Friday, February 25, 2011

Snow . . . . or something like it

Finally, finally, our area received some snow this winter.  Even thought our home is at the top of the rise here in town, it's still considered 'valley floor' ground.  And we're a few miles south of all of the snow storms and freezing gusts that blow through the Portland area, so our chances of being excused from school for bad weather is exceptionally rare.

But today, success!  With no snow on the roads and almost a quarter inch on the ground, the school district canceled school for the entire day.

7:45am - the outside temperature begins to warm and the kids are begging to play in the snow.  We gather our  gear and dress.
8:00am - lots of complaining about "I can't find the gloves I want" and "My boots don't fit" and "Obe says we should wear two coats when we play outside."
8:05am - leave the house, throw a few snow balls at each other in the driveway, take some pictures.

8:10am - Girl needs to go inside, having forgotten to answer nature's call before we left like Mama reminded.  She then decides to stay indoors.
8:14am - Boy Two needs new gloves, as his are wet and cold (huh, who knew?).
8:17am - boys and I throw snowballs out front with a neighbor girl who goes to school with my kids.
8:25am - Boy Two gets snow on his face, thereby causing him to break down in inconsolable tears and throws a temper tantrum as he returns to the house to work on his attitude.
8:31am - Boy One, the neighbor girl and I have used all available snow in the yard/drive and scraped all the cars of their snow burdens.  Boy One decides he is finished for the day.  Mama apologizes to neighbor girl for her children's lack of fortitude and reluctantly goes back inside.

Not exactly like the hours of snow play when I was a kid, but I'm telling myself that something is better than nothing.  At least we got a little fresh air after the week we just spent indoors with the stomach flu (ick).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Dangerous Book for Boys

I do a lot of reading and, as a result, collect a lot of quotable materials for my own amusement and to share with others.  I recently re-discovered this one and still admired it, thus assuming others would, too.  This book explains a lot of sports and tricks that are useful for young men, and then throws in these tidbits about how to treat girls.

Advice on girls from ‘The Dangerous Book for Boys’

  1. It is important to listen[to girls].  Human beings are often very self-centered and like to talk about themselves.  In addition, it’s an easy subject if someone is nervous.  It is good advice to listen closely—unless she has also been given this advice, in which case an uneasy silence could develop, like two owls sitting together.
  2. Be careful with humor.  It is very common for boys to try to impress girls with a string of jokes, each one more desperate than the last.  ONE joke, perhaps, and then a long silence while she talks about herself…
  3. When you are older, flowers really do work—women love them.  When you are young, however, there is a ghastly sense of being awkward rather than romantic—and she will guess your mother bought them.
  4. Valentine’s Day cards.  Do NOT put your name on them.  The whole point is the excitement a girl feels, wondering who finds her attractive.  If it says “From Brian” on it, the magic isn’t really there.  This is actually quite a nice thing to do for someone you don’t think will get a card.  If you do this, it is even more important that you never say, “I sent you one because I thought you wouldn’t get any.”  Keep the cards simple.  You do not want one with fancy stuff of any kind.
  5. Play a sport of some kind.  It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it replaces the corpse-like pallor of the computer programmer with a ruddy glow.  Honestly, this is more important than you know.
  6. If you see a girl in need of help—unable to lift something, for example—do not taunt her.  Approach the object and greet her with a cheerful smile, while surreptitiously testing the weight of the object.  If you find you can lift it, go ahead.  If you can’t, try sitting on it and engaging her in conversation.
Finally, make sure you are well-scrubbed, your nails are clean and your hair is washed.  Remember that girls are as nervous around you as you are around them, if you can imagine such a thing.  They think and act rather differently to you, but without them, life would be one long football locker room.  Treat them with respect.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Good Example

Our vacuum died last August.  Now, lest you think that I haven't vacuumed the house since that time let me relieve your fears: I have.  In fact, I have been using a decent replacement called My Husband's Shop Vac.  Using a Shop Vac on your carpeted home really isn't that bad: instead of a measly little bag to fill and empty repeatedly, you have a five-gallon drum that only needs attention about every six months.  It also has a very long hose with several attachment nozzles so you can really get into corners and under couches.  Sadly, that's about where it ends.

On the down side, hauling the Shop Vac up and down stairs its much heavier than a regular vacuum (read: five gallons of dirt); the cord is only six feet long so you constantly have to unplug and replug; you really have to scrape an area to pick up the offending floor muck; and you have to bend over the entire time you are using it, which is about five times longer than use of a standard upright vacuum.

On this note, my husband agreed that it was probably best to retire the Shop Vac to the garage and buy something decent for the home (especially since it was time to empty said Shop Vac and we couldn't find the replacement bags).  And what is the best time to get a new vacuum?  Your wife's birthday!  That way you don't have to buy her a real gift!!

Therefore I found myself (sans children) on a 'date' with my husband for my birthday last Saturday.  We went to a restaurant that didn't have any gluten-free desserts so instead I watched him eat an entire piece of giant ice cream pie all by himself (happy birthday to me...).  We then went to Office Max where he looked for printer ink and a new shredder for work while I was accosted by store employees ("Are you looking for pens?  Writing instruments are my specialty...") and picked out a birthday gift for my sister-in-law, whose birthday is in August (but it was a tape dispenser shaped like a red high-heeled shoe; it was perfect for her!).  We then spent an hour at Stark Street Vacuum in Clackamas learning the differences between various models and finally settling on another Simplicity (we don't like change).  The 'date' concluded with a visit to my brother-in-law's Feed Store in Molalla where we admired the new flooring and chatted with the employees and customers that we knew before we went to pick up the kids. 

I was thinking about how familiar the day felt and for a very good reason: the day we spent on Saturday was almost identical to the dates we had for four years before we married.  Be still my heart. 

But I was ecstatic to get a new vacuum!  The salesman who helped us, Jake, was very informative and friendly and went over the pros and cons of several different brands and models, demonstrating them (and letting me vacuum weird things off the carpets -- because I don't get to do enough of that at home).  He even put the vacuum together for us, gave us a $350 discount, and dealt very calmly with an uncouth, boorish, foul-language flinging man who couldn't wait five minutes to buy vacuum bags.  Husband (whose career is all about customer service) was so impressed with this salesman that he wanted to bring his entire office staff down to the store for a demonstration of what to do/what not to do when dealing with customers. 

Good customer service people: you are noticed and appreciated!!

There is a great quote in Thomas a Kempis' The Imitation of Christ stating that if you see any good example, make yourself follow it.  In this particular post, I would apply that towards the vacuum salesman more than the date.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Family Pictures

Every year our church publishes a new membership directory so that everyone has up-to-date contact information for everyone else in the congregation.  I'm sure its helpful to many but personally, I prefer to use the excuse "Oh, sorry I didn't call you back - I didn't have your phone number!"  That's much less believable when the lie is so transparent.

Family and individual pictures are included (in case you've forgotten what the members look like because you've been stuck down in the nursery every Sunday for the past five years) and I had been thinking it was time for a new picture of our family.

This one was taken two years ago and our children have grown just a touch since then.  I love that we all have our coats (and even backpacks) on because we're ready to run out the door to church.  Isn't it horrid?  But I love the Girl is carrying her Dolly, which went everywhere with us for years and can still be found all over the house.

So last Sunday, five minutes before we had to leave for church, we again assembled in the same spot (minus the numbers chart and child-sized chairs) for a more recent photo op.

I wanted us all the be in our jammies, but Daddy refused.  Interesting that my head is now listing to the other side....

Ah, well.  At least we can all stand up this year!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Valentines is one of those holidays that you either love or hate.  I think I would lean towards the 'love' side.

I have fond memories of my Dad having a Valentine trinket for each of his girls when we got up in the morning: one year it was little boxes of chocolates, once it was chocolate heart 'suckers', once it was a chocolate rose.  I don't remember the other things, but no matter what they were Dad's gifts were the best part of the day.

In high school for the two days closest to Valentine's the whole school would play the Heart Game: one day girls (the next, the boys) were given a paper heart with their name and the first boy they talked to they had to give their 'heart' to--whoever made it through the day retaining their 'heart' was a 'winner'. This was basically a christian school's ploy to keep the sexes from mixing but I looked forward to it every year.  I managed to keep my 'heart' every year until my senior year (when apparently I became too chatty) - I lost it in second period Government class to Jon Lafollet whom I couldn't help saying something sarcastic to.  Oooh!  I wanted to punch him!  But the next day I actually got one of the boy's hearts: from the quietest boy in school!  I'm still proud of that.


Now that two of my three kids are in school Valentine's is becoming a much bigger deal in my house.  We have to buy (no, I am not making seventy valentines) little cards that appeal to each child, decide if the card merits additional candy, address the cards to individuals, and deliver them in a timely manner.  This requires about three weeks worth of anticipation and organization: more work than I put in to Christmas!

Boy One found (amazingly) cards that the receiver could fold into paper airplanes; Boy Two picked out the same 'moving' pet pictures as last year; and Girl honed in on the Rapunzel box.  That was easy.  We picked out two bags of heart-shaped lollipops and one bag of SweetTarts to affix to the cards with invisible tape, because everyone knows that a Valentine is just that much more impressive if it comes with sugar.  Then we picked a day to write out all the 'messages'.

Boy One, carefully using his best handwriting (see how he holds his pencil?  His Occupational Therapist is tearing her hair out trying to get him to do it correctly).

Girl and Boy Two - all three took this project very seriously.

Then we divied them up and sent them off: some to school classmates and teachers, some to family (aunts, cousin Elliot), some to family friends.  My favorites were the red paper bags that we glued pink hearts on, filled with valentines, and gave to the single men in our church! 

I'm always surprised how much people appreciate the gesture.

On a personal note, this year my husband bought me a toilet seat for Valentines (the one in our townhouse has been broken since we moved in four years ago) and then worked until 8pm when he came home and we watched two episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine before I read my book in bed while he was downstairs putting the finishing touches on a work presentation.  Be still my heart.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Too sick, or not too sick.....

It's often hard to tell if a child is sick. 

On the one hand, they mention throughout the week that their tummy hurts, vaguely rubbing the offending organ while they catch your eye.  Then they run off to play with their dinosaurs and torment their sister.

On the other hand, an hour after bedtime you hear the child starting to cry and go in to investigate, only to find that said child threw up all over their bed and the floor, then they throw up again all over the bathroom.  You spend a half hour implementing several creative ideas for cleaning those massive floor stains (because, of course, your steam cleaner is out on loan and you don't have any more bags for your shop vac).  Then, while the bed linens are stirring in the washer, you rub down the bathroom (which you've had the foresight not to clean until now, thank the Lord) while your child moans in the shower.

But on the one hand, child is adamant not to miss Story Hour at the library (making butterflies out of Smarties candies and foam hearts!) and stopping in at the Post Office to snag a lollipop along with a book of stamps.

On the other hand, child shows no interest in actually consuming said treats and prefers to spend the rest of the morning laying on the couch, dozing under a blanket, hardly saying a word.

But on the one hand, child breaks down in tears when you call to excuse him from school that day and continues to pester you that all he wants is to 'go to school'. 

On the other hand, child crawls into your lap (he's six years old and fifty pounds!) and falls asleep while you rock him in the rocking chair for an hour.

But on the one hand, he sprouts an amazingly spry attention to watching How to Train Your Dragon and will talk about it animatedly with his father when he comes home from work.

On the other hand, child refuses to get out of bed the next morning and doesn't bat an eye when told he will not get to go to school for the special "Hibernation Day", or to grandma's for the planned sleepover tonight if he's sick enough that he's asking to go to the doctor.

But half an hour later, said child is dressed and continues to engage in his usual behavioral habits for the foreseeable future.

Show me a mother who always knows if her child is ill and I'll show you . . . . um,. . . . well, you can't, so there.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I consider myself a smart person.  My IQ was 142 last time I had it tested and I like those nice, high numbers so I refuse to be re-tested.  I easily made A's in school - even through college - except in the classes that I really didn't care about.  Reading, writing and research all come easily to me and I can think of creative ways to look at and solve problems; both my own and in my husband's business and his seminary classes.  But I feel completely stupid when I help my first grader with his math homework.

It really shouldn't be that difficult - first grade math is mostly a lot of addition and subtraction and counting by twos, fives, tens, etc.  But I seem to no longer be able to understand just what the instructions are when I'm attempting to help my son figure this all out.

A question goes like this: Matt has two pieces of pie.  Anna and Josh each have the same amount of pie that Matt does.  How many pieces of pie are there?  Illustrate.

I know too many math concepts for this.  I actually had him draw a pie chart and divide it into thirds and sixths and then tried to explain from there.  I succeeded in confusing him horrendously and scrapped the whole idea.  It was then I finally realized I can just have him draw three people, each holding two pieces of pie.  How simple.  Why hadn't I thought of that earlier?  This seems much harder than what I had to do in first grade.

And why can't I explain coins well?  Why do we have to have three coins of the same color, regardless of size, all with silhouettes that look remarkably similar.  Didn't any of our presidents wear cowboy hats or something distinguishing?  How do you explain coins to an autistic boy who doesn't really care about them?

I'm not smart enough for this.