Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Great Lego Project

My BFF is simply a ball of energy. She can run circles around me and still look good! She's also brimming with youth and vivaciousness. When we're old and in the nursing home, she'll be the one leading the aerobics class. (I'll be watching from the back while I eat my chocolate ice cream.)

Because she has so much energy, she is constantly looking for constructive ways to channel it. She exercises religiously. She plays with her kids- I'm not just talking supervising, either. I mean she roller skates, rides bikes, plays basketball and gets down on the floor for Barbies and Legos.

She spends time organizing and cleaning her home (something my hubby prays will rub off on me every day of his life). But, as with anything she does, she does it with determination and verve.

The other day she called on the phone, obviously absolutely giddy with excitement.

"Guess what?" she breathed.


"I just read the most amazing article!" (Did I mention that she's also a veracious reader that could put most librarians to shame?)

"Ooooh... What was it about?" I asked.

"Storage for Legos," she squealed.

I stayed quiet on my end waiting for the rest of it. But she was done.

"What?" I asked, confused.

"There was this whole, big article about how to store Legos," she gushed. "It gave some great ideas on containers and sizes and everything. It said that kids are more likely to play with them if they are organized and they can find everything. It was such a good article, I looked it up online and found even more articles with more ideas!"

(Was there a big movement for Lego storage that I missed somewhere?)

"So... You are... organizing the Legos," I said slowly, again, certain I was missing something.

"Yes!" she laughed.

Now, her OCD tendencies with her children's toys are something with which I am quite familiar. She almost had a stroke when she found out I co-mingle the Barbies with the Poly Pockets. And all of her Little People were stored in their original groupings: the school Little People with the school; the firemen Little people with the fire house; and, so on. And she admits to sometimes redressing and re-grooming all the Barbies after her daughter has gone to bed.

However, the proper organization of Legos was a new one for me. Especially since we had been years without the first Lego in our house. We did have them at one point. But every time I stepped on one with bare feet, or crawled across one on my hands and knees looking for something else, I would swoop up every Lego I could find within reach and pitch them in the garbage can, muttering very unladylike things under my breath.

Finally, I said, "Well, I guess if that's what makes you happy..."

She laughed, knowing full well that any more storage than a muck bucket for the toys was over the edge as far as I was concerned.

"Yes! I'm going to Michaels today to look for the containers. I have a coupon and I saw some of the containers I think will work in their flyer," she said excitedly.

"Okay... Well, that's great! I hope your kids love it!" I said, trying to sound supportive and enthusiastic.

Bless her heart, her good organizing and cleaning intentions are totally lost on me. Not that I don't enjoy a pretty, organized, clean home. It's just that I use more broad strokes, compared to her attention to the tiny, little details.

I giggled to myself for the rest of the day thinking of her looking like a kid at Christmas, as she lovingly placed each Lego in it's appropriate storage receptacle. Her kids probably will be thrilled with it.

And it's one of those funny, funky things that makes her who she is (not that I have anything funny or funky LOL). Her attention to detail, her energy, her youthfulness are all just some of the things that make her such a great BFF. (It's also why we could never be married, among other things LOL).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rock the Vote!

The government has me really ticked off lately. Usually, we sort of have an understanding: you leave me alone, and I'll leave you alone (in a very general sense, of course).

But recently, the feds have given away money like we have an entire plantation of money trees on Capital Hill that is having a bumper crop season. First, they've been "injecting the economy with cash flow."

When I hear the word "injection," I usually think of a shot. On the rare occasion, I hear of shots being administered to make someone well feel even better. But usually, shots are for someone who is sick, who needs a medication to get into their system quickly. So, I think even the government must realize our economy has some sickness that is in need of a cure.

Next, they give away $750 million to bail out some bozos, who in turn looked the proverbial gift horse in the mouth, and made sure to line their pockets quite nicely with the first chunk of change. It didn't matter that they had to run the bill through ump-teen-hundred times to get it to pass; by gum, they were going to push it through.

And, again, their choice of words: "bail out," caused me some real concern. But apparently, I'm talking to the wind.

Now, I'm seeing that they are considering another economic stimulus package. HUH??? I'm sorry. That seems a little like me overdrawing my bank account, so the bank extends my credit, and gives me cash to boot. How does this even make sense???

I am soooo not one to turn down money! It hurts to even think of saying, "No, thanks, I'm okay." But in this case, it is a short-term band aid for a gaping hole that needs stitches and major rehab.

I think one of the major problems is the "system". We have created, or allowed to have had created, a government that is so entrenched in the minutia of rubbing elbows and swapping favors, it can't get anything done.

I think the "party affiliation" is the biggest joke we have going! It's like two big unions fighting each other for the manufacturing plant staff. One says, "I'm going to do A, B, and C to make your world a perfect place." Then the other one says, "No, they won't. And even if they did, it won't be perfect. It will be awful. So I will do the exact opposite. Then your world will be perfect."

Think about it, we have two party-affiliated candidates who have been interviewed, had debates, had books and articles written about them and by them, and have media coverage in every language on millions of stations all day, every day. And yet, I can hardly tell you a thing about either one of them. I know my ideals lean more toward one side than the other.

But I've never heard a single candidate say, "I believe in this. You can count on it." They rely on their party's doctrine and ride the fence in hopes of making it all the way to the White House.

I say: NO MORE!
Let's totally revamp the political voting process.

In keeping with the electoral college, let's let each state have representation: let's nominate a single candidate from each state- either party, or no party, aside. Then have a convention Miss America style.


Each candidate would be required to compose and submit an essay between eight and ten pages in length. It should include their resume and their plans for their term in office. Specific talking points should be in plain, simple language, so we actually know their stance- not this fuzzy, shape-shifty, "who's my audience" kind of junk they're throwing at us now.

At the convention, each candidate would be asked to defend their essay and give more specific information to questions posed by a panel. There would be no "debate." (Why do we have debates anyway? No president I know of debates with foreign leaders or dignitaries. And they can present a plan in front of congress and/or senate, but no one stands on the opposing side ready to refute and rebuttal.)

During the convention at specified times, the public would be asked to come in and cast their votes. The first round would take us down to 15 candidates. The second round, down to three. Then the final round would select the winner. The runner-up would be Vice President.

I know it would take a lot of coordination for voting in a candidate for your state, then the three subsequent votes for a president/vice president. But really, how is it any harder or less cost-effective than the stupid "party conventions," followed by weeks of "hitting the campaign trail," and "drumming up support" (aka: cash)?

And after all is said and done, the President doesn't really make any laws. They advise, suggest and call in favors. They do impact foreign affairs, too. However, you can be sure we are not relying on them alone for delicate peace treaties and negotiations. There's an entire staff of people dedicated to paving the way, so that the President shows up, waves, signs some stuff and calls it a day.

So, we're really looking for someone who is smart enough to think on their feet, and tolerable enough to listen to when they address the nation. For day to day operations, they need only be shrewd enough to surround themselves with intelligent, capable people who make the President look good.

Yes, I'm jaded. Yes, I'm disillusioned. Except, I don't know that I ever really bought into it all in the first place. To me, the government sounds more like a tug-of-war between two groups who appear on the surface to be fundamentally opposed to each other. But, upon closer examination, you realize they all have a thinly hidden personal agenda that makes them not only pull on the rope, but sometimes push, and sometimes drop it all-together.

I also stand by the fact that if you let a bunch of moms up on Capitol Hill for about a month, we'd get it all taken care of. We'd send the children to their rooms for an extended "time out." We'd make everyone play nicely and share. We would explain to Billy that just because Susie has a toy doesn't mean he automatically gets one, too. We would make everyone eat their vegetables and exercise more than walking across the room to the refrigerator. We would tell the lawyers who gunk up the legal system just for the money, "Enough. This is a stupid case. Dismissed. Now, go home to your mother and tell her what you've done." And we would all get naps and milk & cookie breaks.

I hope in my lifetime I see things get better, and not any worse. I hope we don't leave our children with the legacy of debt and depleted natural resources. And I hope we find a way to make our politicians be less about campaigning and more about representing their constituents' interests.

I know- it's kind of a big dream. But, so was Democracy when it sailed over from Europe all those years ago...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Apple for Teacher

So, the kids got their report cards today. Amy and Emma had few surprises. But, Keith... Well, Keith had a shock in store for us: He got a "D." In Spanish.

Now, to be fair, the rest of his grades were actually pretty good. So, if he were a baseball player, his batting average would rock! But, since he's a student, the "D" is still unacceptable, any way you slice it.

As a side note to the report cards, my father picked up the kids for piano lessons, and discovered Keith's time bomb first. Dad quietly called me on his cell phone and whispered the news into my ear.

I don't know if he was preparing me because he was concerned that I might throw Keith under the train down the street. Or if he was concerned that I might say, "Plbbbfff... It's Spanish- Like he'll ever use that!" Or if he was just genuinely giving me a head's up so that I would have time to process it and sound like an intelligent adult when Keith told me, as opposed to the blathering, sputtering, infuriated crazy woman I would have been without some preparation and a Fat Free White Chocolate Moca Grande, No Whipped Cream, from Star Bucks.

I'm going with the last one.

But I was struck by the situation, none the less. The "Dad" that raised me would have turned purple, used my full name in that "tone," and "discussed" it with me until I begged him to just beat me instead. The "Dad" that called me today did a wonderful job of "reporting" without giving opinion. I guess I can see how grandchild rates vs. child... Anyway...

After the big "confession," Keith vacillated wildly between "I'm so sorry. I'm an awful person," and "Eh... No biggie..." I wasn't sure if he didn't get it, or didn't want to deal with it. I sort of think it was a little of both.

He was concerned that this would go on his "permanent record." I tried to remind him that it would all be averaged together. That relieved him.

But I was still in a quandary. What do I do? Obviously, I can't just pat him on the head and say, "Try harder next time." And I don't see how "punishing" him for a grade helps. For me, the ultimate goal was to give him the appropriate tools and help him learn the skills, so that he doesn't have this happen again.

I called hubby, who was out of town. Hubby wanted to have the teachers send home reports. I felt like that was giving the teachers extra work for something that was ultimately Keith's problem. So, as I have been known to do sometimes when hubby is out of town and we are working on an issue together long distance, I got got frustrated and said, "Never mind. I'll do it myself."

I called a friend of mine whose children are a few years ahead of mine and asked her advice. She, without prompting or payment from hubby, said that she had asked the teachers to send home reports on her child, and had very good results.

I promptly called back hubby, and as I have also been know to do sometimes, I ate crow. He was a good sport, and didn't gloat- much.

I spent the rest of the evening wrestling with the best way to execute a program that would be mutually beneficial to Keith, his teachers and me.

This is a part of parenting they could never put in "the brochure" for enlisting new parents. If we got the "real" scoop before getting pregnant, we may never have babies. If we knew the heart-ache, the sleepless nights, the worry that came from every side, the world's population might eventually cease to exist. After all, who would willing sign up for such a job???

After much thought, a slew of e-mails and a heart-to-heart with Keith, we arrived at an acceptable plan of action:

Each Friday for the next nine-week grading period, Keith would have each of his teachers sign off on his planner to show that he had done his work satisfactorily for the week. There would consequences (both positive and negative) for his results.

If he got all signatures and they were all positive, at the end of the nine weeks, I would take he and three friends to dinner and a movie. I believed that all positive information from the teachers would indicate to me that he was paying more attention and, thus, should improve his scores.

However, if he neglected to get a signature, or if he had negative feedback, he would lose privileges for the week following. We set up a tiered system that took away another privilege for each missed signature and/or negative feedback.
The teachers, Keith and I agreed to the program. And we start immediately.

I know this is a hard time. I know that Middle School is new in every way possible: socially, academically- everything. Plus, you throw in some hormones and you've got a potential disaster.

I'm very proud of how Keith is handling it thus far. He's thoughtful and responsible. He's a typical person of this age: he has the overwhelming desire to be both grown up and young at the same time.

I know we will navigate through these waters together. I know there will be a constant give and take. Middle school is anything but static.

In the mean-time, I hope he really takes all this to heart, so that when grades do become a part of his permanent record, we aren't still having some of these struggles. After all, I'm counting on him to get a full scholarship to college, being super-successful in his chosen career, making the big bucks, and letting me live out my latter years as the royalty I was always destined to be... Okay, I would at least like him to be able to do whatever he wants, without having to work around bad grades or stupid choices, and I want him to be happy.

As parents, I think that's what we all want. And, if I recall correctly, I believe that part was in the brochure, which is why I signed up for the job- and love every minute of it!...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Writing on the Wall...

I have always loved words- I love the way they have rules, like grammar and spelling; I love the way you can make them sound different by inflection or accent; I love that they are creative, that you can manipulate the same words in a way that you can make them into a mood, a scene, a direction, a law, an article or even an application or a resume.

I have always loved reading. Not too recently I discovered the love and joy of writing. Journals and diaries always seemed a little too self-appreciating for me (although I know of lots of people who journal faithfully and it's wonderful for them!). I don't have the attention span to write novels (although I wish I did). But, I found and and have been hooked ever since.

Blogger is more journalistic, allowing me to comment on my world. WeBook is more challenging, with members asking each other to participate in various projects, from poetry to short stories in all styles and forms.

Since I love being a wife/mommy more than anything in this world, Blogger allows me to look at sometimes challenging situation and find the humor in it. I've been able to share these with family and friends, in hopes they will laugh, too.

It is common place to be in the middle of the crisis of the day and, after a deep breath, say, "I'm going to have to blog about this!"

I sincerely hope my children will have my love for words- whether they express it in reading, writing, song or personal interaction. And I will continue my "free" hobby (there are so few of those- and my hubby is quite happy that I've finally found one) as a way to remember, laugh, get things off my chest and create.

Thank you for joining me when you can. Have a good one!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Full House or Straight Flush?

Being a parent often requires the ability to have a "poker face," regardless of the fact that you want to flinch, scream, cry, shout, laugh, smile or totally storm out of the room. Some days the "poker face" is harder than others.

The other day I was in the car with Keith alone. Usually during our secluded rides together, Keith will take the opportunity to chat with me, pass ideas by me, or sometimes ask me those big life questions that make me really think.

On this particular day, Keith was in a questioning mood. He asked me about raising his allowance (no), if he could make his own web site (yes, with conditions), and if he would get his own car when he turned 16 (I say no, hubby says yes- we'll see).

After a moment or so of quiet, Keith fidgeted a little then took a deep breath.

He leaned in to me and asked quietly, "You know the 'w' word?..."

This line of questioning is never good. A) We were in the car alone. There was no need to whisper- except if Keith was nervous or embarrassed. B) I'm never sure where the line of questioning is going: What is the "w" word, and to what topic of conversation will this lead?

The "poker face" is in full force at this point, as I try to respond casually, "The 'w' word? What is that?"

"You know- the 'w' word...," he repeats for emphasis.

"Well..." I pause. "How about you tell me what you mean?"

"Well...," he blushes. "...Whore."

Poker face. Poker face. Breathe. Breathe.

"What about it?" I ask casually.

"What... does it mean?" he asks, brow furrowed.

"Well, it means a person who is promiscuous," I danced. I want to tell the truth, but not cross the line into "WAY too much information..."

"Oh," he said, understanding. "So, is it like a 'slut'?"


"Yes," I say as though we are conversing about the weather. "So, um, where did you hear these words?"

"Oh, I'd rather not say," he says quickly.

Mind running wild... Poker Face... Breathe...

"Keith, it's okay to tell me anything- you know that. But I need to know: where did you hear those words?"

Keith blushes furiously. Oh... Never good...

"Okay," he finally takes a deep breath. "...Dad."

"Dad?" I repeat incredulously.

"Yeah," he smiles at my inability to keep my poker face at that one. "He was telling me words I should never say."

I am searching desperately for something to say. I really don't want to know the answers to any questions I'm thinking. I really don't want to undermine Hubby's parenting abilities, especially since I don't know the whole conversation or the context of the situation.

So I pretend to suddenly be overly concerned with the traffic as I drive. I let the silence settle in for a minute.

Finally Keith questions, "Mom?"

"Hmm?" I try to ask casually.

"You know I don't say those, right?" he asks, looking concerned.

"Of course!" I smile confidently at him.

"Okay, good," he sighs, relieved. "Thanks."

"Sure. For what?"

"For not freaking out."

"Why would I freak out?" I ask.

"Well, dad sorta' did."


"When I asked him about what I just asked you," he said.

"Oh. But you all worked it out?" I wanted to make sure my co-parent team member was in the clear.

"Oh, yeah. I asked him about the 'w' word and he freaked out a little. Then we talked about it and he told me all the words I'm not supposed to say."

"Oh... But he didn't tell you what it meant?"

"Like I was going to ask him that," Keith chuckled.

"Okay..." I let the subject drop.

There were so many other things I wanted to say, ask, advise. But with my children, the "poker face" is the most effective means of communication.

If I push, they bolt like frightened deer. But the "poker face" has them walking up tentatively to eat out of my hand.

The irony is that I have no clue how to play poker. I could lose everything I own and then some in a poker match against anyone who knew the basics.

But--- If I ever do learn how to play the card game of poker, I've already got my bluff expression down pat!...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mommy Barbie- Super Powers!

I always knew that being "Mommy Barbie" was special. However, until recently, I was unaware I had special super powers...

This is highly confidential, because I don't know the full use of my powers yet, and I don't know what all this means. But I am willing to accept this "gift" and use it for good instead of evil...

I... am the only one in the house that can hear a telephone ringing.

At first, I thought it was just a fluke. The phone would ring and ring, and all other four members of my family would continue doing whatever it was they were doing without even flinching.

I, on the other hand, was ensconced in some project that I couldn't get out from under in time to answer the phone before it went to voice mail. So, I called on the help of my four other family members:

"Can someone please answer the phone?"

ring.... ring....

"Can someone PLEASE answer the phone?"

ring.... ring....

Now I'm throwing off whatever project I was into to try to leap over the sofa table and race across the kitchen to grab the handset.

My family looks up with surprise:

"What are you doing?"

"I am answering the phone!" I say irritated.

They look at me blankly, nothing registering.

The phone call could be from one of the children's friends wanting to play together. It could be from one of hubby's friends wanting to tell him they had a tee time set up for them. And yet, no one seems to really notice or care.

I know when the children get older we will have small battles and major wars waged over the use of the phone for social calls. I sort of wince at the mere thought of it.

But for now, no one seems to have the ability to hear the super-sonic ringing of our phone...


Unless it is a telemarketer, donation solicitor or some other "unavailable" number that comes up on caller ID. Immediately my children's interest is piqued.

"Mom, who do we know from DesMoines, Iowa?"

"No one. Please don't..." I don't get to finish because a child is pressing a phone up to my ear.

If you try to call my house and you don't get an answer, do not be dismayed. It does not mean we are not home. My super sonic hearing will kick in and I will try my best to get to the phone.

If all else fails, just call my cell...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Goldilocks & the Three Kids

When we were planning our family, I could have never, ever predicted how different each of our children would be. In my mind, they were all coming from the same parents- they would all be fairly similar... HA!

A lot of times I can guess how a child will react to a situation by looking at "Birth Order." For example, Keith has characteristics of both an "only child" and a "first child." Emma has characteristics of both a "first child" and a "second child." Amy is pretty squarely a "youngest child."

But, they still have their own personalities and their own ways of dealing with things. For example, Amy, the youngest, will scale the cabinets to retrieve her own dishes, then she will pull things out of the refrigerator and even heat it herself in the microwave.

However, Keith will stand in front of the refrigerator and call to me upstairs, "Mom, can you get me some milk?"

"Honey, can you get it yourself?" I call back down.

"No, I can't," he whines.

"Amy, can you help him?" I call back down, sarcastically.

"Sure!" she calls back, excited.

"Mooom! Make her stop it!" Keith screams.

"I got it!" Emma calls.

Finally, I drop what I'm doing and head downstairs.

"Okay, what's going on?" I sigh.

"Amy is trying to get my milk for me and I don't want her to," Keith whines.

"I was just trying to help," Amy whines back.

"I told him I would help," Emma sighs, "but he said he wanted you to help him."

At this point, I wonder if there's a hidden camera somewhere, and if this is all some elaborate trick to make me crazy. Sadly, it's not.

I sigh again, to which all the kids look at me questioningly.

"What's wrong, mom?" Keith asks.

Do I really have to explain? *Sigh*

I knew parenting would have it's ups and downs, but I never realized I would question my sanity on such a regular basis...
I do hope that Keith will begin to learn to be a little bit more independent. I hope that Emma stays as completely sweet as she is. And I hope that Amy... well, I hope that Amy continues to be Amy...

But regardless of how they may "turn out" or what their "birth order personality" may be, my kids are "just right" the way they are...
How could a parent ask for more than that?...
Well- MAYBE it would be just a little nice if Keith could get his own milk now and then...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Times, They Are 'a Changin'...

Keith has provided hubby and I with some lively conversation as we discuss all the new and wonderful (and sometimes, not-so-wonderful) things going on in his Middle-School life. He is ultra-aware of all of the "changes" he is about to go through, and looks forward with excitement and great anticipation to "growing up."

Recently, he came home from school, obviously distracted and somewhat jumpy.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine," he said, looking at my ear.

I ducked my head to move my eyes into his line of vision.

"What?" he asked.

"Are you okay?" I repeated.

"Yes, mom. I'm fine," he insisted.

Later that day he quietly came to find me and made sure I was alone.



"Something happened today at school."

"Oh. Are you okay?" I asked, mind spinning wildly with all sorts of thoughts about what "something" was.

"Yeah... We had an assembly in the auditorium... Just the sixth graders... We had 'the talk.' They talked about 'puberty.' It was embarrassing."

"Oh. I guess it was a little embarrassing... Did they just have the boys in there?"

"No. They had the girls, too. That was part of what made it so embarrassing. He talked about getting hair under your arms- and other places, too. And he talked about how our voices are going to change," he said incredulously.

"Wow... Did you already know everything he talked about?" (He and I had "The Talk" about 2 1/2 years ago when he cornered me with one of those questions you can't get out of.)
"Uhm... Yeah. I think so."

"Who talked to you?"

"Ooh! It was some guy from the pregnancy center," he reported, whispering the word "pregnancy."

"Was it a good talk?"

"He was kind of funny. At first he said, 'Today we're going to talk to about a word that has an S and an E in it.' Everyone got all red-faced. Then he said, 'I was talking about respect. What were you all thinking?' Then we got even redder.

"He kept using the word 'puberty.' Everyone was bright red- like glowing!"

I could feel his embarrassment, but another part of me had a hard time not smiling.

"Well," I asked tentatively, "do you have any questions?"

"Nah," he dismissed the idea easily.


"Okay, well if you do, please let me or daddy know." (Especially daddy, since he's been able to effectively avoid all such discussions to date.)
"Sure," he said, already moving on to the next thought.

The next morning I was downstairs getting breakfast for the kids, when Keith came down and asked for milk. I grabbed the milk and continued on with my routine.

"Hey mom?"


"My voice is changing," he announced.

I looked up at him, incredulously. "Really?"

"Yeah," he said proudly.

"Why do you think that?" I asked carefully.

"Well, because I'm going through puberty," he said with authority.

"That's what you talked about yesterday in school."

"Yeah. But I really am. My voice is really changing. Can't you hear it?"

"Well... Sort of, I guess."

A huge grin broke over his face. He walked away looking like he had just won the Heisman Trophy.

I was able to hold myself together until he was back upstairs. Then I allowed myself to laugh quietly.

Wouldn't it be interesting if they really did go through puberty, voice changes, hair growth and all the other teen-ager things, simply by the power of suggestion? Well, maybe "interesting" isn't the exact right word...

Keith is, indeed, getting older and growing and changing. Perhaps not at the rate he imagines or desires. But he never lets life get dull around here. He is a joy to watch. And it is wonderful to get to be a part of it all!

If you see Keith anytime soon and you want to score some big points with him, just tell him how much lower his voice sounds. But beware: his head is likely to swell with pride so that you and he both don't fit in the same room...