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...