Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Don't.

I think it's probably the insatiable inner student within that compels me to respond in turn to this blogger's recent post. I mean, it pretty much demands a response, right?

Things I Don't Do -

1. I don't do Marble Run. We "lost" all the pieces and I can still play the "marbles are dangerous" card for awhile longer, but the truth is that Marble Run has the potential to reduce me to tears as I struggle to make runs that actually work. "I went to an honors college, I went to an honors college," I chant to myself as I try to force impossible combinations of plastic together as the kids try to avoid telling me, again and again, how good Daddy is at Marble Run.

2. I don't sort the toy bins. Pretty much ever. Contents of one tote, pulled randomly from under the table: Handle (only) to toy vacuum; drill, missing the bit; giggling cow that moos and shakes; two out of three pieces of a Happy Meal game; an infant inchworm musical toy, long outgrown; 10 Matchbox cars; 2 tiny dolls; 5 pieces of a puzzle; 1 bottle of "pop" from the kitchen set, originally given to me as a child. I rationalize this disorganization by reasoning that this kind of jumble promotes creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, because who know what kind of wonders could be created with an oversized inchworm and undersized dolls?

3. I don't serve tater tots. I'm not about to get all high and mighty and Jamie Oliver-y (even though I adore the man - and his mission) but I find them gross and weird. (Upon reflection, my perspective on tater tots is particularly strange to me, because I have no problem serving chicken nuggets - in the shape of dinosaurs, no less - but I draw the line at a reconstituted potato??)

4. I don't make my kids stop drinking coffee. Secretly - or not so secretly - I revel in the fact that Leo and now Pax are both Java Junkies. After all, it originated with the effort to get them to drink more milk, and has evolved into a morning - and afternoon - ritual that I absolutely love.

5. I don't do couponing - you know, the kind with binders and organizers and Double Dollar Days. I find grocery shopping torturous enough as it is, and I cannot fathom adding to the agony by visiting multiple stores, kids in tow, to save a buck. I feel mildly guilty at the register, knowing I could have had 15 boxes of saltines for the price of 5 if only I were a savvier shopper, but that guilt lasts only as long as it takes me to devour the bon-bons and brownies I bought at full price.

Things I Don't Do But Would Like to Do:

6. Golfing. I don't play golf, but I'd like to learn. Did I really just say that? I like to joke that I am a "golf orphan" since my parents have become such avid golfers. But I fear that I'll eventually become a "golf widow/golf childless person" since the male members of this family are so enthusiastic to hit the fairways. Hypothetically, it's a very appealing game - it's outside; it's a lot of walking; it's an individual sport, and most importantly of all, the outfits are adorable!

7. Allowance. I don't give the kids an allowance. For starters, who has cash these days? Before our monthly poker games, I always have to raid the kids' piggy banks for cash. One night, the tooth fairy called her neighbor/father in a panic, realizing there was NO CASH in the house and needing some money in exchange for one pretty molar. After pooling all their dollars and coins into one heaping stack, Aidan and Leo then stuffed it all into a tri-fold fabric wallet that they promptly... lost. If this isn't a reason to start instilling the value of a dollar in my children, I don't know what is.

8. Cooking with Kids. I don't do this enough. We make banana bread, or brownies, or cupcakes here and there, but it's all I can do to get a hot meal on the table, alone and in a timely manner; adding a child's help is too much. But as the kids grow older, I hope to include them much more in the daily dinner prep. Ideally, I'll cook merely 3 or 4 nights a week, and each boy in the house - including Jeff - will be in charge of dinner on the other nights. (Hmm... I better amend this to I don't cook and clean enough with the kids, because if I am going to unleash them in the kitchen, they'd better know how to clean it, too.)

9. Shopping on QVC. I've never done this, and I was too embarrassed by it to put it on my Rockin' List, but the truth is - I desperately want to make a QVC purchase. The rules I've set for myself is that it must be exceptional, something I truly love that is very unique. More importantly, I must call the show. I cannot order online, because that would be cheating. Must. Call. QVC. Bonus points if it's in the middle of the night when I should be sleeping!

10. Having organized cupboards. Unlike the toy totes, the disorganization of the cupboards can be fairly stressful to me. It is very stressful to Jeff (which perhaps explains why he'll need a few cooking lessons, too). Again, I rationalize the cupboards in our home (juxtaposed against an otherwise very tidy and organized abode) as an expression of creativity; who knows what kind of inspiration one might encounter when, reaching for a can of peaches, one unearths a bottle of mod-podge instead? But if one of the things that causes me to fuss at my children is their inability to find something because they've "put it away" in a "safe place," then I'd better be mighty sure that I can place my hands on that jar of roasted peppers or bag of risotto rice in the blink of an eye - without extracting a bunch of holiday gift bags, earbuds for the ipods, or paint brushes - in the process.

And that, dear reader, is what this Mom doesn't do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Theme Songs

We've been busy. The good kind of busy. The kind of busy that keeps me away from the computer, my blog, as we soak up the days of summer like so many rays of sun...

When school let out on May 24, I'm sorry to admit my theme song would have been "I Will Survive." (Moms who have children who have not yet gone to school might be shocked and dismayed by this admission - I know this, because I used to be That Mom. But moms who have school-aged-kids will totally understand - week after seemingly endless week with ALL THE KIDS under one roof, with NO SCHEDULE, NO ROUTINE, and a frightening lack of "Me" time? Aaugh!!) Mercifully, my inner Aretha Franklin belted out her tune for only about a week or so....

It has been, it is a wonderful summer. Despite his Mt. Everest-climbing abilities and death-defying leaps into bodies of water, Pax is a much easier age this year than he was the past two summers. After the initial shock of having a house full of children - all day, every day - finally wore off, we settled into a summertime routine that I have come to relish. Our days are not extraordinary - pool; playground; crafts; reading; watching television, lingering over coffee, playing rounds of Uno before bed - but it's been the ordinary-ness of our days (sprinkled with some extraordinary adventures here and there) that have made this summer particularly memorable to me. Although I'll mourn the day that the summer ends (in just two and a half short weeks! waah! ), I'm excited to see what shows up in our Summer Memories Jar, to be relived and remembered during the cold winter months.

"Say what you need to say" by John Mayer seems like a fitting theme song for Pax these days. As I've detailed before, Pax is a gifted communicator - a completely nonverbal communicator, that is. We can't wait to hear what this boy has to say, if he ever decides to share his reflections of the universe with the rest of us. Hell, I'd even take "No!" or "Mine!" at this point. Say what you need to say, my boy! His receptive language is wonderful; case in point - Leo loves chewing gum, and asks for it often. Pax feels mighty put out when he's not allowed to have any, and at those times when I cannot discreetly pass Leo some gum without Pax demanding his own, I've given in and provided a teeny wad of gum for Pax to chew. The other day, I explained very clearly, "Pax, you cannot swallow the gum. You must chew it only. Understand?" Half an hour later, I wondered what kind of mulch or stone Pax had put in his mouth at the playground, only to find, to my astonishment, that he was still chewing his gum. I laughed at this tiny mute, this baby boy who refuses to speak yet who understands to chew his gum without swallowing it.

"All By Myself" - Leo's theme song, of course. As in, "I can do it all by myself, and I WILL, gosh darn it!" I love hearing Leo talk himself through his upsets. He's a veritable walking self-help book, with his ability to coach himself through his tantrums and torments. "No one will let me have any fun! I want to ride my bike outside but Mommy said No! I can't do what I want to do and I am here in my room by myself! I want to go outside! (silence) I am upset! (longer silence!) Mommy said I can't go outside! (longest silence still.)" Later, when I check on him, he is quietly looking at books, ready to move on to another indoor activity. I absolutely love this about Leo - his self-talk, his inner voice who coaches him through the hard parts of his life. And, like most other things in his life, from getting dressed to buckling his seatbelt to fixing his own coffee, he does it... all by himself.

And Aidan's theme song might very well be "The Song that Never Ends." His energy is boundless, his curiosity is infinitely greater than my attempts to answer his questions, and his enthusiasm for life is catching, just like the earworm I've just planted in your mind by mentioning this childhood hallmark tune. I feel grateful all over again for how healthy Aidan is this year, as last summer's autoimmune virus cast a dark shadow over our days. This summer, I've watched Aidan grow so much. He is most helpful in unloading the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, watering the trees, and even, on one occasion (and with the help of Leo) going so far as to change Pax's diaper and get him dressed. I love this big kid!

My theme song? That one is easy. It applies not only to this summer, but also to these tender and early years of raising our young family. "These are the days you'll remember....."

These are the days
These are days you’ll remember
Never before and never since, I promise
Will the whole world be warm as this
And as you feel it,
You’ll know it’s true
That you are blessed and lucky
It’s true that you
Are touched by something
That will grow and bloom in you

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Grand" Adventures

(Caveat Lector (let the reader beware): my creative writing energy has been focused on a more pressing issue these days - convincing our public schools to save arts and music - so I'm fully aware that this blog post is somewhat.... "ho-hum," as one beloved (yet ballsy!) reader described a different, recent post. While the content is rich, the delivery is poor. Mea Culpa.)

Summer Wednesdays have become Hangin' with Grandma and Grandpa Days (while I put in a few hours doing the grunt work for a massive and important research project that my professor leads). They have become one of the most highly anticipated days of the week, because the days always promise fun and adventure (isn't that the definition of "Grandma and Grandpa"?)

Once, they rode their bikes over to G & G's house - and then exhaustively explored the special trails my dad has created, winding all through their sprawling acreage. Another day, they played at the sandy, inviting lakefront (dubbed "Beach 6"). They took turns going down the steep water slide, straight into the lake.... but Leo was so hesitant and fearful of the too-fast slide that my dad spent the next day building a whole new extension to the dock in order to accommodate a less steep slide. Then there was the day that they all went to see Mr. Popper's Penguins. Grandma's enormous popcorn bucket fed the whole crew, which delighted Pax almost as much as the movie itself - he cackled and giggled with the rest of the audience and didn't fall asleep once, as he gnawed his way through a gallon of popcorn.

But this past Wednesday was a clear favorite. The older boys spent the morning creating Robots using sheets of cardboard, empty boxes, styrofoam, and other odd assorted goods (including a paper fan, some brass brads, and empty spools of ribbon). Meanwhile, Pax carted the boxes all over the house, looking important and determined to be a part of the action. Finally after hours of deliberating and creating, the masterpieces were done - and ready for their naming ceremony.

Leo announced, "My robot is named John Paul Leo. But you can just call him John."
(What a coincidence, I thought; my dad's name is John Paul.)

Aidan asserted, "MY robot's first name is Super. His middle name is Helpful. His last name is 1st-in-everything. So you can just call him SH1." Later he explained that some robots have letters AND numbers in their names, like R2D2 and C3PO. Similarly, he pointed out that his robot and Leo's robot were just like the famed Star Wars bots - one was short and fat, the other, tall and skinny.

I don't know if it is the robots, the water play, or the popcorn that the boys enjoy so much as it's the time spent with Grandma and Grandpa; the best part of my Wednesdays is getting to hear about the "Grand" Adventure. And so I eagerly await the report of this week's adventure.... Road Trip to the Science Museum!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


One afternoon during reading time, Aidan decided to take a break from Roald Dahl (who he's reading exhaustively this summer) and peruse the Thesaurus for awhile, instead. As I was prepping dinner for that night's guests, he came up behind me with the open book and said, "Look, Mom! 'Annoy.' The first word listed is 'brother'!"

I turned around and glanced at the page, then searched his face for the giveaway twinkle in his eye.....

"What's that first word?" I asked, in case I hadn't heard him correctly.

"Brother." Still no twinkle, no giggle.

"Aidan, that word is BOTHER." He groaned, turned and walked away - embarrassed by his mistake.

From my perspective of the younger sister to an older brother, and the mama to a brood of brothers, I actually think he read it perfectly the first time.