Tuesday, February 26, 2008

my turn to read!

Pook has been in a Magic Treehouse phase for a while now. He knows them by both title and number and corrects me if I say Dingos at Dawn instead of at Dark. Beverly Cleary has also won him over, but less consistently. We've dabbled in some others, like the Boxcar Children (which bore me) but until he's out of Cleary's books and catches up with Osborne's publishing schedule, I think he'll stick with these. Although I'm pretty sure he can read them alone, he prefers to have them read aloud. For school he has to read daily and he works on slightly simpler books like Frog and Toad.

We read to the boys every night before bed- and since Pook got interested in books without pictures, my husband and I both get involved and one of us reads to each child. If one of us is gone at bedtime the other may read the chapter book until Bug gets bored, or may make Pook just listen to picture books. (I think he still enjoys them, like old friends, even though he claims to be too old for them.) We've got a problem however. We can't stand to miss out on the stories! I came downstairs last night only to see my husband on the sofa reading Henry and Beezus!

I had started the book and had claimed rights to it earlier in the week. (This annoyed Bug to no end since he wanted me and only me to read to him and I was with Pook for several nights in a row.) Unfortunately, I was out one evening and my husband had read half a chapter and gotten hooked on the story. (And I had missed out on half a chapter!) So, when I finished the book last night and Pook exclaimed about how happy he was for Henry at the end, my husband just had to find out what had happened.

My mom started Pook on chapter books by giving him The Mouse and The Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary for Christmas when he was five. My father had started reading it to him Christmas day. The next night when I was reading it in their living room I realized my father had put down the paper and come to sit close enough to hear. But then we went home. Before finishing the book. Before Ralph saves Keith. So, my dad bought himself the book.

At the time, I laughed at my dad, (all the while crediting him with good taste in stories). But I hadn't had it happen to me. Now it happens all the time and I realize there are stories I've never even read. I missed out on Henry and Ribsy completely! I guess I'll have to claim it next time Pook pulls it out for us at bedtime. Or read it by myself.

the life of glitter

Did you know that glitter has a half life? It never completely goes away. Here's why:

Bug made a lovely valentine at preschool. Preschool=Glitter.
He brought the valentine home in his backpack. Backpack=Glitter
The lunchbox was in the backpack. Lunchbox=Glitter
The lunchbox lives on top of the fridge. Fridge surface= Glitter (and dust)
My husband's lunchbox lives on top of the fridge. Husband's lunchbox=Glitter
My husband tosses his lunchbox on the seat of his car. Car seat=Glitter
My husband sits on the seat in his car. Husband's &*% =Glitter.
The clothes go in the washer. Washer=Glitter
Everyone's clothes go in the washer. Everyone's clothes=Glitter.
Everyone wears the clothes around the house, around the school, around the office.


Monday, February 25, 2008

in the club

Tomorrow starts my new life officially as a Soccer Mom. Pook has his first baseball practice tomorrow (team Fighting Illini). I'm going to a meeting to be the team Business Manager on Wednesday, then Bug has his first soccer practice (team Austria) on Thursday. On Friday Pook would have another practice if he weren't going to a birthday party, and yet another practice on Saturday! They both will have games every Saturday soon, and Pook will have them midweek too. At least the soccer league sticks to one consistent day and time. Team Austria meets every Thursday at 5:15 even though the Saturday games will vary. Little League is all over the board and the Fighting Illini even have one game on a Friday evening at 6pm!

Why have I done this to myself? I have tried hard to not be a family with over scheduled children. So although Pook played soccer at the Y several seasons starting when he was three, I wasn't ready to face this day, and poor second child Bug hasn't played a sport until now. But he isn't old enough for baseball. I could have insisted that Pook play soccer too and scheduled him for the same days, but to be honest, everyone we know will be down at the baseball fields and I'd rather be there too. I really have done this to myself.

All the practices start at 5:15 which makes our evenings all topsy turvy. I'm such a scheduled person that I'm going to have a stressful learning curve over the next couple of weeks. We usually eat pretty promptly at 6pm (as a family, every night) and have the kids tucked in and lights out by 7:30. The evening works as long as we stay on top of it. Our mornings are the same way-- they're tight but they work. So, how do families get home from practices at 6:30 and eat a healthy meal and get the kids to bed at a reasonable hour? I suspect that they don't. I think both meals and sleep suffer usually. Hopefully homework and school work don't. Our bedtimes are going to suffer a bit, but we'll have an imposed rest time if it gets bad. I've made a list of menu ideas to work with. Pook did a ton of his weekly homework today. I'm trying to remember to stay flexible. That's all I can do.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

the treadmill of life

After having had Pook home with pinkeye and then taking Monday as a holiday and attending the circus, I'm way, way behind on my To Do list.

It reads, in part:

get to Target
clean fishtank
return jeans
then, before finishing last weeks tasks, I'm ready to add to the list:

This is just not fair. I'm a write-things-down-that-I've-done-just-so-I-can-check-them-off person, and I haven't yet checked off laundry from last week. It can't be on there twice. Unreal. I must be able to see progress or I won't have the motivation to continue. And yet, no progress. I'm a frustrated lab rat. Unless you do the laundry while naked you are simultaneously doing laundry and making more laundry.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

don't up the ante

Having told about the circus, I feel obliged to mention how little we've done events like that. I want the special events to be just that, really special. I feel like if I take them to big stuff too often, they'll begin to expect it. We have a parenting philosophy around here that I think is pretty unusual these days. We call it "don't up the ante". The theory is that if your child is happy with a toilet paper tube, you shouldn't buy them a wii. You wait for them to be bored by the toilet paper tube and then you give them a paper towel tube. You might be able to put off the wii forever this way.

Obviously many people are buying wiis (spelling help welcome!) for themselves and that's fine. I'm not really judgmental about this philosophy. Maybe part of it is just cheap. But it has made for some very creative children. Additionally, noisy toys just get to me in a hurry. I get stressed out by the noise and I get crabby. So battery toys sort of "disappear" quickly. Most people know our philosophy and try to give our kids more old fashioned toys. Lego, Magnetix, cars and trains. Lots of dress ups. Lots of art materials. No remote control cars. No dancing characters. No electronic toys of any sort. No wii.

We're actually even worse. They don't watch tv either. As opposed to the toy issue, this wasn't a big philosophical decision; it just happened. I'd worked full time until Pook was born, so I wasn't in a daytime tv habit. I'd put him in front of Clifford or Elmo and he'd ignore it, so I'd decide he was too young still. Then I'd hear other friends talk about their babies watching a show, so I'd try again. Really not interested. We got in our own routines and they didn't include tv. At some point I realized that we'd made it so far without using tv as a babysitter and perhaps this was a good thing. Around then Bug was born and I decided, philosophically now, to let him have the same tv-free years that Pook had enjoyed. It was harder this time, but we lived through a few tough stages and got used to it. I'm not even sure where in their day tv would fit. There isn't another free time activity that they'd give up. Plus, we'll have a "movie night" and watch something short every once in a while together. We've even borrowed a dvd player for the car on a long trip. This winter vacation we let them see their first full length movies- Nemo and Toy Story, courtesy of Netflix.

Yes, Netflix. We also have a TiVo. Why? Because my husband and I watch tv almost every night after the kids are in bed. Hypocritical? I think it isn't. I'm not going to keep them away from tv forever. Technology either. Disney either. Pook has our old laptop for his online homework (!) already, and if they ask, I try to schedule a movie night. I'd say we do them at least twice a month. We'll gradually up the ante and let them watch tv more as they get older. When either Pook or Bug comes home from school and says "everyone else watches..." then I'll check the show out and probably let him watch it too. But I'm taking it slow (and I'll TiVo it to avoid the commercials!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

my bestest part was three parts

The kids had both Friday and Monday off from school. I'm sure this was because the Forces That Are know that after having Pook home with pinkeye I really just wanted more time with them and no free time alone whatsoever. But, my husband took Monday off (would have been better if he hadn't been sick) and * we * went * to * the * circus * !!! The Big Apple Circus. Acrobats, clowns, dogs and horses and a pony (and one humiliated cat). The kids were so enthralled they forgot to clap. You can always tell they're into something if they don't have time to get distracted. We don't do this sort of stuff much. We're not Disney sorts and they haven't done many big event activities. I even got them cotton candy.

Immediately afterwards, my husband asks them what part was their favorite. They both shrug and don't have answers. But on the ride home and the rest of the day we were inundated with answers. "My bestest part was the dogs jumping in the hoops that the dogs were holding. And my other bestest part was the statue people that were real people. And also my favorite part, actually, was the acrobats." Pook chimes in, "And the unicycle guy. And that guy with all the soccer balls. And also the hula hoops." Bug sighs, "Yeah, that was my bestest part too."

Friday, February 15, 2008

my kitchen floor

I'm going to be very honest here and describe the current condition of my kitchen floor. We come in both from the car and from the backyard into the kitchen, it gets used for meals and homework and art and.... So, here goes:

  • at least six paper airplanes that didn't fly. (If you make the exact same style enough times I guess the hope is that it will suddenly start to work.)
  • six shoes (all pairs!) that we kick off under my desk whenever we (the kids or I) come in
  • one mitten
  • school homework folder (sort of near the bookbag, which IS hanging)
  • two baseball caps, one kicked from coat area to fridge
  • empty box from Dell which was supposed to keep this computer from randomly turning off but doesn't
  • collage of school valentines (See Parent Hacks!)
  • a few pieces of school art, all pink right now
  • toy motorcycle
  • three grapes and more grape stems than I can count
  • two pieces of unopened mail (not from today)
  • five alphabet magnets and one random advertising magnet
  • a suction ball that Bug got for Valentines Day at school
  • tub of markers, some of which are still in the tub, and some pencils
  • glue bottle
  • pair of kid scissors
  • unused (maybe used, I can't always tell) recycled office paper we keep around for art
  • pair of jeans I must return to Lands' End. Something about having a child home EVERY DAY THIS WEEK kept me from getting out to return them. (Damn that pinkeye!)
  • enough dirt to plant a garden

Thursday, February 14, 2008

little in hindsight

I just started a photo album project I've been putting off. An older album had gotten ripped up and I needed to pull out every photo from June 2005 until December 2006 to put them all in a new album. My Pook was so little! I know Bug was little. I still think of my newly four year old Bug as little. But I think my firstborn has always been Big to me. I've always been amazed at what new trick he's learned, what new word he's used, what new thing he's made. I think of him as so grown up. And then I look at old photos and I see him through different eyes. And he was such a little guy. Then I promise myself I'll appreciate him while he's still little. I'll remember that he's only six and can only do what a six year old can do. I'll have appropriate expectations. I'll be patient. He's a little kid. But he's amazingly grown up.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

little boy blue... and pink

When Pook was first born we called him Little Boy Blue. LBB for short even. (And soon after, Ole Fluffy Head) His eyes were such an amazingly blue that I avoided grocery shopping on Old Folks Day (you know, when seniors get a discount) because the comments in every aisle made the trip so much longer. He has dark rings around the light blue of his eyes, and blond eyebrows, every color of brown, blond and red in the lashes, and hair the color of oak leaves in the fall (sorry if you live in the tropics- you just wouldn't be able to appreciate his gorgeous hair color). Now he has a light sprinkle of freckles across his nose, and it all comes together so beautifully that I still gaze at him and wonder how my husband and I could have made this creature.

But now one of the eyes is pink and he had to come home from school. He's feeling ostracized. (Pook, wash your hands! Pook, don't share that with your brother! Bug, don't put Pook's mask on! We can't play with the neighbors unless their mom says its ok to have Pook around.) Then I make it all worse by putting eye drops in his eyes. Those beautiful eyes!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

he leaves me speechless

"What is that?"
"Womens wear makeup when they're going out and the kids have a babysitter. That's when they wear it."

"I like how you look when you're inside that sweater."

"I want a woman woman woman. That's what I want. A lady. That's what they're called.
(Why do you want a woman?)
"Because they're fat."

Bug's Fat Women:

Monday, February 11, 2008


I see now where it all comes from. The twelve year old has a ten year old brother whose ten year old friend has an eight year old brother whose eight year old friend has a six year old brother whose six year old friend has a four year old brother whose four year old friend is my son. And so playground culture is passed down through the generations. But like the game of telephone, it changes too.

"Jackson and Kate sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-N-B-B. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage." I remember that one. Brings back memories. But this isn't the whole rhyme. I don't know if I was just out of the loop as a kid or if this is new, because then followed: "That's not all, that's not all. I saw the baby drinking alblocal."

What?! What is that eight year old neighbor of mine teaching my son?! Do any of them know what they're saying? Should I discuss this with them? Should we talk first about how babies are made or about the concerns I have about babies drinking alcohol? And, should I teach Bug to spell?

Ok. I'm calm again and done over-reacting. They were pretty funny. But a baby drinking alcohol? Who made that part up? Let's go back to the original rhyme.

Friday, February 8, 2008

bad guys wear black

Pook had an interesting car pool situation this year. It started off normally-- I'd drive two neighbor siblings each morning and their nanny would bring him home. After the third day of this Pook said something unusual which made me ask more questions. He said the nanny told him he didn't need a seatbelt because the school was so close. "No booster seat you mean?" I questioned. No. No seatbelt or booster apparently. In fact, she did not even have a third seatbelt in the back of her car. And he was the one sitting in the middle. And she hadn't told me about the problem.

Now, I look back at this and realize several things. One, I trusted the nanny because I trust the person who hired her. Mistake. If she's going to transport my child I should have investigated a bit more. Second, she was paid to keep two kids safe. Not mine. Had I been missing a booster (and it does happen) I would have put my own kid in the middle without the booster and put the neighbor in a safer spot. A nanny has different motivations than a parent. And third, my child was following the directions given to him by an adult because he thought he was supposed to. He didn't know he could/should question an adult or that an adult might just plain be wrong.

We learned a lot from this. I try to let my children know that they can be right and an adult can be wrong. Pook isn't one to correct an adult, so I've suggested that he blame me if he's ever in doubt: "I have to ask my mom first" can be his excuse to say no. The whole realm of adults doing bad (purposely or not) just sort of exploded in my face. While I want my kids to follow directions from adults I also want them to question authority. Tough stuff.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

clearly I'm raising boys

"Oooh, oooh! Let's find really disgusting things and put them in the bucket!"

My boys and two families of neighbor boys were playing in my muddy backyard when one of the kids picked up a shovel and started to dig-- effectively (unlike my own two) a hole in the middle of what we wish was grass. I sent him over to the compost pile for his digging. Pretty soon they were all over there. Finding "treasures". These now fill two buckets and a frisbee: rotten potatoes (it took me three days to find the source of that smell in my pantry), old gourds, coffee filters, and clementine and grapefruit peels. Whoo hoo! This is seriously fun stuff apparently.

I really wasn't a girly-girl, but I would never have done this. I remember swinging-- or, rather, spinning on a swing. I remember putting leaf and stick boats in our creek to race them. Nothing particularly muddy or excitingly disgusting. The closest I can come is my paper making stage. We'd sit on my dad's woodpile and use a rock to grind up leaves into pulp. After we mixed it with a sufficient amount of spit we'd pat it out to dry. The plan was to come back later to collect our homemade paper, although I don't remember ever doing that part.

My boys lugged their "treasures" up the ivy covered hill to put in their stick-fort (teepee-ish pile of brush and wood). I suggested that they rebury the items so we won't attract rats. "Oooh rats! How cool! If you find some can I keep them?"

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

credit where credit is due

I was somehow surprised to see empathy in Bug. He spent his first six months screaming until our ears rang and he didn't like being snuggled much, so maybe I assumed he would never be a nurturing person. But he is. I laid down yesterday, feeling dizzy and nauseous, and he showed up minutes later with his blanket and his teddy bear to take care of me. First thing this morning, he came into my bed and asked if I was feeling better. When I said I did, he was so proud. "I made you better, didn't I Mama, didn't I?"

I must have expected it in Pook. Pook is my artist. He notices everything and can spend endless hours creating. Today he found some sparkly pipe cleaners. He shaped three of them into interlocking hearts and then handed it to me. I admit I was distracted and didn't hear what he said as he gave them to me. I did notice what he'd done and was impressed. Then Bug made some "hearts" with his pipecleaners and handed it to me. "If you put these by your bed you won't get any bad dreams." (That is SO sweet! big hug)

Pook looks at me, "That's what I said. He's copying me."
(Bug grins, knowing he's been caught.)

Monday, February 4, 2008

cake creations

I am turning into a cake pro. I have made:

for Pook
age 2: a blue choo-choo (not Thomas, just blue)
age 3: a blue choo-choo (again, not Thomas, just blue, but less blue now that I knew what happened to diapers when kids ate blue frosting)

age 4: a spaceship

age 5: a robot

age 6: the Earth

for Bug
age 2: a caterpillar

age 3: a helicopter (Somehow we don't have a photo of it, but it looked sort of like a helicopterish thing. It even had spinning propellers.)
age 4: a castle

They've all tasted great. I care about that more than the design. As long as my kids think it is what they wanted it to be, then it's good enough. I don't own any special cake pans yet. I've just set out all my pans on the kitchen floor and told Pook something like "show me what a robot looks like". So far so good.

This is Bug's castle from Saturday. Angel food cake with colored sprinkles inside, Cool Whip and ice cream cones with a chocolate bar drawbridge.

Friday, February 1, 2008

where has all the time gone?

My Bug is having a birthday party tomorrow. He is a bit confused by exactly when he turns four, because until now he thought it happened when you blew out your candles. His actual birthday is on Sunday. Up until now we've had simple-ish home birthday parties with the guest+one rule. But it's February and we can't have the party outdoors and we don't have a good house for five four-year-olds. He wanted to go bowling. He only wanted to invite two other boys. Simple right? Take two little boys bowling, feed them some cake and be done. No. They both have older brothers that are friends with Pook and we like their parents, so we will be going Cosmic Bowling with six adults and seven little boys. And it made sense to just buy the birthday party deal since the price was about the same and they'll get pizza and favors this way.

Except this is not the kind of party I really like. I like having everyone in the backyard. I've perfected it:
1. kids arrive, run to play on the playset
2. I yell "cake!" and they all come back
3. silence...eating
4. they finish, run to play on the playset
5. I yell "presents!" and they all come back
6. they finish, run to play on the playset
7. I yell "time to go!"

I got a bit too elaborate for Pook's 6th. He wanted a "science party" and I got so into it I went a bit too far. We had three experiments (volcanoes, slime and Mentos-Diet Coke explosions!) and then I actually bought all sorts of science goodie bag favors which is totally not my thing to do. I think this is why I started pushing the go bowling or out to dinner idea at him. He's thinking of having a couple boys spend the night. (we'll see about that in May...) But Bug is still little and still needs a party.

So, now we're doing a blend. All the people I'd have had at home. But not at home. Maybe less stress. Definitely more money. But I'm turning down the bowling alley's cake. That I'll make. He wants a castle. Photos to come.