Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Swimming Along

We went swimming today, so Harrison got to show off some of his skillz he’s picking up at classes. It went pretty well, but the Boy took a little bit to find his seaman’s legs, so to speak. Once he got comfortable, he did pretty well, although he tried to fight the two year old for the floating boat. I can dress him up, but I just can’t take him out, sometimes…

Class was OK tonight. We’re having a tough time getting him to listen. You’ll be giving him instructions (short, concise and to the point—I’ve read the parenting books, so I know how it should be done, even if I don’t always follow through) and halfway through your instructions, his eyes will wander off and he’ll be done listening. You ask him, “Where you listening?” and he’ll reply, “Yes, Mommy, I was listening so good!” So you ask him, “What did I just say?” and he says, “I don’t know.”

I know why some animals eat their young.

So it’s not any surprise that he missed out on part of the play time at the end of lessons tonight. He was warned repeatedly and continued to ignore his teacher. I had half a mind to go grab him and make him leave lessons, but I wanted to see how he would play out. He was pissed that he didn’t get to play at the end. She eventually let him go play with the others, but I would have held him the entire time. I guess I’m too hard on him, but he’s got to learn that listening and following directions are integral to life. It’s wearing me out, but I’m going to get that lesson through his (very, very thick) skull if it kills me.

I worked on his Oooga Booga shirt today. It’s coming along nicely, if I do say so. I’m stumped on the hems because my serger is being a stupid-head and won’t do a coverstitch like it’s supposed to. I’m sure I’m not threading it right, so I’m going to play with it again tomorrow when both kids are out of the house and I can hear myself think. Assuming I can get that bit working, I should be able to get the shirt done in very little time. Will post pics when I get it done, hopefully of a happy boy wearing his new favorite shirt. :)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Impressions From the Day

(We painted like Seurat. Get it? :) )

So our next foray into not allowing the boy’s brains to become mush this summer involved painting. I’m an art teacher, so this was perfect for me. Turns out, Harrison enjoys painting too. We followed a lesson idea from TeachKidsArt, a blog that, obviously enough, has lessons with which to teach kids art. Since I’m a high school teacher and have little-to-no-knowledge about showing young kids how to do art, it’s proven to be quite useful already this summer.

So at first Harrison didn’t want any part of the painting—he was more interested in using markers than watercolors. I was cool with that, though, so he drew Nemo and I drew and then painted some random fish. Mine was not terribly original, but it was more a study for me than anything else—I think I might get my kids to do something along these lines next year, only painting their faces or something else that is there with them. After he finished Nemo, Harrison decided to draw Voltron and Optimus Prime and some other such stuff. He eventually played with the Q-tips and paint, but not in any kind of pointillistic way. It’s still cool, though. At least he wasn’t watching TV.IMG_0205




While singing, my son often makes up lyrics. He’ll also replace existing lyrics with non-sense gibberish or sometimes just mix the words around on purpose. Today, while singing “The Farmer in the Dell,” Harrison’s new lyric was, “The farmer takes the ho, the farmer takes the ho, hi ho the derry-o, the farmer takes the ho.” It took every bit of my self control to not fall down laughing.


Tonight was the first night of swim lessons. I think, down deep inside, every parent out there was hoping their kid was the next Michael Phelps. Aside from the obvious drug problem, I think that would be pretty cool. :)


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tired, tired, tired, tired.

Man, having company wears me out. I really enjoy everyone coming over to visit, but I’m always a little glad to have the quiet when the door shuts behind the last one. Had a really good time with the families this afternoon. We had to postpone our Father’s Day cookout since Robert was still recovering from eye surgery last week, so we did it this weekend. Which was not really a problem, per se, but it did wear me out, especially considering the weekend we’ve had. (For those keeping score, Robert went to Shreveport yesterday morning to get me my new van while I stayed home with both kids [kind of like during the week!], then we went to a birthday party where only one other adult and myself played lifeguard in a swimming pool with about 20 rug rats. Then we got up this morning, Robert mowed, got groceries and we cleaned [until I gave up and had to have a nap].) The food was awesome, the visiting with family even better and the kids had a blast.

Laura’s sacked out in her swing now and Harrison’s watching Speed Racer with the headphones on.

A word about Speed Racer

Why do filmmakers market a movie to kids, make them dream of the moment when they will be allowed to watch it, and then ruin everything by including vulgar language?

A few nights ago, Robert and I went out for dinner to celebrate our anniversary. When we walked back in the door, I immediately noticed that Harrison was watching Speed Racer, which was no big thing since I knew Robert had just gotten it for him and had put it on the server so they could watch it. (We keep Harrison’s movies on a server here at the house so that it’s easy for us to play them.) My folks were watching the kids and when Dad offered to play it, Harrison, of course, jumped at it—it’s all he’s been asking about for better than a month. We had, however, not been able to preview it so we didn’t know much about it.

The second thing I noticed, as I was walking in the door, was Speed Racer screaming as he drove down the track, “Get that sh&t off my track!”

Yeah, the same Speed Racer we all watched when we were kids. Screaming obscenities at the top of his lungs.

I won’t pretend I don’t cuss—I’m an adult and that’s a choice I make when I’m around other adults with whom I feel comfortable enough to make that choice. But I do my darndest to not cuss in front of my kids. I see lots of adults who do use that kind of language in front of little ones, and it always really irks me. It’s as if they’re saying, “I am who I am and if they don’t like it, tough sh&t! What? They think they’re better than me?”

The thing is, I want my kids to be better than me. That’s why I don’t give my kids lots of candy, that’s why I try to make sure they behave at school and learn as much as they can and that’s why I don’t use potty language in front of them. I want them to have better vocabularies than that. Vulgar language is the least creative, least interesting and least common denominator way to say something—anyone can pop off a cuss word. To voice a complaint in civilized language is a skill that shows intelligence and creativity.

Which brings me back to Speed Racer. And Cars. And The Iron Giant. And a slew of other “kid” shows where the movie makers thought it would be really clever to include cuss words. It angers me, not only because it’s lowest common denominator—really, they couldn’t think of anything else to say how upset they were?—but also because often it has absolutely no narrative driving properties at all. We’re not talking about Rhett Butler not giving a da*n, we’re talking about Speed Racer wanting things removed from his race track.

I just with that allowing my kid to watch the same thing that all his other friends are watching didn’t mean that I had to let his vocabulary suffer for it.

Fortunately, I’ve got an awesome husband who is techy enough that he could take the movie file from our server, find all the bad words and remove them. Even better, he’s techy enough for it and he’s willing to do the work on it. I’m lucky. I don’t know what the rest of the world is expected to do.

Cuss, I guess.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Marshmallows and Birthday Cakes

Went to Ben’s birthday party today. Pool parties are fun, but boy did we feel the East Texas heat. Harrison had a great time, though. He got to get some practice in before his swimming classes begin on Monday. I think he’ll do fine—he was flipping over from front to back and seemed to be figuring the basic mechanics of the process out. He even got pretty good at kicking his way across the pool using the kick board. Robert stayed out of the heat with Laura, which was cool (in all the ways that word entails). She didn’t get to wear her new apple swim suit, but we’re planning on going swimming at the lake later next month, so she’ll get to wear it then. We’ll probably also go swimming with the kids across the street, so maybe she’ll get to wear it then as well.

I also got my new van today!!!! Robert got up early and went all the way to Shreveport to trade in the Spyder for my new automatic-doored van (I’m drawing a blank on what kind it is—it’s the kind I had before, but the nicer kind with self-opening and –closing doors, among other things). I love it! It’s white, so I fully expect my family to call it a marshmallow since that’s what they call white cars. I’m ok with that. It’s a BIG marshmallow. It’s a minivan in the most general sense of the word—it seats seven and all the passenger seats (excepting the shotgun seat, of course) fold down into the floor. I had that on my last van and used it all the time, so I know I’ll be using it with this one. When Harrison saw Robert drive up with this van and saw what the doors do, he ran into the house where I was feeding Laura and said, “Mom! Daddy got a robot van!”

Got to start thinking about Harrison’s birthday party in a few weeks (outside the very general plans we’ve already made). Any ideas?

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Queen of the Dorks

And I’m cool with that.

I’ve got to be the only person on the planet who complains about having to drive a convertible. I’ve been driving Robert’s Mitsubishi Spyder for a year now and, while it’s awesomely cool, it’s also awesomely small and awesomely uncomfortable. I had a Sebring back when I was in college and I loved it. LOVED it. I drove an hour one way five days a week to and from school in Nacogdoches. I put a ton of miles on that car, and they were well enjoyed.

But here’s the thing about convertibles: they’re weather dependent. During the spring, they’re wonderful because you can put the top down and get all the fresh, springy air. During the fall, you can put the top down and get the nice, crisp air. Winter, though? Wet, cold and not very realistic. And summer,? In East Texas? As long as you’re moving, it’s not terrible, but riding around town is like driving through a convection oven. The heat from the air isn’t enough—the concrete sends up its offerings, too, so you don’t feel like you’re missing something. The thing is, spring and fall are so short in East Texas that it’s just not worth the bother to have a car whose specialty is negating your air conditioning.

So we’re getting rid of the Spyder and replacing it with a minivan.

The best part, though, is that never more will I have to carry Laura in her (very, very heavy) car seat/carrier through a (very, very) hot parking lot in the summer because I can’t fit the stroller into my car. I cannot stress the level of giddy this news brings me.

The thing is, I’m not so vain that I have to have the cool convertible to feel good. I’d much rather have something I’m comfortable in that carries everyone I want to carry with me. I’m also not so fatalistic that I think this is the last convertible I’ll ever have. I had one in college, I’ve got one right now (at least, until tomorrow morning!) and I know that when I’m ready, I’ll have another one. It’s just a car. There’s not anything special you have to do to own one—just give the guy who owns it some money.

I can handle that.

For the record (to make this kid-related), when I took Laura to the hospital today for her kidney testing (after walking through the very, very hot parking lot), she did great. She was bubbly and cheerful in the waiting room, while drinking her bottle and right up until they put the catheter into her. Then she screamed. A lot. Turned purple, she screamed so much.

But preliminarily speaking, it looks as if the reflux they thought might be in her kidneys isn’t there. They’re looking at the results more closely right now, of course, and the specialist in Dallas is also looking at them, but on first peek, it looks good. I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed that this is the end of it and that we don’t have to worry about it any more.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fields of Gold

Been married to my best friend for 15 years now. We took a killer bottle of Chianti down to the local Italian restaurant, a place we’ve been going to for years, and had a wonderful meal. We truly are walking in fields of gold. :)

In other news, I finally got my day off today. It was bliss!!!! I spent less than an hour on the computer—email, Facebook, et al—and then I spent the rest of the day doing what I wanted to do: piddle. I read some while drinking coffee on the back porch, listening to the birds sing and watching the squirrels play. I worked on my list of books in Library Thing and used my lists to start organizing my bookshelves. I’ve got almost 750 books (yes, 750!), and LT enables you to sort them in a slew of ways, from alpha by title to alpha by author, Library of Congress number to Dewey Decimal System and more. I’m going for a split of alpha by author for fiction and Dewey for non-fiction, which is what most libraries do although fiction is actually counted in with everything else in Dewey.

Yeah, I’m a dork. What of it?

Finally, I’m taking Laura in for her testing tomorrow. They’re going to inject some sort of substance in her kidneys and watch to see if, when she pees, it passes back up because of some reflux or if it just comes out normal. I’m voting for normal. :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dallas Day

Coming home from Dallas. Dr. thinks there is a possibility Laura may have reflux in her kidneys so we're going to have to run another test on her. Otherwise, all is well.
After the dr. visit, she did really well at Ikea--cooed and babbled good naturedly almost the whole time.
I DREAM of Ikea chicken. ;)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Snow Blossoms and Harrison’s (Unrelated) Exploits

Got a new background theme today from LeeLou Blogs. It makes me think of a story my second grade teacher, Mrs. Fuqua, read to us.

Legend of the Blossom Almond Trees[1]

Many centuries ago, before Portugal existed as a country and when Al-Gharb belonged to the Moorish, there was a young and famous king in Chelb (nowadays known as Silves in the Algarve) who had never been defeated in a battle.

One day, among the prisoners of war, he saw the beautiful Gilda. She was a blonde princess with blue eyes and a proud behavior. The Moorish king was so impressed by this beautiful princess that he set her free. He gradually won her trust and one day he claimed his love and asked her to marry him. They were happy for some time until the young princess got sick and nobody knew what the problem was.

An old prisoner from the same region as the princess, asked to visit the king. The old man said that the princess missed her faraway country full of snow. The king thought there was a solution for the princess’ sickness: he could plant almond trees all over his kingdom and when they flowered, the white buds would show the illusion of snow. So, the princess wouldn’t miss her country.

In the next spring, the king took Gilda to the balcony of the castle and when the princess looked at the white flowers she recovered from her illness.

The king and the princess lived happily for many years and they always waited anxiously for the next spring to look at the beautiful and flowering almond trees.

I’m pretty sure the fact that this is a story about the Crusades was glossed over when it was read to us. It was a second grade class, after all. However, the core of the story—the king who loved his wife so much he would do whatever he could to make her feel at home so far away from her own country—has always stuck with me.

In other news, Harrison is home with me today, as planned. So far, so good not terrible. We’re working on instilling gratitude in him—there’s entirely too much ‘gimme gimme’ going on around here and it’s wearing me out. We had a rocky patch this morning, but he seems to be coming around, at least for the day. We played our math exchange game and I won, which put him in a bit of a sour mood. Guess we need to work on good sportsmanship, too.

Finally, life around here has been a little bit ‘comedy of the absurd’ lately. Case in point: In the past few weeks, I have had conversations with Harrison’s teddy bear, his shoes and his feet. He, likewise, has had audible conversations between himself and his belly, his brain, and various of his toys (not always at the same time). So today, when he gets up from his nap, he brings his Speed Racer pillow into the office and greets me. He shows me the pillow (that I kissed ‘goodnight’ when he was laying down for a nap). I take this as my cue to greet Speed Racer, so I say in my most welcoming voice, “Good afternoon, Speed Racer—did you have a good nap?” (This is pretty much verbatim what I said to the boy when he walked in the room.) Harrison tilted his head, looked at me with squinted eyes as if trying to figure out why I had grown another head, and said, “Mommy! Pillows doesn’t talk!”

Of course.

Silly me.

[1] I am embarrassed to admit I don’t remember where I got this. I found this exact text online, but the site was one I had never seen before, so I can only assume it’s been posted many places. Anyhoo, if you sent me the website for this (it would have been some time ago—several months, at least), feel free to email me and I’ll be happy to credit you.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Yay for Math!

Harrison has a new favorite game.

I’ve been trolling homeschooling blogs for activities to do with the kids this summer since I’m not interested in them (the boy, especially) becoming drooling, TV addicted sloths. I’ve got a folder of printouts, arranged by category (crafts, games, outdoor activities—yeah, I’m a dork; what of it?) and I intend to pick out one or two new games/activities to do each week. Harrison has already looked through the folder a few times and seems really excited about (most of) the stuff I’ve picked for him.

Our first foray began today with a math exchange game from LaPaz Home Learning. In her words:

“I made up two game boards out of construction paper. You take turns rolling a single die, and put that many of the first shape on the board. When you get ten of that shape you exchange them for one of the second shape. When you get ten of the second shape you exchange for the third shape and win the game. Like I said, simple, simple, and there are a million variations, all based on the “race for 100″ concept. I used pattern blocks, but you could use beans, coins, counters, number tiles, golden beads, etc. We will likely work through all of those variations eventually, (making new game boards for each or using 100 boards) but I wanted to start out with something non-numerical to isolate the “exchanging” concept.”

I went ahead and jumped right in with numbers. It only took a few turns of play for Harrison to get the idea of exchanging and then the race was on! I also used coins, so that Harrison could get used to the idea of 10 pennies equaling one dime and 10 dimes equaling one dollar. I don’t know if he’s got that concept yet—we only played two games before naptime—but he definitely got the idea that we were counting to 100 (a feat he accomplished on his own a few nights ago). He beat me on both games we played and I didn’t even have to ‘let him win.’ :)

I’ve got game boards made up to count to 100 and 1,000. I’m going to glue both boards to a sheet of construction paper and laminate it. I think I’ll make a few extras—maybe four or five—to keep around for when other kids are visiting. Depending on the age of the kids involved, they can have fun counting to either number.

I’m often computer ignorant and I just don’t have the patience or time to figure out how to upload an Excel document to the interweb, so if you’re interested in having my game boards, email me and I’ll be happy to send them to you. That I can do. :) (I’ll try to figure it out later when I don’t have a baby in the next room fussing because her naptime is over…)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Busy Summer, or “Amy Wins the Award for Biggest Understatement on the Planet”

To say it’s been a busy summer is a laughably stupid understatement.

To be clear and vividly honest, I went into teaching for the summer vacations. Yes, I like the kids (high school only, thankyouverymuch!). Yes, I enjoy what I do (teaching Art is soooooo much more my gig than teaching English!). But those three two-and-a-half two-ish months away from work are the biggest reason I do it. I’m a pretty solitary creature by nature. I only half-jokingly refer to myself as a misanthrope. When I’m in the classroom, I’m there 100%, I enjoy myself and I enjoy the kids. However, as soon as the year is over and my grades are all turned in, I’m done. I go home, hide out in my cave and try to soak up some solitude. That time away from people is rejuvenating. My brain reaches its calm point again (which is always pretty much shot somewhere between Spring Break and the final TAKS tests in early May). When I’m at home, alone, in complete solitude, the reverberations stop and I can think again.

Which brings me to my point. First of all, having a preschooler and a baby (she’s too old now to call an infant! where did my spring go?!?) in the house, while wonderful, is also kind of jarring, mentally. [See above.] For this reason, I’ve got the kids in daycare a few days a week, but staggered so that one day I’ve got both kids home with me and two other days I get to spend entirely with one or the other. I think Harrison was missing having Just Mommy Time and, quite frankly, I’ve missed it too, especially since he’s getting to such an interesting and fun age. Likewise, I’m enjoying my Baby Time with Laura and I don’t have to feel guilty that I’m neglecting Harrison while I’m cooing and playing games with her.  As my sanity saver, I get the remaining two days in blissful silence, all to myself in the house.

Now, before I get a lot of hate mail telling me that children are a gift from God and that if I can’t handle being in the same room with them for days on end, week after endless week, then I shouldn’t have had them, let me just say this:

Shut up.

I don’t judge other mothers when they do things differently than I do. When I see someone who home schools, I only fleetingly think, “There’s no freaking way!” before I think, “Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Totally not for me, but rock on, Sister!”

I don’t buy organic. The plants from my garden are organic, but only because I’m too cheap and lazy to apply fertilizers and I’ve found a system that works for me that negates the need for them. But if you feel that that’s important to you, grab it with both hands.

I work outside the house. Yeah, we could probably afford for me to be a SAHM if the kids were home with me instead of in daycare, but you know what? After not having my sacred quiet time, I’d be in the mental hospital and my kids would be entirely raised without a mother. And that’s got to be worse for a kid than spending a few hours at daycare a few days a week. If you enjoy being home with the kids all day (and I know a few SAHMs who do a great job of it, to the point that I occasionally am a little bit jealous of them), that’s wonderful.

I could go on. My son watches TV (30 minutes to an hour most days). He plays video games (Wii Sports or the Lego games, mostly, but occasionally Robert will face off with him on the Clone Wars lightsaber dueling game). He saw a PG-13 movie the other day and he’s only 4 (it was the new Star Trek, if you must know, and I covered his eyes during the scarier scenes and the one racy scene).

I’m not perfect and God knows I screw up, but my kids are great kids. Harrison is smart as a whip and is (usually) very polite (sometimes without being prompted!). He prefers tomatoes to any candy you can offer him and is an awesome budding reader. Laura laughs and smiles and is genuinely happy when her diaper is clean and she’s not hungry. She is learning new skills every week, sometimes every day, and is a joy to be around.

So don’t hound me about taking my kids to daycare a few hours each week. I’ve found my happy. Go find yours.

[Ok, rant officially over. I’ve just seen too many people who get a bug up their butts about this stuff and it’s easy to get defensive… ]

I had a point…

So summer’s here, the kids are in daycare, I’m chilling at the casa, right?


Secondly [you thought I forgot about that “First of all…” business up there, didn’t you? Heck, you forgot it, yourself, didn’t you?], I’ve yet to have a full day home by myself. The first week of summer, Harrison’s school was closed for their own holiday and so I got to spend lots of time with him. Really cool getting to be with him, but it’s exhausting to always be ‘on.’ The second week, we hadn’t started the staggering of the kids’ days home yet since I was going to a three-day workshop in Austin and so Laura would need to be in her daycare Monday and Tuesday, not Monday and Friday. So I had both kids home those two days. Again. And then I got to go to Austin with three of my Art teacher buddies for the CEDFA conference.

Now, I love my buddies—they’re the best co-workers a girl could ask for and I love spending time with them, especially at Art teacher conferences—we always have a great time.

But at this point, I’m exhausted. With no exaggeration, I’ve not had a single hour of solitude since the last day of school. My brain is melting.

Finally, this week I had both kids Monday and Harrison on Tuesday, as originally planned. Then Robert was home the rest of the week, recuperating from eye surgery.

Let me stress this: I love my husband and kids. But I’m tired. Really freaking tired. I’m clinging desperately to my happy thoughts at this point. Robert is an angel from heaven tonight when he offers to take Harrison out to get some supper and pick something up from the office so I can have an hour of quietish time. Laura is sleeping for the majority of the time. My head is reeling.

I have to get through Wednesday of this week before I get my coveted Amy’s Day. Both kids Monday, Harrison Tuesday, driving Laura to the doctor in Dallas (!) Wednesday because her kidneys are apparently enlarged and so this pediatric urologist wants to look at her (!). I’m hoping fervently that this guy will look at her, proclaim her normal and make us feel stupid for having driven all the way to Dallas for nothing.

Then Thursday, blissful Thursday. I won’t be answering the door. I won’t be answering my phone. I probably won’t even check my email. I don’t know just yet what I’ll be doing that day, but I’m 99.99% it won’t involve interacting with other people (until Robert comes home with the kids…).

After Thursday, back to work. Kids, on rotating days. Workshops now and again. There’s one I’m going to that shows how to use a reconfigured Wii-mote as a digital whiteboard gizmo something or other—looks pretty interesting.  Swimming lessons for the boy. I’ve been digging around on the ‘net and have found goobs and gobs of activities and crafts and stuff to do when Harrison’s home that we’re looking forward to doing. (Laura doesn’t get that kind of stuff this year—she just wants a clean diaper and food at this point.) Harrison and I are going to participate in a Pen Pal program that looks pretty cool. Hopefully these things will keep my son from staring at the TV, drooling, thumbs flicking as he gains another level at Lego Star Wars all summer.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to recharge my batteries some this summer so that in August when the kids start showing back in my classroom, I won’t be a raving lunatic.


God, I’m tired.