Monday, December 26, 2011
To say they had a great time is serious understatement; poor Mario and his cohorts actually needed their rest. This morning, I'm congratulating myself for instituting the "no Wii before breakfast" rule and sticking to it -- at least so far. And it's already after 8 a.m.
Quote of the day from The House (and Boy #2): "Holy macaroni, Battleship!!" Yep, he was just a tad excited to get his favorite game. Later in the day, after the excitement had tempered and we were able to actually play, I learned why Battleship is rated for children 7 and up.
"Do NOT move your ships, that's cheating."
Ma'am: E-6. Hit or miss?
Boy #2: Ummm. . .just a minute.
Ma'am: Do NOT move your ships. Is there part of a ship in E-6?
Boy: I'm finking. . .
Ma'am: Don't 'fink,' just tell me if it's a hit or a miss.
And so on and so forth, for about 45 minutes.
And now, in honor of Christmas clean-up, a poem I penned last Christmas. If you're so inclined, you can sing it to the tune of "O Christmas Tree" (which is "O Tannenbaum" for you classisists).
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
How plentiful thy needles!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
How plentiful thy needles!
The corner yon where thou once stood
Looks ‘most as if it were the wood.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
How plentiful thy needles!
And ‘cross the room, yes, near the stair
We’ll find more needles thru the year;
Too ‘neath the rug and TV stand –
Enough to make me wring my hands.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
How plentiful thy needles!
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Sometime in August, Boy #2 did something that loosened one of his 2 front teeth. I learned this one morning when, helping him floss, the tooth moved. Neither of the adults in The House saw nor heard anything, and it apparently didn't cause much trauma, because he couldn't tell me what had happened. A dentist said it was fine, just keep an eye it.
In the months since, it had seeminly reattached, because it wasn't nearly so loose. But then came Saturday night.
Now, if you don't have a 4-yr-old in your house (or if it's been awhile since you have), you might not know that they are all about learning to do "tricks." We've been hopping on one foot, spinning, hopping on one foot and spinning, etc. Sometimes on the stairs, sometimes on the very precarious and often-injurious kitchen tile floor.
So Saturday night, he'd finished his bath and was messing around, trying very hard to raise the ire level of The Husband when he was supposed to be doing something else. He started crying, so I figured he's accomplished his goal and had been suitably disciplined.
Then I saw something out of the corner of my eye: He was standing in the hallway, his hand over his mouth and blood dripping between his fingers.
We're still not sure exactly what he did, but that front tooth is history.
Some months ago, The Husband and I finally broke down and painted a room in the The House. You'd think that, after living here for almost 5 years, it would be time. You would be correct.
The painting required packing lots of things up and
- 2 packs of Pop Rocks that expired in 2002
- Any number of "retired" license plates from various states. I guess these are required keeping for that someday man cave.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
You know all about our dirty
Now, I'm sure you don't recognize Earl's name, but he's been here before. In fact, he's the reason we even have a blog here at The House. Earl is The Bird. We named him last week, when it became apparent that he wasn't leaving anytime soon.
For more than a week now, Earl's been at his post, pecking -- hard -- against the bay window in our living room. If you catch him mid-peck, it looks something like this:
From about 6:30 a.m. until 5:45 p.m. (give or take a few minutes), he's tending to a window about every 5 minutes. Every. Five. Minutes. Pecking. Hard enough to scratch the glass. There are a lot of things that I enjoy discussing with our insurance agent, but I'm not yet ready to explain how a bird happened to shatter our window. I'm still holding out for a new roof, y'know.
The first couple hours, it was just a curiousity. Then it got annoying, so we started getting creative. Foil inside the window! Nope.
Foil on the outside of the window! Worked for a while, then he figured out how to perch on the foil and keep pecking. Which is when I recognized him: Georgia Brown Thrasher. Stupid. Dogged determination. Yep, I'm pretty sure it's the same bird that wouldn't get off my window sill back in June. He remembers how lovely the sofa was and wants to get at it again.
Fishing line strung every which way so he can't get at the window! Maybe if we'd had nails in the siding or better places to attach it closer to the window. Pie tin hung in front of the window! Didn't even last 10 minutes. However, Boy #1 almost perfected a hawk-like screech that kept him away for 20 minutes or so.
And then, the aha! moment: trash bags on the outside of the window! Oh, glorious quietude. For 2 full days, we'd vexed Earl. Also the neighbors, because it looked so, so good.
So now we've taken down all the fine window dressing and The Husband has installed (I use that term loosely) bird netting over the whole shebang. It's quite subtle -- especially compared to the purple trash bags -- but not yet particularly effective. The Husband says he's trying to lull Earl into a sense of complacency before trapping him. Let's hope it all ends soon.
I'm not sure about any of my boys, but at the first sign of one locust or frog too many, I am outta here.
Friday, November 4, 2011
It all started, of course, with the bird. But it doesn't end there. . .
Many weeks ago, I was at the computer (as I
Then I realized:
I'm on the first floor. Of our 2-story house. Hmmm. . .that sound shouldn't be, because I can't possibly be hearing something from the roof when I'm downstairs. And Boy #1 is not in his room.
I didn't give it much thought until I heard it again a few days later. And then squeaking.
But squirrels squeak. Iknow squirrels squeak!
The Husband, of course, hadn't heard a thing; but he wasn't usually home when the scurrying took place. After the third incident, I told him he needed to call someone.
The very next day, a friendly and knowledgable wildlife control person knocked on our door. I told him what I'd heard and he began his rounds, checking out the exterior of the house and then proceeding to the attics. The conversation was going well; lots of "No, I'm not seeing destruction like gray squirrels would leave." and "I'm suspecting flying squirrels." And encouraging comments like that. I mean, I like squirrels well enough -- they just don't belong in my house.
And then he opened the door to the walk-in attic. "Oh," Kris said.
There was so much in that one syllable. Just 2 letters, but they dashed my hopes for flying squirrel pets for the boys.
I really didn't want to, but had to ask. "Sooo. . .you're still thinking flying squirrels, right?" His face told me most of what I needed to know, but he picked up something from the floor and showed it to me.
You know where this is going, right?
Rats. In our house. Mere inches from my children and their bedrooms. I had the heebie-jeebies for days. Cleaned like a madwoman. Cast disgusted looks at the attic door whenever I was in the area. Flinched anytime a floorboard creaked. And never mentioned a word to anyone outside our family. Uggggghhhh, bleck and double-yuck!!!
I've since learned that rats are like cockroaches in the South. If you live here, it's only a matter of time before they decide to "overwinter" with you. (Isn't that a nice euphemism? Sounds like a lovely someone coming for a visit, not a hoard of vile rodents chewing their nasty little way into the sacred space where you raise your children.)
It's got nothing to do with how neatly or cleanly you keep your home, and everything to do with whether it seems to be warmer inside and if they can get in. Rats can fit through a hole the size of a quarter. One. Small. Quarter. Builders down here routinely leave gaps between the roofline and the facia boards (behind the gutter), so there are ample entry points.
Anyway. . .
We've lived with this disgusting revelation for several weeks now. My friendly catchers came once a week to check the traps and deposit much of our insulation on the closet floor. (The closet hasn't been this clean since we moved in.)
And then this morning, Glen -- my new, scruffy-bearded, carpenter BFF -- showed up at our door. Missing half his teeth, sporting tatoos and a camo 'do-rag. Scraggly Glen and his cohort (whom I believe he called "Ringo") are now sealing up the house. And God bless them! They're putting screens over the vents and wrapping the space behind the gutters in metal strips. They sealed up the holes left when the previous owner pilfered satellite TV service and strung the cable themselves in all the bedroom closets; they've got a plan for our chimney.
And they can stay as long as they want, and I will happily write them a large check, because we all have the same goal: The varmints has gots to go.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Boy #1 and I were talking about homework. Meanwhile, Boy #2 was trying -- unsuccessfully -- to get Boy #1 to pay him some attention. After several attempts, seeing that his brother was sitting low to the floor, Boy #2 did what seemed obvious and effective: He stomped on his brother's foot. Hard. He was successful in gaining Boy #1's attention, but didn't get quite what he wanted.
I need to back up a bit and explain that, in our family, when you wrong someone, you need to apologize to that person for the specific incident you caused. It might be after medical treatment has been sought and/or discipline has been meted out, but the apology needs to take place.
So. . .after Boy #1 was soothed and Boy #2 was made to realize his error, he went to apologize. It went something like this:
Boy #2: "Brother, I'm sorry. Please forgive me."Did I mention that Boy #2 is quite literal? Also that, unless he's got something he really wants to say, he'd prefer to use actions or mime to get his point across? Well, there you go.
Boy #1: "Sorry for what?" (Remember, we seek a specific apology for specific actions.)
Boy #2: "For what I did before."
Boy #1: "What did you do?"
Boy #2: Promptly stomps on his brother's foot again.
Just another example of tough love here in The House.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
She went to college when it wasn't exactly the thing to do for young women and then taught in a 1-room schoolhouse for many years.
She met my grandfather at a church picnic. Their courtship began when he asked her father if he could give her a ride home, then told her he was taking her home. I still ponder the fact that they spent their wedding night at his sister's house.
Grampa was the love of her life. He passed away in 1996, but she still keeps a valentine from him on her nightstand. I've always loved seeing that valentine, even as I mourn her lonesomeness for him.
Grammy was named, aptly enough, after 2 queens: Queen Esther of the Old Testament and England's Queen Victoria. Only recently have I realized the royal connection between her name and her being. Fittingly, she loves the color purple. But I learned things of much greater importance at her knee.
Gramma knows without a doubt that she is the daughter of the One True King. She'd sing hymns while washing dishes or cleaning house; her Bible was always within reach.
One year, I asked for a new Bible for Christmas, which tickled her. Her inscription reads: "I can think of no better gift at Christmas than God's word. . . . Treasure the 'Word' in your heart. . . ." She's taught the Word to me all her life, as my Sunday School teacher and Whirly Birds leader. She loved me into the Kingdom.
As a young girl, I sometimes accompanied Gramma on her monthly visits to the nursing home in Lincoln, Ill. We never did much -- washed laundry, visited with the residents, sometimes helped in the kitchen -- but she was unwavering in her time and efforts there. In fact, she went to help "take care of the old folks" every month until she was in her 70s (or was it her 80s?) herself.
My gramma has made the most beautiful quilts you've ever seen. The Star of David she made for my 25th birthday graces our upstairs hall and is one of my prize possessions. She helped make quilts for both my boys.
And, of course she could cook like no one's business. I'm often asked for her recipes for sugar cookies, homemade caramels and other treats. Around our hometown, her noodles, angel food cakes and tapioca pudding are renowned. She'd put a roast in the oven before heading to church on Sunday morning, then my siblings and parents, cousins, aunts and uncles would gather around their dining room table. (I'm still trying to master her art of burning the carrots just enough without turing the meat to charcoal.)
Gramma read the scripture at our wedding, and the bride and groom cake topper on our cake had first been on her wedding cake. Much of who I am I owe to that sweet woman who invested so much of herself and her life in me and mine. I can't adequately describe the satisfaction of knowing that my children love her almost as much as I do.
These days, I don't get to see her nearly as often as I'd like. But, just like when I was a kid, she's always glad to see me. I get a fierce hug and kiss on the cheek, and she tells how much she loves me. Some things never change: I'm always welcome at Gramma's.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
But the amount of homework he's been bringing home has been exceptional. If I remember correctly, 2nd grade gave us about half an hour of homework most nights, plus 20 minutes' required reading (of whatever the Boy wanted).
We've been in school for 4 weeks now and we spend about 1 1/2 hours a night plus that 20 minutes of reading. There have been nights it's taken more than 2 hours to finish the work. (I don't even bring up the reading on those nights because, frankly, he couldn't have done any of the other homework without being able to read. He can read. Well. I know it and I think the mandatory reading log stuff is bogus.)
I realize that some of his workload has to do with being in advanced classes, but still. I'd like him to be able to run off to soccer practice or Cub Scouts or, geez, even just out the door to play. . .but no. Not 'til the homework's done.
Perhaps The Husband and I are too strict. If we didn't insist on a decent bedtime -- one that lets his little, overworked brain rest well while enabling him to get up in time for the bus in the morning -- perhaps it wouldn't be such an issue.
But what's really got my goat about the whole thing is the amount of "creative" work required this year. This week, it's creating a magazine about how kids can save the earth (recycling, green practices, etc.); last week was a poster about a swamp animal (after studying habitats) and a book for math class that included a story about how he and 2 friends had gone to the Burger Hut to eat. He had to choose the friends, draw the 3 of them at the burger place, write about each person's order and then do the math. The math, I can understand. But a story? Really? He got dinged because his cover wasn't "creative enough."
We've done newspaper articles and small posters, too. There's been lots of drawing and cutting and pasting. Or taping in our case: he prefers tape to glue.
Could someone please tell me how this benefits the kids? Unless he's going to be a professional math story writer or poster designer -- neither of which I'm seeing, since his graphic design skill is about as honed as mine -- I'm missing the point here. Seems to me it's little more than exalted busy work, but keeps the kids out of the teachers' hair and the teachers out of trouble because it seems unique. Yeah, you and all his other teachers. Real unique.
Couple this with the disturbing news that the kids watch movies. A lot. The day he came home and said they'd watched a movie in music class about pushed me over the edge.
I just hope this forced march of creativity ends soon. I can't take much more.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
The other thing you need to know is that he's awful at pronunciation, especially when it comes to (admittedly) confusing words. For example, he loves to read the "gun-ness" Book of World records. My secret prayer is that this also sets him up for a life as a teetotaler. But I digress.
So this school year, they really ramp things up. He's in several advanced classes and, in one, they're beginning a study of crypt zoology. (If you happen to know what this is, please message me. I could use an explanation.)
Today's homework was defining a list of terms that the teacher had given them. I don't know if he copied it down wrong, or if she gave the words orally and he daydreamed through the spelling portion, but we spent a confusing several minutes trying to find a definition of "reanessance." See, if I knew what crypt zoology was in the first place, then I probably wouldn't have had to bother.
So the boy asked me what it meant and my blank stare returned a vote of no confidence. Sounds like a term for some attribute of sea creature, doesn't it? Bioluminescence, reanessance. . . .
I sent him to my collegiate Webster's, the source of most knowledge worth knowing. No luck.
And then Google. God bless the good folks at Google! They, of course, were just as dumbfounded as I as to what "reanessance" might mean. But they quickly came back with "Could you mean renaissance?"
Renaissance? Seems to fit his pattern. Hmmmm. . . .
"Boy, are you looking for renaissance?" And, of course, he was.
I think I'll ask The Husband to buy some stock soon. Because we've got a lot more homework to come.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Now, apparently, someone else lives with the four of us.
After dinner, he got a small serving of icecream, because he's had trouble with finishing the food he takes. When it was gone, he asked for more, assuring The Husband and I that he would not be too full to eat more.
The Husband couldn't leave well enough alone.
"Really?" he asked the boy. "How do you know you won't be too full?"
"Because I asked the brain," explained Boy #2, exuding sincerity. "And he said I would not be too full."
"What's your brain's name?" continued The Husband.
"Mister Finker!" (We're still working on certain consonants.)
He probably would have gotten more icecream, but we were all laughing too hard by then.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Not that we mind when our friends' children call us "ma'am" or "sir" -- sometimes it's just too stinkin' cute to hear those words come out of little mouths. We're both born and bred Midwesterners and, while we love our adopted South, those phrases just aren't our style.
The battle waging at our house lately is over "OK." As in, "Boy #2, please do this." To which he replies, "OK." Sometimes with a sigh, sometimes not. They both do it.
These 2 letters speak more about my boys' hearts and attitudes than they realize. And that's why it's important.
Ahem. Little person who shares my home and DNA, I do not need you to agree with what I've asked you to do; your job is to obey. I'm the mommy; God put you in my family and put your father and me in charge. In a few years' time, it will be perfectly fine for you to agree with me about what you're going to do. . .but we're not there yet. If you have a good reason for delaying your action, I will listen to you -- so long as you speak respectfully.
For now, the best thing for you to do is reply, "Yes, Mommy," showing a bit of respect, and then go do the thing I asked. Really.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Just tonight while I was making dinner, I heard the following comments in less than 10 minutes:
1. Mommy, did you know I can Russian dance? kick Hey! kick Hey! kick Hey!
2. (Spoken rather sadly): Man, these socks won't fit over my ears so I can be an elephant. . . or even a dog.
3. Conga line! Get behind me!
4. Hey, watch this: I can walk backwards, clapping under my legs.
5. When Daddy gets home, we'll show him our ninja moves!
So, in between the various dance and talent competitions, we're packing and celebrating. . . and trying to maintain just a small semblance of normalcy.
Friday, July 29, 2011
As a girl, I helped "put up chickens," which was euphemism for butchering. (That particular wet chicken smell came back to haunt me during my college years when I worked 2 summers building Hondas in Ohio. Something about the damp cotton gloves smelled exactly like chickens that had been dunked in boiling water -- helps remove the feathers.) I spent my fair share of time at stockyards when Dad took animals to market; the FFA (Future Farmers of America) boys sometimes butchered livestock in the school shop, sharing the essence with our entire school. So I get it: the smells can sometimes be. . .less than pleasant.
But whatever they're doing in the area around Gainesville, Ga. makes the average farm smell like a bakery first thing in the morning. Perhaps it's the commercial aspect of the operation; after all, quantity is certainly a consideration when you're talking odors. Or the presence of turkeys as well as chickens? Or just the rendering? (Another great euphemistic phrase.)
I had taken the boys to Gainesville yesterday to meet up with friends at a children's museum. After several hours of fun, it was time to come home.
Whatever was wafting through the outdoor air was powerful! (And I have to give credit where it's due: Those folks at the museum must have a supercharged air filtering system because, thankfully, none of the stench had made it inside.)
Boy #1: Ugggghhh! WHAT is that SMELL?
Ma'am: Dogfood? No, but similar. Corn products? Worse than that.
Boy #2: Blegg!
They both covered their noses and mouths with their hands and tried not to breathe. A bit down the sidewalk, we passed a museum employee heading back inside, so I asked about the smell. "That? That's poultry," she replied.
The smell played tag with us all the way home, dancing in and out of the car's air system. So today we're grateful to live in not-Gainesville; and we're very sorry for those who do.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Some months ago, Boy #2 was telling me how he, Boy #1 and Daddy were the "mans of the house." (I'm a sucker for preschool grammar.) This was not long after a recitation of his duties, which include smushing any bugs that come calling while the other "mans" are away.
Wanting to know exactly how much he understood about gender, I asked if Mommy was also a man of the house. No, he assured me, I was not a man.
So I pushed the envelope: "If Mommy's not a man, then what is she?" (I'm also stuck in Bob Dole third person land for a few more months while he gets a grip on pronouns.)
He wrinkled his little brow, considering my question. And, after some moments, his face brightened: "You're the ma'am of the house!"
Indeed I am.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
A bird got into the house this week. I don’t know what kind of bird – and, frankly, I don’t care – but it wasn’t my fault. But it was my job to get it out, which is a hard thing to do when you’re dealing one of the stupidest creatures on the face of the earth.
There it sat, on the ledge of the palladian window above my front door, trying to fly out through the window. It had not flown in through the window in the first place, but darted in the front door. Which was two feet below it. Wide open. And apparently completely out of its memory.
Once I calmed down enough to assess the situation, I began trying to convince the bird to get out. This consisted of:
1. Moving 2 fans to the upstairs landing to blow threatening breezes. Succeeded in ruffling feathers only.
2. Firing almost an entire bean bag of lima beans at it. (Did you know lima beans bounce? )
3. Calling The Husband at work. He helpfully suggested I consider killing it. (Really? When it’s 2 inches from the largest piece of glass in our home? And with WHAT could I even accomplish that?)
Internal dialogue: Would a broom reach it? Nope, I’m too short. Even from the upstairs landing? Still nope. If I got the ladder. . . . Scratch that. Can’t get
the ladder off the hooks in the garage by myself. Even if I could, do I want to
be closer to the stupid thing? Double nope.
All this time, the bird is trying to fly through the window, stopping long enough to peck at the window. The large window covered in tinted film that I dearly love because it keeps us from being fried if we happen to walk into a patch of sunlight during any month other than December. Then it stops, looks over at me and chirps. I swear, if it's inviting friends in, I will consider the death penalty. Where was I? Oh yes:
4. Calling my nearby friends whose husbands just might be home around lunchtime. No luck.
5. Calling the business whose employee had let the bird in on his way out of our house. Can he come back? "Well, he could, but I’m not sure what he’d be able to do." Thanks; your estimate better be really good.
Flutter, flutter, chirp. Chirp! Flutter.
6. Calling the police non-emergency line. No help there, but I did spend an inordinate amount of time on hold.
7. Since I was on hold, I googled "get wild bird out of house." Lots of helpful suggestions here, like "throw a towel or blanket over the bird, carefully pick it up – avoiding claws and beak – and carry it outside to release."
8. Calling Animal Control. Thank you, County, that I can’t actually speak to a person at Animal Control. But I left a message, hoping someone would hear the desperation in my voice and run right over.
9. Calling my father. Yes, he lives 1,000 miles away, but he’d know what to do, right? He had some good ideas, so I. . .
10. Enlisted help from Boy #1. While actual darts in the Nerf gun might have been helpful, I appreciated the moral support, as well as his enthusiasm. This was mitigated by having to continually remind him not to stand under the bird and to come up by me (I've seen that Hitchcock movie one time too many).
11. Got out the 4-year-old’s fireman backpack water gun. Ah, a glimpse of freedom! While the water didn’t convince the ignorant bunch o’ feathers to LOOK DOWN (For the love of Pete, can’t he just look down???), it did make the ledge slick enough to give me hope he might fall.
What about the broom? Right: not long enough to reach. But maybe with a towel tied to the end?
That, as it turned out (after what seemed like 4 billion attempts), did the trick. Got the towel draped over his empty little head, the wet ledge helped him slide right off, he saw the open door and flew out. Leaving behind plenty of (ahem) evidence that he'd been there. Including a few spots on my off-white sofa. Grrrrrr.
The Husband – being the only one able to get the ladder down – was sweet enough to clean up all the evidence on the ledge that evening, including spraying everything thoroughly in Clorox Anywhere sanitizing spray.
And that, my friends, is why the term “bird-brained” is spot on.
Ma'am of the House, and now disperser of wildlife