Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Where's the maid?

Sarah wanted to play Olympic gymnastics, and Noah wanted to play major league baseball.  They worked it out by deciding that Sarah would be Dominique Mocieanu (a gymnast), and Noah would be her brother, Carlos Marmol (a Cubs pitcher).  They lived together in a big apartment (the living room), and Dominique would practice her gymnastics while Marmol was pitching.  They had an empty bottle of vanilla extract which they filled with rice crispies.  They said those were their pills, and they were beer-flavored but didn't make them drunk.  Of course, they were obscenely rich and traveled in limousines and had chauffeurs, personal trainers, and chefs. 

I hated to interrupt their play, since they were actually getting along well, but Marmol had left a mess under the kitchen table when he ate, so I called him in to sweep it up.  He did it, but as he was sweeping, I heard him grumble something about why did the maid have to call in sick today. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Botannical Garden

We have a bunch of beautiful tulips all along the side of our house.  Every time one blooms, Sarah plucks it and gives it to me.  I have my own botannical garden in the kitchen now. 

Oz and Nz

I made Sarah's day by slipping a note and two chocolate chips under her door during quiet time.  My note said, "Dear Sarah, here's a little treat for you.  Love, Mom".  She read it out loud and let out a little squeal.  Then a note arrived under my door.  It said, "Mom I hav sum oz and nz for you".  It came with some cut up scraps of colored paper.  I studied it for a long time but couldn't figure out what the oz and nz could be.  I asked her later, and she explained that it was "odds and ends".  :)


Sometimes I plan a lesson or activity, and I think it will take a long time, but it ends up being over in five minutes. Today I planned a five-minute lesson on ants, and it went on for three hours!  I bought an ant farm several months ago and recently ordered the ants.  It's completely illogical that I paid four dollars for ants when I have a whole yard full of billions of free ants.  Yesterday the special non-mating Harvester ants arrived.  This morning I put them in the fridge so they would doze off and be easier to transfer to the farm.  While they were nodding off to sleep, I taught my lesson about the features and life cycles of ants.  Then we dumped the sleepy ants into the farm and spent a long time watching them wake up and start burrowing. 
Watching the ants inspired Sarah to draw them:
Then she donned some antennae, and they both wanted to play ants.
The learning was really cemented during playtime.  Here they are using their antennae to communicate:
The red ant and the black ant built a burrow and dove in:
The best part was that they wanted me to be the queen ant, whose only job is to eat and lay eggs.  Sarah put her tiara on me over my antennae, and I assumed my queenly English accent and attitude.  The worker ants covered me with a blanket and brought me food.  All I had to do was boss them around (which comes naturally) and say "plop plop plop" occasionally as I laid the eggs.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Return of the Calgon moment

This all happened within about 30 minutes.  First, Sarah wanted to invite the neighbor kids over for smoothies.  So while I was making smoothies, Noah came running in the house yelling, "Mom! I need a tissue!  I look like I've been in the Revolutionary War!"  And he did.  He was covered with blood and leaving a trail of blood all over the floor. This used to alarm me, but I'm used to his change-of-season nosebleeds by now, so I sent him back outside with a wad of tissues.  I delivered the smoothies and started wiping blood off the kitchen floor.  That's when I noticed the ants.  There was a line of them from the wall to a chunk of food under Sarah's chair.  The food was so completely covered by ants that I couldn't even tell what it was.  I started killing ants left and right, smashing them with the handle of a little broom, and I was yelling at them, "Go tell your friends this is not a safe house to come into!"  Noah came in for more tissues and was still gushing blood.  He started yelling at the ants, "Thousands of your men will be killed in battle if they come into this house...but at least they'll die with a full stomach!" 

He went back outside, and I heard lots of talk about who spilled whose smoothie all over the garage.  I started vacuuming up ant carcasses. Sarah came in because she was bleeding.  A new tooth coming in was bothering her.  After getting her bleeding stopped, I had to make a trip to Walmart for last minute dinner supplies. I went out to the garage and discovered smoothie in my shoes.  I sent a kid to wash out my shoes while I put on different shoes and went to the store.  It took me less than five minutes to get what I needed, but when I came back out to the parking lot, I couldn't remember where I parked.  I wandered all over the parking lot, carrying my two bags and trying to fight off a wasp that was dogging me everywhere I went. 

Finally found the car, made dinner, everyone stopped bleeding, shoes are clean, Mike sprayed for ants, all is well.

Straight from the horse's mouth

Last week, after a terrible incident, I banned my daughter from ever using glue again as long as she lives.  So today, I'm watching through the window at my kids' art class.  The teacher is explaining that they're going to do a project that will involve drawing, gluing,...
At that point, Sarah raises her hand and announces, "I won't be able to do that project."
The teacher asks why, and Sarah puts on a sad face and quotes me perfectly: "Because my mom said I am not allowed to use glue ever again as long as I live."

Onion rings

It's 8:30 p.m.  The kids are in bed, and I'm craving Burger King onion rings.  I'm wearing my fuzzy pajamas and slippers, so I'll just go through the drive-thru.  I pull into Burger King, roll down my window to order, and notice...a cardboard sign taped to the intercom: "Drive thru broken.  Come inside."  I have just enough of a speck of self-respect left to prevent me from walking into Burger King in my pajamas and slippers.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The lawn mower incident

When we celebrated Noah's first Gotcha Day (May 11, 2003), Mike's parents bought him a toy lawn mower.  It was love at first sight, and he's loved it for the last seven years.  Even two days ago, he was doubled over, pushing the way-too-small-for-him mower over the grass.  I didn't even see the ridiculousness of it, but Mike must have, because he threw it away.  Noah and I happened to be standing at the window when the garbage truck came this morning, so we had a clear view of the mower being dumped into the truck.  It was a disturbing sight, but not as disturbing as the one that immediately followed:  me running down the street with no bra, chasing the garbage truck.  By the time I caught it, the mower had already been crushed, and the garbage man scoffed at me.

I called Mike and demanded to know why he had done it, and he reasonably said that it was too small for both kids now.  I was mad about a perfectly good toy taking up space in the landfill when we could have given it to someone else.  I was mad at Mike for not discussing it with us.  I was mad that I had to explain it to Noah, even though he wasn't as disturbed as I was. He just said that he wished he could have given it to Holden (a neighbor kid).  I said, "We all make mistakes sometimes, and this time Daddy made a mistake, and we just have to forgive him for it."  Noah said ok and moved on.  I was the one who couldn't stop thinking about it.

I got in the shower, and as I stood under the water, memories of Noah and the mower flooded my mind.  Baby Noah in the front pack strapped to me, intently watching Mike mow, and crying if I took him inside. One-year-old Noah on his very special day, the first time he saw his own mower all shiny and new.  Toddler Noah wearing only a diaper and proudly "mowing" right alongside his daddy.  The way he used to say "see Daddy mow-mow" in his cute little voice.  Noah's little mower parked right next to Daddy's in the shed.  Suddenly I started sobbing and continued through the whole shower.  I realized that I wasn't mad about the loss of the mower; I was mourning the loss of my sweet little boy, who has now become a rather surly tween. 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Worker bees and house cats

It was supposed to be a big work day, clearing out the yard from last year's growth.  Mike was picking up sticks, and Noah and I were pulling old morning glory vines off the trellis.  Sarah was jumping on the trampoline.  She said, "Daddy, will you play with me, pleeeeeaaaase?"  Mike looked around at all the work to be done, looked over at Sarah, and jumped onto the trampoline with her.  Noah and I continued our work in silence, but after a few minutes he said, "You and I are worker bees, Mom."  He jerked his thumb in the direction of the trampoline, where Mike and Sarah were lying on their backs looking at clouds, and he said conspiratorially , "Those two are house cats."  I told him that Daddy was actually a worker bee with his priorities in the right place, so he only looked like a house cat.  He knows that his little kitten will only want to be with him for a few short years, and then he'll have the rest of his life to buzz around and make honey.
 The trellis before the worker bees cleaned it up...

...and after.

Star Wars or real life?

While I was making lunch, Noah asked me a question out of nowhere.  "Mom, who's your favorite general?"  Since he's perpetually talking about Star Wars, I assumed he meant a Star Wars general.  I said the only one I know: "General Grievous.  Who's yours?"  He looked at me funny and said, "George Washington."  I felt a little foolish. 

Later I was weeding the garden and mumbling about the insidious creeping charlie.  Noah said, "What did you call it?  Darth Sidious?"

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Girl Scouts

Every spring, I used to get miffed at the Girl Scouts.  They make the best thin mint cookies, and I can polish off a whole box in one sitting.  Back when I sold them myself about a hundred years ago, they were about $1.50 per box, and you got a substantial amount of cookies in each box.  Now I'm paying $3.50 per box and getting far less cookies in the box. 

So this year, I decided to make my own.  I found a recipe online and whipped up a batch.  Well, I didn't exactly WHIP them up; they were very labor intensive.  After hours of work and mess, the result was certainly not a Girl Scout thin mint.  It wasn't the recipe's fault, because I didn't follow it.  I was supposed to use peppermint oil, but I didn't want to buy a whole expensive bottle of it, so I just used mint flavored chocolate for dipping (it was "healthy" chocolate--75% cacao and pretty bitter).  And, most importantly, I forgot to bake them on parchment paper, so they stuck onto the cookie sheet, and I had to chip them off in little chunks.  Many of them just turned into dust.

I now have a greater appreciation for the Girl Scouts and don't mind paying $3.50 a box for good thin mints.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Piano lessons

I decided to start teaching piano lessons for my kids. Today we went to a good music store so I could look at beginning piano books and talk to the professionals.  I finally decided on a book, bought it, and started planning my lessons.  I was going to start tomorrow, but Noah asked if he could have a quick lesson before dinner.

My first lesson was how to sit at the piano, proper position of the hands, arms, etc.  Then we had a dinner break. After that, Noah wanted another lesson, so I taught him the number that goes with each finger, traced his hands and had him number the fingers, and played a round of "Can you wiggle the right finger as I call out the number?" Sarah was vaguely interested in the finger numbering game, but she wandered away soon after that.  I didn't really think she was ready for lessons yet, so anything she picks up will just be a bonus.

Noah wanted another lesson, so I gave a general overview of the keys, and had him strike various keys to hear the different sounds.  He was an eager learner and kept begging for more, to my delight. So we got into quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes.  He clapped out some rhythms, then worked on some fingering exercises.

I thought that was enough for the first day, but he really wanted to learn a song, so he learned "Mary Had a Little Lamb".  When he had learned the first half very well, I played the teacher's part so we made a duet, and he loved it. I loved it too.  It was richly satisfying to make music with my own son and to see how proud he was of himself.  What a privilege it is to teach him!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Digging up bones

The kids had a whole morning of fun with nothing but a cheap bag of dog biscuits. I hid the biscuits in the sand and told the kids to pretend they were archaeologists and dig up the bones.

Then they assembled the bones into skeletons.  Sarah said she was making a "very ancient rat."  I asked her if she could tell how old it was, and she said, "It looks like it was born in...maybe the 1970's."  I suddenly felt very ancient myself.

Some of the bones were broken, so the archaeologists had to concentrate hard to match up the pieces.

One of the archaeologists ate several of the bones.  Maybe we should have done this after lunch when they weren't so hungry.