Thursday, July 24, 2008

pumpkin eater

Bug and I have had a lot of time together this week while Pook attended his Magic Art Camp (which he's loving). I've tried to give him attention, but I'm failing.

First I'm asked to follow him into the World of Pretend. I don't do it very well: "This is how we're going to do it." "No, you're doing it wrong." "You're gonna do this." "No, you do it like this." "You say, 'x' and then I'll say 'y' and then you say 'z'." "No, not like that." Agh! I try to emphasize that everyone's pretend is good, even if it is different. But I find myself arguing with him. "Well this Mama Bear is going to do it that way." You just can't feel mature when you're arguing about the roles of the pretend bears. (Plus I don't seem to be quite as comfortable in my cave as I must have been at a younger age.)

I don't last long playing pretend. Instead I pull out a stack of puzzles he's never given much attention. Pook and I spent a lot of time on puzzles back when I was either pregnant with Bug or taking care of the Baby Bug. Now they gather dust. I want to sort out the ones that are too easy by doing all of them together. Not gonna happen. I sort them myself while I try to fake Pretend.

I dig through games for the same reason. Pook plays them some but Bug... not so much. I offer my time playing a game. He says, "How about 'Hi Ho Cherry-O'?" (blech). I suggest a different game. He counters with yet another I dislike, but since this one is newish I go ahead. It plays like Candy Land but isn't well designed. The characters are bigger than the colored squares and get bumped around a lot. I also don't know the board as well as Candy Land and I can't stack the deck to get it over with quickly. (You mean you've never tried to stack the deck in that game? Endless.) We get sent back to the early parts of the path many times. I try to hide those cards under the pile when I reshuffle. Then I get stuck on a spot requiring me to draw a pink to be released. I stay there for several hours while Bug giggles at my expense. I try to make it silly and dramatic. I finally get out and draw a double red. I only see one red square ahead of me so I say so. He corrects me, "Yeah there is. There's a red there too. Oh. Um, no it isn't. Actually, you can't do that." He was correct, there was a second red-- the finish line. Only now he realizes that I'm going to win, so he is quickly trying to cover his steps. He's very upset that I'm about to win. When I stop playing, he takes the attitude that I quit before he could win.

I attempt to play another game. He draws a card he doesn't like and tries to return it to the pile for one he might prefer. Only, he's looking through his lashes to see if I'm watching. If he'd really been ignorant of the fact that he was cheating, I could ignore it too. But he knows he's cheating. I ask him to only take the top card, pretending I think it was an accident. "I did!" he insists. I press on, as gently as I can, but ultimately I refuse to continue playing the game.

I am an adult. (Must remind oneself.) The losing part isn't a problem. The winning isn't particularly exciting. However, I'm not willing to allow him to cheat himself out of losing. Losing is good for the soul. Being bossy is annoying. Telling me my pretend is wrong is annoying. Cheating, and lying about the cheating, is annoying me.

He's four. He is old enough to understand that losing just happens. He is old enough to be required to play by the rules. He is old enough to learn that a consequence of cheating is angering the other players. We point out that even the professional baseball players only hit a third of the balls. We never tease a loser. We don't gloat when we win. But winning has become everything. Being right has become the only goal. If I thought simply maturing would solve this problem, I wouldn't worry about it. But I suspect Bug's issue will only intensify. And that worries me.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

driving directions

Pook has summer homework for his gifted class, and "we" have procrastinated. (I guess I'm no better at this than I was as a teen. I always had homework over the winter holidays and exams when we returned. I hated the schedule because the procrastination would ruin my vacation. Still didn't do it early on, just hated it.) In addition to logging 16 books (making progress on that) he needs to write a movie review, a description of a current event, and needs to "document summer travel".

My bright idea for the travel project was to let Pook choose our route to the beach. After some dawdling, he agreed to look at all the maps I'd ordered. (My theory is that if I make use of AAA for all the free maps, my membership fee will be worthwhile even if I don't have a flat tire or other calamity. I seem to always have a flat tire or dead battery anyway, but I like having updated maps everywhere we go.)

These are his first two attempts:

Route A
Atlanta, GA
Augusta, GA
Columbia, SC
Greenville, SC
Charlotte, SC
Greensboro, NC
Raleigh, NC
Wilmington, NC
(rest of the way)

Route 2
Atlanta, GA
Augusta, GA
Columbia, SC
Charleston, SC
Charlotte, SC
Greensboro, NC
Raleigh, NC
Wilmington, NC
(rest of the way)

Now, he had done a good job, with columns for the road number, the city, the number of miles, and the number of hours (when available). But something tells me we'll never get there unless I get a bit more involved.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

catching my breath

I'm out of breath. I have a vague memory of planning our summer so it wouldn't be activity heavy at any one point. I scheduled two short camps for Pook at reasonable times. I found a camp for Bug that takes place after his brother's school has started. I planned our family's one, week long trip near the end but leaving a few weeks before school started back. It sounded just right. But in the end, I failed.

"I'll split the plane fare if you and the boys will come up for a week." (Could I have turned that down?) We got home last Tuesday.
"We'll only be in town for a short time. (With very little notice) Can you come up to meet us?" That was last weekend, Friday to Sunday.

And now our week's trip to the beach is coming up. We'll leave Saturday for a week in the Outer Banks, visiting family part of the time and staying in a family member's cabin.

Fabulous, yes, but I'm exhausted. I haven't put the suitcases away since July started. Three trips in July! I've barely had time to do laundry between them. Meals have been a joke, despite all the fabulous produce we've had. Poor Pook is missing three of the five swim meets with his team. Bug hasn't had the continuity of his heart chart for several weeks.

We're frazzled. That isn't the goal of vacation.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


No, I'm not commenting on how my parents spoiled my children this past week and I'm going to have to deprogram them. (Although they went on some type of "field trip" every day, made lots of wood crafts with my dad and got to paint all their creations with my mom.) No, I'm glad we had so much fun and have other visits with them to look forward to enjoying. What has spoiled us are the friendships next door. Mrs. Next Door came to pick us up from our subway ride home from the airport, and the kids could hardly say 'hi' without blurting out "We're moving back to our old home in Louisville."

Moving? No! Let me have heard incorrectly!

They've been renting next door, hoping to buy, while they tried to sell their old home. And it isn't selling. And Mr. Next Door has had an awkward handshake agreement with the "friend" he's working for, understanding that he'd get insurance benefits starting in July. And they've been reneged. And they have a special needs child who really needs full benefits. And Mr. Next Door's old job was still available to him in Louisville. And Mrs. Next Door's mother has had a stroke and she wants to be closer. And they have family in Louisville. And all forces point back.

In two weeks.

But it gets worse. They have a grandparents trip now blended with a visit to the new house (where Mr. Next Door already moved over the weekend) and with our vacation schedule, tomorrow is the only, the last, the final day our boys will be able to play together.

My children have become accustomed to having friends they can play with whenever. No arranging for playdates and driving them around. No need to feel indebted when someone has "babysat". I've become accustomed to having them entertained.

I'm mourning.

Monday, July 7, 2008

up into the wild blue yonder

I leave tomorrow for a week at my parents' home with the kids. I flew with them to do this last summer, and it must not have been too bad because here I am again. Last year we stayed two weeks which was too much. We all missed CD/Daddy and, to be honest, two weeks with my parents was just too much for me. I love them dearly and I'd be happy to have them in town. But then I'd see them weekly for a matter of hours and not have to live with them 24/7.

I haven't even started packing yet, but the kids have picked out their carry-on items: two Etch-a-Sketches, two notepads, six colored pencils, two Matchbox airplanes, a pillow-y basketball on a tether, one tiny dinosaur, two calculators and a brand new workbook I just got for each of them. Plus, they'll each choose more books than they need. Oh, and a Brain Quest trivia game for 1st graders which I think will bore Pook and work for Bug. (What is 'trivia'? "It's what Daddy does with his friends; they sit around and talk and drink beer and answer questions.")

I hope I get to relax. Papa will be good for much entertainment and Nana will cover most other needs. I've got some friends in town to catch up with too. We might even get to go out one night without the kids. With the kids, we're planning to go to a pioneer village one day and will hit either the zoo or the children's museum.

I probably won't post for the next week. Ta Ta. And wish me luck with the planes, trains and automobiles.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

blueberries for Bug

I lost track of the days this week. On Monday we'd planned to go see baby chicks at the home of The Egg Man, our church friend who supplies us with beautiful blue, green and brown speckled eggs. Unfortunately that was Vomit Day. Tuesday we were going to go to a public pool on the other side of town that has lots of slides and "fun stuff". I'm not exactly sure what they have, since Tuesday was Exhaustion Day and we didn't go. Wednesday became Get Errands Run Day, and Friday was coming up quickly, so Thursday became Pick a Field Trip day. We called our Egg Man and our friends and tried to rearrange a visit to the baby chicks but that fell through, so I called Blueberry Farmer Friend and arranged for blueberry picking instead.

My friend has boys ages 5 and 3 and an 18 month daughter. She had space for all of us in her minivan, so we planned to drive together. The blueberry farm is pretty far away, so she was going to aim for 9am-ish. I phoned her just before 10am saying "the boys were worried that she'd forgotten" and she said they'd had "a morning" (what mom doesn't understand that?!) and it'd be another ten minutes or so before they could leave. A mutual friend phoned and asked our plans, then asked to join us. She said she'd hurry her kids along so they wouldn't be much behind us. Friend One called at 10:30 to say they were having "some difficulties" but were on their way. It was clear we now needed some lunch. I had nothing substantial to take- a squeeze yogurt and a cheese stick each, plus crackers and graham crackers and the packs of goldfish we'd originally packed. She showed up after 11 and I took a deep breath.

Her baby started screaming about half an hour into the trip, but fortunately fell asleep at some point. I was reminded how hard it is when they can't yet talk. End of baby fix. Meanwhile Friend 2 called to see how far behind she was, and was surprised to hear she was ahead of us. No problem, she had a picnic and they'd wait at the farm. After following directions very close to "turn right two miles before the blue barn they tore down" we found the U-Pick farm and met up.

The kids were already tired and hungry, so crabbiness set in quickly in the heat. I force fed Bug and he calmed down and started to enjoy the blueberry picking. Pick, plunk, remove, eat. Pick, plunk, remove, eat. The boy turned blue and never had a single blueberry to contribute to my bucket! Pook became a great worker and filled a good sized container. I worked as fast as I could, knowing that the younger kids would expire before mine and my time was limited.

The kids got distracted by a tour of the farm, given by ten year old farmer daughter. She showed them the chickens, guinea hens and geese, and the three cows. Named: Cheeseburger, Filet and Round Steak. (Not gonna make the mistake of getting attached apparently!) They learned about the "Aklectric" fence to keep bobcats (!) away from the chickens and the presence of rat snakes and king snakes on the farm. Bug will be talking about that for a long time, I predict. I took the chance to pick more berries with the moms.

Unfortunately, it wasn't until after the bathroom excursion of six children in poor Farmer Friend's home that I saw the bushes right by her house. They were smaller bushes but covered with huge berries. We were ready to stop picking and get ready to leave but I found myself addicted. I kept seeing more, bigger and more fabulous berries and just had to have them. I'm sure I gathered several more pints after we "stopped" picking. At final count I paid for 1 1/2 gallons of berries ($15). We didn't weigh Bug (an additional $5?)

I'd forgotten we were starting on a holiday weekend. Rush hour never came into my planning, since 1. I'd lost track of days, 2. it wasn't a Friday, and 3. it was supposed to be just after lunch as we headed home. But a Holiday Rush Hour it was. The youngest three fell asleep and we prayed for semi-smooth traffic. Then Bug woke. Too soon. Tired and hungry. And crabby. He screamed for the next hour of driving, calming only when he recognized the streets by our home. I tried to pay for part of the gas money but could only come up with $3 in change to offer her.

We had blueberry pancakes for breakfast the next morning but I still haven't made my favorite dump pie.

Melt 3/4 c. butter in oven proof pan, mix 1 cup self rising flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk together and pour over butter. Do not stir. Add 2 cups fruit on top. Bake at 350' for about 30 minutes.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"If you want more money, just wiggle your tooth!

So says the little stick figure cartoon on a paper covered with numbers.

Pook pulled out his bank last night to see how much money he had. Pretty soon the table was covered with coins and the paper covered with figures as he added it up. Then Bug joined in and Pook counted his out for him too.

CD and I read an article in the Atlantic Monthly many years ago (maybe even B.C.) about teaching children about money. I believe it was from a book called The First National Bank of Dad. While there is much to be gained by reading the book, we simply took the main point from the article and never read the actual book. I probably shouldn't admit that. But we strongly agree with his theory: If you let them practice, they will learn.

When Pook started becoming interested in money, we let him earn it in simple ways. My favorite was earning a nickel every time he read a board book to his baby brother! Then the whole allowance issue came up- to earn money by doing chores or to receive money for learning purposes and still do work around the house purely as a family member. We sort of expect help but give the money regardless. Perhaps inconsistent about that.... We're cheap so we started Pook at 25¢ each week. Bug felt left out, so we started giving him a dime. (I apparently did the same thing when Sister MD started getting an allowance, and I'm told I received a penny each week. He was lucky to get a dime since he never remembered what it was anyway.)

I found a fabulous piggy bank called The Money Savvy Pig. It has four slots for money, going into four compartments (the legs of the pig). Each is labeled: save, spend, donate, invest. Each time he put money in, he meticulously marked the spot with a bent paper clip. Slow going. We ask the kids to use (at least some of) their own money to buy each other Christmas and birthday gifts and 25¢ a week wasn't cutting it. So at his birthday, turning seven, we decided to give him $1 a week. (Bug, again, felt left out, so we changed his allowance from a dime to two nickels. Generous!) Not only did we increase Pook's allowance, but we started the first part of his money education- we gave him interest on the money in his "save" compartment. (Note: I have discontinued use of "invest" since we aren't quite sure what to do with such small sums. I think we'll come back to it in a few years.) Like The First National Bank of Dad, we gave him 10% interest so he could really see his money grow. Quarterly.

He's into this idea. Since June 30 marked the end of the second quarter, we were due to count up. Which is why we had money all over the table:

Spend: $2.30 (He recently used most of it, with a gift card, for an expensive hard back book*)
Save: $18.76
Donate: $6.95

Each quarter he puts his "donate" money in an envelope and marks it with the amount and the charity he chooses. He has given to our church, to a breast cancer run for a friend's mom, and to the school penny drive. No charity will turn down his money, so I'm all for letting him choose. He then added $1.88 to his "save' compartment.

Will all this turn the boys into "money savvy" kids? I'm not sure. Sister MD always had ideas to earn money. She made macramé bracelets and plant holders, she sold magazines, delivered newspapers, sold Girl Scout cookies. She never had (has) any money when she needs it. Still. I was lucky to sell a dozen boxes of cookies, and that only if my dad took the form to the break room at work. But when I wanted to buy something I'd start pulling out wads of money from my dresser drawer. So much so that my mom thought for a while that maybe I was swiping it from Sister MD. I just never spent any of mine. I seem to have always been tight with it. So, we'll see how both Pook and Bug turn out. Pook has always been a saver, Bug I'm not sure yet. His pile of dimes and nickels, combined with his $4 birthday money and the $7.65 from the "lemoned stand" came to $20.21. Not bad for a four year old!

*The book Pook bought at the bookstore for $16.95 was just located on Amazon for $6.95. Ouch. A lesson in economics, I guess.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

the 24 hr. G.I. menu

Pick one or more from each category:
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • headache
  • fever
Bug had his version of this Wednesday night and was chipper and rearing to go, although not hungry, on Thursday. CD succumbed Saturday afternoon after his bike ride with Pook. Monday morning CD was still not well enough to go to work when first I had symptoms and then Pook followed soon after.

My neighbors thankfully entertained the now healthy and bouncing Bug for most of the day, including feeding him lunch. The rest of us were a miserable mess. We introduced the metaphor to Pook, "sick as a dog". Why a dog? What's the origin of that?

And yet, here we are Tuesday morning, weak but back on our feet.