a... butt... munch..."

"Good, Graham.  But say 'I'm' this time."

"I'm a butt munch."

"Haha, Graham is a butt munch!"

While I know for certain that the phrase was acquired at school, I wish I could make the same claim about his attitude.  Something happened over the summer, however, propelling him into that new phase of childhood where he finds himself to be the most brilliant, funniest and most attractive child in the building.  And while I wouldn't necessarily disagree, I want him to have a little humility to go along with all of his awesomeness.

Meanwhile, Graham is as accommodating as ever.  I'm sure when he hits six years old, I'll have the same complaint about his confidence, but for now I wish he'd stand up for himself a little better, even to his brother.  The world could certainly use a few more considerate gentlemen, but it shouldn't force him to be a doormat, either.

With both of their birthdays approaching, maybe this is a good time to make a goal.  Before their seventh and fifth respective birthdays, I hope that Cael and Graham can demonstrate a little personal growth.  I'm sure they can do it.  I know they will.

"Cael, do you want to play cars with me?"

"What should you call me, Graham?"

"I'm sorry.  Master, do you want to play cars with me?"

Better give them two years.

(It has been brought to my attention that my ambiguous pronouns might have made it sound as though my husband was the one who gave me the black eye I mentioned in yesterday's post.  To clarify, Cael was the {accidental} culprit.  No cause for concern here.)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Labor Pains

There really is nothing like celebrating labor by ridding yourself of all obligations.  So this past weekend, that is exactly what we did.  Repeating last year's plans, we booked a few hotel rooms at Grand Harbor Resort (an indoor waterpark/hotel) with my sister's family and Papa in tow. 

We'd had such a great time last year, swimming all day and taking turns on the waterslides, having hotel room picnics and late night conversations that would later make no sense at all, but at the time had us in hysterics.  This year would be the same.  We were sure of it.

Things fell a bit short of perfection, as they always do.  This seems to be a running theme in my life and in my blog; my persistent effort to create magical moments and my inevitable letdown when things fall short. 

Cael and Graham, Labor Day 2012
Sometimes I think it is a defense mechanism, a parenting safety net.  My boys are smart, and they can very clearly tell when I've hit my limits.  Heck, they often see me teeter on the brink and jump at the chance to push me over.  But for some reason I feel that, if their childhoods are filled with enough glorious memories of feeding ducks and camping and train rides and bubbles and waterparks, they will be able to overlook the bad times.  They won't remember how Mommy once locked herself in the bathroom and wouldn't help fix a broken toy.  They won't recall the reason why she sometimes snapped at them without just cause, or let them watch TV in the morning even though it was against the rules. 

It doesn't work that way, and I know that.  Trying to make things perfect for them won't change their reality and frankly isn't even possible.  But until I have the confidence in myself as a mother not to lock that door, I'm still going to do my best to create new "good" to balance the "bad".

As for our trip, everyone seemed to take turns feeling under the weather.  Joel pinched a nerve in his back, nearly broke a toe, and while helping Cael up from the pool, he stood quickly and banged his skull against my face.  But despite my black eye, a fun souvenir from our vacation, we had a great time because we were together.

I may have to do some thinking before Labor Day 2014, however...