Monday, December 10, 2012

Dueling Comedians

Reed was proud the other day because he finally came up with a decent joke (we strike out a lot in the original joke category). Calvin, as usual, stole his punchline. Or did he?

R: What do you say when you see a 2-headed cow?
M: What?
R: Holy cow!
M: Haha!
C: Hey! What do you say when you get a giant....mug of milk...and it's free?
M: What?
M: I think you just stole your brother's joke, there, bud.
C: Nu huh! Cuz I said, "HOLY COW! (yelling louder than normal)" and it's with an exsth-clamation mark (pantomimes question mark)."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lots of Material

The nublins were in fine form today! I got a week’s worth of blog material all in one day.


C: Pleasth open thisth for me.

Me: Let’s practice your “s” sound. Say, “Pleassssse open thisssss for me.”

C: Can you open that?

M:  Come on, let’sssss practisssse. Pleassssse open thissssss.

C continues to avoid the dreaded s sound, ignore me, and/or turn his mouth away from me so I can’t see if his tongue is in the right spot. Finally, when he sees I’m not going anywhere. 

C: Well, I have to sthay THA-AT if you’re holding it!

In the car:

Our conversation somehow gets from ancestors to smoking, then cancer, then chemo, then baldness, then Uncle Tarl, then male-pattern baldness vs. bic-ing your head voluntarily.  The boys were a little worried that their hair would fall out when they got older.

Me:  Yeah, but then you could just shave it like Uncle Tarl. I think he looks pretty cool without hair.

C: Yeah! He looks like a guy who could do sweet moves on Mario!...Hey! Mario is like Papa. Hair here (points to right side) and here (points to left side), but no hair here (points to top of head)

R: That’s his hat, Calvin.


They take their charving skills to new media: Reed charves pork roast (lots of wood products) and Calvin charves bread and vegetables.

C (holding up piece of broccoli): Is this a tree, (turns it) an upside down tree, (takes bite out of top middle) or a clown?

It was a clown.

Play time:

After putting up the Christmas tree, they took the Christmas toys out and started having a heyday. I’m not really sure what the storyline was, but when I spied, I learned that it involved reindeer, snowmen, a King, Baby Jesus, a Christmas train, and a truck made from a triceratops skeleton. Here’s the one line I overheard:

C: Uh oh! Baby Jesus’ hay is frozen! (knock knock) How will we break it?! Get yooour weapons!!!

Toy pick-up time:

After finishing his assigned rooms, Calvin “helped” Reed in the living room by making a Ninja out of an exercise ball, comforter, two DS games, coat, slippers, and couch cushions.

The couch cushions are arms, a shield, and a sword. I told you this boy was creative.


In between all the funnies there was also decorating the Christmas tree, baking Reed’s b-day cookies, eating popcorn and cheese for supper while drawing dinosaurs, attacks under the mistletoe, and Max peeing on the potty for the first time!  It doesn’t get much better than this.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

But wait, there's more...

I've been ranting about little-kid annoying games here and here and here. I failed to mention these fun additions to the repertoire:

- W-H-A-T disease; the object is to get a person to say the dreaded word, then squeal with "Ahhh, me!" delight and gloat that you've given them the disease. Yes, it's as thrilling as it sounds.
- Incessantly asking people to look "under there."
- Acting excited about something on the wall, then when another person looks, hitting them in the head and shouting, "Stay outta my business!" Thank you, Uncle Rick, for teaching us that little gem almost two years ago. They remembered.
- Spelling E-V-R-E-E-T-H-I-N-G -- this is Reed's brainchild, though Calvin tries, usually getting the first sound and then just spouting random letters. Max has even started calling dessert "B, R, et, et" in an attempt to fit it. And when I ask if Reed wants more lasagna, he answers, "S-H-O-R." FYI - spelling is twice as annoying as ig-Pay atin-Lay
- Broken or not broken; break a piece of food (or don't), then put the pieces back together (or not) and hold them up and ask someone at the table, (here's Max's version) "Broken uh broken?" Give a taunting laugh and prove it when they're wrong.
- "Chri-ma wiiiiiigh!!!!!" - this holiday game is in honor of the littlest player. Be the first to spot Christmas lights and yell the announcement at the top of your lungs in your best Max voice.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Charving Masterpieces

We just keep rollin' out the family fun these days. Here's how you play their latest, called "charving" (a combo of "chewing" and "carving," dubbed in a children's book I read a few summers back whose main character charved all 50 states out of Kraft singles):

- Take mouse-like nibbles around the outside of your cheese slice.
- Every few nibbles, look at it, and decide what it looks like.
- Create a multiple choice question using the shape you created as one choice and random other shapes, similar or polar opposites, as the other choices (real-life example, "Is this Baby Jesus or Frankenstein or a king's head or a star?")
- Quiz everyone at the table. Tell them why they're stupid when they guess wrong (insider tip: always guess "D")
- Repeat. Over and Over. Until the cheese is microscopic.
- Ask for more cheese.
- Whine when mom makes you eat your "real food." Threaten to charve your lasagna.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Not-So Quiet Mouse

I didn't teach Reed and Calvin their latest game. This one, unlike this or this came from elsewhere. It sounds like one that I would actually encourage. It's called Quiet Mouse. The object is to see who can be quiet the longest. Sounds great, right? Wrong. Turns out, I, like my offspring, hate being quiet! Once someone declares the game's beginning by saying, "1, 2, 3, Quiet Mouse!" anyone who lets out even an utterance gets finger points and wide-eyed looks.  I thought Calvin wouldn't last three seconds the first time I played, but he outlasted us all! Max goes down pretty quickly, but he sticks around to help out with the accusatory pointing and attempting to restart the game with an enthusiastic, "1, 3 Come Ow!" Then it's an eternal battle for second-to last. I've held that title just about every time we played. It's boring being quiet, yet pointing at every person who scoots their chair, coughs, or toots. So I just quit, talk, and endure the silent mockery. I can't even enjoy that last minute or so of silence, what with the constant fingers in my face and ever-louder gasps with each word I speak. Finally, Ryan and Reed give in and I'm always shocked at how my loudest child ends up winning a game with "quiet" in the title. I guess his stubborness overrules his desperate need to be heard.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nectar of the God?

To encourage more apple noshing this summer (and slowly deplete the pile on my kitchen floor), I made this dip. Major hit. I actually made it to take to Sunday school, but I let the boys try it with one of their many apple snacks. Reed took one bite, then said, “Maybe this is what dinner at heaven tastes like!” Always sure to be theologically sound, he quickly added, “If we eat there.” Sunday morning, Calvin saw me loading up the dip, and ran down the hall shouting at Reed something about “that yummy, delicious DIP!” Max liked it too, but that turned out to be a problem. See, he used to eat apples. Now, he just slurps off the yumminess and then begs for more “DIH!”
Almond Dip

Cream cheese
Brown sugar
Almond extract (load it on, baby!)
Vanilla extract

Stir together, taste test, then adjust accordingly. I’m guessing I used about a cup of brown sugar for 2 packages of cream cheese. I never measure vanilla or almond extract. I’m a lush like that.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Terrible Twos Diagnosis

If your 21-month-old does the following:

- Shouts "No!" in response to a question, even when the tantrum that follows indicates that he clearly meant, "Yes."
- Whine, "Nooo," as an answer to a question, then repeat the question as a whiny command.
- Grabs your cheeks, turns your head to face his and says emphatically, "Hear me?!"
- Names all objects with possessive pronouns in front. (Mine trah-ter! My cup!)
- Insists that no one hold his baby cousin unless they also hold him--simultaneously
- Insists that his baby cousin (or any other human being) not play with toys unless they do it out of his line of vision - and earshot - and without his knowledge.
- Points in a way that can only mean, "Take me there right this instant!"
- Performs a tap-dance tantrum when he wants, "Up!"
- Says, "No! Mommy turn!" when you hand him his toothbrush, which should mean that he wants Mommy to brush his teeth, but indicate otherwise by holding his toothbrush in a vice grip and refusing to brush his own teeth. (possible translation: Mommy's turn to back off!" ?)
- Has radar for any food that you're trying to sneak-eat. Interrupts your moment of guilty pleasure with an insistent, "I try it? I try it? I try it!"
- Zeros in on one food item at each meal, usually the least healthy option.
- Refuses to eat even one bite of any dessert prerequisite, guarunteeing a tantrum when the rest of the family eats their dessert.
- Communicates in screams, even when he has a pretty decent command of the English language
- Dances for a second, then runs away when he gets busted tearing off individual squares of "twoy peeper" and flushing them down the "poh-ee" one at a time

...then he might be entering the terrible twos a few months early!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Unique Family Tradition

Well, it seems we’ve started a new Thanksgiving tradition. For the last two years, someone has thrown up on the ride home from Grandma and Grandpa’s. Last year  it was Reed and I who started the tradition. This year, Calvin kept it alive. When we were almost to our house, he told us his tummy hurt. This is fairly common, since all three of our boys get a little woozy on curvy roads, and there is no such thing as a straight road in our part of Missouri. Then he started crying. This is also fairly common, since all three of our boys can be slightly dramatic when they’re not happy. Then he burped. Once again, pretty common. The splash that followed was not. I had a bowl in hand (another road-trip standard--if we don’t get to the car with snacks in bowls, there will be a whine-fest), which I stealthily whipped around behind the seat and managed to keep level, though my arm was twisted in a very awkward position. He wasn’t through, but it didn’t help. He missed, sending the next round all over my hand and floorboard.  Round three made it to the bowl, though I don’t think it really mattered at this point.

Ryan pulled over and we did a makeshift clean up job before we headed for home, just five minutes away. Calvin was pretty upset with the puddle in his lap. I spoke in my calm, comforting mother voice, disguising the disgust over the smell of my hands, reassuring him that as soon as we got home we would get him all cleaned up and he could lay down and rest. “What!? But I wanna play!” was his response. We determined he must not be that sick. It must just be a bad combination of too much pumpkin pie and motion sickness.  The bath he took at home confirmed our suspicions. Homeboy tore up the bathroom, splashing like a whale for 15 minutes, all the while making his signature Calvin sound effects before I finally made him get out and get dressed.  I didn’t even try to make him lay down. Instead, I finished cleaning up the carnage. Turns out, it wasn’t too bad. See, we were driving the truck. After cross country season, the floor boards are buried in socks, papers, and the XC team’s lost-and-found collection (which, btw, I totally pilfer when they remain unclaimed). So, I just threw all the crap in the washing machine and threw away an unused package of cone cups, and that was pretty much it. I guess this year I can be thankful for Ryan’s disorganization and Ryan can be thankful that the new tradition helped him get out of cleaning the truck himself.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What Not to Teach Your Kids

You’d think I woulda learned after the Pig-Latin debacle, but no. The other day, when Reed and I said something simultaneously, I jinxed him. He didn’t have a clue what I meant. Coulda left it at that. Instead, I explained that he couldn’t talk until someone said his name. It was a short explanation, but one I will regret much longer. Of course Reed shared his newfound wisdom with Calvin and of course they have used it to the max every day. Here are the fun results of my stupid lesson:

-          Reed sounding out words and Calvin filling in obvious sentences to execute bedtime story jinxes on Mom. Then, immediately saying my name so they can keep listening to the story. And jinx me again on the next page
-          Calvin mumbling along while I’m talking, then quickly echoing key words from my conversation and shouting “JINX! MOMMY!”
-          The boys shouting concurrently, “JINX! DOUBLE JINX! TRIPLE JINX! FOURPLET JINX!”
-          Me saying Reed’s name fourteen times, thinking he had just been fifteenplet jinxed by Calvin, only to realize that it was, in fact, a fourteenplet jinx. Darn!
-          Countless times of the boys chasing me around the house wide-eyed, pointing to themselves and mouthing their name while I play dumb
-          Countless times of me deciding that the motioning is more annoying than incessant talking and saying their name to free them of their curse
-          Me desperately chasing Max around the house and picking on him to try to get him to say, “No, Mommy!” so I could talk again
-          A ban on all singing and “amen” jinxes, issued by Mom
-          Max shouting, “JEE!” and “DOUBLE JEE!” at random times
-          The boys getting mad at Max for not following the rules when jinxed himself

I'm thinking of making up a new rule: If you invoke the jinx rule more than ten times in a day, Mom can declare a semi-permanent jinx - no talking until you turn 18. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Frightening Family Fun

The other night, Ryan and I pretended to be strangers, offered the kids candy, then abducted them. They screamed bloody murder and kicked the crap out of us. Another family fun night at the Layton house.

This game (which has become a highly-requested favorite) came on the heels of our decision to let Reed play on the playground with his other teacher’s kid friends after school. Unsupervised. Our school is out in the boonies (in a “town” with a population of 93) and the playground is fenced on three sides. My classroom window overlooks it. And two of the teacher’s kids are 10-year-olds who I have in class this year and totally trust. But still.

We had said no earlier in the year. I was actually leaning toward yes, but Ryan didn’t feel comfortable with it. Then Friday, Reed was talking with the other kids in a supervised area and they all decided to go to the playground. He came up the stairs to my classroom in tears. I guess the puppy dog face did me in. That night I talked it over with Daddy, and we relented. Then we gave a list of safety and behavior rules. We even practiced what to do if the other kids started saying bad words. Or being a bully. Or vandalizing. I probably gave him more ideas for mischief than any of them would ever come up with. Then we talked about what to do if a stranger came to the playground. This is what started the aforementioned game.

I gotta say, woe to the person who tries to kidnap one of my kids. First of all, they’re pretty stinkin’ fast! And “candy,” “lost puppy,” and “Hey, little boy” might as well be a starting gun, so you better come up with a new way to entice them close if you don’t want to chase them down. And if you do get ahold of them, look out, Buddy! They kick indiscriminately – and hard! You might be ok with Max. He’ll run toward you giggling (but you better be able to back up a candy claim) and willingly let you ‘nap him. But even he will break your eardrum and give you a few hard smacks. The hardest part of this training was teaching the non-kidnapped child to resist the urge to defend their brother and instead run for help. They are very confident in their ability to “beat up” the bad guy. Reed cited his fights with Daddy as evidence, “But Daddy is strong and we can beat him up!”

The game led to a conversation about why people kidnap kids. I vaguely explained possible reasons, which led to a vocabulary lesson on ransom. When I said, “If you don’t give me $7 million, your kid is gonna get it!” Reed was very concerned, “But you don’t have $7 million!” “Well, then…” I struggled, trying to come up with some kind of reassuring answer. Calvin cut in with, “Then we’ll have a problem.” I guess they’ll have to kick their way outta that predicament…

It’s sad that we have to worry about our kids playing on a playground and teach them how to get out of unthinkable situations, but we’re praying it’s worth it to raise independent, healthy boys who can kick the snot outta bad guys!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Why Goats are Mowing my Front Lawn

You know how people sometimes exaggerate about how tall their grass is? Stuff like, “You could lose a small child in our lawn!” or “We could make hay!” Well, that crap is  for real, here, people!  I could blame it on my hubby being too busy, which is true. I could blame it on the weather, which would also be sorta true. But the real truth is we are straight up ghetto here at Layton Farms. If you have four lawn mowers and none of them work…you might be a redneck. If one of your lawnmowers is up on blocks in the yard… you might be a redneck. If you put temporary fence around your front yard and move the sheep and goat flocks in the paddock for the weekend so they can eat it down to a level that won’t choke out the one lawn mower that works when you air up the tire every thirty minutes or so…I’m not sure what you are, but I’m right there with you.

I’m writing this post partly to vent, partly to apologize to my neighbors, and partly to explain that we’re not total lazy trashy bums.

It started months ago. Our lawn was freshly mowed and beautiful for the Raney/Smith wedding extravaganza in May. We beamed with pride. Then it didn’t rain all the rest of May and June, so Ryan only had to do a little trimming to make our dead grass look tidy for our 4th of July party. July and August brought more drought – level 4 “exceptional,” record-breaking drought. So, we went into the school year having only mowed 1 ½ times all summer and yet not looking trashy. Win, right? Wrong. Because a few rains in August brought on some late-season growth. When Ryan went out to mow, he discovered his stand-by mower was broken. So, he went to use his back-up. Flat tire. Mowers 3 and 4 had been out of commission for over a year. I won’t go off on a tangent about why we find it necessary to keep worthless, yet large, pieces of equipment around. I won’t. (But I will think it in my mind every time I spy one of said worthless, bulky items taking up space in our shed – or yard) No biggie, he decided. Just let the lawn go a little until he could get some help from his dad fixing one of the two mowers.

Now I realize that normal people would probably pay to have their mower fixed, buy a new mower, or break down and hire a lawn service to do the job until they could get their own machinery up and running. If you haven’t met us, you should know that we’re not normal. In fact, maybe I should back up and explain a few things about us: 1) We’re incredibly cheap, 2) We’re incredibly busy this time of year, and 3) We’re not incredibly handy. So, this is a break down of the last month and a half
-          Visit to Dr. Dad. Mower fixed for about 1/3 of one section of the lawn. Conks out again.
-          Aired up flat tire. Mower makes it through ½ of a section. Weekend over.
-          Dr. Dad house call. Services include mini-lecture on upkeep and maintenance, section of lawn test mowed, and mower with clean bill of health.
-          Mower gets new injury. Won’t self propel. Ryan tries to force an extra-large deck (it’s one of those walk-behind jumbo mowers – not made to actually push!) through our extra-tall grass. Makes it a couple of laps around.
-          Air up flat tire. Twice. One section mowed! Weekend over.
-          Five Cross Country meets in four weeks.  Visits to family. Three failed trips to stores to find parts. Three family members, including Mower Man, sick. Grass keeps growing. Mowers keep being broken.
-          Attempt to hire high school students to  mow grass for a less-than-pro fee. One taker has to back out because their parents are worried our tall grass will ruin their mower’s blades. (That’s not embarrassing at all.)
-          “Green Slime” to fix flat tire. Fail.
-          Brilliant temporary fence with self-fertilizing mowers plan. Fail. Our regular fence won’t hold our livestock. Why did we think three strands of temporary wire would?

So, the hay (it’s not even grass any more) is still growing and there’s no real plan in sight. My folks are coming to visit next weekend and I’ve been assured the lawn would not be bowing in the breeze by then. But Mom and Dad, if you have to drag your suitcases through the amber waves of grain, please don’t judge. It’s not from lack of trying. And be careful - there might be a lamb or a small child hiding down in there.


There’s a new Rockband in town.

Daddy-o, the lead singer and guitarist, also sidelines as the baby bouncer. But watch out for his rocker edge. Known for his competitiveness, his eyes bulge and shoot dirty looks at his band mates when they can’t finish a set. Hot Mama does it all. You’ll be impressed with her unconventional drumming moves. She can play dueling drums with fellow rocker Baby Schmax on her lap. Her most impressive act is simultaneously singing, playing half of the drum set with Reed-man and running interference when Baby Schmax throws one his famous star tantrums. Schmax is all over the stage. He sings back-up and wanders among his band mates, trying to upstage them or steal their instruments. His favorite move is forcing the band to go unplugged for their performance. Reed-man and Cal-cal are a dynamic duo. There are rumors of tension between the two over who gets the “wireless” guitar. When they aren’t playing their fav instrument, Cal-cal prefers to sing and the Man likes to play half of the drums. Lyrics to their most famous songs include, “Hey! Oh! Let’s go!” and “Lalalala  la la” and “No! I’M singing!” When the seasoned rockers take the mic, they switch up some of the old classic lyrics to make them a little more family friendly. So check out this group, playing live in a living room near you!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Uper-say Annoying-hay

I’d like to apologize first to my parents for all the hours I spent speaking Pig Latin. Then, I’d like to extend that apology to anyone who has had any contact with my children this week. For some reason, I thought it would be a great idea to teach them the language that I had so much fun using during my own childhood. Oly-hay ap-cray! I never imagined they’d become fluent in the language, much less that it would become their primarily-spoken tongue. Reed speaks it as good as any grown up. Calvin is a little sketchier, but he’s got “upid-stay utt-bay” down to a tee! Potty humor is SO much more hilarious in a foreign dialect.

At a recent outing with Aunt Tavia (an outing that already involved time-outs in a separate restaurant booth by a certain medium-sized someone) I did what Ryan and I have had to do every day since – institute a English-only policy for the rest of the day. I explained that Pig Latin could get very obnoxious, so we weren’t going to use it ANY MORE! Reed replied, “Orry-say.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sports Widow

I am a widow from mid-August to early November. During this time, the wonderful hubs’ time and energy are consumed with cross country. He is the sole coach (and bus driver) of a co-ed sport. Anyone who has ever coached knows that the two hours a day of practice and the weekly (or more) competitions are not the only demands of a sport. There is paperwork, equipment hauling, stat-keeping and analyzing, and countless hours of strategizing, second-guessing, and re-strategizing. Even in XC, a sport where it’s pretty obvious who’s best and everybody gets the same amount of playing time (actually, the scrubs get more “playing time” than the studs!),  there is the most fun part of coaching – kid drama and momma drama. So I’ve gotten used to taking a back seat to the sport for a few months every year. How can I complain? I coached volleyball for four years and Ryan was a real trooper, making supper most nights, coming to all my games, analyzing players with me and listening to me whine and cry about the stress and drama. Now it’s my turn to return the favor – not that he does any much whining and crying.

Except, I do complain. Every year. Some worse than others. (Take, for example, the 2008 season, when we had a barely-one-year-old and a still-two-year-old and I stayed up late reading the Twilight series as an escape. At one point, I sobbed to Ryan, “I just wish you cherished me!” but that’s another story…) Or this year. Right now, our grass is up to HERE. There are probably 20 moldy Tupperware containers and pairs of socks (equally moldy) in the truck. I am greeted by fancy-free goats nearly every day, due to fence issues. I have taken on picking out Ryan’s clothes (actually kinda fun) and ironing them (actually not fun at all) and prepping the coffee maker each night to insure smoother mornings. I was watering the animals daily until we decided that arrangement was not good for our marriage (I’ve decided I’m not much of an animal person...) Supper has to be delayed until 6:30, which is not conducive to happy eighteen-month-olds. The great supper clean-up team effort has been thrown out the window. My man is usually asleep on the couch by 9:30 p.m. And when he’s awake, he’s a little more, shall we say, cantankerous, than normal. Nearly every Saturday is spent driving at least an hour, running around for four hours yelling at high school kids before I come home to yell at mine and try to catch up on all the grading, grocery shopping, and cleaning I don’t have time to do during the week. But it’s cool. Really.

There comes a time every season when we both wonder if it’s worth the stress it places on our family. But there’s always something that makes us agree that coaching is a calling for Ryan. He’s not only a good coach. He’s a mentor to those kids. Runners come back from college and tell him how much they learned from him. He gets mentioned in valedictorian speeches. One of his runners brought his girlfriend to visit us in the hospital after Calvin was born (they talked more about the meet that Ryan had missed than the baby I had just birthed, but whatevs). Parents comment on what a difference they see in their kid because of “Coach Layton.” He’s meant to do this, we decide.

This year’s realization came early. Saturday was the first meet the boys and I could make it to. We rocked our matching shirts and the bright red double-jogger stroller (Calvin only rode until we could safety-pin his too-big britches up, but I can’t bear to go back to a single stroller just yet…) I secretly enjoyed Ryan’s runners yelling, “Go, Mrs. Layton!” when we ran from spot to spot on the course. Then we hung out on a secluded part of the course and screamed our lungs out – even Max. We waved at Daddy as he ran around screaming his lungs out. Big kids played with the boys, calling them “Little Coach” and asking them if they were gonna be runners someday, too. Reed puffed up with pride and ran fast and loud everywhere he went. When the meet was over, they ran over to give Daddy a high five. Daddy obliged, then excused himself to comfort a crying runner. I watched him give her a pep talk, then an awkward half-pat on the shoulder, knowing he wanted her to know he cared without making her uncomfortable. She walked back looking much better. We followed the bus to McDonald’s and learned all the freshmen’s names. Reed and Calvin showed off their Happy Meal Transformers to high school kids, who acted impressed. Then we headed home, exhausted and sunburned, but also exhilarated. This isn’t just fun for Ryan. It’s fun for the whole fam! And I hope the athletes might see in us something that, sadly, many of them don’t see at home – a family that loves each other and makes sacrifices in order to serve God.

Ryan was home Saturday afternoon and most of the day Sunday. I took the boys to a birthday party and left him with some peace and quiet. I figured he could use the time to get caught up. When I came home, the lawn mowers hadn’t moved (in his defense, all four of them are broken, but that’s ANOTHER story…) and the truck was still littered with food and clothes. How had my husband spent his kid-free hours? Writing a personal note to each athlete.

I love that man!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Picture Perfect

Looking at our family photos, you might think we are the perfect family. After all, according to facebook comments we are the most beautiful family ever and our boys look like perfect little angels. I’m also, apparently, the happiest mother.

L. To the O. To the L.

If the photographer would have posted the OTHER 421 photos she took (ftr… I don’t have a real number, but that number is a close estimation, not a gross exaggeration) the truth about my family would be revealed. You would see:

-          Reed sighing, rolling his eyes, and asking if we’re FINALLY done, since, “we’ve been doing this for, like, six HOURS.”
-          Calvin pestering Max, “helping” him smile (with hands on cheeks), making goofy faces, looking off to the side of his eyeballs, and whining about being thirsty, hot, tired, bored, and having any number of other major maladies.
-          Max fussing and fighting to be out of my arms, in my arms, away from Cal-cal, on the tractor, off the hood of the car, out of the cute jumbo picture frame, over the edge of the bridge, and generally everywhere but where we wanted him.
-          Ryan yelling at the boys for the previously-mentioned infractions and shooting me several, “Seriously?” looks when I said, “Oh! Yes, let’s try that!” about a new pose idea.
-          Me with a fake smile pasted on my face and a nervous giggle about the boys’ various behaviors, while my eyes slowly grew and rolled into the back of my head.

The photo shoot was a favor from (and, she says, for) a friend/coworker of Ryan’s who is starting a professional photography business. She was awesome with the boys. She managed to capture several photos where we were all smiling, looking at the camera, and not throwing a fit. One of those woulda been a miracle! And then she actually thanked us for the experience afterwards, saying that she needed to know what to expect when shooting families with young kids. I, personally, would have been shooting us with something other than a camera, but that’s just me…

P.S. Linking up to my favorite blogger on her "Money Shot Monday" picture-themed post. Flower Patch Farmgirl is always the first blog I stalk - well maybe after I creep on my sister's...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Too Many Toys

On their overflowing bookshelf, one of my boys’ favorite books tells a story familiar to most households. Its title says it all, “Too Many Toys.” The author, David Shannon also wrote and illustrated “No No, David.” It was baby Reed’s second favorite book (It was hard to top “Pat the Bunny” in those days), so we’re kinda partial. I love the book and can totally relate. We are drowning in toys! We’re kinda cheap, so we NEVER buy toys “just because” and we don’t go all crazy for birthdays and Christmas. We don’t have big birthday parties. The boys have a tiny allowance, and we rarely go shopping, so I can not understand where all these stupid toys came from!  But they’re definitely here, as evidenced by the Lego creations stacked on my bookshelves right now and the snakes I found hidden under the covers the other night. Over the years, we’ve developed several weapons in our war on toys. Here’s what has worked (sometimes) for us:

-          Our general rule: Do whatever the heck you want all day, but before nap time and bedtime, every toy will be put away.
-          Put toys with lots small pieces in large under bed storage containers and pray they forget they’re there.
-          Put even messier toys in smaller containers and hide on high closet shelf. Allow only one tub down at a time. Even if you PROMISE you’ll pick them both up. (Learned that one the hard way)
-          Encourage outside play. Sticks and rocks don’t have to be organized into baskets.
-          Keep most popular toys in large, open baskets. It’s easier to scoop them in off of couches or make shots from across the room.
-          Teach the baby to “pick up” and make a huge deal when he puts three cars in the car basket. Every little bit helps, right?
-          Set timer and threaten no bedtime story if they don’t beat the timer.
-          Set timer and bag up all toys left out after it dings. Put bag on a high shelf and threaten to throw away at Christmas (or some other arbitrary date). Let them rescue toys by beating the timer the next night. For every minute left on the timer, they each save a toy. Be prepared to be shocked at what they rescue (crappy, wrinkled paper airplane, anyone?)
-          Realize it’s unfair to the one kid who runs to beat the timer if his brother is doing headstands and bouncing cars off his butt. Assign each kid an area to clean. If they beat the timer, they get bonus play time. Our areas are “bedroom” and “rest of house.” It’s usually pretty even, but if one area looks more tornadic than normal, we improvise.
-          On nights of extra turdaciousness, set timer and issue one spankin’ per toy left in offending turd’s area.
-          Break up the monotony and employ other strategies than cleaning areas.
-          Have kids draw letter magnets. If they draw a “b,” go pick up all the blocks, then come back for another magnet.
-          Make chore cards
-          Throw them a bone and help out sometimes. Tell them for every 25 toys they pick up, you’ll pick up 25.
-          On especially messy days, have them do a pre-pickup before nap or bedtime arrives. It’ll save a lot of drama when it’s really time to clean it all. We’ve tried, “Stop and pick up 50 toys each. Then you can play,” and “Let’s see how many toys you can pick up before the timer dings.”
-          Every once in a while, after they’ve gone to bed, throw away some of the worthless crap. Cover well with other trash or you’ll have some answering to do the next day!

-          On late weekend nights tell them to leave the toys. Let them watch TV the next morning if they pick up all the toys right when they wake up without waking you up until they’re done. Enjoy the blissful extra minutes of sleep the next morning!
-          Remind yourself that one day, the toys – and the kids-- will be out of the house. Try to embrace the chaos.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Farewell to Summer

Ryan went back to work Monday. I start tomorrow. We have mixed emotions, but are mostly excited to get back into a routine. I told Ryan that we are so lucky, because “We get to do it all again in nine months!” Ryan said, “Woah. In a different context, that’d be pretty scary.” Anyway, here are a few highlights of my last day of summer with the nublins:

- Went on a walk to “our” bridge. Calvin sported a six-shooter and his neon Aqua Sox. Big boys picked eleventy billion flowers for me, hiding each offering behind their back with a sheepish grin while I acted like I was surprised for the eighteenth time. Love!
- Plopped on the couch, and read “a buttload of books” and ate freezie pops.
- Max learned a new phrase, “Baby giwl!” Said as an insult (by his bubbies – he had no clue what he was yelling). This comes on the heels of “Wet me go!” (which I’m fairly certain was his first sentence) and “Poop butt!” Decided it’s time to find some more appropriate play mates – and caregivers.
- Made birthday cookies for Aunt Rachel’s boyfriend. Licked the beaters. Dipped pretzels in frosting. Ate frosting by the spoonful. Let the kids have a little, too.
- Made supper with Chef Calvin. He sat on the counter or table and helped with the entire process. The new recipe, cheesy broccoli hot pockets, got a surprising four out of five stars. The dark star? The chef himself, but not because of his part in the meal. When Ryan asked what Calvin did to make it taste yucky, he said with attempted diplomacy, “Well….I didn’t…but Mommy…” and “I think Mommy mightta put too much of something…” I know what the something was: the color green.
- Had a surprisingly uneventful toy picking up/bath/toothbrush/story session. A first in a long time (like, all summer)
- Picked out clothes for tomorrow. Went over the morning procedures. Kicked myself for not rehearsing it!
- Kissed boys good night and told them I had a good summer with them. Felt a little sad.
- Decided the bigguns were being so good, I’d let them stay up a little later to help put laundry away (this is still a privilege at this point – praying it stays forever that way!) Walked out of the room for two seconds and came back to a wrestling match on top of the clean, folded, sorted, and stacked piles.
- Ushered deviants to bed. Had to break up two more fights in as many minutes. Banished Calvin to Max’s room. Felt a little excited for day care opening time tomorrow morning.

To quote the back to school cards Reed made for Daddy and me, “Ihopyouhavagoodsgl”  Me too, buddy, me too. But I’m looking forward to another summer of craziness with you and your brothers in nine months.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dorkiness comes Full Circle

 I’m not sure if science has proven this or not, but I’m sure there has to be a dork gene. I inherited mine from my mother, who used to drive me batty by saying things like “drive me batty”  and “Who does she go with?” (it’s go OUT with, Mom, duh!), and “We think so!” when people complimented our house. We didn’t just have family meetings to resolve issues. That would’ve been bad enough. No, we had a “family council.” She collected decorating ideas and filed them in folders by room! Even her family-photo smiles annoyed me, what with all the miniature laugh/sighs.

And then I grew up and caught myself smile/laugh/sighing for a photo, making decorating idea binders, and realized that I had turned into her! Only I really already was her. In middle school, I once spent an entire evening calling a long list of 800 numbers I had scrubbed from magazine ads, asking “Do you have a catalog featuring your products?” Yes, those very words. I cringe remembering it. My sister describes a home video of a ten-year-old me helping my mom host a baby shower. I’m holding my hands like an opera singer, according to my sister (I refuse to watch it, but I can SO picture it!), wearing my favorite button shirt (A zillion mismatched buttons lovingly sewn onto a knit T-shirt by my Grammy, another proud bearer of the dork gene, as evidenced by her quiet little laugh/sighs at annual family Christmas photos), asking the guest of honor in my prissiest voice, “Mary? Would you like something to drink?”

And today proved that even though I have sons, the dork gene is runnin’ strong up in here! I’ll describe my eldest’s newly-made “activity binder” in a minute, but first a game. Who said the following comments, 6-year-old Reed or his mama? Answers at bottom

1)      As parting words after a phone conversation, “Keep on crafting!”
2)      Describing yummy food, “This is heavenly!”
3)      Describing more yummy food, “I don’t like it… I LOVE it!”
4)      A response when my bachelor brother asked what we’d been up to this summer, “Just keeping up with the garden.”
5)      “I’ll be as quiet as quiet can be.”
6)      To Calvin, “You miscreant!” (Calvin’s sophisticated response? “You’re stupid!”)

So, the activity binder… It was sorta dorky Mom’s idea, but someone sure enjoyed cutting out ideas, 3-whole punching them, and filing them under the appropriate tabbed divider.  Which got me to describing the wonderful world of Pinterest, and boy did his little eyes light up! Later, after he showed Daddy his binder (I was only a LITTLE jealous that he got a much more attentive response than when I tried to show one of mine!) I mentioned Pinterest again and said we’d try it out sometime. He rubbed his hands together and said, “Oooh! PINTEREST!”

All I have to say is that it’s a good thing Reed is handsome, charming, and athletic. Otherwise, he may be in for some trouble with the ladies. I don’t know many high school girls who are attracted to guys with a good smile/laugh/sigh.

Answers: Me – 1, 4; Reed – 2, 3, 5, 6

Sunday, July 29, 2012

He's Created a Monster

I knew those jelly rolls wouldn't be a good thing for me. This morning, I just had to try out a new fatty delicious recipe. Not because I wanted something sugary and evil, but because I need to use up some more apples of course. It didn't disappoint!

Apple Poppers

refrigerator biscuits
brown sugar

- Chop apples into tiny pieces. Toss with some brown sugar and cinnamon
- Flatten biscuits (I discovered that whole biscuits are way easier to fill and close up than halves. Max discovered that Calvin was a good flattener helper.)
- Scoop apple mixture into middle of biscuits. Close up and place seam down on a baking sheet.
- Bake according to biscuit directions.
- Pour almond glaze over top!
- Tell your kids they can only have ____ (insert small number here) because you want more they're too sugary.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Jelly Rolls - the food, not the results

My husband is not a dessert man. We’ve had fights over pieces of cake because he asked me to save one for him and it molded before he got in the mood to eat it. And please don’t remind me of the time I gave up sweets for Lent and then ordered a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts for a fundraiser and watched THREE OF THEM GO STALE!!!!! Let’s just say I take my sweets pretty seriously. If I’m gonna walk by and smell a tempting treat for a week and not eat it, somebody better, moldy or not! I can’t bake unless I have somewhere to take the goodies. Otherwise, I’ll end up eating three dozen cookies in less than three days. Ryan might eat a couple. So tonight, I was totally shocked when he said, “You know what would be good? Those pizza things you made for supper only with jelly in them.” I agreed and then he added, “But you probably don’t want to make them now.”  It was 10:00 at night. The can of biscuits was already in my hand. I squished the dough and rolled a blob of jelly in each one, popped them in the oven, then came back to the couch to wait. A few minutes later, Ryan added, “They oughtta have some kinda frosting on them.” Now if he’d finagled me into making nachos at bedtime and then waited until I sat down to request sour cream, he’d have probably gotten the extra ingredient up the nose. But… since his request involved sugar, I was up like a rocket, whipping up some almond icing. We both finished our entire helping. I licked both of our plates when he wasn’t looking. The problem is, he’ll be satisfied with that sugar fix for a month or longer. I just learned a new recipe with ingredients that are usually on hand. I’m doomed!

Jelly rolls

Canned biscuits
Jelly (I used the cherry almond zucchini jam I made last week - sounds nasty, I know, but we are all addicted!)

-          Divide each biscuit in half and squish into a flat circle
-          Drop a spoonful of jelly on each one
-          Fold dough up around jelly to make a ball
-          Place ball seam side down on a cooking sheet
-          Bake according to biscuit package directions

Almond glaze

2 T Melted butter
1/3 c powdered sugar
Glub milk
1 t almond extract (you could use vanilla, but I'm pretty much obsessed with almond lately!)

-          Stir together and adjust amounts until you’re happy with the consistency and flavor
-          Drizzle over jelly rolls. (Actually, soak them. Drizzle sounds so dainty!)

“Those Pizza Things you Made For Supper”

This recipe actually comes to  me via my sister via her blog via Pinterest via someone else’s blog via whoever they probably knocked it off from originally. Teachers and bloggers are the best thieves! I made mine a little differently, but they were still good enough to inspire a dessert idea from the hubs, so I'd say they were a success!

Canned biscuits
Vegetable oil
Seasonings (oregano, basil, garlic powder, etc.)
Parmesan cheese
Pizza sauce

-          Half each biscuit and squish flat
-          Put a pepperoni or two and a chunk of cheese on the biscuits
-          Fold up into a ball and place seam down on  a baking sheet.
-          Brush with seasoned vegetable oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese
-          Bake according to biscuit package directions.
-          Dip in pizza sauce

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

An Open Apology to SAHMs

An Apology to SAHMs

I always dreamed I’d be a stay at home mommy. I pictured myself doing cute activities with my cute kids in our cute house while wearing cute, yet casual clothes. Then my cute husband would come home and I’d tell him all the cute stories about our day. Well, I got the cute husband, but with our career choices, we decided it would be best for us both to work (it’s hard enough to make it on two teachers’ salaries, let alone one!) I didn’t really sweat it. I can pick the kids up at 3:30 most days and we have AMAZING day care (I think she’s a better mom to my boys than I am. Seriously.) Still, there will probably always be a little part of me that’s jealous of women who don’t have to juggle career and family. I will admit that I have, on occasion, said or thought the following things:
-          Oh! I’ll have plenty of time in the summer. I don’t work for three months!
-          Finally, I’ll be able to get on top of the house cleaning and get a couple of projects done!
-          You’re so lucky to be able to stay home with your kids!
-          If I stayed home all year, I’d have so much more time for (insert thing I wish I had more time for here)
-          Well, she’s a stay at home mom! Of course she has time to (insert thing I wish I did here)
-          It sure would be nice never to have to worry about work

For three months out of every year, I get to forget about the career (mostly) and live out my childhood dream of being nothing more than a Mommy and wife.  You’d think after five brief SAH stints, I’d have it figured out. It ain’t easy! But my first summer home with Reed he was a new baby. The next I was pregnant and lazy. Then I had two munchkins under age three to chase. Then I was pregnant again. Slept that ENTIRE summer. The next I had a newborn. Every summer there was an excuse for why my hair was in a permanent pony tail, my boys wore pajamas more often than clothes, and my house was a wreck. But this summer was to be different. The littlest is starting to cut the cord a little and the bigs are pretty self sufficient. So THIS was gonna be the summer that I FINALLY got to:
-          Keep my house spotless   (Raging tornado. All the time.)
-          Get my pre-babies body back    (Ha!)
-          Keep a current, riveting blog, maybe even pick up a ton of readers and get sponsors to buy me junk to make crafts for free    (Hi, Mom!)
-          Do daily devotions    
-          Make my boys geniuses by doing “school at home” every day    (We’ve learned more potty humor than phonics)
-          Go on nature walks, cook with the boys, and do other super-mommy stuff   
-          Keep a semi-structured schedule  
-          Complete all three boys’ baby books   
-          Finally paint over the butt-ugly mint green hallway
-          Make all the things I’ve pinned, plus create masterpieces of my own (1 down, 734 to go)
-          Plan and prep for an entire school year so I don’t have to bring ANY work home

OK, a little ambitious, I realize, but I thought I’d least get one or two items checked off the list. Nope. Not a one. And we’re down to T minus 2 weeks here, so it’s not looking promising, people. Worse, I’ve got no excuses this year.

I figured out the problem, though. I was banking on 6-8 hours a day to accomplish the list. I mean, that’s how much time I spend at work during the school year, right? I just forgot about one small factor – well, three factors, actually. Make that four. The hubs has summers off too. And while he’s helpful, he also eats and makes messes uses the house all day. I have such a total respect for Mrs. Pam, the boys’ mom away from mom. How she manages to keep 8-10 turds ranging in age from 0 to 5 entertained, fed, happy, and learning without turning on the TV and/or pulling out all of her hair, I do not know. I love my three little biscuits, but WOW their care and keeping can suck up a day’s time pretty fast! And it’s not like we’re sleeping the day away or anything. Those suckers have me rolling outta bed around 7 every morning. Then it’s pretty much feed, clean up after, break up fights, and entertain or supervise until bed time. Sure, I sneak in a few minutes here and there, but I usually end up staying up until midnight or one just to get a little “me” time. And by then, I just wanna veg out on educational sites, like craft blogs or Pinterest or facebook.

So, to all the SAHMs out there: You are amazing. I am not worthy. And I get to drop my kids off at daycare in two weeks. Nanny nanny boo boo!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fine Form

Well,apparantly the bruised foot had no effect on Calvin’s spirits. Today he was bustin’ out all kinda jokes and bad behavior. I finally had to jot them down, there were too many:
-          Ran around the house chasing Max, saying, “You’re Carrie Underpants! You’re Carrie Underpants!” When we told him 1) Enough is enough, 2) It’s only funny the first time, and 3) Quit talking about underpants, he improvised and renamed Max Carrie Underwear, Carrie Underbutt, and Carrie Underpeepee.
-          On a walk at a wildlife refuge, I read something about a toothed elm leaf off of a sign. He interrupted, “Like a butt toot?” When I didn’t answer, “You mean a toot like this?” then bent over, grabbed his britches, and ripped one. (Ryan walked on, but I couldn’t even try to disguise my laugh.)
-          When we drove up to a lily pad, cypress tree, and great blue heron-filled pond, “Heaven will be even more supriser than this… This is my favorite place in the whole world! Actually, Six Flags, then this…”
-          When he was the only one in the whole truck who didn’t see the two fawns peeking from the woods, “This was one of your bad ideas. We had to be in the truck!”
-          When I was singing everything opera-style and claiming to be an angel (don’t all moms antagonize their kids this way?) he ran up, bent over, ripped one, then scooted right up to me and wiggled his butt around. I asked him (in mezzo soprano) why he was doing that and he answered, “To get the toot permanent on you.”
No lie, these are all from one 12 hour period. I pretty much gave up on potty patrol after the walk. Guffawing kinda makes you lose your credibility as a potty police. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. It’ll bring a trip to day care if it gets much worse…

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

...The Rest of the Story

Well, I’m not the world’s worst mother, but I’m still pretty bad. A little bit after sarcastically posting about Calvin’s dramatic cannonball injury, I heard a bump in the boys’ room. Calvin was awake. At midnight. Calvin does not wake for ANYTHING (not to respond to Mommy alarm clocks, not to get out of car after a late drive home, not to pee in the potty) He was awake and his foot hurt. He was even coherent enough to ask for that “icthe sthingy” (we’re still working on the s factor). I got him an ice pack and set it up, fully expecting it to be kicked off by the time I returned. Nope. Sign #2 that his foot really did hurt. Sign #3 was when he was still limping the next morning. Well, limping, crawling, and hopping on his hands and good foot. I know those are all signs that would make most parents immediately call the doctor. We aren’t most parents. We’re both of the “rub some dirt in it” stock. Ryan frequently diagnoses our boys with Wussitus when they share their ailments. I believe that taking medicine or using band-aids are signs of weakness. And, we’re technically self-paid (found a little way around Obama Care called a health-sharing ministry. Stick it to the man!). And we’re cheap. And but for the strange methods of locomotion, Calvin was acting totally fine. We teetered between calling the doctor as soon as the office opened and waiting it out. Calvin asked for an ice pack at breakfast. I’ll call at 8:00. Calvin tricked Reed into stepping away from his rodeo set and made a mad “dash” to play with it (“You left!”) No doctor. Calvin munched it halfway to the rodeo. I’ll get the phone book. Calvin decides that he wants a cast because, “then I’ll get a sucker and a sticker!” Never mind.

But by 9 we could tell he was definitely hurting. I think it was his protest that he was fine and could walk normally that finally convinced us. His "normal walk" resembled that of Peg Leg Pete. Ryan insisted we have it checked out. I guess we know who’s the soft one. (Although later, he made comments that make me wonder if he was more worried about his future athletic career than his actual foot health…) In the hours before our appointment, we found out a bit more about the infamous incident. It turns out that it was the blue carpet that inspired the whole swimming pool idea (yet another reason why we need to replace Grover). Also, Calvin wasn’t swimming alone. Reed admitted to doing a few tricks himself. “I did a pretend dive.” I guess we’re lucky it’s Calvin who does everything full-throttle. Of course we gave numerous lectures about the appropriateness of jumping on (and off) the bed and the absorbent properties of water compared to those of ugly blue carpet. But even though the boys nodded their heads and agreed, I still won’t trust them in our bedroom anywhere unattended for a while.

As soon as we arrived at the doctor, the nurse said to Calvin, “I heard you did a cannonball off the bed!” He made a typical Calvin face (Sorry, they can’t be described. If you know him, you know the face…) Otherwise, the doctor’s visit was uneventful. A little “does this hurt?,” a couple X-rays, good news and we were on our way. Honestly, it made me regret taking him to the doctor. We paid $179 to have someone tell us he had a bruised foot?! Well, to be fair he did also give the boys stickers. And suckers. And a lecture on cannonball protocol. On second thought, it was worth every penny.