Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ism of the Week

Sometimes around this time of year, with Halloween nearly here and the winter holidays already showing themselves on commercials and Target aisles, Graham's wires get crossed.

Trying on an old costume of Cael's to make sure it would fit Graham despite being a size too small, I thought I should bolster his confidence a bit.  After all, being the little brother can be tough with hand-me-downs clothes and homemade costumes. 

Graham and Cael, Halloween 2012
"Wow, Graham.  You look great!  It's not a scary costume, but that's okay.  You'll just have spook everyone.  Do you know what to say?"

"Yep.  I say, 'Boo, boo, boo.  Merry Halloween!"

And a happy new year.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pumpkin Wishes

Every year at this time, I look forward to carving pumpkins.  I love planning out my design and, if I have the time, trying something new and challenging.  But as much as I love a good jack-o-lantern, I absolutely dread what leads up to it.

Two years ago, Graham wanted mouse toots.  I just don't know what they looks like.

Last year, Cael requested a snake to be carved out of a lumpy pumpkin, which seemed easy enough until I started carving and discovered that warty pumpkins are harder than stone, and probably stable enough to be used to construct the space shuttles.

So last night when I asked the boys to plan what they wanted me to carve tomorrow, my face had a smile but my fingers were crossed behind my back.

"Cael, what would you like on your pumpkin?"

"I don't know, Mom.  Whatever you want."

"Wait, you don't want to help me carve a cool pumpkin?"

"I don't care."

"Graham, do you want to pick out a pumpkin design?"

"Just make mine like Cael's."

"Okay, boys.  Should I just not carve pumpkins this year?  This is supposed to be a special and fun thing for the two of you."

The parent in me has to say this so that they understand the effort I am putting in on their behalf.  But the inner child in me knows that I'm going to carve the pumpkins regardless.  I just wish they cared a little more.

"No!"  "No, Mommy, carve them!"

"Well, what do you want them to look like then, Cael?"

"Okay.  I want a town.  No, no, a city.  With lots of skyscrapers and a helicopter watching the cars on the streets.  Make sure there are lots of cars.  And there should be a moon in the sky with some stars, and mountains in the background.  Or a volcano!  And can there be people in the buildings?  Like some of them are working at their jobs and some of them live in the buildings, so they are at home.  And some of them are sleeping in their beds.  Can you make beds?  Ooh, and they should all have pets, like cats and dogs.  Or maybe a rabbit.  Okay, Mom?"

This Halloween, be careful what you wish for.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pumpkin Patch Mismatch

From the day my boys were born, they demonstrated a number of similarities.

They had similarly colored eyes, were both equally challenging to deliver thanks to similarly oversized heads, and since birth have displayed similar skill in driving me batty in creatively similar ways.  But sometimes I have an experience that reminds me just how different they are, despite their matching blonde locks and joint propensity for trouble and late night snack heists. 

During the week of Cael's birthday, both of my boys' schools were planning trips to a local pumpkin patch, Kroul Farms

And because of a change in my schedule that saw one of my day care kids not coming for the week, I had both Thursday and Friday free to accompany my boys to the farm, where I had an impromptu lesson in genetics and personality development.

 For example, when Graham realized that I would be coming along on the field trip, he was thrilled that I would be there, and clung to my side for the first 20 minutes of the trip. 

Cael, on the other hand, who admittedly didn't know I was coming to meet his bus at the pumpkin patch, was surprised to see me there but found goofing around with his friends much more interesting that hanging out with dear ol' Mom.

The differences didn't end there.  Here is Cael deeply drawn into the excitement of the farm animals.

Here is Graham, acting bored and refusing to participate.

Here is Cael's favorite animal, a chicken with an eye for my Canon handheld.

And here is Graham's favorite animal, the pig, because "the curly tail on his butt looks like your hair, Mommy.  Just on your head.  Not on your butt.  Wait, DO you have hair on your butt?"

No, I don't.

Here is Cael, running at full force through the the hay bail maze.

Here is Graham, in a single file line, shuffling reluctantly along.

As the afternoon wore on, my boys even changed in similar ways.  Graham was shy and clingy at first, but later grew more confident and wanted to explore on his own.  Cael, on the other hand, was wild and hyper but later settled down and wanted to hold my hand.

So while I thought I was headed to the farm to look at some pumpkins with my sweet boys, I spent two afternoons reminding myself that for all of their similarities, Cael and Graham are very individual.

I also learned not to get too close to the chicken pen, but that's a story for another day.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Let me preface the following story by noting that I am a good driver.  I have never had a collision with another vehicle and, despite my too-numerous-to-mention encounters with deer (which were completely out of my control) I still maintain that any children in my car are in no physical danger save for a headache from listening to Graham sing "Just the Way You Are" by Bruno Mars on constant loop.

With that said, I have a bit of a problem with taking residential corners too tightly, especially when I am focusing on searching for a parking spot or directions to my destination. 

I wish I'd made that realization before we took a day trip to Des Moines to visit my sister, Sarah.  Perhaps I could have saved myself a lot of hassle.

Two weekends ago, Joel was scheduled to drive a couple of hours for a state jazz meeting, and because I had been wanting to visit my sister anyway, we decided to kill two birds with one stone.  We arranged a place to meet, Joel jumped in her vehicle and went off to his meeting, and Sarah, her kids and I headed to lunch. 

Lunch was delicious.  The conversation was grand.  And with Joel's meeting running late, we even had time to sneak in a quick shopping trip to Target, because no woman can ever have enough nail polish or pumpkin scented candles.  But after we'd made four or five circuits of the store and seen all we'd wanted to see, I began calling and texting my husband, knowing that Sarah needed her car and to get back to work.

Eventually I got a text message with the address of the house where he was meeting, and I set my eyes to scanning for SW 7th St.  A road sign buzzed by for 6th St., and realizing that we were heading in the wrong direction, I made a couple of right turns to try to backtrack toward the proper street.  But when we finally reached it, two things happened.  First, I realized that we were on the east, and therefore opposite, side of town.  And second, I drove over a massive decorative boulder on the street corner.

In my defense, these were curb-less streets, and the rock, which was significantly buried when I hit it, was positioned at the very corner, likely in an effort to keep people from taking the turn too closely. 

Well played.

We went over it with a huge crunch, and in my shock I stopped the van, when in reality my momentum probably would have propelled us over the boulder.  There would have still been damage, of that I have no doubt, but maybe I could have saved myself the $80 towing fee we would eventually pay.

Before I called the tow truck, though, I tried driving forward and backward, shifting my tires to find a position that would give us some motion.  Instead, when we thought we were finally making some progress, my spare tire broke loose and a loud hissing sound of air being released came from below the van.  I resigned myself to having ruined my van while out of town, kids in tow, in the stupidest and most embarrassing way possible.

I texted Joel, knowing that the interruption to his meeting was only the tip of the iceberg of my offenses that afternoon.  As tactfully as I could without showing my panic, I let him know that there was a problem.

And then my poorly performing phone crashed, but that was probably my fault, too.  My clumsiness really knows no bounds.

Joel's frantic calls and texts to me went unanswered, and those sent to my sister got the same treatment as her phone had died during lunch.  Mercifully, my nephew Ryan had his phone along and fully charged, and I used that immediately to secure a tow truck and contact Joel.

Over the next hour, a resident nearby tried to jack the van up enough to move the rock, but without the proper equipment, gave up trying just as my confused husband arrived.  Soon after, the truck arrived and lifted the van enough for three men to move the boulder, which was now much higher off the ground after I'd unseated it from its previous location.  Once back on solid ground, we were relieved to hear that the hissing sound came from the rear A/C line being punctured, and not from damage to our brake system or any other component that would keep us from driving home that night.

After some very apologetic goodbyes, we headed home much later than anticipated, arriving in town just before a school-related bonfire that Joel was supposed to attend.  Without time to head home, we stopped at Walmart to get ingredients for s'mores and to discover that Graham was serious when he said he had to go, and I spent the better part of 30 minutes disposing of his underpants after a very uncharacteristic accident.

So when we rolled into the party exhausted, commando, and dragging a chunk of noisy plastic casing under the van, I didn't even give a second thought to the fact that Oscar hadn't been let out since the night before...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ism of the Week

I had another post prepared for today, but when your kid says something as strange as mine said today, it deserves another look.

We all awoke to snow flurries in the air, unusual but not unheard of for this time of year in Iowa.  But when it became clear that the flurries were turning into an outright snowfall, Graham took notice.

"Mom, look!  I can't believe it is snowing, and it isn't even Halloween."

"I know."

"I mean, that's like... um... it's like... when it's not even Christmas yet and Santa pees his pants!"

In an unrelated note, where can I buy a waterproof chimney liner?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Quantitative Photography

A few weeks ago, I shared some photos that I had taken of Graham for his birthday photo shoot, complaining of how difficult it is to capture a little one's sweetness on camera when they won't sit still or look right at you because-- "oh, there's a pinecone!" or, "I think I hear a train.  Do you?  I do.  That's definitely a train."

But my one and only philosophy or trick of the trade (a term I use loosely as this is something I hardly do professionally) is to take as many photos as your time slot will allow, because at least one of them is bound to be good.

That trick works well with Graham.  His attention span is short, but his face is adorable, so only a few seconds of concentration and about 850 pics are needed to guarantee a quality photograph.  But shooting Cael is a very different story.  With my iPhoto library inching toward 20,000 even after deleting nearly 10K over the last few weeks, I was hoping to avoid an hour long deleting session after uploading Cael's birthday photos.  So when I set out with my big boy and my big camera, I decided that my new philosophy would be "quality over quantity".

And quality is what I got.  Fewer photos, but still clear, bright and colorful, all documenting my birthday boy.  And nearly all of them looked like this.

Maybe sometimes, more really is better.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ism of the Week

"What are you doing, Mom?"

"What do you think I'm doing?"

"Washing your face."

"Yep, you're right."

"But why are you using that washcloth?"

"Well, I need a cloth to wash the soap off of my face."

"I know, but why are you using that washcloth?"

"I just told you, honey."

"But Mom, wh--"

"--What's the problem, Cael?"

"Nothing.  Just that Graham used that to wipe earlier because there was no toilet paper.  Good thing you're washing with soap."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Intro to Poetry

Sometimes, when they don't think I'm listening, my boys speak in prose, their words lyrical and poetic rather than the rough, quick banter of small children.

Just last night, as they were dressing after a playful bath during which they pretended the bubbles were snow, their speech morphed back into incredibly esoteric speech that made me giggle.

"The snow is gone, and winter is over.
The cold snow is gone with the water.
And we are not giants anymore.
We used to be huge; we were bigger than skyscrapers and boats,
And the sky,
And the mountains,
And the whole, wide world.

But not God, no-- nothing is bigger than God!
But now the snow is gone and we are small again, and cold.

And my buttcheeks are showing."

Welcome back, boys.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Splinter in Time

It's amazing how one little thing can snowball into an entire blizzard of drama in just a fraction of minutes.


During a rousing marble game on Sunday night, Cael discovered that he had a splinter.  Not a big splinter, but a splinter nonetheless.

"I'll just catch the other marbles.  I can't play because my thumb hurts a little bit."


"Cael," Joel said, "I can get that splinter out for you.  It will be no big deal."

Cael was immediately concerned.

"No, that's okay.  It might hurt.  I'll just wait and it will come out at school tomorrow."

"Why don't you just let me look at it in the bathroom?"


"Just don't touch it.  Don't touch it.  Daddy, seriously just look at it.  It would hurt SO big, like fire.  Don't touch it."

Cael really didn't want him to touch it.


"Seriously, Cael, I'm not going to do anything.  Just let me look.  Does this hurt?"  


 "Does this hurt?" 


He got a little closer.

"Does this hu--" 


"It did?" 

"Well, no, but you were going to touch it." 


"Cael, can you see that little line where the splinter went in?  That's like the street, and the splinter is in the garage.  We just need to put the splinter in reverse.  And see that little hole?  That's where it went in, and the garage door is open and ready!"

"But I don't want to drive the car in reverse out of the garage and onto the street!"

"It might get infected if you leave that in there and won't wash it."

"Well, you can look at the car but you can't drive it yet."


"Cael, the splinter is poking out.  If you would just hold still, I promise it won't hurt.  Then we can quickly finish our marble game.  Otherwise, we're going to have to go straight to bed because this has taken so long." 



"Cael, it's all done."

"It's out?" 

"Yep.  Now did that hurt at all?"

"Nope!  And I was so brave!" 


With that fiasco behind us, Joel and I headed to bed.

"You want to be the one to pull out his loose teeth?"

Monday, October 14, 2013

Suddenly Six

After a very busy week of birthday dinners, parent-accompanied field trips, late night cake decorating sessions and car accidents, I'm still in a bit of a fog, but slowly emerging.

Like Graham, Cael's birthday fell on a weekday, so with his party scheduled on the weekend to accommodate schedules and a dinner of his choice on his actual birthday, his celebration was drawn out over several days.  I thought he might spontaneously combust from the pain of waiting two extra days to open presents and see his cake, but aside from shouting "I'm ZASE!" at everyone within earshot after learning that "seis" is "six" in Spanish, he was surprisingly patient.

I have to admit to feeling seriously lackluster about creating Cael's cake.  It feels like Graham's birthday was about a minute ago, and despite the fact that I just barely caught up on my sleep, I was not overly enthusiastic about pulling a guaranteed all-nighter to get the dessert done.

But the show must go on, and with the theme of Cardinals baseball decided, a vast improvement on Cael's original choices of a cake that looked like poop or a giant booger, I got started crafting the scoreboard and the Cardinals' logo.

I actually got quite a bit accomplished in the middle of the night, and although I move much slower with my eyelids half open, the lack of constant interruptions from my boys meant that I could see each task through to completion before delusionally putting my tools away in the shoe closet and the leftover fondant in the dishwasher.

My biggest point of pride with this cake was that the fondant (admittedly still store-bought as I ran out of time to make it from scratch) was properly stretched and not only were there no seams, but the top and sides were smooth and not lumpy.

 Really, they were.

When the entire thing was completed, I stuck the flags in to fill some empty spaces that I had no clue how to fill, and went to move the entire thing to the table to take some photos.  But instead of the cardboard cake base sliding on the countertop, it got stuck and the entire cake itself slid across the board and warped out of shape.

Hooray!  Zase cheers for Cael's lumpy cake!
But Cael didn't notice those mistakes.  He saw a baseball, the St. Louis logo, and came running with a smile on his face, straight past me and over to his pile of presents.  Because, after all, he is just a kid and a big stack of gifts will always outrank some eggs, flour and butter, no matter how long it took to assemble.

But later, just a few hours after it was finished, I used a sharp knife to hack away at my latest effort as Cael watched on, saying, "This was the best cake ever, Mom.  You're great at making cakes."

And that's good enough for me.  Happy Birthday, big boy.

(Yes, eventually I will explain the car accident reference.  But for now, I'm too embarrassed...)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Birthday Time-Out

Hey everyone!  Since I have seemingly dropped off the face of the earth, I thought I would leave a quick post explaining my postlessness.  You see, as I take these few minutes to write this morning, picking bits of fondant and scotch tape from my hair, I am losing precious minutes that I desparately to finish wrapping Cael's gifts, visiting Cael's class, decorating his birthday cake, and wrapping up a handful of other projects whose deadlines have all converged during this, my busiest time of the year.

So check back Monday after a couple of days have passed and I've logged some significant hours of sleep.  I'll tell you all about it, provide that I've recovered by then.  What day is this, anyway?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pack Rat

I think that all kids are, by nature, packrats.  They want to keep that one rock, and that broken plastic piece to a toy they can't even remember, and although there may not even be any real sentimental attachment to it, it CANNOT BE THROWN AWAY.  A child on the verge of losing a scrap of paper or the rubber remnants of a balloon will explode faster than C-4, despite the fact that the offense is less offensive than ripping the tag off of your new mattress.  (That's for you, Dad.)

Kids like this are incompatible with parents like me.  I want things tidy.  I despise clutter.  And while I wouldn't ever feel comfortable with a visitor scrutinizing the cleanliness of my bathrooms, I would challenge anyone to an organizational duel.  At the same time, I have a son in Kindergarten, which is a German word that I believes translates to "stack of junk", and the sheer volume of papers that come home from school with him is staggering.  Despite what my tone might lead you to believe, I actually love seeing his developing writing skill each day, and being able to keep on top of what he is learning is fantastic, but I simply can't keep it all.  Whenever something catches my eye as being special or unique, I keep it, but being as selective as I am, there are still papers multiplying in my kitchen, on my bookshelves and in the closets.

This is how hoarding starts, people.

So when I saw Cael rifling through the kitchen trash can yesterday, and knew that I was about to be caught having unceremoniously dumped a worksheet about the letters "ng", I panicked, trying to conjure up an excuse that would satisfy my son.  But Cael's guilt trip didn't give me a chance.

"Mom!  I can't believe you threw this away!  I did this!  I worked on it!  I wrote it on my paper with a pencil!  And then I put it in my backpack!  It's mine!  It's so amazing, too!  It's the best thing I've ever made and you threw it away.  Threw.  It.  Away.  In the trash.  Wow, Mom."

Who would have thought that my biggest parenting blunder would be cleaning my kitchen?

For a while I put it out of my mind, figuring that he would get over it, but I began to feel guilty myself.  Wasn't I the one that told Cael to be proud of all of his work, and that he should always try his best because every assignment was important?  I thought that maybe I should do something to make it up to him, and my mind ran wild trying to come up with a suitable consolation.  But it wasn't necessary, because Cael found his own way to even the score.

Guess I'll have to use the garage garbage can from now on.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ism of the Week

"I'm really handsome, Mommy."

"Yes, I agree.  I think your eyes are very pretty."

"Yeah, but that's not my best thing."

"What's your best thing?  Your hair?  Your soft skin?  Your smile?"

"No.  My pants come up all the way over my shoulders!"