Thursday, January 27, 2011

Holy Hardware!

So the first of our children has started down the braces highway. Having been fortunate enough never to have required the things myself, we are in completely new, and expensive, territory. The Orthodontist told us that Morrigan would need a palate expander in order to correct her cross bite prior to braces. She swore it didn't hurt. I think anything expanding what I normally think of as a fixed area has to involve some pain. Seeing as we had no choice either way, we had the thing installed Wednesday.

I was not prepared for this:

which, as far as I can tell, is straight out of the office of Orin Scrivello, DDS. I have to crank the draconian looking thing nightly. Good lord I am not happy about it at all.

I guess the good news I am off to Key West in the morning so the unenviable task of being crankmaster falls on my parents. Full reports on all fronts when I return.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Love It

So when the discussion about Spring uniforms for my tennis team came up, more than one person quickly suggested we might want to go with something black. Clearly, they were not interested in the new shade of pink I was sure to find! So I went online and found something black - with skull and crossbones (tennis racquets!) in rhinestones. Tim said I was insane to even suggest it to the team but I figured the worst they could do was say they hated it.

Imagine my surprise when they went for it! A few people opted for the sans rhinestone version but my partner loved it complete with bling. Much to the dismay of her teenage daughter, I must add, who inquired, "MOM! What has happened to you?"

I know I am a huge dork but I just love these....

Don't Worry Son

I told E the other day he would have to get a haircut. He immediately burst into tears. When I inquired as to exactly why he was crying, he stammered, "If you cut my hair, it won't be jacked up anymore." Don't worry son, there seems to be little we can do to stop that.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Twice as Nice

I tried to pay off Eion not to have a birthday party and failed. So in spite of having just railed against big birthday parties, we invited his whole class to Chuck E Cheese. Yes this is the same venue as last year's party and yes, I was feeling a bit guilty about the fact that I planned a trip to Key West on his actual birthday. Sue me.

I didn't really think about the fact that is was MLK Day and CEC was bound to be busy. In the end, it worked in our economic favor. Last year, the place was almost empty and kids were going through tokens at an alarming rate. But increased competition for the games this year made those tokens last longer. Score!

On the downside, the crowded place made it harder to take pictures. But how many pics does one really need of kids feeding money to machines in order to earn tickets to buy candy? Not many I say.

E was pleased to get another CEC birthday medal and plans on wearing them both at the same time a la Olympic medalists. Stay classy E.

They did add a new feature for the birthday child. They put them in this glass walled tube and turn on the air. Tickets fly around and Eion had a minute or so to grab as many as he could. Turns out his fashion choices assisted in this endeavor - his hood caught no fewer than 20. And thank goodness for that as the bonus tickets were used for cotton candy and glow in the dark vampire teeth. Wise purchases.

Our decision to open gifts at home was a wise one indeed. The six year old boy filter is not entirely active and as Eion opened his presents, he gave a running commentary on the value of said gifts. Including for one for which he felt he had no use, "You can send that one back." I was very happy we didn't share that with the whole party. He was a wee bit miffed that even if "sent back" he was still going to have to write a thank you note. But luckily, he had saved all the questionable behavior for home.

It's probably a good thing Eion was our last child. I think back to the girls' early birthday parties with darling invites, themed decorations and special birthday dresses. And if we were at Chuck E Cheese, we certainly weren't using their cakes - we brought in our own personalized one. How far we've fallen. It was evite all the way. And I didn't even blink when Eion's outfit seemed to center around how many different shades of green he could combine. And that CEC provided cake? You betcha! The good news is none of those details seemed to bother E one bit.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Riding in Style

For reasons I do not fully understand, Ann & Hans are part owners of a limo. Said limo was in use for their son's birthday party Friday and then was subsequently parked at their house for the weekend. As we drove home from the gym yesterday, the kids spotted it and the swooning began. (Really, as many times a day as we pass by their house, I can't believe it took them 2 days to notice.) To my children, limos are just about the coolest thing ever. Seeing as we never really have had a need for one, they had never seen a limo's interior or taken a ride. It remained a far off fantasy.

So when Ann invited me to come over to watch the Jets game and have dinner, I asked if the kids might get a ride around the block.

Hans and I loaded up the limo with kids and set out to drop off a friend who had been over. In spite of the dark window separating the driver from the passengers (something that really should come standard in all Suburbans), we could hear them all raucously feteing their journey, yelling out "We are so cool! We're in a limo!"

After we dropped off the one departing passenger, they begged to go on a "joyride." Luckily, they were satisfied with a joyride that went up Franklin and came back down Avenham. My kids were thrilled, describing it as "the coolest thing ever." While I don't know about that, it was  kind of fun to ride up front and see the many strange looks we were getting. Especially after the kids rolled down the window and started giving shout outs (largely about how awesome their ride was) to any and all passers by.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Scientific Americans

It's no secret we are raising a couple of nerds around here. So it should come as no surprise that two of the girls' favorite Christmas gifts were the chemistry set and crystal growing kit. We've been meaning to get them out for a couple of weeks and today was the day.

Tim has been working nights all weekend and the kids and I were getting a little (LOT) bored. First, the crystals. We took out the instructions and as I started to read, realized I was in over my head. This may be designed for kids but seemed infinitely more complicated than I was willing to tackle and contained ominous warnings about potential destruction to personal property.

"Well kids, looks like this is going to take Daddy, the Scientist of the family. Mommy majored in Economics!"

They took that well and were on to the chemistry kit, happily surveying the contents. After much discussion and having to boot a few ideas due to lack of ingredients, we settled on a few experiments. And we cheerfully measured, combined and filtered.

And then we waited.....

Ending with some completely unimpressive results. As far as I can tell, nothing performed as anticipated.

And don't think it went unnoticed. I overheard the girls, whispering conspiratorially, "None of these worked. It's a good thing Daddy is the scientist. Mommy really sucks at it."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Not So Fast

Did I say that I would be at the pool less?

We felt the girls should finish out the month swimming seeing as we had already paid for it. Enter practice Friday afternoon when I am immediately accosted by swim coach Eva, who very much personifies Eastern Block Europe, wanting to know why the girls were quitting. Now, she's really sweet, but something about her still intimidates no matter how well you know her. Being me, I went with the truth - it wasn't the program or coaches, it was my girls.

After practice, she called the girls over. I saw no reason to interfere. Figured if I had to get a talking to, so could they. Five minutes later, they were on board to finish out the season, two and a half more months. Oh and they want to do tae kwon do too. Yeppers, that would be six days a week of after school activities. Well played Katie, well played.

Friday, January 14, 2011

One Stinking Dollar

Maggie's loose tooth finally came out yesterday. That damn thing had been hanging by a thread for what seemed like forever. So she put it in the designated area (the tooth fairy actually comes to our kitchen where the tooth is in a plastic tooth box suspended from a cabinet door - she tends to forget less this way) and waited for the magic visit.

When she opened the box in the morning, she huffed, "All I got was one stinking dollar." Which led me to inquire, what on earth do other kids get? Color me flabbergasted when the answer was "between $10 and $20." Per tooth!

Alright people. We're going to have to have a talk. And I'm going to apologize in advance because I am sure there is a reader out there who is generous tooth fairy.

This needs to stop. What you ask? The escalation of everything in our children's lives.

The $20 visits from the tooth fairy.

Every birthday party having a circus, magician, spa day and swag bags for the participants.

Bribing our children for doing that which is required (ie the Mom the other day who had to go buy her kid a toy for participating in their after school activity.)

You get the point. Add more examples at will. As parents, and I've been guilty on occasion, we've over-hyped everything. And I know that we're all doing it ostensibly to make them happy. But you know what? It doesn't work. The more you amp things up, the more they expect the next time and the less they can be made happy by the small pleasures in life.

If we give them "stuff" to make them happy, they will have the misconception as they grow older that "stuff" will make them happy. And it never truly will.

So let's make a deal Moms and Dads, let's dial it back. Let's reserve the gigantic parties for milestone birthdays, make the tooth fairy a token amount of money and try a little more "stick" with the after school activities rather than "carrot." It may seem like sacrifice in the short term, or too difficult, but I think we're going to raise a better crop of kids because of the effort.

As for me, we started already. We let the minions know this morning that bad-mouthing the spoils from the tooth fairy means you'll get passed by next time. Trust me, this tooth fairy is tough enough to do just that.

Likes to Fight Guy

So the poor third child that he is, Eion has, for the most part, had zero after school activities. While he does get some of the blame, by and large he has refused to participate in anything we've tried, I admittedly have not pushed as it makes my life more difficult the more things we add. But recently, E told me he wanted to try tae kwon do. Luckily for us, the local studio was having "buddy week" this week. Darned if the little guy didn't go, pay attention and do as he was told. Happily. Then he proceeded to tell me he wants to go everyday and has been bummed on the days we could not. Welcome to your new activity champ.

He looks so cute in the outfit too!

Fast forward to yesterday when the girls, who have been looking for a way out of swimming for ages, tell me they want to go too. The owner was nice enough to let them try it out and after the class was over, they declared they wanted to switch to martial arts. I was torn. Swimming is such good exercise that I hate to see them quit. That being said, I told them all along that it wasn't important that they compete, just that they exercise and are healthy. I had told them many times they could quit if they found an alternative. So I had to be good to my word.

Looks like, starting next week, I'll be spending allot less time at the pool and more time at the tae kwon do studio!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The "Smart" Kids

So Amy had the fantastic idea of the spouse-less (herself, Hans, and me) taking the kids to Henry's BBQ for dinner. Easy and it was kids night to boot. Love a bargain.

As the adults ate and talked, the kids, having devoured their dinner, gathered round the Galaga/Ms. Pac Man machine. They took turns enthusiastically playing the game.

Now here I have to add that, sorry to be this girl, we consider our kiddos pretty bright. Morrigan is in the PLATO program. Mags and Luke are 100%, A+ kind of kids and Megs has her own spelling group. Which made the fact that they were all playing a game that was on demo mode, no money inserted and clearly said "game over" on the screen, none of which any of them noticed, all the more embarrassing.

And yet, we were too frugal and quarter-hoarding to point out their misconception.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Well Surprise!

Thursday was not at all what I expected.

Morrigan was sent home from school hacking and coughing and generally sounding like she was going to barf up a lung. She was so bad in fact that we went to the doctor's office, a rarity for us. It's one of the downsides to having a Doctor for a Daddy, you have to be on the verge of death before we seek treatment. But after a few fun hours at Physicians to Children (rather than my tennis lesson, I must add) we were off with prescriptions to Kroger where I figured we could also get something for dinner.

I asked Morrigan what she wanted and she said lamb. Hummm. She had never eaten it before but I figured I would roll the dice. While I don't think my kids qualify as super picky, I do tire of rotating their favorite 8 meals and would love a new alternative. Back to dinner in a minute.

Eion asked last week to go to tae kwon do. Now the last time we tried this, it was a unmitigated disaster. He cried the entire time. But time has passed and the poor kid, being third in line, has zero activities and we gave it another chance. This was Big Surprise Number 1. He loved it. Not only did he love it, but he listened and did what the instructor said the entire time. He wants to go back every day next week. Amazing.

While we were there, Maggie was being extra double secret pouty. She did not want to sit there at all. A friend even got her a book to read but she was inconsolable. What made her happy? [Big Surprise Number 2] She wanted to trim the Box Tops for Education I had brought to occupy my time. Have at it Mags.

When we got home it was already 5:30 and the kids were staving. So I fired up the grill to cook the lamb. The thermometer was high than it ever is and with good reason. When I opened the lid, there was a giant grease fire. Looks like the meat will be cooked inside! While I experimented with pan cooked lamb, I made some oven fries. Sadly, I had not cleaned out the oven prior and it was belching alarm setting off smoke. Dinner, she was not going well, but was eventually complete. Enter Big Surprise Number 3. The lamb, which I did not think I did an especially good job of preparing, was a massive hit. They ate it all, everyone having seconds (including Eion, who hates food), and were massively bummed when it was gone. New food added to the rotation!

Good job kids. Surprise me daily.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Kinder, Gentler Education

Disclaimer: I am feeling downright rant-o-rific today. Maybe it's the poor night's sleep. Maybe it is the lack of sweets in this house. Or maybe it is that brilliant determination to mix out wine. Whatever. I am rolling. You are forewarned.

I walk up to Maggie's class a few minutes early and was waiting in the hall for her class to return from recess when I overhear the following exchange between a student and what appeared to be a teacher's aide.

Aide: Can you think of any random acts of kindness?
Student: I don't know.
Aide: What were you doing when I came to get you from class?
Student: Reading a book.
Aide: And what did you do after that?
Student: I put the book away.
Aide: Right! Now that is a random act of kindness. By putting it away, you saved your teacher the trouble of picking it up! Now which random act of kindness do you want to write on the paper?
Student: I don't know.
Aide: Go ahead and pick anyone you want. Spelling doesn't matter.

Seriously, you have to be motherf**king kidding me.

First off, let's take a closer look at the definition of random act of kindness. According to Wikipedia (so you know it's right) it is, "a selfless act performed by a person or persons wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual." So by this aide's interpretation, doing something you should be doing anyway (putting away your own gear) rather than being an entitled brat (expecting a teacher or other adult to pick up after you) qualifies as a selfless act.

Really? Don't you think that is setting the bar a tad low?

Then the writing it down. One, what is the point of that anyway? Two, if you are going to make the kid  do something, shouldn't you at least make him do it right and use proper spelling and (god forbid) grammar? Not to mention, it was quite clear the kid had no interest AT ALL in the conversation and was there to check the box so he could return to class.

To summarize, we have someone, paid with our tax dollars, who I am sure sports the title of "Interdisciplinary Multi Cultural Anti Bullying Outreach Coordinator," teaching our bored children that if they pick up after themselves, they are spreading love, kindness and making the world a better place. And by the way, don't worry about the spelling because god forbid you be judged on an actual academic achievement.

You want to know what is wrong with our public schools? It is that I have been fighting for weeks to try and prevent the City school system from cutting gym, music, recess and library time with limited success but they can fit this complete bunk into the day. You know what they used to do to bullies back in the day? Suspend or expel them. What a novel idea. And I can guarantee it would be cheaper than the salary and benefits of an Interdisciplinary Multi Cultural Anti Bullying Outreach Coordinator.


When we were at the New Year's Eve bouncy ball drop downtown, I overheard a local reporter asking people about their resolutions. As of that moment, I had none. So after a little thought, I've come up with a few, largely unoriginal, goals for the year....

1) As I am turning 40 at the end of this year, be in the best shape of my life. As an aside, I spent pretty much all of my years from 1-35 pretty sedentary and skirting exercise so this goal really isn't as lofty as it seems.

2) Keep in touch with the people in my life more. My brother made me think of this one. Over the last decade, he was largely responsible for any calls between us. It's not that I don't care, I just get distracted. All it really took was one evening long conversation that drifted from politics all the way to assless, glowing swimsuits to make me realize we really need to talk a little more often and some of those calls need to be on me. And that maybe I need to do some more maintenance on my other relationships as well.

3) Clean out closets, drawers, etc. etc. Must not lose the battle with clutter.

4) Be as ignorant about pop culture as humanly possible - unless there are vampires or zombies involved.

5) And lastly, never check-raise on the flop with a come hand when the board is paired.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Holiday Recap

Welcome to the new blog! Thanks for coming along.....

Whew! The last week and a half have been busy and wonderful. I honestly thought, in spite of my prediction that I would be MIA, that I would make it in here at least once or twice but it was not to be. So we'll just have to play rapid-fire catch up....

By the morning of Christmas Eve, we had the whole family assembled: my parents, my brother Dominick and his husband Chris. [Tim, in a mid block schedule change, had to work nights so he was largely out of the picture.] As we don't have many tourist destinations, I loaded them all up for the one we do have, the Taubman Museum of Art. 

Say "We need your money!"

And for anyone who thinks that I am too controlling, just look at that rig Eion put together. It was Christmas Eve, where many pictures were bound to be taken, and I let him wear it all day long. Relaxed, you are my middle name.

At some point in the day I called Ann and essentially invited our whole family over. Turns out we weren't the only clan with that idea and it turned into a regular multi generational party. You can really count on my family to fare for themselves at a gathering. I stopped by the door to talk to someone and by the time I made it further into the house, they had scattered, introducing themselves and making themselves at home.

At one point, Dominick launched into the history of the various Robins in the Batman franchise and feared he had swayed too far geek. Rest assured Dominick, these are my people. And sure enough, minutes later, Ann was bringing over Hans to hear the details of the Robins. It was a great Christmas Eve.

The next morning, we woke up to a white Christmas! As we surveyed the tree and its bounty, I couldn't help but think we may have overdone it.

The kids, on the other hand, totally disagreed.

Morrigan and Maggie set about opening as fast as they could. Maggie especially loved her furry new coat and they both were excited about the Easy Bake oven.

Naturally, Morrigan got a few books as well.

Eion was much slower to act, opening each gift, enlisting his Uncles to remove all the packaging and help him try it out before moving on to the next item. Gifts that were largely Lego and weapons.

Seeing as we had added so many projectile launching items, we had to lay the ground rules that the unarmed were off limits at all times.

The girls were off to enjoy the snow but after that, the remainder of the day was reading for the girls and a series of attacks from Eion.

We had a big afternoon meal and were pretty much snowed in after that. I tried to take the kids to an annual Christmas party down the mountain but one spin was about all it took for me to turn tail and head back home. I am clearly Southern now.

Chris had to head home Sunday but everyone else was able to stay until Wednesday which meant Dad and Dominick were in for our annual holiday poker tournament.

Our hosts, Rob and Leigh Anne, were kind enough to open the party to any and all family in town who wanted to play. Lots of fun, lots of poker and Rock Band 3 once you were knocked out. It is highly unlikely that I needed to be up until 2am singing Queen but darn, was it fun.  

New Years we went to Ann & Hans' where a few other families came over for a laid back evening. The kids watched movies and sang some (highly entertaining) karaoke while we socialized and played a game called Time's Up (a riot) and President (a blast from the past.) We stayed out til midnight, shocking me, and had one out of three kids awake to see the ball drop. It was excellent and, even better, I mixed in enough water to be completely headache free the next day!

The holidays are over and the kiddos are back to school in the morning. Thank goodness, I need the rest.