Monday, November 30, 2009

Where Did I Go Wrong?

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with my older sister who has three teenage daughters and lives in England. I was tired and just jabbering away while simultaneously refereeing the kids and twice she told me she was in hysterics over something I wrote and that I needed to keep a record of the things the kids are doing so I could eventually write a book and publish it.

Funny thing is, I have a blog. I pretty much already do that. And as funny as she thought these stories were, she still has no interest in reading my blog.

The last 24 hours of conversations I've had with Avee have made me laugh out loud over and over. I forget how once your child starts school and is under the influence of other people, even for just a couple of hours a day, new things you haven't taught or sometimes heard of start showing up in their conversations. I remember when it happened with Bo, I felt a tinge of sadness that he was no longer all mine, just mine. With Avee, I'm feeling a lot of things, some relief that someone else could potentially be blamed for her quirkiness, some fear of what comes out of her mouth, and complete wonder that so much personality comes in such a little package.

So, this post is going to be just a smattering of conversations. For posterity's sake.

My sister wrote: They've JUST discovered that it is tough love parents who create the productive, well behaved children it is NOT a poverty/wealth thing. I thought of you when I read that because you were agonizing once about whether you had been too tough on your kids. NOPE, you'd been perfect. And it is most effective if done in the first five years. I think there was actually an article in both the Saturday Telegraph and the Sunday Times (I guess that would be London?) The test they do on small kids to see how much impulse control they have is give them a marshmallow and tell them if they can wait five minutes, they can have two. Some kids have it crammed in the mouth before they've even finished the instruction.

Immediately I start thinking about how my kids would respond to such a test. All of them would do beautifully if they knew it was a test. But if it was just something I did randomly....

I know how it will go at my house.
Bo will do it without batting an eye. Then he'll say something like, "If I clean the table while I wait the five minutes, can I have five marshmallows?"
Avee will eye me suspiciously like it's a trick and then either say, "I don't want your stupid marshmallows" or "Give me 10 and I'll wait five minutes. But if you make me wait five minutes, I will smash these two marshmallows into your carpet." Danyo is too young. He'll eat them or throw them and slap me for suggesting he wait.

Later I told her about a recent incident with Avee regarding her appearance.

Avee is exploring her emotions lately. Some of it makes me very sad, and some of it makes me laugh and be amazed at her ability to express herself. Something she did last week, concerned me and made my heart ache. She was really quiet and her expression seemed thoughtful and troubled. I caught her lost in thought and I said, "How are you Aves, are you okay?"
She said No.
So I asked, "What are you feeling?"
She answered, "Stupid".
That startled me a little bit, but not as much as it could have, because that is her word of choice right now.
I asked why she felt stupid and she said, "Because I'm ugly and I hate my freckles."
She and her little best friend talk about who's cuter and who is dressed prettier a lot. Recently I've gotten after them and told them that they can't do that anymore. So hopefully that will take.
But I really don't know how to respond to image issues in my FOUR YEAR OLD.

I told her a few months ago that her freckles were angel kisses and when she was leaving heaven to come live with us, the angels loved her so much they didn't want to let her go, so they were hugging her and kissing her over and over. She seemed to like that idea and I didn't hear much about it again. Then a few weeks after I told her that, I heard her muttering, "I hate my freckles, I just wish Jesus had kept his hands to himself."

This is probably one of my most favorite Avee stories of all time. It's so typical her and me. My Pollyanna-esque efforts fall flat with my little sass-pants.

Last night we had just gotten back from our visit to Kansas City for Thanksgiving and since we spent the better portion of the day packing or driving, I laid down with her at bedtime. She talks a mile a minute and it's completely uninhibited, which I love. Typically during the day, she is very aware of my responses and will clam up if I ask too many questions or laugh at something she says. At night, she doesn't pay attention.

She asks me, "Why do you have to shave under your arms? Why do you have hair there? I don't."

"Well, you don't get it until you are bigger."

"Does Erica have hair under her arms?"

I pause to consider this. Erica is my size zero, 16 year old niece who spends part of her summer with us each year. In my mind, she's still losing baby teeth, so I had to think for a second. For some reason, instead of just saying yes or no, (because REALLY!? she's four, what's she gonna do--verify next times she's in England with Erica?) I answer, "I don't know for sure. Maybe."

And Avee asks, "Do fat people have hair under their arms?"

This makes me laugh. "Yes, fat people do."

"Oh, so skinny people don't have hair, but fat people do."

"What the?!"

"Well, you have to shave, and me and Erica don't. You're as big as this room, and me and Erica are skinny."

And theeeeeeeeeeeeeere goes my self-esteem.

Then today my friend picked her up from preschool and gave her lunch while I was running errands. When I came to get her my friend informed me, "So, Avee not only cooked the turkey for Thanksgiving, she also caught it for you as well."

I have NO idea where she came up with this. I wasn't even sure she had made the connection between animals we see or read about, being the same ones we eat. So I was certainly surprised by this recent fabrication. When Kim pressed Avee to tell the truth, Avee confessed that she didn't cook it after all. But she did still catch it.

When I asked her where she caught it she answered matter-of-factly and without missing a beat, "In a field."

Tonight I laid with her again in an effort to get her to fall asleep faster. It was a total bust. But I did get a couple of good laughs.

The evening started with her trying to kiss me like Cinderella. Ay yi yi. I put up with a lot (the armpit sniffing, etc) but I think I have to draw the line at open mouth kisses from my almost 5 year old daughter. Even as insistent as she was.

Then I started to sing, in an effort to just mellow her out. Two sentences into the song she sighs, "WHATever".

But I kept singing. About 30 seconds later she said, "Dude. Singing does not work Mom. Are you trying to sing me to sleep? Because it doesn't work. I don't even like how you sing."

It's a good thing I spent 27 years padding my self esteem before I started having kids because this girl would have shot it all to hell otherwise.

And it's a good thing she's so dang cute.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Magical Cleaning Skills

My husband is truly magical.

Here is why I am in awe of him right now.

It's about 4 in the afternoon. The kids are home from school, there are candy wrappers, smashed goldfish, and toys all over the living room floor.

I didn't do a blessed thing to keep the house clean or even remotely acceptable looking yesterday. I went grocery shopping last night (with three kids) and came home and left everything on the table but only put away the cold stuff before I headed upstairs to go to bed along with the kids. Then this morning the kids found the last of the Halloween candy.

So this morning, the house was a sty. Truly.

J poured the kids some cereal before he left for the day while I was in the shower. When I came downstairs, there were some beans spilled on the table. I asked, "Who spilled these beans?" Hahaha, I didn't even realize how funny that was until I just wrote it.

Avee totally outed J. "Daddy did. He said, 'what is this, what is this all about! this is ridiculous!' and he threw that stuff on the floor (motioning to the bags of groceries) and he threw your purse with the flowers on it against the wall---see it all the way over there?"

I laughed at Avee's almost un-emotive recount of J's actions. And I thought, wow, I didn't realize he'd be so annoyed, certainly isn't the first time I've been a lazy, ridiculous, slob. It was probably the massive pile of candy strewn throughout our living room that put him over the edge. Yeah, that was it.

I resolved to get the beans off the table and put the groceries away. Achievable goals, that's my motto.

Here's where the magical J part comes in....

The kids noticed me putting things away and Avee jumped up and got the dustpan and within seconds of her jumping up, Bo said, "Hey, let's clean up!"

At which point my head spun off my shoulders and landed in a pile of smarties and smashed ritz crackers on the floor.

Avee took the dustpan and scooted it all along the living room floor, which in turn captured everything, and the places she didn't get, Bo took a broom and swept it out into a pile.

Our living room is carpeted. We own a vacuum. The kids hate cleaning.

These are all facts.

But somehow, J got them to practically fight over who got to clean up. But that's the other part that is magical, they didn't fight, they totally worked together, of their own volition.

I don't know how he does that. But something about dustpanning the carpet on your hands and knees is fun, whereas vacuuming upright and quickly, is a chore worth whining about.

I do not get it. But I love it.

This isn't the first time he's done this either. A year or so ago I was struggling to get the kids to do anything I said and could not for the LIFE of me get them to clean up. We were both exhausted and it was almost worth just doing it ourselves, but knew that wasn't the best way to handle it. I was practically losing my voice with all the nagging when J reached over, picked up a flashlight that was supposed to be put away and said, "When I shine this light on something, you put it away."

The two kids fought over who got to clean up the most.

I could list a jillion reasons I love J, he truly is the best of the best.

Today, his magical ways of getting kids to clean up is at the top of the list.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Better'n Knock Knock Jokes

Saturday morning I was still conked out on my bed when Bo climbed up into the bed and snuggled up against me. He's still a snuggler, but doesn't initiate much during waking hours, and usually gets beat to the punch by Danyo and Avee during my "conked out" hours.

I had forgotten how hilarious and unaware he can be when he's the first awake.

I am certain I was open mouthed, stream of drool, guttural snoring and he puts his mouth to my ear and whispers, "What does the Witch say when she's cold?"

Because I am a mother, and because since the day he was born six and a half years ago I have been compelled to respond to him no matter my state or coherency, I grunt, "Huh."

"Brrrrrrr-eeeeeeeeew!" Complete with a shiver and triumphant grin.

It didn't registered. I later remembered it being about llamas and soup.

Soon after, he offered another joke about a cow and what it says.

Again, I don't recall it.

So later, when we're all awake and lounging on our bed, I ask him to tell me the jokes again, so I can remember them. He is on a Cow Joke roll. And I have to say, where it lacks in actual humor, he makes up for it in sheer brilliance.

What did the cow say when he was sick?
I have the fluuuuuuuuuuuu.
What is the cows favorite thing to do?
Go to the moooooooooooovie.
What did the cow say before he went to school?
I can't find my shoooooooooooooe.
What is the cow's favorite thing to eat?
What did the cow say when he was sick, and it wasn't the flu?
I have crooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuup.

So, of course J and I add our two cents on bovine humor.

J, as always, wins the award for, you can come up with your own adjective, my adjective is mean and inappropriate among some crowds.

"What did the German cow looking for religious minorities say?"
Where are the jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeews.

We probably spent 20 minutes doing this. (I know, right!?)

Then, Bo's jokes got less careful. More creative, but less thought out on the delivery.

And finally when he asked, "What did the cow say about going to the zoo? I like the zoooooooooooo." We first laughed and made fun of him, and then pointed out that he had given away the cleverness of an answer, in the question.

So J says to him, "See, it's a good joke, you just have to say, where does the cow go to see lots of animals?"

And in all earnestness, Bo answered, "Africa?"

Monday, November 16, 2009

My BFF The Telmarketer

Uh. Mah. Gosh!!!

I had forgotten how ridiculous and frustrating and obnoxious tele-center people can be.

I had a fraudulent charge through Paypal about a month ago. I was advised to change any cards, passwords, etc that I had on my computer.

So I called about our credit card. They said they'd send another.

That was October 22nd, I haven't received it. I don't use the card, so I didn't notice it had been that long. But once I realized, it made me nervous that we had a card floating around out there, waiting to be used.

So I called to let them know it wasn't received and decided I'd just like it cancelled altogether.

You would think I was asking for the first born male of the Eastern European who took my call.
She would not close my account. Everything I said, she responded with, "I'm sorry you are having this problem, please can I have your social security number."

I honestly started wondering if the number on the back of the first canceled card was actually a scam number.

She, after 17 minutes, apparently wasn't authorized to pull the plug on the card, and transferred me to Jason.

Jason and me ain't friends. I hung up on him. Which, generally, is an impolite and juvenile thing to do. But I could not stop the madness with logic and reasoning, so I did what I had to.

I understand that these people have a job to do, and most of the time, they are just doing their job. I always try to take that into account, be patient, and not blame my frustration on the person.

But he would not close my account. Would not.

I said about 5 times, "I would like for you to close my account. I don't want to verify my address so you can send me another card, I don't want to tell you my mother's maiden name for the 5th time, I don't want to hear about how my card can be turned into a bomb shelter should I need it and how all of that is free to me. I just want you to cancel my card. Please."

He would then say, "As I said Mrs Nobody, it takes a few moments."

Finally I snapped, "How long is a moment in your world, because it has now been 15 minutes since you said that last!!!!"

I think he may have even said, "I'm not the enemy here, Nobody."

But I could have made that up.

He kept talking, telling me about all the benefits of my platinum card. Finally I just started saying every three seconds, "Please close my card. Please close my card. Please close my card."

Finally he read the disclosure, asked me if I had any questions, and when I said I didn't, started to reiterate what the disclosure said.

"You really aren't reiterating are you? I've been on the phone for 43 minutes trying to close this card, and you're REITERATING!?!?!?!"

I think he thought I was calling him a name.

Then he just got nasty. There are few things I hate more in this world, than people who are being nasty, cloaking it in polite words.

"Mrs. Nobody. Ma'am. I am trying to help you to understand."

That's when I said, "UNDERSTAND THIS SUCKAH!!!" Click.

No I didn't.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Iowa Visitors

So, I live in Iowa. Which is pretty much the middle of nowhere. Our town isn't so remote, but considering there's no Costco within 100 miles and only one place to get Pho, it's remote by my definitions.

I've lived in cooler places, so that is why it's just a little amazing and kind of wonderful that we've had the visitors we've had. Several friends have come here while they're passing through (I love those visits) and some others have come just to see us. Code Yellow Mom and I have been friends since my freshman year of college, and she was our first visitor to fly all the way to the middle of nowhere just to visit us. It was a slice o' heaven.

Last month, Klin and her family passed through and stopped to visit. It was so wonderful to see her again, and have that nice little treat of a visit to brighten our week. My opinion remains, Klin is wonderful, and her family is too. They didn't stay nearly long enough, and we were right in the middle of a family brawl making a cake when they came, and because making a cake at my house cannot be a simple task, it wasn't done in time for them to enjoy.

Who walks away from cake though, seriously?

I love Klin. She's solid. She's real. She works hard at the things that matter the most and the things that make a difference. She is married to a really great guy, and I'm glad I've gotten to visit with them both just a little bit more.

I think Klin was hoping for a little more entertainment from my kids, but alas, she was greeted by the norm---which involved some fighting, a little hyperactivity, and a lot of showing off for her attention. She made me feel happy how quickly she just loved my little family. Everyone needs a friend like that.

Maybe if you're lucky, she has friends in a town near you. :) Thanks for coming Klin, you made my month!

Last week another blog friend came to visit me. She left yesterday and we're all just a little more sad. Okay, I am, the kids miss her, but they can easily be bought off by Dora's yelling and Boots' prancing. I'm not so easy.

No Cool Story flew in on Friday afternoon. She claims she "finally got permission" to visit. But really, I just couldn't bear to ask a person to fly all the way to Iowa to visit. It's Iowa for crying out loud!

I'm sorry for any of you people reading this who hold a deep and abiding love for the state of Iowa. No offense, really.

The visit was truly a wonderful one for me. There was no real agenda, and it was fun to spend our days together.

I met NCS almost 3 years ago and we became fast friends. She's heard me say pretty much every manner of crazy thing to my kids, over the phone. "We don't put queso on our heads" or "don't sit on my head when I'm trying to talk on the phone", among many other things. Plus, as most of you who have read this blog now, I blog about my kids a lot. Which is...magical.

So, as she sat in my living room, she looked around and said, "So, I get to see where all the magic happens."

I laughed and said, "I'm usually sitting there when we're on the phone, here's where most of Bo's brilliant conversations happen...." blah blah blah.

Later that night when J was home I was repeating the conversation to him. "It was so funny, when NCS got here she said, "I want to see where all the magic happens!" I waited for his laugh but I saw something else, more along the lines of surprise, shock, flash across his face. I looked over at NCS, and she had a terribly uncomfortable look on her face. And then she cleared her throat somewhat nervously and said, "Um, I meant like, with the kids, and all their adventures."

Suddenly, in my head, I heard what I had said aloud to J, and how there was no context given when I said it and it made sense why there wasn't the response I had anticipated.

And then I laughed. And I couldn't stop laughing. There are moments in life when I wish I could freeze the moment and capture an expression, a response, a smile, a feeling. NCS's expression when I said that, is one of them. For the record, I laughed way harder and way longer than either of them did. For some reason, my stupidity wasn't as entertaining to them.

Another noteworthy event, Danyo started talking within minutes of NCS's arrival and did not stop. It was a little unreal to me. Here was this kid who just the day before, when he wanted something would come up to me and say, "Mom. Mom. Mom." When I asked him what he wanted he'd just start to whisper, "Mom. Moooooooooom. Mom!" We have had that exact conversation at least 100 times. I could never get him to communicate properly.

Just now he came up to me and said, "Mom. Waddo. Heyoh. Mmmm, moh waddo. Get some"
Do you know how amazing this is!?! The funny thing is, he literally did start when NCS got there, and then did.not.stop that night. I honestly thought I was in danger of telling him to stop talking!

He immediately liked NCS and quickly fell in love. Her 3rd night here he was headed up the stairs for bed when I called out, "Danyo, how about a kiss?" He turned around and looked at NCS and said, "I'm gonna give her a kiss." Now, he didn't really say it like that, but it was very clear to all of us that that is why he was saying. After kissing her, he headed back up the stairs. "Hey Danyo, what about me?" He shook his head and kept walking away. Someone said, "Give mommy a kiss Danyo" and he turned with his hands out questioningly, looking around, "Wheyoh?"

Yeah, uh, he couldn't see me. Because I'm so tiny.

It's hard for me to truly capture the essence of this visit. NCS is so easy to be with, she let me nag her about eating breakfast, she read to Danyo, had long conversations with Bo about the cycle of...what was it, dirt? mountains? I can't remember. I got bored and walked away. Avee would run up to her during the day and give a spontaneous hug. For a few days she included a sweet, "I like you" or "your shirt is soft" and then it turned to "I love you". Avee can be a hard nut to crack, so that was pretty interesting to see.
We laughed. We cried. We made fun of people. Oh wait, just I did that. She'd say, "Aye Nobody...." and remind me to act my age and not my shoe size. Didn't work, as you can see.

We had Pho. We watched my favorite movie "Scarlet Pimpernel" which Code Yellow Mom introduced me to 15 years ago. NCS was TOTALLY skeptical and I think even tried to make up a story about having already seen it. I didn't buy it. But she was not convinced by the 1982 cover and French Revolution getup that it would be worth her time. It was. :)

She got to see firsthand some of the hilarious things I see and hear with these kids. One morning we picked up Avee and her little best friend Ella from preschool. I was outside of the van talking to Avee's teacher when this happened.
Avee: Ella, we can't talk about being prettier than each other anymore, my mom said we can't do that, so don't do it anymore.
Ella: Okay
Avee: And I don't like your shoes you're wearing.
Ella: Oh. You can borrow them sometime!

These two are hilarious together and these kinds of conversation are not rare.

She got to see how incredibly easy going and sweet Danyo is. He gets excited about little things, he adores Avee, he's always up for some hugs and kisses, etc.

But when he loses it, BOY he loses it. At Target I put away a 17 dollar talking Dora book, and to be honest, I did think he was done looking at it, and that I could get away with it. So not the case. He cried and yelled all the way to the checkout. I finally put him down because I was worn out from trying to contain him. I mistakenly thought he wouldn't go far from me because he's just that kind of kid. Oh no. We ran all the way through the store, wailing about the book, trying to find it again. I followed at a distance just to see what he'd do. He never stopped, never looked back, and when he finally realized he wasn't going to find the book on his own and turned and kicked me in the shin and shouted some Danyo-spletives at me.

The weather was amazing the day she got here. Like, 70's. We hung her coat up and didn't think of it again until Tuesday when it was a little more brisk. She grabbed her coat from the closet as we were headed off to Target. As she was putting it on I heard her say, "Wow, how did I get snot on my coat. I must have been crying."
On the drive, I looked over at her fingertips barely peeking out from the bottom of her sleeves. I thought to myself, "I guess that's what happens when you are tiny, some things are just big on you."

When we got out of the van she pulled a receipt out of her coat pocket. I thought to myself, "I thought I was the only one who had random receipts in every article of clothing I own.

Inside the store, I was examining some grapes, asking if they were seedless, and I could hear NCS nearby, rustling around with her coat.
"I'm missing a button! There's some more snot!"

And then, "Nobody...hey, Nobody!"


"Um. Do you have a coat like this?"

"Yeah, I do actually....ohhhhhh. Hahahahahahaha!"

Yeah, that was MY snot. MY missing button. MY "petite" coat swallowing her arms and hands in the sleeves.

It's pretty funny to me how long it took for us to figure out. I mean, to NCS's credit, she DID figure it out. I just kept seeing and hearing all these clues that it was mine, but I never realized.

The visit was too short but I'll try not to dwell on that because it really was wonderful, and I should dwell on that, right?

The moral of the story is: You should come visit me. I'll build you a cake and let you wear my snot covered coat.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Avee just discovered an entire bag of candy/cookies/treats yet unexplored. It's gonna be a good day! For starters, I don't have to make snacks or lunch because they will be gorging all morning...

On Friday I went to Bo's Halloween parade and class party. While there, another mother overheard me say Bo's name and said, "Oh! That's Bo! So he's the one who goes to tag with my son." I smiled and said, "Oh, they play tag together at recess?"

She stared at me for a nearly uncomfortable number of seconds, shook her head slightly as though to erase the picture of stupidity from her mind and said, "No, TAG, Talented And Gifted."

Then I laughed and almost said, "Oh yeah, he gets that from me."

But I didn't because I had no knowledge of Bo going to TAG, so she was either wrong, or I was seriously in the dark.

"I didn't realize Bo was in TAG. Isn't that something I would know about?"
"Not necessarily," she says, "You might just find out when report cards come home."

I thought this was odd. To be honest, I was sure the other mother was misinformed. Especially since her little Talented And Gifted was standing there with both of his legs in one leg of his costume and was sucking on his entire fist.

I thought of asking his teacher, but decided not to be the grossly misinformed busy-body parent who thinks her own nose picking, wall-licking baby is a genius.

On the way home I had some one on one time with Bo and asked him about it. I didn't use the word "TAG" because I didn't want him going to school and saying, "My mom wants to know if I'm in TAG" or something else. Contrary to prevalent evidence, I do have some pride.

I asked him if he ever went to another teacher's classroom to learn things. No.
Did he ever go somewhere else doing the day with just Billy and Jane? No.
Was he learning different things than the rest of his class at any point in his day? No.

I probably asked 2-3 more ways after that. I do have a track record of very poor communicating skills with Bo. For some reason, we tend to speak different languages on some matters.

Fast forward to Monday afternoon.

I was putting some books on the shelf when I noticed his library book that had been due that day. I turned to Bo and said, "Oh man Bo, I'm sorry, I forgot today was library day and you didn't have your library book to turn in."

I waited for his usual response to my regular blunders in his life. An immediate crumbling of his face, a pathetic whimper and a harsh accusation about my general abilities and constant attempts to ruin his life.

There was none of that. He barely acknowledged my apology. I offered more sympathy, "Did you just have to sit while everyone checked out a book?"

"Naw, it's okay Mom. I just went to Mrs. ______'s room instead, and I really like it there."
"Oh is that where you go if you forget your library books?"
"No. I just go there with Billy and Jane during library time."
"What do you do there?"
"Just stuff to get smarter."

I sat there staring at my little bundle of talented and gifted. First of all, he's been three times. Second of all, the two names he's mentioned were the two names I specifically asked him about on Friday when I interrogated him. Third of all, HE'S BEEN THERE THREE TIMES!!!!

I just started laughing. He asked me what was so funny. I said, "Do you remember me asking you on Friday if you went to any classes with ____ and _____. Do you remember me asking if you ever went anywhere to learn other things without your whole class? Do you remember this conversation?"

"Yeeeeeaaaaaaah, but...but, you didn't say Jane you said....uhhhh...."

"It's okay Bo, it's not a big deal. But it sounds to me like you should go to FAD, Forgetful and Dopey instead of TAG."

He thought it was funny at first, but not as funny as I thought it was. And I realized a tiny bit too late that as the mother, the adult, the mature one in the relationship, perhaps I shouldn't have done that. But boy oh BOY did it make me laugh.

A few minutes later Avee walked up to me, clearly distressed and moving her hands all over her torso in an effort to comfort herself. I thought it looked funny, but couldn't figure out what she was doing.
"Mom, I just squished myself."

I couldn't even get the words out for the laughing, but I was curious about what part of herself she squished.

Her whole body.

She had been sitting in a child size camping chair and it suddenly folded up, with her in it.

I love that rather than a chair folding or breaking, she squished herself.