Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Get Well Very Soon

If you've ever been a nursing mother with the sadistic pleasure of experiencing mastitis, you can identify with the fever and indescribable pain I've endured over the last two days. 

You would also be much more sympathetic than Cael.

"Do you feel better today, Mom?"

"I'm getting there, Cael.  I bet I'll be a lot better by the end of the day."

"Okay, but hurry up."

"Wow, dude, you know I can't help it.  If I could make it all better right away, I would.  This is just something that happens sometimes when you nurse a baby.  Remember how sweet you were about it Monday when you made me that card?"

"Yeah, okay.  I'll make you another card."

"Jeez, Cael, what's the rush?"

"I want to go to trick-or-treating."

"Okay, but that's not until Friday."

"Oh.  Well you'd better hurry, then."

Monday, October 27, 2014

12 Things My Kids Said That Make Me Question My Parenting Skills

Over the last few weeks, I've been jotting down comments my boys have made that I thought were a good commentary on their world.  But as I compiled this list from notes on my phone, I realized that I have a lot of teaching to do.  But based on what's below, I might not be the best person to impart knowledge.

"I like when you decorate for fall and Christmas but you never decorate for other holidays."
"For what other holiday did you want me to decorate?"

"You like sushi and sushi is raw fish, right?  So is it okay to eat raw candy?"

"For my Halloween costume, I want to be a Halloween costume!  Get it?  But it has to be a dead costume, or one that somebody just shoved in a drawer and never wears."

"You really love pumpkin stuff, huh, Mom?"
"Yep, I'd like just about anything if it smelled or tasted like pumpkin."
"Oh good.  Somebody peed on the floor in our room.  But it smells like pumpkin!"

"For Christmas I want an iPhone, Mom.  But not like yours, I want the new one like Daddy.  I've been a little good... well, sometimes.  Maybe just an old iPhone for me."

"Graham, do you know why you put the guy on a hook when we play Hangman?  Because he's not smart and couldn't spell 'ghost'.  That's what happens when you can't spell."

"There are so many leaves on the ground.  I wonder if there are more leaves on the ground or stars in space.  Or poops in the toilet!"

"I don't like girls because all they talk about is Elsa and Anna and wearing pink.  And when I chase them they won't wrestle."

"When can you have another baby, Mom?"
"I don't know if I will, Graham.  Having a baby is a lot of work."
"Fine, I'll do it.  But next time it is Cael's turn."

"Look in the backyard-- did you see that?  It was, um... not a squirrel.  Not a raccoon or a cat.  Kind of like a bear but a tiny one.  We saw a movie about it, remember?  Oh, a lemur!!"
"I don't think lemurs live in Iowa, Cael."
"Oh.  I guess it was just a plastic bag."

"What is quarantine?"
"It is when you have to spend time away from other people in case you are sick and contagious."
"Can Graham have quarantine?"

"Mom, tell Cael I'm not a ebola!"

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

An Alarming Trend

Ever since Joel and I bought our current house, we've been paying (literally and figuratively) for what was clearly a questionable decision.  Six years in, we've replaced every appliance, flooded the house more times than Graham has forgotten to flush the toilet, and finally emerged from the other side of an unexpected basement renovation.

The house is getting its revenge.

But now that all of the repairs have been made, the house has had to get creative to screw with my head.  Before, all it took was a haunted-house style maze of unattached duct work and light switches that didn't switch lights.  I'd run back and forth around the house flipping switches in varying combinations and then washing my hands repetitively as if stuck in an OCD tailspin.

But all of those problems are old news, and the house had to up its ante.

It began with the upstairs carbon monoxide detector.  One day the batteries went dead, and when I tried to hang it back on the ceiling with fresh batteries, I discovered that the metal clips designed to hold the batteries in place were loose.  When turned upside down in its designated spot, the batteries would begin to fall and the alarm would let out that telltale chirp signalling me that my house is a piece of crap. 

That sound, oh that sound... in the midst of this noisy debacle I had to focus my brain on something else.  Mentally I composed a letter to the alarm company.

Dear alarm sound engineers,
Congratulations on a job well done.  The alarm sound used in your carbon monoxide detector would not only wake me from a dead sleep, but I believe it could possibly wake the dead themselves.  When I hear that high pitched tweet, I jump to action-- rounding up my children and sending them outside to safety while I use any tool available to personally remove my eardrums.  I prefer the round metal stick-like implement used for sharpening knives.  Now my house sounds quiet and calm.  Thanks so much!

When I snapped back to reality, I tried to tape the batteries into place and I tried inserting them differently.  Eventually the little metal clip broke out completely and I had to throw the whole thing away which gave me a bit of a perverse thrill, much like when leftovers you didn't really like to begin with get moldy and you can finally dump them down the disposal without feeling guilty. 

The alarm sounded even better in the disposal than it did on the wall.

Knowing there was another alarm in the basement where the carbon monoxide would be most likely to originate, I put it on the grocery list and went about my (much quieter) business.  Then last week, with the alarm event completely in the past, I came home after being gone with the boys much of the day to a familiar high-pitched chirp emanating from the basement.  It couldn't be, could it?

It could.  The remaining monoxide detector was beeping erratically; instead of the "every 30 seconds" time frame written on the back of the unit, it would go silent for minutes at a time and then throw a hissy fit like a two year old.  Working quickly because the baby was already in bed, I rounded up the necessary batteries and popped them in.

**ALERT**     **ALERT**

Immediately the alarm went off.  But before I could do anything about it, it quit completely as if nothing had ever happened.  I chalked it up to a quick surge, because I knew the batteries were new and charged, but when I got back on my stool to reattach the unit, it went off again.

Then it quit.  Went off again.  Chirped four times.  Went off.  I searched for the knife-sharpening stick.  Two chirps.  Alarm.  Perforated ear drum.  PTSD.  Mental instability.  

I yanked the batteries and threw it all on the table.  What was going on?  I could only imagine two possible scenarios:  Either the alarm unit was old and malfunctioning with and without working batteries, or there was indeed a carbon monoxide leak and my one remaining alarm was trying to alert me while dying a slow and agonizing death.  Probably from carbon monoxide.

The former was more likely, but I knew I would never sleep knowing that there was a small (admittedly very small) possibility that we were all breathing noxious gases during the night, and I'm not referring to the kind I'm subjected to when riding in the van with three boys all day.

I called our energy company and told them the whole sordid tale-- that our first alarm was on the fritz, and at the same time the other remaining one made an attempt on my life and that I just didn't know what to think, and would they come check it out?

As I had suspected, there was no leak.  That confirmation gave me enough confidence to happily toss the alarm in the trash and go to sleep.  The next day we bought two brand new alarms that no longer come in a circular shape, so Joel had the entertaining task of (quite literally) fitting a square peg into a round hole.

We slept well for two days, knowing that the air was clear and all alarms were functional.

**ALERT**     **ALERT**

Except for the smoke detectors, that is....

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Star-Spangled Seven

My apologies to everyone who might still be checking in on my blog-- after last weekend I've been living in a bit of a haze (sleep, baby, and dessert related) since Cael's birthday last Saturday.

If you've followed the blog, you know our birthday routine.  The kids choose the theme of their cake, I spend two or three weeks thinking about it and revising my plan only to have them change their mind from some clever, original idea to an overdone media character a few days before the event.  So when Cael requested an "America" cake back in July after the fanfare of Independence Day, I jumped at the opportunity and did what I could to prevent him from switching to Mr. Freeze or some complicated Transformer.

 "Mom, can you make me a ridiculously time-consuming cake that turns into a set of luggage or a VW peace bus?

No I can't.

When last Thursday rolled around and Cael was still confident in his choice, I baked the cakes and mixed up my homemade fondant.  I knew that I wanted the base layer to be red and the top cake to be blue, but when I added (and added, and added...) my red gel food coloring, I found that it took nearly 2/3 of the bottle in order to truly achieve a believable shade of red.  What I didn't know, however, was that large quantities of food coloring can affect the elasticity of the fondant, and when I went to roll it out, it consistently ripped and was completely unusable.  I needed to buy some pre-made red fondant which was okay, because I'm also always on the lookout for an excuse to go to Hobby Lobby.

Seriously, they have everything.

I spent all of my free minutes Friday alternating between trying to coax the very dry store fondant into submission, and working to color and sculpt the Statue of Liberty from gumpaste.  I chose gumpaste rather than fondant because it dries hard like clay and because I'm a glutton for punishment.  And cake, as it were.

I wasn't too confident that I could actually pull off the statue, but I didn't have many other options.  When a seven year-old wants a patriotic cake, there aren't many American symbols at one's disposal.  My first instinct was to carve Mt. Rushmore into the side of the top tier, but if the faces weren't recognizable I'd be left with a grayish mound of whatisthat that would not enthuse my son.  I also considered the Liberty Bell, the US Capitol building, the Golden Gate Bridge, a display with pilgrims and lots of buckles, a small diorama of the Boston tea party ( complete with tea packets), or in honor of Columbus Day, a detailed scene showing the escalating tension between the Native Americans and the white man determined to acquire and develop the rich soil of North America at any cost.

See what I mean?  Statue of Liberty it was.

So I got to work sculpting layers as quickly as possible because gumpaste dries very quickly, and after reaching a color I liked and getting a basic body shape on my support dowel, I was left with something that better represented an Easter Island sculpture than the Statue of Liberty.

But I persisted and, by about 2am (much earlier than I retired when working on Graham's cake) I headed off to bed with the statue completed and the Presidential seal affixed to the side of the cake. 

This cake is actually much simpler than others that I have done, and I will simply gloss over Lady Liberty's laughable disproportion before saying that I am proud of myself for pulling her off. 

Cael had a great night and got lots of gifts and books and enough Lego/Transformer objects to ensure I'll never walk barefoot in the house at night again.

Then we lit the cake with some less-than-bombastic sparkler candles and sang "Happy Birthday" and after, Joel led us in an enthusiastic and spontaneous rendition of "God Bless America".  I thought strongly about starting in on "You're A Grand Old Flag" but decided against it.  I was too distracted by the statue's charring hand to give the song my best effort.

As much as I love trying to create something my boys will love on their birthdays, I am relieved to have them behind me.  Now things can get back to normal and I can pack away my cake gear until next fall.  Because Adler doesn't really need a life-sized plush bunny cake, right?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A History of Raspberries

All of the men in my family are full of hot air.  And if you know us, you know how true that is.  But this post isn't about how I am a lone island in this house; this post is about raspberries.  And a legacy.

In the year of our Lord 2008, one man blew spit at his son and started a chain of events that could not be undone.  It instilled in this young boy a love for all things taboo-- spitting, burping, gas-- and created a partner in crime for this young father.

That man was my husband, and that boy was Cael.

I shared this video with all of you back in 2011 thinking that it was a strange but cute demonstration of how Joel's genes clearly dominate my own.  But I assumed that it was an isolated event credited to Cael and his feisty demeanor, but I'm learning that if something happens with Cael, history will repeat itself.

Enter Adler.

Now, I can admit that this is kinda cute.  Mostly because he's so little and I still think everything he does is cute as long as it doesn't smell.  But if these minor events are part of a much larger deja vu experience in my life, what else should I expect to repeat?

Maybe I just need to lay down some ground rules so that this copycat baby of mine doesn't commandeer a motor home someday.

-  No questioning people about their nuts.

-  "Fart Sniffer" is not a term of endearment.

-  You have to change your underwear.  Everyday.

-  If you sneak candy, be stealthier than to hide the evidence in MY shoe.

-  Maple" is not pronounced like "nipple".

-  The five second rule does not apply to frosting, milk, oatmeal and/or frosting.

-  If someone has a name you don't know, it is not polite to tell them it sounds like a Pok√©mon character.

-  Do not convince children younger than you that toothpaste is made of crushed peas.

-  Lunches you do not like may not traded at school for a hand drawn picture of a monkey and a taco.

If Adler can agree to follow these guidelines, I think we will get along just fine.  Unless he takes after his Daddy instead of his brother...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


"Where's Adler, Mommy?"

"He's taking a nap right now.  Why?"

"I need to kiss him."

"Oh, that's sweet.  He should be up soon, Bubba."

"No, I need to kiss him now.  I don't want to snuggle him, I just want to kiss him."

"Okay... why?"

"Because I have a cold and he doesn't yet."

"Graham, that's not nice.  He's very little and it is harder for him when he's sick than it is for you.  Why would you want to make him sick?  We should be doing our best to wash our hands and keep ourselves germ-free around him so that he doesn't catch it."

"But, but...  you said so!"

"I said to make your baby brother sick?"

"You said that I should share everything with him!"

"Okay, you know I didn't mean germs.  I just meant that when he's older, you should share your toys and things with him.  Some things you should never try to share.  I probably should have been clearer about that."

"Oh, okay.  Last night Cael came over to my bed to fart.  He said he just needed to share it with me.  I'll tell him tonight that he can share farts but NOT germs!"

Anyone want to share some hand sanitizer with us?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Alternative Sports

"Look, Mom!  Those guys are playing football on the big football field!"

"Actually, Graham, I think they are playing Lacrosse."

"Oh, that's nice.  So they can remember how Jesus died on the cross."

"No, no, Bubba.  LA-crosse."

"Sorry!  So they can remember how Jesus died on luh cross."

Much better.