Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Claiming my Children- Elizabeth

For the most part, I don't like to admit that my children have any of my personality. I know, parents are supposed to be beaming with pride every time they uncover a little gem of a personality quirk little Junior seems to have mined from the family genes. Cynics would say I must not love my children enough if I don't want to claim them in public, and a therapist would probably tell me I don't like myself enough to recognize my own good qualities. Whatever, I don't honestly have time to think about that stuff. My kids are crazy. And they get it from Rob.

But I'm starting to have to come to terms with the fact that my kids may actually be a lot like me. And not like the Elizabeth that I try to be, or that I at least try to convince others that I am. No, my kids seem to be the Elizabeth that my mom and sister have always complained about, the one that I am continually talking to inside my head, telling her to back off because if she comes out, bad things will happen. (Any therapists reading this are having a field day with me right now...)

My mom tells a story from my childhood, when I was about 2.5-3 years old. In this story (which is one I fully embrace, not one of the ones I believe she is mis-remembering...) precocious little Beth comes running up to say, "I drew a B, I drew a B!" My mother, being the perfectionist she is, says, "That's nice, but why does your B have three loops instead of just two?" Without missing a beat, little Beth says, "It's a B on a rock!" This story frightens me a lot, especially now that I'm a mother and realize that having a child of 2.5 who can write letters, while impressive, is exhausting. And having a child that can cover her mistakes with excuses and complicated stories is just plain torture.

One of the letters of the week we're doing at our house is, ironically, the letter B. You can only imagine where this story is going. Josiah, being my less-academic child, has always avoided anything to do with letters, writing, spelling... learning in general. (I don't push him, mostly because I don't care if he ever learns his letters because that means he'll never be able to text or email me nasty little messages when he's a teenager...) But yesterday he was all fired up to do some drawing. The first thing he did was draw two circles on top of each other, and then proudly announced that he wrote a B. I cheered him on, took crayons out of Gabby's mouth and returned to removing the stickers from the couch. Josiah kept drawing, and presented me with about four more renditions of his interpretation of the letter B.

I'm not a complete jerk of a mom, so I did a lot of praising and all that jazz the books tell you to do so that your kids wait until they have their own jobs before wanting to shell out money for therapy. Then I held up our little B poster and asked him if we could compare his B to the ones in the picture. We eventually uncovered the fact that his B did not have a long line from top to bottom like the B on our poster did. So I asked him if he wanted to add a line to his Bs.

His response, after barely pausing to take a breath: "Mama, my B doesn't like to stand up straight. Mine likes to roll, fast like a race car, so I need to leave it round like wheels so it can GO! Vroom!" And then his Bs went racing around the room, soon to be followed by Gabby's.

I'm not really sure how to respond. Are we glad he shows creativity and imagination? Are we impressed he even knows what a letter is, let alone being about to identify one AND have the desire to draw it? Do we think he'll be flipping burgers or pumping gas because I don't have to discipline to make him sit down and keep trying until he gets it right? (If you choose the last one, then I'll just tell you now that Josiah will be coming home smelling like gasoline or fry grease, because that whole abuse, I mean strict correction, is simply not happening with me...)

And here's the truth- the only way I know to respond is to finally admit that my little terror may actually be a lot like his mom. And now I have to go call my mom and sister, and apologize for, well, my entire childhood...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Reading- by Josiah

Guess what?! I'm learning how to read! And it is SO awesome!

I should mention that Mom, being the total wet blanket that she always is, keeps trying to tell me that I'm not really reading. She says it in her really "nice" voice- the one she uses when she's totally ruining my world but acting like she wishes she weren't. The one she used when she told me I couldn't grow up to be a dinosaur, the one she used when she told me I could never turn Gabby into a brother, the one she uses when she tells me I can't be a woman when I grow up so I can paint my toenails, too. I know she means well, but as soon as I hear that tone of voice, I stop listening. Because the news is never good.

Anyhow, Mom keeps talking about how I really need to learn all my letters first. Whatever. Gabby knows her letters, she's known them for months. So any time anyone asks me what a letter is, I just stall, and Gabby will yell it out. Then I just repeat whatever she said. That little freak of a nerd has known her letters since before she turned 2, so I figure I don't need to bother with it. After all, she knows nothing about the different kind of contruction trucks, emergency vehicles and race cars. Together, we've got it covered.

Besides, you can totally read without even looking at letters. It's simple, really, you just ask Mom, "Mom, what does that say?" And Mom tells you, and, bam, you've read it. Mom says that's not really me reading, that's her reading. But my theory is that reading is figuring out what signs, books, TV credits, receipts, magazines are all trying to communicate. Well, I've figured out that Mom can tell me, so, by definition, I'm reading, right? It's like that whole "language's primary goal is to communicate things, and if something is successfully communicated, grammar and spelling are unnecessary" argument. (In case you're wondering, Mom doesn't subscribe to that idea, either, she's always correcting me on how to pronounce things and "conjugate verbs," whatever that means...)

My favorite time to read is in the car. Especially on the way to soccer practice, when Gabby's not there, and it's just me and mom. That's a pretty long drive, and we go down lots of streets with lots of signs. I just yell out, "Mom, what does that sign say?" and Mom says something. I don't really care what she says, because I'm already looking for the next sign. I heard someone bragging once about speed-reading, so I figure the goal is to read as many signs between our house and the soccer field as possible. I think today we hit 73 or something like that. I don't know for sure, though, because I only like to count to 20. I let Gabby handle the counting of anything beyond that.

Anyhow, I just wanted to share in case you hadn't learned to read yet. (Gabby just pointed out that people who can't read couldn't read this blog. See what I mean- total nerd. I just hit her on the head with a tractor and she's went off crying to Mom.) Guess I better wrap this up, it seems I'm in trouble. But I'll keep you posted on my reading progress!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Popsicles- or not...- Josiah

I really worry for my Mom. I don't think she's very smart. And I think, when she doesn't know the answer to my questions, she makes things up.

Today, she was working in Gabby's room a lot, which I took to mean she wanted me to play on my own. I got that idea when she kept saying, "Josiah, please put down that laundry / the carpet cleaner/ my hammer and go play on your own!" I figure, since she was so busy upstairs, that probably meant that I should play downstairs. And since she was pulling everything out of Gabby's drawers and closet, she would probably like me to do the same in her room. I figured she's always doing nice things for Gabby and I, and never gets to take care of her own room, so I would help her out. A nice surprise for Mother's Day, right?

So while I carefully emptied the cabinets from under both sinks in Mom and Dad's bathroom, and stacked everything in order by size and color, I can across a pretty pink box. Inside was one nicely wrapped, long packet that looked familiar. I ran up the stairs and found Mom, and yelled, "Look Mom, I found a popsicle! Can I have it?!? PLEASE??!?" Mom started to giggle a bit and said, "Josiah, that's not a popsicle, that's a pregnancy test. Please stop playing in Mom's bathroom."

Okay, here's the thing. Mom is smart enough to know, just by seeing that thing, that I had been in her bathroom. But it's like she's allowed just one minute of intelligence a day, and that was it, and from there on out, she's a total rock. I know this because she could not answer a single one of my questions. I asked her what this "pregnancy test" was for. She said it was to know if we were going to have another baby. Well, Dad has already said that we will only have another baby "if we can figure out what in the heck we're supposed to do with the two we already have, and if we move into a bigger house with a room set aside just for Dad so that he can have some peace and quiet for just 5 little minutes once a week." Well, since we know that's not happening, we know we're not having a baby, so I don't get what this test thing is for.

I asked Mom how it works, and I think she was just too distracted to realize the crazy thing she was saying. She started talking about PEEING on this thing, and how that was just like how I peed in the cup at the doctor's office, and that there were these chemical things that happen in a Mom's body that help her know she's going to have a baby and you can tell this in her pee and this stick would know if the chemicals were there and tell her if she's pregnant.

That's okay, you can take a couple of seconds of silence to try to absorb that crazy talk, I know I did.

Are you all right? Okay, I'll continue... So, yeah, then I figured we should test this thing out. I asked Mom if I could pee on it. She said no. How about Gabby? She said no. How about Taco or Bandit, or Grandma or Grandpa, or Pastor Bill or my Cubbie leaders... No, no, no. She said it only works if the Mom pees on it, which I don't think can be right. I mean, Gabby's the last baby we had in this house, and if any of those other people could have had early warning that she was coming, they would have needed it. She's a disaster! I told Mom the next time we went to the store, we should buy all those people pregnancy tests so that they could know if they are having any babies coming along. As far as I'm concerned, fore-warned is fore-armed.

Not that I really buy into this whole peeing on a stick thing. I mean, it's all a little ridiculous, you know? Just another one of those stories Mom makes up when she doesn't know how to answer my questions. I can't wait until we go to church choir practice tonight, I'll ask my teachers, I'm sure they'll tell me the truth...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Nature vs. Library- Elizabeth

Now that the weather is nice, I'm trying to get the kids outside more. Today, I decided to forego our usual Wednesday morning library trip to spend some time in the yard. Here's what happened:

Gabby ran past me with two dead field mice in her hands.

And Taco brought us home a dead, bloody snake.

I think I've had enough nature for one morning. We're going to clean up, and sanitize ourselves until our skin burns, and go to the library.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Green Thumb- Josiah

I really, really, really love what Mom calls our "science lesson" this month. She calls it planting and gardening, I call it making a big mess out of dirt without getting into trouble.

We've never really had much dirt for me to dig in. Mom and Dad say they both really don't like yard work, so they purposely chose a house with a small, simple yard "that backs to open space so we can see nature without being responsible for it." I don't really know what all that means, but it basically sounds like my Mom and Dad are too lazy to provide for me something that is fun. Typical.

But Mom's kinda gotten into this educational kick lately (something about TV frying my brain and maybe if I spend some time outside she will stop finding Legos in the air vents...) So she came up with the idea that if I plant seeds, she could try to teach me about roots and stems. And phloem, xylem, sclerenchyma and photosynthesis... yeah, I was listening, but don't tell Mom, it might go to her head. So Mom went out and bought some seeds, dirt and pots. And Grandma bought Gabby and I each some gloves, kneeling pads, trowells, cultivators and watering cans that all match with Diego on them for me and Dora on them for Gabby- because Grandma knows what is important.

Planting the seeds was pretty fun- Mom decided we would plant seeds in the house first, to germinate. (She likes to use big words like that, but it basically means you put them in little dirt boxes until they do something other than sit there like the piles of dirt that they are.) It has been pretty fun, because I get to stand on a kitchen chair and water all the seeds, but Gabby usually gets strapped into her eating chair first. This makes her mad, but it's her own fault for constantly trying to eat the dirt. Anyhow, if didn't take long for some of the flowers to sprout, which is good for me because I was seriously starting to wonder if Mom knew what she was doing at all.

So today, Mom said it was time to move those "flowers" outside. I should really clarify this. Mom keeps telling me that these are flowers and she shows me this picture on some packet and says things like, "See, these are going to be tall and blue, and these over here are going to be yellow..." You know, for someone who was so adamant that I learn my colors, it seems she should take her own advice- those things are green. I kept telling her over and over they are green, but she just doesn't get it sometimes...

So I followed Mom outside and you know what she did next- she made a HUGE mess! It was awesome! I've never seen my Mom do things like this! I mean, she tends to ignore dirt in our house until she thinks "someone is going to call CPS and we'll deserve it..." But she NEVER goes out and just starts making massive, disgusting, beautiful messes. Today, she was a vision in mud. She was tearing out grass and throwing it over the fence. AND SHE TOLD GABBY AND ME THAT WE COULD, TOO!! (There was a little drama with her trying to tell Gabby which grass to pull up that ended up with Gabby screaming and running away and Mom muttering about how Dad is going to kill her for letting us ruin the grass he just planted... but she didn't stop us, so I'm guessing it wasn't that big a deal...) Mom's pants got all muddy, and she kept crawling in all the grass Gabby was watering which just made her more muddy. She had dirt in her hair, and on her face and under her fingernails- and she didn't even rush in and throw herself in the bathtub, like she always does to me when I try to come in the house looking like that.

Now, I'm not stupid. I know that this kind of chance does not come up often- it might even be once in a lifetime. So I went with it, man! I started pulling up grass and dirt and throwing it as far as I could! Sure, sometimes it didn't really make it over the fence, and once it even hit Mom full in the eye. But she seemed to be too numb with whatever she was doing, she barely noticed. Then Mom started to let me water what she was planting with her watering can, and even let Gabby help, too! What, is it Christmas?! Gabby and I took that to mean we needed to help Mom water everything. We kept walking about 10 feet away and watering the same spot of grass over and over and over again. Then we would go back to where Mom was working and ask for more water. Eventually Mom wised up and went and got a big ol' pitcher from the kitchen so she could fill our cans up endlessly.

I don't know what got into Mom today, but I like it! I really did learn a lot about science. I learned how to make the perfect kind of mud- not too wet, not too dry, will stick to everything, but dry quickly so it's hard to get out of clothes. I learned how to find worms and stick them in my sister's hair. I learned that if you hit a cat with a clump of muddy grass, she runs away and may even bonk right into the fence if you catch her off guard. Mom was right- gardening is very educational. And the voodoo effect it has on my Mom isn't too bad, either...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Wisdom Nuggets- Elizabeth

Growing up, my mom had three answers to every problem in my life:
1) It's because you don't eat right
2) It's because you don't get enough sleep
3) It's on the floor of your room.
I would have to say, this truly did solve about 99% of my issues, except the ones that only many years of extensive therapy have any hope of putting a dent into.

I've been a mother now for almost 4 years. I'm trying to find my own little universal nuggets of wisdom that my kids will remember me by. I've been working on one for a while now, I'd like to know what you think. It goes something like this: Ignore it and it will go away.

If I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that I've been applying this to my life for many years now. Some people call it procrastinating. I object. Rather, it's a very carefully thought-out approach to addressing one's problems in a exceptionally proactive manner. It is, my friends, not the easy way out. No, this kind of philosophy takes discipline and committment, and is not for the faint of heart. I will give you some examples in my life:

1) Laundry. Ignoring laundry is really hard. Because when it's not done, it takes over your home. We currently have some clothing that is actually speaking to us, in addition to the normal stuff that just tries to trip you when it jumps out of the baskets. (Dirty laundry is just mean like that...) But in some ways, ignoring it is effective, especially with kids' clothes. See, if you wait long enough, your kids will outgrow the clothes, so you'll just have to box them up for charity once you finally wash it. And, voila, it goes away! So, in this area, I consider my wisdom nugget to be a success.

2) Fighting Children. Yes, my children fight. I know, I know, after all you've read about them, this comes as a complete shock. Sometimes they fight with each other. Sometimes with the cats. Sometimes with their toys. And sometimes just with life itself, because my kids are incredibly practiced in existential ponderings. It is not easy to ignore my children when they are fighting. They are loud. The are large. They have lots of energy. And they are creative. But I believe in my philosophy of ignoring, so, with the help of my MP3 player and strategically closed doors, I stick to my guns. And it's working. Sure, Josiah pushed Gabby down the stairs and split her lip open last week. But it's almost completely healed now, and if that doesn't fulfill the "it will go away" part of the wisdom, then nothing does.

3) That Funky Smell coming from the Refrigerator. This one doesn't need a whole lot of explanation. Pretty much, you can ignore whatever is growing in that box next to the milk. Because whatever it is will either walk away on its own, or the other adult in your home will eventually throw it away. Or, I guess, someone from your county's toxic waste removal services will respond to a call from your neighbor. Ignoring this is hard, people. Perhaps the most challenging of all, but a couple of good nose plugs, or a good head cold, will make this easier.

4) The Change Oil Soon light in the car. Rob likes to take credit for this one, and, to his face, I give it to him. But in reality, if I didn't ignore this light, it wouldn't get take care of. If I was proactive and took the car in to the dealer, then the car dudes would just try to tell me that I needed more spark plug fluid or something. And I would say, "Sure, whatever, don't worry about the cost!" and Rob would say, "Are you INSANE?? Don't EVER try to do anything with the car, don't take it to those crooks!" And the oil wouldn't get changed. So, in reality, my ignoring the light is the impetus that causes Rob to change the oil. Once again, nugget success.

I really could go on and on, but the more I type this, the more I'm convincing myself. So, yeah, I think I'm going to go ahead and ink this in my Mom's Book of Wisdom I'm making for my kids. Now to move onto the next one- Sugary cereals for Breakfast gives you energy for the whole day...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mexican Food- Gabrielle

Tonight, I decided to take one more step on the Independence Highway I'm screaming down, and this step took me straight into the waiting arms of spicy salsa.

As you may know, if you've been following our story, I am what my pediactrician likes to call a "discerning eater." Or, if you listen to Mom on one of her bad days, "a frustrating little princess who defines picky and might as well starve as much as I care, I am NOT making one more piece of food for that ungrateful twit." I'm not sure, but I don't think I was really supposed to hear her say that...

Anyhow, I've recently realized that Mom wasn't as bothered by the whole picky eating thing anymore, and, frankly, I don't really like to be labeled. So I've started to branch out in my food exploration. (To really drive Mom nuts, though, I only try new food for Dad. She'll offer me something for a month, and I'll throw it on the floor. Then she leaves me alone with Dad for one morning, and I try it and love it. I do this to try to make her feel bad for missing even a second of my life...) Over the last few months, I've discovered omelets and lasagna and soup and blueberries and pancakes and bananas... You know, all the food most kids love and start eating as soon as they can chew, but that I've totally ignored because all I've wanted was refried beans. (But I'm still not going for that Mac and Cheese stuff, I don't care what you say, it's weird...)

I have to say, though, I love mexican food. It might be because of the beans, or because that's where Dad wants to eat when Mom's always saying "PLEASE can we go somewhere with some fresh raw vegetables, I really want a salad, not all that heavy food." I like to help out Dad when I can, so he can always use me as a negotiating tip- because there is NOTHING at Sweet Tomatoes that I will eat.

So tonight, we went to one of our standby Mexican restaurants, the one that drives Mom nuts because they never have big tables and we get shoved in a booth where they sit me on the end of the table and I kick Mom's shins the whole time. This was the first time they actually let me sit IN the booth with them, and this let me be closer to the chips. Usually they hand me a chip and I show my disdain by breaking it up into tiny little pieces and throwing them in Mom's lap . But tonight I noticed Dad was dipping his chips into this pretty red stuff that looked a lot like beans. They told me it wasn't beans, but I wouldn't believe them until I stuck my fingers into it. Mom said something like, "Well, that's all yours now..." and actually turned into a kinda cool Mom for a minute. Because she dipped my chip into that red stuff and offered it to me. Even though Dad, Grandpa and Grandma were all saying, "No, that's too spicy, you'll hurt her, Gabby you don't want that!" There are these rare moments when Mom and I bond, when she's actually pretty cool and let's me do what I want... Then she says, "Well, she has to learn somehow, maybe she'll stop asking for it if she realizes she doesn't like it." Oh, I get it, it's just another thing that you've decided I won't like and you just want to shut me up. I'll show you...

I ate half a bowl of that salsa stuff. I shoveled about three huge chips worth of the stuff straight down my throat. Sure, my face turned red and my eyes were watering. Sure, I said, "Hurts!" and Grandma said she thought I should stop when my nose starting running. But I kept at it. Because you know what? It was GOOD! And I felt like a grownup. And I liked to do something they didn't expect, I liked to surprise them all. And, I can't lie, I was enjoying the idea of the diaper Mom will get to clean up tomorrow.

By the end of the meal, I ate my entire cheese enchilada, my double helping of refried beans and, for the first time, actually ate some ice cream because we get a free kids' sundae with my meal. (I did this because Dad always eats my sundae, but Mom said today she might want a bite, so I decided today was the day to make sure they knew it is MINE!) Mom's gonna have quite a mess on her hands tomorrow... =)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Yelling- Gabrielle

Dude, have you heard of yelling? It's this new thing that's all the rage in our house, and I'm telling you, it's AWESOME!

Just to give you some history, you should know that I've always tried to kinda go the "sweet" route. I realized very early that people ooh, ahh, and give you things when they think you are sweet. If you are quiet and innocent-seeming, they also ignore you. This has allowed me to get away with a lot of stuff in my life. So, for the most part, up until now, this whole sweet thing has worked for me.

Unfortunately, the Evil Warden that insists I call her Mom has recently gotten some brains. (She's not shown much up until now, so I'm thinking it's just as likely someone has ratted me out, but that's a topic for another blog...) Mom has started paying more attention to what I'm doing, being a bit more worried about "where I am and what I'm getting up to." She actually said to me the other day, "You know, that sweet act won't work on me, young lady!" so I started to think that perhaps I needed a new gig.

It didn't take long to realize that my brother Josiah has a pretty good schtick going with this thing called Yelling. Man, that drives Mom nuts! She's always saying things about "inside voices," "kind tones of voice," "headaches" and "isn't your father home yet?" I HAD to get in on this! So I talked with Josiah about this a little, and we came up with a game plan. We did have to be a little creative, though. See, Josiah knows more words than I do. And he does this thing with saying lots of words all at once that makes Mom say, "Josiah, that was a nice sentence, thanks for using such nice words!" Yeah, I'm not really all that interested in the sentence thing. So I explained to Josiah that, if we're going to work together, he really has to go back to the single word and short phrase thing. Ever since we got that worked out, it's been wonderful. Man, you should hear us both start up with "Potty! Potty! Potty! Potty!" It's, frankly, beautiful beyond belief.

There are two key components to a very effective Single-Word Yelling technique: volume and repetitiveness. There is a delicate balance between how quickly you repeat a word, though, so be careful. If you go too fast, Mom will say something like, "I'm not listening unless you use real words" and "If you cannot speak appropriately to me, you can go spend some time alone in your room." Once Mom gets to those sentences, the fun usually stops because she really will ignore me and make me spend time alone in my room. So you have to disguise this Yelling thing as if it's a sincere and true attempt to communicate. Mom should feel some stress that she's unable to meet your "needs" and she'll start saying things like, "Gabby, I'm trying, I'm really doing my best, please don't yell at me!" and "I'm really really sorry that we're out of yogurt, is there ANYTHING else you could possibly shove into your mouth to make that awful noise stop?!?" See, you have to make her think that YOU are the victim and hope she never realizes what a complete patsy you are making of her.

This has been a fun two weeks implementing our plan! I feel bad for Josiah, though, because Mom's getting kinda hard on him. She keeps sending him to his room, saying, "You cannot stand there and yell one word at me over and over and over again. You know how to speak properly, come down when you're ready." But, you know what? It's his own fault for ever speaking in sentences in the first place. I mean, really, you have this great Single-Word Yelling thing going, why would you jeopardize that just to get a little praise from this crazy woman? I tell you what- I'm NEVER going to ask for something politely in sentence form. Sure, I know all my letters, can spell my name and write a couple of letters. But I'm playing dumb with that. That and potty training, and I can pretty much guarantee I'll have Mom on edge all summer long...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Boys and their Boy Parts- Elizabeth

I have been stupid. So very, very, very stupid. But, well, it started off innocently enough...

See, Josiah really struggled while learning to talk. We were even a little worried about him for a while (which says a lot, because I'm usually way too overwhelmed to be worried about such unimportant things like Josiah's development...) So when Josiah started to want to dress himself, just around his second birthday, we were living in a much more quiet world. And I didn't really understand boys. But now I am much wiser.

Picture this- here's me with a 6 month old that demanded I do everything for her, as 6 month olds are wont to do. And a 2 year old who just couldn't communicate with me. When he started to try to dress himself, I felt like I was getting about as close to the magic nanny robot coming to live with me as I ever would. Josiah did very well- except his underpants. He kept getting them on backwards. This is frustrating on so many levels. One, he can't really put any other clothes on until the underpants are on. Two, because NO male looks good with bikini briefs on backwards. There's just something wrong about a little lower butt-cheek handing out. Third, I just think Thomas the Tank Engine does not belong splashed across the boy parts. So we worked really hard, day after day, until one day, in exasperation, I showed Josiah the penis pocket. (Why, yes, that is the official name, thanks for asking...) Seriously, this was a great breakthrough for our, then mute, little dude. He, our almost dumbstruck child, almost always got them on right from then on. Yes, the pretty silent toddler was quite proud of himself.

And then he learned to talk. And talk. And talk. Seriously, the kid NEVER shuts up. And one of the first phrases he mastered- yes, that's right, the penis pocket. Penis pocket. Penis pocket. Penis pocket. Penis pocket. Oh, I'm sorry, is that annoying to hear over and over and over again, endlessly? I had no idea...

Every morning, Josiah displays his underpants for me and says, "Mama, is this the penis pocket?" After every bath, Josiah displays his underpants for me and says, "Mama, is this the penis pocket?" After every swim session, Josiah displays his underpants for me and says, "Mama, is this the penis pocket?" In the store, when looking for new underpants, Josiah says to me, "Make sure you get some with a penis pocket!" Loudly.

I keep telling myself this is a phase, but it's been almost two years now. I've told myself I will give him one more year to outgrow this. And then, it's war. I will be videotaping him, naked, in all his God-given glory, obsessing about his penis pocket. And I will save it to replay it at important occassions. Not just one occassion, like his first date. No, the repetitiveness of this all will be vindicated. I will play it for his first date. For his first prom. For his wedding. At his first son's first birthday. Better yet, I will teach his sons about the penis pocket. (But tell them only to ask their dad about it, because I won't torture my daughter in law. It's not her fault...) So, you know, be warned if you may be part of our lives at these times. The next year will determine much about what you may see in the future...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Story time- by Josiah

I LOVE story time! My mom is the BEST at story time. Largely because she is SO easy to manipulate. Man, I can get that woman to do just about anything if 1) she thinks it's educational and 2) I am witty about how I demand. I mean, how I ask.

For every nap and bedtime, Mom, Gabby and I all sit in the big chair in Gabby's room and read books. Every time Mom says, "Josiah, tonight we're going to do 3 books." Do you know, if I could count on one hand, I could count on one hand the number of times we've only read 3 books. Here's how it goes:

Mom: Jobster, let's pick three books.
Me: How about five books?
Mom: Three.
Gabby: Train book!

- Okay, just to interrupt, this is where I am SO smart. Gabby is just starting to figure out how to be a brat, I mean, how to ask for things she wants rather than just going along with whatever I want. Some big brothers would let this slow them down. Not me. I USE this to my advantage. Watch carefully...

Me: I don't WANT to read the train book!
Mom: Josiah, that train book is the one YOU picked out from the library.
Me: I want three OTHER books!
Mom: Okay, Gabby, we will read the train book, Josiah pick out two books.
Mom: Okay, okay, we'll read the train book, and whatever three books you pick.
Gabby: Mouse book!

- Man, I'm training that girl well! She learns very quickly, and I'm quite proud of her progress.

Mom: Okay, Josiah, you pick two, Gabby picks two, and that's four books. Okay?
Me: Okay, I want the dump truck book, the pigeon book and the monster book.
Mom: Josiah, we'll just do the first two, we're not reading all three. I already promised Gabs the train and mouse books. What two do you want?
Me: But MOM! I promised me the dump truck book, the pigeon book and the monster book. We have to keep our promises!

- AND- VICTORY! Seriously, isn't that the cutest thing you've ever heard, "I promised me." Man, I'm good. And, you guessed it, we read 5 books. As we do for most story times...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Freedom- by Gabrielle

Some days I wish I were a cat.

We have two cats in our house- Taco and Bandit. Taco has been around forever, and he seems to do his best to avoid me. I'm not really sure why- I sing to him, hug him, play with his food and water, give him toys (even thought Mom's always saying things like "Don't shove the toy in his face, Gabby!" Like she'd know what anyone likes about toys...) But Bandit- she's new to our home. She actually came after me, which kinda makes her the baby. I don't mind, though, because Mom doesn't really give her all that much attention as the new baby. I mean, she never gets sung to or has her hair braided... she's totally dumb to not try to reap these things, but I'm not telling her about it.

But what Mom does give Bandit, that she doesn't give me- FREEDOM. That little fur ball gets to run around wherever she wants. She eats off the floor, climbs on the bed, fights with Taco, and no one ever says anything. Because she's a cat. Like that matters! I'm the only little girl in this house, and usually that allows me to get away with things. But Bandit has me totally beat.

Spring is here, and Mom's letting us play in the backyard more. Bandit comes, too. But Bandit, being the spoiled-rotten, gets-everything-she-wants-and-then-struts-around-about-it twit that she is, gets to go OUT of the backyard. I know, right?? Mom's always whining, "Stay on the grass, stay away from that hole, don't climb the fence, don't pull up the tree, yada yada yada." Geez, woman, I'm two years old! I know what I'm doing! And don't get me started on Josiah "Gabby's leaving the gate!" big brother extraordinaire. I tell you, these people just want to keep me down. Don't they see the big field on the other side of the fence?!? Don't the SEE the endless possibilities, the wide open spaces, the big blue skies?!? I don't know what a "dangerous ravine" or "sharp hidden rocks" or "rattlesnakes" are. But can they be at all interesting in comparison to a cat chasing a butterfly? I MUST go see! But, again, there is Mom with her "If you can't stay in a safe place, we'll have to go inside" all sweet and simple, like she's not tearing my life apart.

But I've found a way around this woman and her tyranny. It is called, as it so often is, Grandma. Yep, Grandma came over to watch us the other night, and we were already outside, so she let us stay. Chump. I mean, wonderful caring generous woman... Well, once I saw that Mom and Dad weren't hiding in the house just waiting for me to do something "wrong," I knew I had my chance. As soon as Bandit crawled under the fence to play in the field, I was right behind her. Yeah, I heard Grandma calling me, I heard Josiah, too. I knew that Grandma couldn't climb the fence, and she'd have to run through the house and back around the corner to get in the field to get me. OF COURSE I knew this, why would I have tried this stunt otherwise? Oh, the wind on my face! Oh, the itchy, spiky weedy grass things that scratch my legs! The wild abandon, the soul-soaring music I'm singing, the- hey, Grandma, that was pretty fast. Oh, yeah, I guess we'll have to go inside now. Not without one last protest, though- I'll kick and scream and call "Bandit!" the whole way.

Grandma didn't let me back outside that night. Even after I tried all my patented sure fire tricks on her- I batted my eyelashes, full of big real tears, I sat and snuggled her lap and said please, I even pulled out the big guns and sang her a song. No dice. I may have pushed her too far this time.

But I don't care. It was totally worth it. For one short minute, I was a cat...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Soccer- by Josiah

Today I went to my first soccer practice. It was AWESOME!

It started so well. First, I completely bailed on my nap. Mom was a little worried about getting there on time- she signed us up a little earlier than she probably would have normally, but she wanted me to be in the same group as our neighbor Tyler. Tyler has to go earlier because Tyler doesn't nap anymore (genius!) and goes to bed about 2 hours earlier than I do (sucker!) But Mom agreed to this time, saying maybe I could go ahead and drop my nap once a week! WHAT?!? The queen of sleep is giving me a pass on a nap?!? Once a week?!? Remind me to buy Tyler a nice present...

AND we got to leave Gabby at home with Grandma. I guess Mom has wised up to the fact that Gabby does not follow directions very well. Like if you tell her, "Gabby don't run on that field!" she's pretty much going to figure out how to run on the field as soon as she possibly can. Normally I kinda resent the fact that she's so disobedient, because I don't always think Mom calls her on it. Seriously, she gets away with murder. But this time it's come back to bite her in the patoot- she doesn't get to come to soccer with me. Just me and Mom. And Mom isn't even going to bring a book or talk on her phone, I asked! She's actually going to sit and just watch me! (Mom says weird things like, "Isn't 6 hours a day of uninterrupted attention enough for you, can I please have just a few minutes to myself???" and it's getting a little old...)

So we got there, and Mom talked to this lady and I started kicking around this ball like these other kids were doing. Then this Coach person called us over and said we're going to "warm up." So we played Red Light, Green Light and practiced running on the field lines. She picked me to go first. Probably because I was holding a ball. I don't know what was wrong with those other kids, but no one else brought their ball to warm up. Uh, dummies, it's soccer, which is played with a soccer ball. Maybe you should have one... I tired to help lead by example, and I carried my ball just like Dad's been teaching me. All over the field, back and forth, I held that ball for all to see. I'm thinking my teammates maybe aren't that bright because none of them caught on and picked up a ball. Oh well, you have to work with what you've got, I guess.

Then we did these other things that were called drills, which is basically standing around waiting for someone to say, "Okay, it's your turn! No, over here! Get closer! Don't use your hands! Just your feet! Good job!" I didn't really listen much or pay attention, because it was clear these people have no standards. Every single one of us kids did something completely different, and they all said, "Good job!" each time. Yeah, that's helpful. If you're not going to be specific about what I should do, I'm just gonna do what I want. It's worked so far in life.

At the end, we played a game, and that was the BEST. I got this great yellow mesh thing that could fit Mom, and the Coach person gave three more to three other kids. I was told they are my team. (Which is a bit confusing, because I thought all 8 kids were my team. But it's okay, I won't remember this tomorrow...) We were then given the ball and told to try to kick it into one of those goal things. I guess the other 4 kids without the yellow shirts were going to try to stop us. Yeah, let them try! That Coach person kept saying "Pass!" which I remembered from one of our drills meant kick it to someone else. Well, I looked for the other three yellow mesh shirt things. One boy and girl were practicing their dinosaur yells, because we chose T-Rexes as our team name. That's important, so I didn't want to bother them. The other yellow shirt girl was sitting in the grass crying about something. So it was just me. So I kicked the ball and ran. And you know what happened?!? Some kid without a yellow shirt took the ball from me! Can you believe that?

Well, they obviously haven't met my dad. He's taught me to tackle, and to "Cover the loose ball!!!" So, that's what I did. I laid myself out across that ball until they stopped kicking it. Then I picked it up, and ran with it to my goal. I put it down right in front and kicked it in! GOAL! I was awesome. And all because I PRACTICED! Remember how in warm-ups, I was the only one carrying a ball? Yep, that's why I was ready. I'm sure if any of the other kids had thought to work on their ball skills, they might have had a chance. But, well, they'll learn.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying being the star of my new soccer team. I scored 5 goals today. Maybe if I don't bother to waste any time kicking the ball at all, I can do 10 next week... Something to think about...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Art- Gabrielle

My Mom has no taste.

I know that's horrible to say about someone, but seriously, this woman is so uncultured. I'm realizing that she might be beyond hope in this, too, because she's just not catching on.

See, my Mom likes to do these "craft" things. Usually it's things like making pictures for someone's birthday or thank you cards or presents for adults that are supposed to think we're cute. Other times, though, I suspect she gets out the stickers and crayons just to keep me out of the cat food or the kitchen cabinets or the bathroom sink. But I'm trying to give her the benefit of the doubt and trust that she is actually trying to encourage me to express myself artistically.

But here's the thing- she has all these rules! Like "Don't put glitter glue on the back of the paper or it will stick to the table," and "Don't put your stickers in the stamp ink before you put them on your picture." She thinks telling me "Crayons won't work on the foam paper" is going to really matter to me, because you know I'm smarter than she is and I can make it work if I really want it to. She doesn't want me to color my face, my hair, my clothes, my brother... If this isn't censorship, I don't know what is.

And the worst part- her home decorating. I mean, the woman has been working on painting the house since I've been born. And you know what? She paints an entire wall without a single line, scribble or smear of color. What is that taupe nonsense? Seriously, there are hundreds of square feet of walls in our house that are the same colors! I decided maybe she is just tired and busy and overwhelmed with everything she never gets to on any given day (or, at least, that's what I hear her whining about week in and week out...) So I'm going to help her. I've started adding some art work to our walls. I started small, in little places she couldn't see, like the wall space under my crib. After I'd been working on that for a while, I tried out a small space in the living room, to see what she'd say. She SAID we shouldn't color on the walls, but then she didn't clean it up right away, and showed it to both Grandma and Dad when they got home. So I decided she secretly really liked it and was hoping I'd do more.

Well, turns out, she just feels threatened by my superior taste. I think she's embarrassed that I, at just two years old, have already grasped the importance of making your home warm and homey and comforting. That people like to see self-expression and abstraction in a home-made gift. That the educational workbooks and crafts are giving guidelines on how to draw a circle or square. These are for the unimaginative- they really do intend for you to practice on the couch and table. At least, that's the conclusion I've come to with all the thinking time I've had while spending time alone in my room.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Accessorizing- Gabrielle

I like being a girl.

Being a girl, especially when you're older sibling is a boy, is a great gig. When your brother does something especially boyish (and Mom calls it"obnoxious" and "exhausting") then people are grateful that you aren't going to do the same. But when you do something girlish, Mom's always unprepared for it, so you usually get away with it a few times. Plus, there's all these extra things you get- hair bows and nail polish and purses... Josiah is GREEN with envy.

Recently my Aunt Debbie came to visit. She's so much more fun than my Mom! And the coolest thing about her- her hair ties. You know, Aunt Debbie has "long hair that Mom used to be able to have until certain little someones came along and threw food in it and pulled it out at the roots all day long..." AND, this is the best part about Aunt Debbie's hair, she puts it up and down all by herself. ALL BY HERSELF! And she does it more than once! Not like at our house, where Mom "does" my hair in the morning and then it's "please don't pull that out Gabby, it took me forever to get your hair untangled and out of your eyes this morning!" No, Aunt Debbie gets to play with her hair. And to make this possible, she wears hair ties around her wrist. I think this is super cool, so I started doing it too. Every time Mom puts me to bed, I pull out my hair tie and put it around my wrist.

One thing you should know about this- my hair ties are tiny. They actually fit snuggly around Mom's thumb. So it's not very easy to get them around my wrist. It's even harder to get them off, after my hand has turned all red and swollen. Especially the first time when Mom didn't notice I did it during nap time until the next day- I think I had a red mark on my wrist for almost a week. But, you know, I've heard you have to sacrifice comfort for fashion (at least that's what Mom tells Dad when he asks her why I have to wear tights and dress shoes to church every week when I'm clearly uncomfortable...) Mom did everything she could think of to stop me from doing this, but I'm pretty darn stubborn. And committed to fashion.

So, and here's where all this is going, Mom got creative. I love it when Mom gets creative because it usually includes her spending some money on me. When she went out to get my Easter clothes, she bought me some bracelets and purses to match. Man, those are fun! I like to carry them around, with my arms raised all day long. I've actually decided that they are even more interesting than regular clothes, which was my latest obsession. I no longer feel the need to go in my room and put on clothes on top of clothes on top of clothes until Mom says something about me looking like a walking laundry basket. Nope, don't need to do that anymore. Actually, I'm pretty much done with clothes all together. I don't need them any more- I have accessories. Now, I go in my room and take off all my clothes, put on my bracelets, and carry my purse around. I know that people say your accessories should just accent your clothes. But I think that clothes just distract from the beauty of the accessories, so I'm wearing them solo.

I heard Mom telling someone the other day that she thinks it's a little strange to find me completely naked with three bracelets and two purses on, sitting on the floor reading a book to the cat. What does she know- I'm precious. Just ask Grandma.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Easter eggs- Gabrielle

So, today Mom introduced us to this "fun thing" called dying Easter eggs. It almost killed me.

Here's the thing- I'm two. I'm a growing girl who, after many months of pickiness, is just now discovering the wonders of food. And my newest favorite food- omelets. So Mom says we're going to color eggs and I'm thinking FEAST! But instead of a nice, fluffy, yummy slab of egg wrapped around delicious cheese she hands me this little ovoid thing. I thought it was an egg, and I wanted to show my dissatisfaction with the fact it was not in omelet form. So I threw it on the floor. It didn't even break and spray yolk all over the kitchen like it usually does! I don't know what that thing was, but I don't appreciate being told it was an egg.

Then Mom pulls a chair up to the island for Josiah to stand on while she's "mixing the dye" and tells me, "I'll get you a chair in a minute, Gabs, when we're ready." Oh, yes, she did. Like I'm standing for that nonsense. So I push my own chair over and climb on up. And, just like I suspected, I discover that she's trying to give Josiah some beautiful, shiny drinks of all sorts of colors! Why wouldn't I get some pretty drinks in some pretty cups!! Just to show her who's boss, I picked up the blue cup and proceeded to drink it. Now, I'll be the first to say, it really didn't smell very good. Mom and Grandma kept yelling things like "Gabby, no, it's vinegar, you won't like it!" (while Grandpa just kept walking around laughing and taking pictures- I'm not so sure about that guy...) Yeah, whatever. All I can think is "You always tell me I'll like things I don't like (remember the spinach disaster??)" so I'm not even slowing down. But I swear, those two women are quick. Every time I got that cup up to my mouth, they just got it away from me. I did manage to spill some pretty blue drink on the island, the floor and my clothes, so it wasn't a completely wasted effort.

After a few minutes of this, I noticed something strange- Josiah was having fun with those "eggs." He had put one in a cup and was stirring it all around. So now I realize he has a spoon, too! No one gave me a spoon! Well, I got me a spoon, all right. There was some drama about it being in a cup of some pink drink with an egg already on it, and how I was going to spill everything, blah blah blah, but I honestly wasn't really paying attention. Once I got my spoon, I put my "egg" in my blue drink and stirred. That was fun!

But, of course, those crazy women just can't leave well enough alone. They start in with, "Gabby, don't you want to color another egg? Wouldn't you like a pink egg, too? Look, this cup can make an egg orange!" Like I was even buying that "egg" nonsense. I knew what they were up to- they liked my blue drink, regreted they let me have it, and were going to take it from me. So any time they got close, I just yelled "Mine!" and picked up the blue drink cup. That backed them off... But then they started up again, "Gabby, don't put your hand in the cup! Gabby, don't pick up the egg with your hand! Gabby, don't rub the egg all over the front of your dress / face /hair, you're turning everything blue!" Geez, people, give it a rest!

After spilling my blue drink all over myself and everything near me in protest, they took away my "egg." Well, you know what? That was the last straw. There's only so much a girl can be expected to take, after all. I very carefully and explicitly expressed my anger and disappointment. But that did not get me my egg back. I gave my best "poor little tortured girl" face and cry, and still no egg. So I had no choice. I threw myself on the floor and delivered my absolute best tantrum to date. And you know what happened? I looked up and there is my Mom, laughing at me and TAKING PICTURES! Like she was enjoying this! And she probably was, the psycho.

Grandma eventually came to my rescue and took me to the bathroom. She got most of the dye off, but I still had a faint tint of blue on my face for a day or so. Grandma rocked me and sang to me while Mom finished torturing Josiah with the rest of the "eggs." I worry about that kid, though, he seemed to like it. Whatever. I ended up with the best part of the deal, I nice long rocking spell with Grandma. He can keep that pretty drink and "egg" thing, next year just give me the candy.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Car Trips- Josiah

I love cars.

I love riding in cars, because then I can look at other cars. And talk about them. About every single car I see. I am very good at telling my mom the color of every car, if it's a Mustang or not, if it has a spoiler, race car wheels or a snow plow on front... And if I don't know something about a car, I ask Mom. I mean, any little thing about any little car I see, I ask Mom. You'd be surprised at how little Mom knows about cars. I think sometimes I make her feel bad about herself, because she doesn't seem to even try any more. I actually think I hear her say "I don't know Josiah" before I finish the questions. And then she'll turn on some music and ask me to sing. But I persist. Because, as bad as I feel for hurting Mom's feelings, it's important for her to see her weaknesses, and see them as an opportunity for growth.

To make things worse, I've noticed that Mom also seems to be struggling with some of her time-management skills. Not so much that she's late or disorganized (although I think that's probably true, too...) but more that she seems to have lost her basic understanding of time. I mean, does she not understand what "soon" really means? For example, if I say, "Are we there yet?" she should not say "Soon!" unless she is the process of turning off the car and getting me out. Basic, right? But Mom will say, "Soon!" and then keep driving! I might take two or three breaths, and she's still not parked! She's still not releasing me from the prison of my car seat! But I'm a forgiving person, so I like to give her another chance. So I'll ask her again, and she says "Soon!" again and you know what- I take three more breaths and she's STILL DRIVING! We keep doing this, because, you know, I WANT my Mom to be okay, I want her to have a chance to get it right. I know she'll feel better about herself when she finally says, "Soon!" and it really is soon.

But you know what she told me today? That when I ask "Are we there yet?" that it SLOWS THE CAR DOWN! I know, right? That's horrible! I am just so worried about her. Because, you know I can't stop asking her about it. If I stopped, she'd never get better! But, well, if the car's slower, that means I end up asking more! Poor Mom! She's just slapped in the face with her shortcomings all day long. She did tell me that if I was quiet, the car would speed back up. This is good news- I just started whispering "Are we there yet?" It's a little more work, so I have to say it twice as often. But I figure out we'll pretty much break even there. Mom's so lucky that I take such good care of her.