Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We're all in the same boat, it seems.

Thanks to all my mom friends who commented and offered suggestions - and empathy - for the sibling wars being waged at our house. Thanks also to my cousin Kim who works with Head Start kids and offered some suggestions via facebook. I am thankful that so many of us are having the same experience, especially all of you that I admire for your creativity, calm demeanor, and great attitudes. It helps me not feel like the battles are all my lack of parenting skill - because you clearly have skills, and your kids are battling too.

What I mostly get is that there are no quick and easy answers here. After writing yesterday's post, I tried really hard to make things better today, and incorporated some of the suggestions offered. Here are my thoughts:

- I paid attention as much as I could. I am prone to wander away with my thoughts (or just mealtime preparations), and ignored children seem to fight more to get my attention (I feel dumb for mentioning this).

- We moved our bodies in (somewhat) constructive ways. Blue had a rec center class today, and we also spent a good deal of time racing around the house. When I thought we might descend into chaos, we took a walk, even though it was hot, threatening thunderstorms, and I had other things to do.

- I tried to get a few quality minutes in with each kid so that they felt like I was paying attention. For Pink, this was during Blue's class, and for Blue, during Pink's nap. I didn't do any special projects today or any significant meal prep so that freed up some time.

- I tried really hard not to raise my voice. I'm kind of a loud person, so my "inside voice" is already at increased decibels, and I tend to shout up the stairs rather than walk up and talk to whoever's attention I'm looking for.

- I checked out the site from Vanderbilt University recommended by Kim. Certainly a lot of good information there about how to help little ones build pro-social behaviors.

Thanks to everyone for offering support and similar stories. I believe we are all trying our very hardest to raise our kids to be happy, healthy, functioning members of society, and I appreciate all the moms who offer a listening (blogging?) ear when I become the unhappy, unhealthy, totally non-functioning person who can't get her kids to behave.

This, too, shall pass - and one day, they'll have kids of their own, and we can snicker...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

With a sibling like this, who needs enemies?

That stupid bumpersticker that I used to jeer at, "Insanity is hereditary; you get it from your children" is coming back to bite me. Blue is going to drive me insane. He is a good kid, uses his manners most of the time, takes turns, and does what I ask if not the first time, usually the second; but there is one thing about him that is going to push me over the edge - it's the way he treats his sister. Much of the time, they play nicely together. Blue is in charge of the games, but plays along with Pink when she puts her own spin on stuff. But sometimes, whether for reasons of hunger or boredom or whatever, the relationship spirals out of control to hitting, yelling, pushing, slamming doors, and biting (what is he, 2?). I CAN'T STAND IT!!!! It makes me want to hit, push, and bite someone. If he doesn't watch it, she's going to be an only child.

I blame his mother. She's an only child and never had any sibling relations to deal with. Or maybe his father since he's the oldest of a bunch and knew all the tricks. Regardless, I need help. Ideas. Something. My usual parenting technique (thank you, Kazdin method) is to reward and encourage appropriate behavior and (try to) ignore inappropriate behavior. How do I reward someone for not hitting?

Anyone out there with kids about as far apart as mine that has successfully dealt with this, please, give me some hints.

Monday, June 28, 2010

BlueGrass and BlueShield

I am in charge of most of the paperwork that filters through our household. Bills, insurance paperwork, car registration renewals - I generally do the filling out of forms, addressing of envelopes, writing of checks, and general tracking of stuff and how and when it gets handled. In the last few weeks, I have done more than my usual amount of paperwork for some pretty random reasons, but I just noticed that a really high percentage of this stuff goes to Lexington, Kentucky. I wonder why - does Lexington have some sort of monopoly on insurance and loan paperwork? Or is it that people with a last name in my part of the alphabet have been assigned geographically to be processed in the bluegrass state?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The temperature is not the only thing rising.

It's summer in Texas when the best parking spot is determined by shade instead of distance, and you discover that a car seat buckle can double as a branding iron. It's also summer in Texas when the love-hate relationship with baking sets in for me.

I love to bake, but in the summer, anything with yeast makes me thrilled. It rises at supersonic speeds, and if I'm a little behind on my timing, a few minutes out on the patio makes up for it. This morning before church, I baked 5 dozen rolls. The yeast start practically climbed out of the bowl, and I had to rearrange my other activities because instead of an hour to rise, the rolls were ready to go in the oven after 20 minutes on the counter. A few days ago, I made oatmeal bread, which is generally kind of hit or miss for me because the dough is so heavy and the yeast start is unusual. Nevertheless, a few minutes outside, and everything turned out fine.

The only problem with everything being the temperature of a warm oven is that turning on the actual oven is not so appealing. Although, I might just be able to get around turning the oven on - I'm pretty sure that it was close to 350 degrees in the attic the last time I went up, maybe I can just bake up there.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In ballet, like life, it's all about spin.

"Pink, let's put your leotard on"
"No, I'm busy"
"Pink, it's time to go"
"Just a minute"
"Pink, you can have some lipstick if you get dressed right now"
"Coming, mommy"

In keeping with our summer of over scheduled lessons (ie, golf, tennis, other sports, swimming lessons, piano), we signed Pink up for ballet lessons. She thought it was a marvelous idea, and has spent the last week gearing up for the lessons by telling every member of the family that they would not be allowed into the room for her lessons - we would all have to wait outside.

She practiced before we left by demonstrating fifth position:

Of course, once we came into the classroom, Pink's big talk about everyone waiting outside turned into a plea to hold mommy's hand and sit on her lap. I managed to get 3 feet away for a second to snap this picture before Pink noticed and insisted that I sit within arms reach. What's so scary about a ballet teacher?
With her hand firmly in mine, we practiced running on tiptoe making "princess" and "beachball" arms, pointing our toes, and some stretches. For a first class, not too bad. To hear her tell it, she had a marvelous time and was totally into it - and earned a teddy bear sticker for all her hard work.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Three years in, and I'm still learning to survive

I originally started blogging to chronicle our family's journey from Washington, DC to Texas. In fact, one of my first posts was about some of the stranger things I had noticed about this area. Now, almost three years later, I am starting to embrace the stranger things - or at least, not be horrified by them. The book pictured has been a great help. It was written as a humorous take on life in Texas from an outsider's perspective. While it does make me laugh (out loud sometimes), it is also extremely comforting to know that I am not the only person to have moved to this area and thought things were a little different...but in a good way.

Mind you, I still haven't come to terms with everything, and I've spent most of today trying to work "yall" into a sentence (I just can't do it), but it's getting better. We're feeling more settled, I've stopped ranting about the lack of grocery delivery and the overabundance of firearms (or at least, stopped ranting as loudly - note the firearms), and the whole family has started to establish friendships. I still don't understand the obsession with football, I still snicker every time I drive past the MaryKay world headquarters building, and I'm dying for some decent Ethiopian food; but as a family, we have discovered golf, learned to style our hair for heat and humidity, and gloat each time we can have a picnic on our lawn in December.

Like it or not, Texas is growing on me. Who knows, maybe next year I'll buy cowboy boots.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Making Up is Hard to Do

This picture was taken in the adults' bathroom. MY bathroom (okay, Red has half of it). That stool Pink is standing on - not normally in this bathroom; she brought it in.
So that she could get to my lipsticks, which I keep at the very back of my counter (after discovering that "in the drawer" was not safe).

After trying out several options, Pink finally settled on this one, and wore it proudly for about 1 minute until I attacked her with a tissue (before she attacked my white sheets in the next room).
Today I learned:
- Some 2-year-olds really are good problem solvers - get a stool, grab the stuff you want, figure out how to open and twist up a lipstick.
- Some divas are born. I swear I don't feed this, but Pink doesn't consider herself dressed until she has "accessories" - like a necklace, bracelet, or feather-accented headband.
- Some kids can't sleep through thunder storms. Pink was supposed to be napping during the time these pictures were taken. Blue, who rarely naps, slept for almost 2 hours through thunder so loud the windows were rattling.
- Some mothers can justify anything. I spent this whole episode thinking things like "oh, she's practicing her fine motor skills by taking the lids off", but never thinking things like "if I were a decent disciplinarian, she wouldn't be trashing my stuff"
- Some stages of life are much too fleeting. Pink is adorable right now. She's generally happy about stuff, says "I love you" a lot, and even when she says "no", she's cute about it. I know harder ages are coming, but I just love this little girl right now. She's trying so hard to be big, but still wants to cuddle with her mommy sometimes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My first cousin once removed in law by marriage...

The title of the blog post isn't a real relationship (I checked with the genealogy gurus I know), but you get the idea. My (insert obscure relationship here) Ann is a truly lovely person (for the record, her husband and my husband are first cousins once removed). I met her for the first time at Red's grandmother's wedding about 10 years ago, and didn't see her again until we showed up on her front door step looking for a place to sleep before a job interview - where she and her whole family welcomed us with open arms. We've been great friends ever since. She's my parenting hero as well as the most considerate and hospitable person I have ever met. I can't stand that we live so far apart now and only get to see each other on rare occasions and via blogs and facebook.

Fortunately, I will get to see Ann live and in person later this summer - all by myself. I hadn't realized it before, but I have never taken a vacation without either my parents or my husband. Crazy! I've done plenty of solo travel for work, but never for fun. This one will be for fun. Ann and I will be at the BlogHer conference in NYC this summer, and I am so excited I can't hardly stand it. Not only is she a fabulous tech guru and resource, she seems to have no real need for sleep. This is my kind of girl! Can't wait to see you, Ann!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hot and Heavy . . .

I didn't want to go. It was the middle of the day and I knew that going would have repercussions but I knew I had to go through with it. As soon as I opened the door, the heat took over my entire body in a way I haven't felt for months. My cheeks blushed and my eyes squinted so that nothing seemed clear. I needed to move quickly and so I charged forward. Once I got what I wanted, I was gone in a flash. Back at home I could finally cool down. Why did I do it? I could have stayed in the safety of my home instead of engaging in this hot and sweaty affair. It didn't matter, it is summer and I would need to do it again tomorrow. Why is the mailbox so far from the front door anyway?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

When Pink asked today, "Why your name Dad?", Red replied, "because of you and your brother"
Happy Father's Day to Red, from the two colorful souls who call him Dad. Thank you for being excited about paper ties colored with crayons (nothing but the finest in at-church crafts). Thank you for being their hero and friend. They love you, and so do I.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

It Takes a Man to be a Dad

I think tomorrow's post should be reserved for Red, so I'm taking the opportunity a day early to pay tribute to the other fathers in our lives - Red's Dad and my Papa (yeah, I still call him that).

As I get older, and get to watch more and more kids grow up from an adult's perspective, I see how important dads are - especially the ones that are trying. As in, trying to be involved with their kids, trying to do the best they can, and trying to teach the values they believe in. I am grateful to Red's Dad and my Papa for trying so hard to raise the two of us, and for trying to be involved with our kids, even though we've moved them so far away from their grandparents.

Here is Grandpa with Blue, doing chair races. Grandpa raised 8 kids, has 6 grandkids, and acquired 4 daughters-in-law. That's a lot of people to remember - yet he still knows all our names and relevant information. Thanks for teaching Red how to work and about the responsibility he has for his family - it shows in the way he raises his own son and takes care of us.

Here is Opa. He has always called me his favorite daughter (so what if I'm an only child...), called Red his favorite son-in-law, and carried that on with Blue and Pink. It always makes everyone feel special. Thanks for always believing in me, and making me believe that there wasn't anything I couldn't do if I put my mind to it. Thanks for teaching me to ride a bike and drive a stick shift car. I can't imagine how you survived that with your sanity. Thanks for showing by your example that it's never a burden to go out of your way to help someone or to share what you have - even if that's only a smile.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What would you do for a handful of gummy bears?

In a few years, they will no longer perform on command (or for a handful of gummy bears offered as a bribe). For us, it will be tragic when they stop. For everyone unrelated to them...not so much.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Who Invited You?

We have a couple of spare family members that I don't remember giving birth to (and the drugs are good, but not THAT good). We call them "new bear" and "snuggle kitty", and they really are a part of our family. They are never late for bedtime, always in a good mood, and very minimally demanding in terms of feeding and hygiene; because of that, unlike our dog, they get to go on vacation with us, travel in the car, and sleep in the bedrooms.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Late Bloomers

I am an admitted procrastinator - an ignorer of things that "should" be done in favor of things that "have to" be done or things that "want to" be done. Case in point; our front flower beds. Last fall, we planted pansies. Pansies do well here in the winter and early spring. It is no longer early spring; frankly, it's not even early summer here anymore. Those flowers are pathetic looking, and have been for a while now. Today, I couldn't take it anymore, so in the middle of the afternoon, in 100 degree blazing heat, we tromped off to the garden center.
After a quick consultation with a local expert, we decided on periwinkles, which are apparently extremely heat and full-sun tolerant. We shall see. Tomorrow morning, when it's only in the upper-70's at daybreak, the kids and I will plant them - or at least, that's what I'm tell myself right now. I may put it off a day or two.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

If less is more, just think how much more more is...

I might be in a manic phase right now. I think it's the unusual amount of daylight this time of year that created the illusion in my mind of having more hours in the day.

In the last few weeks, I have started attending exercise class 3 days a week with a group from church. Not that impressive unless you consider the last exercise class I attended more than once was in college, and I needed the credits. I've ridden my new road bike an incredible number of times, and at unusual times of the day: crack of dawn, check; dusk, check; 95 degrees in the middle of the afternoon, check that too. I've taken my first piano lesson ever, and practiced the 5-note version of "Ode to Joy" enough to make my children run in fear. And I've committed to myself that I will write at least one blog post a day until the BlogHer conference in August.

But now I find that the mania is backfiring, because exercise class comes really early, but I can't go to bed until I blog...thank goodness summer solstice is almost upon us, and the daylight hours will be lessening.

Monday, June 14, 2010

They call it "working" for a living

I am not complaining, but Red just checked in from work, which he has finished for the day, and sent me this picture of where he will be enjoying dinner.
I'm trying to tell myself that my leftover meatloaf with view of messy kitchen was the same thing - or better because I never have to answer to a performance review.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

stiffles and gorillas

I love watching my kids grow up, especially some of the language development. Blue, at 4 1/2, asks when he hears a word that he doesn't understand. Pink, at 2 1/2, just pronounces things the way she thinks they should sound. For instance:

stiffles: stubble + prickles = what daddy's face feels like when he hasn't shaved

gorilla: umbrella

next by me: as in, "sit next by me", which is something between "by" and "next to"

litty bitty: little bit or itty bitty, I'm not really sure, but I know it's not very much

mommymommymommy: my new name; apparently the old one wasn't getting attention quickly enough

bistic: biscuit

Pink is also working on her "s" sounds at the beginnings of words, so we either hear a lot of "SSSSS" or none at all, either of which is hilarious.

Tennis, anyone?

It's been a pretty typical Saturday for our young family - trying to cram as much fun into one day as we possibly can! Red started out this morning with golf lessons, so the rest of us had some time to play. We decided to check out the peewee tennis clinic at our local PGA superstore (what, tennis in a golf store? Yes indeed!). Pink insisted that she wanted to play, so we got her a racket, and discovered once again that she favors her left hand - she prefers to hold her fork in her left hand, color with her left hand, and even putt left handed (apparently, Daddy-Daughter dates sometimes involve putting). She held her own with the tennis balls for a while:

Blue couldn't get enough. One of his friends from preschool happened to be there, and he was so grateful to have someone to pal around with.
Apparently, Blue has decided that covering his face is the most important thing to do with his racket. He actually did a pretty good job, and certainly had a good time.
After Pink lost interest, we wandered around the store, where she discovered frisbee golf, and decided those lovely disks were perfect plates. She served me some salad and "picy tuff" (aka, spicy stuff). I still have no idea what she means by spicy stuff, but I certainly find it charming that she thinks I like it.
We also did a little geocaching, attended a birthday party, took an extremely hot walk to the grocery store, and tried to get Red packed for his trip to Newport Beach tomorrow. Saturdays always seem to go by in a blur, but I am so grateful for every minute we have to spend together as a family.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Artificial Intelligence

I feel a little silly writing about this, but I love my new toy phone. In the last couple of weeks since I got this marvel of web-enabled technology, here are my "where have these things been all my life" moments:

- pandora on the go: I exercise in the mornings with a group of people in our church gym. One morning, no batteries for the CD player - enter my phone with pandora, and we all got to sweat to my Gwen Stefani mix.

- google sky: point the phone at the sky and learn the names of constellations, stars, and locations of planets. I even found the polar star for the first time ever. I'm a geek, but I'm okay with it.

- live navigation: the woman who tells me when to turn has saved my skin more than once.

- gps: okay, this is silly, but I'm totally obsessed with the geocaching thing. I'm trying to talk random people into playing with me now - since I've already exhaustively nagged my friends and family to go find stuff in the woods.

- email in the park: I think the grandparents have gotten more pictures of the kids in the last few weeks than all of last year. "Click, send, I'm in contention for daughter(& -in-law) of the year"

- mickey mouse clubhouse (or anything YouTube): the kids think it's amazing that mickey can sing to them while we are waiting in line for something.

I'm a little embarrassed about how long it took me to be talked into this thing - Red really had to go the extra persuasion mile. I'm slow to adopt new technology. I won't even tell you how long it took me to start paying bills online. The only drawback is that I spend most of the day trying to convince myself that it's me that's getting smarter, and not the phone.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The High Price of Not Paying Attention

AAAAAHHHH! Surely this has happened to everyone at one point or another, but I opened the credit card bill today and practically had a heart attack. This doesn't happen very often, we have a pretty good budgeting system in place - we log all our purchases on Google docs and keep a running tally of what we have spent for the month. And usually, we do a good job of watching and paying attention. Apparently, not this month. We didn't do anything exotic, exciting, or extraordinary - just everyday life - and the money just trickled out. To the tune of twice our usual monthly expenditures. Twice!?! Yikes. Guess we'll pay better attention this month.

Have you ever paid the price for not paying attention?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Siblings of Summer

As we enter our second week of summer vacation here, and realize that Pink and Blue will be spending more time together than they have for a while, it is my fervent hope that they will choose to get along more than they choose to hit/bite/yell at/torment each other.

I caught them in a rare moment of quiet peace in Blue's bed.

Maybe what they really need is to share a room...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dear burglars, don't bother.

When we bought our house, I was grateful to see the little box on the wall near the door indicating that a security system is installed. Little did I know, that the box and the little beep-beep noise that happens every time a window opens and closes in no way compares to the burglar proofing provided by two children and a dog. Let's face it, if you were looking to steal something, and saw this, you wouldn't dare break and enter. And risk breaking an ankle? Not worth it.
And not only would you have a broken ankle, you'd be stuck on the floor, likely to be the slobber victim of an 80 pound Labrador who wasn't loved enough as a puppy. Of course, if you were a smart burglar, you would realize that anything of value that we might once have owned has long since been spit on, colored on, mangled, or just lost.

You might consider the house across the street - it's a nice childless couple with a very small dog.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Geocaching: A nice tromp through the woods, or yet another reason I love my new cell phone (even though I have yet to figure out how to actually make a call on the thing).

Have you tried geocaching? I hadn't, until I saw a little description on Wendy's blog (sorry, she's private, or I'd link), and curiosity got the better of me. I looked up the geocaching website during dinner, signed up, and convinced the kids that this was a good use of our evening - with a little help from this video:

So, we looked up our closest cache, put the dog on a leash, and went on a treasure hunt with a GPS-enabled cell phone. Lo and behold, we found it (see Pink with the container under her arm?)!

In retrospect, the 95 degree temperatures, mosquitoes, and black-panting-dog-who-hates-heat should have been a little bit of a deterrent, but what's a little suffering in the name of treasure hunting fun?

There are over a million geocaches out there, and I can't wait to find some more. Long live technology!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Vacation, all I ever wanted.

We travel. Not extensively or fabulously, but we have no qualms about strapping our kids in a car/plane/train/boat and heading out somewhere to see something new. In the few years we have been doing this, I have discovered a few things for keeping my kids (and therefore the adults) happy in-transit. I hope you have some tips too, and will share them as we enter the summer travel season.

* Rest stops are not for resting, they are for running around like mad. Resting is done when strapped into a seat with nowhere to go.

* Stopping to eat is futile. Kids who have been strapped in need to move. Feed them while they are strapped in. Eating kills time, and keeps tired parents awake while driving. Don't ask what my upholstery looks like.

* Strange amusements. I found these wax sticks in the dollar bin at my local craft store. They provided 2 full hours of entertainment on a recent plane ride. Better than the game system, far quieter, and lighter too.

* Leave early, stay late. If you can manage it, travel while the kids are supposed to be sleeping. They might sleep in the car/plane/train/boat.

* New toys. They don't have to be fancy or flashy, but something small and interesting, preferably in a difficult-to-open package will buy a lot of mileage.

* Don't forget the lovey. Whatever my kids love (we call them snuggle kitty and new bear), they travel with us. We're down to just one snuggle kitty because we lost one in the Honolulu airport, so they now travel exclusively inside suitcases, but when we get where we're going, the kitty and bear are there.

* Hotel pool (thanks to my friend Charlotte at Memories for Later for this one). The hotel pool will tire out a small child so much that they will sleep no matter how unusual their surroundings - and it might be their favorite part of the vacation anyway.

* Dishsoap-soaked paper towels. This one sounds odd, but before we leave, I drizzle a little dishsoap (we've already established that I like Dawn) on some paper towels and let them dry for a day, then fold them and put them in a Ziploc bag in my luggage. They go through security because they are not "wet", and it lets me do some dishes - like reusable water bottles and sippy cups at any hotel sink.

Bon Voyage!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

What is an oil spill, Mommy?

One of my jobs as mom is to try to explain the world in language that a 4-yr-old can understand. When I got the question, "What is an oil spill?", I tried an explanation of drilling, pumping, leaky pipes, and environmental catastrophe, but eventually had to go with a demonstration.

We started with a bowl of clean water:
Added a few drops of sesame oil (it was the darkest oil I had, and also the smelliest):
Swirled the oil around a little, and found out that even though there wasn't very much of it, it stuck to our fingers when we put them in the water:
Then we tried to clean the water. We added Dawn detergent, and it certainly moved the surface oil out of the center, but there was really no place for it to go:
Finally, we stirred the detergent in, and ended up with an evenly dispersed, foamy mess:

I don't know how much of this Blue and Pink understood, but they got that adding oil to the water meant that 1) we didn't want to drink that water or swim in it and 2) we had a hard time getting it cleaned up. My heart aches to think about the disaster in the gulf right now, and I hope that somehow the health of that area will someday be restored.