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Friday, November 15, 2013

Say what?

Ever since I was a teenager, I've prided myself on having a thick skin -- that is, not being easily upset by what others say to or about me. Generally it's an issue of interpretation; most folks just don't go out of their way to be rude. . . at least not on purpose.

But my children seem to have missed my personal pride in this facet of my personality. Not only did they miss it, but they often trample right over it -- and me.

Just this week we had 2 such occasions, both on the same day.

At breakfast, sweet and funny Boy #2 turns to me, wide-eyed, and asks, "So, Mom, did you ever have any friends?"

Perhaps it was the lack of caffeine or still-sleepy ears, but I'm pretty sure he emphasized "ever" just a bit too much. Smoothing my feathers mentally, I explained that I do have friends, most of whom he knows. They come over, we go to their houses, we meet out at places. . . we do stuff together.

"I meant," he explained slowly and loudly (why is this boy so loud in the morning?), "when you were a child."

Yes, of course, I had friends then, too. In fact, some of them are still my friends now. "Oh. Okay." And he sauntered upstairs to brush his teeth.

Sitting down to dinner that night -- and not to be outdone -- Boy #1 looks at his plate and exclaims, "Oh good, overcooked! Yum!" Honestly, it's an exact quote. And he said it with much gusto and enthusiasm, not the snarky, in-a-year-or-so-I'll-be-painfully-sarcastic-every-living-moment attitude we often hear.

I gave him my patented you'd-better-watch-your-step glare, while The Husband suggested he rephrase what he just said.

"Oh, I just meant the cheese gets all brown and crunchy when Mom cooks them this way," he gushed, cheerfully. "It's how I like them!"

So there you have it: Proof that hair isn't the only thing to thin with age.

-ma'am


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Anybody seen my green thumb?

I have a confession: the gecko green room (belonging to Boy #1) is really pretty nice. After the first coat -- OK and the second -- I was pretty sure it was horrible and that we'd have to find somewhere else to say our bedtimes prayers. Because there was no way I'd be able to set foot in it ever again.

The painting begins

Behold: gecko green abounds

But somewhere between coats 3 and 4 -- oh yeah, you read that right. We needn't go into now why Sherwin Williams is both my most and least favorite of paint stores -- it started growing on me.

Which is good. Because I'm having trouble growing much of anything else at The House. For instance:

Sorry tomato plant

Close-up

My <ahem> lovely tomato plant. Actually, it's two plants: one regular tomato and one grape tomato, plus a sweet red pepper for good measure. With all our rain this summer, it's actually produced a decent crop. The grape tomatoes were huge -- looked like mini romas -- and were pretty tasty. The single sweet red pepper it produced was wonderful. 

But something kept tasting the full-sized tomatoes. And then the ones that hadn't been sampled ended up tasting sorta fishy. How? No idea. And yet, look at the close-up: there's new growth and blossoms alongside the sorry, dead shoots.

And then there's this: 

Once upon a time, when it was gifted to me, it was a lovely succulent with sweet little yellow flowers. Now it's a stick showing off just a bit. It's a good thing I don't take this personally. . . and that I can grow other, normal houseplants. 

Also that we live fairly close to the grocery store. 

-ma'am

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Keeping romance alive

Editor's note: Do not be alarmed by the title; this is a family-friendly blog.

I'm sure you've heard what They (even when we wonder who They are) say: In order to keep a relationship fresh, you need to surprise your honey from time to time. I did that today.

Now, The Husband is used to answering odd calls from home at work. They generally involve matters of technical import (When the printer does that thing it's been doing, what do I need to do so I can still print?) or, when I still had a child or two home during the day, first aid (Remind me what I'm looking for when I shine the flashlight in his eyes to make sure he doesn't have a concussion.).

But today I stumped him. No kids at home during the day, relatively few tech hiccups this week, and he heard: What's the 4-letter acronym to stop bleeding? You know -- the one that involves "elevate"?

Yes, folks, I'm keeping the romance alive by surprising my man! If it hadn't involved bodily harm, it would have been even better.

But I learned several invaluable lessons this afternoon. Stuff like, without 2 operational opposable thumbs, it's very difficult to:

  • Bandage the thumb you just sliced open, especially while simultaneously trying to apply direct pressure and not bleed all over anything. Well, anything else.
  • Chop. Anything. Making dinner was an experience.
  • Lift hot, heavy items. Grateful to have help getting dinner out of the oven and on the table.
  • Fold stuff decently. No comments on the laundry this week.
  • Open zip-top bags. Putting things away was trying.
  • Put hair in a ponytail. I look lovely; leave it at that.


If only the bandages would have held, I'd have been in much better shape. As it was, I had to redo a load of dress slacks that somehow got bloodied, as well as change my own clothes after I ended up looking like an extra in a zombie flick. And, actually, I needed Boy #1's help to do that, because my opposable thumb deficit left me unable to unbutton my own shorts. Doesn't anybody think about this stuff when they design clothes?

I managed to bluff my way through doing the dishes, but face-washing set me off again. Next time the knife-sharpening guy tells me the knives are sharp and to be careful, I'll listen more closely.

-ma'am

Monday, August 5, 2013

Warm toes, cold. . .trees?

No doubt about it, "tween" boys (so named because they're be-tween being children and teenagers) are special. . . just some are more special than others.

Take Boy #1, for instance. He's quickly approaching that double-digit birthday and couldn't be more thrilled. But there are still some endearingly little-boy characteristics that warm this mama's heart. For instance:

Can you read what it says? "Secret pocket" -- because having stuff you need to hide doesn't necessarily mean you can remember where you stashed it. I got a good, long chuckle that day I found it.





And then there's his fashion sense. The Husband and I told the boys we'd paint their rooms this summer, so long as they agreed to help. Even let them choose their own colors. Well, after I talked Boy #2 out of the bright red stripes he really, really wanted. (We do a good job painting but amateur home improvement talent only goes so far.)

So Boy #1 moved into the guest room while we began rehabbing his abode. In the early evenings, it's a bit chilly in there, so this is what he's been wearing to bed:

 Here he is, just down for breakfast one morning. Nothing too unusual, right? Ah, but look closer:

 

There it is, the piece de resistance: fuzzy, knee-high soccer socks, to keep your toes toasty, no matter what temperature the room is. He calls this his "suwinter collection." You gotta appreciate his sense of humor.

And, while we've been busy upgrading inside the house, forces of nature have been busy outside. We lost a big hunk of a very tall tree in the front yard; but were exceedingly grateful that no one was hurt and no property damaged when it fell. Some good friends lent their manpower and equipment to help the boys chop it down and haul it away.
The aftermath
Section of tree that fell


I'll have photos of the room makeover before too long (we're not quite done yet). But here's your tease: The color he chose? Gecko green. Yeah. . .let that sink in.

-ma'am

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I never learn

With apologies to Robert Fulghum, I did not, apparently, learn all I needed to know in kindergarten. Or even in grad school. Thankfully, though, my children are learning the stuff I somehow missed. . .and they're kind enough to share with me.

Recently, Boy #2 was watching me play Words with Friends (a Scrabble-like game played on Facebook with friends anywhere in the world). I had a collection of uninspiring letters, so was gazing at the screen longer than usual. Then a voice piped up behind me: "Oviparous, Mom."

Sorry, Honey, but you have to use real words in this game.

"Look, right there: Oviparous."

I appreciate your help, but oviparous isn't a real word. I have to use real words.

"Oviparous is a real word! You can use it in a sentence!"

He obviously wasn't dropping it -- and I have this horrible habit of wanting to be right. Always. -- so I did the next sensible thing: "We'll go to Google and I'll show you that I'm right."

Cue the music, because you know what happened, dontcha? Not only is oviparous a word, it's a good word; it's an adjective referring to animals that lay eggs. Birds are oviparous; so are snakes.

Score 1 for modern kindergarten, 0 for Mommy.

I should have remembered not to wrangle with the kindergartener, though. When Boy #1 was that age, I distinctly remember him hopping off the bus one day and telling me all about onomatopoeia; just as distinctly, I remember thinking how I hadn't learned that word until I was in high school. And if you're in the dark about onomatopoeia, it means words that describe sounds -- generally animal noises like hiss, oink, meow.

So "o" words and kindergarten beats Mom most every time.

My saving grace is that Boy #2 is truly fun to be with. His brother had a birthday party to attend on Mother's Day (and no, I don't know what that family was thinking when they planned it, nor what we were thinking when we agreed he could go). It took us most of the day to realize that, because of the party, there was no way The Husband and kids could make me dinner that night. It had been a really long week, which is my only excuse for why we were so dull-minded about that.

So Boy #2 pipes up that he'll take me to dinner. After some finnagling, we settled on the Mexican place within walking distance of our house; they make lovely margaritas, which makes it essential that they're within walking distance.We played an hour or so of Wii, then headed out for dinner. On the way home, my son suggested we skip down the hill. . .and we did. It was great fun -- honest.

As we entered our neighborhood, I said, "You, my dear, are a fun date!" He looked up at me, pride shining in his big blue/gray/green eyes, and said, "Mom, you are one smart cookie!"

And he's modest to boot.

-ma'am


Friday, April 19, 2013

Dads 'n cows

I miss the cows.



Not these cows, exactly, but cows like them. See, The Husband and I recently spent an idyllic weekend at the WinShape Retreat Centre in Mount Berry, Ga.

WinShape is the foundation started by S. Truett Cathy (the Chick-Fil-A guy) to "make a difference in the world." They do that through various programs aimed at children, married couples and families, all "set in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by a rolling wonderland of forests, meadows and streams that provide the perfect backdrop to encourage both growth and transformation."

Indeed.

We were at WinShape as guests of All Pro Dad (APD), an organization that helps fathers connect with their kids, becoming better fathers in the process. The Husband has been "team captain" of the APD chapter at our elementary school for a couple years now; APD brought in captains from across the country to meet each other, share ideas and see how we might grow the organization.

In explanation, it sounds a little esoteric, but it was one of the most fun weekends we've had in a long time. It was almost like the APD folks searched their database, decided who would be BFFs and then summoned us all to the Georgia mountains for a few days. Many of us remarked that we didn't seem like strangers at all, but old friends. Shared values will do that.

Part of the wonder of the WinShape Retreat amenities -- This place is the Disneyworld of non-Disney resorts! -- are its facilities. Because the group of buildings once served as the dairy for Berry College (a gorgeous little liberal arts school set on 26,000 acres of nature preserve), visitors sleep, eat and meet in former animal stalls, milking barns and related spaces. They've skillfully decorated the buildings and rooms to retain the charm of the farm; if you could manage to forget the facilities' former use, large photos of Guernsey cows and antique farm implements grace most walls.

And the food! Nightly, we were treated to cookies and milk, icecream floats by the fire pit, specialty coffee drinks, bananas foster and many other delicacies. . . after we'd been offered dessert with dinner. We dined -- very well -- at the only place on earth where you can get Chick-Fil-A on a Sunday. They performed amazingly delicious magic with green beans and even cauliflower.

Admittedly, the goal we were given was lofty: To help make a difference in families by involving and empowering fathers in their children's lives. But in that setting, with that band of visionaries, we caught a glimpse of what we could achieve together.

-ma'am

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Trouble with Five


The trouble with five is that your teeth are never in the right place. They get in the way when you fall; they seem to pull you along toward your brother when he’s ready to throw the Frisbee. They’re hard to brush, too, and Mom’s rarely satisfied that they’re truly clean (even when they are).

The trouble with five is all the energy and excitement. Sometimes there’s just no way to be still, whether you’re trying to get dressed for the day or ride in the car or go to sleep – too many thoughts and “what ifs” swirl around in your head until you can’t help but sing them out (sometimes over and over again).

The trouble with five is that ‘most everything is funny. Even if nobody else thinks so, you just need to laugh out loud (and that’s not always good). Your brother does the goofiest things; your friends make faces and noises in the classroom and your parents say and do things for no other reason than to tickle your funny bone. It usually works.

The trouble with five is that so much of the world is unpronounceable, and the other stuff – the stuff you can pronounce – is on a shelf just a little too high to reach.

The trouble with five is that your teacher is great (kinda like Mom, really), until the day she’s not. But nobody will believe that she’s mean now. The trouble with five is that the little girl who loved you when school started last fall won’t sit beside you now when Mom puts a smoothie in your lunch. And Mom keeps putting smoothies in your lunch!

The trouble with five is that it’s hard work, keeping track of whether you’re supposed to be Ninja Jay or Harry Potter or the Blue Knight when you play Ninjago-Harry Potter-Medieval Times after school. How do you decide if it’s best to use your sword or your light saber? The rules are pretty tricky.

The trouble with five is that there aren’t enough hours in the week to play with Play Doh. Or Legos. Or to paint. Or do puzzles. Or trace with stencils. Or dig in the backyard. Or hunt for rocks to add to your collection. Or learn about the moon.

The trouble with five is that it quickly – too quickly – turns into six.

-ma'am

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Oops! Forgot 1

Sometimes, it takes a village. . . or at least a goodly number of neighbors.

Why, you may ask, is The Husband up in the neighbor's tree? I'm surprised you had to ask: Didn't everyone's eldest son receive a remote-controlled helicopter for Christmas?

The problem, you see, is that Boy #1 has yet to play with said helicopter. It came with very explicit instructions about its operation -- most importantly that one is not to attempt to fly it if the temperature is below 50 degrees or if there's the slightest bit of wind.

After several failed attempts by The Husband and The Grandfather (that would be my dad, who gifted the helicopter) to fly it a week or so ago, The Husband decided that the time was ripe last weekend. Unfortunately for him, he was mistaken.

Flying was going exceptionally well, I have to admit. I was just getting ready to remark that maybe he shouldn't take it quite so high (in the range of the 2nd story of The House), when the wind took it into our neighbor's tree.

You'd think it would be fairly easy to dislodge a smallish toy from the branches of a barren oak tree. You would be wrong.

One ladder, one long branch lopper, a comforter and several neighbors later. . .


and the heli was back in The Boy's hands. (Mind you, he still hasn't gotten to play with his toy. Ahem.)

I'll leave out the part where The Husband then dropped the lopper, which narrowly missed Boy #2 and caused this writer not a small bout of anxiety.

So. . .more surprises for us. It does, indeed, take a village. I'm just grateful the neighbors were all home to help.

-ma'am

Monday, January 14, 2013

Surprising 2013

We're not even halfway through January yet, and it's already shaping up to be a surprising -- and surprisingly good -- year.

Consider how we kicked off the new year here at The House. No wild parties or children carousing Lego bins until midnight. . . we hosted a 5K. I know, right?! And if you know The Family, you're even more surprised.

We were really impressed with the folks at Lifetime Fitness and their sponsoring Commitment Day on January 1. In a nutshell, they organized 5Ks in 30 cities around the country so folks could kick off their year with a healthy activity. Great idea, no? Except they wanted $40 for the privilege to run with several hundred of your closest strangers. Oh sure, they'd give you a t-shirt; and if you wanted to bring a kid along, that was OK, too. But seriously. Forty bucks?

As I was lamenting this exorbitant expense to The Husband, the words I was least expecting to hear actually came out of his mouth: "Why don't we organize our own?" After ascertaining that he did, in fact, realize none of us run (any distance, with any sort of regularity, and certainly not for enjoyment), I warmed up to the idea. Why not indeed?

So here's the brave band of souls that took to our neighborhood streets on Jan. 5. (We were having torrential downpours on Jan. 1 and we just weren't that committed.)


Yes, we're all facing away from the camera (everybody but Kirby, the wonder dog). Keeping our friends safe from wackos and predators.

It was surprisingly fun, even though the only ones who ran were our neighborhood Iron Man and his dog. Most of the kids rode bikes, although Boy #2 did a fantastic job of encouraging The Husband to run in spurts. I walked; no mystery there. We're thinking that we just might do it again next year.

Surprise #2 is that Boy #2 mastered his training wheels at a blistering pace, setting a personal best "international record in the cul-de-sac" (his words) of 8 laps around, plus a bonus roll almost all the way around the subdivision. Since he'd avoided the big boy bike for much of the past year, we'd resigned ourselves that maybe biking just wasn't his thing. Turns out he enjoys it quite a bit if the seat and training wheels are adjusted correctly, so everything's at the right height and his knees aren't up in his ears. My boy, the perfectionist. :-)

If the rest of 2013 continues in this vein, I might even have to send Christmas letters come December.

-ma'am