Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Little Lost Lemur

I was on the verge of plastering posters around the neighborhood this morning. They would read like this:

"Missing! Small brown lemur with giant eyes and fluffy white tufts of ear hair. 
He goes by the name "Wemur" and he's been known to develop ear infections, so he should not swim without ear plugs. He likes to snack on Cheez-its and apple juice and occasionally belches rudely. 
Last seen in the arms of Wuke Boper yesterday afternoon. 
Please return ASAP. He is missed!"

Tricky Little Lemur

We looked for him last night and didn't find him. At bedtime, I convinced Luke that he was playing hide and seek and he would find him in the morning. He settled for Coco Monkey and Fifi, but he did wake up asking for Lemur in the middle of the night. 

First thing this morning, he sat up in bed and said, "Mommy, will you find Lemur with me?" I set off searching the house for him again. I looked everywhere I could think that he might hide. I looked all the places that I thought Luke might put him. I asked Luke lots of questions to try to jog his memory of where he left them, but he had no idea. That was the odd part. He usually knows where he left his stuff. It might be under the table at Jack's, but he can tell you where it is.

I was becoming more distraught as I search the upstairs, the basement, outside, my car and then started looking again. I sent Dave a text, "Lemur didn't get into the big truck with you, did he?" He had not. All the while I was looking, Luke was thinking up places that he might be and telling stories about him. Lemur is the most special of Luke's babies; he's the Maggie Beth of Luke's world. We really needed to find him.

Three generations. 
When Grandmother got to the house, I whispered frantically, "I can't find Lemur!" She started looking, too. We pulled the bed out to see if he was trapped between the mattress and the wall, then she started pulling out the toy baskets. I told her I had already looked in there, but please look again. 

She found him. He was hiding at the bottom of the basket of dress-up stuff. I had looked there three times, but I didn't dig deep enough. She thought she had put him there when she cleaned all of the dress up crap off the floor yesterday. When I told Dave that he was found, he told me he was the one who put him there when he cleaned the dress up crap off the floor. I thought I had put him there when I cleaned the dress up crap off the floor. Obviously Luke didn't know where he was because he didn't clean up any dress up crap off the floor.

I think there's a lesson to be learned here: Stop cleaning up Luke's crap. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Raising a Mixed Set

Since we have one of each gender, the games ebb and flow between traditional "boy" and "girl" games; they both play both kinds whole-heartedly, and sometimes they fully integrate both gender roles into whatever they are doing. It's very flexible and I love to listen to their games changing as they play.

One recent Saturday morning when we had no where to be, Luke and I were in the kitchen making breakfast. I opened the can and he put the biscuits in the pan. It was fancy.

Ella and the baby Maggie Beth were on the couch, which was Huddle House, having breakfast. I could hear her talking to Maggie about getting syrup on her shirt and so on. A few minutes later, she brought Maggie into the kitchen with a clean t-shirt and asked me to dress her because they were about to go out to lunch.

Me: (while dressing Maggie B) Lunch? Didn't you just have breakfast?
Ella: Yes, but this time we are going out to eat so that Jim and Lucas and Addison and Kylie can go with us.
(It's been a while since she's talked about him, so I'll remind you that Jim is her imaginary husband. The rest of those names are their children.)
Me: Oh, they didn't go with you to breakfast?
Ella: (pointedly) No, because Jim was helping you in the kitchen.
Me: (to Luke) I think she want's you to be Jim now, and go to lunch with her and the kids.
Luke: I'm not Jim. I'm a pirate.
Ella: (in her sassy voice, with a hand on one hip) No you aren't because I did not marry a pirate!
Luke: Oh, otay.

Then he climbed down out of the chair and took his rightful place as head of the family so they could go out to lunch.

The next morning, while we were getting ready for church, I heard him talking to Dave about his babies.When he isn't playing Jim, he has his own family of stuffed animals that he tends to - they are small and soft so that he can hold them all in his arms at one time. Seriously, stuffed animals have to meet a certain size criteria before he considers them one of his "babies". He currently has eight: Lemur, Coco Monkey, Bunny Bunny Pete, Peter Cottontail, Mickey, Fifi, Baby Bear, and No, Baby Bear (Yes, that's two bears named Baby Bear, because, for another month, he's two and it's funny to watch Mommy try to figure out which Baby Bear is needed at bedtime). I didn't catch the whole conversation with Dave, but I heard him finish with, "I a sugar daddy. You a sugar daddy, too. We are sugar daddies."

Dave asked him if that meant they were sweet daddies, but we'll never know the answer to that question.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Nine Things I Learned on Vacation

1. Led Zeppelin's Ramble On makes a reference to The Lord of the Rings. How did I never hear this before?

2. My oldest child can swim. Officially. She swims well enough that we feel comfortable sitting on the edge of the deep end of the pool while she's in it.
Before swim lessons - with floaties and hanging on the steps.
Georgia is the best swimmer of us all.

A month later - jumping into the deep end. No more floaties.
3. The Man Cub will roll in the sand until he's completely covered in it, but he cannot abide sand gloves.
Juke and Lake, playing in the sand.
Even Ella rolled in the sand.
4. Little boys are so compelled to kick down sand castles that they will meltdown into fits of tears until you finally let them.
5. Looking for shells never gets old.

6. They actually DO close the pool when a kid poops in there. (It wasn't one of our kids. Thankfully.)

7. Just when I think Luke's tan can't get any darker, it does. A stranger asked us if he was Indian, and even Dave commented that he might have been switched at birth. And, next to the lot of them, with a week's worth of beach tan, I still look like I just stepped out of the month of January.
He was fearless in the surf.
She has a pretty sweet tan, too.
8. Plastic bananas and California Raisins catch the wind and land in approximately the same location when thrown off of a 6th floor balcony, despite the difference in size and weight.

9. My children still adjust their bodies and sleep cycles to match each other when they sleep together.
The flash woke them enough that they both rolled the other way at the same time.


We moved our command center to the beach for a week and now we're on the way home. This is his going home face, complete with the requisite airbrushed vacation t-shirt. 
He woke up this morning talking about his cat, so I think he's ready for home. 

Stay tuned for cringe-worthy pictures of children wallowing in sand. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

What do I like about my body?

I read this blog post this morning, and I thought about this article I shared on Facebook a few weeks ago and all of the Photoshopped before and after pictures I've seen of celebrities lately, and my own hard work to live healthier in body and mind, and I decided I needed to answer this question for myself.

I'll start with what I don't like, for honesty.

I don't like the one wavy section of hair on the back of my head that keeps it all from being perfectly straight so that it requires extra work when I let it grow long.

I don't like the extra weight I've been carrying between my belly button and my knees since Luke quit nursing.

I don't like my extra wide feet that make it difficult to find really cute shoes that fit.

That's a pretty short list. I'm pretty proud of that because it used to be a whole lot longer. I've worked really hard since becoming a mother to love my body for what it is and stop wishing for it to be something it's not.

The hair? It's just hair. It's frustrating when it won't behave, but I don't have to obsess over it anymore. I can always just cut it off when I've reached my limit of tolerance with it.

The soft mid-section? Well, it did a whole lot of work growing humans, and I'm really in awe of that, still. The extra weight? That's my own fault for over-indulging, even when I know it's not good for my long-term health. I'm steadily working to lose it the healthy way - by eating food that's good for me and only what I need instead of enough to feed three people.

The feet? They will always piss me off while I'm shoe shopping, but that won't stop me from shopping.

What do I like about my body?

It grew two people! And fed them! While I was nursing, I secretly wanted one of those t-shirts that says, "I make milk. What's your superpower?" but I thought it might be a bit much.

These arms? The ones that I always compare to those Photoshopped, skinny, celebrity arms? They are strong. They can lift crying children and hug hurting people. They make me feel loving.

These hands? The ones that are starting to show their age? They know a lot. The can cook, and clean, and fix almost anything. They mend books and scraped knees. They brush hair and teeth, and they type lots and lots of words. They paint and glue and, sometimes they even sew, just a little. They make me feel capable.

These legs? The ones that have always been just a little too thick? They take me places and keep up with a super-fast boy. They walked miles to console an inconsolable baby. They make me feel powerful.

This head? The one that has often seemed so dark and twisted? It is full of knowledge - from books, from people, from Google, from living. Even better than that? It seems to have an unending hunger for more. It wants to know all the things about all the things. It makes me feel determined.

This heart? The one that's been so broken, and hardened, and hurt? It is full and joyful in a way that I can only explain by naming the one who made it that way: Jesus. Oh, sometimes those scars still haunt me, but this heart makes me feel humble and hopeful.

Isn't that interesting? The things I like about this body are nothing like the things this world say I should want.

What do you like about yours?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Lawyer Kids

I know that to become an actual lawyer you have to complete several years of extra schooling and pass a couple of tests. Dave and I lived through that together. However, I do think some people are born with certain personality traits that make them more suited to the profession.

I suspected that Dave was one of those people after spending several years debating with him, and after hearing the stories of how he used to argue with his mother until she was absolutely defeated. Now that I'm raising his children, I absolutely know this to be fact. I don't know if they will be lawyers, but they definitely have the personalities for it.

At the ripe old ages of 5 and almost 3, they already do a lot of hair-splitting, and I often have to award them points for a technicality when I didn't clearly state all of the boundaries of a situation.

Case in point - I have a rule about the front porch. They are allowed to walk around the brick wall like it's a balance beam, but they cannot step on the flowers. I don't know how many times I have said, "Don't step on my flowers!" They know this rule. Luke especially knows this rule because he is the main person I have to say it to - him and the dog.

Over the long weekend, I was standing at the kitchen sink and happened to look up and see this.

He wasn't stepping on the flowers.
After awarding him points for the technicality, I made him get off of the lantana and I clarified that he cannot sit on the flowers either.

Between these experiences and their willingness -  passion, even - to argue to the death (and I don't mean whining and repeating a request over and over again, I mean actual, rational, often very logical arguing), I find myself just shaking my head and walking away. They are just like their father in this way.

In fairness, my mothers would tell you that I have always been stubborn and willing to argue with a wall. I don't deny this fact; I'm passionate when I get my heart set on something. However, that is not the same thing as arguing just for the sake of arguing, or just for the fun of it. It's different than being able to disengage from the point at hand and swap sides just to keep the argument alive and trap your opponent with their own words, and that, people, is where Dave Roper is very, very good. I fear that in a few more years, these children will be arguing with the same skill.

You can't win an argument with any of these people, so I don't even try anymore.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Paid Chores

Ella and I have had a few conversations in recent months about her opinion that I never buy her anything. It's true that we don't buy them things every time we go to a store, or even most times. It's pretty rare that we buy them anything outside of the normal gift giving occasions. She has everything she could possibly need and most of what she wants. She doesn't need, or really even want, whatever piece of junk toy strikes her fancy in the toy aisle. I typically handle these requests with a simple, "I will put it on your list for your birthday or Christmas." I keep a list for both of them in my phone so they can see me add to it while we stand in the store.

She also really has no concept that it takes money to buy things. We've taught them from the time they were able to feed whatever change we bring home or money they are given to their piggy banks, and they LOVE feeding their pigs. They don't even realize they could take that money to the store and bring home some piece of junk in exchange for it. They know that we go to work to get money to pay the bills and buy the things we need, but that's really the extent of their understanding.

One of the things that is so important to us that they learn is money management and all of the things that go along with it - check writing, reconciliation, saving, planning, tithing, debt retirement - all of it. We want them to be smart about their money by the time they leave our house. We needed to provide a way for them to earn money so that they can learn how to tithe, save, and spend it. Dave and I have talked about how to approach it, consulted Dave Ramsey's web site, our own experiences, and how other parents plan to or have taught these lessons. Neither of us were comfortable with just giving an allowance, and we weren't comfortable paying them for things that we expect them to do anyway - like keeping their rooms neat and putting their stuff away instead of leaving it in the living room. We finally decided on an approach that we hope will work in our family. It's a commission system, similar to what Dave Ramsey suggests.

I talked to Ella about it a few months ago and she loved the idea. We told her we would start it after she turned five, and I finally set it up for her this weekend. I had to put a lot of thought into what chores I am willing to pay her for because I expect her to be responsible for herself and her stuff without payment, and because I had to figure out what she is capable of doing mostly unassisted. The things that I previously set out for her in her daily lists will remain unpaid, and we settled on seven possible jobs that she can do or help with each week. Some of them are daily and some of them are just once or twice a week. I wrote them all out on a piece of scrapbook paper and framed it so we can mark them off with a dry erase marker.

Ella's Paid Jobs
She has the potential to earn $7 a week and of the $7, she will tithe $1 and save $1 (we've set the expectation that she's saving for a car, so it's a long-term savings project). We will pay her on Saturday morning so that she has money for the offering at church on Sunday and money to spend at the store when we do our shopping, if she chooses.

She is very enthusiastic about it right now, and I'm hoping that that will continue as she learns about spending.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Vomit Chronicles: Sympathy Vomit

I was recently transported back to my childhood days at daycare where I witnessed the strange phenomenon of The Sympathy Vomit. One kid would throw up, and in rapid succession, two or three more would stop wherever they were playing to follow suit.

At the time, I never thought about it from the director’s perspective, but now, I like to think I understand what she was going through, except she had carpet and that always makes vomit worse. Yes, even worse than cleaning it out of car seat buckles, which is my favorite place to clean up vomit.

A few weeks ago, we made the trek downtown to the new Regions Park to watch a Barons game. It was Saturday evening. We had already attended a birthday party that morning and we took nice long naps in the afternoon. We had lunch at the party and snack on the way home and we were planning to eat supper at the ballpark. What we did not do was have a snack before we left for the game. It was a rookie mistake on my part. I know better.

Ella was acting puny for most of the drive, but I tried to convince myself that she was just tired. We’d had a busy day; she probably didn’t actually sleep at nap time, etc. Then she started coughing and I started calculating the number of hours since she last ate. They were too many. She coughed again, I asked if she was okay, and she said she was. I willed our car to transform into a helicopter and air lift us the remaining few miles to the ballpark. It didn’t. When she coughed the third time, she started crying and vomit ensued. I searched frantically for The Vomit Cup. It wasn’t there. I don’t know when it made its way out of the car, but it did. She had her car blanket wrapped around her, so I yanked it up to cover her lap and told her to finish throwing up into the blanket. Her shirt was done for, but I wanted to at least contain the mess.

It was then that I had a flashback to daycare, when, from the other side of the backseat, I heard a gag. Lacking The Vomit Cup and minus a second Vomit Blanket, I grabbed the only thing available to me. I stuck it in Luke’s hands and told him, “If you need to throw up, do it in this. I will wash it.” He said he didn’t need to. Dave made a noise of protest (disgust?) from the driver’s seat, but didn’t say anything. I’m assuming he was feeling grateful that he was driving that day. I turned my attention back to Ella and started handing her baby wipes to clean her face and hands. We’d made the executive decision to drive the rest of the way to the ballpark and change there, so I was trying to help her clean up the easiest parts as best I could from the front seat.

I heard a tiny noise and a little whine from the other side and glanced over my shoulder to see that Man Cub was indeed throwing up in a Pucci Pets White Pony Designer Purse.

Pucci Pets White Pony Designer Purse,
 for carrying ponies and catching vomit.

It was sympathy vomit at its finest.

Once we parked, I helped Ella change her clothes and finished wiping her down with baby wipes. Luke only needed his face, hands, and the chest clip of his seatbelt wiped. I wrapped all of the mess up in The Vomit Blanket, tossed it in the cargo hold, and sprayed the whole backseat and Ella’s seatbelt with Febreze.

Guess who else almost sympathy vomited with them? Me. I made it all the way to the gag before I tamped it down with a very rational argument: “What are you doing?! You can’t throw up right now! You have to clean up their vomit first.” Parenting is full of sacrifice.