Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Few. The Proud. The Trick-or-Treat Experts.

It's that time of year again.

The most glorious night of the year to my three daughters. The night when all their dreams come true.

It is also the favorite night of the year to dentists everywhere, but that is another topic for another day.

The one, the only, Halloween.

Halloween is a highly anticipated even around here for three main reasons:
1. the dress-up. My children are just a little obsessed with being in costume. This is evidenced by our overflowing dress-up box, the fact that they sit at the table for an ordinary dinner dressed as a princess, and at times I have even allowed them to go into public places dressed like fictional characters.
2. obviously, the candy.
3. And in a close second to the candy, the doorbells. Being able to ring strangers' doorbells everywhere?! Doorbells are like the portal to happiness to my youngest. Normally she is banned from random ringings when we take walks, but for this one, glorious night, she can push doorbell buttons to hear little heart's content.

Think about it. This is the single greatest idea for a holiday since Christmas. Roaming around the neighborhood DRESSED UP and being given loads and loads of FREE candy PLUS the whole freedom to ring doorbells? YES!!!

Trick or treating used to be a fairly innocent and simple activity around here. It was so easy when they were too young to really understand the possibilities. We'd hit a few of our neighbors' homes and then go tuck them into bed. Half the time they totally forgot they had candy and I could eat it, I mean, dispose of it properly.

Not so anymore. Now, trick or treating is serious business.

The other day I'm sure I saw them with Google maps pulled up on my laptop showing an aerial view of our neighborhood. They were strategizing the most efficient routes to make it possible to hit the most homes. The places of residence where pretzels, raisins, Christian tracts, or apples are given were clearly marked with a red X. They have also marked where the biggest traffic jams will be and have timed out their route perfectly to avoid the toddlers waddling along slowly up front steps.

I also was required recently to take them on a dry run. They were like miniature Navy SEALS on a critical mission. I could tell they had been training for months because their steps were quick and sure, their breathing disciplined, and their focus unbelievable. Not even an adorable stray puppy or Santa Claus in person could've distracted them. They were in the zone. I'm pretty sure they've developed a series of secret code words and may be utilizing communication techniques such as Morse Code. One child would utter a simple word like, "shoestrings" for no reason and suddenly all three of them would turn in perfect formation and head a different direction. They also seemed to be tapping in odd rhythms on their metal lunch boxes which they had insisted on bringing along. I have not been able to break their code yet, but I'm convinced they are talking about how to ditch me on the big night if I'm slowing them down.

Moments before their big night begins, they will gather in their butterfly bedroom for their final meeting. Their captain, a.k.a. big sister, will give them one last pep talk. They will be reminded of how far they've come, how hard they've worked, how much they've overcome (like learning to "hold it" when they're still 10 houses from their goal but really need a potty break, the early morning boot camp sessions of running up and down front steps with a stop watch, and the difficulties of mastering the "cute factor" so as to obtain maximum candy from the elderly). It will be quite a moving speech. They will each share honest moments of when they thought they would quit. When they doubted they could take the pressure. And how they've built a bond stronger than brothers (or sisters, in this case) through the adversities they've overcome together. They will form a small huddle with hands outstretched in the middle, look each other in the eye, and have a moment of silence before their mission begins.

Then they will gather their necessary gear, ME, to be exact, and we will head out.

They have perfected their act and I watch in awe. They know exactly what to do and say to ensure the largest candy acquisition possible from each home. They play the game well. The cuter you are, the more candy you get, especially from families whose children have outgrown the Halloween festivities. And old ladies? Jackpot. I've witnessed my youngest assess the candy givers at front doors and modify her approach accordingly. She'll add in a strategic stumble up the steps or feign timidity or fear as she makes her way to the front door. Last year she was dressed as a white kitten and quickly figured out that if she offered a tiny "meow" in her best 2-year-old voice, it was like she was the pied piper and homeowners couldn't give her enough. Her sisters just look on approvingly, happy to see their young apprentice doing so well. They are also quite pleased because they will, as big sisters are prone to do, be skimming a handsome 30% off the top of all her earnings.

At some point during the evening I will look around and note that we are so far from our house we may have to send up a flare for my husband to locate us and come pick us up. It would be okay if it were just us, but remember by this point the girls will each be carrying the equivalent of their body weight in candy. The traditional plastic pumpkins have been tossed long ago because they clearly do not hold ample amounts of candy. They pretty much just go for large black trash bags at this stage in the game.

And so, we will make our way back home, tired and heavy laden with sugar delights. Enough sugar to power a small country for months if we could figure out how to convert it into electricity. Enough sugar that we could just go ahead and hire a diabetic specialist to live in our home because if the kids actually were allowed to eat all they collected, we would pretty much need him around the clock. Sugar suicide.

Happy Halloween, all you parents out there. Don't let your cute little superheroes and princesses fool you. They've been planning their secret operation for months now. It will be a thing to behold.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gumball Gorging

I've been a single mother this week.

It stinks.

My respect for real single mothers grows exponentially every time my husband is gone on business a mere few days. Six to be exact, but whose counting? Fall is a very busy time for him at work.

And so, on "Dad's Coming Home Tomorrow Eve", I took the girls to their favorite place to celebrate that we'd all made it. Alive and
somewhat sane.

This is where we wound up:
Sweet CeCe's. The world's greatest self-serve yogurt place. Although tonight's visit was relatively uneventful, I will take this opportunity to tell you about the LAST time we were patrons in this lovely little shop.

Someone, who will remain unnamed,
was taking great issue at the tyrannical rules of my kingdom. Specifically, my unjust requirement that all my loyal subjects must wear shoes into public places of business.

To make her protests known, she staged a standoff on the sidewalk outside the store. One of us was going to win this. It was NOT going to be the 3-yr-old. After asking nicely, being firm and using my "mean" voice, trying to make a joke of it, and actually putting the shoes on her four times (and her kicking them off every time), I had to be ruthless.

I picked her up and our little party walked into the store, where I helped her sisters choose their yogurt and begin looking at topping choices.

That was too much for her. She couldn't hold out any longer. She begged me to let her put her shoes on so she could have ice cream like her sisters.

"Oh, well, I guess if you really want to put your shoes on I'll let you. Are you sure?"

Not wanting to lose my momentum, I gave quick instructions for her big sisters to wait for us with their yogurt and we'd be right back.

We promptly made our way outside, where she calmly and agreeably retrieved her shoes off the sidewalk and put them on her sweet little feet.

We walked back inside, hand in hand, happy with the world, and this is what I found:

This is a warning for parents and caregivers everywhere: in less than 8.2 seconds, your children can rack up a significant bill at Sweet CeCe's. I had left 2 girls with cups of soft serve ice cream in a room that looked like THIS:

What the heck was I thinking?

I mean, look at this!! It's like a wonderland of delight!! Every type of candy you can imagine and all you have to do is turn this beautiful little wheel to get as much as you want! It's so colorful! It's so...EVERYTHING!

Both girls had proceeded to completely fill their yogurt cups with beautiful, brightly colored gum balls.

Gumballs. The heaviest candy on the planet. Which usually would not matter, really, except when you're paying for their treat by the OUNCE.

What was I to do? I couldn't exactly put them back. I chalked it up to parental error (because I had never actually said the words, 'please do not fill your giant yogurt cups to the brim with heavy candy while I'm gone') and walked us all to the cashier.

It's a little like when you get your water bill after forgetting to turn off the hose after washing the car. Um, for a whole day you forget. Oops. But who would do THAT?

Child #1 placed her yogurt delight on the scale....almost $10.

Child #2 was next...almost $6.

Child #3, who had missed out on the topping free for all, came away for a mere $3.

Alright, girls, you're eating mommy's special Starbucks treat for the next three weeks, but really, enjoy it. It's fine.

A few bites in, I am informed that child #1 and child #2 do not like their yogurt.


I can't say that I blame them, however. I mean, who WOULD like frozen balls of gum in their yogurt? You can't eat it, you can't chew it because it's frozen solid from the yogurt, and the colors are all bleeding onto your lovely cream-colored yogurt, making it a weird kind of brown color.

I would say Sweet CeCe's won that round. But mark my words, Cece, THIS Mom won't be making that mistake again. I could almost hear you laughing as you lulled my naive babies towards the wheel to the gum balls. Evil. Mean. A business owner who probably has her own children she must somehow make enough money to pay their bills.

So beware, yogurt lovers...self-serve could mean self-destruct to your wallet.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dixie Cup Demanders

Meet the Dixie Cup.

If you have young children, you'd better get used to these. Might even want to buy them in bulk.

You're gonna wish you had.

You see, when children are being tucked into their warm, soft beds, kisses have been given, stuffed animals strategically placed all around them, night lights checked, and the ambience of a white noisemaker is turned on, something happens. It almost never fails.

You have nearly made it. The magic couple hours of adult time at night, when no one will need you to cut their food or brush their hair or argue with them over having to wear clothes. You breathe a quiet, contented sigh of relief and anticipate settling down with a favorite book you're working through.

What? It has educational value. I'm learning all sorts of new words and expanding my literary tastes. And what's more, I have LOTS to talk about with the 5th grade boy who carpools with us.

Just at the very moment you tiptoe out of their room and cast one last look upon their sweet little heads all buried in blankets and favorite toys, you hear a little voice.

The little voice, which just mere milliseconds ago you were silently thanking God for placing in your life, is now telling you that the child it belongs to is thirsty.

How can this be? You've hydrated everyone adequately in an attempt to quench the mysterious onset of night thirst. Well, okay, "hydrated" may be too generous, but to be fair, if you give them too much liquid it will mean you pay for it in laundry the next day. It would be better to say you've moistened their little sweet little mouths with a couple drops of water from a medicine dispenser. You may be willing to give a tiny drink, but you've cut off liquid intake hours ago. You ain't stupid.

And yet, you know that the battle has already been won. And not by you. When will you ever understand and accept there is nothing you can do to defeat the power of night thirst?

You stick your head back in their darkened, cozy room and go through the fruitless but necessary motions. You say something to the effect that they may have a drink in the morning and to go to sleep.

Your child simply looks at you, kind of shocked that you still try that angle.

You pad down the hallway, passing your beloved recliner and book, and proceed to fill a small Dixie cup with water. You remember why you love these little cups. Perfect amount of water, disposable, and oh so handy to keep in the bathroom.

When presented to your child, however, you remember your critical error. You did not take long enough to retrieve their drink of water. After all, it would have taken at least a full minute to go all the way downstairs and get filtered water from the fridge.

Your child raises an eyebrow at you, calling your bluff. They know. You know you have been caught, yet you put on your poker face and smile a comforting, motherly smile as you tenderly put the Dixie cup to their rosy lips.

What did you expect, really? They're no dummies, these kids you're raising. Immediately, the flag on the play is called and the game is stopped.

"This is bathroom water, isn't it? Isn't it? I want KITCHEN water."

One of these days I'm going to hire movers to come to my house. Am I moving? Nope. Their only task will be to move the refrigerator upstairs to my children's bedroom. Free access to filtered "kitchen water" any time.

Drink yourselves into filtered H2O oblivion, sweet babies. You know where the pull-ups are and are adept at putting them on yourselves at this point.

Night thirsts. Mothers everywhere will fight them even this night, valiantly and bravely, and yet they know they will lose. Might as well save yourself some time and go get it for them now.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

In a previous life, I was a 5th grade teacher. As such, I got pretty good at sniffing out school projects, papers, and various assignments that were completed by parents instead of my students. At the time, I was just a newlywed and didn't know what the heck I was talking about when it came to children.

Now that I'm a parent and sit on the other side of the table, I get it.

My kindergartener came home a couple weeks ago with a big announcement: "I am supposed to make an alien out of recycled materials for school." She could not have been more excited unless we'd told her that Luke Skywalker was coming over for dinner.

This was right on the heels of the ABC book we made. I say, "we"...pretty much all she did was smile for the camera (each picture was of her with something from our nature hike that began with the diff't letters of the alphabet....acorn, bark, cactus, etc.) and then write each letter on the correct page and a Bible verse at the end. Mom and Dad took the pictures, ordered the pictures, went to the store for the scrapbook, cropped and glued each picture, and helped with sticker placement.

I handed this one off to Daddy.

And so they began, happily brainstorming and planning what materials would be needed.

At last they had a strategy. Lauren's only stipulation was that it be "big and scary enough to scare all her peers AND her teacher". Well, Daddy-0 ran with that idea. I could see the excitement building in his eyes.

I went inside.

The building and creating process began.

This was serious.

As the creating process continued, they kept getting more and more brilliant ideas. This went on for quite some time.

I kept hearing the children say, "Daddy, when is it MY turn to do something?"

Daddy was pretty into this project, it seems, but he did somewhat reluctantly allow the child to whom this project was actually assigned to assist here and there.

And finally, the alien was complete.

And then we had to have some fun with the creature.

First, we did a little spooky scaring. Because why not? We could think of no good reason to avoid putting a creepy green alien in the window and letting the 3-yr-old discover it.

I know. We are sick. And stupid. But mostly sick. Who enjoys scaring preschoolers?

Next, we positioned him around the house and dressed him in bathrobes, slippers, baseball caps, etc. We just kept enjoying seeing some unsuspecting child come around the corner and jump a mile at seeing a child-sized alien presence in the bathroom with them.

The girls were quite fascinated with the alien's hair. They just couldn't stop touching it. Couldn't stop, that is, until one of them nearly cried because the sharp toothpick points had stabbed her hand.

That would be a big "oops". Proceed snipping off the sharp tips so a class full of hyper kindergarteners do not end up suing us for injuring their invaluable thumb sucking hand.

This morning we sucked the last bit of fun out of "Red Eyes", as he is affectionally known around here (you may recall from a previous blog that my oldest child is terrified of anything with red eyes...naturally, that was a perfect name thought of by her compassionate younger sister).

I drove the kids to school and we put Red Eyes right up front in the passenger seat. The girls laughed and snorted and nearly cried at seeing wide-eyed drivers on the road clearly staring at the mini-van transporting a green man from Mars.

I'm raising a bunch of sick-humored sweethearts exactly like me.
Watch out. You never know where Red Eyes might be lurking next. Might wanna check your windows.

I know, I know. It's really kinda pathetic. But sometimes, after 11 years and 3 kids and a mortgage and termite bonds....weird things start sounding like a LOT of fun.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What are you calling me?

My girls have a favorite-beyond-compare bedtime game. They LOVE it when we play hide and go seek in the dark upstairs. Of course they are too afraid to actually hide by themselves or seek by themselves, so we must play in groups. Dad on one team, Mom on the other.

Somewhere along the way, however, this game became slightly insulting.

The youngest of my crew began for some reason referring to me as "Porky". You see, my job when we are the "seeking team" is to crawl down the dark hall on my hands and knees. I'm not sure when our game evolved into this, but nevertheless, this is how it's done. The girls walk along next to me, their hands on my shoulders or back, as we make our way throughout the darkened rooms.

It's a little nerve racking, not knowing when my kind of frightening husband will jump out at us.

And okay, okay, you should probably know this tiny detail as well: as "Porky", I am supposed to make snorting sounds the entire time, in part so I will not scare the children who are hiding and in part just because the kids think it's funny.

But I just have to wonder. Porky? Out of all the names in the universe, why that one? My 3-yr-old now regularly says, "Can we play Porky tonight?" She looks straight at me. It is really not a big deal, I suppose, to be known as Porky within the privacy of my own home.

I'm just waiting for the day we're in line at some fast food place and she turns to me and asks loudly, "Hey, Porky, what'cha gettin' to eat?"

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Children's Games and Grown-Ups Who Play Them

We have entered the years where our kids enjoy playing games.

This is a super fun stage. You get to take a break from thinking up different sounding voices and accents for 37 different stuffed animals as you play pretend and instead explain the rules to games such as Memory or Uno or Go Fish.

There is one game that is especially popular with young children. It is a classic. If you're a parent of a child older than two, chances are good that you own this game. It has entertained countless kids throughout the years.

Entertained the kids. Tortured the grown ups.

I am speaking, of course, of the one and only "Candyland Game". You've heard of it. These are the playing pieces.

They look so harmless. What a fun little game. Gingerbread men traveling through different candy lands!

You soon find out these gingerbread men are conniving little demons, hell bent on making you crazy.

Basically, the game goes like this: Put your little guy at start, draw a card which will have a certain colored square on it, and move your guy down the trail until you get to the box that's the same color as your card. The winner reaches the king's candy land first.

Sounds easy enough, right?

What the directions don't tell you is that this game can be a teensy bit frustrating when your opponent, decked out in dress-up clothes complete with puffed sleeves (in true Anne of Green Gables style) is convinced she knows all her colors but in reality couldn't tell orange from purple if it had a labeled sign on it (remember she can't read).
What it also fails to tell you is that it can potentially go on for HOURS if you draw a card that sends you back to different areas you've already passed. You can be two moves away from winning the entire game, only to draw a card which sends you back nearly to the beginning. It is infuriating.

At least with Monopoly, there's a little strategy involved with your buying and selling.

This game is totally random, totally unpredictable, and nothing short of stacking the deck will ensure the game ends in a timely manner.

Kids LOVE this. They love that parents have absolutely no advantage despite their superior cognitive development. Everybody's on an equal playing field here.

All starts out well. You're teaching colors, feeling good about spending time (and educational time at that) with the kids. You're laughing and having a great evening together (NOT watching t.v.).

And then, you begin to realize this game may be more than you bargained for.

First, you get into a slight disagreement with a 3-yr-old over game piece placement on the board. She is under the distinct impression that she can pretty much move her guy wherever she wants, whenever she wants. You calmly try to explain it to her and she totally disregards your opinion.

The slight disagreement on piece placement continues here and there throughout the course of the game. You remember why you don't love playing board games with 3-yr-olds.

Next, your opponent will continually declare that she has won the game even though she's had to move back to within two spaces of the starting point. She will repeatedly show her frustration when you sadly have to inform her that she is mistaken.

You will soon find you are an immoral, unethical liar because you will let her believe she has won the game and congratulate her on her hard earned victory, thus securing your escape from the game.

You will also quickly discover that you are a big, fat cheater. Whether it's YOUR guy or hers, one of those gingerbread men is going to reach the finish line. You'll begin strategically placing the cards in the deck so that the necessary colors will manage to be chosen at just the right time.

You will take full advantage of the fact that your opponent is three and therefore too naive to pay attention to your obvious cheating techniques.

You'll realize you've been playing this wretched game for two hours and both of you are still stuck on the spot which requires you stay there til the correct color is drawn.

After two or three more genuine tries at drawing the correct card, you'll be cheating again to keep the game moving. Three-year-olds don't take kindly to not being able to move their gingerbread man around the board. They're also not super patient when you try to explain why they must stay there.

And so, weary and stuffed full of candy, your gingerbread man will either emerge victorious or sadly straggling behind his opponent.

You'll remember to put this game in the back of the game closet where it will be difficult to find.

You'll agree when your child says, "I love that game! Can we play again tomorrow?" As you smile and nod you'll be thankful for the fact that most days she cannot remember her birthday, so forget remembering to request this game again.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Room Restrictions

You'll remember that we've talked about my children's obsession with tape.

The other day they discovered they could skip the tape usage altogether and use something more readily available, free, and that they don't have to remember to put back. What?


That's right. They covered Lauren's entire wall next to her bed with pictures they've drawn and kept over the years using nothing but some creativity and some spit.

Suddenly the overuse of tape isn't looking so bothersome to me anymore.

Anyway, my oldest also used spit to put her new "room restrictions" on her bedroom door. I walked by and noticed the new sign and stopped to check it out.

Since it's a little hard to see and written in 8-yr-old spelling, I'll translate for you:
no princesses - there are certain family members who are quite taken with princesses and their attire. Olivia is not one of them.

no robers - I can understand this. I'm not really keen on robbers, either. They might steal her squinkies collection (and if you don't know what these are, please...join us in the 21st century)

no spiders - we can agree on this one as well

no cherry eyes - long ago, we're talking YEARS ago, she had a dream about a witch with red, cherry eyes peeking at her from the end of the bed. Ever since she's not fond of "cherry eyes", and that includes red-eyed bunny rabbits.

no loins - now this one somewhat concerns me. No loins?! I would certainly hope not, young lady! I was just about to have to discuss this with her and pursue her line of thought when she informed me that of course it said, "no LIONS". Ah. Okay. We're good. Proceed.

no dinousurs - not a big fan of Barney, and we've recently had to endure Barney's Valentine Adventure DVD more than once. Torture.

no leafs - Hmm. Is this because she doesn't like nature? Is it the risk that a leaf might harbor a small hiding bug? It is a mystery.

no pennys - Obviously this child has not learned the saying about "a penny saved". Or she could be referring to our neighbor's dog, Penny, who has in recent months been spending a lot of time in our backyard to play with Hank.

no dipers - I'm pretty sure she meant "diapers". I can also agree with this one. We are having a slight problem around here with certain members not disposing properly of their overnight diapers. Hank is supposedly a bird dog. I would say it would be more accurate to call him a diaper dog.

no glue - good girl, Olivia.

no nives - Who exactly would bring a knife into your bedroom anyway, Olivia? This one perhaps could be grouped with the no "robers" rule.

no sparkles - a hearty second to that from Mom. Those things are darn well impossible to vacuum up. They just multiply til the whole room looks like a disco ball.

no ticks - she's been none too pleased to see her dog with a tic on him after a romp in the woods.

no lice - we've been blessedly spared, but countless others have fallen prey to lice in our community recently. If you've seen the hair on my children, you know what a tragedy this would be. An epic disaster.

no poyson - I'm also not a big fan of poison. But I must ask again, who would have poison, first of all, and why would they bring it into your room? Note to self: check the cleaning supplies and make sure they're in their proper place.

no wendow brackers - yes, window breakers are bad. Very bad.
And my favorite rule: Ages 7 and up

Wondering if I could make my own room restrictions sign for my door. I think I would only need one:
Ages 30 and up.

Oh, and no knocking or beating on the door before 7am.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Boat Races

It was the last day of Fall Break.

What to do? What to do? We'd already been to the dollar movie, we'd been to a safari animal show, we'd seen friends...the pressure was on to find one last memorable activity to bring our break to a fabulous end.

I know! We'll head to the Greenway and take the stupid dog and enjoy the sunshiny day. Oh a whim, I called my mom to see if she'd like to join in the fun. I was surprised to hear my dad answer the phone and remembered that he'd taken the whole week off to work around the house and finish some projects.

Nana AND Papa wanted to come with us!

If you have ever met my father, you know that sometimes he gets these ideas of ways to have fun with his kids. We love our Dad and Papa.
This photo was taken around 1984 of he and my little sister. Pantyhose on the head is always good for a laugh.

Now that a few years have gone by, he now gets especially fun ideas for his grandchildren. They always sound SO fun. Once he brought home a black widow spider and kept it in a mason jar (in the house!) just so the grandkids could look at it. Other past ideas include (but are not limited to):
1. building an arched bridge to cross the small creek in his backyard. Sounds so nice, doesn't it? I wish I had a picture of that bridge. He built that arch on such a steep angle that you almost literally had to get on your hands and knees to climb to the top and then scoot carefully, inch by inch, down the other side. His grown daughters had visions of our small children toppling off the bridge and breaking limbs.

It was a life-threatening hazard. It had to go. He built a nice, sensible flat bridge after that.

2. helping each grandchild build a homemade sling shot during cousin camp. Hmm. Enabling an 11 and an 8-yr-old boy to shoot rocks long distances?
That one had all us mothers in the family raising an eyebrow, but I am happy to report no serious injuries were sustained.

3. the latest idea? A paint party for my grandmother's shed out in the country. Children varying in age from 11 to 6 will be painting for all they're worth. Poor Mamaw's shed.

In keeping with his image, Dad came up with an idea to make the Greenway visit more fun. Build boats and race them down the creek!

The girls were thrilled. Each one clutched their precious boat (which was two pieces of 2x4s nailed together) and we made our way to the creek. They set them gently in the water, and the fun began.
Everything was going just great until one small of the three boats got stuck on the opposite bank from where we were.

No problem, thought Papa...I'll just throw rocks at it to knock it loose.
This went on for several minutes, but to no avail. That boat was not budging. My fearless daughter, unconcerned with the hazards, volunteered to wade across the creek and manually free the poor boat. We watched her make her way through the water (and I tried to ignore stray thoughts of snakes and such lurking in the creek water) and painstakingly set that boat back into the current.

We were off to the races again. Everybody was happy. It was a nice little activity. Papa came through for us.

And in the blink of an eye, a nice little activity turned into a source of great emotional distress.

Here's the thing about boat races in creeks: the boats tend to make their way down the creek and are not particularly concerned with how they will make their way BACK to their owners.

As I watched those three little boats floating merrily down the stream, I realized where we had made our critical error. We had failed to inform the children PRIOR to the race that the boats would not be returning. They would be setting sail in open waters forevermore.


I began to hear little murmurings. The murmurings soon escalated to loud yelling. The loud yelling, sadly, escalated to pleas for the boats to STOP! COME BACK!

And then reality began to set in with the little boat racers. And as we all know, reality is often an unhappy thing.

What can I say? Three adults and none of us thought to warn the kids of their boats' imminent departures.

You'd think by now I'd know better. The girls looked at me (again) as if I were the most vile creature on earth. Girls, I wanted to say, it was pieces of scrap wood nailed together. This is not a universal catastrophe. But of course I must show (somewhat) sincere concern for their feelings...our trip ended with a visit to Dairy Queen.
"Mom, you really think you can buy me off with an 88 cent dip cone? We're talking serious disappointment here."

"Yeah, okay, you can."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Scavenger Hunt You do NOT Want to Win

As a child I loved the thrill of a scavenger hunt. What special treasures were waiting just around the corner? What hints would I be given on my quest to find the treasures? I could hardly stand the excitement! Kids all around me would be running and laughing, gleeful at the thought of being the winner.

As a mother, all that has changed.

I now pretty much HATE scavenger hunts.

My husband is not a big fan of them, either. Each of us try to overlook the obvious clues we find in our home, hoping, praying, silently willing the other to find the "treasure" first.

Here are the top 10 things I do NOT like to find in my house:
1. Table place settings for four in my carpeted hallway.
I know it looks all sweet and little girl cute, and it really is, but I am not fond of these impromptu tea parties because some members of our family are insistent upon using real beverages. Which would be fine, except that these same members of the family tend to spill said beverages. On my carpet. Sadly, however, they much prefer the hallway to the kitchen for tea parties. I don't know why.

2. Opened bottles of fingernail polish.
It's one thing to have a mani/pedi party together, but unauthorized use of polish is a serious breach of the child/parent contract.

3. My jewelry placed precariously close to the sink drain.
Also unauthorized because my jewelry box has been strategically placed out of reach and the presence of this ring indicates a violation of the jewelry box ban.

4. General mayhem.
I mean, really, what in the world kind of house are my girls playing that the refrigerator needs to be laying on the floor? And what were they doing playing with wire clothes hangers? Mommy Dearest?

5. Dress-up disaster.
WHY do we have so much dress-up stuff? Where does it all come from? I don't remember actually buying any of these things. It's like the widow's jar from the Old Testament that just supernaturally produced more and more flour.

6. Children's clothing on our front steps.
Or anyone's clothing, for that matter. It is not difficult to surmise the condition of the child running around the cul-de-sac who placed these clothes here. I did find her momentarily after this pictures was taken, but I do not want to be banned from my blog site so I cannot show it to you.

7. Coming downstairs to find this:

The 3 and 5-yr-old watching a show I have recorded on TiVo. Is it one of the plethora of children's shows I keep on hand for just such an occasion? Nope. The ONE show I currently watch. The ONLY show I watch. Modern Family (Before you judge me, I think you should know one of my pastors also confessed to watching it. Go after him first.)

8. Scissors which I have not used and are out. Anywhere. Ever. But particularly not fond of finding them in the playroom.
It seems as though I recall another time these scissors experienced unauthorized use in this house:

9. My child's absolute favorite (almost obsession level affection) princess gown wadded up in the closet and clearly soiled. It would not be pleasant, but okay, to make this discovery during waking hours. The universe could continue. Trouble is, I always seem to find them at BEDTIME, just as I'm ready to tuck the little darlings in and call it a day. Does she not have 14 other pair of pajamas? Why, yes, but clearly none of THEM are acceptable. Ensue drama.

Okay. We all know that in a few years I will miss these minor inconveniences in my house. I will long to spend a few minutes each night cleaning up the playroom or dabbing up water from tea parties on the floor. I'll wish for just one more discovery of even nail polish.

But this? This I don't see ever missing.

10. And the top thing I kinda don't love to find in my house:

Enough said. Roughly 14-16 years left of this one, I'm afraid.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Music Man

As you know, leading educators encourage parents to introduce their children to all types of music at an early age. Music can help stimulate deeper levels of cognition, develop auditory learning, and let's not forget the importance of fostering a love for the artistic arena of different genres of music.

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

We just like music around here, simple as that.

I say "we". Actually I am referring only to myself and my middle child. A typical conversation in our van goes something like this...

Child #2: "Mom, can we listen to some music?"

Child #1: "NO! NO MUSIC, MOM! PLEASE!"

Child #3: (just now realizing we're talking about music only because the DVD player is not being used at the moment) Crying, wailing because she's not watching Ariel.

Last year Aunt Sarah and Uncle Jim gave child #2 a Hello Kitty cd player/radio, scoring them pretty major cool points.

Countless mornings I have woken to the sounds of music drifting through the house. It's kind of nice. This is a somewhat more desirable way to wake up than being pounced on in the middle of the night because there are imaginary spiders on the floor.

Our daughter has such an appreciation for music and the arts that last year her Daddy took her on a date to see the Nutcracker.
(YAWN...NOT my thing.) She LOVED it. Sat there captivated for two hours. Talked about it for days afterwards. I was taken to see it when I was a little girl as well. The only response I remember having was, "Wait a minute. There's NO talking in this whole thing?"

But I digress.

Though she loves all forms of music, there is one particular artist my 6-yr-old is quite taken with. This singer has been her favorite for two whole years (which is a pretty long time in kid years. That's over 30% of her life.). Last fall, in fact, Lauren saw her lifelong dream become reality. She was taken to a concert and actually got to MEET her idol at one of his concerts (courtesy my brother-in-law who works with him).
Lauren with her cousin, Katie...also a big fan.

Who is this much loved singer?

None other than Brandon Heath.

She's got taste. I'll give her that. And it sure beats listening to Veggie Tales sing-a-longs for hours on end. Don't even get me started on The Wiggles or Sunday School song cds made in the 80's. What is WRONG with some of those kids singing? They sound like inhaled helium overnight before going into the recording studio.

Most days I hear music coming from her room, it's usually Brandon singing his hits "Give Me Your Eyes" or "Leaving Eden". I'll find her happily drawing pictures or arranging her stuffed animals as she hums along in her room.

One morning, however, I was pretty sure the girls had taken the "Leaving Eden" idea to heart. Angry yells were being tossed back and forth and Lauren was especially upset.

I was forced to intervene.

I walked in upon this scene: Lauren, clutching her Brandon cd and her backstage pass (which is proudly displayed on her bulletin board),
her eyes glaring angrily at her nemesis (aka her big sister). Big sister had that look on her face we know too well (those of us who have big sisters, anyway) that said she was guilty, guilty, guilty of antagonizing the easily provoked little sister.

Lauren, upon seeing me, burst into heartbroken crying. Tears. Puffy eyes. The kind of crying where you can't catch your breath.

What in the world? I looked to her big sister for an explanation. She merely shrugged her shoulders and looked just as confused as I.
Classic big sister, isn't it?

When the truth finally came out and the dust settled, here were the facts:
1. Lauren listening happily to Brandon's songs in her room. Not a care in the world.
2. Enter big sister.
3. Big sister looks around and recognizes an opportunity to have some fun.
4. Big sister makes the one comment she knows is a sure fire way to bring out the wrath of her sister. This is a blow below the belt. Cruel beyond what my child can tolerate. She makes a snide remark about Brandon Heath. I never even got what the actual comment was. It could've been anything, really, from her not liking the shirt he's wearing on his cd cover or that she doesn't like his haircut, it's a mystery. But it was effective.
5. Little sister explodes. WHAT?! How could anyone with ears not think Brandon is the best singer in the whole, wide world and think he is anything other than the most glorious artist in existence today? This is an outrage! A travesty! A fight to the death!

There are a few foundational rules in our house for sister interaction.
*Never hit, bite, or push.
*We do not lie about our sisters.
*We apologize and ask forgiveness and extend forgiveness to our sisters.
And our new addendum...
*NEVER, I repeat, NEVER insult Brandon.

Trust me. You don't want to go there. I pity the fool who someday challenges her choice of boyfriend.

Great Scotch!

I've been talking a lot about toys lately. They are fun and colorful and do neat things and make lots of noise (if they're the really good kind).

Today I'd like to discuss the single greatest toy invention of all time.

This product is by FAR the favorite among my kids. In fact, I'd venture to say kids round the world have spent countless hours of joy creating and building with and enjoying this item. It seems SO popular around here, actually, that I kinda wish I'd bought stock in it a few years back. I could've tripled my money at this point from my household alone.

So what is it?

None other than Scotch Tape. Or any tape, for that matter.
Yes, folks, Scotch Tape. It is the all-time most popular thing around here. And why not? You can tape masterpieces to the walls, make all sorts of crafts, or fix broken toys (or mom's broom which you "accidentally" played with even though you weren't supposed to and broke).
And the best feature? Tape your little sister's mouth shut and make her think it's a fun game!

The girls have learned the hard way over the years that tape does not work so well, however, on one's face. Eyelashes, eyebrows, hairline...not a great idea for tape placement.

Apparently this tape obsession runs in my husband's family. My mother-in-law tells me that when Michael was a kid, she could almost NEVER find tape in her house because he had been working feverishly to tape everything they owned together. His Dad used to come home and express slight irritation that the kids had used up all the tape AGAIN and that this stuff was not free, you know.

My mother-in-law calmly replied that tape was a pretty cheap toy, and if it entertained her children for THAT long without being totally destructive, that she would give it to them all day long. You see, this sweet lady had her four children in groups of two. First, she had a girl, then two years later, my husband. TEN years later, she got a surprise in another little baby boy. And after that, a mere 13 months later, a baby girl came along!

I'd say she was entitled to all the tape necessary to help her keep her sanity, wouldn't you?

I do, however, find that I've had to place some limits on tape usage around here. For example, taping the hamsters to the wall. Bad idea.

Also off the list: tape on the dog. He's not a big fan.
"Oh, the humiliation. They've started dressing me up because they can no longer tape things to me."

Pretty much there should be no tape usage involving animals of any kind. Unless they are stuffed animals, in which case it is still kind of frowned upon on my walls, but more acceptable than actual live animals.
My girls LOVE to draw, paint, cut, you name it. If paper is involved, they're in. It's like a match made in heaven, really. Paper AND tape?! I've literally forgotten what color the walls are in some rooms in our home. They have been covered so completely with construction paper and computer paper and whatever else kind of paper the girls can find, that I have to really look closely to identify which room I am in. My husband particularly enjoys this as the tape has been known to remove paint from the walls.

Currently, my oldest has white crepe paper taped to her door, a pumpkin she drew, her nametag from VBS last summer, and a multi-colored heart she colored. Tape, tape, tape.

We even have a pumpkin and a bat taped to the front door for Halloween decorations. Someone lives in this house who is none too pleased that I won't buy any scary decorations, so she made her own. You should see the bat's creepy fangs.

Tape has served as an instant face lift for old stuffed animals. This can be slightly disturbing to see when I walk into their room to make a bed and there sits the stuffed animal, its eyes pulled back so tight and its ears taped down so firmly that it makes Cher look downright normal.

It could be so much worse for my house. How? Glue comes to mind. I will never complain about a little tape.

The day I call it quits on tape usage around here will be a sad one. Pretty much the only thing that will REALLY get my attention is when my child comes shuffling into my room, her eyes wide in desperation for rescue, her body taped like a mummy from head to toe as her sisters look on in delight.

And even then I might finish my cup of coffee before de-taping her. Okay, okay, if she can't breathe I'll likely leave my coffee momentarily.

Tape. A mother's lifeline.
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