Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Creative Overload

I read the book "Seven Blind Mice" by Ed Young to the kids today. It's a great book for learning colors, ordinal numbers, and a great lesson about looking at the big picture. The kids cut out seven mice and colored them according to the mice in the book. They colored and cut out an elephant and glued tails on the mice. I read some math story problems and had the kids act them out with the mice and elephant. That was the end of my plan, but it was only the beginning, as far the kids were concerned. They taped the mice and elephant onto straws to make puppets. Then they disappeared into Noah's room to make a puppet stage. I stayed in the kitchen to make dinner, and I could hear things crashing in his room. They kept making trips to the pantry to get soda cans, apple juice bottles, and lots of other things. Then they started emptying the bookshelves and hauling it all into Noah's room. I tried to ignore them, because they weren't asking for my involvement, and I was enjoying the time alone to cook, but I knew they were making a gigantic mess. I squashed my control issues as long as I could, but once I got the casserole in the oven, I went to see what they were doing. They put on a cute puppet show for me, and then I made them get busy cleaning up. That's the when the arguing, complaining, bossing, whining, and not listening started. Two of us ended up in tears, and Mike came home in the middle of a tense situation. But before it turned ugly, there were a lot of good times.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cleaning and Collaging

We spent the morning cleaning the bathroom and making collages. See how happy Noah looks while he's scrubbing that drain plug with a toothbrush? He seriously loves to clean, especially disgusting detailed jobs like that. I discovered that neither of my kids was aware of how many months are in a year (!), so we made a collage of months. Sarah's attitude needed some adjustment (actually, a complete turn-around), so we did another collage of the things on which we SHOULD be focusing. It was supposed to be a lesson for the kids, but every time I look at those dolphins jumping in the sunset, it makes me happy. It's not just the kids who need to focus on what's good and lovely.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Our Little Angel

I've never seen Sarah look (or act) like an angel before, but this morning she practically transfigured. We were on the way to church, and she sang the whole way. It was a song she was making up herself (with help from the Holy Spirit, no doubt). I don't remember all the lyrics, but it was something like, "Jesus is our example. I love you, Jesus, forever and ever. Jesus loves us." It went on and on for ten full minutes, and even Noah was silent listening to her. She sang so softly and sweetly, not in her usual silly voice when she's making up a song. And for Noah to be quiet for that long without interrupting her was clearly a miracle. By the time we got to church, tears were falling down my face and I felt like I had already been to church.

Too Much Death

We went to two visitations last week. This morning we woke up to a dead fish floating at the top of the tank. It was Sarah's fish, Spotter. I scooped it out and dumped it in the toilet. Sarah stood next to the body, and the rest of us lined up to express our condolences. Noah looked at the body, then hugged Sarah and said, "I'm sorry for your loss." She accepted all our sympathies, then asked, "Can I flush him now?"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Killing Birds

Recently I spent considerable time explaining the expression "killing two birds with one stone" to Noah. He has since been using it quite proficiently. Today he used it in a way I've never heard before (leave it to him!). We were stuck in road construction traffic, barely inching along, and he said, "We're only killing half a bird with one stone right now."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Organic Soda

Noah and Sarah were pretending to be camping. They were pretend-slurping on wooden blocks, and I asked them what they were drinking. They said soda, and I said, "That's bad for you." Sarah said, "Don't worry, it's organic."

Mean Mommy Ogre

Noah came into my room during quiet time, which he knows is not allowed. It's the one sacred hour out of the whole day where no one is talking to me. I pretended to be asleep, and he left. Then I heard him go into Sarah's room (also not allowed) and say, "Hey Sarah, go ask Mom if we can go to Wells' (neighbors) after quiet time!" I decided right then that his punishment would be not being allowed to go to Wells'. I felt like a mean mommy because I know the neighbors would enjoy having the kids visit. As soon as quiet time was over, Noah came running in, asking to go to Wells'. I said no and told him why. Being the good-natured kid he is, he accepted it graciously. Later I went into his room and found a picture he had colored and written Mr. Wells' name on it. I asked him about it, and he said he was planning to give it to Mr. Wells when he went to visit. Then I felt like an ogre.


This morning Noah was pretending to be our old cat Choco (who died when Noah was about 2 years old), and he was hunting mice. In the middle of that, Mike came in and announced that Colin Powell was endorsing Barack Obama. After a long discussion with Noah about what that means, he incorporated it into his play. He had a political rally where all the cats were endorsing Chocobama, and all the mice endorsed John McMouse. Chocobama promised to enforce a law that required every American citizen to grow catnip. John McMouse promised cheese to every mouse. On election day, Chocobama won by one vote, and all but three of the mice decided to support him. The other three decided to move to Canada in protest. But Chocobama asked them to stay and be his vice presidents (one to get his groceries, one to write down everything he says, and one to attend meetings for him).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Art Appreciation

This was the artwork in our hotel room in Chicago. When Noah saw it, he said, "That looks like something Sarah scribbled!" I agreed and wondered how much the artist got paid for it. The funny thing is, we kept coming back to it and studying it and commenting on it, and I finally realized that THAT'S what makes it art. If it had been a nice scenic picture, we may have commented that it was pretty, if we mentioned it at all. But we ended up spending a considerable amount of time discussing this "scribble".

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Glad to be home

This was not our finest trip. Nobody liked each other very much. We left Chicago at rush hour (not a good idea), and Noah announced that his stomach hurt. He hadn't had much lunch, so I thought he was probably just hungry and proceeded to keep passing him food. He ate a lot of carrots and trail mix. It was going to be late when we got home, and Mike and I were making a verbal list of all the things we had to do. Then the projectile vomiting started. It was one of those rare moments when I was overcome with hopelessness and wondering if it's all worth it. Mike exceeded the speed limit the rest of the way home, and we got the kids cleaned up and put to bed. Then we spent a long time cleaning up, hauling in, unpacking, and laundering. By the time I went to bed, I was feeling better about things in general and was able to recall some good moments from the trip, such as:
-the perfect weather
-watching the kids chase pigeons
-the great food
-the Asian taxi driver who loved my little Asians and gave them a candy bar
-beautiful harvest moon over the Chicago River
-eating ice cream at the zoo with Nina and Julia

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Street Musician

Here we are in Chicago, where Mike is attending a conference for work. We went to Navy Pier this afternoon, came back to the hotel to go swimming, and ordered a pizza. It was going to be delivered in an hour, so while we were waiting, I took my harp out to the sidewalk where people were walking by the Chicago River. I had to practice anyway, so I set out a bowl and started playing. Soon, someone came along and dropped two quarters in my bowl. About 20 minutes later, someone else put in two dollars. Then I packed it up and went to eat pizza. I don't think I could make a living as a street musician, but it sure was fun.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


One of the very few good shows left on PBS for kids (now that they've taken off Mr. Rogers) is "Fetch!" It's a game show where real kids have to complete challenges and answer quiz questions for points. At the end, the host doles out bonus points. We love to watch the show and then act it out ourselves. I'm the host, handing out challenges and making up questions. At the end, I distribute the points and declare the winner. Today I had a few things I needed to get done, and the kids were hounding me to play Fetch. It struck me that I could kill two birds with one stone. One thing I needed to do was clean the cricket cage and feed the crickets and the frog. I usually do this job myself, because it's pretty tricky, but today I turned it into a Fetch challenge for the kids. They loved it and did a pretty good job. A couple of the crickets escaped but the kids caught them and got them back into their cage. I also wanted to make cherry turnovers, so I broke the recipe down into simple steps that Noah could read to Sarah. Their challenge was to make the cottage cheese pastry dough. They made a huge mess, of course, but they actually did better than I thought they would! As the dough was chilling, they gathered around to hear the results. Noah won the cricket/frog challenge, and Sarah won the cooking one. Here are some of the bonus points I awarded (5 points each):
N-catching the escaped crickets
S-knowing where the measuring cups/spoons are
S-using good manners
N-finding the wooden spoon
N-knowing what a pastry blender is and how to use it
N-figuring out that the tablespoon makes a good cottage cheese scooper
S-sharing and being generous
The next challenge was a very difficult treasure hunt. They're used to treasure hunts, but this one had a new twist: the clues were written in code. Noah very impressively decoded the clues and read them to Sarah, who was very good at finding them. The treasure was a painting activity, which they did while I washed dishes. During the painting, Sarah was rushing through it and said, “I want to get this done so I can go to DQ!” (we’re going to DQ tonight to celebrate her Gotcha Day). Noah told her, “Take it easy and enjoy this time in your life. Someday you won’t have this kind of life. You’ll grow up and be an adult and you’ll have to work and then you’ll die.” Sometimes he's so wise and profound! They learned a lot, and I learned that they are capable of more than I realized.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I was home all day, and I accomplished only three things.
1) The kids and I gathered up all the board books and other babyish books that they've outgrown and bagged them up to give to my friend with a baby.
2) Sarah and I concocted a soup made almost entirely from leftovers. The only new thing I added was an onion. I cooked it in chicken broth and Sarah threw in leftover broccoli, carrots, pork, and mashed potatoes. She put some cheese on top, and we ate it. The kids loved it and spent several minutes brainstorming a name for it (which I have since forgotten).
3) I washed and de-stinkified our towels, washcloths, and dishrags. How do they get so stinky??? I washed them using nothing but vinegar and very hot water in the first cycle. Then I ran them through again using my usual laundry detergent. Then I dried them on an extra long cycle. They came out smelling good and looking bright and fluffy.
The rest of the day was spent playing together and reading a lot.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Lunch in Bed!

My children decided that they wanted to serve me lunch in bed today. I sat on the bed, and they drew up a menu and brought it to me. I ordered cheese, crackers, Chex mix, carrots, an apple, and water. My servers left to get the food, and I heard chaotic noises in the kitchen. Finally, they returned with my order, which was perfect. They made their own lunches and ate at the kitchen table, returning several times to check on me, leave my bill, take my credit card, and suggest a tip amount (which was more than the price of my whole meal). The mess required a considerable cleanup effort, but it was worth it.

Friday, October 3, 2008

High on Prednisone

Noah has a mysterious outbreak of itchy bumps on his body. The doctor doesn’t know what it is, but he prescribed Prednisone to clear it up. Today Noah was running around in circles, flinging stuffed animals into the air, chattering incessantly, and squealing like an Indian on the warpath, all at the same time. It’s not unusual for him to be a little hyper, but this seemed over the top. Then I realized it was probably the drugs making him crazed. The three of us blew up beach balls and cranked up some music and embraced the craziness. It was so much fun!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Destroying My Pants

Today I was wearing a pair of khaki pants that someone gave me about ten years ago. They used to be too big on me, and now they're too tight. They've always been too short. The button has been missing for a few years. Today the zipper broke. I discovered this when I had to pee really bad, and the zipper was open at the bottom but still zipped up. So I pretty much had to rip it apart in a hurry. It was a liberating moment when I decided to get rid of these pants right then and there. But what to do with them? I certainly couldn't give them to anyone. I hated to take up landfill space, but I decided the only thing to do was throw them in the garbage. On my way to the garbage can, I spotted my kids, who were lolling around in the living room, looking bored. On an impulse, I tossed my pants to them and said, "Who wants to destroy my pants?" Were they ever excited! Their eyes lit up and they headed outside, saying things like, "Get the scissors!" "Bring the markers!" "Hey, I know! Ask Mom for a bowl and some food coloring!" They were busy for a long time and made quite a mess.