Monday, May 28, 2012

This is summer

Right now, my boys are spread out across the living room, each engrossed in their own activity. Reed is meticulously lining small plastic animals up on the brick fireplace, narrating in whispers the storyline he is creating. Max is sitting with a book open, staring at the pictures for much longer than his attention span usually allows. Calvin is surrounded by his pirate toys, singing a made-up sea chantey.  It’s total nonsense, but it does have nice rhythm. A snippet: “There was 15 pirates (pause to do a quick toy count) I mean, there was three pirates. Doo dee doo dee doo. And a bore. Do you know what a bore is? Do you? Do you?”

What about the adults in the house? Well, Ryan is outside taking care of some random farm chore. I was catching up on blogs I follow and reading between page loads (the joys of dial-up). When I noticed what was going on, I decided to write during the down time, instead.

I’m taking my last recovery day from the last two weeks’ adventures. Right after school got out two weeks ago, we started working nonstop to get ready for this weekend’s festivities. My sister got married two days ago, and we had a total of  eighteen people either staying with us or visiting our house for a breakfast tour. I was her matron of honor. Our boys were her ring bearers (or rather “wagon-load-of-precious-flower-girl” bearers). And I baked her wedding cake. Needless to say, it was a crazy busy weekend! But everything went smoothly, my sister (and her wedding) was gorgeous, and we had the best time with family EVER!

And now, our house is in great shape to start the summer (and we have tons of leftovers crammed in the fridge). After one more veg-out day, I plan to put the munchkins and me on a semi-structured schedule. I’m all for free-wheeling it, but three months with NO organization spells disaster for this anal control freak. After seeing this morning what a little free time can beget, though, I’m starting to think unplanned days can bring about great things. While writing this post, Calvin moved to the kitchen, where he constructed a toasted PBJ sandwich almost all by himself. Reed shared Apple Jacks (correction-- Apple Rolls) with Max, without giving him full access to his stash, of course. Max danced around giggling and taking an occasional ride on Reed’s back. And now they’re all three working together to build (or pull down and giggle under) a fort. Here’s to a great, not-too-structured-but-not-too-loose summer!

Sunday, May 20, 2012


T-ball is in full swing again. This time, Calvin joined Reed on the team. Last summer Calvin sorta watched wistfully as Reed went to his first practice. He didn’t really seem too jealous, just quiet. That is, until the best part of T-ball—the post-practice snack and juice box. Then, he felt really left out. He held it together pretty well, considering his personality, but he teared up on the way to the car, and burst out when he was out of other-kid range. I explained that next year, he’d get to play Tball and wear a Dodgers hat and run the bases, yada, yada. He sniffed, smiled, and said, “Will I get a granola bar and a juice box, too?!” Once he had the snack “in the bag” he was good to go.

Fast forward (and man, it was fast!) to this summer, and we have two T-ballers… and Daddy is the coach! Reed and Calvin partnered up for the catch drill (and I use the term “catch” loosely). Reed was like a little coach to his brother. “Good one, Calvin!... You didn’t have you handcuffs ready. That’s why you didn’t catch that one.” Normally, Calvin would’ve argued or quit or kicked Reed, but he took it all in stride. At one point, they had their arms around each other in a huddle. I think Calvin was just so happy to be a big boy. At one point during a partner catch drill, he shouted, “Daddy! I caught one!” That that accomplishment was worthy of an announcement will give you an indicator of his current skill level… He was very good at “running like a bear was chasing him” around the bases. And the bear must’ve been chasing him to the juice boxes, too. He was the first one in line at the cooler. We had signed ourselves up for the first snack duty, and Ryan had picked out granola bars and juice boxes in order to fulfill our year-old promise to Calvin. All was right in the world.

Reed evaluated the coach after practice on the way to the van. “Daddy did a good job, dontcha think?” Daddy came to the van a little less perky and with a greater appreciation for kindergarten teachers. Calvin had to put his uniform (a T-shirt and hat) on in the car, then, struck a goofy-grinned pose and asked, “How do I look?” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the hat wasn’t quite adjusted right and made him look like Howdy Doody. He was just so darn cute!

When we got home, the boys made a beeline for the trampoline. Ryan and I made a beeline for the porch swing. Calvin announced that he could jump higher in his uniform. I think he was right. Later, the boys joined me on the swing and we listed our favorite things from the day. Cake balls, trampoline, and T-ball all made the cut. Then it was off to the shower to wash off the filth. Calvin waited until the absolute last minute to take off his hat, walking around like a proud, butt-naked Dodger. The next morning, his hat was the first thing he put on. Then, he chastised me for not having his uniform shirt washed and dried already. It’s gonna be a long summer with those kinds of demands.

We went to the shoe store to fit Calvin with new cleats before the second practice. Then we had to explain to him why he couldn’t wear them home. Or the next morning. Or to the grocery store. He had to settle for suiting up for a backyard practice session, cleats, hat, and all. Of course, the cleats made him run faster. Too bad they didn’t make him catch more balls…

After the second practice, Reed and Calvin came happily tromping to the van juggling their Capri Sun, fruit roll-up, and cheese crackers. Max started fussing, “Dee! Dee! Bigh! Bigh!” The circle of life continues…

Friday, May 11, 2012

Chore cards

A few weeks ago, my sister and I had a "wedding weekend." After a day of us gabbing and crafting, Ryan vacated the house with the boys. Then, Tav left early to do homework. I faced an entire evening home alone. Boo to the ya! Even though I was sad to see Tavia go, I will admit I was slightly giddy about the possibilities. But when she asked me what I was going to do with my "me" time, I confided that the last time I had any, I pretty much flitted around the house giggling and thinking of all the things I could do, but never got a dang thing done because of all the flitting and giggling and thinking. So, my brilliant sister came up with a plan for the spaz. We wrote all the things I wanted/needed to do on slips of paper, then dropped them in a bucket. She gave me the rules: 1) You HAVE to do what you draw. 2) You HAVE to finish before you draw a new job. 3) Don't freak out if you only get a few done. Then she ordered me to turn on some music, made fun of my choice (Yanni Voices CD - total dorkfest soundtrack, but whatever), then told me to have fun and drove away. You shoulda seen me! I was a rock star! I drew a long, unsatisfactory job first, so I was kinda disappointed, but it worked. I actually RAN to get everything finished fast so I could pull the next strip. I finished all but ONE task that night!  I told Ryan how ingenius the plan was, and he dryly commented, "So you did the thing that you have to do to get the boys to stay on task?" He was right. The boys' chore cards are still in the kitchen junk drawer. I say, so what if I have the attention span of a four-year-old? My house was clean, my papers were graded, and I'd mapped out a crafty thing I've been dreaming of for months.

So... I tried to recreate this scenario tonight. I got off work early (because today was the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL!) and our house looked like a warzone--struck by a tornado--and a kindergarten class--and a pack of wild dogs. So, I loaded the bucket and got started. Here's a summary of how it went:

Drew "living room" slip. Picked up. Stopped to get Calvin milk. Picked up some more. Stopped to clean Max up and let him "dow" from the high chair. Finished living room. Drew "bathrooms" slip. Swore under my breath. Cleaned master bathroom. Wiped Chapstick off of Max's fingers and floor. Cleaned boys' bathroom. Distracted Max by letting him splash in sink a little. Finished bathrooms. Explained to Calvin why I had taken their Dino-Gro out of the sink. Drew "crap pile" slip. Debated what that would exactly entail. (Originally, I made two "crap pile" slips. The first was going to mean, "Join all crap into one mega pile." The second, was to actually find homes for the feces. But, since a large majority of the piles were in the living room, and they'd already been dispersed, I ended up tackling this task one turd at a time.) Finished flushing all my piles.  Broke up a fight. Yelled at the bigs for leaving the bathroom door open and the sink full of water. Dried Max and the bathroom counter.  Swore under my breath at the water streaks on the clean mirror. Yelled at boys for "ruining everything" after they re-trashed the living room. Consolidated Ryan's piles into one. Pulled the "read a book, then sneak away" trick on Max.

Soon, it became obvious that Max wasn't going to be tricked many more times. So, I took a break to make/serve/eat supper. The kitchen was disgusting, so rather than draw more slips, I opted to clean it. Ryan got home a few minutes before I needed to change clothes and leave to attend a graduation ceremony. When I got home, guess what I found? A messy kitchen, toothpaste smeared on the bathroom counter, and a hard-to-miss dollop of crap streaking the toilet seat. Guess it's time to start with my second "crap pile" slip...

Friday, May 4, 2012


Today, Calvin violated the zero-tolerance-for-pushing-on-the-trampoline policy. Oddly, I think I've only seen him push twice on the trampoline. The first was when he and Reed were fighting over something, which inspired me to draft the policy and deliver it in the sternest way possible. The second was within 30 seconds of the policy's passage. That boy just lives to push the limits.  I enacted swift justice. He begged to be let back on. When he realized I wasn't giving in, he said, "Fine! Then you can't jump on my trampoline that I'm gonna make that's gonna be cooler than yours!" I was in a snarky mood, so I said, "Darn. Well.... Good luck with that," rolled my eyes, and laughed with big brother. Not my most mature parenting moment, but sue me. I think the mockery inspired him, because he gave a silly giggle, then got to work constructing the way-better hops. Several carefully-selected sticks later, he was ready to jump. He sprinkled a little grass on the stick circle he'd driven into the ground (I think the grass was for his way-cool jumping surface, but I'm not sure) and took a "Hiiiiya!" leap, immediately cracking all his sticks. He thought it was pretty hilarious and went off to recreate the tramp with a fresh batch of sticks. A better mother would have stopped him because, after all, it's all fun and games until someone gets a stick shoved into their tenders, but I chose to err on the side of keeping him happy. And developing his creativity. That is definitely one of his gifts. Among things he's created:

- PBJ with apple slices 
- strawberries on toast with honey
- banana dipped in peanut butter, mixed with jelly, syrup, and honey (another result of lazy parenting, "Yes, you can have a snack, but only if you make it yourself.")

- Tight monkey pajama pants, no shirt, John Deere boots
- Silky Halloween pirate costume shirt (inside out and backwards), black athletic shorts, black socks
- Optimus Prime Halloween costume under regular clothes (in case anyone needed rescuing while he was at day care)
- Max's "I leaked my diaper" jeans as "I peed the cot" replacement pants - skinny capris on Cal
- Mud boots and undies for working in the garden
- Pants on arms, undies on head, shirt on legs, "bidness" on display (yet another bed-time stalling tactic)

- "I didn't say it. Chocolatey did." (Chocolatey is his stuffed dog)
- "But I'm a dinosaur and dinosaurs don't listen."
- "I heard what you said, but you talked too much and you made me forget!"

Games and toys:
- Roller coaster: tie large baskets/boxes together with jump ropes, tie pogo-ball or baby brother's scooter to front and attempt to pull brothers around house
- Grape-stem dragons (we actually had to save stems for future play sessions, the boys were so attached to them!)

That boy's gonna be famous some day. Just hope it's for some really cool innovative something and not for committing the perfect crime. Or being that kid who suffered that freak stick injury. Or putting his mom in the insane asylum.


The other day, I took the boys on a walk. They wore mud boots and shorts – their typical walk fashion. Max rode in the double stroller alone and Reed rode his bike to the bottom of a hill, then parked it until we got back. That took all of 7 pedals. Either way we walk we face a huge hill. It’s great for the exercise factor, which is a good thing, because our walks are not what I would call vigorous, what with all the stopping for every interesting rock, possible wildlife sighting, weapon-shaped sticks, and puddles containing 5 or more milliliters of water.
Anyway, we were on the way home and walking along at a pretty steady pace. Apparently, the rocks and puddles had already been conquered along that leg of the journey. Suddenly, Calvin yelled, “Mommy! Snake!” I immediately looked down and could barely see a copperhead. I could barely see it, because it was under my stroller, right by the front wheel. I backed up quickly, pushed everybody far away, and did what any good country Mama would do. I called the dog back to us and started talking about snakes and markings and venom, and why he was coiled up and ready to strike at the moment. Now, you may be wondering why I wasn’t freaking out like the big spaz that I usually am. It’s because life on our little patchwork farm has given me experiences I never DREAMED I’d have. Things like this:
-          Nightly tick checks (with frequent discoveries and extractions)
-          A possum in the shed in the dog food bin
-          Ryan shooting a possum on the porch for getting in the cat food
-          Ryan shooting four water snakes by our pond (don’t tell the conservation agents…)
-          Ryan shooting TWO skunks who came to “court” the female skunk that was residing under our house for about a month
-          Dragging skunk carcass out of the yard after our curious coonhound puppy discovered it
-          Chickens ignoring the roost we provided and instead taking up residence in our storage shelves under the porch.
-          Milking goats by hand  
-          Chasing goats out of shed and off of lawn mowers  
-          Holding goats steady while Ryan treats for “hoof rot”
-          Washing (and snipping) dried-up poop out of baby goat’s fur IN MY KITCHEN SINK!
-          Blow drying newly-named kid, Dingleberry, so he wouldn’t freeze after his shampooing.
-          Ryan and the boys playing fun games of kill-the-wood-bees-with-shovels-in-midair
-          Holding deer legs steady while Ryan cuts through the bone with a hack saw (mightta spazzed a little on that one, but COME ON!)
So, you can see how a venomous snake in the middle of the road, but safely away from my boys wouldn’t really be that big of a deal. Until our previously-mentioned curious coonhound puppy began to take interest in it. Shaky doesn’t listen like our Labrador. Despite my firm commands and the boys desperate screams, she wouldn’t “Come!” or “Stop!” or “Get away from the venomous snake, Shaky!” Too bad I couldn’t continue our Venomous Snakes 101 lecture. They could have learned the difference between coiling like you might strike, raising up ready to attack, and actually lashing out at dangerous predators. We saw it all. We also saw Shaky back off in fear and took that as our cue to run – encouraging her to follow suit.
The next day, the boys would excitedly tell the tale of how “Calvin saved Mommy and Max’s life!” and how “Shaky almost got bit by a venomous snake!” but not even a week later, the tale was forgotten. Just another day on the farm…