Friday, December 27, 2013

The Art of Deception

With another Christmas season in the rear view mirror, I have been thinking a lot about the lies we tell our children to keep the magic alive. It may seem harsh to say it that way, but it's true. And I am not very good at sneaking around. Take the Tooth Fairy for instance. Paul has lost five teeth, and each time I need to sneak into his room to retrieve a tooth and leave some quarters I have an overwhelming fear of being caught. What would I do if his little eyes popped open and discovered that Mom was the Tooth Fairy? He lost tooth #4 at school and I carefully placed it in a tissue and put it under his pillow. That night I was out and when hubby put Paul to bed they could't find the tooth. I went back during the night, feeling around in the dark for the missing tooth. Eventually I gave up, slid the money under his pillow and hoped he wouldn't roll over and discover the missing tooth. Thankfully my deep sleeper didn't hear me rummaging around, and I found the tooth in the sheets the next day when the boy was at school.
This Christmas as I was putting Santa presents under the tree I had a similar fear of getting caught. Paul said he wanted to "catch Santa" by staying awake and hoping to spot him coming down the chimney. As I sat on the couch munching on carrots and gingerbread cookies I kept a watchful eye toward the hallway leading into our family room. Every noise worried me (which did not stop me from slurping up the milk) and I tried to formulate some sort of explanation should my eldest make an appearance. Again, I was saved by deep sleep.
There will come a day, hopefully not too soon, where the boys will realize that mom and dad are the ones buying the gifts and putting them under the tree each year. What will be the punishing blow? For my eldest niece, it was the discovery of a box containing all her baby teeth. Her mother had performed elaborate feats to keep my niece's beliefs alive for a long time, and the day she discovered the box of teeth was difficult and painful. Everything fell like dominoes and my mother-in-law needed to comfort her granddaughter for hours as she cried away the magical mysteries of childhood. The good thing about my boy is that despite his penchant for the practical, he has a strong spark of imagination. He sleeps with a row of stuffed animals and his sacred blue blanket every night, talking with them in a secret language that only he understands. It makes me smile because, despite our lack of genetic connection, we share a similar spirit. I too spoke to my stuffed animals and had a secret language that I shared with my invisible friends. It is that spirit that will keep Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny alive a bit longer. I have a feeling that even when he figures it all out, he will still want to participate in the ritual and will still appreciate the magic of Christmas. I hope we can hang on for a few more years. Seeing the faces of my boys light up when they got what they wished for was an amazing moment. Paul even got a few extra things that weren't on his modest list. It was worth all the lies and scamming, the sneaking around with bags and special wrapping paper, to experience the pure joy of a childhood miracle.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Trying not to be Grinch-y

I like Christmas, I really do. But it has been difficult getting into the spirit this year. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Christmas has been in the stores and on the radio since Halloween, or perhaps it is the fact that instead of snow it is currently a balmy 60 degrees out, or perhaps my head isn't screwed on just right. Whatever the reason, the stores or the snow, I just can't seem to find joy this season. Last year at this time my husband's family was dealing with the fatal illness of my father-in-law. We were able to spend the holiday with him before he passed, so I know this year is going to be sad and painful for the family. I can remember the first Christmas after my grandmother died, I fell to the floor in tears when I tried making cookies in her old mixer. It will be hard to stay upbeat during our first Christmas without Pop-pop. But my melancholy stems from more than the empty place at the table. Because of my lack of work this fall, we've had to pinch pennies, and I fear the boys will be disappointed to find out just how tight Santa's budget was. Thankfully they each kept their lists short, but Paul somehow managed to single out the most expensive, discontinued toys on the market. Instead of circling in the catalogs this year, he went into one of his collector's books to find ideas. I blame the stores again. Their giant toy catalogs came out in early November and I recycled them. Oops. Alas, I have been exploring the wonders of E-bay and hoping there aren't crazy man-children living in their parents' basement waiting to outbid me at the last second. Sorry, that was a cruel stereotype. I just spent time yesterday watching in depth videos of children's toys narrated by men. Weird.
But as the Grinch discovers, Christmas came without "packages, boxes or bags." It should be about family, togetherness and tradition. Hubby and I have been trying to develop new traditions with the boys and hopefully some of them will stay in their hearts long after the wrapping paper has been tossed into the recycling bin. My big sister is coming in this weekend to make cookies with me and the boys and I plan to make a mess and not be overly controlling if that is genetically possible. John is excited about making snow flakes to decorate the kitchen (and make up for the mud outside). Somehow I'll get myself in the spirit. But I will not, under any circumstances, be carving the roast beast.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My Writing Adventure

Writing is something I have always loved. There is a box in our basement filled with folders of poetry and old journals that chronicle my life from elementary school through college and slightly beyond. I've affectionately labeled it "Pandora's Box" because whenever I open it I get sucked into reading overly-dramatic drivel for hours. The husband has been instructed to burn Pandora's Box when I die. It's that bad. But lately I have been trying to refine my talents, fueled by the success of my adoption article and the encouragement of family and friends. I have been entering writing contests and working on a YA novel. Things are slowly falling into place and some days I think it may actually be possible to become a successful writer! Then I start cruising the Internet and become completely overwhelmed. Writing is no longer about sitting in a secluded cabin by the sea typing away and then stuffing your manuscript into a manila envelope and hoping for the best. It's about getting yourself out there on social media and promoting your work and the work of others in your field. Once an introvert's dream job, a career in writing now seems more about who you know and how you can use your social skills to get published. That truly frightens this little introvert, who prefers to spend her days holed up away from society where I can remain equally fascinated and disgusted by the human race but take as little part in it as possible. But I want to be a successful writer, and that means stepping out of my comfortable imaginary cabin by the sea and interacting. Thankfully, I have started to make some new friends in the writing world who are not only providing motivation to keep working on my projects but also some much needed guidance. I am learning how to use Twitter (follow me!), write more efficiently with cool software, and query agents (must finish something first of course). It is downright scary, but it feels like the right path. Who knows, maybe people out there in the literary world want to hear what I have to say. Which would totally rock my world.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why oh Why... my four and a half year old peeing the bed almost every night? We did not go through this with our oldest. When he was four I took him for his annual physical and when the nurse asked if he was potty-trained I proudly said yes. Through the night? she queried. Well, no he still wears a pull-up. Not fully potty-trained she logged into the laptop. Ugh. We went home and created a sticker calendar to keep track of dry days. If he could make it to ten days in a row I would buy him the pack of water guns he so desperately coveted. It was a painful few months of near accomplishment (seven days! eight days!! nine days!!! oops), but by early summer he was fully trained. And has not had an accident since. We tried a similar approach with John when he turned four. His reward of choice was a new Spiderman bike helmet. It took a bit longer, but he was finally able to make it ten days in a row and was rewarded with his new helmet. And then, the setbacks began. He would be dry for a few nights, then wake up completely drenched in pee. I was up changing his pajamas and sheets at all hours of the night, wondering how one little body could produce so much waste. We tried limiting his fluids after school - half glass of milk with dinner and only a mouthful of water with teeth brushing. That has reduced the quantity a little but hasn't stopped the bed wetting. We tried waking him up before we went to sleep and bringing him into the bathroom for a sleep-walking toilet visit. That also helped a little, but sometimes he would pee before we got there, especially if we were up late. The weird thing about all of this is that he gets out of bed during the night - sometimes two to three times - to use the bathroom by himself. I know this because he turns on the light, which shines through our bedroom door directly into my face. At 2 am. And then neglects to turn it off. (We have to keep the door open for the cat who will scratch relentlessly if she cannot go in and out freely.) The worst part of the whole bed-wetting process is that his laundry consistently smells like pee. He pulls off the wet pajamas and stuffs them inside out into his laundry basket. In the morning he proudly announces that he is dry and little do I know he has only been dry since 4 am when he changed his clothes. When I go to do laundry I find wet underwear balled up inside wet pajamas, and EVERYTHING STINKS! When I try to talk to him about it, he grins at me and laughs. LAUGHS! Huh?? Is that some sort of defense mechanism? Why do you think this is funny? I ask. Do you like the smell of pee? No. Do you want to go back to wearing diapers at night? No. Then please please stop peeing the bed. Help!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Settling In

In the early part of my adulthood, time was measured by duty stations. We never stayed anywhere for very long, and my memories involve temporary jobs, unfamiliar towns and strange weather. Now that I have been a mom for seven years (as of tomorrow), time is measured by milestones and holidays. The family is setting down roots in a place I never expected: our hometown. And my memories involve birthday cakes and Halloween costumes. I'm not going to lie - I miss that nomadic lifestyle, a lifestyle that involved throwing out whatever didn't fit in the moving van, discovering new neighborhoods and reinventing myself every few months. But we are here now, and we are settled. The husband started a new job, the boys are happy at school and have tons of friends and we have family right around the corner. Every year we bust out the Halloween decorations and devise new ways to scare the neighborhood kids. Every winter we head to the park in our neighborhood to sled down the hill. Every birthday is celebrated with a crazy cake and the grandparents are there to watch my boys blow out their candles. Life has become traditions and settling in. It's an odd mix of comfort and anxiety. Is this what the next 15+ years will be? The same thing year after year with slightly taller children? Is that really so bad?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Bus Ride

Last Friday I went with John's preschool class to a local farm for their annual fall field trip. Paul took a similar trip when he was four to a different farm. I was home with John at the time and was able to attend with him in tow. John and I drove separately while Paul enjoyed his first ride on a bus. The weather was miserable, but everyone had a ton of fun. When it was John's turn to go on the field trip as a big, bad preschooler, he was beyond excited about the bus ride. Despite having previous experiences of riding a city bus (through the Bronx no less) and multiple airport shuttles, he was convinced that riding a school bus was magical. That he would step on it and be transformed into a KINDERGARTNER. Nope, I would reply, calming squashing his dreams, you'll still be in preschool. Nevertheless, he remained excited and hopeful as we waited for the bus on Friday morning. When it arrived, the children and a few parent chaperones foolish enough not to drive their own cars boarded the bus with a buzz of anticipation. Video cameras were rolling, camera phones clicking; you'd think it was high school graduation or something. (For proof that I am not exaggerating my point here, see photo below.)
As the bus pulled out of the parking lot, the children began to squeal with an excitement generally reserved for Santa Claus. Every bump we hit, every turn we made, every light we came to was accompanied by similar noises of delight. Well, except for when one of the little girls in the back whacked her head on the seat in front of her when the bus stopped suddenly. Then there were sobs. Unfortunately, our bus driver got lost on the way to the farm and a 40 minute trip took us over an hour, but we made it there in one piece and had a marvelous time in the mud. Thankfully the rain held off until the ride home, which is more than I can say for Paul's trip. Here he is, three years ago, happy as a clam with his preschool buddies.
The next day, John accepted the fact that he was not yet in Kindergarten and seems content to watch his brother board the bus every morning. For now anyway.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Deep, and the not so Deep

Paul and I have struck up some interesting conversations lately. His brain is a fascinating piece of machinery that I don't think I will ever truly figure out. His questions often lead to deep religious discussions that I hope open his mind a bit to the world outside of our little suburban universe, and then... the conversation ends faster than it began. For example: Yesterday he asked me what gelatin was. I asked why he wanted to know and he said that some of the kids in his class aren't allowed to have it. For the third year in a row he is in a classroom with students who have extreme nut allergies. I am a lactose sensitive vegetarian and he has recently been diagnosed with lactose intolerance. Conversations about food restrictions are not new. But I had a feeling the gelatin one was more related to religious practices, so I began explaining first what it was and then why some families choose not to ingest it. He seemed intrigued and we continued to talk about different religious practices and what, in a nutshell, each of the major religions believed. Our community is relatively diverse and I was able to use different families for examples. I wanted to make sure he understood the concept of freedom of religion and that he was free to choose something other than what we currently practice. All in all, I felt pretty good about our conversation. A few weeks back he had asked about the devil and I worried that what I had said then may have scared, confused or bewildered him. It is hard to tell with Paul. You give him an answer and he thinks it over, then asks if he can have a snack, go to a friends', practice his math facts on my tablet. I try to reengage but when he says the conversation is over, it's over. The gelatin discussion was no exception. After my explanation about who believes Jesus was the savior and who doesn't and why some people don't eat certain animal products or walk to worship and how he is free to visit any church at any time, he looked at me and said, "Your vocal cords move up and down when you talk." Hmm. Guess that was the end of that conversation.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Leaving Home So Soon?

My oldest son no longer wants to spend any time with me. I didn't think this was going to happen until he was at least 10, or maybe even 12. But nope, at seven he's decided that I am no longer cool. There is a group of kids up the street who are all his age or one year older, and they are way more fun than mom and little brother. His disappearance down the street started with his kindergarten girlfriend. ("Maa-ummm," I can hear him say, "she's just my friend now.") He begged me to let him go to her house and I finally relented, opening up a pandora's box of sorts. We live on a court that is on one end of a long street containing several other courts. Because the other courts are only on one side and the feeder street comes to a dead end, you can bike along the sidewalk for several "blocks" without ever having to cross a street. Remember as a kid when mom said, "Go as far as you can before you get to the corner"? Well, that takes a while in our neighborhood. And I figured what the heck, he should be okay as long as he doesn't have to cross the street. So I let him go. And he discovered that the boy next door to his "girlfriend" was pretty cool. As was the boy next to him. And the boy next to him. And the boy two houses in the other direction. Now he never wants to stay home. There are kids down in our court, but he doesn't like them nearly as much. (And there is some drama there that I won't get into on my blog.) So off he goes, riding his bike into the sunset at every possible opportunity. Occasionally the boys will make their way back to our house and look for frogs in the backyard, but it is much cooler to hang out at the other end of the street. To be honest, I am a little jealous. The parents down there seem like a lot of fun, but it's not like I can just ride my bike down there, ring the doorbell and say, "Hey, you wanna play?" Life is much simpler when you're seven. And you have an outgoing personality like my son and not a hermit-like personality. Like me.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Kitchen: A Five Year Long Remodel

Our kitchen remodel has been coming along slowly as we gathered the funds and made decisions. We had replaced the floor immediately upon moving in back in 2008 because it was, in a word, disgusting. The front hallway was chipped gray slate, the main kitchen area was greasy, peeling linoleum, and the back section leading out to the garage had a lovely covering of brown shag carpet. Needless to say I didn't even bother taking any before photos. We just ripped it out. CJ spent that Memorial Day weekend laying down snap together laminate in a pattern that resembles ceramic tile (without the side effect of cold feet!) and is a breeze to clean. Our only problem has been the slight buckling that it does every year when the humidity sets in. Putting in a whole house air conditioning unit has helped, and CJ also has been working to eliminate the problem areas by cutting and refitting some of the pieces. His other big endeavor has been to replace all of the woodwork with oak. It is a long process full of measuring, cutting, staining and nailing, but the end results are certainly worth it. Additional changes to the kitchen were the custom made bookshelf, garden window (both recently stained - will take pics soon!) and new patio door. We also updated the hardware, which was an easy way for me to contribute to the project,

 and put in a new counter top and sink. The counter top has a breakfast bar which we can start using as soon as I buy some stools.

 The final phase is to replace the ceramic tile behind the stove and install new back splash. Here's a photo of the old tile. It is all gone now and patiently waiting for a decision to be made on the new stuff. I know in my mind what I want, it's really just a matter of finding it at the store!!
Once the tile has been installed I will post finish product pics. And then the only room in the house that will need updating will be the boys' bathroom. We have big plans which involve taking down a wall and putting in an additional sink, but decided to wait until the boys outgrow the animal wallpaper. And learn how to not pee all over the floor. (Does that ever happen?)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Heading West

For this year's vacation we decided to take the boys out west to visit my brother and his family. They make their annual trip to the beach at the same time, so we tried to plan other activities around that in an attempt to give them some space on their vacation while still enjoying their company. It worked out pretty well. We stayed in Anaheim for the first half of the week and visited Disney Land, which for anyone who has taken several trips to Disney World is a little disappointing. Or so the hubby says. I enjoyed our day at the park, with plenty to do but not too much that it became overwhelming, and just enough of a crowd to keep the lines short and the street strolling comfortable. It was a good day, even when the children started punching each other in line. Ah, brotherhood. For the Fourth we headed down to Laguna Beach and had a fun day playing in the sand and surf. Paul learned how to boogie board and John spent the day digging holes. 
The boys both lasted to the firework show (an impressive feat on day 2 of jet lag) but then crashed hard. John fell asleep during the show and Paul on the way home. Carrying their limp, sleep-filled bodies back to the hotel room was no easy feat. During the week we were also able to visit one of my friends from college and her family, and the boys bonded with her husband over Star Wars toys and video games. On our way to my brother's house we stopped at the La Brea tar pits, something I had wanted to see every since my first trip to California back in 1985. We had gone with my grandmother, also a teacher, who wanted to see the tar pits for their educational value. However dad got lost trying to find them and when we finally arrived it was dark and the area was closed. We pulled up to a black fence while he tried to explain how the animals had sunk to their death. The black fence is still there, in addition to a cool museum with an impressive row of dire wolf skulls. I was happy to finally see the big tar lake and other bubbly pits throughout the grounds where, as CJ put it, the Earth is farting.  
The boys had a ton of fun playing with their cousins and swimming in the pool. Both of them improved their swimming skills exponentially, proving that peer pressure can be a wonderful motivator. We also had some fun adventures, like a visit to a tree-climbing park, a day at a kid-centered museum and an adult's night out in Hollywood. The boys' final thoughts: John - "I goed underwater and swimmed like a fish." Paul - "I learned how to swim in the middle of a pool. What?" (Paul's current catch phrase.) 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Superhero Birthday

During the weeks leading up to John's birthday, he insisted he wanted a Tyrannosaurus Rex cake for his birthday. I kept hoping he would change his mind considering I had no idea how I was going to pull that off. Finally I decided to consult my colleagues and search the wonderful world of google images. There were a few reasonable ideas, but they involved a lot of cake and way more prep than I desired. I went home that night and asked him if he really, truly wanted a T-Rex cake and he replied that no, he wanted Iron Man instead. Iron Man??? We've never seen the movies, never read any books about him and have no Iron Man toys. Apparently his friends at school suggested it and suddenly it was what he HAD TO HAVE. I sighed, went back to google and searched for Iron Man cakes. The two major problems? Red and gold. Red is a very tricky frosting color and gold? Well, it took me a long time to make the gold thingy for Paul's Green Ninja and it ended up looking a bit like a jock strap. I wasn't about to go through that again. So I surfed around for superhero cakes and stumbled upon The Hulk. The suggestion was met with instant approval and it turned out to be a relatively easy cake. My only regret is that I didn't make the fists fist-like and they looked more like paws. My husband pointed this out AFTER I had already molded and frosted them. He told me he "didn't want to intervene." For future reference dear: suggestions are always welcome.
 The green frosting turned out well (much better than red would have!!) but I ended up wearing much of it on my hands along with some black that leaked out of the lid. oops.

Overall I was pleased, as was the boy. He was happy I had sent him to school with green frosted cupcakes on his birthday, but he liked the "real Hulk smash cake" even better. Love.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Oh mornings, how you thwart me!

The time between when I finally decide to stop hitting the snooze button, turn off the Canadian newscaster and get out of bed, to the time I must exit the house in order to drop off the boys at their respective sitters and get to work before my students stage a walk-out is 50 minutes. If it was just me, that would not be a problem. If it was just me and Paul, I'd still be okay. But it's not. While my youngest son does not share any of my genetic material, he most decidedly shares my love for procrastination. He is my payback for all those times I asked for "One more drink" before bed, for the "I'll be right there I'm just looking for something" and the "That? Oh, I'll put it away later." If there is a way to avoid an uncomfortable task, John has figured it out. Our mornings involve moments when he can't possible wear the sneakers that are right by the door and instead must rifle through the basket to find a different pair. With a 50 minute window, 15 of which is generally reserved for getting the boys dressed and out the door, it just doesn't fly. And then the yelling starts. Not an especially fun way to start the morning I will admit. But as time is ticking away, I begin to imagine the traffic pile up that occurs in front of my school each morning as the parents of children who have equal if not greater procrastination issues perform the "my kid couldn't POSSIBLY take the bus" drop-off ritual (but that is another post entirely). And I start to yell. An odd moment of clarity came last week when John reported to his grandparents that sometimes I announce that he is going to be left behind. (Which I would never do, so don't go calling the authorities - I am just the queen of idle threats.) He used my first name when telling the story, which made it pretty cute. AND THERE IS THE PROBLEM RIGHT THERE. John is really freaking cute. And he uses that cuteness to get away with obnoxious behavior, like complete and total meltdowns when he cannot successfully employ his procrastination strategy. I know, I know. He is three. And three year olds want control, blah blah blah. But when I give him choices and try to empower him, he always picks the non-choice.
"Do you want apple or grapes for dinner?"
"We don't have any plums. It's the middle of winter. Apple or grape?"
"Honey, we don't have any plums." Cue meltdown.
I am at a bit of a loss as to how best to ride this current storm. Meltdowns at 6 am are no fun. Especially when they follow things like this: "Boys, stop jumping naked on the bed and get dressed already!" This past week I decided to institute a checklist that each child must follow in order to get us out the door by the required time. Paul and I brainstormed a list for him, wrote it down, tacked it in his room, and he dutifully follows it (although he tries to skip the steps that involve helping his brother). Paul is a Jedi. Give him a task and he will execute it. For John, I used magazine clippings and crudely drawn stick figures for his list, and he too was successful. Up until we came downstairs and he had to put on his coat. There was two minutes left before the target exit time.
"You can wear your orange coat or your blue coat."
"I want my raincoat."
"You left it in daddy's car and he's already gone. Besides, it's going to be sunny today."
Deep breath. "Let's just wear the blue one. C'mon."
"Can I have a boonana?"
"There aren't any. I need to get more from the store." Cue meltdown.
Overall, we did do much better this week that we had in previous weeks. Mommy didn't yell, and the boys made general progress on the road to independence. If I can just figure out the magic formula to keep the meltdowns at bay...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cake Victory!

Last year Paul flippantly mentioned that he didn't really want a cake, but as his birthday approached he changed his mind. I was able to convince him that a Ninjago ninja would be a good idea because I figured a head was a lot simpler that some three-dimensional crazy Star Wars vehicle like last year. It was. My inspiration:
For those readers who don't follow Lego Ninjago, the Green Ninja is  more powerful than his other-colored buddies, and he was coveted by all the boys at Paul's elementary school this past year. See, in a clever marketing campaign, you could only get the green ninja mini-figure when you bought the Lego Ninjago Character Encyclopedia. Which the book fair sold out of in about 10 minutes. And which totally awesome Aunt Chrissy bought Paul for Christmas (innocently remarking, "Does Paul have that ninja character book thing?") Needless to say, the Green Ninja is pretty awesome, and I knew it would be a relatively easy cake to create. The trickiest part was the gold piece on his helmet. To make it, I softened caramel candies, rolled them out and pieced them together. It looked a bit like a jock strap and was only  partially edible due to the waxed paper sticking if the caramel was too melty, but it did the trick. The mask is made of fruit roll ups which I had to separate because they were in a rainbow pack. (The broken caramel and two-thirds unused roll-ups led to a bit of a sugar high.) It was Paul's idea to make the eyes from jelly beans with white sprinkles from our Christmas cookie decorations. The best part? Cool-Whip makes a new frosting that is utterly and completely amazing (and lard free!). Considering I often have frosting related debacles, I was super-excited to try it and very impressed with the results. And as the hubby pointed out as we polished off the leftovers later in the week, it even frosts cut-sides!! YAY!!!
 The boy was pleased.
Now I must figure out how to create John's request: A T-Rex. Hmmmmm.... suggestions appreciated!

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Big Search

My sons are not always the most observant.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A 12 Step Program for Procrastinators

Step 1: Identify the problem
Step 2: Promise to come up with a solution tomorrow
Step 3: There was something I was supposed to do today....
Step 4: Buy a new notebook
Step 5: Write down the problem in new notebook
Step 6: Create elaborate plan for solving problem
Step 7: Begin elaborate plan! Yay!!
Step 8: Promise yourself that this time you will actually follow through
Step 9: Become distracted by the Internet, a new book, or that fuzzy on the floor
Step 10: Decide you need to vacuum
Step 11: Locate notebook under your bed
Step 12: Promise to return to elaborate plan tomorrow

Saturday, March 16, 2013

To Cake or not to Cake

Last year after I put together another awesome, two-dimensional birthday cake for my eldest, he informed me that he really doesn't like cake all that much. WHAT!?!?! Fine, I replied, next year I won't make you one. Ha! What an idle threat that was. His birthday is right around the corner and while he has agreed to forgo the large friend party in order to save for a bigger, better party next year, he is not quite ready to give up the cake just yet. Once I relented (it didn't take much convincing - I look forward to the creative challenge) it was simply a matter of deciding on a design. P began to list a number of completely unrealistic possibilities. I countered with a suggestion that I knew would only require one cake. He agreed. See, every year I bake two cakes in order to complete the design, and every year most of it ends up in the trash. One cake is good. I can bring leftovers to work and anyone currently on a diet can just look the other way. P is on board with my suggestion and I have been brainstorming creative non-frosting ways to make it look authentic. Because relying on frosting is akin to cheating in my book. Anyone can frost. It takes a certain amount of creativity to figure out how to use candy, cookies and other confections to create a realistic design. I love standing in the bulk food section of the grocery store trying to figure out what I can use.
I am glad that P has decided he wants a cake and agreed to a feasible design (stay tuned). Too bad J has requested an upgrade from last year's super easy soccer ball to a dinosaur. The one with the really long neck. That's gonna be a tough one.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Art of English

John's command of the English language cracks me up on a daily basis. He often searches for the right word/phrase and comes up just shy. Here are a few examples:
"Will you play tic-tac-two with me?"
"Why you use that chowder on your face?"
"I got fruit by the toe!" (Fruit by the Foot)
"Mom, I saw seven o'clock on my temperature."

He also has this way of talking about things that happened hours earlier as if they happened years ago.
"Mom, [re]member that time we went to my school for the ice cream social?"
"Last night?"
"Yeah. That was fun."

"Member when we ate that circle food?"
"Circle food?"
"Yeah, the one with the crab in it?"
After some thought, "You mean the sushi we ate for dinner yesterday?"
"Yeah. I like shooshi. Can we have it again for lunch?"

Sometimes we are at a loss as to what John is trying to tell us. I have learned to search for clues in his thinking patterns to figure out what the object or idea is that he can't quite name. Recently he was trying to tell me about "the thing that takes cars up into the sky" and I was completely stumped. Crane? Tow truck? Hot air balloon? Alien spacecraft? 50 guesses later he proudly announced, "Oh yeah. A tornado." Huh.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


For the second year in a row, we are having a strange winter. Our area is known for its snow. Snow that starts in November (sometimes October) and does not let up until March. As a kid, your major calorie burner in the winter is sledding; as an adult it is shoveling. Part of the reason we moved back was because my husband loves the snow and wanted to share that love with our boys. But sadly, since coming back to the area there hasn't been much of the famed fluffy stuff. We have a great sledding hill near our house, and last winter I never even made it out there. CJ took the boys a handful of times - I think John only went with him once. When I think about my childhood and how many hours I spent careening down the hills in the parking lot across from our house, it makes me sad to think the boys are missing out on all that dangerous fun. This year didn't seem like it would be much better. We didn't get the usual lake effect storms in late fall, and we've had freak periods of extreme cold and extreme warm. Instead of snow we've had rain. It feels like I am back in the Pacific Northwest. Yesterday we finally got a nice dumping of lake effect fluff, and CJ actually got sent home early from Drill. We headed over to the hill and watched the boys have the wintertime fun they've been waiting for. Paul is learning how to ski and the hill is a perfect place for him to practice. He's only been on skis three times so far and is doing remarkably well. His biggest frustration comes from trying to click the boots into his skis!!
John has taken to sledding down the hill, face first, as fast as humanly possible. I love listening to his squeals of delight although I must add that it makes me a bit nervous to watch. As to be expected, he does not like dragging the sled back up the hill and spent some time yesterday convincing other people to do it for him (his brother, his father, our neighbors). Twice he went far enough to get stuck in a pile of fresh snow, but that only slowed him down temporarily. He even lost his boot at one point. He found it in the snow, stuck his foot back in, and kept going. It warms my heart to see such snow spirit in my boys. After all, this is now their "hometown" and I hope someday they can share good snow stories with their children. Hopefully the weird weather won't continue and we can go back to the way it was. So much snow and cold that when you get to March and the temperature reaches 50, you open up all the windows and go outside in your shorts. That's the way it should be around here!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I just wanna parent like it's 1985

I miss the 80's. Not just Duran Duran and John Hughes movies, but the way things were back then. The attitude of it all, ya know? When I was a kid, it was perfectly acceptable to walk around the neighborhood knocking on your friends' doors until you found someone to play with. Then you would wander off together to the local playground, or ride your bikes to the grocery store to stock up on candy and rubber bracelets. If it was wintertime, you would spend the afternoon in an empty parking lot (I grew up across the street from an elementary school) sledding down the monstrous hills left behind by snow plows. Life was just so, so... carefree! Now it seems like every minute of my childrens' days must be planned, executed and heavily supervised. We tried to invite a neighborhood boy over to play a while back and his mom was all upset, accusing him of trying to go someplace uninvited (she only heard his end of the phone conversation). Oops, I thought to myself. I regularly send my child to her house to ring their doorbell hoping he'll find some more productive way to spend his time other than torturing his younger brother or playing endless rounds of Uno. When the friend did come to our house, mom and dad dropped him off and picked him up. He lives up the street. Am I the only mom who allows my six year old to ride his bike around the neighborhood alone? Mind you, I do not let him cross any streets (we live on a court at the end of a long street with courts on the opposite side - so his "block" is actually quite extensive). But still. Everyone else seems so much more overprotective than us. These other parents were all children of the 80's. They all survived childhoods in station wagons with no car seats (and rarely a seat belt), bike riding with no helmet and sledding directly into the street. Okay, so I make my kids wear helmets. They fall down a lot. And I appreciate the fact that things are generally safer now. But I firmly believe that we have gone overboard in our overprotectiveness. I work with teenagers who have no idea how to make safe, independent choices, and I worry about how they are going to survive out there in a world full of hurty things. I want my boys to be able to navigate the world on their own. But I am a parent in 2013 and my views are not exactly popular. What's a mom to do?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The three year old philosophizes on life and death

I worry. A lot. When we decided to adopt I worried about what our child(ren) would ask in regards to their multi-parent existence. And how exactly I was going to deal with it. I read all the books, magazines and blogs, dutifully taking in the most appropriate responses that would have the least psychological damage. Then we adopted Paul. Who never asks any difficult questions. Seriously. Recently I have tried to bring up the subject of his adoption, and he pretty much blows me off. He has two moms (technically three if you count his foster mom). Big deal. He was a super cute baby. We have the photo album to prove it. He loves to hear us talk about his first weeks home with us. But that's about it. No queries as to where he came from, what his life in Korea was like, what his birth mother thinks about, nothing. Phew, I thought. This adoptive parenting stuff is a piece of cake. And then came John. John has THE MOST INQUISITIVE PERSONALITY EVER. We have been in the "Why" stage for about 18 months now. I often joke that I expressed concern at John's first few checkups because he wasn't saying much and I thought he might need speech therapy. He was simply taking it all in before verbally exploding. Anyone who has ever ridden in the car with John knows that I am not exaggerating. He asks questions about EVERYTHING, so I am not surprised when he had a million questions about his grandfather's death. Mostly they involved where Pop-pop was and when we were going to see him again. "How do we get to Heaven?" he asked. Oof. He became especially confused when we arrived at the cemetery and were carrying my father-in-law's cremated body in a box. Honestly, how do you explain to a three year old that our soul goes up to Heaven while our body remains on earth to be buried forever? As we were walking down the windy corridor of the mausoleum, John sweetly asked, "Is this Heaven?" And today he wanted to know when the men would open the wall and take Pop-pop out of the box. Hmmm....
But my favorite story from the week of dad's funeral was not about death, but life. On our way home from my sister-in-law's house minus our eldest, John was cuddling with his pillow in the back seat. The pillow was made by his birth mother and it is John's comfort object. He asked me if his tummy mommy (that's what we call her) grew it in her tummy and I said no, just him. Here is the conversation that followed:
John: "How did I get out of her tummy?" pause "Did I come out her mouth?"
Me: suppressing laughter, "Um..." looking at husband and deciding to just be totally up front, "No honey. You came out of her vagina."
John: after a beat of silence, "But how did I get out of China?"
Hysterical laughter from the front seat. How do we respond to that? Thankfully at that moment we drove over a small bridge.
John: "Look mommy! A bridge."
I love my kid.