Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Way with Words

This afternoon we stopped by the Dollar General for a project board for B's math project and white icing for G's class project next week.  As soon as I walked through the door, I saw someone I knew and stopped to chat.  The boys, as is their habit, stood quietly...for about one minute.  Then they entertained themselves by nudging each other, stepping on each other's toes, and finally, sword fighting with candy cane decorations about the height of G.

After my short (fifteen minute) conversation, I directed the boys toward the food aisles.  They asked if we could get the candy canes.  

In true King Solomon wisdom, I asked, "Well, what would we use them for?"

G instantly replied, "Oh, you know, to get things that are really high up and we can't reach them."

G now owns that candy cane.  

Friday, December 4, 2015

Countdown to Christmas

Someone recommended the Lego Advent Calendar set.  I knew my boys would love it.  I remembered an advent calendar from Christmases when I was growing up.  The version my mom bought housed chocolate.  My brother, sister, and I would gather around the cardboard calendar, hunt for the number of the date, then peel back the door to extract the chocolate inside.  We had one calendar to share, so Mom made us take turns, youngest to oldest.

On Thanksgiving Day, Mom brought an advent calendar for each of our families.  This coincidental gift meant that each of my sons would get a small gift each day: Legos or chocolate.  G was so excited about daily prizes, that he tried to sneak the calendars out early.  We had to hide them.  Then when we took them out the night before, he let loose a list of reasons we needed to start that day.  To doors of Lego calendar were opened during his monologue.  I finally had to tell him that if he couldn't wait until it was time, that if one more door opened, we'd have to give the set to someone who could be patient.  Ah, character building.  

So December 1, before I'd gotten out of the shower, Lego RC cars were built and a piece of chocolate was in B's tummy.  G could not possibly wait until the evening, as we did when I was a child.  This week, a pretzel-toting photographer in a fur lined hooded jacket and a pie/skate stand have joined the RC cars.  My only complaint is that the poor photographer's lets don't bend.  He will be so tired by Christmas.  

Today I made it to the calendar opening, and my sons' tradition is so much different than ours was.  My boys punch the doors open.  Punch them.  "Bam! Bam! Bam!" they chant.  Apparently, the manufacturers have compensated for this behavior, since the boxes hold up against the beating.  I sat at the table, shocked.  What is it with boys?  How can they turn such a sweet tradition into something violent? 

"What?" G asked, genuinely surprised, "I gotta get it open so I can give you my chocolate today!"

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Great Dino Hunt

About a month ago, Cassie and I took K and G with us on a grocery run.  When we stopped at Sams, the Littles fell in love with these incredible stuffed animals.  The last thing we need at our house is another stuffed animal, so I told G to save his money.  I promised him that as soon as he had thirty dollars, I'd bring him back for Tri-Sarry. 

I was hoping he'd forget, but he hasn't.  The more I've thought about it, though, the more I've realized that the dino could be a type of beanbag chair for G.  He could use it for a gaming chair.  Tri-Sarry kind of matches our living room furniture, and could be his television watching furniture, freeing the couch for more comfortable lounging for me or B. 

G had saved fifteen dollars--ten from his great grandmother for his birthday and five for performing "Insane in the Membrane" for my recording cell phone.  His birthday party yielded enough gift money for Tri-Sarry plus cash for some Legos and other toys.  Grammy and I took him to Sam's Club this afternoon. 

The wait for membership sign-up was excruciating for G.  He kept looking toward the place where the Jumbo Animals were displayed the month before.  They'd been moved.  Our next stop was the restrooms.  Finally we perused the toy section.  There were two jumbo boxes of Jumbo Animals.  As Grammy and I hefted unicorns and giraffes, G bounced around, waiting for Tri-Sarry. 

There was not one single triceratops in either box. Upon closer inspection of the signs, only one box was supposed to hold the Jumbo Animals; the other housed Eye-normous Animals, which were a bit smaller with bug eyes. 

My lesson in delayed gratification was turning in to a lesson of disappointment.  G licked his lips several times, a sign that he might tear not be able to hold back tears much longer.  As we walked toward the cell phone cases hand in hand, Grammy noticed a shrink wrapped box of Jumbo Animals high up above the atomic clocks. 

She waited there while G and I approached the customer service desk. I explained that G had been saving money for a special Jumbo Animal that we couldn't find and asked if we could get the box down to check for a dino.  It helped that G was wearing his knitted dino sweater. 

A lift had to be driven out to bring the pallet down with the box on top of it.  The employee and I dug through a half box of gigantor animals.  Every last one was a unicorn or a giraffe.  We checked customer service see if more were being ordered.  They weren't.  

At lunch, I checked  I can't find this version of Dino! I've Amazoned, Googled, and Toysrused for Goff International Jumbo Animal or dinosaur.  Then resorted to a Facebook post in hopes that some Sams club somewhere near friends and family might have one that can be shipped to us.  Guess what my after-lunch fortune cookie said?


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Live Well

For the past two school years, I give my students a 100 on my final assignment, then pass out the paper.  They keep the 100 if they don't ask for or give any answers.  In other words, as long as you put some answer down, you win.  I just want to know what they honestly think. 

The first question and some of their answers:

Now, some people get tattoos because they look cool, and that's cool.  The one on my left wrist, though, holds special significance.  My left wrist got inked on June, 14, 2013.  That would have been my cousin Eva's thirty-fourth birthday.  She'd been in heaven for six months. 

Eva was my first best friend.  Her mother watched me while my mother worked.  Eva and I walked to school together--down a road, around the corner, across Main street with the help of a crossing guard, and straight to Van DerVeer Elementary in Somerville, New Jersey.  She lived around the corner from us.  When we moved to Virginia, she spent summers with us.  During college, I spent half a year's weekends at her house, where we sautéed mushrooms, ate Cappucino Chocolate Chunk ice cream, and left for lengthy Target runs.  Eva and I curled each other's hair for our weddings and laughed through early motherhood. 

Eva had the same time attitude when she was a passenger as I learned to drive.  "We're all gonna die!" she'd scream from the back seat.  I attribute that behavior to my ability to ignore fighting boys while I drive now. 

I think it was September 2012 when I received the call from my mother that Eva had lymphoma.  I was at my in-laws house.  Josh and has parents watched as I dropped my head in my hands and cried.  Eva had two small girls and a July-born baby boy.  I cried for what she'd have to go through.  I cried when I realized how difficult treatment would be with a baby who didn't sleep through the night , a job, and two girls in preschool and gymnastics. 

One thing, I knew for sure, though, was that she would be fine.  Eva was ridiculously healthy.  She had competed in gymnastics growing up, then taken up pole vaulting in college.  She ran marathons.  As a professor, she'd stop by her track coach husband's practices and beat young men in pull-up contests.  She'd coached gymnastics as a camp leader, then as a twenty-something young lady before she began teaching at ECU.  Eva had learned to unicycle within days of receiving one for Christmas.  She'd driven with her leg out the driver side window after she'd had knee surgery. 

I was floored when she passed on New Year's Day 2013.  I'd gone down to say good-bye after an unexpected and quick turn for the worse in December.  I missed saying good-bye to her listening ears by twenty minutes.  She was still warm when I said good-bye, but if she heard me, it was from eternal paradise. 

That June, Cassie, our mom, Eva's mom, and our Oma got inked on Eva's birthday.  They were Hildie and Oma's first tattoos.  Hildie, a nurse, had warned Eva against tattoos for years--even before she'd learned of the permanent lizard between Eva's shoulder blades.  This was our way of honoring Eva and displaying her memory as well. 

Framed picture of our tattoos

My tattoo says "Live Well" in my mother's handwriting.  As an English teacher, I meant "well" two ways.  First, use your life well.  Eva did.  She leaped over obstacles with a joke and a smile.  Yet she'd admit to the difficulty involved.  Second, live a healthy life.  Eva did. She was sick the last four months, but the more-than-thirty-three years prior had included exercise, healthy food choices, prayer, and a good attitude. 

I fail at both meanings.  I fail particularly with the second meaning.  I need a constant reminder of the first.  Still, my left wrist reminds me to keep trying, so that others will remember a life well-lived and so that the lives I touch each day might be made better for having seen me. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

An Escalating Incident

Today was our first day of summer vacation.  We kicked off the reprieve from work (well, until Monday, when I return for curriculum writing) with some errand-running.  After a stop at the bank, gas station, dump, and paint store, we headed to Macy's. 

The boys were beyond excited when they realized we'd have to travel to the second floor.  This meant a ride on the escalator.  B has always hated elevators, and will climb any required flights of stairs to avoid them.  Escalators are a different story, though. 

As I was checking out and signing up for a Plenti card, I had to pause several times to politely scream at my boys to get out of the way of the escalators until I joined them.  I joined them as quickly as I could and stepped on the descending stairs just after G did. 

G looked down and saw that the "steps" turned into "spikes".  He instantly freaked out and retreated to my left.  He grabbed the top of the bannister and held on for dear life while his feet staggered backward against the tide of moving stairs.  B was frozen behind his screeching brother.  I turned, arms laden with my purse and purchase, and ascended towards him.

I was running in place, wishing again that I worked out more, trying to reach poor G.  I called to him to just let go and ride the escalator--it was fun!  Do you know how difficult it is to sound reassuring when you are running in place like an idiot in public?  The cashier had just arrived at the top of the stairs to help when G lost his grip and landed on his bottom in tears.  Now I was trying to reassure him while not step on him, and while dismounting the escalator backwards and without falling on my butt as well. 

B gathered himself quickly, put on a normal face, and joined us on the escalator.  As soon as I hit terra firma, I scooped G up and held him and held him as he twisted my hair and cried.  Big brother hit the landing, raised his arms in victory and began chanting, "Again!  Again!" 

Once we arrived home, I took a nap. Whew!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Shoe Shopping

It was past time.  G has been complaining that several size eleven shoes "aren't  comfortable".  I consulted the closet for the next pair of hand-me-downs, but there was a gap.  While there were loads of size thirteens and above, there were no twelves.  There were no twelves at all.  

On the weekends, he's been sporting B's old size thirteen hiking boots.  I love the look of shorts and hiking boots, but I cannot allow him to wear that getup to school.  Besides, they are also technically too big.  Too-big shoes are dangerous.  G doesn't wear them because he often realizes it's "P.E. Day"--when he needs to wear tennis shoes. 

His only pair of comfortable size elevens have lost their aglets and come out of the shoelace holes.  We weren't concerned about the loss of occupation in the top two shoelace holes: those are for runners, according to the internet.  As the laces lengthened to way-past-safe for the shoes length, we've been contemplating buying G new shoes.  We just keep forgetting. 

Today, as we were running errands, we headed home earlier than I'd planned.  I decided to stop at Once Upon a Child to grab a pair of twelves.  G was agreeable; he is my shopper.  B drummed up an instant man-shopper whine.  I ignored it and towed both into the shop. 

Just before the school year began, G accompanied me as I went shoe shopping.  He followed me dutifully, suggested cute pairs I'd missed, and carried my shoeboxes.  I had no idea he'd be such a shopper for his own shoes.  He quickly determined that he didn't like either pair I'd picked in Once Upon a Child.  Next stop: Old Navy.  G: "I don't like any of these."  Off to Target we went with a overly tired man-shopper. 

In Target, I immediately spotted Avenger shoes in the correct size.  G wasn't sure the teachers liked "blinky shoes".  Note:  there are exactly two half-days of schools left.  Then G tried on all four pairs of size twelve sneaker I found.  He declared that each "felt funny.""  G is the youngest of my two sons, but the fifth youngest boy in the family, since Cassie and Tommy have three boys born before G.  B and I tried to explain that new shoes do feel funny until they are broken in. G had little point of reference, since he's only owned three brand-new pairs of shoes in his life.  Did I mention we often go to Once Upon a Child?  

After both B and I were totally exhausted, and after I was sure Josh would be mad that we were taking so long, I gave G a time limit.  He had narrowed out exactly one pair of shoes.  G went with his best decision-making strategy: "Eeny, meeny, miney, moe.  If you catch a tiger's toe.  If he hollers, let him go.  Eeny, meeny, miney, moe.  My mom says to pick the very best one and you are NOT it."  One of three down.  As he pointed, there was no cyclical direction. Instead his pointer hopped from green shoes, over the Avengers shoes, to the orange shoes, and back. 

After the second round, which pair was left?  THE AVENGER SHOES.  Yes. The Avenger shoes that I'd picked out thirty minutes prior were the shoes the rhyme "picked".  Maybe I don't like shoe shopping with G after all.  Thank goodness the next several sizes of hand-me-downs are in the closet!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Creative License

Red has come quite a ways since the beginning of the school year.  He has learned all his letters, how to write his nickname and legal first name, and how to read small decodable books.  He can write his numbers to fifty, with only some prodding at remembering thirty, forty, and fifty.  He writes more and more letters and numbers in the correct direction.  He can rhyme, identify beginning and ending sounds of three-letter words, and identify the middle sound of some three-letter words.

His teacher is  amazing.  Truly amazing.  She has taught him all of this and how to color better.  According to G, she worked with a small group of them early on.  While "teaching Whiskers to color", I got to hear many coloring tips.

A few weeks ago, as I was going through G's papers in his Take Home Folder, I caught wind of some creative artistic differences he has with her. 

Now, I will not tolerate any sort of derogatory comments regarding his teacher.  NONE.  Why?  First, because she is truly amazing.  Second, because I've heard other kindergarten teachers discuss with their classes what color people or items in a picture should be.  This is not uncommon practice.

What makes a blog post is another page that came home.  Again, it is a dog.  Again, it is creatively colored. 

Attached was a blank copy of the second dot-to-dot. "Why is this here?" inquired G.  "Oh."  he deadpanned.  "It's 'cause I won't color it like a real dog."  I made him connect the dots correctly, then set the blank slate aside for a bit. 

A few days later, I noticed this coloring page, from one of our many coloring books, displayed on his bulletin board.  G keeps only his most important paperwork there: a calendar of February which he keeps forgetting to mark, a photograph he likes, the cover to a packet of construction paper he apparently finds artistic, and the colored puppy.  Note that colored puppy earned a "sticker" on the bottom--care of G. 

During these snow days, I finally convinced G to color the blank slate. 

"I don't want to," he admitted.  "I want to color the dogs rainbow, but there are no rainbow dogs in real life."

I found him photos of rainbow dogs via Google images for "painted poodle".  We even found one with an actual rainbow painted on it.  Then I informed him that the dog had been dyed to look like that.  Truly, I do not know of any rainbow dogs occurring naturally.  I then helped him find the crayons to color the dog like our new puppy, Darla.  Then I had a little discussion with him about how he must do what the teacher asks.  Even if he doesn't agree with her, she is in charge. 

I can't send the new pic to school.  I want to frame all four dog pics and display them in the playroom or my room.  Why?  Because while I believe first and foremost that he must do what the teacher asks,  I also believe my children should be creative.  As a seventh grade English teacher, I constantly prod my students to be creative and I have to constantly remind them that there is not always one right answer.  My hope is that my children abide by authority's rules even if they do question them.  After all, I want them to be productive, employed, law-abiding citizens.  However, I don't want them totally programmed (think Holocaust).  I want them to question, to be creative, and to be content with differences.  Appropriately. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Dream Guy

My plans as a young woman included marrying Adam Sandler and owning a Jeep Wrangler.  Neither of those plans has been achieved by the letter.  Josh is kind of like a more common, redneck version of Adam. 

Take our skillet, several years ago. Josh was whipping up some gourmet omelets in the kitchen of our starter home, as baby B and I were bonding in the living room.  All of a sudden, I heard some banging, cussing, and stomping.  Josh flew into the living room, threw open the French doors, and slammed the skillet into the side of the deck.  Wham, wham, wham.  "F*** you, Skillet!"  he roared, then stomped back in and slammed the door.  Just in case the skillet was confused, he reopened the door, roared out a definitive, repetitive, "F*** YOU!", then grabbed the skillet and flung it across the back yard.  It pinged off the back fence, then lay lifeless on the grass. 

Sounds a bit like Happy Gilmore, eh? 

Thankfully, like Happy, Josh has matured quite a bit.  Last night, after we'd purchased a shiny new nonstick red skillet for a bargain at Walmart, Josh calmly placed the warped, dinged, old skillet on the back deck for trash sendoff.  We put away all our groceries together then got a good night's rest before waking up to clean the house this morning. 

I was in trouble for breaking the vacuum cleaner.  I'd tried to vacuum a throw rug by myself, sucking part of it into the cleaner, and burning the belt.  My mechanical husband set about stretching a different model of belt to the vacuum, since we have not been able to find the correct belt on several Walmart runs. 

The smell of burning rubber accompanied Ol' Happy's rant.  "You know, what?  That's IT, Vacuum!  Your f***ing a** is off to the dump with that worthless Skillet!"  Poor Vacky got flung out the door and landed next to the properly "buried" skillet. 

What was worse?  The carpet was still a disaster.  I realized I was going to have to dress, run to my in-laws' house to borrow a vacuum and return it on this supposed day of rest-in-a-clean-house.  Sigh.  The slam of the back door brought me back.  It was Josh with the Shop Vac from the shed. He was attempting to attach the piece from the late vacuum to the end of the hose.  It was too small.  Together, we retrieved the former vacuum, removed its hose, and reattached it to the Shop Vac.  It took much longer to suck up the crumbs, but the carpet looks better until we get a house vacuum replacement next weekend. 

I could go back to resting.  I realized as I drifted off, that my Happy Gilmore was becoming a Grown Up. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Moms Don't Take Sick Days

Well, that's not entirely true. My inlaws and the boys' godmother often take my boys for me when I'm sick.  In fact, they'll usually get the boys the night before so I can rest.  I am blessed.  However, yesterday I called in sick.  I was so exhausted and tired, I knew I would not make it through a day of teaching teenagers.  So here's what a true "sick day" looks like for moms.

At 5:30, the alarm rings.  I hit snooze.  After several snoozes, I realize that this is not "normal tired", but instead "holy cow, I cannot stand in front of 27 teenagers and lead" tired, so I fumble for my phone and "call in" online, requesting a substitute.  I then text my coteacher, who joins me for thirty to forty minutes in two of my classes, to let her know.  We'd both assumed I'd catch whatever Little has contracted, so we'd talked the day before about the backup plan.  Nicole is ready to put that plan in motion.  I go back to sleep.

At 5:45, my husband texts me good morning.  I inform him that I am going to take the day off and sleep.  He suggests that I let his mom take Little for the day so I can rest.  I decide she deserves a break, and that Little needs a doctor appointment so I know what I am catching.  I try to call Mother-in-Law so she won't have to make the trip to my house to pick up Sickboy.  No answer.  I try her cellphone.  Also, no answer.  I wait for her.

At 6:00, I answer the back door, let her know the plan, then set the alarm clock for 7:00.  I still need to get B on the bus.  Grammy lives out of district, so there was no point of sending him with her.  Besides, I have all day to rest, so I'll just put him on the bus and go back to sleep.  I snooze.

At 7:00, I wake B up.  He gets dressed.  G, in a sleepy stupor, waddles to the couch and I cover him up with a blanket I'll have to wash germs off of later and set him up with cartoons.  At 7:40, B and I run to the car and speed to the end of our country driveway to wait for the bus.  Huh.  The next door neighbors aren't out waiting for the bus.  I have a sinking suspicion we have missed the bus.  *Queue Cassie's*

At 7:45, we drive back down the driveway to pick Little up so I can drive B to school.  I am wearing pajamas, a corduroy winter coat, my husband's too-large-for-me shoes, and my glasses.  Do not even try to picture the nest that my hair is.  I'm just the chauffer; I am not to be seen.  I run in and grab Little, throwing on his winter coat and a pair of my socks (comprised of red penguin sock and green Saint Patty's Day sock).

At 7:48 I return to the warm car with Sickboy in my arms.  There, B informs me that the bus passed our driveway while we were inside.  I sigh, smile at Big, and drive him to school. 

At 8:20, Little and I arrive home.  Thank GOD there was no need for us to get out of the car.  Hot.  Messes.  I wait ten minutes to call the pediatrician for an appointment, secure one for 10:30, then set the alarm and go back to sleep until 9:40. 

I wake up, dress, fix the hair (sort of), put in my contacts, and try to dress Little.  He is not going for it.  I decide that, as Sickboy, he is entitled to wear the Ninja Turtle Jammies in public today.  I rustle up some matching G socks, find one half of each pair of his good shoes, settle for a full set of nasty shoes, shoe and coat him, and drive forty minutes to the doctor. 

On the way, Sickboy shows the first wisp of personality for 2015.  He's been sick all year so far.
Me: After the doctor, we are going to get Gatorade and orange juice. 
G: and cold cuts? 
He is grinning his joking grin from ear to ear. It makes him look like an impish leprechaun, and I realize that I am glad to have this moment with him. 
After the doctor, we stop by Walmart for the aforementioned beverages, stop by McDonald's for a four piece nugget for Mr. I-Won't-Eat, and then stop by the drugstore for Zithromax.  Sickboy has walking pneumonia.

At 12:34, we re-enter the house.  Lunch.  Nap.  Well, I nap.  Little may have fallen asleep in front of cartoons.

At 3:40, my alarm rings.  Time to get Big off the bus.  He eats a snack and tackles homework.  I fix dinner, and mother-in-law arrives to pick up Sickboy for the next two nights and days.  It'll be frigid in the morning and she doesn't want him to be out in subzero temperatures.  He has been crying to come home each night, but we remind ourselves that he is five and not in charge, and decide he'll have to deal. 

This morning, at 5:30 a.m., I wake up exhausted and call in.  Luckily, my coteacher has left plans for the substitute she'd thought I'd need.  Little is at Grammy's, and I don't have to be anywhere all day.  I just have meet the bus.  I rest.

To all parents and guardians, who never get sick days like I got today, but instead only have sick days like my yesterday: I more than commend you.  You are past amazing.  To my back up crew: I love you.  Love.  You. 

Good night. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Country Pets

B and I dropped C off at Cassie's house after a two-day video game marathon.  Cassie and Tommy live off of country roads in what looks like a small subdivision.  Their house sits on the bend of a road, though, on a lot of three acres or so, so it feels country.  Well, the location, the need for a riding lawn mower, and the fact that the next door neighbor, who is a bit away, has guinea hens.

Guineas were new to us when we moved to this part of Virginia.  We grew up in Virginia Beach.  In fact, I graduated there, so the thought of having livestock at a house was foreign to me.  Apparently they eat ticks, so they are valuable around here.  Virginia Beach did not have many ticks.

Anyways, after C hopped to the porch, I pulled forward to circle around the power pole and re-enter the driveway so I wouldn't have to back up a billion feet.  All of a sudden, three mape-mape-ing guineas scurried up to the front of my car.

I edged up, little by little.  Two backed off and mape-maped from a few feet back.  The third was either really brave or really dumb.  He maped from his original position, unhinged by an approaching killing machine and its loud meep-meeping.  My Kia sounds like the road runner.

"Go shoo, them, B!"

My dutiful nine-year-old hopped out, slammed the car door and ran at the birds, yelling and flailing his arms.  C heard the ruckus and joined his cousin.   When I'd pictured motherhood, I'd never pictured boys chasing livestock.  Who knew?

The stubborn (or unrealistically friendly) guinea, finally edged away, but he would not go very far.  B yelled for me to keep going, so I crept around the power pole.  B ran back to the car, along with the car, yelled for me to keep going, then opened the door and jumped into the slowly moving vehicle.

I rolled my window down to yell goodbye to Cassie  "I can't believe our lives include shooing guinea hens!"

"Sometimes they follow us all the way down the driveway!"

I kept going, churning mud from my tires onto my silver Kia.