Friday, December 31, 2010

Funerals & Power Outages

I've decided that the common link between funerals and power outages is that it forces people to come together as a family...whether you want to or not.

Thursday morning I was late for work because I had to chip my car free from its encasement of ice and it took me longer than expected. Glare ice was the word of the day for traveling, and I had to take the long route just to be safe. After being there half a day, we were told to go home because of the blizzard conditions headed our way. So I chipped my car out again, and again, made the long drive home.

In North Dakota, we know how to be prepared for this sort of thing. I immediately made up a grocery list for my husband, since he has a large vehicle and even though he may not admit it, there is something that appeals to male primal urges to go out in severe weather and conquer it. Not to mention plow through it, drive over it and slide across it. He came home with sacks and sacks full of...junk food. It's the chance I take when I send him.

Shortly after supper was made and consumed, the power went out. I don't know what it is about the lights going out on their own vs. being shut off at bedtime that makes the kids so scared. Is it the idea that they don't have the ability to turn them back whenever they want to? They attached themselves to my hip as I rounded up candles and lit them. The blizzard raged outside with snow coming down and wind driving the snow that was already there into little "snow-nados." Usually, if the power goes out, they are good about having it back on again within the hour. Not so this time. Our neighbor phoned and let us know that it was going to be at least another two hours. This wasn't a good time, since it meant our heat would be off during one of the worse snowstorms of the year.

It was fun at first. We bundled the kids up in sweatshirts, two pairs of socks and stocking caps. Shawn found a propane lantern and I raided the "camping closet" for sleeping bags. Without TV or any of our other technical gadgets, we were forced to resort to the old fashioned meaning of family time. We drug out the bingo game, and when that got old, we got out the cards. We actually huddled in blankets and fluffy comforters, talked, laughed and had a great time. As the power company kept pushing back the time that the power would be restored, the house grew colder and colder and the family got closer and closer...literally. We snuggled on the couch reading books illuminated by flashlights. Realizing we weren't going to have heat any time soon, we piled every available blanket on our bed and settled in like a bunch of hibernating bears waiting for Spring. How did the pioneers do it? No video games, no computers, and no indoor plumbing. I fell asleep thinking we had all become a little soft in our modern day comforts.

The power came on at about 5:00 AM. Our house had reached a chilly 40 degrees. We were all so warm tucked in our blanket cocoon, that it was extremely difficult to force myself out of bed. Until someone passed gas, and it suddenly I couldn't get out fast enough. I got up and made coffee. It was so wonderful to be able to enjoy the conveniences of modern day, especially when it meant I would get my morning caffeine. I pealed off my layers of clothing and re-dressed for the day. The kids stumbled out with blankets wrapped around them. Kaiden said, "Wasn't that fun, mom? Playing cards and reading?" Why didn't they believe me when I've told them to turn the TV off and do something else over and over in the past? Shawn bundled up, started the snowblower and began the daunting task of clearing our driveway, and since he is how he is, he also cleared the neighbor's drive. I was amazed at the accumulation of snow. I listened to the weather on TV and shook my head at all those who had decided to drive and got stuck. There was a 100 car pile up just outside the city, and I was thankful we could get on with our day.

And then the power went out again. I called the power company and their automated system kindly informed me that most of the region was under extreme weather conditions (duh!) and the power would not be back on for another 14 hours. I nearly dropped my coffee cup. Okay, this was not fun any more. I looked for all my discarded clothing and donned as many layers as I could. I got the kids dressed warmly once again and told Shawn (who was still battling snowbanks) what was going on. I called my mother, who hearing the kids rummaging through the fridge, reminded me that we should keep the refrigerator door closed so the food wouldn't spoil. With the wonderful balmy temperature of -2 below zero, I didn't think that would be an issue. Once again the temperature started to drop. We phoned around to see if there was an available generator. We knew the second storm scheduled to hit our region would be here in about an hour, roads were being shut down and we had to act fast. Should we tough it out? Should we go stay in a Hotel? What if it got too cold and the water pipes froze? Even if we did manage to drive and pick up the generator from Shawn's brother, were there any gas stations open? Not to mention all we had to eat were cookies, chips, and salami. If we had to leave, we would have to leave soon or have no way out. We decided to stay.

I just about went nuts. The boys were going stir crazy, which means the noise level tends to get louder and louder and the fights become more frequent. We played more and more card games, drew pictures, and tried to keep warm. Yes, I could've cleaned house, but it's nearly impossible to move with long underwear, jeans, three shirts, scarf, hat and a big blanket tied around your waist like some hideous floor length skirt. I gave up trying to grasp anything with my bulky mittens. I finally ran out of things for them to do and gave in to letting them run, yell, tackle each other or do whatever would just keep them out of my hair for awhile while I curled up to read a book.

All in all, it was quite a little adventure. The power came back on at about 5 in the evening (to a loud chorus of 'hurrays' and jumping up and down - and that was just me). The second blizzard is now picking up steam but I feel a bit more comfortable.

Just like family functions where it's great to see everyone and interact, for better or for worse, and you think, "Why don't we do this more often.?" the power outage provided a lot of much needed face-to-face interaction. But I must say, it's nice to have the option to walk away from the 200th game of "Go Fish."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Close To Nature

We live on a tight budget. Our vacations consist of visiting my parents, and camping. I've taken the boys camping since they were babes. We usually try to meet my parents in a location that is somewhat half-way between the two hometowns. It's nice to meet up with them, since they have a camper. But when we go on our own, it's a whole different animal.

I've mentioned that I consider myself an organized person, which used to result in the week prior to our leaving, being a lot of work on my part. But now I have it down to a science. I have even designated one of our closets as the "camping closet." It is full of plastic tubs, each with their own purpose; one for blankets, one for paper plates, plastic cups and anything to be used to eat with, (it also contains a wine opener in case things really get desperate) another is used for dry goods and yet another for lotions, bugs sprays, etc. I am ready to tackle any natural adventure that's out there...or so I thought.

I was bound and determined to fit one more weekend of camping in, somewhere a bit closer, so we wouldn't have to worry about taking any extra time off from work. I scoured the Internet and finally found a 'family friendly' camping site only 45 minutes away. It boasted fun for everyone and had the pictures to prove it. So I booked our reservation, which cost nearly 3 times what we would normally pay.

The weekend arrived, we packed our vehicle to its fullest capacity, squeezed the kids in the back seat and we were off. We stopped at the nearest gas station and filled up, and then realized we had forgotten the boat motor. So back home we go, grab the motor, and we're off...again.

Our vehicle made the climb up the hill which served as the entrance to the camp site. It was looking promising with a lake and lots of trees and very little civilization...until we came over the top of the hill. We were met by the hosts, who were driving a golf cart from their lavish home to come greet us, and collect our fees. She told us to follow her to our spot. There were a few large sheds, but what caught my attention was that all the campers were obviously permanent residents. They had each claimed their little piece of property, parked their campers, and then proceeded to build patios & decks, string up lights, hook up their satellite dishes and landscape their 'yards.' She indicated a spot to us, which very literally looked like we would be pitching our tent on someones lawn. We had one tree, an outlet, a picnic table, and a very generous view of everyone's camper windows, which meant they had an even more generous view of EVERYTHING we would be doing. The bathroom was a good 5 minute walk away, and our position obviously wasn't going to allow us to do our business any where else but there. Determined not to let this spoil the weekend, we got set up as quickly as we could amid the constant yammering from the kids wanting to go swimming.

Almost immediately after we were settled in, a little girl came over to see if the boys wanted to play, we'll call her Jenny. I thought that was cute, but only at first, because I soon found out that she was pushy, bossy, and would never leave. Apparently, her father wasn't too concerned about her whereabouts, since he never came to fetch her. Great, I was a built-in babysitter for the weekend. Not only did she follow our every move, she constantly asked to eat our carefully portioned food. I finally had to send her home with a promise that she could come back the following day. We built a campfire, while everyone else in the "community" went inside to glue their faces to their televisions. I silently congratulated myself on not being a slave to modern technology as we pulled up our folding chairs, talked and gazed at the stars until it was late enough that we felt like we might be a nuisance to our 'neighbors.'

We were up bright and early the next morning, not only to go fishing in the boat with dad, but to try to escape the imminent appearance of Jenny. We almost didn't make it, she hollered at us from the shore as we feigned the inability to hear her over the motor. This may sound cruel, but trust me, it wasn't. The boys enjoyed the ride, baiting their hooks and Kamrin even managed to catch his first fish. When we could no longer avoid the inevitable return to shore, we headed back. Shawn dropped me and the boys off and was able to return to his fishing. I was immediately accosted by Jenny, as I led the boys to the tent to change to go swimming. That was my entire afternoon. Watching the boys and the tag-along while they swam, rode bikes, or were forced to play whatever game Jenny had in mind for them. By later that afternoon, I was overjoyed to see Shawn returning to the shore and my opportunity to escape was arriving. I told the boys we were going to take a quick boat ride before supper, but alas, we only had enough life jackets for me and the boys. We drifted around the lake for a bit, but the boys were hungry and I didn't like the look of the clouds. A few yards to our destination, it started to sprinkle. As tiny as Kamrin is, my back was hurting and I couldn't get to the tent fast enough to lay him down. As I wove my way through the campers to our little tent space, I noticed several people standing in their yards, looking at the sky. After tucking Kamrin into his sleeping bag I asked a nearby gentleman what was going on. "Tornado warning," he replied, "Comin' this way." I only hesitated a split second as I started packing everything that would be damaged by rain in to their prospective water proof tubs. The sky grew darker and the wind blew stronger. I was wondering what was taking Shawn so long. I was starting to worry. But then I saw that someone was trying to get their boat up the sandy drive ahead of him and had become stuck. But no need to worry, our host just happened to have a huge tractor to pull him out (hence the sheds).

By this time, everyone had disappeared into their homes and I didn't even have a radio to monitor the weather. Just as the tractor finished pulling out the other boat, it started to pour. I grabbed Kaiden and shoved him inside the tent (where Kamrin was still asleep). I signaled to Shawn. He ran through the sheets of rain and we both ducked into the tent. We were all crammed into the only open space (since all the tubs were in there as well), when a crack of lightening illuminated everything. Kaiden let out a little yelp and dove under the cot that we used as bed. I looked at Shawn wide-eyed. "How much can this tent take?" I asked. He merely shrugged his shoulders. The wind was practically bending our poles to a 45 degree angle and small pools of water were forming in the corners. "I just wish I knew weather we should ride this out or pack it in." Once again, a loud clap of thunder and again, a whimper from under the cot I was perched on. Shawn reaches in his pocket and managed to locate a weather radar from his cell phone. There was a big red blob, indicating severe weather, and it was headed straight for us. "That's it, we're leav...." BOOM! This one sounded like it was right above us and I half expected our lonely tree to come through the top of the tent. I looked under the cot to see Kaiden with his blanket over his head, curled up in a fetal position. Kamrin still slept. The puddles were evolving into pools and then the hail came.

"Get the truck and pull it as close to the tent as you can. I'll run the kids out and then we're outta here!" I shouted. I started folding blankets and cots, shoving everything I could into whatever tub had space. Except the sleeping bag where Kamrin remained completely oblivious to everything going on. As soon as the truck was near, I grabbed Kaiden, "Here we go!" I yelled and ran over to the truck and threw him in. In the 50 ft. I ran from tent to truck and back again, I was soaked. My hair was plastered to my face and rain dripped off the tip of my nose. I hoisted Kamrin up and made my second sprint to the truck. As I put him in, he briefly opened his eyes...and promptly shut them again. Now it had become a mad, muddy, soaking wet race for Shawn and I to load everything into the truck. At this point, my organization skills fell by the wayside, as we grabbed what we could throwing it into the back of the truck pushing with our shoulders, squeezing everything in to any nook and cranny that was available.  We didn't bother with the precise folding of the tent, we balled it up tossed the poles on top, and while I shoved, Shawn shut the back door. As I hurled myself into the passenger seat, I caught a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror. I looked like a drowned raccoon. I had dark circles under my eyes from whatever residual mascara I had had, and mud streaks across my forehead. My shirt was so wet I had to wring it out onto the floor and it remained plastered to me like a second skin. My teeth were chattering and I had Shawn turn on the heat, "Let's get out of this place!"

That was easier said than done. The wind whipped the boat from side to side and we could barely see beyond our headlights. I held the door handle in a death grip. We listened as the radio advised no travel and yet we pushed on. As we neared Fargo, a miraculous thing happened, the clouds parted and the rain abruptly stopped. The sun came out and I developed a horrific case of the giggles. Could that have been any worse?  "My hungry," my now-awake son said from the back seat. I realized it had been a long time since we had anything to eat. "Let's just grab something." I said to Shawn, "How about Taco John's?" So he pulls into the nearest one. "I can't take the boat through the drive-through."

I cringed as I realized in my soggy state, I would have to indeed go inside the establishment to order. At this point, I just didn't care what other people thought.

We managed to get home, lay out most of our camping belongings out on OUR lawn to dry out. I think the best feeling in the world was putting on dry clothes after a hot shower. I pride myself on being able to "rough it" and to be close to nature...just not THAT close.
Packed to the hilt.

Like hobos on in a cardboard box on someone's lawn.

Wonderful escape.

Not my idea of isolation

Tag along

Is this roughing it?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sleep Comes

Following a week of very little sleep, it's hard not to be jealous of the way children seem to be able to fall asleep anywhere and at any time. While I can be so tired that I feel like I can hardly hold my head up, I still tend to lie in bed, wide awake, with the "to do" list of tomorrow running over and over in my head.

The boys, however, have no worries, no concerns about tomorrow, or what the new day will bring. They are still at an age of being held hostage by the demands of their bodies. They eat when they're hungry, quit when they are full, and doze when their body asks for it. When they are first born, parents are also held captive by this rigorous time schedule, feedings every few hours, long naps in the middle of the day, and awake again no matter how early in the morning it is.

I would give anything to be able to take even the tiniest portion of the energy my boys possess, bottle it and use it whenever I felt like it. If I could sell it, it would surpass any energy drink media campaign out there a hundred times over. The downside to having this kind of energy is that you crash and burn when it's all spent.

So, no matter what they are doing, how much room they have, or how noisy it is, they will sleep. The most conducive place for sleep for them is driving in the car. Usually because they have had a hard day of play or school and the warmth of the car's interior and gentle sound of the wheels on the road lulls them to sleep. Their heads usually end up at such an odd angle that I'm amazed it doesn't hurt them. I've mentioned before how I usually put a stack of pillows between them to rest their heads on, which is mostly for my sake since it pains me just to see them like that.

Sometimes the needs of their bodies come in pairs, such as eating and needing slumber. I've had many chuckles watching my tired boys, sitting at the table, doing what we have dubbed the "hungry chicken." It's that slow pecking motion that happens a few times, and then the head jerks up just before it's about to hit the table. I've watch them chew their food, their eyes complete shut, just trying to stay awake long enough to satisfy their hunger. I've also seen where hunger has lost to sleep, as the boys cross their arms in front of them on the edge of the table, place their foreheads on their little hands and are completely gone. I've pulled pieces of half chewed food, bottles and suckers out of their slack little mouths.

The positions they fall asleep in would make any contortionist envious. They drape themselves over arms of chairs, up-side-down, and sitting cross-legged with their heads resting on the floor. Lord help us if they fall asleep in our bed. I have had a little boy "hat" as he curls his body around my head, I've been slapped, kicked, pushed and nearly made to wet my pants when a hard little heel found my bladder in the middle of the night.

There are many nights that they fight the bedtime hour. Prolonging that dreaded trip to bed by pleading for a bedtime snack, a drink, or having to find that favorite stuffed animal or blanky has become an art. They will tell you they aren't tired, at all. My oldest will drag his feet all the way to the bedroom, grudgingly climb into bed and then ask for a drink. I go get him a glass of water or milk, and then while drinking, between sips, he will now tell me stories I have been begging to hear of all the things that have happened to him during the day. I have to follow the routine precisely, or he'll make me start over. First a hug, then a kiss, then a "sniss-sniss" (rubbing our noses together like an Eskimo kiss.) After all of that, I tell him I love him to the moon and back and he tries to come up with a distance that's even further to prove how much he loves me back. I turn out the light, say goodnight and as I take a step in to the hallway he says, "Mom? Can you send Dad in?"

Once asleep, at least for my children, there is nearly nothing that will wake them. I have unbuckled them from the back seat of the car in the middle of a snowstorm, carried them to the house (I'm pretty sure they are 4 lbs heavier when they are asleep) while the wind blew ice cold flakes on their little faces, laid them down in their beds and completely undressed them and re-dressed them in their PJs without them stirring. I don't even have to be gentle about it. I pull the boots off while holding them in a fireman's carry, yank on their socks, and have held them upright as I push plump rag doll arms through sleeves. All the while, they don't even flinch. I have, on several occasions, caused the smoke alarm to go off (it's my oven, not my cooking!) which is located within 2 ft. of all our bedroom doors. Not even a whimper. Of course, this works to my disadvantage when trying to wake them up in the morning. I try tickling them, bouncing on their bed, clapping my hands, singing loudly and off-key, and even stand them upright (whereas they immediately flop back on their beds.)

I don't know what it is, but there is something magical that happens when you watch your child sleep. You look at that cherub face, heart-shaped lips and long lashes and suddenly, no matter how hard your day, or how rotten they may have behaved, it's completely wiped away and forgotten in that single moment. My heart is warmed by the sound of their even quiet breathing. I just want to scoop them up and hold them close. I don't want them to keep growing so quickly, I want them to stay safe and sound and have beautiful dreams.

When Kamrin was a baby
Asleep in a laundry basket
Asleep in a hot tent while camping

A trip home


Sleeping like dad

Warms my heart

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes - Part 2

I was helping Kaiden change in to PJs the other night. I was half-listening to the story he was telling about someone at daycare, my mind being on all of the errands I had to run the next day. I tuned back in as he asked me how old I thought one of the girls at daycare was.
"Umm, I donno," I said as I was pulling his shirt over his head, "Twelve?"
"Right! You're a good guesser mom." he replied, "You're 41 now? I bet when you're 42 you'll have this down pat."

I enjoy their genuine (and not so genuine attempts) at compliments. They will often tell me I'm a 'good cooker' if they like the meal. At the same time, those meals may only consist of Mac and Cheese with a side of fruit cocktail, but I'll take them where I can get them. My husband has them pretty well trained to, "tell mama how nice she looks today." Which is sweet. Although I was a bit taken aback when my oldest told me I looked 'hot.'

My dad suffered a stroke many years ago and is unable to use one arm completely, and he walks with a cane...sloooowly. When Grammie and Papa come to visit, my mother and I can make a couple of trips to unload their luggage in the time dad makes it to the front door. One evening during their visit, they decided to take us out to eat. The kids were excited since we don't go out very often at all (as my restaurant experience is eerily similar to taking them to church). We're all buckled in the car, waiting for my dad's somewhat unsteady pace to finally bring him to the car door. When he managed to lower himself into the passenger seat, Kaiden commented, "Papa, you're as slow as a turtle in malaska." Add that one to our permanent list. Also on that list, we now refer to Applebee's as "Bumblebees."

Some of the things they say are just so adult, which is what makes it that much more humorous. Kamrin often wants what adults are having, whether it's what we're eating or what we're drinking. After begging several times for a cup of 'Foffee,' I mixed up some hot chocolate and he enjoyed drinking that instead. He mimicked the whole two-handed cup hold, while hunching over the steaming liquid acting like he was trying to wake up. One early morning,  I had my own cup of real java in my hand, and really was trying to wake up. I looked over at Kamrin swinging his bare little feet while sitting at the kitchen table. "What do you want for breakfast, Kam?" With his back to me, he holds his hand up behind him, palm towards me, and without even looking my direction he says, "Don't tok (talk) to me, I don't have my foffee."

"Mom, my want ice cream." Well first of all, it was 10 in the morning, and second of all, if I did feed my children ice cream in the morning, he didn't say please.
"No, Kamrin."
"My gonna count." He puts his hands on his hips and taps his foot. "One, two...four...seben, don't make my get to free..." Wow. Heard that one before.

And if that doesn't work he will threaten with, "My won't be your best friend..." He doesn't know it, but he'll always be my best friend.

Getting him out of the bath, I always marvel had how skinny my youngest is. I asked him, "How come you're so skinny." He tilted his head, paused and said, "My a tiny wittle boy." Well that answers that.

A lot of things they repeat, although I don't always remember saying it in the first place. They had received a bag of salted nuts for their church program, which were now in a bowl on the table. Kamrin didn't know how to crack them open, and after explaining how to squeeze them between his fingers, and demonstrating on my own peanut, he says, "Well, here goes numpin."

They also have not mastered the use of discretion. It never fails, we will be in the middle of Wal-Mart or the grocery store, when one of them will announce, "I have to pee!" My luck is that we are usually in the aisle furthest from the bathroom. I must quickly do the calculation in my head, "How many more items on my list? How long are the check out lines? And the drive home is 15 minutes....(sigh)." I have Kaiden stand at the front end of the cart and Kamrin stand between my arms and hang on to the handle, so I can push the cart, the one with the wobbly wheel which squeaks every full rotation, at breakneck speed. I manage to maneuver around the little old lady on the scooter cart and keep my cart from tipping as two wheels leave the ground and we make the turn around the pyramid of canned goods. I then must trust that total strangers will not rummage through all of my carefully chosen items, since I must leave the cart parked in the hallway leading to the rest rooms.

Kamrin is a night owl. He gets that from me. Or from the person I used to be before I had to get up at 5 AM to get kids to the bus on time. Anyway, while Kaiden is asleep at 8:30 at the latest, and dad soon follows him, Kamrin refuses to shut his eyes. It's quiet in the house, and I've gone through the bed time rituals with Kaiden, and there Kam is, sitting in the lounge chair, patting the open 6 inches beside him, beckoning me to come sit. So I do. Mostly because it is a bit of a challenge to force myself to go to bed at that hour. It's just not in me. Twenty minutes later, I give up on him falling asleep while we rock in the chair.
"I'm going to bed Kam."
"Can my sleep with you?"
I sigh, because I know that about 30 minutes after we're all tucked in, I will have to drag myself out of bed and carry him to his. He follows me around as I turn off the 7 lights that have managed to be left on, check and lock the doors, peek in on Kaiden to make sure he hasn't kicked his blankets off yet. I hoist Kamrin into our bed, where he bounces to the middle, makes sure his (my) pillow is just right, and pulls the covers up to his chin. I bulldoze him a little further to dad's side (after all, dad's already asleep), turn off the light, and slide myself into my 3-inch strip of bed. Ahhh.
"Yes, Kam."
"Can my hab a drink?"
I roll my eyes in dark. I get up, walk to the kitchen, grope for a glass in the dark, grab some water and trudge back to the bedroom. I blindly reach for him in the dark.
"Here Kam."
He takes the most minuscule of sips and hands it back to me. Urgh! I go through the motions of positioning myself into my thin strip of bed real estate. I feel his tiny little body scoot closer to me. He slips one skinny little arm underneath my neck, leans his cheek on my forehead, and stroking my hair, whispers, "You're da best, mom." That makes it all worth it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes - Part 1

"Mom, I want mutant balls."

I nearly slammed into the car in front of me. "What?" I asked Kaiden as we drove to the bus stop. "I want mutant balls, it's a game." Whew. I let out a breath. This is one of the many things that seems to keep me on my toes day to day. I just never know what they are going to say next. I should keep a pad and pencil with me, just to be able to note these things.

It's so adorable when they first begin to talk, when they grow from bah bah bah to actual word. I think Kaiden's first word was "No" (go figure) and Kamrin's was "Dada." Then their language starts to evolve. A lot of what the kids have uttered over the years have become I permanent part of my immediate family's language. For example, when trying to teach my boys manners, and to say the standard please and thank-you's, Shawn and I would use those words over and over when we spoke to them, hoping that it would somehow become ingrained in their minds. If we asked them to do something, we made sure to emphasize "please" and when it was done, we said "thank you." Kamrin would always respond with a hearty, "You wack 'em!" To this day, we still say, "You wack 'em!" instead of "you're welcome."

One of our dogs has been renamed. He started off as Bo, and after Kamrin was old enough to hug him and understand that this was his pet, Bo became, "Bope." or on occasion, "Bopie."

I often daydream about what my children will be when they grow up. Adults have a tendency to do this, they'll see a child drawing and they'll comment, "Oh he's going to be an artist." or if he plays with Legos® maybe he'll be an architect. On one afternoon, when we were watching Kamrin do what Shawn dubbed the "army shuffle" (where a baby uses only his arms to scoot himself along), I asked Kaiden what he wanted to be. I threw out possible hopefuls such as a doctor, a baseball player, a musician (anything to support us in our old age)...and he replied, "A woman." I thought Shawn was going to hit the ceiling. It only makes sense when you put it into perspective. I was at home a lot more than Shawn was at that time, and I suspect I was what he related to. Or maybe that's my pride talking.

Time has very little meaning to children. Their idea of time is "forever" between holidays and birthdays. "When is Halloween?"

"Four days away."

"That's forever!"

This last year, when Kamrin was three and we were approaching his fourth birthday, he would often ask other children, "You wanna come to my party?" Or if he was having a particularly bad day, he would use it as a threat, "You not coming to my party!" Shawn and I were often invited and uninvited several times in a day. I remember at one point, Shawn and I were actually alone in the house and I asked him, "What should we get Kam for his birthday?" And, without missing a beat, he replied, "I don't know. I'm not invited." At one point, I had asked Kamrin to do something and he was being sassy. I put on my stern mama's voice and said, "Kam....(stretching it into two syllables)" and he started pouting. "You not coming to my party!" he shouted. "Only dad, Kaiden, Bope, Ripley, and...and...the guy who brings the cake!" Well at least he has his priorities straight. That kid loves his  cake. I had a few pieces of cake left that I had put on a plate to save for later. Kam walks into the kitchen, spies the cake and says in a saultry voice, "Heelllloooo gorgeous."

I'm really into music. I once made a CD to listen to in the car, geared towards the kids, mostly based on beat. Kaiden has always leaned towards country and hip-pop (which I dread!), but even as young as 2-1/2, Kamrin has always had a thing for "Don't Fear The Reaper." But unfortunately, both of them heard (and forgive me, I don't know the real title of this song) "I Like Big Butts." Kam would sing that song in three verses, "I wike big butts cannad lie. I sprum. Whe-psssh (whip crack sound)." For those of you who are familiar with the song, you'll know what I'm talking about. I absolutely hate that song. I used to have to listen to it over and over. BUT...they can also sing "Cecilia" by Simon and Garfunkel almost word for word. For the past year, Kamrin's song of choice has been Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He constantly hums it, almost subconsciously...when he colors, when he plays with his blocks, even in the bathroom. If you ask him to sing it, he says, "Winkle, winkle, little star, hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm what you are." I often get to work in the morning and there it is, rolling over and over in the back of my head.

They also imitate commercials. Kamrin has a knack for humming every fast food jingle out there. Grammie bought him one of those fish that look like they should be mounted on a wall that sing, "Gimme back my fillet-o-fish.." from McDonald's. I'm still thinking of how to get my revenge for that one. (And you'll probably get that stuck in your head now that you've read this.)

Shawn sometimes worries about his boys showing any signs of femininity. Like Kamrin coming out of the bathroom with long black lines from cheek to forehead after finding my mascara. While visiting my parents over Thanksgiving, my mom and I were talking to the boys about various activities they'd like to be in in school. (This is very similar to the "what do you want to be when you grow up" question.) Shawn was an extremely good wrestler and excelled at it in high school, so we asked Kaiden if he'd like to do that. He replied, "Will there be blood? (He relates to the WWE). Do I have to take my shirt off? (No.) Mmmm baseball or football or maybe an artist..." and since Kamrin is so not interested in sports, I tried to involve him. Knowing his love of music, I said, "Well maybe you'll want to be in plays, or maybe play in the band?" Kamrin immediately responded, "Yes, my want those big drums!" and aped playing the bass drums beating the air with invisible sticks like in a marching band. I said, "How about you Kaiden? Do you like saxaphones? Tubas? Trombones? Trumpets?"

"What about....(he pauses with finger to lip) a piccalo?!" My mom and I shook with laughter with an image of a big, stocky, football type playing the piccalo in the marching band.

Some of the things they say stop me in my tracks. I was taking Kaiden to a friend's house for a play date when out of the blue he commented, "I talked to Grandpa Ken today." Grandpa Ken has been gone for over 4 years. I actually don't doubt him. He and Grandpa Ken had an extraordinary relationship in the 2 years they were together. It was nearly magical, beyond explanation. I don't know what bonded those two together, but it was something unexplainable. I don't doubt what he said for a couple of reasons. One, I think children are more open to the supernatural. Or if you're not comfortable with that, angels. Two, I believe that when someone passes, they are still watching and will give you signs that they are watching, if you're open to them. I've often thought I saw Grandpa Ken a couple of times myself in a passing car, or in a group of people. But as an adult, I'll write it off.

Kaiden rarely calls Kamrin by name. He calls him, "Little Man". This stems from their daycare where they have 2 Kamrins (one Cameron). It started with one being referred to as "big Kam" and mine referred to as "Little Kam" thus "Little Man." It will be funny (although doubtful given what a waif he is) if he grows to be a muscular football player that he will be nicknamed, "little man."

(to be continued)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Innovations & Inventions

I can't sew. I can cross-stitch and do needlework, but I cannot sew. I don't even own a sewing machine.

Kaiden hasn't hit his growth spurt yet and he is somewhat stout. I won't call him chubby or even terribly overweight, because he's a solid little guy. But because of the way he's built, I have been on a never ending, and so far, futile mission to find pants that fit him. If they fit around the waist, they are about 6 inches too long. At the beginning of the school year, I had him try on brand after brand and size after size, until he sat on the floor of the dressing room in his underwear and exclaimed, "No more!"  Jeans, sweats, baseball pants, are all non-existent in a size that allows him to be comfortable. I think part of the problem is that he has absolutely no butt. He is constantly hitching his pants up so that his crack doesn't show. I have to hold on to a back belt loop as he hoists himself into the car and sits down. I tried a belt. He chose one that had extremely cool flames on one side (to satisfy him) and reversible to a plain black on the other side (to satisfy me). But he is under the assumption that the tighter he cinches it, the better they will stay up. Not true, especially if there is nothing below the belt to really hold it up, if you know what I mean. Shawn had to pick him up from school because of a stomach ache only to learn his belt was too tight. Even at the tender age of 6, he is painfully embarrassed by his body type and I'm trying everything in my power to stop that. But, I can't sew. When we brought home the various styles of jeans and sweats, I folded the bottoms of the legs up and...duct taped them. I'm not kidding and I'm not proud. It's just, well, that's all I knew how to do. It will actually hold up for several washes that way, and honestly, he's too young to care about how ridiculous that is as long as from the outside, they look normal. Shawn bought one of those hand held sewing things, the kind you would expect to see on some late night infomercial. So you can imagine my joy when I sat down and hemmed up 3 pairs of pants for Kaiden. The next day, I proudly pulled a pair out and asked, "How 'bout these?" and he agreed. Eight and a half hours later, I walked into daycare only to see the hems of those pants 5 inches past the top of Kaiden's feet followed by a long trail of white thread. "Moo-oom," he whined, "Look! I tripped over them all day." I hung my head in shame. I didn't realize you had to somehow knot the hem!

Over the years,  I have come to pride myself on being able to make something out of nothing. It's almost a challenge. When the kids were younger, they would open the refrigerator door and help themselves to anything they wanted. This wasn't something I had agreed to. I would find half-eaten hotdogs, pieces of cheese with bites out of them, and open yogurt cups with a spoon still in them. But the worse part was they never mastered the ability to close the door after they opened it. My refrigerator is snug against one wall, but doesn't quite reach the back wall. So Shawn came up with an ingenious solution. He took a piece of rope, folded it in half, ran the folded end between the gap in the handle and the fridge, and threaded the other end of the rope through that loop. So now the loop was securely around the door handle. He then made a big knot on the un-looped end and ran that along the side of the fridge, and set the knot between the gap created between the back of the fridge and wall and the counter top. So now, the only way to open the door was to lift the knot up and out, and it was beyond my sons' reach. Problem solved...except when you forgot about the knot and nearly yanked your arm out of the socket when looking for left-over pizza.

One particularly windy day, the boys claimed there was nothing to do. "Can't we go kite flying?", Kaiden asked. We didn't own kites. But we did own those plastic bags you get your groceries in, who doesn't have several of those lying around? So I found some string, tied the handles together and let them have at it. It was actually easier for them to get the "kites" to fly since it was basically a bag full of air.

If you've ever lived where it snows, you know that there is that inevitable gap between your glove and your coat. Especially if you're jumping off snowbanks, throwing snowballs, or making a snowman. But I've learned that if you take a pair of old (clean) socks and cut 4 slits at the toe for fingers and one on the side for a for a thumb, the leg of the sock will pull up almost to your elbow, or higher if it's one of dad's tube socks, and will keep that delicate skin from freezing.

Our town has a tendency to flood in the spring. One particularly bad year, the water was rising fast and our city filled hundreds of thousands of sandbags to try and build dikes around the homes close to the river. It really was an amazing thing the way people came together and worked 24 hours a day to save their neighbors' homes and businesses. The reason it floods is not necessarily rain, but the moisture in the melting snow, and we had over 126" of snow that year. Basically, people were home bound unless you caught a ride to help fill and place sandbags. The boys and I were stuck at home and running out of things to do. Shawn had come home from sandbagging his employer's house and had several sandbags left. So to keep the boys happy, we dug a pathway to our shed out back, grabbed the plastic pool, put it in the garage and filled it with sand from the sandbags. A makeshift sandbox kept them busy for hours!

Their creativity does carry over to baking with me (on those rare occasions, because I can't bake either. But it's better than my sewing.) We once had a batch of blueberry muffins that mysteriously ended up with grape kool-aid mix in it. (My didn't do it! No, of course not Kam.) But you know, they weren't all that bad.

I love the fact that children haven't been tainted so much by the outside world and aren't afraid to try anything, to see the wonder in creating something "brand new." Who knows? Maybe someday it will make them rich or maybe even ALL of our lives easier.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Stitch In Time

Gravity is a funny thing. It seems to have a profound effect on the boys. It constantly amazes me how Kaiden can trip over and fall off of absolutely nothing but thin air. It's actually quite comical, but you can't let him know that. It usually happens in my peripheral vision, one minute he's there and the next I catch a glimpse of flailing arms and he's on his back. There is absolutely nothing within three feet of him. I hug him close to comfort him, but also so he can't see me trying to stifle a laugh. It resembles something out of the cartoons they watch. I've been told many times that clumsiness may be caused by a growth spurt. But I find it difficult to believe that his bones have grown so much overnight that it has thrown off his entire body weight and he is no longer able to stay upright. Or have his feet become so elongated while he slept, that he's forgotten how to put one in front of the other? Every day there is a new bump, scratch or bruise. Most of them coming from unknown origins. The falls are usually quickly forgotten and easily healed with a mother's kiss and for those that are not, it seems the almighty bandaid is able to take the pain away.

Kamrin, on the other hand, has been to the emergency rooms more times in his four years than I ever have been in my entire life. Disaster just seems to find him. I wish the ER would give us some kind of deal, like, "Visit four times and your fifth one is FREE!" or give us a punch card so we could earn frequent flier miles. The first time he was about two. I got the dreaded call from daycare that starts out, "Just let me first say, everything is fine, but...". Turns out he was trying to climb over the baby gate at the bottom of the stairs when his foot slipped and he landed full force on his chin. Since I was new to the traumatic experience thing, I called Shawn on my cell phone as I left work and raced out the door. I told him what had happened and could he wait outside of our house so he'd be ready to jump in the car after I picked Kam up. Better yet, just meet me at the clinic. My provider had done an excellent job of applying the butterfly bandage, so when I got there it didn't look all that bad. Shawn was waiting for me and we were able to see the doctor together. I was silently congratulating myself for staying so calm...until she took the bandages off. I could see how deep the gash was and now it was starting to bleed again. I'm not good with blood. After announcing that he would indeed need stitches, she turned and asked if both Shawn and I were going to stay in the room to help hold him down. Hold him down? What kind of barbaric hospital was this? I was struggling just to keep myself from gagging. I told her that Shawn would be able to help, but I wasn't the best when it came to these things. I was exiled to the lobby. I could hear him screaming all the way out there. I sat there clutching his little coat to my face and tried not to cry. Kamrin avoided Shawn for the next week. Wouldn't even let him near his chin,which meant that I had to do all the bandaid changes and cleaning. I was overcoming my fear of blood. Shawn is the youngest of six boys, so he is all too familiar with the interior workings of the ER. It didn't phase him a bit. In fact, after the allotted time, Shawn waited until Kamrin was asleep, snipped the stitches and pulled them out with a tweezers. Kam didn't even wake up.

Then came the ear infections. What is it about ear infections that they only show themselves after 10PM? Inevitably, Kaiden would already be asleep so Shawn would stay home while I bundled up a screaming child and drove him to the ER. After the first couple of times, I began to recognize an ear infection and wondered why I couldn't just go to the drive through pharmacy and pick up the medication myself? But no, you have to see a doctor and sit there while he tells you what you already know. By the time we'd get home, Kamrin would be sound asleep in the carseat and I'd be looking at the clock wondering how I would be able to get up in two hours. A couple of the ear infections did happen during the day, so we would have Kaiden pack a bag with books or toy cars so he would have something to do in the waiting room.

The second set of stitches came when Kamrin decided to open a bag of fruit snacks by himself...with a knife. I was downstairs on the computer at the time when Kaiden came running down to tell me that Kamrin cut himself and I better come quick. Seeing the blood run out of his finger as Shawn held it under the faucet made wonder if I really had conquered my fear. So again, we throw some things in a bag for Kaiden and we're on our way to the ER. Shawn again must hold him down while Kaiden and I are in the lobby and again, Kamrin avoids his dad for well over a week. Once more, Shawn removes the stitches in the dead of night with a small flashlight device strapped to his head, armed with a tiny scissors and tweezers.

The third time doom found him, I was working in my home office, which doesn't have any carpeting only a cement floor. I was continuously telling Kamrin not to touch this or that. He found a large ceramic cat and was pushing it around on a chair with wheels. After the fourth or fifth time telling him to put it back there was a loud crash. I looked over just in time to see him step on a large shard. I scooped him up in my arms to run him upstairs. Kaiden met us half way wondering what the crash was. He took one look at Kamrin's foot and said, "I'll go pack my bag." I came home and the passage from office to bathroom looked like a murder scene. Droplets of blood up the stairs and swipes of it on the walls where his foot had touched.

Having two boys, I've become acclimated to the spills, falls, scrapes and cuts they encounter. I bought a heavy-duty first aid kit and now if there's a loud thunk followed by screaming, I hold them close, ask them if there's any blood. If not, they'll be okay. I dread the broken bones that are bound to come. After all, is it any wonder when I let them play outside I peek out the window to see Kamrin in a toy box with wheels and his brother pushing him at full speed down our sidewalk? Or the way they push their limits to see just how far up the tree they can be before finding the courage to jump? I've seen both of them on occasion run smack into a closed door, just because they weren't watching where they were going.

I may come across as uncaring if I don't rush to their side every time they fall down or bump into something. But I've becoming pretty good at recognizing a really hurt cry versus one that merely needs a bandaid.

Kaiden came up to me the other day and told me that he wants to play football. I told him he could be the kicker. Please, Lord, don't let him ask to play hockey.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pet Peeves & Perfection

Living surrounded by testosterone leaves a lot to be desired. Even both of our dogs are male. Shawn once joked that I should put the lid back up on the toilet when I'm done. (Democracy.)

I consider myself a highly organized person. I don't have a choice. Every minute of every day is valuable time to me. I wouldn't say I'm obsessive, but we do have one calendar hanging on the wall by the door and a whiteboard calendar on the fridge. Both have the same appointments, bill due dates and special occasions written on them. I really don't know why. Sticky notes are my best friend. I'm constantly making 'to do' lists. I think this is because I need visible, physical proof of everything I've accomplished. If I finish a task that isn't on the list, I write it on there and immediately cross it off.

I really don't understand how a male brain functions, or in some cases, doesn't.

The boys in my life cannot multi-task. If the TV's turned on to Sponge Bob, their ears don't work and their body becomes hopelessly paralyzed. Their eyes glaze over and their jaw becomes slack. It's a major source of frustration for me, especially in the mornings when I'm trying to get everyone ready and out the door. One such morning, I stood with Kaiden's coat in my hands, waiting for some movement, blink of an eye, or any indication that he had heard his name called for the fifth time. It wasn't like it was even a new episode. I don't watch the show, but I'm pretty sure this was about the third time I had heard pieces of the dialog. Finally, exasperated, I held the coat out behind me to Shawn and said, "Urgh! Fine! You do it." When the coat remained in my hands, I looked Shawn's slack jaw and glazed eyes.

I should be pencil thin when I consider the number of deep knee bends, toe touches (well almost), I do a day just picking up after everyone. Wrappers of all sorts float lifelessly to the floor or get stuffed between couch cushions (I don't understand this). A trail, not of bread crumbs, but of dirty socks and underwear let me know the boys have made it into the bath. I've walked by the kitchen table after lunch to scoop up leftover breakfast bowls, only to be yanked backwards in mid stride because some weird combination of milk and cereal sugar as glued it to the tabletop. I have collected abandoned cups from the boys' dressers of unfinished bedtime drinks of milk, dumped them in the sink only to have a gelatinous blob release itself with a loud sucking noise. It would take years for a CSI unit to process our house since I have to wipe fingerprints off of doors, windows, mirrors, walls and the screen of the TV. I have found eating utensils where they have no right to be under beds. One shoe is never in the same room as the other and mitten mates evaporate into thin air.

Don't even get me started on the bathroom! I can't allow myself to watch in the morning as one or the other of the boys stumble in half awake, heaves his blankie over his shoulder and attempts to aim a spray that has a complete mind of its own. Under no circumstances, even in the most dire situations, do I attempt to communicate with them as they do their business, because in midstream, they will say, "What?" and turn towards me. I can completely burn up a perfectly good Saturday morning scrubbing dried up toothpaste and minuscule beard hairs from in and around the sink. Damp towels would grow mold if I didn't grab and toss them in the laundry.

I've asked for help and I would classify the attempts as lame. Dishes will end up in the sink, a mere three inches from the dishwasher. A clean room means everything is shoved in a closet with the door squeezed shut. Game pieces, toy soldiers and books end up kicked under the sofa. I've vacuumed up enough dog hair to create a whole new canine species. Kaiden can have a napkin sitting on his lap and will still manage to wipe his face from shoulder to wrist on the sleeve of his shirt. I started buying foods according to stain potential. There's nothing that will remove Chef-Boy-Ardee from a white shirt completely.

My favorite aisle in the grocery store is the cleaning products. I'm constantly hoping I will discover that miracle that lives up to its promises of removing any possible stain with a simple squirt and minimal wiping. I derive a twisted sense of pleasure when I shop that aisle. I search the Internet for home remedies to remove crayon from walls, paint from clothing, blood from carpet and soap scum from the bathtub.

But really, if my house and boys were perfectly clean, what would I do with myself? I guess I'd still be the drill sergeant in the morning. I do get a taste of what that would be like once a year when my parents graciously (and bravely) have the boys stay with them a whole week. I anticipate everything I'm going to get done that week months in advance. Then the week comes and they're gone, the house is quiet and by the 3rd day, I've gotten around to washing windows. I actually pause, rag in hand, and find that I can't bring myself to wipe away that teeny, perfectly formed, chocolate hand print.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Boys & Their Toys

I blame my boys' lack of patience on technology. I'm not anti-technology by any means. Quite the opposite. I just think that my children have been born into a world of instant gratification.

It seems like every toy has to DO something. In order for it to be deemed "cool" by my sons, it has to talk, play music, move or having flashing lights. Remember when toys ran on imagination? I realize I will be falling into the pattern of my parents, and theirs before them, when I say, "When I was a kid...." But really, we didn't have to have dolls that cried or wet their pants. In fact, my brother and I used to play with a set of Legos® that wasn't preordained to be something. The blocks didn't have to be the pirate ship on the front of the box. They were just a box full of random blocks ready to be anything our little minds molded them into. My mom still has them and they happen to be one of the boys' favorite things to play with when they visit.

I admit, I'm guilty of setting my children in front of a video game when I really need some uninterrupted time to finish something. But they can hardly sit still for the entire two minutes it take for the game to load. My first video game was on a black and neon green screen. We hit a cube (ball) between two vertical lines. Now I have to monitor every game they play for violence and sexual content. Pathetic. I realized that Kam may have too much video game exposure under his belt when I was visiting my parents last weekend. Grammie and Papa took us all to a matinee. The green screen came up proclaiming that the next preview was suitable for all audiences and Kam leaned over and said, "It's loading."

It's just a little scary, too, when I'm fumbling around behind the TV, plugging and unplugging cables to switch the TV from the video game to the DVD player and Kam wanders over, hands me a cable, and says, "Here Mommy, it's this one. See?" And he's right.

Not only is it toys, it's day to day conveniences. I used to have to wait for water to boil (on the stove) in order to cook a hot dog. Now, twenty-five seconds later and we're ready for the ketchup and mustard. I started a couple of fires back in the day waiting for the oil in the pan (on the stove) to be hot enough to pop popcorn.

A trip to the library with Kaiden has the same atmosphere as a trip to the museum. All our research is done on the Internet. Kaiden once commented, "Wow, Mom. Look at all these real live books!"

My husband and I only have cell phones now. All you have to do is push one button to connect. I once scolded Kamrin, went into another room to finish folding laundry, came back into the kitchen, only to find Kamrin had speed-dialed Grammie to tell her the injustice of it all. Can you imagine them on a rotary phone? Once you started dialing, you had to wait for the dial to rotate back to its original position before dialing the second number. Lord help us if you mis-dialed, because then you would have to hang up and start all over again...from the beginning. There were probably a lot of people back then who had the misconception of being unpopular when the truth of the matter was, they just had a lot of zeros in their phone number. Not to mention we were restricted to a 3 ft. radius because the phone was actually attached to the wall! My parents also gave up their land line. That was actually a sad day for me. I had had that phone number since I was able to dial and only had to dial the last four digits. I couldn't tell you today what my mom's phone number is. She's just "Mom" on my cell.

TVs can record without VCRs (not that I ever mastered that before they disappeared) and Sponge Bob is available any time of day or night. Kaiden can find free games (all educational I assure you) on the computer without my assistance.

Commercials are full of every electronic gadget, thing-a-ma-jig and remotely controlled toy a boy could ever want. The boys "want" everything they see. After several of these flashy advertisements, and with Kamrin saying, "My want that," after each one, I encouraged him to save up his money so he could pay for it himself. As I was stepping out of the room, I saw Kaiden cup his hand to Kamrin's ear, "You don't have to save your money, you just have to ask Santa Claus."

During our Thanksgiving visit, Papa put an image of a crackling fire on the big screen TV. No sound, no heat, and yet Kamrin grabs Grammie's hand and says, "Come sit with me by the fire, Grammie." And he did. He just sat there staring at it.

Really, I'm not complaining. After all, without technology, I wouldn't be sharing this. My classmates from high school would have just faded away, but now I can read what they are doing every minute of every day whether I want to know or not. I see pictures of their kids online, read what the weather is doing and how much they hate / love their jobs instantly. My boys get to actually see Grammie and Papa when we use the computer and web cam to visit.

I think I got a glimpse of how much technology has become a part of our lives when I saw Grammie and Kamrin, holding hands under a blanket and keeping "warm" in front of the cyber fire and right next to them, Kaiden was snuggled up against Papa, reading "Peter Cottontail," the e-book, which Papa had downloaded especially for them to read on Papa's Kindle™. I guess boys never outgrow their need for toys.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Over The Hills

It's that time of year again. The time where the boys and I make the trek home to visit Grammie and Papa. I actually love to myself. Having to travel with two little boys is a whole different story.

Due to the economy and lay-offs, my husband decided to start his own business. It started slowly, but things are picking up so, bless his heart, he's been working seven days a week or else he'd come with me.

But I'm used to it, and I have a system. Everything has a designated place in the car. Toys and distraction devices (portable DVD player, coloring books, etc.) go on the floor in the back with the boys. It provides easy access for them, and brief moments of quiet for me. Extra pillows and/or blankets go between the boys' car seats. This serves two purposes. If they fall asleep, it catches their floppy, rag-doll heads, instead of having them bob at the nearly 90ยบ angle that would leave me reaching for the Tylenol for a week. It also acts as a buffer zone so they are unable to touch each other. Thus avoiding the, "He's on my side!", shouting match.

All food and beverage items are in the front passenger seat, solely under my control. Beverages must have a resealable cap. Food items that travel must be carefully selected. No chocolate, it melts. Even M-n-M's are forbidden. No taffy or gum. My windows, car door handles and any toy they touch will be sticky and they will somehow manage to transfer said stickiness to me. I tried bananas once, that was a disaster. I once had a chunk of candy cane stuck to my cup holder well into the month of July until I took a screwdriver and chipped it off, piece by piece. So that leaves us with beef sticks, fruit snacks and crackers. Yes, I end up with crumbs in every nook and cranny, but at least I can suck those up with a high-powered vacuum.

Also in the passenger seat, I have an extra plastic grocery bag for garbage or for the rare occurrence of car sickness. A big tub of wet wipes is a standard feature in my car, but in the winter, I have to remember to put it on the dash heater since they're useless frozen. My purse goes on the floor and cell phone in the cubby under the radio where I can easily grab it when my mother sends me a text, (always a half-hour out, and always asking where we're at).

It's hard to keep boys entertained for 5 1/2 hours. There's only so many times I can say, "Look, cows!" It loses its excitement after the first three times. There's nothing along this flat, prairie drive, except maybe a nano-second to glimpse a buffalo while going 75 mph through Jamestown. If we're unlucky, we'll see a deer in the ditch and then I'm tense the entire drive.

I have short legs. I'm so close to the steering wheel that if I were to crash the airbag will do nothing for my knees which are a 1/2-inch from the dash. If my kids need any provisions from the front seat, I set the cruise, if it isn't already, and then use the electric seat adjuster to move the seat back, hand whatever the kids need to them, (is it possible to teach yourself to become double-jointed?), and then "rrrrrrrr," move my seat back up.

There has never been a trip where I haven't had to stop at least once. Mainly because it takes more than one tank of gas to get there. Except once, but I had an awesome tailwind. We always have a potty stop, and if I have fortune on my side, it'll wait until the convenience store. I'm pretty sure it's some sort of crime to leave a child unattended in a car, even for a moment, so we all go. You must know, the moment my boys got in the car, the shoes were off, the coats were off, and I'm doing well if the socks are still on. Just getting them from car to restroom is a race. Shoes on, coat on, times two, while one or the other is saying, "I gotta go baaaad!" In the restroom, we all pile into the handicap stall since it's the only one large enough to hold all three. Lord help us if Kaiden has to go #2! Kamrin does not understand what privacy is. His idea of privacy at home is to close the door of the bathroom for me, but he remains on the same side as I am. It's not uncommon for him to try to say, "Hi!" to the people in the next stall from underneath our stall. I usually wait until they leave so no one can identify us.

If we don't make it to the truck-stop, oh boy. There have been times where we don't even have time to hit an exit. I have to find the safest place, given the conditions, crawl out the passenger door, open both passenger doors to create a wind barrier and provide some discretion. I then instruct whichever boy to unbuckle his seat belt while I lick my finger and check for wind direction and survey the slope of the land. Since I want them within the safety of the car for as long as possible, we undo the pants in the car and when we're ready, I lift them out, put their feet on mine (in case of run-off or mud) and hopefully we're good to go.

Once we leave the interstate and are on the two lane highway, our biggest source of excitement is guessing which animal is compacted in the bed of the semi in front of us. We'll maybe catch a hint of a snout, a batch of fur or a bunch of feathers. This always makes me a bit sad, but makes my situation look like a luxury cruise.

I hate passing on a two-lane. I try to do it as quickly and painlessly as possible, while the boys lift their arms above their heads and shout, "WHEEEEE!' like they're on a roller coaster.

We finally arrive and the boys have their seat belts undone and doors open almost before I've come to a complete stop in the driveway. I get out, shake my cramped hands and try to walk some sensation back into my numb backside.

The trip there is always worth it and after all the fun and excitement is over, we must head back. 90% of the time, the boys fall asleep ten minutes outside of Pierre and I'll actually turn the radio on and search for a station. I sigh sadly as it loops over and over finding nothing. Oh well. Hey, look! There's a...oh never mind.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bah Humbug?

I'm a scrooge when it comes to Christmas. Not that I dislike the holiday itself, I just hate all the preparation beforehand. I think it's sad that stores feel this need to have both the Halloween items AND the Christmas items on display at the same time. I don't need the added pressure. I have no need to hear a Christmas carol hummed, whistled or in an elevator until AFTER Thanksgiving. My husband and I are on a very limited budget, and as much as I would love to spoil every single member of our families, we just can't, and sometimes that's depressing. But when I finally do pull out the holiday decorations, and I'm sitting there untangling several strands of lights, I look at my kids and wonder, "Why I can't approach life like they do?"

Kids believe, that's why. At this point, life has given them no reason not to.

My children believe that a small sprite with wings is actually willing to pay them for that tiny tooth, because she makes necklaces out of them. My children believe that I actually did talk to Santa Claus on the phone, and their behavior changes dramatically. They believe the sun sleeps at night and that clouds can cry, monsters can fit under their bed, and we should have a never-ending supply of quarters, because daddy pulls them out of their ears.

They believe people are essentially good and so they smile and say, "Hi" to everyone they meet, no matter what they look like, how old they are, or what color their skin is.

They find simple joy in watching a squirrel do a tightrope act above the street on an electrical wire. I once took them for a walk after dark on a rare windless, clear winter night, just for something out of the ordinary. I bundled them up in boots, hats, gloves and snow pants over their pajamas. It was so peaceful and quiet. The stars twinkled and every tree branch became a dinosaur. They talked about that for months.

Overall, they are very giving children. Kamrin is definitely the 'sharer'. It doesn't matter how much or how little he has of something, he will share with Kaiden, the kid next to him at the park, and the kids at daycare. If I ask him if I can sit with him on the big comfy chair, he replies in typical Dakotan style, "Yeah, sure!" Kaiden will hand out back rubs for as long as his little fingers will let him, and once in a blue moon, he will take out the garbage without being asked (but I do have to feel how strong his muscles are afterwards!).

Their love knows no bounds. It never runs out. They love family night all cuddled up with a bowl of popcorn and movie. They love home-made smoothies and hot chocolate. Kaiden once said of a friend, "They have more toys and a bigger house....but that's okay because I love you and dad more." Melts your heart. Kam doesn't really have to say anything, it's the way he plays with my hair, holds my hand, or squeezes his way up on my lap no matter what I'm doing. Although it is pretty common for him to say, "Mom, love you." They even attempt to sit silently for a few seconds before asking if I've had enough 'piece of quiet.'

So that's really what it's all about, finding that child-like wonder and innocence again. To believe, find simple joy, have faith, give without expecting anything back and to love without limitations. I'm going to do my best not to succumb to self-imposed stress or worry and just try to sit back and enjoy the magic of the holiday season and enjoy being surrounded by the people I love.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

World of Whats

I little while back I had said that the word 'what' is the most used word in my vocabulary. I wasn't exaggerating. Not even a little bit. 'What' can be used in so many contexts, and I have become painfully aware of all of them. If I had a dollar for every time I used the word 'what,' I would give the Trump family some competition.

My son has entered this phase which is more than mildly annoying. He starts to tell me about his day, which is great, but in between every half sentence he breathes, "And guess what?" He will not continue with his story until I say, "What?" Being the concerned mom, I always say it.

"Mom, we did this project at school, and guess what?"
"My friend Abby, the one at school, guess what?"
"She started drawing some clouds, some blue ones, and guess what?"

Anyway, you get the picture.

My second all time usage of the word 'what,' is one that mom's all over the world have to deal with, I'm sure.


The last 'what' has now become loud and strained, which my sensitive son constitutes as yelling. He looks at me, the corners of his mouth turn down and his lip trembles. The tears start to well up in his eyes, because he has absolutely no idea why I'm shouting at him. Which leads to the third most common type of 'what.' The 'what' that I have to repeat over and over again, because he is blubbering, whining and speaking some unintelligible language in a sing-song, voice that draws every word out and makes it at least two syllables longer than necessary. His breathing becoming hitched with hiccups thrown in for drama.

"What, Kaiden? What's wrong?"
"You don't mmmnfmmmffr, and then mmffmmnnff," (sniff, sniff) "And, and then mmmmber nmmfif,"

And then there is the 'what' that I hate using, but warrants double usage. Usually there is some kind of panic involved. I think the sense of impending disaster, especially with her children, is something that is hardwired into a mother's psyche. We are actually able to determine the severity of the situation based on the one word "mom" and how it's spoken by our children. For example, I was working downstairs when Kaiden screams, "MOM!!" And that was when I said the double, "What? What?!" as I was running up the stairs.
"Kamrin put a pine cone in the microwave and it's on fire!" (True story.)

And of course we had to incorporate the, "Whhhaaaaat?" from the movie, "Despicable Me." spoken by one of his faithful yellow minions. For those of you who've seen it, you know what I'm talking about. For those who haven't, rent it when it comes out, it's great. You'll be doing it too.

Despicable Me (click here for the short version)

Last, but certainly not least in my family, we have the all too familiar...well, let's put it this way. My sons were taking a bath and I was trying to get in 10 minutes of down time by staring at the TV while folding laundry. I hear giggling and then nothing. If you're a mom, the nothing is what puts them on your radar. It's like your a deer in the woods and all of a sudden you a perfectly still, your ears twitch, and you smell something just not quite right. I waited a moment, and sure enough I hear some splashing, and then a loud THUD, followed by more uncontrollable laughter. And then silence. I didn't wait for round three. I open the door to two naked boys sliding across the bathroom floor on about a quarter inch of water. I soak it in for a split second (no pun intended), try to keep my head from exploding and growl, "WHAT THE.....!"

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Old Gray Mare

I had my children later in life. I think sometimes people wait because they want to be more financially secure, but when it comes to children, I'm not sure a person can ever be completely ready. That wasn't really the case with me, just thought I'd throw that out there. Actually, I had wanted children earlier, but life just had different plans for me. And when I least expected it, here came the curve ball that we later named Kaiden.

There are a lot of pros to being an older parent, but there are a lot of cons, too. That became very apparent when I was at my 20th class reunion. I'd pull out my photos of my tots to show them off and they would pull out theirs. Most of them were senior portraits. Empty nesters at my age. Wow, what a concept! Of course, then I would be worrying about how to pay for college right now. But I would be lying if I said I didn't envy them sometimes.

I would only have to laundry once a week. I could by milk a gallon at a time. Shawn and I could actually have an uninterrupted conversation. My house would stay clean for longer than 15 minutes. I could buy new furniture and not have to worry about wear and tear. I could wear a white shirt. The most used word in my vocabulary would not be "What?" I could attend any function without having to plan weeks in advance. My car would not be filled with toys and wrappers. I might also be able to watch what I wanted on television AND be able to hear it. I could invest in a gym membership. Wait. That might be pushing it.

Even at this age, at the end of the day, my energy is zapped. And to think, I will be 55 by the time the last one leaves home. IF they leave home. (They better, or I'll charge rent!)

I'm already surprised at how they try to outsmart me, even at the young age they're at. Just think of when I'm older and my mind is not as sharp! For instance, Kamrin was being particularly sassy one night. I had warned him that his behavior was going to earn him a ban from television. He informed me that I would be banned from television. I said, "Kamrin. If you don't quit being a smart aleck, I'm going to have to put you in time out." He started to return fire, "You are being a smart..."

"Kamrin," I interrupted, "You don't want to go there."

"What? I said you smart. My (I) being nice."

Really? He doesn't think I see through that one? And I'm pretty sure they will start teaming up to try and outsmart Shawn and I. My sons were watching TV on one of the channels geared toward children. After about the 5th toy commercial and the fifth time that Kamrin said, "I want that." I finally told him that if he wanted that, it would be a good idea to save up his money so he could buy it himself. As I was leaving the room, I heard Kaiden lean over and whisper, "You don't have to save your money. Just ask Santa for it." Yeah, they're schemers.

You have to be able to remember from day to day, the things that you have told them about the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny and Santa Claus. I remember one year while celebrating Christmas at my parents' house (Grammie, Papa and Sophie the dog), and it was Christmas Eve. We were having a hard time getting them to go to bed and go to sleep. So we told them that Santa wouldn't come if they were awake. We put them in their bed, and just to make sure they would close their eyes, we found a Christmas door hanger with jingle bells on it and Shawn went outside and shook it to sound like sleigh bells. Well that seemed to work. But then just the other night, Kaiden asked me, "What if I'm not asleep when Santa comes?" I told him Santa would have to wait to come until he WAS asleep. "But what if the dogs bark when he comes and wake me up?" I told him that Santa had special Christmas powers that made dogs like him. "Then how come Sophie barked at Grammie's house?" Oh yeah. Forgot about that.

So, yes, some days I feel lucky that I color my hair, because I'm pretty sure there are some gray ones in there and the two deep wrinkles between my eyebrows have gotten deeper. But all-in-all, I'm fairly certain that they are keeping me young at heart.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sheep and Weapons of Destruction

I know Shawn has always wished we could have a girl. He'll never say that out loud, but I know this for a fact. He was born the youngest of six boys, and I suppose that he has always wanted a Daddy's Little Girl. As for me, I love having boys. I've never been much of a girly-girl myself, so I'm just not sure that I would have made a little girl very happy. I don't like to shop (much to my mother's dismay), I don't really like to play dress-up or have tea parties, so I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been any fun at all. I know that when I'm older, I will probably have wished we would have tried one more time for a girl. Girls are just better communicators. Who's going to call me up just to chat? Or ask me for advice? Or remember to send me a card on my birthday? I just hope my boys find a girl out there who will make an effort to remind them to do those things when the time comes.

There are so many differences between having boys and having girls.We have a neighbor across the street who has a little girl who is about Kaiden's age. She's loves to come over to play and we love having her over. Problem is, about 10 minutes into the play date, Kaiden will come over to me and whisper, "Moo-ooom. She doesn't want to do anything fun!" The boys' idea of fun is playing in the dirt, shooting each other with toy guns, or any type of game that involves running, yelling and tackling someone. I guess she's just not into that sort of stuff.

There are some boy games I'm good at, and a lot I'm not. That's why I'm so glad that Shawn is not too distant from his inner child (and I mean they are very close!) I tried to play "guys" with them once, you know, the GI Joes, or the WWE wrestling guys. I walked my guy over to Kaiden's guy and in my deepest voice said, "Hi guy." Shawn about had a fit. "What?! You don't walk over and say, 'hi guy'! Are you crazy?" Apparently the protocol is to walk your guy over, and even if you don't know him, you beat the crap out of the other guy. Who knew? I am banned from playing guys.

Boys are restless. They don't sit for long periods of time, at least mine don't. Long car rides are especially difficult. The only advantage to having boys vs. girls when taking a long trip is you can stop anywhere to pee. I just have to remember to face them down-wind and downhill. I learned that one the hard way. My boys even consider the 15 minute car ride from our house to the bus stop/daycare in the morning, "a long ride." Consequently, I have used some of the tried-and-true games that I did as a kid. One of those is a game called "Rock, Paper, Scissors." I'm sure you all know how it goes. Well, the three of us were playing it one morning on our daily commute. "Rock, paper, scissors, SHOOT!" we say together. I say, "I have rock." (I always go first to give them a chance to beat me, since I'm in the front seat and can't see what they have.) Kaiden shouts, "I have paper!" And after a split second pause, Kamrin says, "I have gun!" Well, who can beat gun? I nearly wet my pants laughing so hard. So after that incident, the game has now evolved into "Rock, Paper, Weapons of Destruction.' We basically get to make up any type of weapon we want and we try to figure out how it beats the others. Let's see you do that with a girl!

Kamrin is finally coming to the age where he can actually participate in these games. I-Spy was a bit painful when it was Kamrin's turn, "I spy, with my whittle eye, sumpin'.....that's a.....truck!"

We also have a game we that we have just dubbed, "Animal Sounds." It's a lot like I Spy, except a person makes an animal sound, and you try to guess what it is. (I had them completely stumped when I chose a turtle once!) So I had my turn and made a hooting noise like an owl. Easy. Kaiden's was a bit harder, because I thought it was a mouse. Turns out it was a bat. So now, I need to explain this to Kamrin so he doesn't give it away. "Kamrin," I say, "Remember, just make an animal sound and we'll guess what it is." He pauses for a bit, and after some thought, he says, "Sheeeep. Sheeeep."

Even though my bathroom will never be the same, my house is never quiet, passing gas and burping will always be hilarious, and having pants without holes in the knees is a miracle, I'm quite content with boys. And I'm quite sure that, although Shawn may never stop wondering what having a girl would be like, he's going to really have some great little buddies as they keep growing. I can't say that I'm not a little jealous.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Celebrate the Differences

They say that a mother should never love one child more than the other. I believe that's true. I love my boys equally, just for very different reasons.

Kaiden was the most beautiful baby when he was born. I thought he was perfect in every way, as most first time mothers will tell you. He was a happy baby. He had our full attention. Kamrin came along, and I learned that love didn't have to be halved, it just doubled. Be he was so different from Kaiden from the beginning. He was colicky. Where Kaiden had slept through the night, Kam was up several times. Kamrin wouldn't give up his bottle, Kaiden could care less. But Kaiden still has a security blanket, and Kamrin has no need for one.

At this age, Kamrin's biggest goal in life is to be just like his older brother, but as much as he tries, his personality just won't let him. Oh he'll do his best to mimic what he says and what he does, but that inner part of him just reaches out and takes over.

Kaiden is somewhat shy. He loves new people, but it takes a good 10 minutes to warm up to someone. He tends to use his little brother as a human shield when he wants to do something he isn't comfortable with. He meets new people by pushing Kamrin out ahead of him, because Kam says "hi" to everyone, and I mean everyone! Kamrin's question to all he meets is, "What's your name?" and he is under the assumption that anyone who answers him, loves him. While trick-or-treating this year, Kamrin would go up, ring the bell, say trick-or-treat and then ask what their name was. Upon getting his candy, and them telling him their name, he would say thank you, and, "Bye Bob!" (or whatever that person's name was) and then he'd tell me, "Him loves me."

Kaiden can play for hours by himself. He loves toy cars, action figures, dinosaurs and all he can imagine they do. Kamrin doesn't have a whole lot of interest in toys. He would much rather take something apart to see how it works, flip switches and push buttons.

Kaiden is ultra sensitive (I hope this is a stage). He'll be the first to cry at sad parts in a movie (along with mom). One perceived negative sentence and the boy's face crumples into tears as he stomps off to his room telling me to "leave him alone." And when I do, then I, "don't love him any more." Kam is carefree and approaches life with wild abandon. He can be mad one minute, but the next, scrambling into your lap and saying, "My love you." He tosses those My Love You's around a lot ("My," meaning "I"). I think he's told a convenience store clerk, a neighbor, and a strange dog that in the past week. One time, Kamrin was bothering dad with the fly-swatter and after telling him to stop several times, Shawn flicked him on the head. Kamrin crinkled his brow and simply said, "Well that sucks."

Kaiden loved baseball this past summer, couldn't get enough. While he practiced batting, Kam sat on the grass behind him and picked dandelions.

Kaiden likes country music, Kamrin's favorite song since at an early age was, "Don't Fear the Reaper."

I have a piano in my living room, Kaiden will pound on it and sing loudly and off-key. One day, Kamrin asked if I wanted to hear a song and when I said yes, that kid sat at the piano and swear to God, played a crooked little tune. Moved his little fingers gently up and down the keys and sang in a quiet whisper-voice and when through, told me that was his "sad song."

Kamrin has an inner intelligence. There's just something behind those eyes that lets me know that he understands a lot more than he lets on. He has "street smarts" and he isn't afraid to manipulate Shawn and I with it. Kaiden is a bright kid too, he just has to be taught and then he catches on like wildfire and makes the connections.

The physical differences too: Kamrin is blonde, with whispy-wild hair that goes in every direction. Kaiden has dark thick hair that he perfectly combs every morning. Kamrin has this closed-lipped smile that melts your heart while Kaiden has a big wide grin that makes his eyes sparkle. Kamrin has such delicate bone structure that I can touch my thumb with my index finger around his forearm. He often says, "My tiny." Kaiden is built like his dad, thick boned and a solid little guy.

Despite, and because of these differences, these boys make my world complete. And more often than not, when Kamrin says, "My love you, Kaiden." I hear, "I love you too, Little Man." What more could I ask for?