Friday, June 29, 2012

Just Another Fun Summer Day

My word, I love staying at home with my kids.

Yes, there are days that they drive me bonkers.  But they would do that regardless of whether I worked or not. 

I know that not everyone loves the job.  I wouldn't either if I just stayed at home with them all day.  So we don't stay home much.  Today we had an unexpected adventure day.  I was supposed to watch a friend's little girl all day, but they changed plans at the last minute.  I had seen an add for a kids' play place in Columbus, IN, so I decided we would go there for the day.

I had no idea how much downtown Columbus, specifically Washington Street, had to offer.  We were gone for seven hours today, without a single whine, argument, bicker, or complaint.  Over and over again I heard, "Thanks for bringing us out today," or, "Thank you for letting us spend the day here."    

So, if you are ever passing through Indiana, specifically Columbus, here are some things you will find, all on the same street!

1.  We started at Kids Commons.  I had a coupon, so it only cost us $4/person to get in.  It's normally $6.  When we entered, I was a bit worried that the big kids woud be bored.  It seemed to be geared for the littlest ones.  That wasn't the case at all.  Even Star, who is famous for getting bored and complaining, loved the place. 

There are three levels, each with multiple stations.  There's the Japanese house

and the camper/garden area.

The bubble room was quite fun.  The kids practiced getting inside the bubble a couple at a time

before trying to get everyone in it.

This is right after the bubble popped.
They spent a good long time at the bubble table

before they moved to the Explorahouse.  It was a version of a house under construction.  There were all sorts of nooks and crannies to crawl into/through.  But the highlight was the toilet.  It wasn't just any toilet.  It was a gigantic toilet that you actually got flushed down.  Through a drain/slide that came out at the bottom of the house.  Awesome.

To give you an idea how big this thing is, Phoenix is 5'6" tall!

The top floor of the Commons was devoted to excercise.  Giant biked four grueling miles, dripping with sweat and completely red in the face.

Turken spent the majority of the time playing pop-a-shot,

but he did take some time to build some muscles with the miniature weight-lifting equipment.

Cuckoo tried to lift some weights, too, but his short stature gave him some trouble.

There was a nifty light wall at which you were actually supposed to throw little playground balls.  Think dogdeball without the head shots and tears.

So, yeah, even the big kids had a good time.  In all, we spent about 3 hours there, and we could have done more, but we had to get to...

2.  Zakaharas (or something like that).  It is the original ice cream parlor which was opened in 1900 by three Greek brothers.  It still has the marble/onyx soda fountain, the organ that plays by itself, and the gorgeous Tiffany lamp.  We love us a good historical stop, but especially when it includes ice cream.

Giant wanted me to take a picture of his waffle bowl, and as I got the camera up, I caught sight of Turken in the corner.  My boy loves his ice cream.

His ice cream was gone, but he had to drink/lick every last bit of it.  He also does this with syrup when we have pancakes.

Once our bellies were over-full, we headed across the street.  We had seen a structure in the window and wanted to check it out. 

3.  The Commons is some sort of shopping/office place.  In the little food court area there is a two-story climbing structure and all sorts of other things on which to climb, slide, spin, crawl, and have general merriment. 

And it is completely free!  One of the funniest moments was when Buttercup helped Cuckoo on the spinning thing.  When he got off, it looked like he was OK, and started walking.  But then he started to veer to the left, stumbled, and crashed.  It was hilarious.  I was across the room laughing my head off, telling Buttercup to help him.  As he gets up to only fall down again, she doesn't lend a hand, because she has fallen on the ground in a fit of giggles.  He saw us laughing, so he he starts to wobble and fall on purpose, much to our delight.

4.  Next, we headed to a toy store named Imagination Station.  Their first store opened about 7 years ago, and I did a bunch of photography work for them.  Now they are on their second store and going strong.  They have all sorts of quality toys.  Not just the fad things you find in the chain stores.  But their brilliance comes in how they sell it.  They open and display samples of at least 1/4 of the things they sell.  The kids are encouraged to play with all of these things. I can see what my child likes/is drawn to, then buy it while the child is distracted by the fun.  Plus, they will gift-wrap it for me right then and there.  So smart.  We bought gifts for the two birthday parties my kids will be attending this weekend.

5.  And lastly, we simply walked.  The entire sidewalk is made of bricks.  Many of the bricks have been purchased and say things like, "In memory of" or, "The Smith Family."  But then there were lots of random, funny ones.  Things like, "We could have been a chimney." 

Our favorite was this one:

(For those that need their glasses to see this, ahem Dad, it says, "I can see your underwear."  When we read it out loud to the little boys, Cuckoo immediately did this:

I don't know if he was making sure he was wearing underwear or if he was looking for the person/thing looking at his underwear, but it cracked us up.  Even funnier when he then went over to Turken and tried to look inside his pants.

We walked several blocks, just strolling and reading, both sides of the street.

We only ended our trip because Hubby was going to be heading home from work.  I feel bad when we go on fun adventures, and he has to come home to an empty house.  It's like we're rubbing it in that he has to go to work while we go have some fun.

Just before getting into the van, I asked the kids if I could get a group photo.  Buttercup laid down in the shade, and one or two followed suit.  I told them that I could take a photo like that, but they needed to circle their heads.  All but one knew what I meant.

Still cracks me up.

But, I got him turned around and all was well.

Yes, I do love being a stay-at-home mom.  I do believe my kids are just as happy.

Except on those days when I'm driving them bonkers.

But mostly happy.

Have a lovley day!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

In the Eyes of a Toddler

There is nothing more enlightening than when your children play "house."  It's like a little window into how the kids see our home.

The kids had made a bit of a mess in the playroom during their "house" time.  I told them that they needed to head back to the basement to clean it up before lunch.  Cuckoo was the last one to go, and he was carrying a toy with him.  At the top of the steps he yelled down to Buttercup,

"I'm the dad, and dads don't clean.  You're the kid.  Put this toy away."

I do believe Hubby and the boy are going to have to have some alone time and a chat while they do some cleaning up.

Have a lovely day!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Old Age or Lupus? You Be the Judge.

Back when I got my almost diagnosis of pre-Lupus/early Lupus/something like Lupus, I told very few people.  Basically, my book club, Bible study, a handful of other friends.  Those that I told were sworn to not ask me how I am feeling.  (I could do no such thing with my family. Everyone, including my 87 year old grandmother, asks me how I'm feeling even before I can say, "Hello.") In return, I promised to update them every once in a while and to tell them when I am having a flare.  They were very eager to help.

I am a firm believer in the "Denial" method.   If I don't talk about it, I don't feel it, and I can then function normally.  I have been living with this long enough now, and ignoring it quite well usually, that I don't even know what normal is anymore.  I haven't had any debilitating pain, and I'm not getting woken up at night because of it.  However, I feel things, and I wonder.  Is this a Lupus symptom or is this just how people in their 40s feel?  Makes updating people a touch difficult.  Keeping this in mind, here is an update on my health.  I'm going to list the symptoms.  Anyone over 40 reading this, please let me know if this is part of the normal aging process. 

1.  The twitchy toe.  When I am sitting or lying down, the middle toe on my left foot will just start bobbing.  Sometimes just a few bobs, other times it feels like my toe is having a seizure.  It was quite disturbing at first, but now I can pretty much ignore it.  Except when it's having a seizure.  Then I have to stand up and make it stop.

2.  Bruising.  The other day, as I was coming in the back door, I got hung up on the ledge.  I lost my balance and slightly bumped into the door frame.  No big deal at all.  Didn't even hurt.  Apparently it looked good, though, as the entire family had a good long chuckle out of it.  This is the result. 

Most of the time when I get a bruise like this,  I have no idea how I got it.  A bruise showed up on my foot yesterday.  I can only guess that it was from wearing flip-flops for a few hours, as it is right along where the strap goes.  I'm just glad that the bruises are usually in places that can be covered with clothes.  Otherwise people would either ask questions or just assume that Hubby beat me. 

3.  Sore jaw.  It doesn't bother me when I eat.  It doesn't bother me when I talk, usually.  It almost always bothers me when I yawn.  Sometimes it hurts so badly that I reflexively stop yawning.  I had a dentist appointment yesterday, so after having to keep my mouth open for half an hour, my jaw is really sore.  Bothering me when I chew and talk.  It should be better by tomorrow, though.  (Don't worry.   I'm tough.  The discomfort hasn't kept me from eating my peanut M&Ms today.)

4.  Sore/painful joints.  If I sit in one position for more than five minutes, it is painful to get out of that position.  Just sitting will start to hurt after 10 minutes or so, but the actual standing stops me in my tracks for a few moments.  Doing anything repetitive for more than a couple of minutes really starts to tax the ol' joints and muscles.  Shoot, even typing for a few minutes straight will hurt.  (I stop and think a lot when typing blog posts so as not to over-burden my fingers, wrists, arms, and shoulders.)  Scrubbing, raking, brushing hair, vaccuuming, and writing cause problems.

5.  Headaches in the same spot, my left temple.  Sometimes it radiates down to my cheek and eye.  No rhyme or reason as to when they show up.  They aren't painful like migraines.  Sometimes they last a few minutes, sometimes most of the day. 

6.  My left side "falling asleep".  This has only happened one time, Mother's Day.  I woke up early in the morning to a feeling that my arm and leg were asleep.  This happens all of the time, and I just need to roll to the other side to feel better.  This time, it didn't go away.  All day long.  And I had the headache all day, too, radiating all down the side of my face.  I was at a soccer tournament the entire day but couldn't shake it.  The feeling finally tapered off and went away the next day. 

7.  Getting worn out rather quickly.  Doing anything aerobic wears me out real fast.  I'm thinking that this is partly just part of the nasty, out-of-shape cycle.  I stopped doing as much because it hurt.  That just leads to being out of shape, which means a person wears out quickly when she tries to actually excercise again. 

I think that's it.  Looking over the list, I've probably just scared my dad to death.  It looks as though I'm dealing with quite a bit.  But really, it doesn't bother me much.  I have gotten very good at ignoring discomfort.  Plus, knowing my triggers, I avoid them.  I make sure to sit and rest.  I do chores around the house in short bits, rotating the tasks I do by the muscles I need to do them.  I avoid going outside during the peak sun hours, and when I am outside, I gravitate toward shade.  I take my aspirin every night.

So, jury, what say you? 

 Am I just old, with a little bit of Lupus thrown in?  Or do I have Lupus with a little bit of old age thrown in?

Have a lovely day!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What Do NASA and a Wedding Dress Have in Common?

So, we've been married 18 years and one day.  And we dated for 7 years before marrying.  That's a whole lot of years, people.

At dinner last night, the kids were asking us to tell more about our dating years and our actual wedding day.  It was shocking, actually, to have them all so interested in what I was saying for an extended period of time. 

It could be because they couldn't laugh hard enough about every aspect of our wedding.

Buttercup asked what I wore.  All I had to say was, "It had long sleeves." and off she went into a fit of giggles.  "Sleeves???" she sneered.  In this day and age of Say Yes to the Dress, she knows that NO ONE wears sleeves. 

That's when Hubby chimed in.  "Don't forget to tell her about the hat."

"A hat???"  There's that sneer again.  "You mean like a top hat?"

I shot Hubby the you-are-going-to-pay-mister glare, then muttered, "No, more like a cowgirl hat.  A blinged-out cowgirl hat." 

I then had to talk real loud-like over their guffaws to explain that the hat wasn't my fault.  When I took my mom to the shop to see the dress I had picked out, she fell in love with this blasted hat.  Being the agreeable daughter that I am, (and terribly unconcerned about fashion that I was) I agreed to the hat.  In hindsight, I'd say it was a mistake.

They begged and begged for me to get the dress out and show them, because of course I still have it.  All boxed up and preserved.  Why, I ask you, did everyone preserve their dresses back then?  It's not like I wore a classic-type dress.  It was following that horrible puffy-sleeve fad.  Not a chance in this world that my future daughter would wear it.  But, because everyone else did it, I thought I should, too.  Funny part is, the box doesn't have any window in it.  I know for sure that I will open it up someday, and my dress won't even be in it.  Some other shmuk out there will be examining the photos of her puffy-sleeved dress to see if perhaps her memory has failed and she is mistaken about what her dress actually looked like.

I didn't open the box, so the kids gave us our present that they had worked on all day.  It was a book of cards the kids had made, with some "cupons" for extra chores and good behavior for us to redeem.  I especially like the one from Star that says, "One hour of peace/quiet from me."  I guess one out of six being quiet is better than none! 

Buttercup went an extra step and wrote a poem for us.

They met on swim team
he could see a gleam
in her blue eyes
as she swam by
they got married
and soon after carried
a small baby boy
full of joy
five kids later
the dad made her
stop having kids
or he would blow his lid
through thick and thin
they stayed within
each others hearts
and will not part.

Oh, she makes me smile.  I guess if paleantology doesn't work out as she wants, there's always Hallmark.

The kids did the dishes for us, and Phoenix suggested we, "do something romantic".   When I asked if he had any suggestions, all he could come up with was a movie.  Or, he could take the kids out to the van for a bit, so Hubby and I could have the house to ourselves.  I was scared to death he was going to follow that with, "Would 5 minutes be long enough?"

Instead of banishing everyone to the van, we put the little ones to bed, played Scrabble, and ended the night with an International Space Station sighting.

Yes, we saw the Space Station.  It was so completely cool.  Just as the sky was getting dark, at 9:48 to be exact, a very bright spot popped up and sped across the sky.  Up and over our heads, taking less than four minutes to get from one horizon to the other.  The kids were scattered around us, some on the barn roof, one standing right next to me.  All I could hear were the wows.  It was brighter than any star, and it was going so fast.  The fact that six people are up in that large dot, 200 miles above us, is just mind-boggling.  Not one of us could pull our eyes away until it popped back out of sight.

I so love summer.  There is no way that we would have let the kids stay up until 10:00 on a school night to see a spot of light fly across the sky.  But in the summertime, we make them stay up until 10:00 to view a piece of history. 

In the span of two hours, I went from Interesting Mom who could tell them stories about their dad, to Butt of the Joke Mom, who had the nerve to be almost fashionable on her wedding day, to Respected Mom, who deserved coupons ensuring some relaxation time, to Most Awesomest Mom who plays games and lets them do cool things like stay up late and be awed by bravery and modern technology.

No wonder my head is usually spinning.

Have a lovely day!

If you want to see if/when the Space Station will be visible in your area, go here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Apparently, I Don't Have a Favorite of Anything

Happy Anniversary to us!  Hubby and I have managed to get past the seven year itch!  Sure, we got past it 11 years ago, but saying that I have been married for 18 years just sounds way too mature for me.  

Since days like this always lead me to reminiscing and analyzing, I am going to take Suzie up on her 11 questions tag.  My answers:

1.  What is your favorite movie of all time and why?
I can't say I only have one.   Sound of Music, Gone with the Wind, Wizard of Oz are tied.  But I also love a good, silly, funny movie.  The Jerk and Talladega Nights crack me up to no end.  And for it's memories alone, one of the very few times that I remember my parents being silly, I have to say the movie Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.  My parents divorced when I was in 2nd grade, so I had to have been young.  We were all watching this terrible movie, when my dad snuck out to the kitchen and when he came back, he rolled a tomato into the room, right in the middle of where we were sitting.  Scared us all half to death. 

2.  What is your current guilty pleasure?
Gotta go with blogging.  Now that summer is here and I don't have to get up at 6:00, I spend way too much time looking around at other blogs.

3.  If you could look like any celebrity, who would it be and why?
I don't think I actually want to look like a celebrity. 

4.  What did you want to be when you grew up?
I decided when I was in first grade that I wanted to be a teacher.  I never changed my mind.  I don't think I even considered other professions, except a brief stop to win the Olympics.

5.  What has been your favorite vacation so far?
We are vacationing people.  We love taking trips, and no matter where we go or how much money we have, we have a great time.  We've gone with friends.  We've gone on impromptu trips, where we get in the car and drive back roads, stopping whenever the mood hits, until Wednesday, when we turn around and head back a different way.   We've gone with kids, without kids, with one kid.  We've gone to places both near and far.  They are all fun and "the best" for different reasons. 

6.  Who do you feel like you can be really, really silly and immature with?
Kids.  Any and all of them.  I do it all of the time.

7.  What is your favorite book and why?
I have decided that I can't answer "favorite" questions.  I'm terrible at it.  I loved Janet Evanovich's series, but mostly the first book, One for the Money.  I loved the Harry Potter series.  I like books on Henry VIII and things relating to him, mainly his wives.  I can't really tell you a certain book, as I can never remember them.  I have lots that I loved, but have no clue what the titles are.  Especially now that I read on a Kindle.  I don't even see the title after I buy it.  I certainly can't remember it.

8.  Will you let your children under 10 years of age have a cell phone?  Why or why not?
Not a chance in this world that my kids will have a phone.  (I have three kids 11+, and they don't have phones.)  There is no reason for it.  They aren't going anywhere without an adult.  At this age, it is simply the "cool" factor.  The chances of kids getting into trouble with them far outweighs the usefulness of them.  When they are in high school, we will revisit the question.

9.  What is the most important thing you want your children, nieces, nephews, or close friends to know about who you are?
This is hard.  I can't say I want them to know who I am as much as who I strive to be.  I want them to know that I try to use everything that God has given me to be who He wants me to be.  Whether it is a sense of humor to help people laugh, or a healthy body to help a widow get her yard cleaned up, or an easy-going personality to help people calm down and see things in a different way, or an understanding of children to help both kids and younger parents, or money to help a family through a difficult time, I strive to always find a way to use what I've been given for the benefit of others. 

10.  If you could live anywhere in the country, where would it be and why?
My goal would be to avoid extreme cold and extreme heat at all costs.  I fully intend to move around a lot once Hubby retires.  South in the winter, north in the summer.  That is as specific as I need.  I can enjoy myself anywhere.

11.  If you could, what would you say to your 17 year old self?
Don't go to Miami.  Go to Butler.

There you go.  A little bit more about me that you didn't need to know.  (Although, I know for sure and for certain that Dad is cracking up about the tomato reference, hand on chest, laughing hard.) 

Have a lovely day!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Take Me Out to the Foodfest

Throughout my childhood, my dad would take me to baseball games.  We were fortunate to have a minor league team nearby and would go there several times each summer.  I don't remember my siblings coming along, but I know they must have.  I simply remember spending a fun afternoon with my dad.  We would each get a hot dog, then head over to the giant communal pumps to get our ketchup.  (Unlike most baseball fans, I am un-American.  No stadium mustard for me.)  We'd get programs and keep track of the stats.  Never for the whole game, but at least the first inning or two.  I still remember watching Albert (Joey) Belle play.  I thought it was so cool that I got to watch someone who made it to the big leagues, and cause such a stir once he got there, before anyone else in the country knew who he was. 

Once or twice each summer we would take the drive up to Cleveland to see an Indians game.  Same game, only much more impressive.  Not because the players were better.  My dad always said that he liked minor league games better, as those guys were still trying hard to "make it."  It was the huge stadium and the massive number of fans, some of whom were crazy, that made the experience memorable.  They guys in the stands who dressed up, painted their bodies, played the drums, wielded Chief Wahoo flags, and created general pandemonium were just plain fun to watch.

Looking back, I can see that the fond memories aren't because of the baseball games themselves.  The games were a chance to get away from our tension-filled house.  As with many divorced and remarried families, tension and unrest was the norm.  Baseball was a reprieve.  A place to relax and spend time with the fun dad.  The dad who wasn't caught in the middle of his wife, ex-wife, and daughters.  I'm guessing it was his chance to breathe and relax, too.

It just so happens that here in Indianapolis, we have a great baseball stadium.  (What are the odds that the three baseball teams that I have cheered for in my life are all named the Indians?)  The field is situated in such a way that sitting in the stands, you have a great view of downtown.

If you look closely, you can see the area behind the outfield where fans bring picnics and watch the game from the comfort of their own blankets.

We've done that one time, when the kids were little.  They don't remember it at all, because when it comes to baseball games, my kids are spoiled rotten.

Hubby's office has a suite at the stadium.  Once or twice a year, he gets the tickets and invites one or two clients and their families to join us for a game.  My children love those days.  They enjoy watching the game.  They like to wear their mitts in the hopes of catching a fly ball.  They get a kick out of playing bingo.  (The stadium has bingo cards, where the spaces have different scenarios to check off.  For example, three runs in one inning, or short stop catches a pop fly.)  But their main reason for wanting to go certainly isn't about relaxing with their dad.  It's about the food.

The suite is always stocked with drinks, hot dogs, and peanuts.  But Hubby loves him some stadium junk food and goes way overboard with the selections.  So today, for our first game of the season, we walked into the suite, where a big ol' plate of big ol' cookies and brownies begged to be eaten.

In the third inning, Hubby came through with a basket of Cracker Jack bags.  Enough for everyone to have his own.

In case you are wondering, the prizes from the Cracker Jacks are getting even more lame.  Not one tattoo in the bunch.

And lastly, in the sixth inning, out came the ice cream choices.  Some got the cookies n' cream Dippin' Dots, but most of us, the real ice cream eaters, got the chocolate "malt". 

In the eighth inning, Cuckoo shockingly started complaining about a stomach ache.

In the midst of all of this eating, the kids really did watch the game.  They got their bingos.  They cheered for the few times the Indians actually got on base.  It was the first baseball game that Turken was old enough to actually pay attention, and pay attention he did.  He sat next to me for most of the game, and we discussed each and every detail of it.

At one point, Turken asked me, "Whose kids are we watching play?"  When I could talk without letting on that I was giggling inside, I told him that these were daddies, and this was their job.  We spent a good five minutes going over this, but he couldn't fathom people being paid to play baseball, just like his dad was paid to go to his office.  It made no sense to him. 

At one point I said, "Aren't they lucky, getting paid to have fun every day?"  That's when Giant jumped in with a "Fun?"  I pointed out that he was planning to be a professional soccer player, where he was planning on having lots of fun.  His response, "Um, soccer is fun." 

Mostly, I have to agree with him.  Baseball is a whole lot of waiting around for a few seconds of excitement.  The awe from someone throwing a ball at 95 mph and the shock of someone actually being able to hit a ball thrown at 95 mph, only lasts for so long.

But only at a baseball game can you laugh at a spectator who wasn't paying attention when a fly ball came his way, hit the wall above him, then had a direct hit in the guy's cup of beer, which then splashed all over him. 

Baseball may not be the most exciting game in the world, but that doesn't mean it can't provide some serious entertainment.

And food.

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

We Truly Are a (Mostly) Peaceful People

Today, Star had his birthday party with friends.  I was told not to plan anything, as they would just play soccer, kickball, and whiffle ball.  They did none of those things.

Instead, they spent two and a half hours having a water gun fight and playing Hunger Games.


and swords...

for two and a half hours.

The only time they stopped was to inhale some cake and ice cream.

You know that theory that boys can turn any toy into a weapon. Totally true.  So, we just give them the weapons. 

We took the party boys home on our way to church.  After church, we had a lovely dinner out (where we got the inevitable, "Are they all yours?") and then, since it's summer, and since a water gun fight is on the list of things the kids want to do, we let them stay up for a Duel at Dusk.

Giant used some strategy to prepare for the gun fight.  First, he gathered as many guns as he could scrounge up.  Refueling is dangerous business you know.

TIP:  For easier refueling, and fewer fights over the hose, have one or two pools or large buckets full of water in a safe location.

Then, before the rest of the kids could get outside, he got himself into the most advantageous position. 

While Hubby and I watered and weeded the garden, they had some cooling water fun.

And as always happens when water guns come out, we get to use our college degrees and killer parenting skills to holler little ditties like, "Don't squirt them if you don't want to be squirted!"

Good times.

Speaking of gardens, look what I picked today!

Winner, winner, grean bean dinner!  Better get the canning tools ready.

Have a lovely day!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Taking the Plunge

Did I mention that I love summer?

Days full of nothing we have to do.

Days full of friends coming to visit.

Days of impromptu gatherings at the playground, never knowing which of the 50 people on the email list will show up.

Days of fun lunches, like homemade pizza bagels, that are reserved just for breaks from school.

Days of riding bikes to the nearby church to play a little kickball.

Days of yummy Fudgsicles and Popsicles to beat the heat.

Days of dinner dates with Hubby, friends, or both.

And of course, days of swimming.

We bought a summer membership to the pool for the first time ever.

Turken is getting to the age that my kids usually start swim lessons, but I decided to see how he does on his own before signing him up.

Our first trip to the pool, he refused to put his head under.  Wouldn't even dip his nose in. 

For the next trip, I came prepared, toting face masks for him and Cuckoo.

Cuckoo decided that they were better used simply as a fashion statement.

Turken, on the other hand, was thrilled to bits.  He had told me that he wanted goggles that wouldn't let water get into his eyes, nose, mouth, or ears.

We managed to cover 2 of the 4, and magically, he makes his own fashion statement, specifically, a painfully squished-up and difficult to breathe.

The boy is now officially a fish.  Because, as he says, "The goggles let the water in my ears, but it goes right back out again!"

We're holding off on the swim lessons.  Sure, he is still scared to death of the big pool, but I'm thinking we'll be there soon.

Have a lovely day!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Don't Feed the Animal

All but one of my children have been tall or extra tall and skinny, skinny, skinny from the time they are around 18 months.  People were asking Phoenix what grade he was in when he was only 3 years old.  That tall.  And skinny.  Able to count not just their ribs, but every single bone in their bodies skinny. 

And then Cuckoo came along.  At his two-year check-up, he measured in at 10% for height,  40% for weight.   For those who haven't been inside a pediatrician's office in the last couple of decades, Phoenix was 95% for height and 50% for weight.  40% doesn't seem like much, but when it is put on the frame of a 10 percenter, it is.  The doctor had him go off of whole milk at a little over one year old instead of the usual 2 years.

Everyone we know asks how it happened that we got such a differntly built child.  It is usually as that person is handing him a cookie. 

Cuckoo has some skills.  Besides being adorable, he has been able to talk really well since he was 18 months.  He has used these things to his full advantage.  He could get a four-course meal out of a homeless man if he tried.

It started at soccer games.  He would go up and down the sideline, scoping out the offerings,  then get up nice and close to the person who has the best snack.  He'd look up with the big, blue eyes, and just stare.  If they didn't cough up the good stuff, he would innocently ask, "What do you have?"  Within seconds, he had a handful of whatever it was and come running back to me yelling, "Look what I have!"  He has learned to work his magic everywhere we go.

It is to the point that he doesn't even have to approach people.  I'll be kicking a ball around with him, waiting for a game to start, and a grown adult will come up with a bag of kettle corn (it's a soccer thing) and say, "Cuckoo, look what I have," and lure him away to play/eat. 

Two nights ago, we were at a short team meeting.  He went off to play with Buttercup, and within minutes he was back on my lap eating a bag of fruit snacks.  I then had to track down whoever it was that gave them to him, just to make sure that it wasn't some random stranger trying to buddy up with him.

It's exhausting.

And it's getting worse.

He now knows that I am onto him.  He's figured out that I watch a little closer as to nip the excess in the bud.  People don't just stop at one cookie.  They will continue to bribe him with food all the live-long day, just so he will stay and chat.  I'm telling you, he really is just that cute and funny.  (That, and the fact that he is the only toddler around.  A mom who's youngest child is hitting his pre-teens will do anything to get the chance to play with a toddler.)

So, he has gone into stealth mode.  Luckily for me, his stealth mode isn't very good yet.

Yesterday, he came into the kitchen and asked for some M&Ms.  I told him he couldn't have any, as he didn't eat his fruit at lunch.  He didn't cry or fuss, just left the room quite calmly, where he then ran into Star. 

"Can I have some M&Ms?" he asked Star.  And then he added, "Don't talk to Mom."

Surely he didn't say what I think he said. 

Star, good brother that he is, wasn't listening, so Cuckoo repeated his request.  "Can I have some M&Ms?  Don't talk to Mom."

Yes, he did say it, and don't call me Shirley.   (Anyone?  Think ridiculously silly yet surprisingly hilarious movie of the early '80s.)

We'll gloss over the fact that he is very prematurely calling me "mom" instead of the much preferred until you are at least six, "mommy".

What we have here is a situation. 

I'm not exactly sure what the situation is, but I know we have one.

I'll let you know when/if I figure it out.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Long-Winded Way to Get to Oatmeal

When discussing their busy schedules, many parents include the words, "I don't want my child to have to choose his favorite activity when he likes them all."  Many parents let their children join every team in a season so the child doesn't have to choose.  The season then becomes a constant race from one practice or game to the next.  And even with all of the racing, the child still misses many of the practices and games in which he was supposed to be.  I have seen many families with only two or three kids with schedules much busier than ours.

Hubby and I insist that the children pick one sport to focus on at a time.  We never said it was a sport he has to stick with for the rest of his life.  Each season we ask each child which sport he/she would like to play.  Three of the kids have always chosen soccer.  Star was the hold-out.  He tried baseball one year, track another, football yet another.
We all have to make choices.  Every single day we make choices.  Kids need to practice doing so.  It is better to learn how to make good choices now, when the stakes are small, than when they are teens and young adults, having to make much more serious decisions.
Through my adult years, I have come to realize that I want to do many, many things.

I made the choice long ago to be a teacher. I was seven at the time. And in the end, I did go to school to be a teacher. I taught for several years and loved it. 
I was a photographer for several years and would love to still be doing it, but I chose to close the business when it took too much away from my family.

I would love to be in plays.  It is very likely that I could have been an acting sensation.  Alas, the hours are just too difficult for a mom with six kids.

I would love to own a breakfast cafe.  To lovingly make delicious meals for groups of retired ladies and gentlemen who would gather at my establishment every day.  Where families would enjoy a relaxed atmosphere and a menu to please both adults and children.

I want to be a professional volunteer, who goes to food pantries, schools, shelters, and anywhere else there is a need.  I really do love to work hard to help people.

The key in making choices is to realize that very few choices are final choices for life.  Plus, because you choose to do one thing does not rule out the opportunity to do all of the things you want to do.

For example, Star has said that he wishes he could play both soccer and baseball.  He has decided that he likes travel soccer better than rec baseball, so soccer it is.  However, he still has a bat, ball, and mitt, as do his brother and mother and father and many of his friends.  He can very easily still play baseball, just not on a team.  He can keep his skills up in our own yard in case he ever decides that he wants to go back to a team.

We have to teach our kids that they can do just about everything they want, just not at the same time.  Or do the things they love in different ways.  It is possible to incorporate a little bit of everything a person loves into his life somehow.

This is how I've done it:

As for the photography, I take pictures of my kids, friends' kids, and random events all the time.  I may not get to do all of the creative things I did when I had the business, but I can still have fun with a camera.

I doubt I will ever grace the stage of a real theater, but I can break out the acting by doing VBC and working in the room where the bible stories are told.  And when the kids are grown, who knows.  Perhaps I will try and find a little theater group looking for a grandma.

As for teaching, just being a mom fulfills much of that desire.  To get the enjoyment from teaching a group of children, I can still sub in Sunday school.  And when the kids are older, I will most certainly be a substitute teacher all around town.

The volunteering is easy.  That I can do with the kids, which also has the added benefit of showing them the great outcomes that occur when helping others.  When they are all in school, I have every intention of doing even more.

And lastly, my desire to own a breakfast cafe.  During the summer months, I get to do so right in my own kitchen.  Each and every day I have six hungry people asking me, "What's for breakfast?"  Oh, I love summer.  Really.  During the school year we are up at 6:00.  I rarely get up early to make them breakfast.  They usually have cereal or peanut butter bagel and a piece of fruit.  In the summer, I do it up.  Something different every single day. 

When I sat down to write today, this is where the post was supposed to go.  I was simply going to write a bit about breakfast and the types of things we eat.  I don't know what took over that made me write about choices.  It was just a roundabout way to get here, I guess.

I find that for dinners, I get into ruts.  I lose my gumption to make new things, or things that take too much time to prepare.  Evenings are busy times.  Plus, the kids have very different tastes and there is always at least one child who doesn't like the meal.

But in the summer, we have nothing but time in the morning.  I can make whatever I want.  And the best part is, the kids love breakfast.  No one complains about any meal.  Major bonus.

For those who are in a breakfast rut, here are some meals we have around here:

1.  This morning they had oatmeal.  I refuse to buy the flavored kinds, as there are too many things added to it, such as sugar.  I buy plain old quick oats.  TIP:  Mix cold, unsweetened applesauce into the hot oatmeal, then add a dash of cinnamon.  The applesauce cools the oatmeal right quick for those impatient, hungry toddlers.  I made a ginormous pot of oatmeal, mixed in almost an entire large jar of applesauce, and every single bite was eaten and licked out of the bowls.

2.  French toast.  To make it healthier, I use whole wheat sandwich bread.  Once again, a bit of cinnamon in the egg mixture is a welcome touch.  (What is it about cinnamon that makes everything taste so much better?)  TIP:  Did you know that the packaging must say 100% whole wheat to be the good stuff?  If it just says "wheat bread" it isn't any better for you than the white.

3.  Pancakes.  I have never used a mix.  From scratch is not that difficult.  Even my nine year old can do it.  To make it healthier, use half whole wheat, half white.  Plus, you can add blueberries to the batter for an added umph.  My kids also like to have homemade cinnamon apples over the top instead of syrup. 

4.  Eggs.  Boiled, over-easy, scrambled, omelet, or fried in a sandwich, my kids will eat them.  However, their favorite is in a breakfast burrito.  Simply melt a sprinkle of cheddar cheese in a tortilla in the microwave, then wrap it around some scrambled eggs and green pepper.  They gobble it up in minutes.

5.  Biscuits and gravy.  Not the healthiest option, but it is oh so good.  We're pig farmers for crying out loud.  We must have sausage and bacon on the menu sometimes!  To make it a wee bit healthier, I use skim milk to make the gravy.  And really, if you're going to have sausage, ours is about as healthy as it gets. 

6.  Waffles.  This is Dad's pick.  He is the waffle maker in the house.  He uses a mix.  Syrup is consumed.  Fortunately, we don't keep whipped cream in the house, so that isn't an option.  Otherwise, it would surely be on there, too.

7.  For Easter we have monkey bread.  Talk about a whole mess of sinful yumminess.  Absolutely nothing healthy about it.  Nothing but canned biscuits, sugar, brown sugar, butter, and the go to spice, cinnamon.

8.  Bagels.  The kids do love a good bagel.  I only buy the whole wheat kind, so they are healthier.  Plus, they don't use butter, just peanut butter on them.  The little boys also sprinkle raisins on the peanut butter for some added healthy.  With a cold glass of milk, the kids are super happy.

9.  Bacon can be added to any of the breakfast options above.  TIP:  Bake the bacon in a 350 degree oven, flipping once.  You won't risk splattering anyone with grease, and it gets that bacon nice and crispy. 

So, my breakfast cafe dream is kinda being met.  And as in my dream cafe, the kitchen closes at 11:00.  The big kids are on their own for lunch. 

What sorts of things do your kids have for breakfast? 

What choices have you made?  What choices have your children had to make?

I always like to hear how other families do things!

Have a lovely day!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Go, Try, Learn, Succeed

Making sure children have high self-esteem has been one of those buzz topics for quite a few years.  Everyone agrees that children should feel good about themselves.   A healthy self-esteem leads to many things, including confidence and a willingness to try new things.  The confusion comes with the discussion of how to help children achieve a healthy self-esteem. 

Positive reinforcement in the form of praise is certainly a good way if used sparingly.  Telling a child that she did a great job every single time she colors a picture, even when she didn't put any effort into it, isn't the way to do it.  However, if a child takes her time to do her best, she deserves the accolades.  Even if that picture is covered in swipes of color outside the line, or includes a picture that doesn't look anything like the object she was trying to draw, as long as she tried hard, I'm going to tell her all of the things I like about the picture. 

While this is a good start to a healthy self-esteem, the best way to achieve it is to actually try new things and succeed at them.  My kids had a whole slew of opportunities to do just that this past week.

Vacation Bible Camp was a big week for a few of the kids.  Cuckoo graduated from the nursery and was able to rotate through stations with Turken.  Last year, they were both very unhappy about leaving me during the three-hour camp.  This year, not only were they not a bit sad, they rocked out those stations. 

I had many people tell me how well Cuckoo did.  The craft lady told me that she had never seen a two year old concentrate so hard on every detail of his craft.  One of the leaders told me that she and another adult couldn't take their eyes off of him during the music station.  He was about as cute as a kid can get doing all of the motions with the songs. 

One station they went to was mine, the Bible Exploration room where we act out the stories.  This year, since I didn't have another adult to help me, I had the kids take the roles in the stories (and added many roles we normally wouldn't have so more kids could participate).  Turken, who is as shy as they come, volunteered and did a great job as a sheep on the day we talked about Jesus being the good shepherd.  He never would have done that last year. 

At the end of each day, they were both so excited to tell (or show) Star, Giant, and me all about the activities they did.

As for Star, this was the first year that he was allowed to be a volunteer instead of a camper.  He was the student crew leader for the incoming second graders.  He wasn't exactly thrilled to be assigned to that job, as his best friend was with the preschoolers, and his other friends were in the nursery.   Second grade was too old as far as he was concerned.

Despite his disappointment, Star was a helpful leader for the kids.  He corralled, encouraged, and calmed all the live-long morning.  Even on Friday.  His birthday.  The day that we had camp, had to go pick Buttercup up from her camp, then head right back to church, where he was to help grill the hot dogs for the VBC wrap-up party.  (Talk about new experiences.  All of the older Boy Scouts were on the 10 day hike, so it was just the youngest three scouts and two dads manning the grills, making enough hot dogs for 200 people!)  Not exactly an ideal schedule for an 11th birthday, but he never complained.

We made up for it, though.  On Saturday, we went to a movie and out to his favorite restaurant.  I took an idea from my friend at Raise Them Up for one of his birthday presents.  Star didn't think he was getting a gift, as we bought a pro soccer jersey for him at the last soccer tournament.  We couldn't let him go without a gift on his actual birthday, though.

He is forever asking me to buy Nutella.  I've only purchased it twice, as it's not really healthy and it is a bit pricey.  However, for his birthday, I went ahead and got him 11 jars all for himself.  He asked if he could just keep a spoon in his room.

Giant also had the opportunity to build a little self-esteem this week.  His coaches have decided that he needs to play on a team with older kids, so on Tuesday he went to the tryouts for that team.  The older boys were not told what was in the works, so many asked him what he was doing there.  He told me that he felt a bit odd, but gave the best answer he could.  He told them that the coaches thought he needed to be challenged more, and their team is where it would happen.  He and the boys certainly handled the situation better than many of the parents did.

Buttercup's chance to gain some confidence came at CYO camp, an overnight camp filled with outdoor activities.  This is her third year going, and she always learns or tries something new.  The high ropes, 20 feet in the air, or the low rope obstacle course are the two things she's conquered in the past.  This year, they came across a fire pit that still had a few little hot coals.  She and her friend decided that they were going to get those coals going into a fire. (Don't worry, the counselor was there the whole time.)  At first it didn't look like they were going to get it.  The rest of the group was getting impatient, but Buttercup was determined.  Finally, thanks to the flip-flop they used to encourage the spark, a flame was ignited.  She has told us this story at least four times in the last two days.  She is so proud of the fact that she got an idea, stuck with it, and accomplished her goal.  A fire, for crying out loud!

And lastly, Phoenix.  He took trying new things to the extreme.  Ten days on a hiking trip with the Boy Scout troop in the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Jewel Cave, and several other awesome stops.  Lots of freedom, lots of new experiences.

Like rock wall climbing.  Not a man-made, wimpy thing.  A real wall of rock.

And then there was the hiking along a cliff.  I saw this photo and thanked the Lord above that I wasn't a chaperon on this particular trip.  Since having children, I have been petrified of heights.  When up high, all I can think of is the way my children's heads will look when they splat on the concrete below.

Those are boys in his troop on the top of that cliff.  Phoenix had done it earlier in the day, so he hung back to take pictures.  I told Phoenix that if I was there, I don't think I could have let him do it.  I would have been a basket case.  He told me to go to the next photo to see how high they really were.

I couldn't speak, as I had thrown up in my mouth.  Sorry for the language, but all I could think was, "Oh, hell to the no!  Who let my baby DO that???"

Fortunately for him, I wasn't there, and he had a wonderful time.  And man did he gain some self-esteem.

I gave him my little point-and-shoot camera to document the experience.  I am astounded by some of the images he brough back.  I'll have to show you a few besides the ones from above.

In order for my kids to be happy, now and when they are adults, I need to help them develop a healthy self-esteem.  I want them to have confidence.  I want them to be willing to to try new things.  I want them to have a  good sense of their strengths and an ability to use them while staying humble.  I want them to have the staying power to see things through, even when people are telling them not to.     

So, I will encourage my little boy to be a little sheep in a little play in my VBC room, knowing it will probably lead to me having to look the other way when that little boy wants to climb a ridiculously high cliff hours and hours away from home.  

I'm just glad that they are still happy (and alive!) to come home and tell me all about the new things they've done and learned.

Have a lovely day!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Animal Lovers Are Ruining My Marriage

I am surrounded by carnage.

And no, that is not a euphemism.

I walked out the door this morning to put some sheets on the line.  (aka the zip line.  After the washing machine stopped working, I decided that I actually like having my sheets dry outside.  We don't have an official line for the laundry, so the zipline works just fine.)  As I was headed to it, I literally tripped over some ribs.  Not ribs that we had for dinner.  An animal's rib cage.  I'm sure most people in that situation would be alarmed.  I wasn't.  I knew exactly where they came from. 

Last week Turken went out to play, but within seconds was back in to tell me that he found a big dead animal.  I looked out and saw the very large, very dead raccoon in my front yard.  You may recall that last week was a rough week.  I wasn't about to make it worse by dragging a dead animal anywhere.  I left it. 

Apparently the dogs messed with it a bit, as I found part of it under the tree on the other side of the yard.  After a couple of days, it started to stink.  Mightily.  I still didn't touch it.  Basically, Hubby and I turned into one of those marital showdowns of who can wait the other one out the longest.  Very mature.  Very considerate of us, too, as the kids pretty much had to avoid the entire area. 

Over the weekend,  part of our plan was to mow.  When Hubby asked me if I wanted to mow, as it is usually a chore I like to do, I promptly said, "No, go ahead.  I'm going to get things done in the house."  I knew that whoever mowed was going to have to deal with that partially-decayed, maggot-infested raccoon.

He mowed, I won. 

At least I thought I won, until I tripped over the rib cage. 

Hubby moved it alright.  When his mowing took him to the area of the raccoon, he simply moved it over with a stick and went on his merry way.

After hanging the sheets, heading back to the house, I noticed two dark lumps on the other side of the walkway.  Upon closer inspection, I realized that there are now two more dead raccoons.

I've heard there is another one in the far corner of the side yard.

City-folk must be busy.

Soon after we moved here, I was driving home behind a pick-up truck.  When we stopped at a red light, I saw that the back of the truck was piled high with cages.  In each of those cages was a live, full-grown raccoon.

I sat at the red light with my mouth hanging open.  We don't live in the south where some people still raise 'coon dogs.  There is no 'coon club where folks can come with their 'coon dogs and hunt 'coons.  It seems we have people who live-trap wild animals then release them in the country, thinking they are being kind and taking care of God's creatures.  (That, or they are just too squeemish to deal with the dead animal a real trap would leave.)

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no happily ever after for those wild animals.

These people are releasing their raccoons into the country, where country dogs will then make sport of capturing those 'coons and leaving them as gifts for their owners. 

And the dogs don't leave those gifts out in a field where nature can take it's course.  They leave them directly in front of the house.  In precisely the one spot that a vulture will not venture.

So Hubby and I can be reminded each and every time we leave the house, look out the window, or send our kids out to play, that our children got their stubborn streaks from us.

I ain't movin' those raccoons.

(It just dawned on me that I have now proven that I am not a redneck.  Wouldn't a redneck have grabbed up those 'coons and cooked them up some supper?)

Happy Flag Day!  (I know it's Flag Day, because my mom was kind enough to give birth to my brother on Flag Day.  Happy Birthday, Donnie!)

Monday, June 11, 2012

It's All Relative

As Hubby and I weeded the garden yesterday, these words actually came out of my mouth:

"I love a weekend when we have nothing to do."

Our weekend of "nothing to do" included:

1.  taking Hubby's car to the shop
2.  buying pig and chicken food
3.  a quick stop at the grocery store
4.  taking a load to Goodwill
5.  picking Hubby's car up from the shop
6.  doing 8 loads of laundry
7.  mowing 7 acres
8.  feeding 6 children and four pigs several times each day
9.  weeding and watering the garden
10.  church
11. taking Buttercup to camp 40 minutes away from home
12.  continuing to get everything ready for VBC.
13.  spending two hours on the phone with Dell after my computer completely blew up and lost absolutely everything on it.
Last week about did me in.  By Friday afternoon, I was a hot mess.  We all were.  (Except Phoenix, of course.  The knowledge that he was about to leave us all for 10 whole days kept his spirits nice and high.)  The big kids were bickering something awful, the little kids were crying and whining at the slightest provocation, or no provocation at all, really.  I was not my usual, jovial self, and thus was unable to steer our boat of crankiness into happier waters.  Hubby was gone and wouldn't return until after the little kids were in bed, so my despair was even worse, knowing there would be no rescue.

I managed to get some sort of dinner together and threw it on the table.   I tried my best to ask the children some questions to get a conversation going, but my brain just wasn't working.  The unhappiness continued to reign.

Finally, as I was cleaning up in the kitchen, things started to turn.  The kids were still at the table when out of nowhere, Turken just busted into a fit of forced, loud, obnoxious laughter.  None of us had a clue as to the origin of the outburst, but it certainly did what I had been unable to do all day.  It made us all laugh.

From that point, the big kids took over and ran with it.  They started a contest to see who could keep a straight face the longest.  Let's just say there were no winners.  They didn't just smile.  They didn't just guffaw.  They giggled. Giggled so hard they were falling out of their chairs and had trouble breathing.  I haven't heard that much giggling in a long, long time.

I used to hear it.  I used to hear giggling all of the time from all of my kids.  But as they get older, the giggling gets replaced with big kid chortles, snickers, and laughs.  Smirks, hoots, and grins are much more common these days.

But Friday night, after a long, exhausting week for us all, the giggling returned.  They were so tired, they didn't care about how uncool it was.  They didn't care that their siblings were getting on their ever-lovin' nerves just minutes before.  With that one ridiculous outburst from Turken, the giggle gateway was open, and I had my little kids back.

As I stood in the kitchen, intently listening, I pictured the kids as they used to be.  When we really did have weekends, if not full weeks, of nothing to do.  Of days when I fervently searched for things to keep us busy.  Of days when I could get those giggles by simply threatening them with a visit from the tickle monster.  (I'm aftraid that these days, as big kids, the tickle monster would accidentally get punched in the face. And that would hurt. At the very least, the teen's, preteen's, and tweens' eyes would roll into the back of their heads at the mention of any such monster.)

The giggling couldn't last forever, of course.  Those sleepy children did need to get to bed.  But the feelings that the giggling brought out lingered.  They actually stuck around all weekend. 

Through the errands.  Through the chores.  Through the (bleeping) computer crashing down around me.  A more positive outlook made everything seem easier.

So when Turken made fascinating observations like, "It's hard to burp your ABC's," I was calm and relaxed enough to hear it.

When Star took the lead as the oldest sibling at home and beautifully entertained the little boys in the baby pool, I was able to appreciate the growing and maturing he is actually doing. 

Many people may believe that a weekend with "nothing to do" means sitting on the couch to read or watch TV or relax by the side of the pool.  A weekend like ours would seem like a whole heck of a lot of something to do.

I guess it's all a matter of what your usual is.

There will come a day when our usual will be filled with quiet time and nothing to do.  Sometimes, like last week, I look forward to those days with every fiber in me.  But then something like a silly contest will remind me that when that day comes, I will be bored out of my rocker, wishing with all my heart that the kids were little and bickering all around me. 

Have a lovely day!