Zufelt Family Feb 2015

Zufelt Family Feb 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Little Ears

Yesterday I went on a Mommy-Ben date. We went to Friendly's and got ice cream together. We had a nice time talking a bit, but mostly he was interested in coloring his activity page. When we sat down they gave us some glasses that looked like 3D glasses. Brian had previously told me that we needed 3D glasses for a movie Maddie got for Christmas, so if they were still passing them out to grab another pair. The waitress was sweet. She talked to Ben and they discussed the weird red lense glasses. He said his sisters got ripped up at home so she didn't have any now. She winked at me and said we'd better get some for her before we left. I took that to mean she would bring some. Score! Mission accomplished I figured. Well, when she brought our ice cream she had either forgotten or I had misunderstood what she meant. In any case, no glasses. When it was time to leave there was no one at the hostess desk, so I grabbed a pair. After all, they are free and I didn't get one, but I was a paying customer, so I should be able to have one, right? I didn't ask. Just took one off the desk and left. Fast forward to dinner - Talking with Brian with the kids at the table we were all talking about how exciting we were for Maddie to have new red glasses again. I absent mindedly said something to Brian about how I took them from the front or joked about having to steal them, can't really recall what I said. I only remember the effect. Ben heard: "MOM STOLE GLASSES FROM THE STORE!!" Ugh. How do you explain to a kid? How do you prove to them that no one actually cares? How do you explain that it's okay for Mom to take something without asking when that would never be allowed for him? How do you fix it? You admit you shouldn't have taken them and tell your five year old honesty police that you will do the right thing and fix it. You feel ashamed to have been caught. You feel embarassed that you have to take back a pair of stolen "free" glasses for the sake of honesty. You apologize to your kid for making a bad choice. You think harder about what you do next time before you do it. You remember that little ears hear everything and will catch you if you mess up. Ugh. I've been a bad mommy. Sorry kiddo. I'll do better next time. Thanks for reminding me of who I am and what I should be.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Postmark December 26, 2009

The Zufelt Family Christmas Letter. It's not perfection, but at least we're moving in the right direction. 2005 - mailed after New Years Day 2006 - mailed after Christmas 2007 - didn't get it done for Christmas so I told myself I would send a Valentines card to sort of "mix it up" and relieve myself of guilt...spent countless hours handmaking 50+ Valentines card and never wrote the letter...September 2008 finished the "Christmas" letter and posted it to my blog rather than mailing it because I was so ashamed...used the Valentines cards over the next two years as birthday cards to young nieces who would appreciate all the pink, red and purple hearts 2008 - Jacob was born on Dec 5...used a new baby as my excuse...mailed Christmas letter along with his birth announcements in February of the next year 2009 - Christmas Letter 2009 was postmarked December 26. It was technically done before Christmas but we didn't get it out the door on time for a December 24 so I didn't worry too much about killing myself to stuff the envelopes before the post office closed at noon. 2010 - maybe I should start writing it now and address the envelopes this week...that means no one is allowed to move!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tree on a Box

Thanks to Jacob the monster, our tree had to be barricaded in a corner and perched on top of a huge box to be safe. We also had to move the coffee table far from the couches because he climbs up on them then suicide jumps onto the couch (sometimes bouncing backward and whacking the back of his noggin on the table before he crashes to the floor). Once on the couch he runs to the tree and tries to pull off the ornaments and lights, pull the whole tree over or climb over the armrest and into the tree. Wild man.
We also had no stockings this year so he couldn't pull them down on himself. No fancy ceramic nativity for him to break. Nothing in his reach. Merry Christmas to us.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Yehaw! Ben Christmas Morning

video

Happy Christmas Ben! He got a new bike from Santa this morning. It's a bit harder for him to handle than Santa thought it would be, but he'll soon learn how to handle it and be great at it! I'm thinking it will help when the ice and snow are gone and he isn't bundled in his winter boots, coat and gloves. How much longer until spring again?

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's a Christmas Miracle!!

The ExxonMobil complex is CLOSED today! It never closes! This day is going to rock! Dad is home and only going to work a little instead of all day. Two playdates arranged for the kids in the igloo and sledding hill. Beautiful sunshine streaming through the kitchen window so I can try my hand at really cool pictures of gingerbread houses in the natural sunlight with the vibrant colored candy. Today will be a good day.

Snow Update

This evening:
  • All three kids exhausted themselves playing in the snow. Ben played for hours and hours while Brian shoveled for hours and hours. Brian says Ben shoveled for almost two hours as well when they went together to dig out an elderly couple who have a doctor appointment tomorrow.
  • Ben and Brian finished digging an igloo together. Ben was totally excited to show me all their hard work when I brought Jacob and Maddie out after nap time. The neighbor also made a snowman that made for a good photo op.
  • We ate a delicious roast tonight for dinner and Ben asked for three helpings of carrots. Got the secret recipe from the Teaffs in Texas (Lindsey, tell your mom thanks, just butter and brown sugar but he LOVES them). Maddie did NOT ask for seconds. She whined through the entire meal. It was hard to hear her though over Jacob's banshee non-stop yelling for near an hour before we got them all snuggled into their beds.
  • Advise on the local news included gems such as check your gutters to make sure they are clear so when the snow melts you won't have problems. Is that really a good idea? Sending people on their snow covered icy roofs to check the gutters?
  • Snow plow came at 7pm so technically we're free. Problem is that the snowplow routinely plows a pile and dumps it directly behind our car, so we're not really free yet (by the way, it was the new snowplow contract company).
  • Got an email from Fairfax County Schools - school is cancelled until Jan 4. Now that's a snow storm!! Actually they just cancelled it Mon, Tues and Wed. The rest was holiday anyway.
  • Don't worry...we have two bananas left...if you're a regular reader, you'll understand what I mean. I take it as a sign we weathered the storm well.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Overheard

In a quiet car doing errands Maddie offers, "You know corn, Ben? Ummmm. We just usually call it corn. That's it." Then silence. Thanks for the info Miss Maddie Mae. Our church takes lunch in to a homeless shelter type place once a month. We are given a recipe so we all make the same casserole on the same day. One such recipe was a taco flavored bean, rice and tortilla dish. In attempting to multi-task I made one and a half times the recipe so our family could have it for that day and at least one night for leftovers. Day one at our kids made it known they weren't fans. They don't care for anything taco flavored. When the same casserole came out on leftover day Ben sneered. He said, "My dinner looks like garbage. Apple garbage like comes out of the applesauce making machine." Sorry to the folks at the shelter who apparently had garbage for dinner. Don't worry. We had it too.

Contract Issues

Our homeowners association has a contract to have our snow plowed. They chose to change companies effective January 1. They must have ticked someone off in the negotiations. The old company decided that they don't care what happens to us now. We got more than 18 inches of snow and the old/current company couldn't care less. They don't plan to come. They let it accumulate enough that they cannot get us out now. Now it is too heavy for the snow plows to move it. They would have to rent a front end loader to do our roads and they don't want to. Basically they flipped us the bird. The new company is willing to do it, but can't get the heavy equipment either. There are going to be some pretty ticked off people who can't get to work to earn money to feed their families for five days. Chaps my hide. Brian did get himself out and over to an older couples place that he home teaches over by the mall with our 4x4 truck. I suppose it is possible then, but not for the car or most the vehicles in our 176 home complex. I hate politics. For now I will try to enjoy being snowed in. Sort of. You can believe that if given the option tomorrow, Brian will opt to stay home from work and play with the kids one more day. Honestly, who wouldn't.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Late Nights with Dad

I love watching the local nightly news. I feel like I have to watch it every night before I can go to sleep. It's mostly because I have this weird need, a real true need to watch the weather. I have always watched the weather, even as a kid. My dad would watch too. I remember he would lay on the couch in gray sweats and dark socks (leftover from his work clothes). He would watch a 9 o'clock show and relax as he unwound most nights. I would watch with him. Then the 10 o'clock news would begin and he would watch some more. Dad had the couch, I laid on the floor in front of the TV. As the evening wore on and he got more tired I'm sure that his body got heavier and heavier. I know that feeling now as an adult. It is so hard to get up and go to bed. So dad would lay and watch or snooze. And I would stay. I learned over time that if I moved he would send me to bed. I may never know if it is because it drew his attention to me making him notice I was still there or if it was because he figured I was asleep so he'd let me sleep until he went to bed and then tackle the issue. All I know was that if I moved I had to go to bed. If I was still I could stay. I would lay lifeless on the ground. I would do everything humanly possible to not shift or wiggle. Not one inch. If I had an itch coming on I would fight the need to scratch it. Close your eyes. Imagine it away. Pretend you don't feel it. It isn't there. You can take it. Be strong. If you move, you will have to go to bed. All thoughts running through my head. If I had to give in I would fake a groggy stretchy wiggle allowing myself to appear asleep and tired while I shifted my body to scratch the itch. All the while hoping and praying I wouldn't arouse my dad's attention that would surely banish me to my bed. These are the years I fell in love with Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show. I remember the colorful curtain behind him as he did his nightly monologue. I know I didn't always get all his jokes. I wasn't up on current events, politics or the Hollywood scene when I was ten years old. I remember sometimes thinking the monologue was dumb because this day or that day I just didn't get the jokes or know who in the heck he was talking about and making fun of. The longer I listened, the more I loved it. Eventually Jay Leno replaced Johnny Carson. I was about thirteen at the time and I didn't care for the change. For a while I didn't mind going to bed earlier. He wasn't worth staying up to see and all the associated strategery involved to stay still on the living room floor in front of my dad. Over time I fell in love with Leno. Again I would lay on the floor through the 10 o'clock news hoping and praying I could stay still as a statue so I could remain on the floor watching Leno at 10:35pm. Now we live on the East Coast outside of Washington DC in Virginia. Primetime TV starts at 8 o'clock instead of 7 o'clock like in the Mountain Time Zone. That pushes the news to 11 o'clock and Leno to 11:35pm. It's late and I'm tired by the time Leno starts, but I still find myself staying up and watching. I was sad to see him retire. Though I told myself this would be the perfect time for me to break my late night habit begun over twenty years ago on the living room floor of my childhood home with my dad. For a while I didn't care for Leno's replacement, Connan O'Brien. Actually, I don't know that I'll every really like him but my channel flipping during his show has revealed another option. Jimmy Kimmel. Oh how I love Jimmy Kimmel. He is so fun. He seems to use cleaner, more light hearted comedy than O'Brien or Letterman. He's better. He's funnier. He has Guillermo and Uncle Frank. Gotta love Guillermo and Uncle Frank. Problem is Leno/O'Brien/Letterman were at 11:35pm. Kimmel starts at 12:05am. I may never break this late night habit but it is nastalgic for me. Though today instead of trying to stay painfully still and silent on the living room floor so I'm not sent to bed, I have a TV in my bedroom with a sleep timer. Instead I try to stay very still and not flip flop too much so I don't disturb my sleepy sweetheart Brian.

Snow in the News

Last night I was watching the news. The snow storm, okay, the blizzard was the headline story. The weather report starts each night at 11:17 pm. It's precise. Predictable. I must stay awake each night until 11:20 when the 5 day forecast shows across the screen. Every night this is my routine. Then I can rest if I want, zone out if need be. If sleep takes hold of my body that's fine, the sleep timer on the TV will take care of it. Last night however I didn't need to wait until 11:17pm. The one and only story across the entire news last night starting from the very first moment was the blizzard that had already begun. They had incredibly valuable reports like the lady doing a live report from the local grocery store. There were no bananas left in the store. None. What craziness! What mayhem! How will we ever survive? One lady they were interviewing had been to three stores, count them, three stores and all three were completely out of milk. We're all going to die!! Other stupendous, not to be missed news reports included:
  • why you should not go out in the snow if you don't know how to drive in it
  • if your car isn't properly equipped to handle the weather don't go out
  • if you go out even though you shouldn't have gone out, make sure you do this and that
  • there are no bananas at the grocery store
  • schools x, y and z are closed tomorrow
  • live phone reports from Virginia and Maryland Departments of Transportation telling us that they have definitely decided to plow the roads (as opposed to what? doing nothing? of course they are going to plow that's what they do)
  • there are STILL no bananas at the grocery store

I'm not sure what the root cause (I think nerdy engineer every time that phrase escapes my mouth) of my non-fear attitude is. Is it growing up in Utah and having had snow every year of my life growing up? Is it my complete and total elation about the gorgeous fluffy white wonderland that emerges to cleans the world and mute the business by insulating us from all noise? Is it because I try to live my life and keep my home at least somewhat prepared for emergencies? I have wheat and a wheat grinder so I can make bread (assuming we have power). When I shop I shop by the case, not by the can of food. We drink powdered milk everyday of our lives. We may run out of bananas, true. But we're going to be just fine. We will not starve.

My favorite thing ever is that they were reporting on people running out to get gas for their cars. Please, someone, tell me why is there a run on gas? Isn't the big story that we won't be able to leave our homes? So..........what do you need gas for again? Enough said. Now go out and make a snowman with your kids, shovel your sidewalks for you and an elderly neighbor, catch a fluffy snowflake on your tongue and enjoy the gift of winter.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snow's A Comin'

I can hardly wait. Last night I heard a quick blip on the news predicting snow. Not just a little snow. Six to twelve inches or MORE. MORE!! Houston didn't get snow. That was sad. Virginia at least gets some but not every very much. This is so exciting I can hardly stand it. I just want to sit in the kitchen bay window and begin watching even though it won't start until tomorrow morning. Usually when it snows we get all of two inches. It us more often than not a work day so Brian is gone and babies have to nap so I have to stay inside and keep them warm and cozy. I'm not free to go out and enjoy with my children. I think the very best part of the impending snow is that our calendar is totally open tomorrow. We are free! Free to play! Free to sled with the kids. Free to enjoy the pure happiness that will ooze from their souls as they explore and enjoy God's beautiful white wonderland. We are free. And I'm scheduling a playdate tomorrow. I can hardly wait.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ben is Lucifer

Does that title rub you the wrong way like it does me? Even still, the fact remains that Ben keeps running around the house saying with loud acclaim, "I'm Lucifer! I'm Lucifer!" One of Ben and Maddie's most common play themes for the last six months has been that Ben is a cat and Maddie is his mother. There have been many, many days when my children have been characters more than they are my children. Ben always loves to be a cat. Just a cat. Always a cat. Maddie is always a mother, but she can be a mother of all sorts of varieties. She can be a people mother, cat mother, dog mother, mean step-mother, Angie mother, regular mother, princess mother, robot mother, mermaid mother, doctor mother and many other kinds of mothers. Due to Maddie's recent obsession with Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty she has over time worn down Ben's resistance to pink and princess so that he will watch Cinderella with her. His favorite character in the movie is the cat Lucifer. He thinks Lucifer is really funny, so he wants to be Lucifer when he pretends to be a cat. It doesn't quite sit right with me when he runs about the house telling people he is Lucifer. When put in context, it isn't that bad, but it just doesn't feel right. For now, I choose to let it go. He knows who Satan is. That is good enough for now.

What To Do In Fairfax

I found more stuff to do! I sent this as an email to friends, then they replied back with even more cool things. They are all included below: Hey Friends! Because I'm a Christmas junkie, I put together a list of fun things to do in the Fairfax area and thought you might want to know about them too. At the bottom are several other things through the year that my family enjoys. My calendar is full of post-it notes telling me to check on this or that as they come around. Hope you find something great for your family here! Merry Christmas! Angie Bethlehem Walk http://www.parkwood.org/ 8726 Braddock Road, Annandale, VA Highlight of our Christmas season each year. Free. Usually second Sat & Sun in Dec. 2009 Dec 13 and 14, 4-8pm this year. Sunday is always more crowded than Saturday. Take your children on a walk through Bethlehem where the character towns people are in full costume and sitting at kid level to engage them in talking about the new baby and the star in the sky, walls are decorated floor to ceiling, children collect trinkets as they journey to find the baby Jesus outside in a stable with real sheep, goat and donkey. Fairfax Station Railroad Museum www.fairfax-station.org 11200 Fairfax Station Road Fairfax Station, VA 22039 Dec 5 & 6, 2009, Sat 10-5 and Sun 12-4 Outside free, inside about $3/person Usually first weekend in December hosts a big train event on their property. Four or five small train towns are setup inside for viewing with all the intricate details (people, houses, trees, etc). Free outside are the larger trains (shoebox sized?). The railroaders set up track surrounding the entire building and drive their remote control trains all over the track they build. Kids can run around and follow the trains, talk to the owners, watch them hook and unhook their engines from loads. It's great fun. Also available - a caboose to climb in, santa makes an appearance each year at random times and sits in a sleigh handing out candy. Tiny Tots Holiday Concerts At most high schools in Dec, get ticket info in Nov. About $5/ticket High school bands put on concerts geared toward young children. Santa Train www.vre.org Burke VRE station and several others 2009 buy Nov 30, ride Dec 12 - sold out this year. $5/ticket, buy in person two weeks before train date. Take a 50 minute train ride and meet Santa from several VRE stations. Festival of Lights - Washington DC Temple Visitors Center www.dctemplelights.lds.org 9900 Stoneybrook Drive, Kensington, MD 20895 Dec 4 - Jan 1 Free Nightly holiday musical programs, typically at 7 and 8pm. Trees decorated with 500,000 lights, live nativity, international nativities collection from all over world on display inside, live nativity outside with Bible story over speaker system. Wreath Laying in Arlington Cemetery www.wreaths-across-america.org Arlington Cemetery - Metro access suggested. Usually second Saturday in December. Dec 12, 2009 Free Help honor our fallen soldiers by helping lay donated wreaths at Arlington or other cemeteries nationwide. See website for where and when to go to help. Lighting of the National Christmas Tree - Pageant of Peace Between White House and Washington Monument. You can't miss it. Free tickets distributed via online lottery at beginning of November. www.recreation.gov If you don't get tickets, just go after the ceremony or on any other night to see other groups perform for free, see trains driving around National Tree and a tree from each state and territory decorated. http://www.nps.gov/whho/national_christmas_tree_program.htm Chantilly Bible Model Train Display - Dec 12, 2009 10am-3pm, Free. 4390 Pleasant Valley Road • Chantilly, Virginia 20151 http://www.chantillybible.org/LifeatCBC/Events/ModelTrainDisplay.lsphttp://www.chantillybible.org Multiple indoor electric train displays to watch and enjoy. Have even had a kid table of wooden train tracks for the kids to play with and build. Water-Skiing Santahttp://www.waterskiingsanta.com/National Harbor in Maryland, Free. Dec 24 1pm sharp Lighted Boat Parades (several)http://www.fairfaxchristmaslights.com/boats.php LDS Church First Presidency DevotionalFirst Sunday night of December. Broadcast via satellite feed to 3900 Howard St, Annandale, VA. OR view online at www.lds.org Mix of stories of birth of Jesus Christ, orchestra, choir and soloists performances. http://www.fairfaxchristmaslights.com/ --- top Xmas light displays. We have gone to the one on Shadow Lane in Fairfax Station before --- it is really neat. http://www.nvrpa.org/parks/brfestoflights/ -- Bull Run Festival of Lights --- drive through light display. Kids loved this. We drove it at about 1 mph so we undid seatbelts and they were in heaven with freedom to move and explore and be excited in the car about all they saw. About $12/car? OTHER STUFF (for the rest of the year) White House Easter Egg Roll My understanding is that tickets for this will be online lottery system from now on. www.recreation.gov Check about four weeks before Easter for the lottery date to make sure you don't miss your chance. Circus Elephant Parade Barnum and Bailey Circus comes to the Patriot Center once a year, usually in April for two weeks. On the night of the last show, always a Sunday evening, they march the elephants right down Ox Road to the train station to load up and leave town. Park yourself on Ox Road between Braddock and Fairfax Station Road an hour and a half after the last show begins and you are in for a big treat (about 8pm they pass by)! Elephants, mini horses and other fun animals walk right past you! Western Roundup www.chantillybible.org/westernroundup Mid to end of October. Lots of local churches have fun free fall time festivals. This is one of our favorite. Cox Farms www.coxfarms.com End of September through first few days in November. Mega slides, fun games and hay ride for the kids. Cost is about $8/person weekdays and $15/person weekends.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bad Mom

It's not secret I'm a bad mom. Here is just another piece of evidence. Yesterday Brian flew out to Houston for a quick overnight trip. He told the kids the night before about his plans and that he would be home today. The day he left he would take Ben to the bus like normal then return for an hour or so before he left for the airport. Ben got pretty upset. It wasn't fair that Maddie got to play with dad while he had to go to school.
I know what you are thinking. I'm not the bad parent here. Brian is. That's what I though too. But I was wrong. In the morning we had family prayers and Brian took him to the bus. When Brian returned I asked him if Ben was okay or did he seem sad, you know, considering he couldn't come play and all. Brian told me that he was okay with the whole trip thing. He was definately sad though. Ben had been totally depressed that Mom hadn't noticed how sad he was during prayer time and didn't even ask what was wrong (guess the snow melting and loss of his snowman tipped the happiness scale). Guess his melting snowman ruined his morning and my complete dismissal of his feelings crushed what was left of any spec of happiness in the child.
Oh brother!

Blokus

Maddie and I enjoyed a competitive game of Blokus while Ben was at school yesterday. Anyone know how to play Blokus? It's actually a really great Tetris style game to play with adults. We can also play it with little kids because they can have their own pieces and as long as they know how to take turns their screwy moves just add to the challenge. Anyway, if you start to stategize you can arrange your pieces to surround and block off another person or "Blokus" them. We were only four pieces into the game when Maddie started declaring quite proudly, "I blocked you, Mom!!" She was so excited and would laugh at her every triumphant move. Notice in the picture though that our pieces are no where near each other. Didn't stifle her zeal and childlike anticipation of the coming shut-out style victory she would soon declare. Even notice her sticking her tongue out at me in a show of good sportsmanship.

Seriously? Who Does That?

Ben is having a playdate with Anthony and Connor today. They are fully engaged in a wild sword fight in the living room when Ben says, "I'm going to write Anthony a song now. Mom, where is my piano book?" He's serious too. He's trying to write a song. Who does that? Might be time for us to capitilize on his interest in music, eh?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Babysitter Success

One of my favorite babysitters fell off the grid. I couldn't contact her and had resigned myself to finding someone else for our work party this Saturday. I spent almost two hours calling kids last night. Everyone is busy. It's a busy time of year and four days isn't a lot of notice. I was trying to get it done last night before I left for a planning meeting at 8pm. Right about time for me to leave I got a call asking me to pick up Jessica so she didn't have to drive in the rotten icy weather. Presto!! This friend lives on the same street as my beloved babysitter Marina. Perfect! I went to get Jessica and taped a note to her door. Got a text from her this morning and we're all set! I'm so excited and happy. I told Maddie we were having Marina come over on Saturday. After a while she says, "We're not having Marina. Marina is like how the yellow submarine goes like. It's not a person."

Princesses Don't Potty

The report from sweet Princess Maddie this morning was that princesses don't potty. This is what she told me after she came back from tinkling in the kiddie toilet. Her reasoning is that they never show the princesses go to the bathroom in the movies so it must never happen. What am I supposed to say to that? On a positive note she has pooped in the toilet for about two weeks today. Not 100%. More like 90%. LOTS better than 0%. Mommy is happier and more calm. Maddie is really proud of herself. Things are getting better around here. I can't pin my finger on the trigger for the change. We offered the child everything under the moon. Now I have to follow through on all those promises everytime she makes a deposit. It started out fun but soon grew old even to her*. Now we have to do so much I'm grateful she is already transitioning to wanting just the sticker and a Hershey Kiss. Grandma promised a walk to the lake by our house. I know that helped, but I'm still baffled what was the magic trigger. She just sort of started doing it one day. Whatever it was she's proud of herself and happy. So is mom. Life is getting better here. I'm hoping that her morning proclamation doesn't amount to anything because I have to believe that princesses really do potty. They just cut that part out of the movie during the cartoon editing process. *Promises Made: parade around kitchen with loud music paint fingernails wear dancing leotard snack size candy bar Hershey Kisses sticker chart to earn Chuck E. Cheese watch brand new princess tea party movie probably more that I can't remember right now

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sleeping Beauty - A Damsel in Distress

Maddie has been obsessed with playing princess the last month. In particular she has chosen Sleeping Beauty as her favorite and has worn a beautiful velvet and sequin dark pink princess dress from the Soderborgs every day for over two weeks now.
Overheard today: Maddie storming into the kitchen lips puckered in a very serious pout and arms crossed across her chest. She calls out to Ben in the living room, "But you have to be my prince because I keep falling asleep and getting DEAD!" Ben: "But I don't want to be a prince anymore." She is lured back into the living room... Maddie pleads her case about desperately needing him to kiss her and wake her up. I hear a bit of unhappy complaining out of Ben then finally the long drawn out noise of a loud kiss. "There" he says begrudgingly. "Now you're alive again. Okay?" "Thanks Ben!" she exclaimed. Knowing Maddie, I'm sure it was followed by a big huge thank you hug from the damsel in distress.

Big Boy Gets Bigger

Jakey turned one yesterday. To be honest, we had no time to celebrate his big day so we reserved Sunday for the festivites. He didn't seem to mind at all. He's good natured like that. When we gave him his cake to attack Jacob didn't quite know what to do with all that food and freedom. We chopped off Cliffords head and he ate most the icing or at least smeared it all over his body. Once his hands and face were totally covered he looked like a clown with all that red on his face and he couldn't stop opening and closing his hands. It was like he was confused about all the slippery wet stuff that just stayed on his chubby little fingers. It was funny to watch him open-close-open-close-open-close and just stare at his own hand in awe.
Being bad parents that we are we forgot to get him a present. (We forgot for Maddie's first birthday too. We had to run to Wal-Mart quickly and grab something one hour before Brian left for the airport on a two week business trip because Ben was so upset about it. I remember quite specifically both of us looking for something super cheap since we knew she couldn't care less what she got.) Seriously though, what does a one year old need? We already have too many toys as it is at our house. He only wants to play with the big kid toys anyway so why buy baby ones. Then I remembered that I had just purchased new warm winter pajamas for him the day before. Brian threw them in a gift bag. Presto! He had a present. Ben and Maddie were happy enough as well. When they turn two it's a whole different ball game. They care and they have stuff they love by then so it's fun to buy for them.
Jacob also turned around in his car seat two days early. His first ride was almost a total bomb. I took him out of his crib, spoiling a nap to go pick up Maddie at preschool so he was mad and cranky and screamed a lot. Once he calmed down and I turned around to play peek-a-boo at a stop light he realized he could see me it clicked that something had changed and he loved it. Of course it made him mad that most the time I couldn't play games with him. It's been interesting to compare the three kids. The law says that little people can face forward at 20 lbs AND 1 year. Ben hit 20 lbs at 15 months. Maddie didn't get there until 18 months. Jacob at 9 months blew past that milestone. Consider though that Ben and Maddie both moved from their infant seats to a rear facing chair at 8 and 9 months respectively. Jacob wasn't allowed to move until now. I'm still considering the consequences of my choice to change chairs and turn him around. You see, Jacob is most easily compared to that cheap toy we have all seen from the dollar store. After lots of searching I was able to find it online. He is a water snake. Remember those fun old toys? One quick look at that link and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. The knundrum of holding onto Jacob is best described like the problem of holding onto a water snake. The more you try to hold onto it, the more wild and wiggly it gets. Your efforts to control and hold it tightly only serve to make it squirt off into another direction with all the more speed and vigor. There is no negotiating the moster. He's a handful. Thus he has remained in his infant chair where the five point harness holds him securely and safely as I haul things in and out of the house and negotiate diaper bags, sippy cups, grocery sacks, toys, binkies and the like.
Overall Jacob is a black and white sort of a guy. He is one of the most delightful and happy kids I've ever met. Then again he's the loudest most angry and frusterating little person in the world. Last night we sat at tithing settlement with Bishop. He commented how Jacob is always so delightful and friendly and asked if it just gets easier as we go along. We didn't quite know what to say. Jacob has beenthe most difficult and challenging of our three kids. Hands down. It's almost as if crossing the threshold of our front door flips a switch inside the child. He screams all day. It comes and goes. Some days I have to walk out of the house when Brian comes home. He has tested me and my patience in ways I didn't know you could test a person. Still, Jacob has been a delight. I love that he has started to give me wide open mouthed kisses when I pick him up to clean him up after a meal in the high chair. He's covered in nastiness and leans in to lay a wet one on me with all the love and adoration he can muster. Sometimes when he is laying on the changing table he looks up at me and his face fills with complete and total joy at the sight of my face. Me. He loves me. Like really LOVES me and you can see it on his face. Despite the troubles that come with being the favorite parent, it is cool to be the most important person on the planet sometimes. He lunges for me when I walk in the room and someone else is holding him in their arms. He loves to dance. Brian read some study lately that says kids dance because it is the way their bodies express joy. Jacob can be incredibly happy. He is so kind. He loves to follow Ben and Maddie. The three of them run circles around the kitchen and living room and their giggles are infectious. He adores his older siblings and they love him. Jacob has never snuggled and was never willing to relax and sleep in my arms. He is too active and busy to slow down and enjoy being with me in quiet moments. It is exhausting but I think it makes him all the more fun. He is always looking for fun, fun, fun. We love his zest for life. His genuine smile. I love the dimple on his right cheek at random moments, but never when he smiles. Someday we will get a picture of it. Jacob is a wonderful, fun addition to our family. We wouldn't trade him.

Toxic Amounts of Red

I think we may all die tomorrow. Today we injested toxic amounts of red food coloring. Or at the very least we will all pee orange. For Jacob's birthday I made a Clifford the Big Red Dog birthday cake. I used one of those dog shaped plans from Wilton. I can't decide if I'm a fan of those things yet or not. Once you slather on the base coat of frosting, all the details to help you know how to decorate the thing are covered up. Since the entire cake was going to be red, I skipped the tedious star tip method and just dumped two cans of frosting on and smoothed it out. Then I drew back the details with a medium amount of success at making it look like Clifford with a fine icing tip and black frosting. At first it looked pretty pink to me and I wasn't happy with my details. Once I walked away and came back I think it turned out okay. At least for a one year old birthday.
Coloring the icing was an adventure. I knew it would be. I did bright red Elmo for Ben's second birthday cake and used up my little standard sized bottle of red food coloring up completely that time, so I knew I was going to need a lot for this enormous cake. Sure enough. I used two cans of icing and an entire glass bottle of red food coloring (as in the size vanilla flavoring comes in or about three times as much as in those little squeeze bottles). My hands were dyed red. My spatula is pink. My mixing bowl is pink. The high chair tray is pink after he ate it. My counter was pink even after the cleaning was done. Tonight we finally got to eat the cake and I'm sure all that red is going to manifest itself soon enough.

Addendum - "I Don't Wanna!!!!"

Here is our Ben again in an all to familiar pose of late. We just don't know what to do with him these days. This is our attempt at a holiday card family photo. Here he threw himself backward in a tantrum so Scot's camera auto focused on the temple behind us.

At least he's looking in this one. I'm not calling it a big victory though.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Nap

Everyone loves a Sunday afternoon nap. Church is over. Kids are fed. Little ones are quiet. Big one is zombied with a movie. Finally a minute to close my eyes. I laid down on the bottom bunk with Maddie on top to entice her to take her much needed nap. Two minutes flat and she was out. Soon my eyes were droopy and I let go and slept. Two and a half hours later and four minutes before our dinner guest was supposed to arrive I regained consciousness. Bless Chef Brian for making chicken pot pie...er...turkey pot pie. Life was good. After the kids were in bed I took a project up to bed and we watched a movie as I worked on preschool stuff until about 11pm when I began to turn my thoughts toward sleep. Feeling wide awake I figured I could go until midnight. After all I had a good nap. Midnight came and I dutifully clicked off the light and turned off the computer. As I do every night I turned on the tv sleep timer and clicked the volume down to a dull background noise to lull me to sleep but it wasn't working. I'm wide awake. One episode of Cold Case ended and another began. Still wide eyed and bushy tailed. At 2am I clicked the tv off completely hoping that would help. At 2:30am still tossing and turning in bed I got up and checked on the kids. Jacob's skin was cool so I was glad I'd put double jammies on him and a blanket. Ben was warm in his lightweight long sleeves with no blankets. Maddie in paper thin summer superman shorts and shirt complete with cape was freezing and balled up to keep warm. I woke her and offered some warmer attire. She gratefully accepted and got up to change but still had no interest in a blanket. I guess you only need a blanket if you are a sissy. Last I recall it was nearing 3am before I drifted off to sleep. Next week I think I'll take a shorter nap.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Jacob In One Week

Last Monday Jacob threw his chest on the coffee table and hoisted his hips upward. Over and over he did it until he got the gist of it. It was hilarious to watch. His upper body didn't move at all. It was like watching someone do exercises to tone their buttocks. Then he started working his knees to the left. To the right. Left. Right. Left again. It wasn't long before he was up standing triumphantly on top of the coffee table. And that was the beginning of the end of life as we know it. He's always wanted to be a climber, but now he offically is one. Monday also brought a new tooth pushing its way through his little gums. Once it crested the endless screaming let up a bit which was much appreciated. Tuesday he climbed up into the bay window in the kitchen via a process much like he had on the coffee table. Then he enjoyed himself watching people, dogs and squirrels passing by the front yard. Thursday he got really, really fast at going down the stairs. It's become much less a process of crawling down, more of making his body a straight ridgid board and sliding full speed down. He only caught his leg once on cousin MacKenzie causing him to topple down half a flight to crash at the bottom. Friday he found the bottom support rungs on the kitchen and dining room chairs. Now he has full access to any and everything up on the tables and counters. Yikes! He can push the kitchen chairs but not the dining room ones yet. Thank goodness. Saturday he found the little kiddy plastic chairs and realized he could scoot and carry them around to a location of his choice. He carefully places them where he needs to and climbs up to touch and grab anything he wants. I've found him on the piano. He's fallen off the kitchen chairs, kiddie chairs and dining room chairs. If memory serves me correctly from past experiences this disaster stage of uninhibited climbing before actual fear of falling sets in will last about three months. Heaven help us if this little man is to survive. Cross your fingers and pray for guardian angels to soften the falls that will inevitably be coming as we attempt to be ever vigilant in keeping all chairs tucked tightly in their places or hidden from the monster. Tonight we put up the Christmas tree. It is barricaded in an unnatural corner hole created with couches. It's all we can do, but still doubt it will detour him long. Tomorrow I bet I'll find him with a little chair pushed up against the couch. He'll be leaning over the edge pulling the entire tree down on the top of his head. Wild man.

Halloween 2010 Under Construction Already

Post written Nov 13. Was too depressed to publish the post until today. Enjoy! Today hasn't been the best day in the world. Tomorrow is Super Saturday (hallelujah!) so there were some last minute details to finish up, but nothing horrendous. Rebecca volunteered to watch Maddie Mae so I could be more free to run around. I let Jacob sleep in until 9:30. Fed him breakfast and headed out to drop Maddie for her playdate. Forgot my Costco card so had to stand in line for a day pass. Unload the supplies and groceries in the POURING rain. Select what can survive in the truck bed getting soaked and what needs to be in the cab. Rush to get Maddie at Rebeccas then off to do bus stop pickup. Drop off Anthony at his house from the bus. Lunch for three hungry, whiny kids. While they eat unload all the Costco loot throwing cold stuff in the fridge and freezer while leaving the rest littering the entryway and kitchen floor. Load back up in the truck to drop all the kids at Anthony's house so I can go to the dentist for my consultation. Remember I forgot to brush my teeth after all the kids are buckled in. You can't go to the dentist without brushing your teeth. Ugh. Drop the kids off and head out to pick up Brian at work. I figured there are so many high dollar figures floating in my head and theories about getting three new teeth, gum grafts, bone grafts, flippers, root canals and loads of other fun stuff, I need reinforcements to keep all the info straight. We go to the dentist who has arranged to have an endodontist and the lab guy (the guy who makes fake teeth) there to talk to me and consults with the periodontist via phone. Talk about mixed emotions. I've never had a "team" of doctors working on me/for me. I also have never felt like such a mess. It takes four professionals to fix my issues. Dang. The verdict:
  • One root canal on a tooth I didn't even know was a problem. Possibly a surprise result of my trauma in the diving accident sixteen years ago that took out the other two teeth an eternity ago. It's dead as a door nail. She froze it with liquid nitrogen and I didn't feel a thing.
  • One compete tooth extraction
  • One bone graft
  • One gum graft
  • Three oral surgeries
  • One FLIPPER - for the love of Pete (if you don't know what that is...count yourself lucky)
  • Three crowns
  • One titanium post screwed into my head
  • More than one year of work in my mouth
  • $10K - praise the Lord for insurance and the ability to spread the expenses out over three years
How does the post title relate to all this dental mumbo jumbo? I was laying on the floor being Jacob's jungle gym tonight while Brian read the kids an Amelia Bedilia book about Halloween and costumes and such. That's when it hit me. I'm gonna be a hillbilly next year. What could be more perfect? I'll have a flipper for the better part of a year, maybe longer while the bone graft and gum graft heal and grow strong enough to implant the titanium post in my upper jaw bone. Now I have to ask: Do you know what a flipper is? It's a retainer with a fake tooth glued in it. Yes folks. I will have a removable front tooth for a year. Classy. I know. Like I said, I'm going to be a hillbilly for Halloween. I'll leave my tooth at home and flaunt my hillbilly-ness. Glad I didn't give those old overalls to the good will afterall. Only time will tell if I'm really that confident in my own skin or if I will become totally self conscious and chicken out of my plan to go toothless.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Skype

I'm sitting in my living room with my nut case family. There are four laptops and one desktop computer in this room right now. Four of them are all logged into Skype and they are talking to each other online. Whenever anyone talks it echos like we are in a football stadium on their sound system. It's cracking me up. Could we not just turn off the computers and talk to each other? Weirdos. Actually they are all trying to get set up to talk to my brother's family that just moved to Brisbane Australia. We just finished a conference call with him planning our future with the Laketown property. Maybe someday we'll all build luxury cabins and live there sipping cute fruity drinks with umbrellas in them.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Maddie Says

One day last week Maddie and I were talking and I was encouraging her to poop in the toilet and not her diaper. I reminded her about one time when she did it and all the fun things we did for her. We cranked the music really loud and had a marching parade all around the kitchen and living room, painted her fingernails and toenails, gave her candy, sticker on her sticker chart to earn a new movie, wear her favorite dance leotard and more. She smiled politely as I listed all the amazing cool things we get to do in my most exciting and animated voice with energetic hand motions and facial expressions. When I ask what she thinks and if she will try the potty now her comment was in a tone of complete dismissal, "Yeah, but that's just a fiction story, right Mom?" Just try not laughing until you cry when you are at your wits end trying to potty train your three year old and they tell you that the whole idea of them using the toilet is a fiction story. What am I supposed to do now? Ben learned the difference between fiction and non-fiction a month ago in school at the library. He has been pretty consistent about using those words about things in all facets of his life when describing real or imaginary things since then. Obviously Maddie has picked up on it too.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lots of Dancing These Days

We've been dancing a lot lately around here. While making lunch today in the kitchen I was watching Ben and Maddie dance around the living room. After a bit Ben came in and told me, "I don't like to dance very much. All I can do is just twirl around and that's just for girls."

Celebrity Connections and Cakewreck Wreckage

No secrets. I'm a Wreckie. If you don't read this blog http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/, you need to. If you want to laugh so hard you can't read through the tears in your eyes, read this blog http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/. My friend Bill, err, I mean Burton has been featured a few times now. He's AWESOME. To be truthful, unless you are a wreckie yourself you likely won't appreciate his most recent creation. But these are impressive. Bride of Frankenstein. Banana Slippage. Burton's website. Tonight I read the comments left by people all across the country. He has a serious fan club growing. There were tons of people praising his work, ladies asking if he was single and even a marriage proposal. Jenn at Cake Wrecks published a book with tons of new wreckage. Bill and his wife, Jeannie, and I have been dedicated wreckies for a long time now. We were supposed to go on a double date for my birthday to her book signing, but it got cancelled. On the new date Brian was out of town on business. They generously offered up their kids to babysit mine and off we went with one of his latest creations in hand (Lenin in a hot dog bun riding a poo wave - a combination of multiple wrecks over time). Even being the third wheel on their date I had a blast. Kind of fun to be driven by a celebrity and have to wait around for him to network. Except that Jacob was a disaster and screamed for almost 4 straight hours - not sure they will ever be willing to babysit again. It was bad. Really, really bad. Someday we'll have to do a real double date where Brian can come. They are some of the funnest people I've met here in Virginia!

Brian's Report on "Miscalculation"

Last week Angie posted about her late night reunion with the previous Young Women presidency. As Angie stated, we did think that the meeting could be a little shorter than they were when the presidency was in place. However, we also recognized that this group of women had not had a chance to fraternize for a good while, so that obviously throws all calculations out the window. Today I had my first assignment in my new church calling to give a talk to the spanish-speaking congregation in our area. I arrived a bit early so I could have a moment to talk with the Bishop before the meeting. While I was waiting, I saw Heidi, one of the sisters with whom Angie served in the Young Women's presidency. She told me that her husband had miscalculated her return as well--he tried to delay feeding their ~6month baby so Heidi could feed her upon returning from the social event. Upon hearing this, I simply told Heidi that I gave up trying to judge Angie's return from events like this a long time ago. Now, I simply take care of everything as if she is not going to return that night--I know that Angie easily gets pulled into the conversation and quickly looses track of time. Even when she does eventually decide it is getting late and comes home, she may pass another hour or more simply parked outside our house talking with the person that gave her a ride. As I see it, Angie spends a lot of time every day tied to and caring for the needs of our kids. Eventually her battery gets depleted and she needs a little time with friends to recharge. When she gets a chance to get out for a short break, she deserves to take full advantage of the time away. I know she truly loves us and will come home once she has refilled her "social battery." Meanwhile, I get to hold down the fort until she comes home later in the evening. . .or really early the next morning.

Chair Theft Update - Crisis Averted

Upon Brian's return home Thursday evening I was, well, loosing it. People just don't believe me about Jacob. He is so pleasant when we're out. He's not pleasant at home. He screams. All day long. This particular day Jacob had been screaming from almost the instant he woke in the morning until 5pm when we all heard the familiar sounds of Daddy's key in the front door. Poor man. He didn't know what he was walking into. Honestly we only heard the key because I was out of scream at the moment. Jacob had shredded every last nerve in my frail psyche. Ben and Maddie had made a massive mess of cut up paper scraps, markers, crayons and staples all over the kitchen table and floor and were NOT interested in cleaning it up. Jacob was buckled into his high chair with a snack and screaming at the top of his lungs. I'd had it. I was yelling and angry, "Clean that UP!!" "Stop Jacob!" and the like. For anyone under the false pretense that motherhood is all glamor, you are invited over to my place for a reality check. Some days just suck. No. Some days really, really really SUCK rocks. But there are no smoke breaks for a mother at home (see my post Aug 3, 2009). We all heard the key in the lock and since no one ran to greet him, he tried to bait them with a friendly, "Fee fie fo fum..." I met him at the door and confessed in tears that it would really be best if I left now. The kids hadn't done anything wrong but I had and I needed to leave now. I NEEDED to leave NOW. He is a saint. How I scored a husband like Brian I will never know. He just said, "Okay. Go ahead." I knelt down and snuggled Maddie in my arms and told her she didn't do anything wrong. That Mommy was having a hard time and making bad choices so I needed to go on a walk. I told Ben he didn't do anything wrong either and that I loved them both and walked out. Now what? Tears streaming down my face I stood for a minute, then sat on the front step. Where was I going? I had no idea. Then I saw them. A bunch of kids hauling lumber over the hill and through the forest. Excellent. I was keyed up for a fight and here we go. I just had to follow them to find the stolen chair and I knew it. So I did. I could tell about where they were headed so I circled around the woods beyond their destination and came back right at them. There is a lovely group of post high school kids selling drugs in our neighborhood. Great, right? One guy got out of jail and can't find anyone to take him in so he's been living in the woods. The weather is turning cold so they were starting to build a shelter for him. As I approached I saw it. Right in the middle of their group with a kid sitting in it. A neon yellow tag still hanging off the right arm with my name address and phone number on it. I told them I wanted to know which one of them stole my chair. Of course they said it was theirs, they bought it and to get out of there and leave them alone. I picked up the chair and dumped the kid into the dirt. Showed them the NEON yellow tag with my name and one kid all of a sudden said he didn't know where it came from and it was just there when they came. Idiots. I told them they better not be found stealing anything else from my yard and walked back toward my house. Not twenty steps later I heard them all yelling at each other and fighting. Apparently they all decided that the guy who stole it was in trouble with the clan and wasn't allowed to come down there anymore. I turned around and yelled back how convenient it was that they already knew exactly who stole it. I didn't care who it was. Make sure no one messes with me again. I don't think they will. They were nice to me and my kids all summer. I took the chair back to the house and then walked to a friends house and sat at her kitchen table while she cooked dinner for her family. Turns out her day was just as bad. Only her problems were real. Good to put life into perspective. In the end we got the chair back so Ben doesn't have to buy a new one and I don't have to figure out what to do about the whole situation. I figure he's suffered enough emotionally to qualify as full punishment. I know he won't leave things out again.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Maddie Says

Maddie watching Snow White on the computer got off the couch for just a second and Ben swooped into her spot. She got mad and instead of yelling at him like she usually does, she came straight to me to report, "Mom, Ben got in my spot and that is going to make me so MISERABLE!" Who says that? Mom. When I'm cleaning a poopy butt in the bathtub because she doesn't want to poop in the toilet. "This makes me so miserable. Why don't you just use the toilet? I don't have time for this!" Maddie going up the stairs this morning with Ben. "Uh oh. I have to stop talking. I have the hiccups now." Ben "You don't have to stop talking." Maddie "Don't you hear my noise? HICCUP!! See? If you hear my noise it means I have the hiccups so I can't talk. HICCUP!!"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

700

This is my 700th post. Seems that I ought to have something profound to say. Thought about it for three days. Nothing. Same thing happened when I passed 100, 250 and 500. Nothing. Brian said I could make a list of my favorite 700 words. That would take forever. So lacking some great idea, we'll just say that after 700 posts in about 18 months of blogging, I must be addicted. I'll leave you to do the math on that one. Anyway, I haven't been able to find a hobby I could stick with since we got married 10 years ago. Don't think I didn't spend oodles of cash on scrapbooking paraphernalia trying to make that work, take classes in cake decorating and wish and dream about doing other expensive things, but nothing ever stuck. I guess blogging must be my hobby. Here there is the list I can come up with. Sorry it doesn't have 700 bullet points. I do enjoy a good math problem though, so consider it 7 x 10 to the seventh power. That at least equals 700.*(see note) Why I love blogging:
  1. The price tag is right up my alley. Free.
  2. I can do it at 2 am in my pajamas when I can't sleep.
  3. No mess to clean up or junk strewn all over my dining room table from it.
  4. Grandma and Grandpa love hear stories about the kids since they only see them once a year.
  5. The only way I know to "use" all the pictures we take of the kids.
  6. Practice my writing while documenting the story of our family. Someday this will all be a real treasure to our kids to read (or maybe it's just ammo for their future spouses to ridicule them).
  7. Seriously it's my therapist. I can say whatever. Let it all out. Think through my thoughts and feelings outside myself and get perspective. So yeah. Daily therapy sessions so a wonder for my soul and sanity.

*Thank you Generation Z. You are correct sir. Even though at one time I boasted the title of mechanical engineer, I have long felt firm in my conviction that my brain has since turned to mush. A near useless gelatinous substance that resides in my huge melon that is no longer capable of holding onto information any more complex than where the pink crocs were last discarded or how many minutes are left in an episode of the current cartoon. My error in math has proven the point! 7 x 10 to the seventh power does not equal 700. It is 70,000,000. Thanks for the comment, made me laugh at myself at least. Wonder if anyone else caught it. For the record though, had I written it out in number form 7 x 10^7 rather than text I think I would have caught it.

Maddie Says

Ben made me a crown today. I was wearing it when Jacob woke up from his nap. I sat in the rocking chair with him wearing it for a minute before the other kids came to find me. Maddie asked about it and told me I was a princess. I told her I was a queen. "No," she said. "Princess!" I explained that I used to be a princess, but then I got married. A queen is a princess who got married. "Well...well...well you're the only guy who wants to get married. Nobody else ever does." Maddie has quit drinking milk. It's become a struggle at dinner. Two days ago Brian told her it was energy and she had to drink it up so she could run fast. She wasn't buying it. He made her run around the kitchen-living room circle to test how fast she was. Then she drank half her milk and ran again. Imagine that. She was WAY faster according to dad. He convinced her to drink the rest and she was even faster still. Last night she wanted me to do the same thing and tonight when Brian told her to drink her milk, she said it was energy milk and had to test how fast she was before she drank it. But she did drink it. Hey, whatever works, right?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Don't Wanna!!!!

Need I say more?

Lessons Learned

One of the things we love most about our house is the huge soccer sized front yard we have. It is so much fun to let the kids run wild and free. Right now things are even better with the leaves off the tree. Their "leash" is a bit longer so to speak. I can see far into the woods and keep a good eye on them from the house now. Today I put Jacob in his crib to nap and popped his bedroom window open so I could hear him. Then I sat on the lawn in one of those folding chairs that collapse down into a bag. While the two big kids (Maddie in full pink princess dress up) played in the leaf covered field with rakes, climbed the dirt hill in the forest with shovels building important kid creations and exhausting themselves looking for the fox den.
My favorite part of the day was watching his thirty six pounds and about the same of his buddy Anthony try to break apart a tree the wind took out a few weeks ago in a huge wind storm. It is laying at the far side of the field still. They climbed on the trunk on the root side and balanced all the way to the top, falling over and over, but always climbing back on never deterred from their objective. Finally they reached the top of the tree where the branches began to splinter off in random directions. The two five year old boys grabbed hold of a branch that protruded up above their heads and jumped to swing forward and SNAP! The entire branch broke and they tumbled to the ground in a heap. Anthony's mother and I called out to them to see if everyone was okay. They were laughing on the ground. Even from all the way across the huge field we could tell in an instant that all was well. The two boys were so proud of themselves for breaking that huge branch off of the tree. Then they carried it away to the left then the right all over the field together. It was delightful to watch their joy.
As we finish cleaning up all the outdoor play paraphernalia and are heading back into the house the Gutter Helmet truck shows up. Ben goes nuts. "Can I watch them? Please?" No problem. I put the folding chair halfway to the neighbor's fence so there is ample space between him and any danger of falling parts falling from the roof. Maddie went out to watch them install a new gutter. I watched the kids with open windows sitting at the kitchen table while they watched the house and the workers. Soon they got antsy and I heard the workers ask Ben what Maddie's name was so they could ask her to stay away. I gave her a warning to stay away or come inside. She was inside within two minutes. Ben followed. The workers were done five minutes later and I told the kids they could go back outside again.
Neither of them wanted to go out again, so I told Ben he needed to bring in his chair, put away the orange cones and his bike. He said no. I pushed telling him that someone would steal them if he didn't take care of our things. He continued to resist and before I could win the argument I was distracted helping someone with something. Next thing I know it was an hour later and the bike and cones were there but the chair was gone. I hollered to Ben asking if he had cleaned up the chair. Nope. I told him it was gone. We searched all around the neighborhood with no luck.
Now he was motivated. He took the bike and cones to the side fence while I did one more walk to the pool and back to look. Upon my return I heard him wailing in the side yard. I yelled to ask what was wrong. He was totally distraught. He wanted someone to open the gate, which must be done from the inside. He is fully capable, so I made him to do it. As we went in the front door together he told me through his angry glare and sobbing tears that now someone might steal the bike. Now I understood his emotions. He got it taken care of. When he came back in I asked him what we were going to do now and mentioned that the chair cost $10 and that I was sad he made the choice not to obey so we lost our chair.
I knew he felt awful. I could see it all over his face and I wasn't really sure what to do when Maddie called me into the kitchen and he quickly disappeared. Ten minutes later I searched the entire house, looking under beds and in quiet corners so I could reassure him that it was going to be okay. We would figure out a way to buy another one and I would talk to Dad to see how he could help us do that. After a thorough search of the basement and main floor I headed to the basement where I found him at the computer desk. I hugged him and told him it was alright. No surprise, he was reserved and didn't want to say much. His paper was turned over and he told me he needed to be alone for a while so he could make me something. I gave him a hug and went up to the kitchen again.
It wasn't too long before he emerged with a picture of me and the blue chair. He had written below the picture he had written "I AM SRE MOM BEN WIN I HAF 10 B" in sound spelling. (I am sorry Mom. Ben. When I have 10 Dollars...) Then he explained that he ran out of room to write the rest of the "dollars" and that he made a B instead of a D but told me that he'd give me the money. He had even calculated how long it would take him to pay back the debt. He said "I get $2 every Saturday and $1 if for fun money so it will take me ten Saturdays, okay?" My heart melted. Sweet, sweet boy. He is so pure in heart.
Now I have a dilemma. One of the things I believe in most strongly is the concept of Choice and Accountability. You have to be held accountable for the things you do or you will never become a functional, contributing, quality member of society. Technically he does have the ability to pay for the chair. It will take sacrifice on his part, which I view as a good thing. I just think that $10 and two and a half months is a bit of a high price to pay for a sweet little five year old boy. I wish desperately I hadn't told him it was $10. I wish I had told him it would cost him $5 or not quantified it at all. That's what I usually do. Be noncommittal up front then figure out a reasonable contribution that he can make to reconcile the situation. I think that is why he was so willing to give his money to fix it. He has obviously developed that sense of accountability at some level.
Maybe $5. Yeah. I know he has $3 and that would only mean two weeks of sacrifice. That is enough. I do believe in mercy too, I just don't know where that magic line is. Where will he learn consequence and mercy? $8? $3? Mercy is important too. That is what the Saviour has given us. What better way to teach that concept. Alas, I must think and consider and do the right thing or my child could end up being a leach on society because of this one little blue chair, right? Okay, maybe it isn't that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, but it is today and it is a big deal to him. What a great kid. He's going to turn out just fine.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Miscalculation

Tonight I went out with the old Stake Young Womens Presidency. It was a reunion of sorts. When you spend that many hours with a group of ladies over a year and a half, you just become fast friends. We hadn't been together since July and it was so great to catch up with them. We really were good friends. So much so that our presidency meetings were often three hours long. Brian (and Carol's husband Bryce) concur that there is a unique female thing going on when women work together in the church and foster friendships like this. Without being able to remember the exact wording, Bryce said basically that there was a pre-meeting warm up session where we had to all meet and greet and say hellos. Then we do the business portion of the meeting for which we were supposed to meet. Finally we have the cool down portion where we discuss upcoming happenings and talk a little more about this and that. All in all it takes about three hours for us to meet as a presidency. Of course with this group of friends we always had half time break in addition - Annandale testimony meeting report. No kidding, rolling on the floor laughing. The other three of us are coming with popcorn and candy sometime just to observe. Tonight Brian figured since we didn't have any actual business to discuss or events to plan now that the meeting could be drastically cut to two hours of social time. Even I was surprised by his large miscalculation. Usually he's really, really good with numbers and all. I left at 6:30 pm and returned a few minutes after 11:00 pm. Yep. A four and a half hour meeting. Gosh it was fun. I'm so totally glad Outback was dead tonight. Empty tables all over the restaurant so we didn't have to be in any rush to leave. Guess the economy really is hitting hard. The night was perfect. Perfect I say. I miss my friends!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Crazy Neighbors

As I'm leaving the neighborhood multiple times all morning long for various errands today I see the same lady in front of her house. In the course of three hours I had observed her take a kitchen broom and sweep away the autumn leaves in a diagonal path across her lawn for the garden hose to lay in. Then she proceeded to fill a bucket with sudsy water and wash the wheel wells on her car. Not the whole car. Just the wheel wells. All this in the pouring rain. Think she's alright? She must be soaked to the bone and a little batty too.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

While You Were Out

Dear Daddy, While you were out I learned how to wave hello and goodbye, climb DOWN the stairs alone, clap my hands to celebrate great stuff and give high fives. Missed you while you were gone. Love, Jacob

Saturday, November 7, 2009

She'll Never Make It

Overheard from the basement while Maddie and Ben are playing house together. Maddie on the verge of yelling at Ben: "NO!! You can't go camping!" Ben starts wimpering and crying. Maddie in a sugar sweet voice: "Okay, baby. You can go camping now. It's okay. Don't cry. Don't worry. You can go camping now. See? Right here you can do it." Maddie will never make it as a mommy. You have to be hard nosed, follow through with all your terrible rotten threats and be just plain overall mean. She's a softie and it's kinda cute.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Seven Bens

"I wish there were seven Bens."
"Why?"
Pointing to his morning job caterpillar chart, "Cause then I could just do this eating one and the rest of the Bens could do the other jobs up to here (pointing at the end of the caterpillar) and then I'd just be ready for school."

Madilyn

All day today Maddie has been telling us that her real name is Madilyn. This could cause some real confusion later. It's not like she chose to be Sally or Jane that is totally different. Her name is Madison, nickname Maddie. Maddie is also a nickname for Madilyn. She's really gonna screw people up with this. Even when Brian called tonight, first thing she said, "Hi Dad! You can just call me Madilyn for short."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Maddie

Today Lucinda offered to pick up Ben to take him to the bus stop. A blessing to me so I didn't have to wake up Jacob and dress everyone and take them out in the cold weather. My thermometer says it is 40 degrees right now. They left their house, I waited three minutes and then told Maddie (eating her cereal at the breakfast table) that I was taking Ben out to Anthony for the bus. I walked Ben out the front door about ten steps to where I could see Anthony and his mom approaching. Waited until he met up with them and they turned toward the bus stop and headed back into the house, closed and locked the deadbolt on the front door. Maddie was still eating. I rustled around a few papers and junk on the counter near her and grabbed a load to put away upstairs and headed up. From upstairs I could hear Maddie jabbering and singing "I Am Like A Star" happily to herself. I started cleaning and sorting a pile of odds and ends on the floor in my room and keeping an ear open to hear Jacob's stirrings so we could get him breakfast and be ready for preschool. Eventually I heard her put the bowl on the counter. The familiar clink of the bathroom door open. Stool scraping across the floor as she moved it into position at the bathroom counter so she could wash her hands. Then it was more or less quiet. Great. She's playing in the water. I hope it isn't too big of a mess was all I could think. After about five minutes, I started thinking I ought to check on her soon, but she must really be having a grand old time. How much foamy soap will be on the counter? Before I got the chance to go downstairs, I heard the doorbell ring. Weird. Who would come over this early? I saw through the glass a neighbor that lives a bit away. She only speaks Spanish and I see her at the bus stop when I do walk Ben up but we don't talk much. Then I open the door and see Maddie perched on her hip. She is on her cell phone with someone and telling them that I am here and I answered the door. She's talking to our next door neighbor describing who Maddie is and getting directions to my house because she doesn't know where I live but recognizes Maddie. She found Maddie walking the street on Zion drive at the bus stop on the busy road at the edge of our neighborhood and crying. She watched for me but I never came. Then Maddie started walking farther down the street alone. She had no coat. It was barely 40 degrees. Her hands were like ice. She had a single tear on her face. I feel like pond scum. How could she get out? Why would she leave? What was she thinking to walk to the bus stop alone? Did she not see me come back inside to the kitchen for a few minutes with her? She knows I won't ever leave her alone at home. Am I sending mixed messages by walking ten steps outside the door without her joining me? How do I help her understand what to do and what not to do? How do you explain to the neighbor I'm not a negligent mother? Maddie must have left immediately after washing her hands for her to have got that far and back so quickly but I never heard anything. I'm so MAD at her. She knows better and yet she doesn't. She's three. She needs my love. We sit on the couch for an eternity. She won't talk. Not a single word. No tears. Nothing. She's frozen emotionally. Doesn't want anything. Doesn't move an inch. Just sits in my arms as I silently cry my tears into her soft hair asking questions she won't answer and telling her how I feel with no signs of any response. Finally she tells me she was just going to find me at the bus stop because she finished her breakfast. Logical to a three year old. Do what mom asks (eat, clean up) then be independent and go find mom, after all, you know where she is and how to get there. How do you show love in that situation and still scare them straight so they never leave again? Which do they need more? Preschool started five minutes ago. She's upstairs watching Dora in my bed while I feed Jacob breakfast. She needs to be home now for a little longer. To feel safe. Then we'll head out and begin our regularly scheduled program. Like nothing scary happened this morning.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happy Birthday Maddie Mae, From Your Rotten Mommy

It isn't like I didn't make a cake for Maddie's birthday. It's just that her birthday was on the first day of Joy School. And I taught. And it was a lot of work to get all the supplies ready for the lesson that day and get the entire year organized. And I was still figuring out how to juggle kindergarten bus stop pickups and infant nap time. I made the cake. The day before her birthday in fact. I just didn't get it frosted. Or decorated. I suppose my desire to be a cake decorator has lead to high expectations of myself. I wanted to try a new medium. Fondant. She wanted a princess castle. Perfect match. Maddie's low expectations - Simple design - My zero skills with fondant.
Turns out the box of fondant scared me. It looked at me and stared at me and glared at me and taunted me to open it up and try it. I was scared. I was weak. I didn't open it. In fact it's still sitting on the counter today all the way on November 2. Long past the day I had to throw out the original birthday cake because it was covered in mold in the giant cake Tupperware that had to be decontaminated for bio hazard reasons. Long past the time I made a second cake, frosted it in plain white and shook a plastic container of colored sugar sprinkles across the top and drew a little "3" with black icing. She had been asking me and mentioned twice to other people that she didn't get a cake for her birthday. Yeah, she's old enough I can't fudge stuff anymore.
Five weeks later, she asked at a time I didn't have anything completely pressing that needed attention or the world would end. When she asked me point blank why she didn't get a cake for the third time I dropped everything and said, "Let's make your birthday cake together right now!" The smile stretched from ear to ear and maybe even a little farther. She didn't care that it wasn't her birthday. She didn't care that I was no longer under the delusion of making a gorgeous princess castle sculpted with fondant. She just knew that I loved her enough to make her a cake. She lasted all of thirty seconds in her helping, but we had cake that night. She felt like a million bucks.
Just to set the record straight before I start getting hate mail, we did celebrate her birthday on her birthday. We had a party at preschool that day when I taught. I made cup cakes to her exacting demands on decorations. We sang. She blew out candles and had fun together with 15 people in the house. Brian came home from work early so I we could go to Chuck E. Cheese and live it up. She had a blast and by the time we got back to the house it was all I could do to crawl into bed with the flu. You know you feel bad when you are standing at Chuck E. Cheese and want to lay down on the greasy bench or the filthy carpet if need be and sleep as tears start to slip down your face from the body aches. We went home, opened presents and Brian basically put the kids to bed alone. I couldn't have eaten cake that day anyway. So we did celebrate. I gave it all I had. In the end, she just really, really needed a cake. And a cake she got...five weeks late.
This is one of her favorite presents. She was elated to dress up the next day as Cinderella.

If You Could Extend a Calling to Mickey Mouse, What Would You Ask Him to Do?

After the lip sync on Saturday night, President Weber asked Brian if he could take our family picture all dressed up and oh yeah, after that can he please have a chat with us. Uh oh. Brian came to find me cleaning up our room from the carnival games and tell me they wanted me to do something for girls camp this summer. I was confused. A chat with the boss man means you're in charge. I can't be in charge. You'd just have to understand how the hierarchy of camp goes. It entails long term commitments over four years, etc, etc. I already more or less told them it wouldn't work for me. Don't get me wrong. I told them I wanna go. I just can't be in charge. I have been actively involved and willing to help with about anything. Even certification. Yuck. Certification. After a while we had all our gear loaded in the car and went to find out what was our upcoming camp adventure. We do a fabulous photo shoot in the lobby and then head off to have our chat about 9pm with kids in arms. We have all three kids. We're in full costume as Mickey and Minnie Mouse. The kids all have balloons. Jacob's is on a three foot long stick. They are wired and cranky at the same time. Jacob displayed his newly mastered skill of walking and babbling loudly while we chat. He has his balloon on a stick and was whacking Pres Weber on the head almost the entire time we talked. Ben and Maddie Mae were crawling up and down on the other chairs and asking questions. President Weber then asks Brian to serve on the High Counsel. To my credit, I didn't laugh. I have a bad habit of laughing at times like that (Bishop Bradley asking me to be YW Pres and Pres Nelson asking Brian to serve in the Bishopric). Not for lack of faith in my sweetheart. It's just that old people do that job, right? Right? Old people. I thought one of the requirements to be on the high counsel was to have white hair. Anyway, who asks Mickey Mouse to have a leadership role in a church. He'll do a great job and will LOVE working with a spanish congregation again. He hasn't been able to use his spanish much at all here like in Houston. Down in Texas half our friends were from latin american countries and we spoke spanish all the time in our home. During our time in Virginia he has only been able to translate stake conference every six months. Not exactly immersed anymore. Anyway, it's my turn to support him in his busy calling so he can enjoy the blessings of service. He'll be awesome!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Zufelt Costume Emporium

The Zufelt Costume Emporium opened up again for another successful Halloween season. We loaned out the Flintstones and various witches and animals. Our family dressed as the Mickey and Minnie Mouse Crew. Recycled costumes for Brian and I back from before Ben was born but the kids were all new. We had fun, fun, fun dressing up as always. I was pleasantly pleased to be able to do a family theme again. I figured last year would be the last time I could impose my costume will upon my children. Fortunately, we went to Disneyland this year which got the kids all excited about Mickey and Minnie. Good luck for me.
This is what we wore to the lip sync. I got to be a judge of the competition. They had me be the mean one, like Simon on American Idol. If I had it to do over I would definitely opt out of a mean judge. Really, what's the point? Why should we have someone designated to be cruel and demeaning? It just isn't really needed. No value added. If you're fool enough to volunteer to be in a lip sync you shouldn't have to be beaten up afterwards. Our room at the carnival was a beanbag and ring toss game. Lots of kids came through. I think overall they enjoyed the fun. It was followed the next week by the traditional Trunk-or-Treat and a big wild carnival put on by the church youth for the little kids. Brian went as a wizard and manned the balloon animal station for the entire night. Even when the Trunk-or-Treat started in the parking lot the line remained. Kids were skipping the candy mother load in the parking lot for a little balloon. I had to take my kids around the parking lot on threat of death from them. By the time Brian finished the last balloon for the last patient kid, the Trunk-or-Treat was pretty much over and people were loading kids in their cars. Oh well. I suppose our donation to the cause was the balloons this year instead of candy. Dang. Guess I'll just have to eat it all. Ben brought his new little friend Connor from down the street. Turns out his family shares a private driveway with our friends the Roberts. The two boys are becoming great friends. They ride the bus together every day and play at recess and at free play time in school. The carnival was honestly a bit overwhelming. The gym was packed and noisier than I've ever hear it. Ben wasn't a very great host. He was so excited he kept running off alone. Poor Connor ended up asking to go home early. We were heading out the door when they announced that they'd start the Trunk-or-Treat in ten minutes. Not wanting him to miss the best part I hung out with him in the hall where things were a bit more relaxed until it was time to go out to the parking lot. Seemed to calm his anxiety and once we got outside again Ben was better at staying with his buddy. They had so much fun going from car to car. I was grateful the night ended on a high for him. Sugar high, yes, maybe, but a high just the same. The last of our celebrations was on Halloween night. We did a bit of trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. Since we live in townhouses, you get a lot of bang for your buck for lack of a better way of putting it. We didn't walk far at all and only half the houses had porch lights on, but they collected plenty of candy. Then it started raining so we headed home. Even though the rain was light and let up completely, once we got home we only had ONE group knock on our door. ONE. So like with the night before, we failed to hand out much candy at all. Over the lips and past the gums. Look out hips, here it comes. I love chocolate.