Saturday, December 14, 2013

Reindeer Games

Yesterday, Audrey and I finished the school day with a rousing game of Conquer Mesopotamia, a "board game" in which the person who reaches the finish line (moving squares by rolling a die and doing whatever action is on the square) first, wins.  Some of the squares contain questions that, if answered correctly, allow the player to advance more squares.  Audrey, always looking for an angle to position herself for a win, asked for extra questions any time she fell behind.  I was happy to comply, asking questions such as: "Nebuchadnezzar's beautiful wife wants to return home to Persia.  What does he build for her?"

Answer: According to Audrey, it's the Hovering Gardens of Babylon.  I let her move ahead two squares.  After all, you know at least one of the poor sods forced to build that wonder felt like those gardens would never stop hovering over him. 

Audrey won by three squares - not that any seven-year-olds were counting.

After school, we moved onto a little culinary project - chocolate-covered reindeer for Audrey's Girl Scout Christmas party.  I stole the idea from the December issue of EveryDay with Rachael Ray.  Ours didn't turn out as shiny bright as Rachael's reindeer.  Ours looked a little like distant cousins of hers - the offspring of those that wed illegally.  (Pay attention to that one in the rainbow sunglasses, he'll be important later.) 

I set up the project "pieces" (pretzels, red hots, marshmallows, sucker sticks, and sunglasses that Audrey had traced and colored - found online at on princess paper dolls) and melted the chocolate.  Then I got out of the way.  (If a hovering mother were that great, they would have made her the eighth wonder of the world.)  We ran into one little hiccup: how to store the marshmallows while they were setting.  Florist friends would have probably had something awesome on hand to solve the problem.  We had a teacup, dental floss, and scotch tape.  It wasn't perfect, but neither was Rudolph. 

Audrey got down to business, humming "Deck the Halls" and decking marshmallows with antlers and sunglasses.  Remember that guy in the rainbow shades?  That's her Sistine Chapel.  Let's call him Liberace, shall we?  She became very particular when it came to Mr. Rainbow Shades.  She found out which plastic bag Liberace had been assigned and scrawled her name across it (you can just make out the last few letters of her middle name in the picture above, just in case her first name wasn't sufficient).  She may have made the reindeer to share with her Girl Scout friends, but no one was getting their hands on Rainbow Shades but her.  After all, that's what Girl Scouts is all about: leaving the world a better place, and marking your territory (we might be a little shaky on the pledge).

As for me, I had a little love affair with this guy.  Oh, those upside-down antlers.  Sigh. 

Audrey reunited with Liberace at the Girl Scout party and all was bliss.  I accidentally took my scissors to one of the bags while trying to curl the green ribbons.  Which just goes to show you ladies: don't get too fancy with your packaging, or you just might lose your bag. Or patch it with scotch tape.  Your choice. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

He Told Me He's The Elf on The Shelf

He may also need a haircut.

And now, an excerpt from the boys' bath time last week:

The boys practice swimming while taking their baths, switching from "floating" on their backs to sliding the length of the tub on their stomachs.  They had flipped over onto their backs.  Jack looked at Nathan's nipple and pointed.  "Is that your belly button?"

"No.  I only have one of those.  These are my dots."

And now, a few stories found scribbled on a pink sheet of computer paper stashed in a kitchen drawer.  I can't tell you when these stories actually occurred, but the paper I found them on has a note scrawled across the top instructing me to "figure out a plan" before October 8th (with an exclamation point, two to be precise).  So without further ado, stories presumably from September (but more likely from the first week of October scribbled by a frantic mama without a plan):

Jason went to check on Nathan one night before heading to bed.  He put his hand on Nathan's back.  A drowsy voice issued from the pillow, "Is that God?"

"No, just Daddy."

"Just Daddy," said Nathan, eyes still closed. 

An explanation by Nathan to Jack regarding rabbits:

"And they eat carrots, which are so easy to make because they're already made."

An explanation by Audrey to Nathan* as we passed a cemetery in the car:

"See those stones?  There are dead people under there."

*An now an explanation from Mama about the use of the name Nathan.  The really observant among you who had their morning coffee, an early morning jog, and the blessing of all synapses firing rapidly may have noticed that Nathan was not referred to as Nate in this post.  Not a single time.  Some of you with slow Fridays and twiddling fingers might even be asking yourselves why.  Do not fear: I will tell you.  In October, Nathan informed us that he doesn't like the name Nate.  He only wants to be called Nathan.  I asked how he felt about Bear, a nickname his father has used since Nathan was crawling. 

"I like Bear.  But bears are a little dangerous.  Bears hunt, so if a bear is coming after you, he's probably going to kill you." 

Which is a little Friday wisdom we could all use.  Do not refer to Nathan as Nate, and if you see a bear coming towards you, you might want to high-tail it out of the way.  He's probably going to kill you.  You're welcome. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

While Daddy's Away

Sometimes, you have an inkling that you might be loved.  Love follows you like a shadow too shy to tap you on the shoulder, but you can feel the warm fog against your neck.  Other times, you know you're loved.  You know, because while you travel to the UK, your children create "Fake Jason" and carry him around.  Everywhere.  For FOUR days.  Until, Fake Jason's head mysteriously becomes severed from his body and is mourned (before being replaced by a much freakishly-smaller head).  Fake Jason eats dinner with the family (where he gets fed and asked questions about his day), later he is moved to the desk by the computer or spread out across the couch to enjoy some television.  Finally, I find Fake Jason camped out on my bed.  "Don't forget to cover him with a sheet!" my daughter yells on her way to her room. 

I dash off a text to Basingstoke with a picture of Fake Jason attached, "You better make it home in one piece. I don't think I can take 12 years of this."  Sometimes, love smothers those left behind.

Luckily, for us, the time away is never long and each time we find a way to mingle our respective time zones and fit in a daily phone call or two, even if only for five minutes.  But we've found the easiest way to slip ourselves into each others' days is through texts.  This time, Audrey wanted in on the action.  Since she doesn't have a cell phone of her own, I got to eavesdrop.  A little sampling (typed as written):


How are you  I miss you  I move the man I look like you.  When I was writing to you the fake man was sitting at the table after lunch.some times he is playing the race game.i put him to is UK warm or cold. From Audrey with love hope hoping you are happy.


UK is cold like home.  Did mommy like today's surprise?

(A brief interlude to explain: before he left, Audrey asked Jason to take her and Nathan on a shopping spree to buy me some gifts that would make my week go a little more smoothly.  The gifts included things like bagels for breakfast, a gift card to eat out one night, and - on this particular day - a couple magazines for my reading enjoyment.  I'm not in on the joke below, unless Rachel Ray and the makers of Family Circle are my heroes.)


Mom said she likes her gifts the hero magazines   Ha ha.she thinks the other presents are heroes to though maybe she would say it a different way.we put up the lights out side the boys found interest in zanes little play house I'd some times join them while I rote the phone rang I think it was for moms dentist appointment I had to run the phone to mom.i lost the fake mans face what good is a man with no face.we made a decoration out of cranberries love love love you love Audrey with. love love.


Thanks Audrey that was a great summary!  I agree that fake men are less useful without faces. 

We're glad Jason is home and closer than a text away this week.  Maybe, just maybe, I'm equally glad that Fake Jason's first (relocated) and second heads have been properly recycled and are no longer resting on a pillow beside yours truly.   


Monday, June 24, 2013


It's 4 o' clock and I'm curling my fork into a mess of tomato-spiked spaghetti, onions, and basil leftovers straight from the stainless-steel pot I heated it up in.  I'm not sure whether to call it or the teacup of yogurt tossed with blueberries and granola I had at eleven my lunch, and which one to deem as a snack.  It's summer and anything goes.  I'm finishing the spaghetti off with a handful of bittersweet chocolate chips.  Label them what you will, I'll just call them a little peek at heaven. 
Summer is full of those little peeks.  I'm talking actual peeks here (although, my summer and palms have seen their fair share of chocolate chips this season).  Peeks at growth as your oldest tries to squeeze into a swimsuit from a year ago.  Peeks at adventure as your kids head off to the retention pond to try their hand at fishing for the first time.  And sometimes, peeks at the things you let slip during a busy school year as you crack open a "junk" drawer and find a mass of handwritten anecdotes meant for a future blog that never found its way. 
My youngest is up to his elbows in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.  I have precisely six minutes before he moves to lining my kitchen counters with every condiment within his grasp.  It's not a "write a full-blown blog" kind of day.  But as I read through the chicken scratch of notes I began compiling in March, I'm picking up on some patterns.  One major theme appears to be Nathan and food, or more precisely, Nathan's thoughts about me and food:
Nathan went through a phase in which he made requests by referring to his body.  For weeks, I was awaken by requests like, "Mom, my body wants celery and jelly."  Nathan's body had a penchant to the peculiar in the early morning hours.  (I gave him celery and peanut butter that morning.  Just in case you're wondering.) 
One evening, I overheard him inform Jason, "My body wants apples, but Mommy's body forgot to buy apples."  (Mama's body is very unreliable.)
And now, a series of quotes from one week in March:
On Sunday: "Mom, when you eat ice cream, you want to keep your eyes open to look for cherries."
On Thursday:  Jason was working from home.  Nathan, the only child awake, was occupied.  I decided to take advantage and grab a quick shower.  When I came out, Nathan informed me that while I was busy, he found the chocolate chips and ate a bunch. 
"Where is the bag now?" I asked.
"I'm not telling you.  I don't want you to take them and eat them all."
On Friday: Nathan saw the big bag of chocolate chips (rescued from his hiding spot) back in the pantry.  "You didn't eat them all!"
May 15th: Nathan was eating breakfast by himself as his siblings slept.  He heard Jack rattling the baby gate blocking his doorway.  He offered to go let him out and left the table.  Halfway out of the kitchen he turned back, "Don't eat my breakfast while I'm gone."
Clearly, a couple of months didn't do anything to change his perception of his mother as an eating-force to be reckoned with (or at least not trusted).  However, as much as he worries that I will eat the contents of the kitchen and leave him nothing but scraps, there is one morsel he's always willing to send my way: his bread crusts.  My children used to eat their bread crusts.  They didn't know that not eating them was an option.  Then, they went to grandma's house.  Grandma made them sandwiches.  She asked if they wanted their crusts cut off.  They thought this was a fantastic idea.  They never ate their crusts again.  (This has happened as mothers send their kids off to grandma's house the world over.  Frazzled mamas complain to said mothers about the good thing they had going.  Grandmas, seasoned problem-solvers that they are, buy those plastic do-hickeys that cut sandwiches into perfect butterflies or dinosaurs and stuff them in the grandkids' Easter baskets.*  The mama who created the do-hickey sends Facebook messages to all her grandma friends telling them that children of this millennia do not eat crust.  They believe her.  She is a millionaire.**)  Jason and I find ourselves floating in whole wheat crusts come lunch time.  We've switched to guerrilla warfare tactics.  He's begun to tell the kids that the crusts are magic, that to grow big and strong you need to eat the magic. 
May 21st: "I don't want to eat the magic."
But he does want to eat everything else.***  Before I get my hands on it. 
* We love you, Mom, and the plastic dinosaur do-hickey.  Nate tells me he'll eat his crusts when he's eight.
**This story is completely fabricated.  But it sounds true.
***Except tomatoes.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

School Days: Kindergarten

We finished kindergarten on a Sunday this year with one last field trip: a celebratory family outing to the zoo, complete with a commemorative smashed penny.  The machine we visited offered a selection of four pictures for your penny-smashing pleasure.  Audrey chose a dolphin.  Jason set the levers to point to "dolphin" and Audrey wound the gears.  Her flattened penny clanked into the dispenser.  She pulled it out to admire the machine's handiwork and found herself face-to-face with a walrus.  I found a new penny.  Jason put it, with fifty cents, into the dispenser.  He set the dials.  Audrey cranked the machine.  Her penny clanked.  It was a walrus.  It just goes to show you: sometimes, you think you're going after a dolphin, but you end up in possession of a walrus.  Kindergarten: it's not all about reading and arithmetic.   
Here are a few other things kindergarten was about this year (or at least, a few of our most memorable moments):

When I asked Audrey what her favorite thing about homeschool was this year, she said, "I like trying to impress you with my handwriting.  I like trying to make you proud."  She succeeded in her endeavor, but when I look back to what she enjoyed most about school I'm reminded of introducing her to archaeology.  We studied Ancient History this year and began the year with a discussion of why we know what we do about history.  We attended a homeschool class led by an archaeologist at The Children's Museum.  Then, we conducted a little "archaeological dig" of our own - in our backyard. 
We spent the first half of the year studying animals for Science.  One of our favorite weeks was spent studying bats (including experiments on sonar, a toothpick-and-construction paper diagram of a bat, and bat crafts).  The picture above shows Audrey building a bat box at a local Parks and Rec event that week. 
The picture above was taken at Ruby Falls.  Two things: 1) This field trip really didn't have much to do with what we studied in kindergarten, since we'll cover Earth Science next year.  2) It's highly likely that this field trip will stay fresher in my mind than Audrey's, as I will always remember it as the day Jason grabbed Nathan before he finished scaling the railings of a lookout point atop a cliff.  When I look at that picture, I see a lightening bolt and my heart begins those tap dancing palpitations that signal cardiac arrest could be in my future.  3) Not all the things you learn in kindergarten are fun facts, such as bats can eat up to 600 mosquitoes an hour.  Some are more terrifying and practical in nature, like learning first-hand why Eddie Bauer makes monkey-themed leashes for children.  4) Sometimes, your teacher tells you she's going to teach you two things.  Then she sneaks in two extras.  (P.s. Audrey loved the field trip.  She spent the tour at the front of the line, holding hands with the geologist and asking her questions.  The rest of us heard several laughs from up front waft to the middle of the pack where we walked.  Later, our tour guide informed us that Audrey was assisting her in keeping things light by adding helpful comments like, "I'm glad I'm not as big as some of the people down here" when we had to squeeze through a section of the cave dubbed "Weight Watcher's Pass.") 
We happened to be visiting dear friends in Jacksonville a week after studying alligators and crocodiles, so our families loaded all the kids into two cars and headed to St. Augustine Alligator Farm.  We watched the largest alligator at the farm get its afternoon snack of rats.  It was a lesson in the food chain, and that high jumpers can come in unlikely packages. 
We're technically in our third week of summer.  We've settled on a rare day of summer in which our first event on the family calendar takes place at 6 pm.  Audrey has spent her morning in the center of a pool of library books, wearing a pair of flowered pajama pants that look like capri pants.  The legs hung to her ankles last year.  She's stretching out - in every possible way.  I don't know what she'll take with her from our kindergarten year.  She learned to read and perform simple addition and subtraction.  She read about Sumerians and Egyptians and Phoenicians.   We attended Parks and Rec programs on Squirrels, Beavers, and Foxes.  We performed experiments in the bathtub.  We caught a children's opera and a performance of The Nutcracker.  We forgot what a clean house looks like and remembered what it felt like to take our history book out to the hammock and spend a day lost at the library.   We stretched.  We grew.  We forgot our manners sometimes.  She helped me, and I helped her, get a little closer to who we were intended to be.  Kindergarten: 2012-2013.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

For Posterity's Sake: "Week" in Review 125, or Boys Without Pants

Sunday, the boys found me making muffins in the kitchen.  Nathan grabbed the footstool and soon the boys were jockeying for toe space and swats at the mixing bowl with the big silver spoon.  The floor caught a dusting of flour and cornmeal. 

Muffins in the oven, I relieved the boys of their footstool and swords spoons and began piling dishes in the sink.  I looked to my right.  Jack sat, pantless, in the pile of flour wiping it up with his discarded pants. 

I understand the inclination to multipurpose.  I'm not surprised my little ones find it so easy to turn one thing into another, being such shape-shifters themselves: lion to lion tamer, student to teacher, serious professional to comedians.  Actually, always comedians.

Some of our other moments from the weeks past:

Audrey was quite the character angel in the children's Christmas program at church.  Back at home, she asked Jason who was the prettiest in the program.  He said that all the kids were pretty.  Audrey repeated the question.  Jason repeated his answer.  This continued for several minutes as Jason insisted that all the kids in the program were pretty.  Then he walked downstairs. 

"He doesn't seem to understand what 'prettiest' means," she said. 

Audrey put on a Christmas puppet show one night using clothespins for the Wise Men and baby Jesus, a cardboard house she'd crafted for the stable, and a star taped to a straw, illuminated by a flashlight.  She reenacted the story of the Wise Men traveling to bring gifts to the Christ child.  Jason asked if she remembered what the Wise Men gave Jesus.

"Sure," she said, "gold, myrrh, and Frankenstein."

Jack has a tendency to push his food away at dinner, or give it away by tossing it to the dog.  He was up to his normal tricks one Tuesday at dinner.  (Jack, that is, not the dog.)

"He's steadfast," I said.
"That's a good word," Jason said.
"From now on, I'm not stubborn.  I'm steadfast."
"I'm going to use that on my next PM (Performance Management) review."
"When I stub my toe, I'm going to be stub-fast," said Audrey.

The week of Christmas, I found Audrey scrounging around for scotch tape, an empty toilet paper tube in her hand.  "It's going to be his (Nathan's) birthday present, so be still about it."

One Sunday, we were preparing lunch after church.  Jason turned on the television to catch the beginning of the Colts game. 

"Oh, today is that boring day where we watch football," Audrey said.
"Tell me how you really feel," said Jason.
"I really don't like it."
"Yeah, I got that."

On Monday, Audrey shooed the boys out of the kitchen, instructing Nathan to take Jack to the playroom.  Nate obeyed. 

"Now that they're gone, we can talk," she said.
"What do you want to talk about?" I asked.
"How about fish.  Tell me everything you know that other people don't know about fish."

We had a rowdy crew on our hands at dinner one night.  Jason asked them to settle down and eat so he wouldn't have to raise his voice and "get mad at them." 

"I don't like to get mad at you," he said.
"Do you like getting mad at me?" Audrey asked.
"I don't like getting mad at you at all."
"You don't like me at all?" Nathan asked.

Over Christmas break, I spent a day working at a book sale.  When I came home, Nathan greeted me.  "I love you.  I want to go bye-bye with you, because I love you.  I will ride a white horse.  Biggest in the world.  You will ride with me because it's the biggest in the world.  And I can fly."

Jason to Nathan: Do you know that sometimes I have no idea what you're saying?
Nate: Uh-huh.

Nate helped me make crepes one afternoon.  The milk had to be poured into the batter a little at a time.  Nathan wanted to dump it in all at once, so I explained that we couldn't.  "Wait while I read the directions," I said.

Two minutes later, I saw him peek at the recipe, grab the bowl of milk, and pour it in.  "Don't worry," he said, "I read the directions." 

One afternoon, Nathan came to me, eyes the size of craters, with Audrey following sheepishly behind.  "You put me in the trashcan?" he asked. 

I put a hand on each of his arms and looked him in the eyes.  "Would I put my sweet bear in the trash can?" I asked. 

"You put me in trashcan?" he asked again. (Read: Yes, Mom.  I absolutely believe you'd put your sweet bear in the trashcan.)

I assured him that I would not toss him in the garbage.  He looked back at his sister, an alligator smile slung across her face.  He realized he'd been had. 

A while later, Audrey and I were parked on the couch reading.  She asked Nate if he would bring her some Kleenex so she could blow her nose.  Nate returned a few minutes later holding the stiff paper that had been shoved inside his father's new tennis shoes.  He laughed as he handed it over.  Audrey laughed, too.  "That was much funnier than the trashcan," she said. 

Lately, Nate has been scared of going to sleep in his room.  He won't leave his bed (because his father told him not to one night), but we will hear him sobbing against his pillow ten minutes after we put him to bed.  One of us will check on him and get a report of what is frightening him that night: dragons or dinosaurs or bears.  One night this week, it was my turn.  I asked why he was crying.  He admitted a fear of cows (attacking him under the cloak of darkness, I assume). 

"Honey, cows are good.  You get your milk from cows.  You get ice cream from cows.  Nate, you want a cow in your room."  He went right to bed.  I credit the cows. 

Tuesday morning, Nate woke up and came into our master bedroom. 

"Where is Daddy?" he asked.
"Daddy is working," I said.
"He went to work?"
"He's working downstairs today," I said.
"Is he wearing pants?"

Never knowing Jason to mill around not wearing pants, I was a little confused.  "Pants like these?" he asked, pointing to the yoga pants I was wearing.  (Technically, they double as my pajama pants, but that's a story for another time.*) 

"He probably is wearing pajama pants."

The next morning, Nate woke up and ran downstairs right as Jason was leaving the house.  Jason poked his head back into the kitchen to tell him goodbye.

"Are you wearing Mama's pants?" Nathan asked.

No son, we don't multipurpose quite that far.

The boys displaying their ability to multipurpose:
family heirloom/mode of transportation (Jack lies on
the quilt and Nate pulls him around the kitchen floor, taking
corners as fast as his legs will carry him.)
* Another time: The Tale of  the Multipurposed Pants
I used to wear pajama pants to bed: regular, run-of-the-mill black, cotton-jersey pajama pants.  They were comfortable.  They were old.  Very, very old.  One morning, Nathan "Houdinied" his way out of the house and I had to chase him down in said pants.  A few weeks later, Jason walked up behind me while I was wearing the pants. 
"You do know the butt of those are bare, right?"
As he described my underwear, I immediately thought back to my dash down the sidewalk, as I assured him that no, I don't willingly and knowingly walk around in threadbare pants.  Then, I threw them out.  Santa tucked a new pair of "pajama" pants into my stocking this Christmas.  They are yoga pants: thick and holeless and perfect for chasing runaways down the street.  Like I said, multipurposing: I understand the inclination.