Saturday, January 31, 2015

How to Get Little Kids to Play Big Kid Games

Many years ago, soon after we moved into this house, we were all playing a game of Outburst.

In this game, a team is given a category, and the team must give a specific ten answers in a short amount of time.

During one round, the category was "Natural Disaster".  Our team immediately started shouting. 




After a few seconds, there was a lull in the shouting.

Until 6 year old Buttercup broke the silence.



This is why we play games with our kids.

Sure, game playing teaches them all sorts of skills they will need for school and throughout their lives.

There's counting and letter recognition and problem solving and turn-taking and good sportsmanship.

But first and foremost, there is fun.

So much fun!

Now, when there are 6 kids in the family, and the age range is wide, playing games as a family can get tricky.

But it is not impossible.

In fact, it's actually quite doable.

The family just needs to make adjustments.

Of course, there is always the option of the big kids playing the little kid games. In our house, this usually happens when it's just one little kid wanting to play with one specific big kid.

Cuckoo and I have played approximately 340 games of this in the last three weeks. I don't mind. It's a quick, good game, unlike it's wicked stepbrother, the exhausting Monopoly.

We then move up to the slightly more complicated games to keep the big kids involved but are still easy enough for the little kids to grasp.  Card games fit this bill perfectly.

We happened to be playing "Golf" that day.

At some point, the games requiring more thought come out. At first, the little kids don't play, but are given jobs to help the game along. For example, when playing Apples to Apples, the non-reader can be the dealer or the partner of one of the big kids. Eventually, the little kids learn enough to be able to play on their own.

In this photo, Cuckoo is marking his Clue sheet. He can't read, but he uses clues (ha! Can't think of a different word.) to figure out what he's marking. For example, he can recognize the alphabet and matches up the word on the card with the word on the paper. He's all scrunched up because he doesn't want anyone to see which cards he has.

We played Boggle the other night. These are Cuckoo's words for three different rounds. (In our house, anyone 6 or younger gets to use 2-letter words.) I wrote the vowels on the top to help him remember that all words have to have at least one of them. (The letters that look like z are actually s.) The crossed out words are ones other people had or weren't really words. 
Finally, the younger kids will get so good at playing big kid games, they even beat their parents.

Mancala is Cuckoo's new favorite game. He's only been playing it for about a week, but he has already whooped me several times. No joke. And believe me, I do not let my kids win games. They have to earn that win. 

This post was prompted by PJ, who blogs at A 'lil Hoohaa. This month's photography challenge was "Games".  Head over to see what other people did with the prompt.  

If you would like to get in on future linkups, join his Facebook page. That's where he announces the new theme each month and reminds us to get our posts ready.

So, do you have any games which can be adjusted for little kids? We love to find new ones!

Have a lovely day!

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Big, HUGE Day and Some Other Non-Numbered Things, Ten Things of Thankful Week 85

I am not a mother who enjoys packing lunches for my offspring. I very much encourage them to buy their lunches.  It would be one thing if lunch consisted of tater tots and hot dogs, but our school has good, mostly healthy food.

Turken is not a fan of buying lunch. And by "not a fan" I mean he would rather go up against a rabid dog who wants to do nothing but tear him to shreds than buy his lunch. In kindergarten, there were four days in which the half day kids stayed all day. He lost his ever-lovin' mind when it came to buying just a  carton of milk. He started crying before school even started in the morning. He cried on Buttercup's shoulder so badly that the preschool teacher stopped to make sure everything was OK. When she heard about the problem, she told him she would come down at his lunch time and walk him through the line. She had to do it more than once.

Fast forward to first grade. I have packed a lunch for him every single school day. At conferences 10 weeks ago, I told his teacher about the situation, and she agreed to help me out. Whenever hot lunch was something he would like (I gave her a list.) she would ask him if he would like to buy that day. I made sure she knew I was perfectly fine if he brought a still-full lunch box home if it meant he would buy his lunch.

The teacher and I have not spoken of it again since that day 10 weeks ago.

On Wednesday, I told Turken to get his lunch box out of his backpack. He replied, "It's full. I'll just take the food back and eat it tomorrow.'"

My first reaction was worry. "You didn't eat lunch?"
He answered, "I ate a cheeseburger."

Ya'll, you cannot imagine my joy.

I asked how it all came about, and eventually I got the story. His teacher has been asking him for TEN WEEKS if he wants to buy his lunch. For TEN WEEKS he answered no. Until today. School day one hundred three. She walked him to lunch, through the line, and helped him check out at the cashier.

When I heard this, I immediately called the rest of the kids down. They had also been working on him, letting him know how good the lunches are. They came down to see me doing one serious happy dance. They joined me in the dancing and the praising, shocked that he had actually been brave enough to try it.

This week, I am delighted that my kids have fantastic teachers who really do care about the entire child and not just how well he does on a math test.

Sure, I'll still be packing his lunch every day, but he said he would buy again on the next hamburger day.

Be still my heart. Progress, People. Even when the progress is taken in minuscule snail-like steps, progress is a happenin'

That's worth a few thankfuls right there.

UPDATE: Turken didn't even have me pack a lunch today (Friday). He wanted to try the stuffed-crust pizza at school.

Soccer practices have started up again this week, and the scheduling gurus were good to us. Each team gets two practices each week, plus Star's keeper training. Star and Buttercup have practice at the same time on Tueaday, and Giant and Buttercup have the same practice time on Wednesday.  I don't know if you can understand how huge this is. It is an indoor field where only two teams can practice at a time.  And there are 18 teams that practice there. What are the chances?!?! (Rhetorical question.)

I am writing this post on my iPad while in my car in the parking lot of the high school at 8:00 Wednesday night. It was supposed to be Bryan's turn to take Phoenix to practice, but work came up. I was a bit perturbed at first, but thankfully, the school has wifi in the parking lot. I can actually be productive without going to a Starbucks or Dairy Queen for their wifi and an unnecessary treat.

Why am I writing on Wednesday night, you ask?  Good question.

It's another thankful.

We have no games or practices or camps or anything scheduled for this weekend. That means I can head to Ohio and help my grandma pack her things and get them situated at the independent living facility. The moving truck moves the furniture on Monday, so there is a lot to be done. I will always be grateful that I not only have the time to go, but a family that encourages me to go.

Ok, that sounded more saintly on there part than it really is. When my family found out I wouldn't be back in time to watch the Super Bowl, as is our tradition, they all, including Bryan, cheered. Loudly. Apparently they prefer Dad's frozen pizza bites and spray cheese and all other nasty food to my healthier versions. Bryan and Cuckoo have even talked about having a spray cheese cake. We'll see who's cheering when they are all vomiting from ingesting too much disgusting non-food,

What it means for the blog, though, is that I won't be hopping around much, if at all, this weekend. I'll be packing and unloading and playing cards and laughing and probably crying a bit with my grandma and dad and aunt. Pretty sure I'll be doing most of the heavy lifting, seeing as how the next youngest person to me is 65 years old.

Thank you for reading even when I can't reciprocate.

And thank you, Lizzi, for getting the code written early for me.

Your turn. Link up your ten thankfuls or tell me in the comments.

Have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful

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Join the Ten Things of Thankful Facebook Group

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I May Be Uncool, But I'm High Maintenance, Too. Tuesday Ten!

Bryan and I lived in a roach-infested, cinder block, ancient, 4th floor-no elevator apartment for three years. Including when I was pregnant with Phoenix.  That time in our lives showed us that we don't "need" a whole heck of a lot to live a happy life.

However, there isn't anything wrong with really, really liking to have some things.

This week's Tuesday Ten is "Things I Can't Live Without".  Or things that I would prefer not to live without. Or things that keep this train chugging. Or things that help me stay sane. Any of those titles will do.

1. As I sit here shivering, I must say my pink fluffy robe.  It is currently upstairs, which is dumb, seeing as how it isn't doing me any good up there. Normally, it is on my person every waking moment that I am home from approximately Oct. 15 through April 24. It only gets washed on those rare 50 degree winter days, soooo...maybe once a year.

2. My Eddie Bauer Puffy Coat.  If you doubt me, that link takes you to the Love Story I wrote about it.

3. My pillow.  While not as old as my Eddie Bauer Puffy Coat, it's pretty old.  I know.  I KNOW I am supposed to replace it on a regular basis.  But honestly, why the heck would I get rid of it just when it's getting to that perfect state of wonderful?  I keep multiple pillow cases on it and wash those frequently, so the pillow isn't that bad, is it?

4. My mud room. We lived ON A FARM for 7 and a half years without a mud room.  Everything, including chicken waterers covered with chicken poop and wellies covered in chicken poop and pig poop and farm shoes covered in dog poop trudged into my kitchen.  Granted, the kitchen was in horrible shape, and every day I am even more grateful for the new kitchen, (well, newish. It's been two years.)but it's the mud room I don't ever want to live without.

Full disclosure:  This was taken when it was new.  Picture it with more dirt, more things NOT in the cubbies, and just more stuff in general.
5. My Kindle.  I know all you die-hard, gotta-be-a-real-book folks out there don't understand it.  I get it!  I used to be one of you!  Until Bryan gave me one.  And as with the puffy coat, he knew what he was doing.  I've had it for years now, and whenever I have to read a paper book, I get annoyed. No joke. I don't ever lose my page!  I can eat with two hands, because I don't have to use one hand to hold the book open. It takes up barely any room, so I can carry it in my purse all day, and I don't have to lug a hundred pounds of pages on vacation. If I finish a book, all I have to do is download another one. No matter where I am.

6. My phone. I can't believe I'm even saying this, but it has become an important piece of equipment.  While I enjoy Instagram and getting on the internet, and the maps and email make life easier, it's really because of my ability to stay in contact with people that I chose this. I text and call people all the time. When something funny happens, I can tell any one of my kids, my parents, my relatives, or my friends all over the world in a matter of seconds. I can ask someone how she's doing. I can set up a breakfast with a friend. I can wish someone a happy birthday.

7. My vacuum cleaner. I went through several vacuum cleaners in a relatively short amount of time. A couple of days before Buttercup's First Communion, when loads of people would descend on our house, yet another vacuum blew up. I had had enough. I went out and splurged on a Dyson. Hands down, it was the best vacuum purchase EVER! Seven years later, it's going strong, sucking up all the filth and food my progeny deposit on every floor.

8. My Dixie Chopper. This is no regular riding lawn mower. It's fast. It's big. Not only does it mow our 7 acres in just a few hours, I can use it to haul wood and rocks and gas tanks.  Plus, it works like a charm when I need to drag a dead pig out to the back pasture.

9. My deep freeze. Can't imagine where I'd put 300 pounds of pork, fruit and veggie pies for the chickens, extra veggies from the garden, and extra meals I sometimes prepare without that behemoth in the basement.

10. My new washer and dryer. For almost two years, we lived with a washer that couldn't spin our clothes. We were ringing them out before putting them in the dryer. A dryer that was on its last spins anyway.  It took hours and hours to get our clothes dry. There was constantly a backup in the hampers.  I'm happy to report, NOT ANYMORE! I can wash every article of clothing in the house in half a day. Which means a serious backup of clean clothes on and around the couch that need folded, but at least those clothes are clean!

Wow. Looking this list over, I have to wonder..."When did I get so uncool?"

The kids would answer, "You never were cool."

Bryan would agree.

I'd retort, "Says the man who wore velcro-fly shorts through high school."

And then I'd realize they are right.  I never was cool.  If I were, I wouldn't have married a man who wore velcro-fly shorts through high school.

So be it.

What would you put on your list of things you don't want to live without?

To see what others thought, feel free to head over to Lisa's!

The Golden Spoons

Have a lovely day!

Monday, January 26, 2015

It's Just Me Being Happy to Have Kids in a Catholic School

We Catholics get asked a lot of questions by non-Catholics.  They are curious about what we do and why we do it.  I love it when people ask me questions.  Not only do I get to help them understand, it helps me understand some things, too.  The Church has a long history, and I don't know all of it.  I am always reading and listening and learning about it.

A common question people ask is, "Why do you send your children to Catholic school?"

Well, it's Catholic Schools Week across the country, so I figured this was a good time to let you all know why we send our kids.  Long-time readers know the importance of our church and school family in our lives, but I don't think I've ever spelled out why.

1.  First and foremost, our kids are not only allowed to talk about God, but they do it all day long.  They begin and end the school day with prayer.  They pray before most of their classes.  They pray the rosary.  They read Scripture.  They discuss the role God plays in their lives.  They write about the ways God is calling them to be good stewards.  They learn Math and Science and Reading and Writing and Computers as all kids do, but the one difference is that God is a part of that learning.

2.  As Christians, we are called to love everyone.  Not just people who think like we do.  Not just people who are nice to us.  Not just people who have a way to pay us back.  Everyone. It is a big deal in our schools.  Service to others is stressed constantly.  There are food drives and walk-a-thons and letters to veterans and prayers for those in pain and carrying heavy things for visitors and raising money for Heifer International.  From 6th grade through high school, all students are required to complete service hours.  They work in food banks, play Euchre with residents in nursing homes, babysit while parents attend church events, make meals for the homeless, make cookies for prison inmates, tutor children in homeless shelters, and clean up the streets in downtown Indianapolis. They learn that they were not put on this earth to hoard their talents to their own benefit, but to use them to serve others.

3. The school calendar follows the liturgical calendar. Clearly, public schools shouldn't have to serve meatless lunches on Fridays during Lent or allow kids to leave school to attend Mass on holy days of obligation. By going to a Catholic school, we don't have to worry about it. During Advent, the kids focus on preparing for His birth.  They are able to have a true Christmas program and sing Silent Night. They participate in Stations of the Cross during Lent.    They can have a rabbi come in to walk them through a Seder meal.

4. Let's just talk about school Masses for a minute.  I never leave one without at least one tear in my eye.  Each week, the Mass is completely led by students (except for the priest, of course).  They are the cantors and choir, the servers around the altar, the readers of Scripture and petitions, the ushers and the gift bearers.  And this all starts when the kids are in kindergarten.  There is nothing like watching a 5 year old standing on his tippy toes to reach the microphone in order to read God's word.  Most of the time we can just see the tops of their heads as they read in their adorable little voices. These kids aren't just passive members of their Church.  They are active participants helping to bring God to others.

5. For a variety of reasons, the people at our school are very much a family. By and large, Catholic schools are grades K-8. Kids get to be in the building with their siblings (and if the area is anything like ours, with lots of cousins, too!) for years. With little kids around, teenage middle schoolers have a higher expectation to behave themselves and be helpful. In fact, when our school added a preschool, their room was put directly across the hall from the 8th grade rooms.  It warms a heart to see all of these big and little kids interacting and taking care of each other on a daily basis. Just yesterday, Buttercup was telling a group of us how much she enjoyed the hugs and hellos she constantly received in the halls from children whom she had led at VBC one summer.

I could go on about Catholic schools all day long, but it all boils down to one reason.  At a Catholic school, our kids are not only allowed, but encouraged, to talk about and live the faith and values they learn at home and grow in their own hearts.

Our family is very blessed, to be sure.

If you'd like to read more about why people send their children to Catholic schools or what to do if you are thinking about sending your kids to one, there are many great posts linked up over at Rita's blog, Catholic Review.

I know many of you are not Catholic, so if you have a question about anything Catholic, please feel free to ask me.  If I don't know the answer, I'll find it for you!

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Ups and Downs of Being Thankful, TToT Week 84

When a child of mine tries out for a team, of course I want him to get on a team with his friends.  However, I've been clear with my athletes that I am more concerned about who will be in the stands with me.  I want to enjoy myself during the many, many hours I will be spending with them.

Take last weekend, for example.  Phoenix had a three-day volleyball tournament in Chicago.  We spent at least 8 hours in the gym together each day.  Include meals and travel, and that is a whole mess of parental togetherness.

Fortunately, the parents of Phoenix's teammates are fun, nice, and great spectators.  I had a fantastic time. (That's my #1.)

It just so happens that our friends with whom we vacation every summer were at the very same volleyball tournament.  We knew ahead of time that they would be there, and since they are Turken's Godparents, I brought Turken along for the weekend.  We were able to see quite a bit of them, as well as to cheer their son on during his games.  (#2!)

That much time in a gym, combined with ridiculously late nights, could go terribly wrong when one brings her six year old.  Fortunately, Turken isn't an ordinary six year old.  That child ROCKED the weekend in Chicago.  I never even had to give him a "stop that" look.  Not once!  (#3!)

We didn't leave Chicago until 3:30, and it is a 3 and a half hour drive.  After the exhausting weekend we had, it was going to be a very, very long 3 and a half hours.  And Phoenix would have been no help in keeping me alert.  Fortunately, Phoenix's coach was abandoned by the other coaches and needed a ride back to Indy.  We had room, and he was extremely helpful in getting us out of downtown Chicago and awake for the drive.  (#4!)

While we were gone, Bryan and the kids had plenty of fun.  He even left work early on Monday to take the kids bowling.  (#5!)

I managed to get three workouts in this week.  I even took the opportunity to use the hotel's workout room while in Chicago while the boys slept in one day.  Sure, there were a few problems the day I decided to try swimming, but the workouts went well.  (#6!)

All of the working out is paying off. Not in the "Hey!  My muffin top is gone!" sort of way, but in a "Wow!  My knee doesn't hurt!"  A chicken snuck out of the coop when I went in to feed them, and I had to chase it down.  Three weeks ago, I would have been crying in pain as I weaved in and out between the trees and fences and weeds and outhouses.  Today, I didn't even realize what I had done until it was over.  (#7!)

And, while I chased that chicken down, I wasn't freezing my tail off.  The weather this week has been quite mild.  The kids have played outside every day and didn't even need a hat or gloves.  (#8!)

On Thursday and Friday I actually had time to get some much needed cleaning done around the house.  It's not often that I have a completely productive day, but I had one on Friday.  I love that kind of day.  (#9!)

Speaking of cleaning, some big things are happening for my 90 year old grandma.  She's selling her house and moving into an independent living facility.  When I heard, I immediately wanted to cry.  (I actually did cry as soon as Bryan got home and I said it out loud.)  I knew how hard it would be for her.  It means everything about going home is changing.  Her house is the party house.  Anytime someone comes into town, everyone gathers at Grandma's house to play cards and have fun.  It is the perfect house for such things.  My grandma has lived there since my dad was a teenager.  It's only a couple of miles from the house where I grew up.  I was there all the time!  I hate that things are changing.  I hate that we are getting older and things will change drastically at some point.

And then I talked to Grandma.  As much as she knows this is a good move, she is sad.  She is going to miss her back porch.  She is going to miss having everyone over to play cards. She is going to miss her space.

But what we both have to focus on is what she's gaining.  She won't have to worry about her yard anymore. She won't have to worry about wearing herself out compulsively cleaning her entire house. She won't have to worry that she will die and no one will find her for days.

The place she is going is spotlessly clean.  The food is delicious. The day she toured it, she ran into three women with whom she was in a mothers' group decades ago as well as a distant cousin she didn't know she had.  My mother-in-law works in the nursing home on the property.  There is a bus that will take her where she wants to go.  And it's Catholic, so there is a Mass on the property every week.  Shockingly, there was a room available for her.  The waiting time to get one of the apartments is usually a year and a half. But, everyone currently on the waiting list doesn't want to move in the winter.  She'll be moving in February.

While we are so sad to be moving into this new phase of life, we are so grateful that it is to such a marvelous fit for her.  (#10)

Well, that was my week.  Now tell me about yours.

Have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Weighing In on Working Out. It Is Worth It?

I stink at this working out thing. No, really.  I literally stink.  Tell me. When do people who work out shower??  For my entire life, I have showered first thing in the morning.  Even when the babies were coming every year, I made sure to take a shower before the kids woke up every single morning. It's the only time of day when I CAN take a shower.  While it seems mighty ridiculous, I still take a shower at 6:30 in the morning.  Even when I'm going to the gym at 9:00.  And then I go through my day smelling worse than Pepe le Pew.  

Swim days are better. Chlorine is a clean smell.

Unfortunately, there have been some snafus with the swimming, too.  Which is amazing, seeing as how I've only been swimming one day so far.  Probably should have thought through the lift weights then swim plan.

Choosing to wiggle my way into my new Speedo in the gym's locker room after lifting instead of at home was a mistake.  The locker room is not the ideal place to realize that I never did use that razor hanging in my shower. (I said I showered every day.  Never said anything about shaving every day!) Too bad Speedos don't come with those cute little skirts to cover up such graphic lapses in memory.  Or leggings.  Or sleeves. The only thing going my way was the fact that the average age of the 5 people in the pool area was 70.  Without their glasses, they probably didn't realize anything was amiss.  Right?

If only the indignity I endured that morning ended there.

If only.

You know how when you dry off with a towel, you aren't really all the way dry?  Your skin still has moisture that the towel can't soak up. It's why people like to wear robes when getting out of the shower.  It gives a body time to get rid of that last bit of moisture before putting clothes on.  Otherwise, the moisture has a tendency to grab hold of the clothes as they are put on.

A little FYI: It really likes to grab hold of tight-fitting things. Take, oh I don't know...say...sports bras.  By design, they are a bit snug.  Getting a sports bra over one's head can be a bit ungraceful even when the person is bone dry.  When a person still has that little bit of moisture that the towel didn't soak up on her person, getting a sports bra on looks a lot like shoving a wet cat through a funnel.  Not that anyone should or would shove a wet cat through a funnel.  It's just the best visual I could come up with to describe the horror that was me getting dressed.

Three times, People.  Three times I tried to get that sports bra on the appropriate part of my body. Three times it got stuck at my armpits.  My arms were all akimbo, trying desperately to reach the bottom of the bra to unroll it and pull it down. Three times I had to jiggle, wiggle, and tear my way back out of the sports bra to try a different tactic.  Except there is no other tactic.

I finally just gave up and put my nice, loose T-shirt on and threw the bra in my bag.

I guess there is one benefit to being a size Almost A.  With a jacket on, no one knows the difference.

So far, the only benefit I see to actually working out is being able to walk around town in my pajamas.

In the past 10 years, I have been sleeping in sweats or yoga pants.  Only people who have slept at my house have seen them.

Until December, when I first wore them for the purpose God and Nike intended.

Have mercy, those things are comfortable!

In conclusion, working out is going just fine.  My knee is improving by leaps and bounds.  (For real!  I can actually hop a bit!) I have gotten past the "Good heavens, I am a super-duper, out of shape wimp!" phase and am currently residing in the "Look! I can hang at level 3 on the ellipticle for 10 whole minutes!" phase.

Baby steps, but steps nonetheless.

Do you have any embarrassing work out stories to tell?  Please?

Have a lovely day!

Monday, January 19, 2015

When Over-Legislation Almost Ruined Christmas, My Very First Monday Memory

I have been very nostalgic lately.  I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the fact that each year includes one of my big kids heading off to high school.  College is breathing down our necks.  Possibly the fact that I'll  be registering my baby for kindergarten in just 2 weeks has something to do with it.  Regardless, I have spent a good amount of time lately going through those old journals I kept when the kids were little.  While I do enjoy my teens, I really miss those days gone by.

I miss them so much I'm going to make you all relive them with me.

Lucky you.

I've decided that Mondays will be dedicated to posts about the days of old.

Why Monday?

Because today is Monday.

Anyone who has read this blog for more than a week knows I don't think ahead and plan!

Will it be every Monday?

No clue.  I told you I just thought of this idea today!

Shoot, I'm posting this at 11:00 on Monday night.  Clearly this has not been thought through.

If you need a plan, plan on at least once a month.

Today, for the inaugural Monday Memory, I give you the story about my little girl that got this whole things started...

Buttercup has always been a smart, independent girl.

When she was 6 months old, she learned to crawl.  Unlike all of my boys, who never wanted to leave the room I was in, she would crawl off to the playroom to amuse herself.

When she was a year old, she never spoke, so I assumed she couldn't.  And then I found her sitting behind a chair with a picture book.  Each time she turned the page, she would point to the photo and say what the picture showed.  "Dog.  Ball.  Block..."  That sort of thing.

When she was three, I discovered her sitting on the couch, each of her younger brothers on either side of her.  She was "reading" a book to them.  I didn't think anything of it at first, assuming it was a book we had been reading a lot lately.  Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was a book we hadn't read in months.  And she was reading it word for word.

I tested her by giving her another book.

She read it.

I tested her further by showing her the cover of a magazine I had just gotten in the mail that day.

She read every single word on that cover.

When she was three.

From that point on, she never stopped reading.

While I was glad that she enjoyed reading so much, as she got older, it made life a little more difficult.  Nevermind finding chapter books on her reading level that were appropriate for a 5 year old.  Going through the grocery checkout lane (full of horrible magazine covers) with a kindergartener who can sound out unfamiliar words made me a quick study in distraction.

When she was five, Buttercup received a princess nightgown for Christmas.  Oh was she excited for bed that night!  Immediately after finishing her dinner, she ran upstairs to put it on.

Five minutes later, she came downstairs, wearing old pajamas, crying harder than I had seen her cry in a long time.  She didn't even cry that hard when she pulled her elbow out of socket.

It took us a few minutes to calm her down enough to even find out what was wrong.

Through her sobs, she moaned, "I...can'! if I wear them...I'll...catch...fiiiiiiire!"

She honest to goodness thought she was going to spontaneously burst into flames if she wore them to bed.

It took me a second, but the answer finally dawned on me.

On her new nightgown was a tag.

And Buttercup had read it.

"For child's safety, garment should fit snugly.
This garment is not flame resistant.
Loose-fitting garment is more likely to catch fire."

We'll save the post about really stupid legislation for another time and another series.

Have a lovely day!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Happy to Be Alive, Ten Things of Thankful Week 83

My family was not killed in a horrible car accident.

Thankfuls 1-10 right there.

As always, Bryan was taking the kids to school Wednesday morning.  As he moved into the left turn lane, his car shuddered, went "KA-CHUNK!" and stopped dead.  The car was still running, but it wouldn't move an inch.  He couldn't even put it into park.

After getting the kids to school, I waited in a much less trafficked area for the tow truck to arrive.  Why not take a photo?  
I'll skip the long, boring story and cut to the chase.

Hours later, we were told that the front axle on his car cracked in half right there in the turn lane of an extremely busy 4-lane thoroughfare.  If he would have been making that turn when it happened, my children would have been smashed to smithereens.  If he would have been on the freeway when it happened...I don't even want to think about it.

But, I have more thankfuls, so we won't just end with the accident that wasn't.

(2) Shockingly, a new front axle, with labor, only cost $350 to fix.  We were expecting thousands, which we wouldn't have paid, seeing as how Bryan's car has almost 200,000 miles on it.  BUT we can pay $350.  The car is already fixed and in our driveway.

(3) This internet thing has brought me all sorts of laughter and fun.  This week, I received a message from Kristi.  In her understated, hilarious way, she told me about a dream she had the night before starring my boy, Cuckoo.  I have been laughing about it for days.

(4) Bryan and Star returned safely from Texas. Not only did they have a blast at the big football game (First ever real national championship football game, and Ohio State (the state where we're from) was in it), they also did all sorts of other things to make Star's trip extra fun.  Sure, it was only 30 degrees half the time, but it didn't stop them from enjoying themselves.

(5) It was 35 degrees on Thursday.  And sunny.  After the bitter cold we've been having, playing on the playground was a necessity.  Even if it was preschool pajama day and he didn't have clothes to change into.

(6) I am heading to Chicago this weekend for Phoenix's volleyball tournament.  Originally we were supposed to leave Friday afternoon.  However, we got the schedule, and he doesn't play until 4:00 Saturday.  We were able to cancel the hotel for one night and wait until Saturday to head out.

(7) There are some awesome clearance sales going on.  I was thrilled to find a fancy, fancy dress for my niece's birthday.  It had been $90, I got it for $13.  She is a tomboy in princess clothing, so I made sure she knew I expected her to wear the dress on normal, play outside days and not to save it for a special occasion.

(8) I was able to have breakfast and catch up with a friend on Tuesday.

(9) I have been able to get to the gym several days this week.  My sore muscles are the proof.  And I was able to find a swim suit on sale.  With the $20 in coupons I had for the store, they were practically yelling at me to buy it and get my butt in the pool.  I'll be swimming laps come Tuesday.

(10) Our church/school community is the best.  We'll leave it at that.

How's your week been?  What made you stop and say, "Thank you!" this week?

Link it up or tell me in the comments.

Have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Monkey in My Ear

A howler monkey screams in my ear each morning when it's time for us to wake up.

You need to know this in order to understand this story.

I did not put the alarm on howler monkey setting.  Bryan did a couple of weeks ago when I was out of town.

He was afraid he would sleep through the lovely, calm music setting it was on.

The first morning after my return, when the howler monkey went off at 6:00 am, my head shot off the pillow and my arms automatically began flailing, shooting blind but just wanting to make that horrific sound stop.

Once my heart began beating at a normal rate, I thought to myself, "For the love of all that is holy, make sure you change that before morning".  

I didn't remember to change it until 6:00 am once again was upon us and the howler monkey came alive in my ear.

"*%#@!" said I, once my arms stopped their swinging.  I got up to get the kids ready for school, repeating to myself, "Change that alarm to the normal volume as soon as the kids leave!"

And again, I forgot until 6:00 am, when my heart shot out of my chest and I flew up to catch it.

Because my lack of memory is completely reliable, you should have been able to predict that the alarm is still at howler monkey setting.

Now to the actual story...

On Sunday, Phoenix had a volleyball tournament in Louisville, Kentucky.  Since Bryan was in Texas with Star, and I had other places to be at home, I found a mom of one of Phoenix's teammates to take him.

She was going to pick him up at 6:10 am.

Which meant I had to set the alarm for 5:40.  In the A.M.

A ridiculous time for an alarm to be set, for sure.

Especially on a weekend.  

Double especially on a weekend when Bryan wasn't home, so I was up super late.

Triple especially when one kid needed a drink at 12:30 and one had a nightmare at 3:30.

So, as scheduled, at 5:40 am, the howler monkey took to scaring the beetlejuice out of me.

In my rattled state, I slammed my hand on the alarm.

I threw the blankets off of me and stood at the side of my bed.

I took one step towards making my way around the bed.

To my surprise, I didn't make it.

My legs went out from under me, and down to the ground I went.

I sat on the floor, back against the mattress, thinking, "How the hell did I get down here?"

(Howler monkeys bring out my inner sailor apparently.)

I wasn't in pain.

I was just confused as to how I had gotten into such a position.

I pulled myself back up to a standing position, using the bed as a brace.

That's when I realized what was wrong.

Apparently, my left thigh didn't hear the howler monkey.

It was still asleep.

My left thigh.



How does one's thigh, and ONLY one's thigh, fall asleep?

Of course, I will never know.  When one is woken by a howler monkey in one's ear, one doesn't take note of the way one was sleeping when awoken.

Was I on my stomach?  On my side?  Was my leg hanging over the edge of the bed?

It will forever be a mystery.

All I know is that my left thigh was asleep and I had to get Phoenix out of bed and ready by 6:05.

Because the mom who was picking him up is always quite prompt.

I hobbled along, holding on to the bed frame, the dresser, the door, the chair, the wall.  

Whatever was handy, really.

It wasn't until later that I noticed the pain.

My left knee (not the one I ripped apart playing soccer) hurt whenever my pajama pants touched it.

I lifted my pant leg.

Full disclosure:  This was taken 16 hours after the incident.  After the scratch scabbed over and some of the swelling around the scratch went down.

At least now I have a reminder.  

When the blankets hit my leg, I'll feel the pain and think, "Silence the monkey!"  

And then I'll laugh.

Because, honestly, who says that?

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Frigid Weather Ain't Gonna Get Me Down or Keep Me from Laughing, TToT #82

1.  So, it's cold outside, but I'm not going to complain.  Sure, it is so absolutely frigid out there that it can freeze my tears that are still inside my face, but I have a house.  A house with a furnace.  A furnace that we can afford to keep running.  I only have to go outside for short bits of time to feed animals or get the car started, and when I do, I have a coat and hat and gloves that will keep me comfortable.  No.  I'm not going to complain.

2.  Despite the cold, we're getting some eggs from the girls.  It's always fun when a new flock starts laying.  You never know what you're going to find.  We've had a shell-less egg (just the membrane holding everything in) and teeny eggs and wavy shelled eggs.  One chicken has given us about 6 eggs.  Every single one has had itty bitty double yolks.

3.  Kids who are trying to understand math make me smile.  In the car today, Cuckoo and I had this conversation:

C: What is 2 minus 4?
Me: -2
C (before I could explain what -2 meant): Oh.  My gloves are size negative 2T
Me: OOOOHHHH!!!  They are size 2-4T, meaning they are for kids approximately 2 to 4 years old!

4.  High school report cards came in this week. Buttercup's was shining, as we expected. Phoenix's was quite enlightening.  Three teachers commented that he was showing improvement and 2 said he was a pleasure to have in class.  What this means to us is, "FINALLY!  WE FOUND SOMETHING THAT WORKS!!!"  The ADD medicine and the homework system now in place have helped Phoenix turn things around.  Completely.  Hooray!

5. For some unknown reason, when the temps dropped, my knee swelled up gigantic and hurt like the devil. I still went to the gym and couldn't even get my knee to go through 3 rotations on the stationary bike.  I was a bit nervous for a while, wondering if perhaps I managed to get a blood clot or some such thing.  But then my wrists started hurting, too.  And my jaw.  Oh.  Hello flare.  I thought I was done with you.  Apparently not only am I NOT done with flares, but my knee is extraordinarily sensitive to them.  Thankfully, after a couple days I am feeling much better.

6.  I spent some of one of those not feeling good days like this:

7.  Bryan and Star have made it to Dallas safely.  It is Star's year for a trip, and they scored tickets to the Ohio State v. Oregon game.  It's been fun seeing the photos from Bryan and texting with Star as the trip goes on.

8.  Remember how Bryan and Phoenix picked out a gigantic tree that took 6 of us to get upright and never did get straight?  Well, it was time to take it down.  Problem was, we hadn't watered it since week 2.  4 weeks ago.  You know how tree branches bend, fold up, and move nicely?  Yeah, well, they don't do that when they are dead and not watered.

Um...who shrunk the doorway?

Giant is standing normally.  This is really how wide that blasted tree was.  And it wouldn't bend!

The doorway to get out of the house was even smaller than the doorway to get out of the room it had been in.  You'll notice Giant's face.  He knew it wasn't going to work.

Have you ever read the Winnie the Pooh story where Pooh gets stuck in Rabbit's door because he ate too much honey?

Oh, so many similes and metaphors going through my head...

I jumped in, and with two of us heaving together (very much unlike the time Phoenix was supposed to be helping me heave a dead pig) we were able to pull that whale of a tree through that blowhole of a door.

We.  Got.  the.  Tree.  Out.  of.  the. House.

9.  Our house did not burn down because of a ridiculously dry tree getting together with a stray spark from the lights.

10.  The square on the calendar for Saturday is blank.  Utterly and completely bare of responsibilities.  It is especially helpful since it is 1:10am as I finish this post.  I never sleep well when Bryan is gone, so it will be nice to have some nap time.

My word, I need to go to bed already!

Link up or leave a comment detailing all that made you smile this week.

Have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I'm Really, Really Glad Life Is Not a Highway

As you may remember, Phoenix has his temporary drivers license.  Bryan does not have the personality to do well in the passenger seat of someone who is learning how to drive.  He's a bit... shall we say... ridiculously short on patience.

If he were to teach Phoenix, the lesson would go something like this:

Phoenix drifts a bit off to the left, getting too close to the yellow line.
Bryan panics and yells, "GET ON YOUR OWN SIDE!"
Phoenix panics, jerks the wheel, loses control, and runs into a tree.

So, as the only calm, cool, and collected person in the house, I have become, by default, the designated apologizer.

I have found that my job is more apologizing to all of the folks Phoenix ticks off than really teaching him how to drive.  I don't know if everyone who sees my mime of "I'm so sorry.  I saw you, but my new teen driver did not.  I tried to tell him, but he was too focused on trying to decide if he should move the turn signal up or down when he turns right." understands, but I try.

To be honest, it has been going better than I expected.  After only an hour or so behind the wheel, he mostly got "stay in your lane" down pat when traveling on a two-lane back road.

After 2 hours, he can almost make a turn without coming to a complete stop or going wildly too fast and making me cry "SlowslowslowslowslowslowSLOWDOWN!"

Honestly, we were doing just fine.

Until last night.

His practice finished at 9:00, and I thought, "There couldn't be a better time than 9:00 on a Sunday night to take his first try on the freeway. And, it's only 8 miles to our exit!"

Well, I now know there is a better time.


Never is a better time.

Ya'll, I have not been that scared since I was 12 years old and (while wandering through the woods) came across my narcotics officer dad talking with what could only have been one of his informants.  But back then, I could run home and sob on my mom's shoulder.

This time, I was the mom, and I was a little too busy trying to keep us alive to sob.

The speed limit is 65 miles per hour on that stretch of freeway.

We went 55...75... 60...70...50...40...65...55...73...50...

At one point, we were following a car going 50.  I suggested he use this opportunity to try his hand at passing a car.  We verbally went through the checklist of how to do it safely:  check all mirrors, flip your turn signal on, check your blindspot by glancing over your shoulder.

Wish I could have predicted he'd look over his right shoulder while moving into the left lane.  I would have been more specific in our little chat.

Did you know that teen driving is kind of like dog years?  One mile per hour for a seasoned driver is equal to 20 miles per hour when a teen is behind the wheel.

It's true.

While on that freeway, we were going up to 1400mph!  No wonder we were nervous!

I know, by the time March rolls around, he'll be much better and more comfortable.  He'll be able to pass a test and get his license and all will be well.

But guess what else happens in March?

Buttercup is eligible to get her temporary permit.

And I'll have to teach her how to drive.

And 15 months later, before Buttercup even gets her license, it will be Star's turn.

And 14 months later, before Star gets his license, I'll be teaching Giant.

I don't know if my nerves can handle the stress I'll be throwing at it over the next 4 years.

I would really like to invest in a vehicle that has a flashing neon sign on top that reads "Student Driver!  I'm Sorry for any Trouble I Am Causing You!"

Oh, and brakes on the passenger side.

Brakes would be helpful.

I've about put a whole in the floorboards already, slamming on my imaginary brakes so often.

Brakes would be really helpful.

So, pray for us, please.

Pray that I can keep my calm demeanor, no matter how scared I get.

Pray that Phoenix (and then Buttercup and the rest) stays calm and doesn't veer off into traffic or a cornfield in a fit of "I don't know what to dooooooo!"

Pray that the drivers around us are calm and sympathetic and alert.  Mostly alert, so they can swerve or brake suddenly when someone accidentally cuts them off.

Pray for my nerves.

I'm pretty sure that while you all age gracefully and normally over the next 4 years, I'll be aging at a faster clip.  My face will probably be frozen in a state of "Yikes!".  My hands will forever be in a white-knuckle grip.  I'll be twitchy, jumping at every sudden or not-so-sudden movement.

It's not going to be pretty.

And if you are driving in the Indianapolis area in the next 4 years, if you see a woman in the passenger side of a car, looking quite distressed while pantomiming, that will be me.  I'm simply trying to say, "I'm sorry".

Or "Help me".

One of the two.

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year! TToT 81


Anyone else completely messed up as to what day of the week it is?  These mid-week holidays really mess up my internal calendar.  I'm not complaining.  At least 10 times on Thursday I had the thought, "Ugh, it's Sunday" only to remember it was only Thursday a few seconds later.  I was blissfully happy each time.  Nothing like a good break from school.

We Catholics see Christmas Day as the first day of celebration.  We celebrate all the days until the Epiphany, so our tree is still up and we will still be saying Merry Christmas while we greet you with new year good wishes.

Somewhat related...

I don't tweet, but I saw this tweet from "Professor Snape" on the sidebar of The More, The Messier and it made me laugh:

There are 364 days until Christmas, and people already have their lights up.  Unbelievable.

1.  I'm thankful for funny people.

2.  The week between Christmas and the start of school is one of my favorites of the year.  There are no deadlines.  There is no homework or commitments.  It's full of relaxation and a bit of organization.  We even had most of the time off from sports.  Of course, 6 months ago I was an idiot and scheduled 5 dentist appointments for this  week, but it didn't deter us too much.  This week was awesome.

3.  The kids got some new games and we pulled out some old ones we had never played with the kids before.  If you are in the market for some fun, might I suggest Clue, Wits and Wisdom, and Beyond Balderdash?  The kids have asked to play those more than any others this week.

4.  I also use breaks to get some organization and cleaning done.  Each day the kids are assigned one job that must get done.  For example, yesterday was clean out under and around your bed.  Depending on the child, that job could take anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes, but it makes a huge difference in my sanity and the overall look of their rooms.

5.  New Years Eve was spent with my book club and our spouses.  As always, we had a great time playing games and laughing our fool heads off.

6.  New Years Day started off early (The little boys who went to bed at normal time didn't seem to understand that Bryan and I went to bed WAY later than normal, so they woke at their normal 7:30 and expected us to do the same.) but beautifully.

 7.  The day brought more laughter and fun, as we had dinner with one of our favorite families.  After we ate, all of the kids (ages 20-6) went upstairs to the "playroom" to play a game.  After about an hour, we moms went up to see what they were doing.  All 9 kids were in a circle around the room, boy-girl-boy-girl, playing "Catch Phrase".  They were having a ball.  My friend and I watched for a little bit, then went back downstairs.  We wanted to stay up there with them to play, since we knew we'd have fun, too, but we both thought it was best for the kids to leave them be.  We've known this family for 11 years.  We've gone on vacation with them twice.  But as the kids grow, we see less and less of each other.  It melted my heart to see them all pick up and have fun just like they did when they were little.

8.  I always like it when kids want to help in the kitchen, and breaks give the big kids more chances to do so.

9.  All 6 kids have been to the dentist, and not one cavity was to be found.

10. Yesterday, I received a package in the mail.  Denise from Girlie on the Edge had mentioned last week that she gave some relatives flashing light teeth for Christmas.  I commented that I had never even heard of such a thing, so she secretly sent some to me.  Hilarious.

When I started this blog (four years ago!?!?) I never imagined I would make friends through it.  Yet here I sit, with friends all over the world sending me gifts and cards.  We chat online.  We text.  We pray for each other.  We laugh with each other.  We even meet sometimes.  It's been a wonderful surprise.

Alrighty folks, you're up.  What bit of wonderful has happened to you this week?

Have a lovely day!

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