Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Our Jesse Tree

Nehemiah's stone wall surrounding Jerusalem

The Ten Commandments
When I got married nine years ago I didn't have enough ornaments of my own (despite my grandmother's dogged determination) to fill up the entire tree.  And I didn't really want to buy a bunch of ornaments that I wasn't crazy about just to have them.  What did appeal to me while doing some research on the celebration of Advent was the idea of a Jesse Tree.

A Jesse Tree finds its root (heh, heh) in the verse Isaiah 11:1, "There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit."  Yes, the verse is taken out of context; and yes, it really has nothing to do with evergreen trees, but hey, that is what proof texts are all about.  Basically, the idea is that you decorate your tree with ornaments and items that relate to people/places/events in the Bible.  Therefore, when you talk with your children about these ornaments or friends ask questions, the focus of the message is on God and His love and plan for mankind.

As someone who is always trying to find ways to make my faith incorporate with my life, this was very appealing.

I relegated all of our traditional family ornaments to decorating the evergreen boughs that trim our windows and banister so that they are still useful and set to work focusing on the tree-as-centerpiece idea.

I found several lists online and in books about what would be acceptable ornaments to represent certain stories, and used them as a guide.  Although I have bought many items (sheep, goats, donkey, rooster, clay pot, glass frog, angels, stars, a fish, dove, palm tree, camel, ark, rainbow, scarlet rope, lion, pitcher, shell, bottle of tears) I have had to get a little creative with making others.  The wall of stones and the clay tablets pictured above were two things I made out of kid's clay.




This is a mobile I made to represent Abraham's promise of decedents as numerous as the stars.


Here is a Torah scroll (made of toothpicks, beads and cloth) with Hebrew writing depicting Isaiah 11:1.


And this is supposedly Joseph's coat of many colors.

As you can see none of them are professionally made, but at least they're MADE.  It has taken me nine years to find/create thirty ornaments.  Some have been fairly easy (like gluing together some cake-stand pillars to make to columns of Solomon's temple, or the small rubber snake that I tied to a fake apple).  But there are others that I just haven't gotten around to finding: a globe, a Rook from a chess set (to represent Habakkuk's watchtower), a bundle of grain, trumpet, a crown, a harp, music notes, grapes, a crimson robe, a ladder.

And where on earth am I going to find a miniature set of fire tongs?!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Tree Hunting

When I was growing up we always seemed to get our Christmas tree early - if it was already December 5th we considered it unforgivably late.  I loved having it up for a whole month; turning off all the lights in the house except for the tree lights, the little lighted village on the bookcase, and the wood stove roaring.  I don't know if boys do this at all, but every girl I've talked to about this has memories of this quiet darkness to drink in the ambiance of the season.

So through the nine years I've been married it has been an adjustment  transition nail biting, hair pulling, tongue holding exercise in patience to adjust to my husband's way of doing 'the tree'.

Mostly the years have gone by with my father-in-law cutting down our tree from his property, bringing it over, and putting it up.  I have really appreciated this, as other wise we would have had a tree only three of the last nine years.  Last year we never even had one.  I decided we would wait until Daddy had time to take us so it could be a 'family' event (you know, making memories and traditions for our kids.  I figured it was about time we started: our oldest was already six.).  We waited.  And waited.  And Christmas came.  And went.

So this year, with two kids in school, the kids started pestering me that "I need a tree."  "Why don't we have a tree?" " Mrs. Johnson (teacher) has a tree already."  Et cetera.  I politely inquired of Daddy when a good time would be to go and mostly received a lot of "I don't know.  It depends on my schedule.  I have to do homework all that weekend."  O-kay.

Being the powerful, strong-willed, fully-capable, hate-to-disappoint-my-children woman that I am . . . . . . I called my mom and asked her to drive us to the three farm after school last Wednesday.

A family in our church has a little tree farm outside Molalla up in the hills (Snowline Tree Farm) that I wanted to go to, partly in deference to the Bible's mandate to 'support widows and orphans'.  But mostly because I knew they had two Shetland ponies that Girl fell head-over-heels for last summer.

Grandpa Don and Alex didn't hear us pull up over the barking of all the dogs, so we had a few minutes to wander around and pet the horses before we got around to deciding on our tree.  We always get a noble and I didn't want anything tall (five feet was our maximum).  They graciously started the tractor-pulled hayride and we piled in, excited to find our tree.  I told the kids to shout when they saw one that they wanted.
Boy Two, Nana, Boy One on the hay trailer


And so we set off, very excited to watch the happy dogs chase each other through the tree field alongside.
Posing with our tree.

Just as I thought they'd never say anything someone shouted.  We stopped, unloaded, and walked a little ways through the field finally agreeing on this one.  The boys watched enthralled as Grandpa Don used his chain saw to fell our little bush in two seconds flat, then load it on the trailer. 


 By now, the kids were becoming loud with the pure headiness of being outside, riding behind the tractor, the dogs running, the chain saw, finally getting our tree.  We went for an extended tour ride around the tree field and back to the house, where they shook all the little spiders out of the tree and then turned on the baler at our request.  Alex even had Isaac come closer in so he could 'help'.
Afterward, Grandpa Don measured the tree (five feet) and then we laid Boy Two on the baler and measured him: about four feet.  The other two declined any measuring.

This accomplished and the tree wedged in the car, we ambled over to the enclosed patio, complete with outdoor stone fireplace, colored lights, hot chocolate and cookies, and an ornament-making table.

Robin helping Girl to make her pine cone ornament.



My kids were completely won over.

We got home just as it was getting dark, secured the tree in its stand with only a slight tilt (tilting adds character) and waited to surprise Daddy, whose job it was to put on the lights.

Success!  Daddy seemed quite relieved to have gotten out of bringing home the tree - so much so that I'm afraid he will expect me to do this every year.  Drat.  There's a cloud for every silver lining.

Linking to Snowline Tree Farm

Monday, December 6, 2010

Follow The Star

Our town's Seventh Day Adventist Church has a large complex and grounds where for the last eight years it has hosted a Christmas event called Follow The Star.  Every year in December I hear from neighbors and townspeople "Have you been to 'Follow The Star' yet?" and until now I've replied (in an exasperated and disbelieving tone) "No!"  As in, Can you believe that we've lived here four years and still haven't gone?!

So we remedied that.  At least, a few of us did.

My parents had also heard great things about this event and mom called Sunday evening to say that the time is now!  Let's go!  Boy One and Daddy chose to stay home while Boy Two, Girl and I squished into the back of my parent's Blazer and drove four blocks to the center.  After the initial confusing obtaining of tickets, killing two hours time and returning, we sat in the sanctuary and people watched/sang Christmas carols/listened to a piano player entertain us while we waited for our group to be called.  The best part is always the people watching - Girl was mesmerized by the twirling of a fellow little girl in a sparkly fuchsia dress. 

Our group was finally called and, bundled in our coats, tights, warm socks, boots, fleece jackets, scarves and gloves, we exited the building into the 36-degrees-and-clear night.  The first stop was a little shed where a 'typical American family' lounged in their living room, harried by the holiday busyness and questioning the heritage from whence it came.  Suddenly, we are interrupted by three middle-aged Magi (all of the people we encounter are in costume - really well done) who invite us to come with them as they follow the star to find the new King.  We encounter a shepherd and his daughter, who guide us to Jerusalem.  There are torches that light the concrete path we walk on, and we come to the Temple (plywood painted as stone work - well done) where several older priests are gathered around a man sacrificing a burnt offering.  A woman wants to offer her money to God, but the priests won't let her as she doesn't have enough to buy the 'required coins' to offer.  A man wants to offer a lamb, but he can't afford the ones that are being sold at the temple.  Simeon and Anna are also there, and tell us of the promise of the Messiah.  We move on to Herod's palace to question him.

The Roman soldiers stop us at the palace, sneering that Herod doesn't usually have an audience with 'rabble' like us. (At this point my dad begins chuckling at the actors, their great lines, mild humor, etc.  They were GREAT.  My dad pretty much laughs the whole rest of the outing.)  Herod comes, sits on his throne, talks to the wise men.  He then goes behind a transparent curtain to question the scribes about the scriptures and we see him yell at them and devise a plot to trap the new King.  He comes back out and tells the Magi (and us, their entourage) to go to Bethlehem, where the baby is prophesied to be born.  We leave.

Girl and Boy Two are really buying in to this by now.  The fires at the temple, the towns, etc. are really adding a great tone to the darkness and cold of the night and are filling the air with the smell of smoke.  Girl is a little frightened of the soldiers and the uncertainty of where we are going, what will happen, etc.  Boy Two has pretty well taken off to join the other kids in our group and isn't the least afraid. 

On our journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem we encounter a group of shepherds (a few teenagers and several preteens) and we are invited to warm up at their fire while the Magi move on.  While talking around the fire with the shepherds suddenly there is a bright light behind us and there, suspended between a few trees by some cables, is an angel!  This is the part that really grabs my kids.  The angels tells us about the baby born in Bethlehem and urges us to go visit him, and suddenly a group of angels are illuminated (behind and to the side of the first one) and sing a respectable "Joy to the World".  At this point I'm thinking, These actors must be FREEZING!  They only have on light costumes and many of them aren't close to warm fires.  But they are reenacting the same scenes probably a dozen times or more in a three hour period.  If I were that suspended angel I would be too afraid of moving around and the cables snapping to be able to pull off a convincing performance. 

As we leave the shepherds' fire we are suddenly surrounded by several Roman soldiers on horseback who have emerged from the shadows and demand to know what we are doing wandering around in the darkness.  We manage to get by them and then encounter a mob of poor beggars (most of whom are children) asking for alms.  Our shepherd guide advises us to be careful that they don't pick our pockets.  I wished I had some change in my pockets to give them, just to see what they would do with it!

When our group enters Bethlehem we first must stop at the tent of the official to be counted for the census.  After some finagling, we are directed to an inn to stay at for the night.  We knock on the door and a grouchy innkeeper comes and tells us to look elsewhere, he's been full up for two weeks!  We go through town, many women and children displaying their wares and hawking their goods for us to buy: vegetables, bread, candles, pots, wool, etc.  Very authentic.  The second innkeeper also is annoyed and tells us about the inn at the other side of town.  (The innkeepers may have been my favorite part.)

A little ways on we come to the final inn, where the keeper directs us to his adjoining stable, where he had already sent another couple to stay for the night.  Inside we find Joseph, Mary and their (inauthentic) baby, along with an angel who sings "Mary, Did You Know?" while we watch.  As we exit the stable, our shepherd guide directs our eyes to the crosses on the hill, and mentions why they are there, and muses on them and the new baby.  We finally return to the American Family Living Room for the conclusion of the tour before we are released to the refreshment tent for apple cider and a cookie.

I couldn't get over how many people they must have had to put this together!  There were two or three tours of people moving through the campus at any given time, so there were several sets of Magi, shepherd guides, etc.  and all of the actors at the temple, Bethlehem, the shepherd campfire, the angels, the beggars, the Romans, etc.  And so many of the actors were children!  And all these people played their parts SO WELL.  It was amazing.

We also really liked the real animals: sheep and goats at the temple, horses for the Romans to ride, sheep and a llama at the stable.  I could actually smell the animals before I saw them, and that just added to the atmosphere!  I was mildly disappointed that there weren't any camels (drat!) and a little surprised that there weren't any cows. 

Girl was most impressed by the suspended angel, and reminded me as I put her to bed that night that "The angel said 'don't be afraid.'"  This really made an impression on her, as she mentioned it more than once.  I think the experience really helped the nativity story come alive for my kids in a way that is impossible for most of us to understand, living where and how we do.  I'd love the go again, next weekend!

The program is only for two weekends in December each year.  This link has all the information if you want to go.  I highly, highly recommend it!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Discipline, Grasshopper.

I'm sure that reading about how I discipline my children is not what you might call entertaining, but I think it helps me to remember what situations I have encountered with my kids and how I have handled them, just in case I need to do it again.

This boy will be the death of me.  Seriously.  This is not the part of parenting that I enjoy - it is actually one of the things I feared when envisioning raising kids.

On Friday I had the children help me tidy the house and vacuum before we hauled in the four Christmas Decoration boxes from the garage.  This is always very exciting for the kids (Girl exclaims "It's Christmas!  It's Christmas!") as they pull things out to play with: Advent calendars, nativity sets (carved wooden and Play Mobile), a wooden train that my dad made, and a Noah's Ark with porcelain animals.  All admittedly cool stuff for kids to play with and I very seriously reminded them of the rules and that they are old enough to be responsible.  Impish nods all around.  Matter settled.

I set aside a few items to glue back together and an hour later with glue gun in hand was miffed that I couldn't find them.  Huh?...............  The kids all seemed very innocent and denied everything, but an hour later Boy Two said "Let's look in our stockings!"  It took me a moment to catch on.  Guess what I found inside?  The missing broken items!  Boy Two's excitement about the stockings was enough to temper my lecture, and I let it go with a warning.  Such a sweet boy, I thought.  I love him.

Cut to this morning.

The kids awoke an hour before I got out of bed and were playing fairly well downstairs when I came down to make breakfast.  After we finished eating Boy Two brought me a giraffe from the Noah's Ark set (the one they knew not to touch) that was suffering from a severed leg.  Now, I personally don't have any emotional ties to this Noah's Ark set but please.  The set survived through my kids' toddler years unscathed and suffered the loss of an elephant trunk last Christmas, and now this?

All children vehemently denied any knowledge of the alleged injury, the murky circumstances surrounding it, or the location of the limb in question.  After taking several turns around the living room with a drifting gaze that constituted a search of the premises, the kids made it clear that it didn't really matter.  It didn't really matter to me, either, but I realized that I needed to get them to care.  After all, they had broken something that wasn't theirs, that belonged to someone else, and now were hoarding the secret to the whereabouts of the missing leg so it couldn't even be fixed.  Drat.  I have to do something about this.

I put on my disappointed/upset/angry mother face and took a toy from each of them, explaining that they had taken something from me and this was part of the restitution (especially since there was a glaring lack of remorse or repentance on the part of the kids.  Whose kids are those, anyway?).  Then, until they could come forth and tell me the truth of what happened and/or where the MIA leg was, they were all sent to their rooms for the day.  It was 9am.

On the upside, my husband and I had a very quiet, relaxing day to ourselves.  I did bring the children their lunch in their rooms and supplied them with juice as necessary, but I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't being too hard on them, that this was a lesson that they needed to learn and this was the only way I knew to do it.  Yet throughout the afternoon the words of Marilla Cuthbert kept repeating in my head: "We can't keep her, liar and thief and you know it, Matthew." 

Boy One and Girl, whom I already guessed to be guiltless, were allowed out around dinner time in hopes that solitary confinement would persuade Boy Two to come clean, but no such luck.

Any ideas on how to get one's children to tell the truth?  It seems that all of the sudden this is becoming a big problem for Boy Two.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More Teeth

Ever since my second son discovered that he can wiggle his teeth out just like his brother, there seems to have been an undeclared war in our house over who can lose the most teeth.  In the last four days each boy has lost one - good thing Daddy is willing to play the part of dentist.

Boy One, who always seems too afraid to try new things, for some reason doesn't mind a bit when Daddy pulls out the pliers from his toolbox and pulls and twists and yanks those loose teeth out.  I never even hear a peep out of him.  What a pain threshold he has!  Now he has a tooth missing on the top and another one on the bottom: he looks like a jack-o-lantern.

Boy Two has been working on a bottom tooth (the exact same one that his brother just lost) and finally decided this morning that the time had come for its removal.  I had felt the tooth yesterday and knew it wasn't ready yet, but what does Mama know?

Daddy and Boy Two stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom and Daddy used fingers, rags and pliers to try and remove the offending tooth, but for some reason it was a lot harder than he thought it would be.  After much screaming on Boy Two's part and more blood than usual, Daddy managed to drag the tooth out and looked at it.  Whoa!  That tooth still had its root attached!

The root was almost as long as the tooth itself, Boy Two was in a bit more pain than he had anticipated, and Daddy was very remorseful that there really had been a good reason for all that screaming.  I called the dentist just to relieve Daddy's fears that there wouldn't be any undo effects and was reassured.  I taped the tooth up on the calendar like I do with all the others that the kids lose.  It's quite impressive, actually.  Like fangs. 

I guess my kids are brave enough to visit the dentist now.  Sitting in a dentist's chair with a stranger will be child's play compared to extractions at home!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The promised airplane swatch

Waaaay back in August you'll remember that I promised Boy One that I would make him an airplane swatch to dress up his plain black backpack, since he couldn't find a backpack that he liked for school purposes.  I designed it myself from looking at his favorite model, an R.A.F. Mosquito that the British used in the 1940s.

As an afterthought, the propellers probably could have been skipped.  But otherwise, I think it's a descent likeness!

He seems fairly pleased with it.

I embroidered it on a plain piece of stiff cotton broadcloth, then cut it out and stitched around the outline to attach it to the netting pocket.  Like I said, it isn't perfect.  But at least its personal.

As a fun anecdote that has nothing to do with this, Boy One was at school on Monday and brought his tray of hot lunch to the table where he usually sits.  There were four or five other kids from his class already sitting down and as he sat he pronounced, "Let;s pray."  Every kid at the table bowed their head as he prayed for the meal.  His classroom assistant was so excited!  Hope it doesn't get him in trouble down the line!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Picture catch-up

Now that my wonderful husband has finally downloaded the pictures from the camera to the computer, I can show them off!  Or, well, something like that.

Two years ago my mother-in-law gave me her old sewing machine: a Kenmore that is older than I am.  With a very extensive quick tune-up it has been working great for me.  Mostly because I am too intimidated to try out the various plates and feet (foots?) that make for the fun stitches.  I'm sticking with plain old straight-line stitches until I get desperate enough to break out of my comfort zone.

I said all that to say this: I've been experimenting with making aprons.  I begged my mother-in-law to buy me a cute apron book for Christmas last year and since then I've been using up everybody's old fabric scraps.  Yay!

This is where the magic happens.  My mom had a tiny sewing room in our farm house while I was growing up - it was actually just a closet with windows, but it seems huge compared to what I have!  This is the tiny corner of our bedroom, and I'm using, yes, a child's chair pulled up to an end table.  Yee-haw.  I had to move my husband's dresser over two inches in order to make these two items fit, and he noticed at once and was mildly annoyed.  Oops.

So, here are some of the things I've been sewing:


This is actually a child-size apron, as about half of the ones I make are.  They use so much less material!

You can't see it, but the rick-rack on the pockets precisely matches the fabric!

I love how retro this one looks!  I had to use a ton of geometry to make the plans for this one.  Yuck.

More kids aprons.

See the cute mushrooms  and firefly?  Yup.  I made those.

And that cupcake, too.


This one I made for a great friend at church who was getting her first apartment - it might be my favorite apron yet.

See?  Fun, huh?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Halloween?

I don't remember really celebrating Halloween as a child.  We Trick or Treated once or twice when I was very young, but mostly just stayed home eating pizza, drinking root beer floats, and having as many of the really good candy bars as we wanted.  This was always an extremely acceptable solution: who cared about being in the cold, wet and dark for two hours while gleaning only Tootsie Rolls and Dum Dums, when we could stay warm and dry at home watching movies and eating Milky Way and Reese's? 

This has pretty much been what my husband and I have followed in parenting our own children, except that we bring them to my parent's house for the evening to experience the same food fest. 

My children all dressed up this year: a first, I believe.

Boy One was thrilled to go as Captain Picard from The Next Generation.  The costume was one that his Daddy used to wear - I really had to take it in so it would fit him (it almost would have fit ME).  His daddy also let him borrow a Tribble (it looks like a toupee) that purrs and jiggles and a, um, scanner-thing (that Spok would use on new planets) that lights up and has recorded sounds.  Boy One was very responsible with these "not toys" and very proud to show them off, even though Daddy noted that the props were 'from the Original series' and wouldn't 'go' with the uniform.  Oh, well.

Boy Two loves to dress-up (although you can't tell) as a pirate, but broke his sword before the day even started.  However, are friend Jimmy at church also dressed in pirate fatigues and Boy Two was in awe.

Girl and Mama had matching Mother/Daughter dresses that I made over the last two weeks: not as difficult as I would have thought, but certainly more effort that I had sewn before.  Who knew sleeves would be so hard to fit right?

I was pretty happy with how well they turned out.  Now I can make some more!

That evening we waited at my parent's house to give out candy to neighborhood kids, but none came.  So my dad taught my kids how to Trick or Treat for themselves.  He sent them outside, one at a time, to ring the bell and say 'Trick or Treat'!  Then he would act surprised and let them choose a piece of candy.  This was excessively well received with the kids and they repeated the fun as many times as they could get away with!

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Compilation

I take my two younger children to our library's story hour every week on Thursday mornings.  This is the first year that my youngest meets the age requirements (the library website specifically says 'ages 4-5') and probably the only year we'll be able to attend (unless I go by myself next year!).  But I enjoy being able give them weekly activities to look forward to and the opportunity to practice their manners (don't I sound like a mother?  Who cares about fun!  Let's talk 'please' and 'thank you'!).  But I do have a slight beef about story hour: kids not in the age group.

Have I already commented about this?  Why are there children there that are younger than even two years old?  They aren't paying attention to the story.  They mostly wander around the library causing trouble while the day care provider reads a magazine.  And yes, children who are technically older than the requirements may be able to attend occasionally when school is canceled for the day, but does that mean that they get to boss the little kids around?  Yes, you're twelve, we all know that you'll best the five-year-olds when it comes to the bean bag toss and musical chairs.  Aren't you a little too old to be playing?  Shouldn't you be slightly ashamed that you're taking prizes away from the kids for whom the games were intended?  It makes me feel sad for my kids, getting bossed around by people who shouldn't even be there.  

Okay, rant over.

Yesterday I was waiting anxiously for the afternoon bus to drop Boy One off from school.  The minutes kept ticking by on the clock until it read twelve minutes past the normal drop-off time, at which point I came back inside and Girl and I found our shoes and coats while I scrounged for the school phone number.  At this point, the phone rang: could I come down and get Boy One?  He had a melt down at the end of school and was so upset that he wouldn't even sit down on the bus.  Girl and I ran the quarter mile to the school where we found said boy, asleep on the floor of the bus with his head in a teacher's lap.

The teacher, bus driver and aid all assured me that he was still breathing, but had this ever happened before?  Apparently he had a difficult afternoon and chose not to join closing circle, thus he didn't receive his licorice treat.  Nothing makes him more upset than not getting his treat, and since he had to leave to catch the bus he didn't even get to tell teacher he was sorry so he broke down in hysterical tears, finally working himself into exhaustion.  After a few minutes we woke him up and he was all smiles, but all of us adults were standing around asking each other, "what do you think we should have done?"  He did, later, get to go back in the school and apologize to his teacher, who gave him a hug and his treat.  Thank the Lord for such compassionate teachers at this school.

As it is the end of October, this morning I had parent/teacher conferences to attend for both of the boys at their respective schools.  I ended up arriving at the elementary school ten minutes early (and staying fifteen minutes late) for my meeting, which allowed me to talk with his regular aid and the learning specialist (as well as his teacher).  It ended up being a terrific meeting, as there were so many good things to share!  The marks he received on his progress report were all in the top two of the five levels - the best marks he has ever had!  I cried.  Also, he is too advanced for his reading group!  Amazing!  The samples of his writing and illustrating were so detailed and show so much improvement.  There is nothing more exciting than seeing your children develop their abilities.

I skipped down the street to the kindergarten (where I showed off Boy One's progress report to all of the teachers, aids and office staff I could find.  No, really, I did.) and met with Boy Two's teacher, who also had nothing but good things to say.  About him being an example to the other kids about how to behave, about having compassion on his classmates and helping them when they need it, about how responsible and respectful he is.  Wow!  Nice to know he behaves so well at school - can't he do that at home?  Even the P.E. teacher stopped me the other afternoon to tell me that Boy Two had picked right up on Chinese jump rope (?) and then helped the rest of the kids to learn how.  He's coordinated, too!  What great kids I have.


As a special treat, I have a little anecdote I've been saving for a few weeks.

My mom and I went to the Mill End (fabric) store a few weeks back and I happened to overhear a tiny exchange that I will never forget.  The customer was at the cutting counter talking with the employee about the material in front of her and the kind of cut she needed.  Then she tried to be cute and made a little quip about the fabric, telling the employee that she needed "...the better part of valor."

The employee deadpanned right back, "Actually, it's pronounced velour."

I loved it so much that I wrote it down on a paper in my purse so I'd be sure and remember it!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Friends?

For the first time in my life, the people that I am calling my friends know absolutely nothing about the first quarter century of my life, nor do they attend church with me.

This is very odd to me.  The idea that someone can be considered my friend and yet they don't know my husband or anyone else in my extended family (except my children) is very foreign.  I have never felt that I make friends easily, although I do make an effort to smile a lot and put myself into social situations that require me to be friendly.  But I do have a sharp wit and a quick tongue, and not everyone appreciates that light teasing is how I move a conversation forward.

The four women (and their husbands) that I spent most of my free time with from 1996 - 2008 have all moved away from the valley and, although I don't necessarily feel lonely, I don't have the opportunities to socialize that I used to. 

The local Kindergarten had a Harvest Festival that our family attended on Tuesday evening and I was surprised that I found myself talking to so many people.  A mom I knew briefly from a community playgroup sat her family down beside us, claiming to my husband that she 'loves our family'.  I had never met her husband or son, but had no problem conversing animatedly with the whole family for fifteen minutes while my own family tried to lure me away.  Two minutes after getting up from the table, I identified a man I had never seen (his kids look like him) as the husband of a friend of mine (also from playgroup two years ago) and pounced, introducing myself and asking questions about his new pastorship in Astoria and his wife's nursing classes.  I think I threw the poor guy off a little; he looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

In the gymnasium to pick out pumpkins to decorate, I talked with my son's T-ball coach, the previous director of the Gladstone Center (who helped me with my oldest son the last two years), the Head Start director who likes my cooking, two teachers that I know well, and their husbands.  My little family felt a little abandoned that evening, I think. 

Two mornings later I was the only one (a second came fifteen minutes later) of the hundred invited parents to attend a new Monthly Coffee hour with the new Director of the center (whom I've never met - but as I introduced myself her eyes widened and she expressed, "Oh!  You're THAT Kristen!"  Yep, that's me.  I guess everyone in town knows of me.).  We got along famously before my time ran out and the Girl and I made a dash for the library's Story Hour, where the children's librarian and I have developed a rapport.

Apparently, these people (and others at my son's schools) are my new 'friends'.  I was a little surprised to admit to myself that I have more positive interaction and lively friendships with these people in my community than I do with the people of my church, who I've known for twenty years now.  Something about that disturbs me a little, but also feels very right, in its own sense.

I have more thinking to do about this.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Child/Parent Dance and Who Wins at the End

Boy Two is way too much like his uncle.  I just may have to trade him to the gypsies.

Monday started out about normal.  The kids had the day off from their respective schools and Daddy was working from home for part of the day so he could drive me to a dentist appointment, but otherwise it was business as usual.  Boy Two kept having "loud feet" (a term that any family living in a home that shares a wall/floor/ceiling with another family will immediately understand) and going to his room for trying to annoy his siblings and subsequently annoying his parents.

A little before lunch time I poured some juice for the kids as usual and made sure there were three different colored cups for easy identification throughout the day.  Once again, the green cup was the favorite and the first one to grab it was Boy Two.  Fine.  But what bugs Mama is that whoever gets the green cup invariably crows his/her success to purposefully aggravate their siblings, who then whine for the next hour about how "I wanted the green cup!"  Over the course of time, this argument has become a tiny drain on Mama's nerves.  Monday was no exception.  Hence, the exasperated Mother decided to remove said items from the kitchen.  I found all the green cups that we own, made a formal, loud announcement in the presence of all the children, and abruptly disposed of the cups in the garbage.  This settled the argument for Monday, but Tuesday morning the grievance was "I wanted the orange cup!"  Mama is planning a trip to Target to purchase enough cups of a single color to quiet the argument indefinitely.

About half an hour later I asked Boy Two to find his siblings and ask them what they wanted on their sandwiches for lunch.  He is the only one who can be counted on to (a) remember the question, (b) ask both siblings, and (c) return to me with the answers in a short amount of time.  Sadly, I underestimated his cunning. 

The orders as he reported them were: Boy One, apple butter; Boy Two, peanut butter and marshmallow; Girl, Nutella.  So those were the sandwiches I assembled.  I called all three to the table and Boy Two wolfed down his lunch before Girl even arrived - a move I should have caught.  Girl, upon examining the contents of her bread, complained "I didn't want Nutella!"  Mama retorted, "That's what you asked for, so you need to eat it!"  Only then did Mama notice the shadow of a smile on Boy Two's face as he avoided eye contact.  Bingo.

I pulled him into the other room and quietly asked him if sister had asked for peanut butter on her sandwich and he admitted to it, still with a slight devilish gleam in his eye at having gotten away with his scheme.  Drat.  I couldn't have the two kids switch sandwiches, Boy Two had already consumed his!  How am I going to handle this one?!

The old standby, I guess: he lied to Mama about the sandwiches, therefore he gets the ole Toothbrush With Soap treatment.  Poor kid.  He hadn't yet figured out how to spit out the foam and not swallow it.  I suppressed a smile as I thought of the belly full of bubbles that he had swallowed.  Yuck.

Two incidents down.  I naively thought that would be the last one. 

As evening descended on our home the kids began to ready themselves for bed.  I entered the boy's room to put clean sheets on a bed and managed to glance at the little green nightstand between the beds, now covered in someone's pretty scrawl.  Ugh.  How would I figure out who was responsible for this?  (If you already think you know, you're probably right.  Way to jump to conclusions.)

I called the kids in and very innocently began to question them about the elegant artwork.  Everyone squirmed and immediately began blaming each other, something I learned years ago is never reliable.  I would have to draw out the culprit without them realizing I was doing it. 

Keeping up the naive, awed inquisitiveness that I won an Oscar for, I calmly asked questions such as "This is beautiful, did one of you do this?  It's very good!  I can't even tell what this is; is it marker?  Pencil?  Those circles are so precise, are they ripples of water?  Are those letters?  They're very well done.  What do they spell?"  It took me about fifteen minutes of this interplay to really get a good feel for who the real culprit was (fortunately, Daddy followed my lead in this drama) and the artist finally revealed himself when asked "What is this supposed to be, a dragon?"  "No," Boy Two piped up (I knew he couldn't resist), "it's a pirate ship!"  He then proceeded to relate what the other designs were and when I asked in awe, "So you did this?" he suddenly realized he was caught and, remembering the soap from lunchtime, quickly admitted his guilt.  As a reward (?) for telling the truth, he avoided punishment and simply spent the next twenty minutes erasing his artwork (thankfully it was only colored pencil). 

In the realm of parenting, any conflict you don't lose is considered a win.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Randomness

Boy One is up to his old tricks: arranging to get into trouble at school so that I receive calls from teachers - or at least notes threatening to call.  Then I wait around all afternoon and evening for the dreaded ring and it never comes. 

I talked with his first kindergarten teacher (Mrs. B) about my dread of those calls that began when Boy One was in her class, and she had the gall to laugh at me!  Apparently my fear that Boy One will be too much for the school system to tolerate and they'll ask me to remove him and I'll have to home school him thereby missing out on the social communication aspect of school that is the entire reason I have him enrolled is hysterically far fetched.  Huh, who'd have thought?  Apparently I'm much too concerned about my children being a burden on others. 

Feeling a moment (and it really WAS just a moment) of curious self-pity this week, I sighed over the fact that there are so many families out there where every member is perfectly healthy, while in our tiny nuclear family of five three of us have complications:  I have a rare form of epilepsy, my son has autism, and my daughter has a rare heart condition and organ condition.  Really, Lord?  I have incredible peace about all this but when I have a week like this one it reminds me of the quote (and I can't remember who said it) addressed to God: if this is how you treat Your friends, it's no wonder you have so few.

In another realm, Girl finally crossed a necessary childhood barrier today.  I looked up from washing dishes at the sink to see her hovering over the couch in the living room, scissors in one hand, bangs in the other.  I was very proud of how little fuss I made.  I strode right over to the camera, made her pose for a picture, then solemnly reminded her of the rules for scissors and the fate the would befall her if I caught her at the again.  I performed the entire soliloquy with a straight face, and didn't even smile until my mom stopped by and had Girl tell her the story, during which I hid in the hallway and giggled while I listened.

Girl also found my wedding dress in my upstairs closet and has now become obsessed with it.  She even brought out her box of dress-up clothes to find various ways to accessorize the dress, which she carries around the house and 'dances' with.  As an aside, I really should have had that dress cleaned nine years ago - I don't know if those stains will come out anymore.  Ah, well.  I guess I'll just have to cut it up and turn it into something else!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Random Fuzzy Thoughts

Alllllrighty then. 


Well, no one had much advise to share so I had to go searching for some.  Fortunately (or not, your choice) I know several women (no men, though) who suffer from seizures and a few of them are even related to me.  Hmm, now we have the genetics factor, too.  Does this play much of a part?

Out of the three people I poled advice from, two advised that I find myself a neurologist pronto and start the laborious task of sifting through anti-seizure meds to find which ones give me the greatest help for the least side effects (honestly, if the side effects are worse than the occasional seizure, is it really worth it to take the medicine?).  I just can't imagine paying $35 dollars a month for meds for the rest of my life.  They will just become more expensive, I'll probably have to increase the amount, and this doesn't even count appointments and drive time, etc.  So, so not the route I want to go.  Is this unreasonable of me?

On the other hand I have a cousin who also suffers from epileptic seizures and has had great success treating them naturally, mostly through an elimination diet.  Since I'm not overly attached to anything that I eat (except maybe peanut butter) this may be the best option. 

Yuck.  I really  REALLY hate doctors appointments.  Calling to schedule a time, dealing with insurance companies who want you to pay them more while they refuse to pay for you, finding someone to take care of my kids not to mention drive me there.  I have come to accept the fact that I am not, nor will ever be, completely self sufficient, but it does bother me when I feel like such a burden to other people's time.

*heavy sigh*

Okay, enough griping for today.  On the plus side, both my sister and sister-in-law came to visit me this week  and even though I wasn't thinking clearly, I immensely enjoyed the company!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wasting a Perfectly Good Sunday Afternoon

That was not my plan when I arrived at church on Sunday morning.

I hadn't slept much the night before - only four hours.  And there wasn't anything keeping me awake this time!  So I turned instead to (gasp!) CAFFEINATED coffee: two cups!  Woo!  Due to either the one or the other I seemed to buzz around church that morning.  I was even too jittery to sit down in my usual spot (the front row!) so I paced around in the back of the room while my husband preached. (Aside: this was a really good sermon.  He preached on honoring your parents and demonstrated by reading a letter he had written to his biological father's parents stating the reasons he would not be contacting them again and praising the way his adopted father raised him.  I cried.  So did his dad, who was in the audience.)

After the service I buzzed around as usual: putting things away, vacuuming,  setting up rooms for the week, etc.  Around twelve forty five I began to notice that I was having the beginning signs of one of my 'vision compromising' seizures - my eye sight was limiting in my right eye with some scattered cloudiness, I wasn't remembering certain words that I needed in conversation, I had to try and sound out printed words that I've known for twenty five years.  I sat in the van with the kids and waited for what I thought would be the worst scenario that I'd had in thirteen years: nausea and flashes of forgotten memories.  When my husband got in the car and told us to prepare for a trip to Subway for lunch with friends I told him that I was having a seizure and that it was going to get worse.  Was that an understatement.


I lost consciousness less than a quarter mile from the church parking lot.  According to my husband my whole body went as stiff as a board with my hands curled into claws in front of me; I stopped breathing and turned blue while foaming at the mouth and muttering jibberish.  He pulled the car over, rolled me over on to his shoulder and called 9-1-1.  Fortunately, there was an ambulance just half a mile away and they arrived to give me an anti-seizure injection and load me into the vehicle, at which point I remember barely coming to before he closed the doors and we drove to the hospital.

I talked with the paramedic on the way to Silverton Hospital; at least, as much as I was able.  I remembered more and more as time elapsed (that's routine for me) and even joked about some things ( I can't remember what.  I know, you're shocked.).  It's actually kind of fun to ride in an ambulance.  At least, until you calculate what it's going to cost you.  But they were able to wheel me right in to the Emergency Room to get another injection and update my stats.  Then it was just a matter of waiting a few hours until I was functioning better mentally.

They had planned to take me in for a head CT because of severe dizziness until I remembered (!) that it's normal for me to be dizzy after a hard seizure.  Of course, I hadn't had one like this EVER but still, the principle is the same.  So now the question:  find a neurologist and start the agonizing process of trying medications that may or may not help me, or just continue to go on as I have been, trusting that it will be a dozen years (or more) before I have another grand mal seizure.

I hate medication.  The cost, the synthetic ingredients, the side effects that are worse than the occasional seizure itself, the doctor visits, the insurance problems.  Advice!  I'm open to advice!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tears from the Son

Wow, this has been a FULL day if I now have another post to write!

I received a call from Boy One's teacher this afternoon.  Every time the caller I.D. announces it is the school district, my heart stops momentarily.  Too many phone calls over the years (and this is only the beginning of year three).

She mentioned a few 'incidents' that have happened at school over the last few days.  Things like disliking the librarian at the school and not wanting to do what she asked.  Hiding under the table because of it and needing to be coaxed out.  Having a different aid in class and not wanting to do what she asked.  And not doing the writing assignment (that was actually a placement test!). *heavy sigh*

When we got off the phone I sat down with Boy One and talked with him about these incidents that teacher mentioned.  He admitted to them (yay for his honesty when he's caught doing wrong!) and when I asked him about the writing assignment he was silent.  When I asked if he didn't understand the assignment he crawled in my lap and started crying.

I forget that he still has problems communicating ideas/emotions/thoughts because, in comparison to last year or the year before, his communication is phenomenal.  At home I compensate by brainstorming for him: giving him words that he can choose from to find the best description.  Almost like a multiple choice test.  Then when he does start using those words I know that he has really grasped them.

Also, he may be able to enjoy and understand a story, but he doesn't understand that the same ideas and concepts can apply to his own life.  The writing assignment was to write and illustrate about what you did over summer vacation.  Although the teacher read a book to the class about summer vacation, Boy One couldn't figure out what this had to do with him.  He just sat at his place and stared at the blank sheet of paper.  When we talked about it later I reminded him of things that he did (watch a parade, go to the beach, camping, bike riding, etc.) I saw the understanding dawn on him.  Oh, so THATs what Teacher was talking about!

Another things that I remembered is that Boy One has no idea about the passage of time.  Days of the week, tomorrow vs. yesterday, months, years; these mean nothing to him after two years of trying to drill them into his brain.  He can memorize the order that events go in but not the abstract idea of time.

Crying with your children about the struggles that they're facing breaks your heart.

"Get Used to Disappointment"

Granted, the quote is about swordplay and not making bookmarks at the library, but the sentiment still stands.

After the awesome morning my daughter had, we gathered our already overdue library materials and walked there for the first session of this year's story hour.  As the story hour specifically is for "4-5 year olds" I have never had all of my kids qualify to attend this grand event.  Now that Girl turned four and Boy Two has yet to turn six (three more weeks!) we have a small window of time to seize upon!

First off, I had no idea that patrons intent on joining the Sacred Story Hour must enter through the Forbidden Door (aka Employees Only) and give the Secret Knock.  (Okay that last part isn't true, but it makes the event seem so much more mysterious.)  Huh.  I had thought that since we arrived four minutes late the small window of time (exactly sixty seconds during 9:30) had closed for the week.  Sheesh, I though, how demanding they are of moms with small kids.  They must really want to keep this a small assembly.

Second, I was exceedingly proud of my kids.  They were the best behaved kids there (out of a possible fifteen) and actually paid attention to the three stories.  Hurray!  I adore it when my kids show off how well I parent them (ahem).

 Then the small hiccup and pending disappointment.  The craft was to use the stickers to customize a bookmark, cover it with contact paper, and cut it out with fancy-edged scissors.  Girl is easily pleased with butterfly stickers and some amazing three-D daffodil stickers that sparkle.  Boy Two, however, spots the fluffy (squishy?  spongy?) snake stickers (a full sheet!) that another boy has, sets his mind on those, and feels great sadness when the boy uses the entire sheet of stickers on his bookmark.  Grief!  Woe!  Anguish!  Sorrow! Heartache!  Angst!  Pain!  Misery! (synonyms from my computer thesaurus, thanks WORD).

Despite the other sticker possibilities, Boy Two nurses his sadness (albeit silently with minimal frowny faces and pouting) for the next fifteen minutes until he decides to make the best of the situation and use an entire sheet of stickers himself: the horse head ones that nobody else wanted.  He was finished in record time and, because it was the first day of Story Hour of the year, was invited to choose a snack bag of bunny crackers (thank you, Library!) as a treat.

The three of us had a decent talk on the way home about why it's important to share things with others and about considering other people's feelings.  This is something we discuss often at home regarding siblings, but I hope the situation that was presently experienced with strangers helps to solidly reinforce the idea.

The Princess and the Frog

Occasionally there are real perks to being a stay-at-home mom.  This morning was one of them. :)

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a beautiful young Princess lived in a castle with her mother the Queen, and her brother, the Young Prince.  The Beautiful Princess spent her days cleaning the castle with her mother (for this castle tended to attract dirt like no body's business) but one day dreamed of being carried off to a perpetually spotless castle by the Dashing Prince of her dreams.


One day while cleaning the Queen opened the door to clean a particularly small and long neglected dungeon when a quick, small movement caught her eye.  Afraid that the Dreaded Spider may have returned to wreak havoc on the castle, she called for the Young Prince to bring a torch to light the way, determined not to let the Dreaded Spider escape.  However, the Young Prince was very frightened and too scared of the perils that may present themselves, so the Queen hurried to get a torch of her own.  Lighting it and proceeding with caution into the small dungeon the Queen was pleasantly surprised to find, not the Dreaded Spider, but instead a small, perfect Frog.  The Queen was puzzled.  How did the Frog get into the dungeon and how long had he been there without her knowledge?  Being too tall to fully enter said dungeon, the Queen called for the Beautiful Princess to enter and retrieve the little Frog.


Happily, the Beautiful Princess complied, ever watched by the fearful Young Prince.  After a few failed attempts and amid much giggling on the part of the Princess, she was able to cup the Frog in her small hands to take him outside the castle where he may be free.  She kindly set the little Frog along the rocky pathway and wished him well, returning to the castle.  Only when she was fully indoors did she realize that this Frog may in fact be the Dashing Prince of her dreams.  Oh no!  She quite possibly had missed her opportunity!


Hurrying back outdoors, the Young Prince and Beautiful Princess searched far and wide, finally finding the Frog hiding under a watering can.  The Beautiful Princess carefully picked him up, certain that her dreams were about to come true.  Tenderly, she raised the little Frog to her lips and gave him a small kiss. . . . . . 


But there was not change.  Slightly confused, the Beautiful Princess bestowed a second kiss on said Frog.  To her chagrin, the little Frog remained trapped in his tiny, amphibious body and refused to transform into the Dashing Prince of her dreams.  The Beautiful Princess was disappointed.  Who ever heard of a Frog that refused to turn into a Prince?  With slight melancholia, the Beautiful Princess gently set the Frog upon a stately rock and turned to reenter the castle.  Apparently, this Frog was not her Dashing Prince.  The Beautiful Princess dwelt upon the discouragement of the mornings events until a little while later when she heard the comforting sounds of the Frog, having returned to his grateful family in the bog, singing a song of thanks to the Beautiful Princess for rescuing him from the dungeon.

Maybe not every Frog was destined to become a Prince, but she would keep kissing them until one did.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Second Boy

I'm always surprised at what my second son catches on to.  He seems to take in a lot of information, process it, and then attempt to implicate it in a no-nonsense approach.  I'm not even sure what I mean by that, precisely, I just know that it's true.

Despite the fact that we don't let our children watch a lot of inappropriate videos there are always things that slip through.  For instance, in the Disney version of 'Hercules' the characters use the phrase "O my gods" as a witty pun for those who are paying attention.  After watching this video once or twice he started to use the phrase and, although I shouldn't have been, I was a little surprised.  I had to do some quick stepping to talk about how words always mean something even when they don't seem to mean anything and how we need to be responsible and respectful about the words we use.  Thus, we had to come up with an 'acceptable' phrase that he was allowed to use to describe astonishment.  I think I threw out "Goodness gracious" and "Oh my gosh" and "Oh my goodness" as alternatives.  Since the first few thwarted efforts he seems to be weighing his words more carefully.  For now.

Despite the fact that he's never been around a lot of kids for long periods of time, he seems to already grasp the idea that his brother is 'different.'  While watching Boy One acting in signature fashion one day, Boy Two remarked "He always does that.  I don't do that."  Huh, so he noticed.  Boy Two has also been trying to correct Boy One's speech by pronouncing words more clearly for him and restating things that he said.  He reminds his brother "Use your words" and acts very protective of him in situations where he senses that Boy One is overwhelmed or doesn't understand directions.  I'm curious to see how the siblings will relate to each other as they age.  But I'm pleased with his early sensitivity.

I'm afraid Boy Two has an Oedipal complex.  I understand that many little boys do, but it seems especially pronounced in this one.  He's always telling me how pretty I am, how much he likes whatever I'm wearing that day, is giving me kisses, etc.  And then he dismisses Daddy completely not minding when he's out of town and, while playing Wii games, is focused on destroying Daddy instead of seeing him as an ally, like his brother does. Hmm.

He also finds ways to recreate things that make an impression on him.  After visiting Wildlife Safari earlier this year he spent a morning in his room this week pairing similar animals together at various 'stops' around the table, and made a line of cars that drove around the view said beings.  Huh.
Along the same lines, he was impressed by Swiss Family Robinson and recreated the climactic last scene of the family fighting the pirates.  To do this, he used some LEGO rowboats, parked them at the bottom of the air conditioner, and figured out how to attached the LEGO pirates (with their swords) to the slats in the air conditioner to show them 'climbing' the 'cliff face.'  At the top of the air conditioner was the LEGO family (Robin Hood characters), their muskets, two palm trees with 'coconut bombs,' and the pet monkey.  I have to say, I was impressed. (Picture to come.....later.)

More observations to come, I'm sure.

Weekend Stuff

After hearing from my parents all summer long about the painting/decorating bonanza that has been transforming their church's childrens' wing from drab to fab (hey, it's all I could come up with), our little family finally made it to the Saturday evening service on the big 'revealing' weekend.  However, not smoothly.  After reminding the Husband that we had evening plans and then declining his offer to take us out to eat (yes, I'm that cheap) we managed to leave around six ten to get to the service at six thirty.  Unfairly, after telling Husband several times that yes, it started at six thirty, we arrived just beforehand to learn that this was the first weekend of the new 6:00pm start time.  Drat.  How does he happen to be right when all the time he had no idea what he was talking about?!  Ah, well.

Because we arrived late I decided to keep the kids in the service with us instead of letting them go to class together (it would have been their first time - not the way to make an entrance when you're already new and shy).  Happily, they sat through the next hour pretty quietly and fairly still.  Boy One distracted himself by drawing airplanes on the sermon notes.  We even got to sing "All to Jesus I Surrender," which I haven't sung in ages.  Yay!

The Children's hallway was amazing.  I have pictures, but alas, they are still in the camera.  (Aside: when I finally get those pictures out of the camera there will be a long, random post explaining them all.)  My kids' favorite part was obviously the slide into the classroom - they did this at least twenty times apiece (as did every other child present).  But I happen to enjoy the times we visit their church because it feels so familiar: my dad always seems genuinely thrilled that we are there and introduces and reintroduces us to everyone.  There are actually people there that are the ages of my husband and I (amazing!) and many of them have been to college/seminary - even the ones that we attended!  It's nice not to feel invisible at church.

On Sunday, our church switched from summer hours to normal hours and began Sunday School classes for the year.  The boys are in class together again, but Girl is back downstairs with the younger kids because of a change-up in class sizes.  Except for minor incidents with Boy One not wanting to participate in a few of his class activities, the kids performed adequately. 

But the great icing on the weekend was the horses!  A family at our church recently purchased two miniature horses for their farm and generously brought them to church so that we could all share in the joy.  Girl decided to stay with the horses for as long as they were there (they were just her size, after all - she's already claimed the buckskin horse as her own), covering herself completely in dirt but not caring in the slightest: there were horses at church, who cares about a little dirt?!  (This sounds much more reasonable if you don't realize that our church is right across the street from a horse ranch.)  Boy Two was only a little frightened, which I took as a good sign.  Boy One didn't really care that much: he's more of a dog boy.

As a tag on to the end of this post, Boy Two was randomly flipping through my Bible this morning and brought it to me.  "Could you read your Bible to me?  I don't know what the words are."  So we found his favorite story, Daniel in the Lion's den, and I read that to him.  Then he found an old picture Bible and sat down with it on the couch, saying "I have some reading to do."  So sweet.  Love that boy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hurray for school! Mostly.

Boy One's first day of kindergarten First Grade!  Finally!

I even took a picture of him, but it's hidden within the recesses of my camera.  One day I'll free those images and release them into cyber space like they're supposed to be.

I was in for a surprise last week when I found out, quite by accident, that Boy One was scheduled to ride the school bus again this year.  I had been told last spring that since we live only 1/4 mile from the school this was not an option.  Imagine my confusion.  The clarification (as I understand it) is that normal kids can't ride the bus so short a distance, but Special Ed kids can, and are pretty well expected to.  To add to this, they also release Special Ed kids to their bus ten minutes earlier than other children in order to avoid the crowds that can supposedly cause fear and panic with these kids.  Who knew.  I feel so uninformed as a parent - I forget that other people may think he always needs help whereas I think he only sometimes needs help.  But he might like the special treatment, who knows.

So he caught the bus this morning (the Special Ed bus pulls up right at your door, how handy) and I totally missed the joy of taking him to school/picking him up.  Do other parents not understand how important this is?  Or am I just too attached to my kids?  Fortunately, Mrs. B from his first year of kindergarten was there to give him a hug and see that he seemed perfectly comfortable and confidant.  One down, one to go.

After a LONG morning of waiting (afternoon kindergarten feels so anti-climactic) Boy Two and Girl and I walked the half mile to kindergarten for the delayed entry start.  We filled out some paperwork on volunteering, back ground checks, emergency numbers, etc. and sat for a little bit of circle time (learning to sing and English and Spanish, with some sign language thrown in for good measure), writing our names, and a tour of the school.  One of the kids in his class, Calvin, is the son of a girl I went to high school with, imagine that!  I couldn't have picked her out of a line up if my life depended on it.

It feels nice that, as this is my third year to have a kindergartner in this school system, I know all the rules and routines and am perfectly comfortable chatting with the teachers and staff.  I notice the other parents all have that deer-in-the-headlights look while I kept tuning out the teacher and letting my mind wander.  It was like high school all over again.

The boys schedules this year will require quite the finagling, so I hope I can get it straight.
On Mondays and Friday, we leave at 7:50am to walk Boy One to first grade by 8:05.  Then we walk Boy Two to kindergarten at 12:10pm, return home, walk down to get Boy One at 2:20pm, then keep going to pick up Boy Two at 3pm.
On Tuesday and Thursdays, Boy One rides the bus at 7:40, walk Boy Two to school at 12:10, Boy One comes home on the bus at 2:15 (yes, that's before school is actually out for the other kids) and we walk down to get Boy Two at 3pm.
On Wednesdays, Boy One rides the bus at 7:40, walk Boy Two to school at 11:40, Boy One comes home on the bus at 1:15, and we pick up Boy Two at school at 2:30pm.

I'm bound to forget one of them somewhere. 

To top it off my dentist calls this afternoon, "When are you free to come in for a cleanings?"  My only answer was, "Uuuummmmm.............."

But last year's trick to get Boy One to go with his therapists ("If you go with Mrs. _________, then you can come home and play the Wii") has backfired this year.  Now he comes home saying, "I sat on the carpet, I get to play the Wii!"  "I lined up, I get to play the Wii!"  Um, no.  So now we're having the "You're in first grade, you're old enough to follow the rules just because it's part of school" discussion. 

A plus! (I think)  One of the boys in Boy Two's class we know from play group at the Gladstone Christian Church the last three years, so yay!  Well, at least for me.  I adore this boy's mom. When did I get to the age where it seems all of my friends have been gleaned from my children's friends or teachers?  Should this make me lonely?  I'll think about it tomorrow.  At Tara!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

MoneyMoneyMoney!

My kids have recently discovered the value of money.

For years now they have been getting special two dollar bills and dollar coins from grandparents for their birthdays and for Christmas, but not knowing anything else to do with said items they plunked them into their piggy banks and never looked back.  As they are getting older they have discovered the value of those measly dollars and the sheer delight in spending them on things that they desire.

It started by using a dollar to buy a soda or a candy bar at Safeway when we would drop by after a bike ride.  Oh the pleasure of choosing your own kryptonite and not having to share it with your whiny siblings!  That fairly recently morphed into bringing some coinage along on a trip to Michael's craft stores and perusing the dollar section for treasures. (Side note: rubber snakes will quickly lose their tongues and then break in half, loosing all value for the consumer and ending up in the trash with a mild case of tears for the child who chooses them.)

Now, however, these kids are on to bigger and better things.  At the promise of the long anticipated trip to Target, Girl counted out her money and carefully placed thirteen dollars in her purse.  Boy Two could only manage to scrape up ten dollars (still a tidy sum for a five-year-old) and Boy One a grand fourteen dollars.
At the store they waited patiently while Mama meandered through Misses Clothing before riding the elevator up to the second floor Toys section.  Upon discovering that the Sleeping Beauty Play Set that Girl wanted was reduced to a mere nine dollars Girl gave the Great Sigh of "Oooooh!  It's so beautiful!" and never let it out of her sight.

Not finding a suitable dinosaur, Boy Two decided to settle for some animal figures that completely wiped out his funds but at least afforded him pleasure.  Boy One, scouring for airplanes, decided to save his money and wait for what he really had in mind, trusting that it would eventually be found.  Which it was, later, at Michael's: a P-51 Mustang model airplane (a mere $10).  We also discovered there that the animal figures purchased by Boy Two for ten dollars could have been obtained at Michael's for a mere six dollars and a little bit of waiting.  Oh, well.  Boy Two has only instant gratification in mind while his siblings can wait for weeks for just the right toys.

Seeing as how the children only receive $2 a month in allowance (in addition to any money they make at Grandma's house) it will be a while before another shopping trip like this.  But I think it is good for them.  I don't remember spending hardly any money as a child.  In fact, I saved for years the necessary $85 to afford an American Girl doll, but was never sure how to go about ordering one from the catalog and therefore never had much to show for it.

This is one of the areas that intimidates me most about parenting: purposefully creating moments of learning for my children to usher them towards independence and maturity.  I'm not sure that I can use those two words to describe myself so directing them towards my children seems entirely out of my grasp!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Boys

Boy One brings home a new toy airplane from his grandma’s house and is showing it to Boy Two, whose comment is “Wow! . . . . what kind of GUNS does it have on it?”
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I took the kids over to my mom’s today to play in her little pool, seeing how it will probably be the last warm day this summer. After all three kids stripped off their clothes and jumped into their swimsuits, they waste an hour either swimming and splashing, or complaining that they didn’t WANT to play outside, they don’t LIKE the water, mom is being MEAN again, blah, blah, blah.

So Boy One finishes, goes inside to change back into his clothes, and brings his wet things outside to dry in the sun. Boy Two finally drifts inside to do the same, but calls out to me that he can’t find his underwear. No, it’s not under the bed. Or under the blanket. Or anywhere else that I immediately though of. Now, it may be obvious to the reader, but I was not brought up with boys and it took me a minute to realize where the elusive underwear was. Yup. Big brother is wearing it.

This is no problem for a boy. Boy Two finds Boy One, quickly questions him, then strips him of his pants and underwear, takes the underwear, and pulls it on himself. There now. Everyone is happy. And Mama had to leave the room to keep from breaking down in a fit of giggles.

Boy Two Goes to School

Boy Two attended his first day of ‘summer’ school on Monday.

Two years ago when Boy One did the same thing there was tears and hiding under the tables and refusing to participate/talk to anyone, much less his parents when we came to pick him up after two hours were over. You’d think we had sent him to school to punish him!

What a different story with this child! Boy Two has been talking about school for, oh, two years now. He has paid close attention to everything that Boy One has done and literally knows EVERYTHING about being in kindergarten – and likes to share this knowledge.

He carefully picked out his ‘school clothes’ to wear and readily sacrificed sandals for much more conservative socks and tennis shoes (because that is what school kids wear). He ran ahead of us all the way to school and only hesitated when we got inside and all the teachers and helpers exclaimed how excited they were that Boy Two was old enough for school! And getting so tall! And they were so excited to have him!

Boy One (in terrific big brother fashion) guided him down the hall with a hand on his shoulder til we got to class. From there, he performed as if he had been doing this all his life: finding his name on the board as well as what seat what assigned to him, writing his name on his paper and filling the worksheet with perfect ‘2’s, raising his hand for teacher, etc. We tried to keep Boy One out of the limelight since this was not technically a day for him to shine, so we left early and came back two hours later to pick up Boy Two.

Here’s his summation of the day:
“We had little teddy bear snacks! Yellow ones and brown ones. But I had RED ones! And we read a book. And, Mommy, I got to be the HOT DOG! Yeah! See my sticker? No, Ms. Johnson say I need to keep it on my shirt. And we line up and Sam get to be first and we walk quiet like little mice to the toilet and I don’t have to use the toilet so I sit out here like this and we go out to the playground. But it not the fire truck playground. No. It the pirate playground. And I go down the slide! And the kids get their hands all in paint and it go squish like that and on the backpacks! But Sam not do the paint. No. Its gross. And we sang the POPCORN song! And I go like this and then I POP like this! And then we wait for you but you not coming! Yeah. And, I, …..*sigh* never mind, let’s just go.”

There you have it! A first day of school.

How Camping is Like School

Our little family went to our annual church campout this August at Ft. Stevens state park on the coast. I personally LOVE this campground. I’ve been coming here for various church related camping activities since I was very small and, although it’s almost always rainy, there is always lots to do (provided one has decent walking shoes or a bike to get anywhere).

But here are the things I learned this year:

CHEMISTRY

Fingernail polish painted on mosquito bites will take the sting away because it creates a seal over the bite that deprives it of air, thus eliminating the itch. I thought this sounded great, but after I painted three pretty little glittery dots on my calf I realized this theory was baloney. They still itched. But at least they looked pretty!

No matter how hot the sun is or how long you are out in it, SPF 30 sunscreen will last. The weather on the beach on Friday was honestly the best I’d ever seen: warm and sunny and just a touch of wind and we were out in it all day without getting the slightest sunburn. Well, except for a little patch on the back of my neck that I couldn’t reach and therefore attested to what WOULD have happened to us all without that amazing SPF 30.

MATH

No matter how many marshmallows you personally bring to the campfire and manage to eat, you will inevitably bring home three more bags than you started with.  I don’t know why this is true, but it must be because I have the evidence in my pantry.

ZOOLOGY

Spiders don’t just live at your house. They also live in your tent at the beach where they know you don’t have adequate tools to fight them.

Also, the doe and fawn that have created the little path behind your campsite will visit frequently and have no fear of you or your long, intimidating group gawking.

And if a marine mammal decides to make a man-made object it’s home of choice, the park service will put up caution tape all around the area to keep man away from his objects and give it to the mammal as a gesture of good will.

GEOGRAPHY

I’ve lived in Oregon all my life and for some reason JUST NOW realized that the little northwest tip of Oregon is not, in fact, occupied by Astoria as I was always led to believe, but instead that entire area is Ft. Stevens State Park. Who knew? Astoria is inland on the COLUMBIA RIVER and should never even be mentioned in the same sentence with ‘coast’ since it DOESN’T HAVE ONE. How did I not know this all this time?

CHOIR

Riding a bike that terrifies you is a great way to exercise your vocal chords for later in life. Little Girl rode her Allycat that attaches to the back of Daddy’s bike (and is actually perfectly safe) whenever we went anywhere that weekend, and screamed and screeched the entire time. It was easy to know where we were because you could hear her coming and going every time. But despite her pleas to the contrary we made her ride it anyway. It should build character, right?

PHYSICAL EDUCATION

Paddling a kayak is actually a lot easier to learn than I thought it was. I didn’t tip over and I only ran into my kayaking partner once! Wow, a water sport that I can master! My new favorite hobby!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Collection of Kid Quotes

Sometimes I have to save for months to have enough kid quotes to fill up the white board in our hallway.  I write down the memorable things that they say because if I don't I'll forget them and then they'll be gone forever.  Which also helps to explain why I can write several hundred words on bugs and appliances: by writing about something I can halt the passage of time.

Quotes from Boy One
"Mama, we don't smell butterflies!" -- I don't remember the context for this quote, so I won't elaborate.

Quotes from Boy Two
"You can do it, Mama!  You're over nine years old!" -- he wanted me to kill a mosquito eater that had gotten in the house and I wasn't very motivated.

"When I bigger, I gonna turn into a DRAGON!" -- sometimes I think he already is one but, sure.

(To Girl, while using a stethoscope) "Let me listen to your heart.  Okay, now let me listen to your box.  Where's your box?" -- in our house we talk a lot about being careful of the box in sister's tummy that keeps her heart going.

Playing a race in MarioKart (and, apparently anticipating how well he'll play) "Let's see what this one called.  It called Fall Off."

"Mama, big guns are called 'Biscuits'." -- I think he meant MUSKets.

The morning that Daddy left for another overnight work trip: "Daddy won't come back anymore.  We won't have a father anymore." -- you can probably guess how that made Daddy feel later.

Quotes from Girl
Having trouble dressing a dolly: "Mama, I'm not a big girl!  I can't do it!"

"Can we talk to Daddy?  I want to see him in the computer!" -- Skype is a great tool that we are still learning to use when Daddy is out of town.

A morning spent picking at a berry field introduced her to a new concept: the porta potty.  "I don't want to use the scary toilet!  It has wheels!!  It might drive away!!!"

Regarding Beauty and the Beast: "The Beast is not a monster, the Beast is HAPPY!"

"Mama, I want to play with those bugs!" -- no explanation necessary.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pest

I can call Boy Two this because my grandmother used to use this term to describe me.  I'm sure that she's forgotten the incidents, but I clearly remember when the words passed her lips.

But back to Boy Two.

The older he gets, the more trouble he likes to cause.  Some of it is fairly innocent: not being careful or considerate of other people's property, etc.  The rest of it is carefully selected to inflict maximum harm.

Girl received some really girly gifts for her birthday and she and Boy Two happily played with them together....for about six hours.  Then he announces "Mom, I lost Chip!"  No guilt in his face at all; maybe a hint of satisfaction, though.  Great.  I scoured the house after they went to bed and turned up nothing.  Hmpf.

Next morning he shows me a little princess doll dress the he's 'accidentally' torn the sleeve from.  Uh-huh.  Mere moments later he brings me a little plastic mouse that also goes with this set (what does he have against Disney princesses?!) that has been completely severed at the waist.  Okay, time to intervene with some serious consequences.

I send him to his room until I can figure out what his Achilles heel is in order to get the point across.  Aha!

He thinks I'm just coming into his room to give him the 'I'm so disappointed in you, you need to be nicer' speech, so he starts to tune me out when he hears the words "...so its only fair that you lose two of your favorite toys.  I'm going to throw away two of your dinosaurs."  Zing!  Was that actual fear behind his eyes?  I let him pick out the two he was willing to sacrifice and we threw them in the outside garbage can so he knew I was serious.  I think I saw him blink back tears.  I'll have to remember this tactic.

The 'carefully selected' part has to do with the fact that he is really smart.  And he knows how to use it.  My kids love to listen to those Sixty Years of Classic Disney CDs that came out when I was in high school, and they know what movie each song is from and can anticipate them.  A few days ago while listening to a Lady and the Tramp song, Boy Two says "This song is from Peter Pan!"  Boy One attempts to correct him, but Boy Two gleefully maintains his stance, allowing Boy One to grow very upset because he knows that this song is from Lady and the Tramp!  With so much success, Boy Two tries again with the next song, saying that is something that it isn't.  Any other brother would just ignore him or deck him, but Boy One is so distressed and begins to cry.  Drat, I have to intervene. 

So I said the only thing I could think of at the time, "Oh, poor, crazy Boy Two!  He doesn't know what song this is!  Isn't that so sad?"  After a few turns of this Boy One catches on and starts to see the humor in the situation.  Pretty soon Boy One starts to mix up the songs on his own and Boy Two loses the fun in it.  But by now he's created a monster because we all know that Boy One never lets anything go and now the game will never stop.

Ah, siblings!