Friday, December 31, 2010

A Look Back III

I'm spending the last week of 2010 reminiscing all the crazy things that happened with my bunch from the nest. One common theme that I've had this year is the inability to keep my kids in clothes. So I'll close the year out with one about my little nudist from June:

6 Words

"I need to speak with you." Is a statement that when uttered by your child's care provider upon you're arrival in the evening makes even the most seasoned parent shudder. No matter your mood prior to that statement- you exhale loudly, shoulders slump and ask, 'What did he do know?'

The subject of that statement in this instance was WC. Now, he's a pretty good kid and rarely ever gets into trouble. But when the boy does something, he doesn't half-ass it. He goes after being in trouble with the same intensity as being well behaved. It's all or middle ground. And his trouble is never fighting or anything malicious. It stems more from the fact he's a free-spirit...I guess that's the way to describe it. CJ's troubles always stem from him believing the world should revolve around him and to hell with anyone who doesn't agree- but then he is three & we're working on it.

So, on this day I arrive to the 6 words spoken by the head camp counsellor and she pulls me off to the side.

My son and some other boys- all 6 yrs old went to the bathroom connected to the gymnasium and as with any gym bathroom there's a shower room. They decided it would be fun to take a shower. So they all strip naked and are running around in the open shower room. I'm unsuccessfully trying not to laugh as she describes discovering a shower room full of wet naked little boys. So they all had to have a talk about private parts and not romping around with the parts God gave you flapping in the breeze.

Both of the boys run around naked all the time at home- after a bath & before pj's they run streaking through the house, squealing with laughter. Nudity isn't anything that I've raised them to be ashamed of. But it never occurred to me that he would do this with total strangers. It was all innocent. I've had multiple discussions with him about his private parts and not allowing anyone to touch them. And he's not to touch anyone else and if someone asks him to then he needs to say no and go tell an adult. I keep that a running discussion that I bring up periodically- usually during the bath time. But now I've also had to tell him that he can't get naked at day camp.

My Dad laughed hysterically when I told my parents what their grandson had done. And his comment was about how smart the boy is. Smart? Smart?

I don't get how organizing the first grade nudist colony can be considered smart?

Wishing everyone out there a very safe and happy New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Look Back II

Today I am posting what I still think is the most frightening thing to happen in 2010
Originally posted in February from our trip to Pennsylvania:

If Your Brother Thinks it's a Good Idea...

There we were, sitting around my friends living room. The Mallomar incident (see below) had come and gone. We sat there talking and laughing; the children were quietly playing upstairs. It was too quiet...for too long. As a seasoned mom, this should have tipped me off. But really, they had their back pack from home filled with games and an entire chest of toys, crayons, markers, etc. up in our room. Why would they possibly need any other form of entertainment? Why would they go roaming around in some one else's bedroom...let alone her husbands closet? What would be so interesting about a man's wardrobe?

I've been a mom for six years; oh how I should have known better than this...

Back downstairs Jay, Michele, her infant twins and myself sat blissfully unaware that, the tweedle brothers had located an old wooden rocking horse that Michele had carefully hidden away in the back of Peter's closet. They ever so stealthily removed the horse from it's hiding location and silently slid it across the wooden floor over our heads. WC had formulated a plan for this horse. I've often said that if he jumped off a cliff that CJ would follow...not only is that literally true but CJ will also allow WC to send him off that cliff first.

Perched at the top of the stairs, WC put CJ on that horse.

The worst crashing noise I've ever heard in my life came bounding down those stairs. From my vantage point all I could see was wood and feet. Initially I didn't know which child had come down. Jay, who was sitting in direct view of the bottom of the stairs saw it, in slow motion. He was to the crash scene first and pulled CJ up and immediately handed him to me.

CJ was in hysterics. I sat down with him and began to inspect him for damage- there just had to be something broken. In those rare moments of real danger I've noticed that I manage to sort of automatically stuff any emotion relating to 'my baby is hurt' sort of thing. I don't genuinely become scared until after the fact; then the Oh My God sets in. I felt around his head, I moved his limbs, poked & prodded his body listening for him to cry in pain instead of the scared wail. I couldn't find any obvious damage- how could that be?

While I examined CJ, Jay went to find the obviously missing piece of the puzzle- WC.

We turned Sesame Street on tv to see if that would help draw his attention away from what happened and help calm him. It worked. But it didn't help make sure he didn't have a concussion because a two year old watching Elmo isn't exactly the most responsive thing in the world. While he watched, I continued my examination and feeling for lumps and looking for bruises. I began to ask him questions about what was happening in the show and he could tell me. Sometimes it would take a minute to respond but he could tell me. It appeared that he had some redness around his left eye- we figured it would be black the next day.

How did he go down those stairs on a rocking horse and not end up with something broken?

If I had fallen down those stairs, I'd have ended up in a full body cast.

After a while, he climbed out of my lap and began playing again. That night when we went to bed, I poked him to make sure he would stir. Something I learned the last time I had to watch him for signs of concussion.

The next morning, he had a spot near his left eye but no bruising. How?

Then, the thoughts about how it could have turned out scared the hell out of me.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Look Back

Today, I am reposting one of my favorite memories blogged in 2010:
First posted in February from our trip to Pennsylvania.

The Mallomar Incident

My children. I love them, but they test me. They test my skills, my nerves, my patience, the limits of my insurance. It's like their hobby...if you will. And taking them to another state didn't prove to damper their experimental tendencies. It may have amplified it.

Our first evening settling into the home of our gracious hosts turned out to be a bit more exciting than any of us could have ever predicted.

She offered snacks and of course Jay and the boys don't turn down food. I was happily hugging babies so I stayed in the living area while the others disappeared into the kitchen. Jay and Michele return to the room leaving the boys at the table with their snack- a chocolate marshmallow cookie for each of them.

There we are conversing like old friends do when you haven't seen each other in a long time. And we proceed to talk for a while not even noticing the older children are still in the kitchen. We're holding babies and having a lovely chat when in toddles CJ...

He looks like a gluttonous squirrel with lock jaw. There had to be at least two whole Mallomars shoved in there. Unlike the squirrels take, chocolate on the other hand...melts.

There's a slobber and chocolate goo oozing down his chin. He seems okay with this.

Immediately the thought hits my brain & I look at Jay, "Did you leave the box of cookies on the table?

He responds with that dear in the headlight look and took off into the kitchen.

It would seem that he did. He handed each of them one cookie and left the room leaving two children unsupervised with an entire box of cookies.

Between the two of them, they split eleven Mallomars.

Probably with WC doing the handing out. One for for me. Mom will be so happy that we are sharing.

All I could do was shake my head and laugh while Jay cleaned up CJ.

Now I'm not saying that mom's are perfect, cause we definitely are not. However, I do not know of a mom who would have left those cookies on the table...that's all I'm going to say.

Luckily, they did not get upset tummies from this but the surge of sugar through their systems may have had a little something to do with their shenanigans a little later that afternoon...

To Be Continued...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over
their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and glory of the
Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do
not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the
Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find the baby wrapped in cloths and
lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising
God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
     and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."  Luke 2: 8-14 NIV

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Kids + A Christmas Party

Tis the season for the thing I dread- the holiday party. This is the fun, festive time where we dress up our boys and try to pass them off as normal human beings. At ages 3 and 7, these creatures cannot, yet, be described as “civilized,” try as I might. The phone call came in and she invited us and yes, you can bring the children. They have girls. They do not understand what they are doing.

After a thirty minute drive in which I threaten them for the duration of, we arrive. Our hosts Christmas tree displayed proudly in the front window of the formal living room. The rest of room and house decorated to the hilt in garland, bows, lights and all sorts of shiny trinkets. A bead of sweat runs down my back. The boys are gone. They are off to explore their new winter wonderland. I should have stayed with them.

In the kitchen I helped our host put together some platters for the buffet. I was putting the finishing touches on a platter when the unmistakable sound of glass shattering came from the living room. I knew. Before I even moved, I knew. Like when the phone rings and you know it's bad news. I didn’t have to see CJ standing there in the middle of shattered glass to know he was the culprit. Six kids in the house and I knew. When we walked into the living room there were only two kids in there. CJ standing stone still with water and glitter everywhere- he was in complete shock. And WC across the other side of the room repeating “CJ did it” until I told him stop. He wasn’t about to get blamed for this. But unlike the rest of the kids, he didn’t abandon his brother completely by fleeing the scene.

Then I realized the object had been a snow globe. My best guess is that he picked up the snow globe and went to shake it but he dropped it. The glass of the globe had all but disintegrated against the hardwood floor. The largest shard of glass didn’t even measure an inch. The rest of it barely bigger than the glitter and it all blended into one wet mess. I picked CJ up by his armpits and sat him in a chair. He’d already removed his shoes and I didn’t want him cut by the glass. I made a mental note to look for his shoes. He initially protested but stopped when he saw the look on my face. We sopped up the water and I picked up as much of the glass by hand as possible and tried to sweep some more. With the floor dried our host brought out the vacuum. I hope we managed to get all the glass up. I apologized profusely. But our hosts didn’t seem the slightest upset or even surprised.

I released CJ from the torment of his prison- the chair where I made him stay while we cleaned. He promptly ran off to join the others in play. And not ten minutes later, WC appeared and informed us that CJ had thrown up in the middle of the girls’ bedroom floor.

There’s a slight possibility we may not be invited back.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Movies

Around my house right now Christmas and Holiday themed movies and shows are popular. New favorites and old classics are being played on the weekends and days out of school for snow. I asked them what their favorites are:
Thomas the Train (at Nana's house- we don't own it).
Charlie Brown Christmas
Merry Madagascar

Veggie Tales: Tale of St. Nick (I was suprised this one was number 1).
Shrek the Halls
Christmas Story (every time the dogs get the turkey, he yells why don't they get the gun?)
Charlie Brown
Phinneas & Ferb: A Very Perry Christmas
How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Charlie Brown
White Christmas
Christmas Vacation
Christmas Story

What about you? What are your favorite holiday movies? What takes you back to your childhood?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Faux Gingerbread Men

Ever since WC was two, we've been making cookies together for Christmas. We mix the dough, roll it out and cut out the cookies using different shape cookie cutters-WC's preference is the Gingerbread Man. But, like a lot of kids, actual gingerbread isn't a favorite. I came across a terrific recipe, simple, and more palatable for kids.  My apologies in that I do not recall where this recipe came from to give proper credit:

"Gingerbread" Cookies
1 (3.5 ounce) package cook and serve butterscotch pudding mix
1/2 C butter
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon

1. In medium bowl cream together the dry butterscotch pudding mix, butter, and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in egg. Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger and cinnamon; stir into pudding mixture. Cover, and chill dough until firm, about 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease baking sheets. On floured board roll dough out to about 1/8 inch thickness, cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
3. Bake for 10-12 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies are golden at the edges. Cool on wire racks.

After they have cooled, I let the kids decorate them using cookie icing and different candies or green & red candy sprinkles. Their favorite candy decorations are gumdrops and m&m's candies.
This has become a holiday tradition that I have started in our home. I didn't grow up doing anything like this and I find it's a ton of fun. If you don't cook or bake with your kids I'd encourage you to give it a try- even if you don't think you're any good in the kitchen. This doesn't have to be anything elaborate- the more simple the better. You can even pick up a package of sugar cookie mix from the store- if you can't make your own dough. It can get messy but they have fun, we spend time together and they have fond memories to carry with them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hark the Herald...Fairy?

The other night WC asked when we would put the fairy on top of the tree. Jay and I stared at him inquisitively for a beat then at each other before I asked him what he was talking about.

“You know, the lady with wings that goes on top of the tree.”

“That’s an angel.” Jay and I say in unison.

WC sees that we are annoyed by this and smiles. And he begins to protest that it is a fairy that goes on top of the tree. I tell him that it was not a group of fairy’s that announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. There’s a bad joke in there, somewhere. Of course with me annoyed at him, he keeps on because he thinks it’s funny and not likely to get him into trouble. I drop the topic and over the next few days make little jokes by referring to the fairy.

I imagine that most of our depictions of angels look nothing like the real thing. In the bible, when people encounter them, it is not described as pleasant- these people are terrified. They seem more like God’s night club bouncers than the ethereal images in our paintings and figurines. It got me thinking about our modest little angel on top of the tree. I bought her the first Christmas Jay and I had at our first apartment. In our barely 500 square feet of living space, we had to place the 4 ft tree on top of table because there wasn’t any floor space nor was there a way to rearrange it. We had little money and the angel was cheap and one of her wings is a little messed up. Over the next few years we’ve slowly moved our way up and down in world several times, bought a house and full size trees both real and artificial. Tree decorations have come and gone. The kids have made new ornaments and we’ve retired some that we never really liked anyway. The little angel has been our constant every Christmas. Jay has lifted up WC to put her on top of the tree since he was two. She is plain and slightly tattered, a reminder of where we’ve been. Even though my pathetic looking, little tree top angel may resemble a fairy more than a warrior of God, she reminds me that Jesus, himself, was born in a place where animals were kept. And this little angel will stay on top of our trees until she falls completely apart.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Lookout

This morning I woke up to see CJ's little feet in my doorway. He sat on the floor in the hall with his little legs outstretched. The bottom of his flannel train pj's and bare feet were all I could see.
"Ready," WC called from the kitchen.
"You have the gumdrops?" CJ called back.
Ah, he was the lookout. Over the past few months WC has been attempting to train his little brother in the art of being the lookout. Fortunately for me, CJ hasn't quite gotten the nuances of the job, yet.
A few seconds later he skips back into my doorway and notices that I'm awake, he points to his still full mouth, "Gumdrops," he mumbles then skips, happily, away.
It was too cute and funny for me to be angry at them. And WC told me that they'd only had three gumdrops each. I'd bought them for when we make our Christmas cookies, but I'm wondering if they will make it that long...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Day of the Parade

It has flurried a bit here, nothing has accumulated. Since we rarely get snow in middle Tennessee this early in the season, it is an anomaly of sorts. The boys were beside themselves with joy at seeing the flakes descend. Which is nice, I’d worried that since their experience with snow two feet deep in PA back in February that the paltry bit that passes for snow in our area would only serve to disappoint them from there on out.

I don’t like cold, not one single bit of it. If I could live in an area that never dropped below 67, I’d be a happy camper. But when snow was falling on the day of our local Christmas parade, I for one became kind of excited. Being in a Christmas parade with snow falling down seemed like it would be a cool experience. WC was to be in the Christmas parade and ride on the float with his scout pack. Then, he asked what it was that he would do in the parade. I explained that he would get to ride on the float with the other boys going down the street in the parade. “Will CJ get to ride too,” he asked.

I had not a clue if non scouts would get to be on the float and I didn’t want to tell him yes and then get there and it’s not true. So I told him that I didn’t think so, but that I wasn’t sure. That’s when he said that he didn’t want to do it. I tried everything in my bag of tricks with this kid. Usually I can garner cooperation by telling him that all he has to do is go try it once, then if he doesn’t like then he never has to do it again. Nope. Nada. Nothing. He wouldn’t even agree to go watch from the sidewalk.

“I don’t want people looking at me,” he argued.

“It’s not like you’ll be by yourself,” I replied. “You’ll be up there with a bunch of other boys from your pack. And you play with the boys from your den.”

“I play with them, but I don’t really know who they are,” he responded. And that pretty much ended the conversation.

What seven year old talks like that?

Monday, December 6, 2010

I Threatened to Cancel Christmas

It always happens on days where we have tons going on. Maybe it's the magic of the season, the anticipation of toys or being hopped up on sugar but the kids simply will not behave. No matter what- we talk to them, use gentle correction or time out. On this day, however, all the usual stuff was falling on cemented ears in my house.  Of course I was by myself. We'd put up the Christmas tree and Jay stayed until he helped me put the lights up- at that point I released him. Because he needed a haircut- heaven forbid one inch of hair cover that melon. Outside has turned frigid and gloomy, they are trapped inside. They're using the house as a race track/wrestling ring. If my sister ever moves out, I may just cover that entire room in padding and lock them in there when they get this way. I call them to come help decorate the tree. WC, doesn't want to. Wait, putting up the tree today was his idea. We all always decorate the tree together.  I'm not decorating it by myself. And CJ just hung 6 ornaments on the same limb, backwards. WC, sulks his way into the room and after a while begins to seem like he's enjoying himself. Of course, he and CJ get into a fight. WC storms off just before we're finished and refuses to return. I replace the Christmas music cd that had been playing- I'm trying to be festive, damn it, with Shrek the Halls. This lures WC back to the room, but not to decorating.  There's a slinky in the box of ornaments, why? The tree is up and the tree skirt is MIA. Add to list of stuff to pick up.
Up next is my 4 hour window to wait for the new dishwasher- the old one died and handle broke into pieces.The good news is that the boys have made up from their spat. The bad news is that they've made up from their spat and are now running at a full throttle energy that I can't even muster in my dreams. They are destroying faster than I can pick up/clean. Where did the footprints on the wall down the hall come from? Three broken ornaments in 30 minutes, leave them alone. Ornaments are not toys. They are worse now than as infants. After repeated attempts at restoring order I popped like a champagne bottle that's shaken furiously. The instant the pressure of the stress is released, I know my outburst was a mistake. I felt better- but it was still a mistake. The two stared at me like a pair slack jawed yokels with the same expression- you were serious, who knew? I soared past simply telling santa that they were naughty straight to the complete cancellation of the holiday. I said I'd put the tree away and everything. I stopped short of telling them that I'd shoot santa if he tried to slip in a toy. Neither of them genuinely believed that I would cancel Christmas, so not really an appropriate thing to threaten. I broke a rule of discipline- never threaten anything you aren't willing to follow through with. Many a parent gets in trouble with this one. The second thing I did wrong was have an emotional outburst. Never discipline during intense emotion- you will inevitably regret it.  It was not appropriate modeling of behavior. Guess they know I am not perfect and I have things that I need to work on too.

Friday, December 3, 2010

When to give up on the Christmas Card Photograph

Home Christmas Card Photography of Kids

My son was two when I bought my first digital camera. Instantly, I fell in love with digital photography. The first December after this purchase, I had the brilliant idea to take a photo of my two year old next to the Christmas tree and use it for our Christmas card. My first mistake was to foolishly believe that I could get a two year old to stand next to anything. If I told him to turn around-he'd turn the wrong way. If I said to sit- he'd stand up. If I asked him to smile-he would smile the split second after I took the photograph. So, what's a novice mom and photographer to do?
A woman I work with came up with a great idea- he likes to sit inside boxes, right? Then take one of the boxes that our printer paper comes in (the company buys in bulk) and cover the bottom in wrapping paper and ribbon. Then throw some tissue paper and set the child inside the box. After about 35-40 shots here is the one that became our card:
WC as a present. Looking back on it, it would have been better if we'd had other boxes around. For a novice attempt I was happy with it.
I didn't attempt another card photo until CJ was two. I dressed them both up and took them to a Nashville attraction, Cheekwood. During December they decorate the mansion in beautiful trees and Christmas decor. The goal was a good photo of the two of them in a beautiful setting. CJ wouldn't have anything to do with this. Unfortunately due to a change in computers, I have lost the digital files that contained the photograph. Luckily, I had uploaded it to Shutterfly back then and can post the photo from there. Look for it soon.
The easiest photo, by far, came last year. I ran them an extra bubbly, bubble bath and I placed Santa hats on their heads and placed bubbles on cheeks and chins as "beards." They had a blast and it was quick and painless. Which is what you want when it comes to taking photos of your kids at Christmas and all year long. Young children do best with simple and fun wait until they are a little older before you go for elaborate. The more you want a great photo- the less likely you are to get it. Just have fun and don't stress. And take loads of shots. Be up for diverting from your original plan, you never know when you'll score a shot better than you ever hoped for.