Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Midweek Diversion (Trust Me, You'll Like the First One)

I've started to suspect the children's bulletins at church are for my entertainment more than anything else. 

Minus the exploding airplane and the giant robot arm (deus ex machina, literally), this looks exactly like our church.

And, here are a few more shots from the Star Wars series...

Who knew one of these guys could look so wistful?

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Dilemma--This is Serious!

Pink called me on my cell when I was running errands today. She calls out of the blue a lot, and it never ceases to surprise me. Sky has never showed any interest in the phone--he doesn't answer it if it rings, and he would prefer to do just about anything but talk on it. Only recently did he manage to remember my number. For Pink, however, figuring out how to call me on the phone was a bit like discovering the Holy Grail. She calls me ALL. THE. TIME. A few weeks ago, when I left early for a six-hour drive to give a conference paper, Pink called me four times before I reached the next town.

Today she called me with a question about her homework (even though Ren was in the next room and would have been more than happy to help).

"Mom, What are our family rules?" she asked wasting no time on standard greetings or, even, on giving me any kind of context for this inquiry.


"For my homework. I have to write our family rules. What are they?" Forget the that she called while I was driving (again!), I was mostly annoyed by the fact that she could remember exactly zero of the house rules we've discussed in various forms for years and year and years.

"Well," I offered, "you can look at the wall hanging we have in the bathroom or you could use some things from the list we've been working on with Jennie." I'll be honest, I couldn't remember exactly what was on either of these things, but I figured it would get her started thereby leaving me with less work to complete once I was home.

It wasn't until after Pink was already in bed that I found this:

Instructions: "The fish in the story was very worried. He did not want the cat to be there when Mother was out. Below list the rules you have at your house."                  
1. Don't run in the house. 2. Don't criy. 3. Don't interupet parins. 4. Don't talk back. 5. Don't push. 6. Don't kick. 7. Don't hit. 8 Don't yell. 9. Don't say mean things. 10. Don't scrim. 11. Cuntroll your boty.
It turns out that Pink opted to copy the behavior/consequence chart that our behavioral therapist Jennie helped us come up with. Only, her spellings is a bit rough. Plus, given that the chart Jennie created was focused on helping us all be on the same page in terms of how we would discipline certain behaviors, it's really focused on the negative. 

I know I should at least make her rewrite number 11, but I'm torn because it's made me LOL three separate times tonight. And, 10 and 11 taken together call up all sorts of images that include rugby players and theater backdrops.

Here's the original chart for reference. Like many things we do, it's meant, really, to help us avoid hours of negotiations with Sky. Still, this probably ISN'T the best foundation for a Cat in the Hat homework assignment.

I wish Pink had used the wall hanging from the bathroom as her guide (picture below). These are the house rules I'm aiming for, even if it does mean we have to work with behavior and consequence charts for awhile in order to get there. Too bad Pink couldn't read (and therefore transpose) the cursive.

So, here's the dilemma. Do I wake her up early in the morning and have her erase all of her list in hopes of coming up with a more holistic and less explicitly worded one, or do I just let it fly and see what happens? This reminds me a bit of the time last year, when Pink wrote in her weekly journal: "My grandma and grandpa drink beer. Why do they drink so much beer?" That time, my mom happened to be visiting and supervising homework duty. We agreed that Pink should change "beer" to "soda." Of course, she wasn't great with an eraser back then, so you could still see the word beer pretty clearly underneath the freshly written "soda." I let that one go to school that way, but I wonder if early elementary school teachers have as much fun grading homework as I imagine they do?


I sent her to school with this:

1. Don't run in the house. 2. Accept differences. 3. Don't interupt parents. 4. Don't talk back. 5. Be kind with your words. 6. Help each other. 7. Don't hit. 8. Don't yell. 9. Laugh every day. 10. Do your morning and afternoon rootin. 11. Control your body. 12. Love each other. 13. Take care of our things.

It seemed like a good compromise.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Some Mornings are Better than Others...

Some mornings are definitely better than others. This morning, I woke up grumpy. I hadn't slept well, something was worrying me about work, and it's Wednesday, which means I have three more days of making lunches for the kids.

Some days, I'm just tired, and these are the days that everything goes wrong.

This morning, for example, Stow worked desperately to get under Sky's skin. First, he repeated everything Sky said from the moment Sky opened his mouth to say "good morning." Then Stow escalated to randomly shoving Sky every 10 minutes or so. He interspersed these two behaviors with high-pitched (and totally unnecessary) shrieks and the occasional grab for the cereal box Sky was reading in an attempt to tune out his brother.

Sky does MUCH better when he can get up early and get through his morning routine without the noise and activity of his siblings to distract him. He does worse (much, much, much, much worse) when someone decides to bug him. No matter how much I intervene, a sibling bent on giving Sky a hard time can cause a mountain of heartache.

By the time Sky finished breakfast, he was in a state. It manifested itself as this:

Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom. Listen. I really think we should have a garage sale and sell all of my toys for the same price and then buy all new ones. Then I won't have to worry about all the pieces that are missing because Stow keeps going into my room. Mom, Mom, Mom, why aren't you answering me? This is a good idea. Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom. I don't think you understand what it's like. It's not my fault all the pieces are missing. It's Stow's. That's why I think we should sell everything and buy it again. Mom!

Now, just imagine this as a never-ending loop. Background music, if you will, to the other chaos of my morning.

Pink needs to wear green and to take a Dr. Seuss book to school. Do I know where her green t-shirt is? And, where are all of our Dr. Seuss books? She has a play date after school, so she needs her epi-pen and Benadryl, just in case. But, when I go to get the emergency medicine pouch out of my purse, it's gone. Vanished.

Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom. Listen. I really think we should have a garage sale and sell all of my toys for the same price and then buy all new ones. Then I won't have to worry about all the pieces that are missing because Stow keeps going into my room. Mom, Mom, Mom.........

Why is the epi-pen missing? The most likely culprit is Stow. He takes things that aren't his all the time. But, then again, I am so tired and so distracted, I can't remember when I saw it last or if I moved it. I don't normally, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

I ask Stow if he's seen it. He stonewalls. Then he tells me he put it in his shark backpack but that it's not there now. In the back of my mind, I am running through scenarios in which Pink has an allergic reaction and I rush to my purse only to find the epi-pen missing. This makes me panic (even though it's all in my head) and my interrogation of Stow intensifies. He gleefully takes Ren on a wild goose chase through the house. No epi-pen.

I'm irrevocably unnerved.

Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom. Listen. I really think we should have a garage sale and sell all of my toys. Mom, why aren't you listening? Don't you care?

I put together a back-up emergency medicine bag with a spare epi-pen and a new box of Benadryl, and I wonder if Stow ingested the allergy medicine at some point. The purse sits high on a shelf, not easily reached or put back into place by a three year-old. It's a mystery, but I can't untangle it.

I look at the clock. Twenty minutes to bus, and I haven't had a shower, Stow is not dressed, and Pink's hair, which she didn't comb after her bath last night looks a lot like a complex series of bird nests. Ren is irritated because I have started to yell. He takes over so I can get ready for work.

In the seven minutes it takes me to shower and get dressed, Stow has fallen down some steps. He tells me Sky pushed him. Ren tells me Stow brought it on himself--he was shoving and hitting Sky, and Sky doesn't know his own strength, even in self-defense. I get a bandaid and an ice pack, and  I go into a rather long explanation of how to respect each other and care for each other as I am also making sure they have socks and shoes and backpacks and hats and gloves and lunches. The seven minutes I spent in the shower was enough to help me stop yelling.

As we wait Sky takes advantage of the uneasy silence to launch back into his diatribe:

Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom. Listen. I really think we should have a garage sale and sell all of my toys for the same price and then buy all new ones. Then I won't have to worry about all the pieces that are missing because Stow keeps going into my room. Mom, Mom, Mom, why aren't you answering me?

My nerves are frayed. Ren's nerves are frayed. We need him to stop. I try a logical response:

"You know, buddy, if you sell the stuff at a garage sale, you'll only get about 10% of the original cost back. So, if I bought it for $20, you're only going to be able to sell it for $2. You won't be able to buy as much."

This is just enough to send him careening in a different direction.

You HAVE to do something about Stow. I just can't take it. Plus, why did you guys get me a solar robot for Christmas? You know the sun isn't bright enough in the winter for it to work. I just don't understand why you guys don't get me........

At this point, I send him outside to wait for the bus. Stow, meanwhile, takes off his hat, gloves, and boots, and start climbing up and then rolling down the steps over and over again. Ren decides Pink's hair needs another comb through. Pink refuses. Cries. Keeps crying but begrudgingly goes to the bathroom to get her hair combed for a second time.

The first bus comes. Pinks rushes to get her boots on but is hampered by Stow who is so intent on giving her a goodbye hug, he knocks her down. Sky is still ranting as he walks down the driveway toward the bus. I hope he stops before he gets on, but I can't be sure he will. Five minutes later, Stow's bus comes and we frantically try to get all his snow gear back on him for the third time this morning. He trips gleefully down the driveway and on to the bus and then waves at us from the window, blowing kisses as the bus pulls away...

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Breaking Up Isn't So Hard to Do After All

We said goodbye to a longtime member of our family last week. We'd been preparing for the end for nearly a year, but this this past Sunday, departure became imminent. 

That's when our washer of nearly eleven years decided to stop working. Of course, it did this with a washer drum full of water (and, therefore, of sopping wet clothes) and on a day when 1) we had a ton of laundry to do, and 2) very little free time to figure out what to do about a broken washer. Plus, one of the kids was complaining of a stomach ache.
So long, farewell, alverderzane, good night...
Months ago, when the ball bearing started to go, I looked into having the washer fixed and quickly realized it wouldn't pay to have it repaired. People told me the end could come in a matter of days, weeks, months, or even years, so we decided to wait. And watch. (And listen -- since the machine screamed every time it drained, sounding vaguely like a room full of 12 year-old girls at a Justin Bieber concert. Or, a dying cat. Or, some combination of both.) 

We listened to the machine scream for months and months and eventually got to the point where we could ignore it completely. I suppose we could've sent the washer to the appliance graveyard earlier, but, you see, we just weren't ready to let it go. Before you imagine this is due to some sense of nostalgia associated with washing newborn baby clothes or something equally sweet and noble, I feel I should be honest here. We didn't want to replace the old washer because we were still trying to recoup our losses from paying to store and/or move the darn thing so many times. Even though the washer was 11 years old, we'd only used it for 8. The other three years (first while we lived in Japan and then when we moved into a rental that only had room for a stackable washer/dryer combo), we paid monthly storage fees for it. We also paid to move it four separate times. To get that money back, we needed to use the machine for at LEAST another half a century. 

Stow saying goodbye.

It wasn't meant to be, though. So, we scooped out the water, wrung out the clothes, and said farewell to our not-so-trusty old machine. We also learned that sometimes it really is better to just sell something instead of lugging it here and there and everywhere, especially if you're leaving the country for a spell.


Normally, Ren and I go through a long, ponderous process before we make any major purchase. But, Stow had a tummy ache, and with midterms and parent-teacher conferences on the horizon, I knew I had a very narrow, 90-minute window in which I could get to the appliance store and purchase a new one before having to wait for at least two weeks. So, I did something I never do--within minutes of learning the washer had washed its last load, I left to buy a new one.

In the end, we got this:

So. Shiny. 
I'm really hoping I don't regret this impulse purchase. For what it's worth, I DID spend 45 minutes standing in the middle of the store googling washing machine reviews on my smart phone. Plus, they were having a President's Day sale, and you KNOW I can't resist a good sale.***

***Ren told me I shouldn't tell you about how we bought the floor model in order to save a little extra money only to have the delivery guys accidentally drop it off the back of their truck and then try to convince us to take it by saying it looked fine and that they didn't have any more in stock anyway. I guess he didn't want me to tell you that story because he was afraid I'd brag about getting a brand-new-straight-from-the-box machine for the price of the floor model when the manager learned his guys were trying to convince us not to worry about a little four-foot drop to the pavement. Ren thinks you will all be annoyed by our dumb luck, but given how things tend to go for us, I figure it's safe to assume that no one reading this blog will accuse us of being too lucky.