Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I know you've been dying for an answer...

...to where we went this weekend:

So congratulations to Painted Maypole, who guessed correctly yesterday. You win....um....nothing, but good job anyway.

The camp we went to was just like living out the first scenes of "The Parent Trap", except no one found their long lost twin and pushed her in a lake and then cut her hair. Otherwise just the same. We had a great time, and can I just talk about the turtle for a moment?

First of all, this is a six year old's hand, which makes this turtle the tiniest one ever. The girls named him Cutie and tormented him for a half an hour before I forced them to leave him by the lake and continue their hike. The hike which was punctuated from that point on by weeping and wailing and questioning the validity of 'Leave No Trace' ethics: Take only photographs, leave only footprints. (But can't we take photographs and turtles?)

Upon returning home, every single girl on the trip listed finding Cutie as their favorite part of the weekend.
Since I am still too exhausted to coherently type, I will leave you with two words to describe this picture of Grace: String Bean.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Middle Child

Katie had a friend over this morning, and Tommy spent the better part of half an hour creating a 'No Girls Allowed' sign for his bedroom door after finding them in his Legos one too many times. I can't say whether or not it worked, because it was time to go just as he was finishing it.

Time alone with him is hard to come by, what with all the girls that hang around him all day, poor thing, so I decided to drop Katie off at the neighbor's house and take my little man out to lunch. He's been begging me to go to McDonald's ever since he won the grand prize at the neighborhood carnival last weekend: a free Happy Meal every week for a year.

That's 52 Happy Meals, for those of you counting at home.

Also 52 Happy Meal toys covering the floor of his room, in case you were wondering.

I can't begin to tell you how excited I am that he won that prize. In fact, as they were announcing it at the carnival, my comment to my friend Julie was "WHO would want to win THAT?", just in time to hear my son's name announced and watch him pump his arms up in the air, shouting, "I WON!"

No, we're all losers in this situation, son.

Anyway, we took the high-quality copy of a certificate up to Mickey D's to claim 1/52 of his prize. And the two of us sat there alone, talking, visiting, and all of a sudden my heart just wanted to burst.

He is so sweet, this kid, so articulate, so affectionate, so thoughtful. I couldn't believe how grown-up he was acting. He has almost completely lost his baby-talk mispronunciations, and the tantrums that used to punctuate my day (dare I say this) have disappeared completely. He holds doors open for me and takes out the trash. He cleans up his dishes and brushes his teeth without being asked, then tries to hide his smile when I ask him to go do it. Then he busts out laughing, "I already did, Mama!"

For a long time, Tommy and I didn't get along. Don't mistake me, I've always loved him just as much as the other two, but the kid knows how to be difficult. We have gone toe-to-toe over every subject in his little world. There were weeks that went by where I was just hoping to get through one morning without having to deal with one of his tantrums. We have had a hard time understanding each other over the last few years, let's put it that way.

But today, I sat next to that kid and I just admired him. He insisted on getting the Big Kids' Meal, but declined the toy that was offered with it. (Dear McDonald's: Your American Idol toys are feeble. Thank you so very much. Sincerely, Chrissy) Halfway through the third nugget, he was already sweet talking me into getting some apple pies. (Of course it worked.)

We had as enjoyable a lunch as one can possibly have at McDonald's, and we headed to Kroger. Every Kroger employee recognizes me, perhaps it's because I shop there every three days, or maybe it's due to the squirmy, noisy brood of children by which I am usually surrounded. Everyone stopped to comment to Tommy about being the only one with Mom today. He just ate up the attention, and the banana that the produce guy gave him. We even chatted with the firefighters who always shop there, and they were enthused about Tommy's firefighter boots.

Tonight I went up to the school and registered him for Kindergarten. My baby boy. Sniff. I held it together, only tearing up slightly while gazing lovingly at his birth certificate. This is the first time I've been sad about the thought of Tommy starting school. Maybe it didn't hit me until today. I've had an extra year with him, after deciding not to send him to start school a week before his 5th birthday. I wasn't sure of the decision at the time, but now I am certain it was the right one. I've really enjoyed this extra time with him, and it occurs to me that once these preschool years are gone, they will not be back. Ever.

On second thought, maybe having lunch out together once a week will be a good thing.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Weekend in Pictures

That last picture pretty much sums up the whole thing. As an added bonus, here is my little babushka getting ready for her report last week. I am pleased to report that she is *finally* going back to school today after being sick for 7 days. I was hoping we would be done with this virus now, but judging from the number of people in my house that were coughing last night, that hope might be unfounded.

Friday, April 18, 2008

On Blogging and Its Influence on Music

It occurred to me a few months ago that I hadn't bought a new CD in over a year and a half, and that all of the music I was hearing, in the car, in the house, was becoming stale. So then I went to my trusty blog and talked about my love for U2 and announced it was time for some new (old) tunes. On the recommendation of my lovely commentors, I bought U2-18 and I have been loving it. The kids and I rock out to it on the way to school. Tommy begs me to play #15, 'Elevation', over and over. It cracks me up.

Then, an unknown little blogger named BooMama wrote about a singer that she loves called Dave Barnes. My mother, who lurks on everyone's blog, including yours, bought the CD and loved it so much she sent one to me and both of my sisters. (By the way, if you are a real life friend of mine and you write an emotionally wrenching post, my mom will lurk on your blog and then call me to talk about whether or not you are going to be okay.)

So anyway, now I am up to two CD's in two weeks. Then, again on BooMama's blog, I found out about a free CD giveaway from a fella called Matt Maher, so I signed up for that one, and it came in the mail last weekend. Ask and you shall receive.

Now I have plenty of fresh tunes to enjoy, and I am loving all of them.

The only problem I have with new music is that I don't know the words to it. And anyone who has ever ridden in a car with me knows that I must sing every single word or I cannot properly enjoy a song.

My husband snickered when I told him I hadn't heard of Matt Maher before, and immediately named off four Matt Maher songs that we sing in church. Greg has a savant-like ability to recognize praise songs and their writers within the first two chords of the song. Then he can pick up a guitar and play it and sing every word. I, on the other hand, will sometimes be halfway through the chorus before I realize that I have heard it before.

Greg also snickered at how excited I was to get free stuff to review on the blog. I haven't mentioned this before, but he has a very well known professional (techie geek) blog, and it has turned into a successful part-time income for him. One side effect of his success is that he gets free products in the mail almost every day to review. Which would be really exciting to me if the products weren't so steeped in techie geekiness. And so cluttery in my house.*

The Matt Maher CD, Empty and Beautiful, has been playing in my car for a few days, and so far it has been quite nice. It's mellow and lovely. "Your Grace is Enough" has been a favorite song around our house for a while now, especially for a certain kid named Grace. We also sing "For your Glory" at our church, which I love. This CD is on sale here for $8.97.

*I briefly considered linking to his blog, but it's not anonymous enough for me. But if you already know my last name and Google it, you'll land right smack on his website. And if you e-mail me and convince me you're not a stalker, I'll be glad to send you the link. I just didn't want to post it on here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Another Day, Another Virus, and Another Rant (UPDATED)

After working on her Russia project for the past FOUR months, researching 3 reputable sources, putting together a 4 minute oral presentation, rehearsing said presentation 89 times, making a museum board display, coming up with a native Russian costume, and sweet-talking her Daddy into making her a power-point presentation, my daughter Grace woke up today, the day of her Grand Presentation, with a fever, sore throat, and NO voice.


Could. Not. Talk.

Which, for my little chatterbox, is a catastrophic event.

So I made her lay in her bed for the entire day, which was pretty much torture for her, and then I dosed her up with Tylenol, dressed her in her Russian finest, and hauled her up to the school for Presentation Night.

She did a great job. She sounded a little scratchy and looked a little wan, but she performed wonderfully. Afterwards, she stood by her museum board and answered questions about Russian Ballet and Kasha and kopeks and rubles, and I was thoroughly impressed.

Which brings me to my current rant about parents doing projects for their children. Parents: do not do projects for your children. It makes those of us who are lazy parent independent thinkers look really bad.

For instance, when Grace was working on her museum board, I was right there, ready to dive in with help. When she said she wanted to put the Russian flag and money on the board, I jumped in and offered to print out nice big, shiny pictures of it. Her response? "Oh, I was just going to draw them with colored pencils."

I tried to help her. I repeatedly offered to print Russian paintings, perhaps a map, a picture of a nice Russian palace or something, but she refused. She wanted to do it herself.

Then I remembered: Oh yeah, it's not my project, it's hers. So she hand wrote everything, drew all of the pictures herself, taped everything willy-nilly onto the board, and it looked, well, like she had done it herself.

Then we showed up tonight and put the board next to everyone else's. The elaborateness of these boards (FIRST GRADE boards, people) was astounding. There was one that had been constructed out of wood with trim and paint and shells and rocks hot-glued all on it. The kid standing in front of it announced to the group, "My Daddy made it!" Well duh. Everyone else's pictures were adhered at exact 90-degree angles, with all of the words typed neatly in different fonts.

Anyway, I was really proud of my girl, and she was really proud of herself.

In regards to the Power-Point presentation, may I say that we had refrained from doing one, even though we knew all of the other parents were going to, until her teacher sent home a note last week inquiring about her "additional visual aid". In addition to the costume. And the museum board. Whatever. So I picked up a box of Kasha from the international foods section, and my friend chipped in some Russian dolls, but Grace wanted to have Power-Point like all the other kids, so Daddy obliged.

And yes, I sewed her costume for her, because I am the greatest Mommy in the world...who happened to purchase pre-smocked material for a sundress on clearance last autumn and recently discovered that it might look Russian if she wore a peasant blouse under it. What of it?

In conclusion, my kid is smart and I am proud of her. Also, I am praising Jesus right now that this stinkin project is over. And I am praying her virus will be over soon, too. The end.

***Edited to add:
Okay, so I have no photo because I have a film camera and it will take me forever to get the pictures developed, HOWEVER, I forgot to mention that Grace's artwork was chosen for the back cover of the program! So here you go! Pictures to follow in about two weeks.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

People Watching at the Roller Rink on a Saturday Night

9 year old boys at full speed intentionally crashing into walls, then getting back up and doing it again.

13 year old girls giggling at everything. Happily out of earshot of her parents, one of them loudly uses profanity in the line behind me, then glances around to see if anyone heard. I give her my well practiced raised-eyebrow-look, and she looks defiantly back.

A large group of teenage girls, wearing tutus, tiaras, polka-dotted leggings, striped knee-socks, and/or Sponge Bob boxer shorts. Giggling wildly, snapping pictures of each other when they fall, and unabashedly dancing the hokey-pokey and the chicken dance, boisterously celebrating their friend's 16th birthday.

A Daddy teaching his 7 year old daughter how to skate, holding her hand and speaking encouragement as she struggles.

A 20-something, clearly single guy wearing a muscle shirt and tight jeans, showing off well-practiced tricks and moves on the skate floor, skating backwards and dancing to the music.

Middle aged parents sitting at the snack bar, keeping a roving eye out for their children while trying to converse over the blaring hip-hop music.

A small group of teenage girls, uncertain and self-conscious, who arrived together but look nothing alike, and who also have trouble explaining to their acquaintances their relationship to me. I am obviously of a different race than each of them, yet I am their chaperon for the evening. They call me their 'Auntie by marriage' or their 'family friend', mortified that someone from their school might find out the truth, that they reside in a group home and I am paid by the hour to parent them. They want to keep their distance from me, but they seek out my help nonetheless because their real parents never taught them how to skate.

Then there is me, a 30-something woman skating with two wobbly-footed teenage girls, mentally calculating what I will write on the worker's comp claim when I fall and break both wrists. Once the girls are confident enough without me, I sit and watch, distancing myself from the middle-aged moms at the snack bar as I do not consider myself one of them just yet, wistfully remembering the days when I was one of the 16 year olds at the birthday party.

Monday, April 7, 2008

We had a wild weekend around here, complete with a backyard Brownie campout, a visit from out-of-town friends, a trip to the zoo, and a cookout. All perfectly enjoyable things that should never be scheduled in a 24-hour period.

The girls did well on their campout, though. No one cried or wanted to go home, and they giggled until 10:30, then woke up the next morning proclaiming that they stayed up 'all night'. It was a brisk 46 degrees Saturday morning, and we ate pancakes and bacon and hot chocolate in the back yard. What, you thought I'd at least let them into the house to warm up? Nope. We were going for the authentic camping experience, you know.

Our good friends from when we lived in D.C. were in town for the weekend, and I truly loved playing tourist with them. We had babies at the same time, and our pregnancy woes bonded us together. It was kind of neat to see those babies play together four years later, when I have newborn pictures of them in car seats sitting next to each other. Our older girls actually remember each other well, and Grace has been known to sigh and wish for her 'best friend Maddie who lives far away' from time to time over the last three years. They were overjoyed to see each other. We spent most of the day at the zoo, then came back to our house for burgers and basketball. My husband is seriously depressed that UNC lost, in case you were wondering.

I declared Sunday a day of rest, skipping church and staying in bed until 11:00 like the good mother that I am. I pretty much lounged around the house all day in pajamas, telling the kids they could do anything that they asked just so they would leave me alone. The Monday morning cleanup is almost worth it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

We Know How to Party Around Here

Katie's 4th birthday party was on Sunday, and before I give you the synopsis I would like for you to stop for one moment and admire the monkey-themed cakery:
You know those monkey cupcakes are cute. They actually don't taste that good. Something about the combination of mints and Nutter Butters.

We invited two families from the neighborhood who are close friends of ours. Between our three families, we have a total of eleven children, and all of my kids have more than one cohort in the group who is in their same age/gender/activity/class at school/BFF of the day. Our children have become interchangeable with one another, and I am really thankful for it. These are the people I call when I have a dentist appointment, or when I need a haircut. They are the emergency contacts on my registration forms. They are huge blessings to me.

Anyway, back to the party. We cooked out burgers and hot dogs, and by we I mean Greg. I supplied the chips and various flavors of dip, and obligatory vegetable and fruit trays that no one wants to eat. Here's what they really wanted:From the looks of it, I guess the mint and peanut butter combo didn't seem to gross her out too much.This is Grace and her two little best friends.

Katie was adorable opening her presents. She was genuinely thrilled with each one, and even held each gift aloft and did a little victory lap so everyone could see. It was really sweet.
We also had a non-violent pinata, because we are a peaceful people. Katie cracked it on the first try. Then the children were forced to forage through the mud for clearance Easter candy, which had been purchased for a mere 25% of the original price, because I'm cheap like that.

There was a rare sighting of my face without a camera in front of it.
I had planned some fun party games, but the kids ended up just playing together in the back yard while the adults sat around in lawn chairs and talked until it was time for bed, and party games can't improve on that. I thought it was a really good time.
I think Katie thought so too.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

We'll be Celebrating April Fools' Day Sometime Next Week

I'm working on a picture-laden synopsis of Katie's birthday party this past weekend, but I have NO TIME to get it done, or anything else blog-related, for that matter, so until I can get that finished, I will leave you with a belated Easter morning photo taken during a sibling argument. Good times.

The kiddos

The kiddos

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