Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Playing Games

When I was little, I always looked forward to power outages, because it was during that time that we would pull out the board games and candles and play as a family.  Sometimes Life, sometimes Scrabble but usually Monopoly, it was one of my favorite times because I have been cursed by being a "game person" born into a family of "non gamers". 

But last weekend, while Joel was out of town for a festival, I learned that I'm not as much of a game person as I'd originally thought.

I wanted to do something fun with my boys, who were bored, fighting a lot and frustrated because they couldn't play outside.  So I pulled out "Don't Spill the Beans" and smiled when I saw how excited they were.  But about three minutes into the game, I began to question my own sanity.

Playing a board game by candlelight with a few quiet, well-mannered girls in the late 1980's is one thing.  Playing a game with a hundred tiny plastic beans and two wired ankle-biters should be outlawed by the Geneva Convention. 

They spilled the beans, as outlined by the game.  But they ignored the rule and tried to knock the beans onto their own side.  They threw the beans.  I pulled one from Graham's ear.  I'm pretty sure Oscar ate several.  I used the bathroom and returned to find that the red bucket was now holding beans and a handful of dog food. 

When the beans would fall on the other's side, each of them would explode in a fit of frustration and angry bean-related banter that had me repeatedly questioning what I was thinking.  And when I finally announced that the game was done and packed away, they banded together against me, pelting me with beans that they seemingly produced from nowhere.  When I was finally able to put the boys to bed, I sighed with the same relief you'd feel after saying goodbye to house guests that have vastly overstayed their welcome.

And all to make them happy?  Perhaps games aren't the key to childhood happiness, but to adult-onset anxiety. 

Guess I'll leave Twister packed away a little longer.  I'm just not in the mood for a broken leg.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Birthday, Joel

How come months can pass with nothing of importance happening, and then one week will come along that makes you long for those college days when you could sleep two or three hours a night and function normally?

This is one of those weeks, but mercifully each event is a happy one, like today: Joel's birthday.

We celebrated last night after my husband returned from a three-day Iowa All State trip, and although he had already received his main gift, we showered him with some Gander Mountain gift cards and a turkey frier.

But the real pièce de résistance of the night was the card that each of our sons lovingly prepared for their Dad.

Cael did a nice job of decorating his card with a cake on the front and inside, but the trouble started when he tried to mark a "31" near the lollipops balloons he'd drawn.  When he realized that his three was backward, he corrected it and created a pseudo-number that looked more like "81" than anything. 

On the back, he insisted on including what was supposed to say, "Ooh la la, Pizza Hut", something that he's picked up from school, but because he was in something of a backward mood, his "z" letters looked more like an "s", prompting Joel to wonder exactly where one could find the "Pissa Hut".

But Graham... Graham's was my favorite part.

He can write a few words here and there, so I had him write out "Dad" and his own name, which featured a big, backwards "G", although neither of the boys have had problems with inverting symbols before, and told him that I would write out whatever message he wanted in the card.

"Happy Birthday.  Dear Daddy!  I love you more than bad guys.  Crayons."

And if that doesn't soothe the sting of thirty-one, I don't know what would.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ism of the Week

"Mom, what is stuffing?"

"Do you mean the filling inside a pillow, or the kind of stuffing that we eat at Thanksgiving?"

"The food kind."

"Oh, it's so good, and you've had it before.  Stuffing is small bread cubes that are seasoned and then cooked inside the turkey.  That's my favorite part of Thanksgiving."

"How do they get the bread inside the turkey?"

"Well, when you buy a turkey in the store, all of the insides have been taken out, so it is hollow."

"But do you put the stuffing in the turkey's mouth?"

"No, not exactly."

"Where, Mom?"

"It sort of goes in the other end of the turkey."

Stuffed turkey photo that I shamelessly stole from Google Images.
"So let me get this straight--" (Cael's new favorite line) "--you want me to eat pieces of bread that you put inside a dead, empty bird, through his butt?"

"Yeah, but try not to think of it that way."

"I don't think I can think about anything else."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Breaking the News

If you happened to miss Monday's announcement, we are now expecting our third child.  And our current two are super excited.

Well, one is.  The other isn't quite sure.

But one thing is for certain-- I won't be taking name advice from Cael or Graham any time soon.


(Sound quality isn't great.  You may need to turn up your speakers.  I promise there is no digital ghoul ready to jump out at you.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Random Facts of Information

If you are on Facebook, you have probably seen the timelines of your friends inundated with the "Random Facts" challenge.  A friend lists facts about themselves, and if you "like" their post, you get assigned a number, and you are encouraged to list that many obscure facts about yourself as well.

At the time when I "liked" the posts of three of my friends, however, I didn't realize that I was getting myself involved.  So in the course of one afternoon, I was messaged that I received a six and two sevens. 

You want thingamabobs?  I've got twenty.

1.  Since becoming pregnant, I cannot eat mushrooms of any kind.  My stomach simply won't allow it, even though portobellos were a favorite of mine before.

2.  I have a serious phobia of any insect in the bee family.  I have never been stung, which I credit to my rapid flight instinct when one of those striped terrorists are around.  Once, while working at my high school job as a cashier at Walgreens, our automatic door got stuck open and several wasps from a nearby hive made it in the store.  When I saw one land on my shoulder, I fainted in the middle of scanning a woman's purchases.

3.  I am hopelessly addicted to nail polish.  I have dozen of bottles, and during the summer, I will remove and repaint my nails nearly every day.

4.  I believe that there are three foods worth eating even to the point of sickness:  Thanksgiving stuffing, fresh crab, and sautéed morel mushrooms.

5.  When I was twelve years old, I was home alone before school when a severe windstorm knocked a massive oak tree over onto my house.  There was a huge crack in the ceiling above my head, and the tree punched through the wall in my bedroom.

6.  Joel and I met at college before classes even started, and dated until December of our freshman year.  At that time, thanks to my 18 year old self likely being a bit clingy, he broke up with me.  The following March, he asked me to take him back and I responded with a prepared list of "The Reasons Why You And I Will NEVER Work."  Guess the joke was on me.

7.  Contrary to what many people think about me, I am very introverted.  I crave time alone, and sometimes find it difficult to fake interest in conversations, especially with people I don't know very closely.

8.  I am categorically against Kindles, Nooks or any other e-reader.  I love my iPad, but I feel that reading a book is an experience, and I am unwilling to give up the smell of the paper, or the sound the pages make as they turn.

9.  I had heart surgery when I was 16 years old.

10.  I have seen every episode of Whose Line is it Anyway? from all three incarnations of the show, and can quote entire episodes of the US version with Drew Carey.

11.  When Cael was a baby, I made all of his baby food myself.  While cutting a butternut squash to bake for him, I put my brand new Kitchen Aid chef's knife through my left hand.  I still have nerve damage and limited motion because of the incident.

12.  I am not a natural redhead.  I was instructed to dye my hair red for a high school musical and never went back.

13.  My dream job is to have either my own restaurant or a syndicated newspaper/magazine column.

14.  Other than Canada and the Bahamas, I have never left the United States.  I would love to visit France, Italy, Scotland or Spain before I die.

15.  I am a bit of a grammar Nazi.  While I make certain exceptions myself, like starting a sentence with, "and" or "but", I have no patience for people who say "I could care less".  Think about it, people.  That means you care.

16.  Born into a very musical family, I was always singing and performed in at least one vocal ensemble from when I was five until I graduated college.  It has been 8 years since I sang in a choir and I miss it terribly.

17.  I've lived my entire life in Iowa, but I have never touched a cow, horse, pig or chicken.

18.  When I was in elementary school, I was given a Styrofoam cup with one pumpkin seed in it as part of a Sunday school lesson.  After the plant had outgrown the cup, we planted it in a large pot, and eventually had to transplant it into our family's garden.  With the only available space being near the compost pile, my one pumpkin seed grew into over 30 pumpkins of varying sizes that supplied the neighborhood kids that fall.

19.  I have recurring dreams about my teeth falling out, or pulling them out myself.

20.  I talk to my dog like he is a human.  Whenever I leave the house for more than an hour, I explain to Oscar where I am going and when I plan to be back. 

...And that's twenty facts.  I did it!

I hope you're not bored to tears with that overload of information, because now it's your turn!  I'd love for you to comment below with something random about yourself so we can get to know each other better.  Ready, go!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Our Latest Project

You know what I realized over the weekend?  I skipped not one but two posts last week, and I'm very sorry because I am in no way abandoning my little corner of the internet. 

But you know what?  I have a really good excuse.

I'm learning that it takes a lot to keep up with a full-time student, a part-time preschooler, an over-time music teacher and husband (especially during musical and All-State season), three steady day care kids, a dog, a cat, a blog and a serious addiction to salted chocolate popcorn.  I've been working myself ragged on a particular project, feeling sheer exhaustion at every turn and been plagued with a bout of persistent nausea that has, at times, made even that popcorn sound less than appealing.

I asked my doctor about it and he said not to worry.  It should all sort itself out by mid June.

Ultrasound taken at 7 weeks.
As for me, I'm very excited about this little project, but exceedingly anxious that I won't have any stamina or stomach lining left come presentation time. 

I'm also hoping that it has my brown eyes.

I'm off to take a nap... it might be the last one I get for quite some time.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Say What?

I think we may have a bit of speech therapy in our future.  Graham, who is scarily smart and already beginning reading skills, is still having a hard time making certain consonant sounds.  At his age, Cael followed a similar pattern, but by the time he was four he had realized that the letter "R" shouldn't sounds like "W". (Check out the video below to hear his unique pronunciation.)

The problem is that we are so used to Graham's linguistic quirks that I hardly notice his mistakes anymore.  When he replaces the "G" sound with a "D", some part of my brain knows it is incorrect, but the other part simply giggles (or diddles) at my son pronouncing his own name as "Dram".  Similarly, because "C" and "K" sound like "T", our older son is "Tail" rather than "Cael", and I coudn't have chosen a more appropriate or humorous nickname for him myself.

But I've noticed lately that Dram has been replacing his trouble letters with other unrelated ones that don't follow his typical pattern.  The first time I heard him refer to a baby I watch as "Helen" rather than "Kellen", we got a chuckle out of it until Tail alerted me to the fact that his brother has been starting many more of his words with the letter "H".

"Mom, he does that a lot.  When I talk to him, lots of his words start with "H".  Stuff like 'hat' and 'house' and 'hammer'."

I think I am going to do some calling this week to gather some information about speech therapy for Graham.

And maybe some listening therapy for Cael.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Homework Headaches

Remember a few weeks ago when I begged and pleaded for help with my son who, despite being generally amiable at home, was in constant trouble for behaving foolishly at school?  That was an unbelievably challenging time, but as I look back on it with 20/20 vision, I realize that I was the fool.  During that difficult time, why wasn't I knocking on wood and thanking my lucky stars that, at the very least, I didn't have to deal with it myself?

But I didn't knock.  I didn't, and I'm paying for it now.

On Friday, Cael proudly handed me his smiley face chart chronicling his massive achievement and ability to control himself when needed, making sure to add, "Take that, Mom." 

Why didn't I knock?

There's been a great deal of snottiness in the air at my house lately, which is one of my biggest pet peeves and something I will not tolerate, so its continued presence has been as irritating, if not more so, than the Boxelder bugs that weaseled their way into my house through the same cracks that Cael and Graham's respect for me used to make a hasty escape.

But I finally hit my boiling point last night.  I was already on edge from a trying weekend and a frantic morning searching outside for various pieces of winter gear.  I didn't even have a chance to post yesterday, because every free moment I had was filled with "but Moms" and "no fairs".  We didn't even get to Cael's one and only piece of homework the night before, a blank coloring page of "Tom the Turkey", which we were urged to creatively disguise in order to save him from an untimely death as someone's Thanksgiving turkey.

I was very grateful that said turkey wasn't due until Tuesday, allowing me an additional 24 hours to help Cael conjure up some clever disguises other than "poop" and "a turkey-shaped booger".  But yesterday afternoon, when we finally sat down to disguise Tom as Superman SuperTom, Cael saw me send a day care child home with a paper that he mistakenly thought belonged to him.

There were tears.  There was screaming.  I briefly thought of checking behind his ears for the telltale 666 until he hauled off and kicked me. 

Kicked me.  I stared at him, slack-jawed, until I snapped into action and barely controlled anger as I put him in a time-out and mentally planned my barely coherent lecture about turkey gizzards and smiley faces and never, ever hitting or kicking me.  Ever.

 Meanwhile, as Cael thought about his behavior, another child I watch commandeered the crayons and made the executive decision that SuperTom would look better in various shades of red and purple, scribbling at random over our only copy of the cartoon image.  When Cael emerged from time-out, reluctantly apologizing, he threw himself into another fit upon realizing that his paper had been destroyed.  I tried to salvage the teachable moment by pointing out that had he controlled himself rather than kicking me, his paper would have remained untouched and Tom could have realized his destiny as the hero of the turkey population.

Later, after we'd all calmed down, eaten supper and grabbed some supplies at the grocery store, we did our best to fix Tom's colorful visage and disguise him in some strategically placed brush.  The irony wasn't lost on me that our "creative" disguise for Tom was, in fact, what a real turkey would actually do to disguise itself, but I was still reeling from the irony that what began as a celebration for good behavior ended in evidence that we still have some work to do.

This time when I see progress, I'll knock on wood.  Or turkey.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Autumn Leaves

I apologize for having nothing witty to contribute this morning, but after four days of cold and grey skies, I thought we could all use a dose of sunshine.

Every year, before the weather truly shifts and we all get the sense that the change is irreversible, we are blessed with one last beautiful day to last us through the cold days of winter.  Last Sunday was that day, and boy, did we make the most of it.

I hope that my boys' smiles have helped to warm your day just as they warm our lives!  And hey, it could be worse, right?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ism of the Week

"Mom, why don't we eat apple seeds?"

"Because they're really hard and don't taste like much."

"But we scooped out all of those pumpkin seeds and you ate some of them."

"I know, but there are only some seeds we eat."

"I think we should eat all seeds.  Like watermelon seeds!"

"And what else?"

"Chicken seeds?  And milk seeds and cat seeds!  But Mommy, do people have seeds?"

"Uh... so, Cael, tell me how school was school today?"

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

We The People

It has only taken a few days of waking up to the very loud sounds of pretend battle and the machinated voices of Woody and Buzz at nearly 5:00am for me to join the ranks of those against Daylight Saving Time. 

I even saw a petition being shared by a few of my friends on Facebook that suggested the time change be done away with altogether, and by the scores of signatures on the form, there are plenty of other parents that agree.

I didn't sign it, though, because after seeing countless "Boycott Chris Brown" and "Muzzle Lindsay Lohan" petitions garner thousands of signatures and then see Chris Brown's concerts sell out and Lohan's face remain uncovered, I have lost faith in the petition process.

But maybe that's because none of the causes were compelling enough to cause real change.  Let's change that.

Petition to Make Parenting Easier

Parenting is the most difficult position many of us will ever hold, and despite the way today's modern conveniences ease the burdens of child-rearing, they yield many of our collective pet peeves as well.  By removing these irritants, today's parents will be happier and more equipped to raise competent, well-adjusted children.  These are our requests:

1.  Fast food restaurants should no longer offer french fries as the default side option for kids' meals.  Surely my children are not the only ones to prefer fruit over greasy potato strips, and when my poor memory prevents me from addressing the fry vs. fruit issue, I'd rather the fast food conglomerate not be the one to put fat on my kids' bones.  Their genes will do that on their own, thank you very much.

2.  Remove commercials from children's programming.  Sometimes all that stands between urinating in private and putting on an impromptu and very intimate one-woman show is the Disney channel.  But by not providing 22 uninterrupted minutes of brain-numbing cartoons, parents everywhere cannot remember or know the freedom of privacy.  

(2a.  In addition, Dora should no longer leave that awkward pause after asking questions to the viewer.  Not only do my children never take the opportunity to answer, but now also leave lingering, blink-filled pauses after requesting oatmeal or cereal.)

3.  Paper towel and toilet paper products should be sold in simple white, eliminating the patterned options from the shelves.  Although many people may like simplistic images of flowers or picnic baskets on their paper towel rolls, these printed choices lead my children (and undoubtedly many others) to believe that all paper and sanitary products are intended to be decorated.  While I found humor in the marker drawing of a mangled cow on my Kleenexes, I was less enthused about my ruined guest towel.

4.  It is time for the immediate and widespread elimination of the word "barf".  It's just gross.

5.  Prescription and child medications lids need more advanced safety lock options.  While the current "press and turn" caps are effective in keeping children out, they are nearly impenetrable for mothers with snot and applesauce-covered hands who are trying to medicate a screaming three year-old.  With the new iPhone 5S's fingerprint scanner a reality, pill bottles can certainly integrate a retinal or tongue scan to ease use.

6. Lastly, all retail stores should have carts available and aisles wide enough to accommodate them.  As if leaving Ulta without the latest Urban Decay product isn't difficult enough, keeping my children from knocking over displays and threatening to paint each other's butts with nail polish makes the experience nearly traumatic.  The embarrassment of pushing two boys around in one cart even through adolescence is worth it to me to enjoy my time perusing the makeup aisles without fear of them constructing a boxed hair-dye fort.

Mothers everywhere, unite!  We can make this happen.  Who is with me?!

Monday, November 4, 2013

All Hallow's Eve

With Halloween now a thing of the past along with Breaking Bad and what felt like the only remaining hours of sunshine, I'm happy to look forward to the holiday season.  I like Halloween just fine, but once I've eaten all of the Reese's peanut butter cups from the candy stash, the actual act of traipsing around in the cold leaves something to be desired.  But even after offering our hand-out candy to the boys in exchange for staying in the warm house, the boys insisted that the show go on, even in the cold.

And was it ever cold.  Even my jack-o-lanterns, who had been outdoors before I'd gutted them, wouldn't stay lit against the strong wind that blew all night. 

 It had been raining off and on all day, so as we trudged from door to door with numb fingers, we added numb toes to the mix as we splashed in puddles of semi-frozen rainwater too dark to see. 

If you have children, though, you know that the pursuit of candy will provide enough inner warmth to melt the ice caps, so we continued on from one house to the next.  When we reached one house with a large scarily-masked dummy on the porch, the boys marched right up to the door just in time for the dummy to reveal itself as a middle-school aged boy, who jumped up with a shout. 

Cael spun to look at him, confused, while Graham tucked tail and sprinted back to us as though there were a vicious lion in hot pursuit, only to trip over the edge of the sidewalk and fly through the air before skidding across the (mercifully) wet grass and coming to a stop at our feet.

There were no tears, just a lot of shock and several suspicious glances toward anyone whose face was not in clear sight. 

"What is that?  Is that going to scare me?"

"No, Bubba.  That's just another boy trick-or-treating."

"Will that scare me?"

"No, honey.  That's a spider decoration.  It's not real."

"But what about that?!?"

"That's a mailbox, Graham."

If the goal had been candy, it was a very successful mission.  My actual goal was a fun experience, however, and I think this Halloween was something of a wash.  We arrived home cold, wet and hungry, and after letting the boys choose a couple of treats from the stockpile, they were hit with the inevitable sugar rush and chose to burn that energy by beating on each other for awhile. 

I'd secretly hoped that by dressing Graham as a bag of M&Ms and Cael as a doctor, the universe would have found a way to put the equation in my kids' heads that too much candy = getting sick, but the concept got distorted along the way.  Instead, after I caught them stealing candy from the cache at 5am on Friday morning, the "if, then" theorum became "if your brother takes your Smarties, then pound on him until he requires medical attention". 

But here we are on Monday, wiser, heavier and much more tired thanks to Daylight Savings Time, and I can say with absolute certainty that I'll do it all over again next year just to make them smile.

As long as there are peanut butter cups.