Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A little forgiveness

Gabe has been out all day, so I was in charge of dinner which doesn't happen too often.  I mean, I can cook but Gabe is a better chef and it comes more naturally to him.

I decided to treat the kids to pigs-in-a-blanket Mama style.  They have pigs-in-a-blanket often enough...but not with cheese!  I thought I was hot stuff in the kitchen, whipping up this delicious meal in my husband's absence.  But alas, when I served them, the crescents were not fully cooked.  They were kind of runny and just needed more oven time.  I discovered this once I bit into my own pig-in-a-blanket and by then the kids had already started eating theirs.

I told them the food was not finished cooking, and that I would have to put it back in the oven for a few minutes and they all responded with a chorus of "It's okay,"  and "They're fine," and "I like them just the way they are." 

It was so sweet.  They were so forgiving.  My darling children, sensitive to my novice skills in the kitchen.

After dinner, I discovered a piece was missing from the jigsaw puzzle Gabe and I finished that morning.  He's going to glue it together tomorrow and hang it up in his man cave (which is actually just a man shelf in the garage).  I asked Wolfie and Tulip if they knew anything about the missing piece and Tulip said, "I'll give you a clue: L-U-N-A."  I brought Luna to the puzzle and asked her if she took the piece.  She said, "Yes."  I asked her where she put it and she said, "I do not know."  Sigh.

I announced, "No dessert until we find the missing piece."  The kids tore up the house.  They pulled cushions off the couch.  Wolfie did an army crawl to look under the fridge.  I tossed in a few, "Oh boy, Papa will be really upset if we don't find that piece," just to up the ante.  The search proved futile.  No puzzle piece, no dessert.

And then just like that, I moved a scrap of paper on the same table as the puzzle and there was the piece!  Hooray dessert!  Hooray happy parents!  Hooray, Luna won't get in trouble (whatever that means in my household).

But then Wolfie said to me confidentially, "I still think you should tell Papa what Luna did."

Hmmm, not so forgiving when it's your little sister and it almost cost you dessert.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas presents for my kids that I love (for myself)

My children have received gifts galore over the past week.  Some from us and some from family.  Some from friends.  And some of those gifts just world.  Seriously.  There are plenty of new items in my house intended for my children that I simply can't get enough of.  Here are my top 10 guilty pleasures:

1. Puzzles - I love puzzles.  Gabe and I monopolize the dining room table for the entire winter season to work our jigxaws.  Tulip got a gorgeous puzzle - it's a collage of Cinderella, Snow White and the Beauty, illustrated by a genius, not Disney.  The colors are lush.  I love it.  I picked it out for a reason.

2.  Michael Jackson dance game for the Wii - my kids love to dance to their Just Dance for Kids.  I went nuts when I saw that there was a MJ dance game for the Wii.  I mean, the kids would flip, right?  Okay, maybe I flipped more but I intend to follow Jacko's advice: Don't Stop Till You Get Enough. The kids can join me if they want.

3.  Pop together beads - by some company with a motto "B You".  Again, lush colors.  I love these beads.  I've been eyeing these at Target for some time.  Here's a secret about me - I love stringing beads.  I do this as a grown-up with grown-up beads which is an expensive hobby.  Now I get to pop together a necklace or a bangle again and again and again.  I will never tire of pop together beads.

4 - New markers and crayons - is there anything more delicious than a huge box of brand new sharp crayons?  Or markers?  I have four special pictures set aside (okay, hidden from my children) that I get to color by myself.

5 - Solar powered rotating sun catcher - my husband found this somewhere.  It's instant sparkle happy all day long.  I suggest you all get one.

6 - Klutz books - I love Klutz books.  I found one which is a kit to build tiny fairies.  It comes with wooden beads for the heads, yarn for hair, fabric in the shape of flower petals for the dresses, wire to make arms and legs, and various sequins and beads.  I never showed it to my children.  It's still hidden in the bag.  It's the thing I am going to do when the kids are sleeping - build little fairy dolls. 

7.  Boogie Board - have you seen these?  It's from Brookstone; I totally scored it in a secret grab bag but I gave it to Wolfie.  It's a tablet and a stylus and that's all.  The tablet is slate colored and the stylus leaves a greenish gray line.  It's like an electronic chalk tablet.  It doesn't save images or hook up to a computer.  It has one button - erase.  And according to the instructions, it will erase 50,000 images before the battery gives out.  Wolfie loves it.  He can draw and erase, draw and erase.  I taught him a drawing game I call Numbers or Letters.  You draw a single numeral or letter, such as "M", and hand it to your partner.  Your partner has to turn that into a drawing of something, such as a mountain landscape.

8.  Bop It - I rock this game.  I challenge any of you.

9.  Playmobil - I loved Playmobil as a child.  Some toys just bring you back to a happy place from your childhood and Playmobil is doing that for me, for sure.  There is something so satisfying about snapping those pieces together.

10.  Headbanz - this is a guess who I am game.  It comes with headbands, and you pick a card, you may NOT look at it, and place it in the headband for everyone to see except you.  The cards are all Disney characters, so it's a good large group game.  You play by asking questions, Yes or No, to figure out who you are.  It's a blast to play this with Tulip and Wolfie.  Tulip likes to give extra hints.  So if you ask, "Is my character a boy or a girl?" she will say, "It's a boy.  And I'll give you a hint - you're in the movie Cars!"  She's like that Kristen Wiig character on SNL who can't keep a secret.  You know who I mean.  Gabe, Wolfie, Tulip and I were playing and Gabe had Sulley from Monsters Inc. on his headband.  Tulip whispered, "You're Sulley."  Then she slapped her hands over her mouth and whispered even louder, "Oops, pretend I didn't say that."  Oh man, we were laughing so hard I was crying.  You know you are playing a good family table game when there are tears of laughter.

Friday, December 23, 2011

My fond Christmas gambling memories

My childhood memories of the holidays are rich with visions of gambling.  The muffled sound of 5 dice being shook in a felt-lined cup contrasted to the clickety clatter of those dice spilling onto the table.  Intermittent shouts of "Pay!"  My "Nuts about Wisconsin Dells" squirrel bank.  And, of course, Oma and Tante Karla's uncontrollable hoots and cackling laughter.

Everyone knew to bring a bag of money, silver coins, to my mother's house for the holidays.  We played two games: Six, Five, Four and a separate game called Three.  Both of these games have other names, but this is what we called them in my family.

We would sit around for hours playing these games, for dimes and nickels, and if the stakes were high - quarters, on Christmas.

The family consisted of The Germans - my mother and her parents, my Oma and Opa.  They are from Germany.  So is Oma's sister, Tante Karla, and her husband Onkel Jup, and their children Karen and Ricky who of course were my mother's cousins and closer to her in age.  I was the only child among the Germans and in that family I am Juni.

Then there are the Davi's - my dad's side of the family (technically my step-dad but we didn't use that word; I had my dad and my dad and when I referred to my dad my friends had to always ask, "Which one?") which consisted of his parents, Busha and Papa, his sister June and her family (she was Big June and I was Little June and by the time I was 12 I had passed her up in height so this has been a lifelong joke) and his brother and his family.  There were five cousins my age in that group.

Everyone liked to gamble.  Everyone.  The kids included.  I played these dice games with my family since I could throw down a cup of dice.  Everyone played and laughed.  Especially Oma and Tante Karla.  The simplest thing would set them off and they would howl with laughter.  Tear inducing laughter.

Oma isn't with us anymore, she passed away when I was pregnant with Wolfie, but I'm glad that my husband got to experience a few holidays where he witnessed the cackling German sisters.  Their laughter was infectious.  They would lose their breath.  The dice game would be on hold for 10 minutes while e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e would catch their breath and then either Oma or Tante Karla would ask, "What was so funny?" and the other would say, "I don't know..." and they'd start all over again.

Maybe liquor was involved.

This afternoon we had Christmas with Gabe's family and I introduced them all to my dice games.  I'm reviving the tradition.  Some of the original players from my family are not with us anymore and I can't remember the last time we played dice over at my mom's.  But today it felt like it was time to play again.  With a new crowd.  New energy.  New laughing.

And I watched Wolfie, so quick with numbers and learning rules and getting the nuances of playing these games.  I watched his face concentrate, or break out in excitement, or laugh and smack himself on the forehead when he rolled a three and he wasn't supposed to.  He must look like me when I was that age, playing those games.

Yeah.  Dice makes me remember Oma so I have no problem teaching my children gambling games because keeping it in the house, during the holidays, makes for fond memories.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

kindly or creepy?

Today I had a MMOD.  You know, a mama moment of decision.  Perhaps you call yours a DMOD if you are a dad, or a PMOD if you either go by Papa or prefer to share the moments of decision with both parenting partners and use the term parenting moment of decision.

In any case, I had a MMOD today at the grocery store.  I had just taken Wolfie and Tulip to get their hair cut, and then headed to a grocery store I rarely frequent because 1) Gabe does 98% of the grocery shopping and 2) he does it at a different grocery store.  But for some reason he went to a new store earlier this week and had asked me to pick up something he had forgotten.

So the big kids and I were having a new grocery store adventure.  A good one.  My kids are dreamy at the grocery store.  They are well behaved, helpful, and so good-natured about shopping.  I'm not being vain; Gabe and I are truly fortunate.  For example, the kids love to look at the cakes.  They ooh and aah at the cakes without asking or whining for any.  They simply like looking at the cakes.  It's fun.

Next we were looking around in the seasonal aisle having a jolly ol' time.  And then a thing happened...

An elderly gentleman in a motorized chair came cruising up behind us while the kids were looking at candy canes.  Now, I'm not being judgmental or stereotypical here, I'm just trying to create some imagery.

And he said, "Are these your children?"

Now, people, all sorts of people. often comment about my children in the grocery store.  Again, I'm not being vain.  Perhaps it's where we live.  Perhaps we shop places grandparently types shop and these grandparently types like to talk to people with children because they miss their own grandchildren.  Maybe, just maybe, people who work in grocery stores or frequent grocery stores are impressed with how my children enjoy the grocery store and feel compelled to connect with my family.  Maybe people are just friendly...I don't know.

But this guy.  This guy rubbed me the wrong way.  And maybe it was just me.

He says, "Do you know what's the best thing for children?  Tennis rackets.  You get yourself some tennis rackets..."

Stop right here.  What are you thinking?  I was thinking that this guy was about to advise me to discipline my children with tennis rackets.  I don't know why my brain went there but it did.  I mean, and again I'm not judging, but he seemed like a bit of an oddball.  Not because he was elderly, or in a motorized chair.  It was something about his demeanor.  Approaching us like that.  He had no basket.  He was not shopping.  He was not with anyone.  He was not trying to get at something in the seasonal aisle and therefore occupying the same space as us.  I just had this feeling that he saw us, motored over, and solicited a conversation.

Maybe he's a lonely friendly guy.  I don't know.  But I'm a mom and I didn't appreciate the way this guy was wedging himself into my family moment.

He rambled on some more about playing sports (okay so maybe he wasn't implying that I discipline my children by whacking them with a tennis racket) but I was already ruffled by this guy so I had little patience for his rambling.

Then, here's the kicker, he says towards Tulip's back (since she was really carefully inspecting those candy canes), "Is this your girl?  Let me see her again.  Turn around [sweetie or honey or some such term of affection]."  Tulip did turn around and he says, "Oh, you're so pretty.  What's your name?"

MMOD.  Fur shure.  I have friendly conversations with people in stores all the time.  But I had it with this guy.

I said, "We aren't talking to strangers today."

I feel fine about my MMOD.  I do.  I don't feel guilty for possibly hurting some stranger's feelings.  I also don't want to be one of those moms obsessed with stranger danger who teaches my children to not trust the world because, like I said, I have friendly conversations with people in stores all the time and I think that is a nice positive slice of humanity.  Go out and engage in pleasantries.

But not today.  Not this.  I didn't want this from this guy and I let him know while modeling for my children that when a stranger makes you feel uncomfortable, you appropriately tell him you don't want to (and are not obliged to) talk.

Have you had any PMODs lately?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday night activity

At some point we developed a family activity schedule for after dinner.  It's pretty simple, and often loose in the rules but it goes like this:
Monday - formerly movie night; now new books from library, homework, school activities
Tuesday - table game or craft
Wednesday - video game night
Thursday - extra long book night (each child picks 2 - that's 6 books for Mama to read)
Friday - movie night
Saturday & Sunday - anything goes

However, tonight was up for grabs.  Wolfie was busy putting finishing touches on his gifts for his teachers.  Luna was playing with a new Little Petshop toy she got from Oma and Pappy for Christmas.  Oh, and I'd like to thank the genius who decided how those toys should be packaged for my torn up scraped knuckles - sheesh.  Sooner or later Wolfie finished his project and asked to play Pacman - also a gift from Oma and Pappy and if you know anything about my family's Pacman legacy, you'll understand why this Wii game is so appropriate. 

Meanwhile Gabe was making chocolate covered bacon for me to bring to work tomorrow.  Tulip likes to watch/help Papa cook.  Or me.  Or anyone.  She likes food.  Gabe finished chocolating his bacon and had some chocolate left over so he dipped a few strawberries.  This got Tulip's attention.

"Can I make one?  Or two or three?"

She got to lick the chocolate bowl clean.  We just put it right back in the cupboard, it was so clean.  You know when you blow up a balloon and then let the air out?  You know the erratic flight pattern the balloon takes around the room?  Sigh.

Luna began playing with her Care Bear bandages.  This is one of her favorite new activities.  She got Care Bear bandages in her advent a few days ago and she's been taking them out of the box, lining them up on the couch, putting them back in the box.  This makes her extremely happy.  Bandages. This was her gift - my kids are so easy.  Now the box is missing.

"I can't find my Care Bear bandage box.  It's missing."  She says all that.  Several times a day.  So I gave her a tiny gift bag with glittery snowflakes on it.  Her face lit up but she got silent and serious, but with a grin.  You know that happy content toddler face?  Sigh. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent mornings

Saturday morning for advent Wolfie got a transformer and the girls both got mini glitter gel pens and little notebooks - Chococat for Luna and Hello Kitty for Tulip.

Tulip "wrote" a whole bunch of sentences in her notebook.  "Mama - do you want me to read to you what I wrote?"
"Of course."
"'Dear Mama, I love you.  You're the best mama ever.  You are good at making us breakfast and pancakes are you are good at fixing us lun-'...Mama?  You fix us lunch sometimes, right?"
"Yes, sometimes I fix you lunch."
"Right.  'You are great at fixing us pancakes and lunch sometimes and you are the best mama ever.'"

Then Wolfie did a little math and announced, "What the heck?!?!  Only 8 days until Christmas?!?!"

Luna, meanwhile had been writing in her journal just like her big sister.  "Mama, you hear my journal?"
"Yes Luna, I'll hear what you wrote in your journal."

"You best mama ever and you make pancake!"

Oh, my darlings, you are the best children ever.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

no fumar

Since I work, I have some highly concentrated Mama time in the morning before I leave for work.

This morning, Wolfie was taking a shower while I was getting ready for work.  Wolfie likes to draw on the condensation, or as he calls it "fog", that appears on the sliding shower doors.  He finished his shower and ran to his room to get dressed.  I peeked at his "drawing" to find a no smoking sign.

No smoking sign?!?!?

That just cracked me up.  I had to ask him what it was and why he drew it.  You never know, they could have been covering warning signs at school.  He said it was a "No Smoke Sign".  I smiled inwardly.  Wolfie doesn't know the terms "cigarette" or "smoking".  He further explained that he drew that picture because he didn't want his shower to get so hot that it made smoke.

Then Tulip appeared as I was putting on deodorant.

"Mama, when will I be able to wear deodorant?" she asked longingly.
"Oh, not until you are..."
"Married?"  she finished.
"Yes, Tulip.  You can wear deodorant when you get married."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Go Ahead

A few days ago I was Christmas shopping, by myself, after the kids went to bed.  I wrote about how good it felt to have a little patience; more than most others.

I had the most fortunate opportunity to go shopping, again by myself and on a Saturday nonetheless, in mall-land.  I was feeling so good, I found myself not only patient with everything - the traffic, the lines, the grumpy employees, that I began to tell others, "Go ahead."

For example, when I was at a stand still in traffic and had inched forward to that part of the shopping mall parking lot where one line of cards intersects with another and there is NOT a stop sign, I was the gracious driver that kept my foot on the break, creating a larger and larger gap between the car in front of me and myself, just so I could wave to my perpendicular friend "Go ahead!" and allow him or her to squeeze in front of me.  I did this a few times.  And good karma rewarded me with excellent parking spots time and time again.

I realized, too, that I will lose my patience with my kids.  I mean, I don't go off all screaming and threatening crazy ("You see that Santa over there?  I'm going to go tell him not to bring you any presents if you don't stop all your crying right now!" -- seriously, some mom said that to her 2 year old right in front of me at the Bass Pro Shop Winter Wonderland).  But when it's time to get ready for bed and my children are giving me a hard time, I hear my voice get a little louder and a litter sterner a little too quickly.

So, as I was sighing satisfactorily about letting my fourth shopping comrade "go ahead" of me in some sort of line proving I was the most jolly shopper, and I was thinking about how I did tell Luna that if she continued to kick her feet while I was helping her get dressed for bed, I would tuck her right in without any books, I decided to combat my lack of patience with a "Go ahead!" attitude.

Take this photo for example.   Luna has new pajamas.  They are zebra stripes and she wants to wear them all day long and I'll tell you a secret about my husband.  If he could, he would dress her in footed creature-print pajamas all day every day.  But on Sunday I had gotten her out of her zebra pajamas and into an outfit.  When I got her dressed for bed (without all that silly kicking), she grabbed her beloved purple skirt and said she wanted to wear it to bed.

Go ahead!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

At dinner tonight

Tonight, at dinner, Tulip asked, "How do you spell 'fart'?"  I had to excuse myself from the table and go stand in the hallway.  I was laughing too hard.  I'm not supposed to encourage that kind of talk at the dinner table, but I can't help it if I appreciate poop humor as much as my children.

Wolfie told her how to spell it.

She's already been spelling "butt" and "buttpoo" and "buttpoopoo" so now I imagine we have "buttfart" to look forward to and I have to admit I am totally giggling right now typing this.

On the lighter side, Luna wanted to wear her new dress and snow pants to bed.  We compromised on the dress only. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Little Patience

I was at a store by myself and had only four items so I found myself 3rd in line in the quick lane: 10 items or less.  But we weren't moving forward as quickly as I thought I expected.  I observed the cashier and quickly determined that he was a young man with some mental challenges. 

He had called over his manager because the customer was using a coupon and he needed the manager's secret code.  I've worked in retail.  I totally caught this vibe from the manager which was, "My guy isn't moving fast enough for the 10 items or less line; I'll stay here and help him move along.  After all, the customers want speed, speed, speed."  I grew annoyed at watching the manager actually press buttons on the register for him, I guess because he wasn't super fast, as if she was providing the customer in front of me with superior customer care.  Actually, it irked me.  Let the guy do his job himself - how else will he learn?  We are all in no rush.  We don't mind.  But I guess maybe some customers do mind and are in a rush and this manager really is doing something a customer like that would appreciate.

I was thinking to myself that I don't need to move to another lane; I am a great customer for this guy.  I will be patient, understanding.  I will wait for him to speak to me first so I will not give any indication that I am in a rush.  I will let him take my cash into his hand the peculiar way he needs to do it in order to do his job his way.   I will not reach too quickly for my change because his hand is moving too slowly towards mine.  This is a learning experience for him and I will make his experience with me a good learning experience.  He will be in control of directing our exchange.  I'm in no rush.  I've got nothing to prove to this guy or his manager except that I support this guy.

Of course I'm like that.  I'm a teacher.

And a mother.

I walked out of the store to my car actually gloating about what a good customer I was for that guy because I was so patient and pleasant and then it hit me...

I could be more patient.  At home I definitely could be more patient.  And understanding.  I need to remember that the way my children do things is their personal way of learning and experiencing things that are important to them.

Take this picture for example.

Did I wish they posed differently?  At first, yes.  But then I realized that those smiles are sincere.  Luna's pose is very meaningful in whatever she is trying to communicate which I think is, "We are posing, right?"  And above all, there is tremendous joy among my children for what they accomplished - getting their picture taken.  So, for this simple reason (my kids deserve joy), I will be patient this holiday season.  Patient with everyone. And that tree in the background...
Every day there are a dozen ornaments strewn about my house.  Have you ever had a 2 1/2 year old and a Christmas tree in the same house?  It's like introducing a new game called Decorate Tree and it comes with 200 shiny sparkly playing pieces.  And if you think that a 2 1/2 year old can play a game with many small pieces (like Mousetrap, for example) the correct way by following the directions and only using the pieces for what they were intended and keeping all of the said pieces on the game board, well, I guess you haven't ever had a 2 1/2 year old in your house.

Patience, my friends, patience.

My 2011 holiday mantra:  Patience = Joy

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Secret Life of Children


I love finding evidence of what or with what my children were playing in my absence.  Toys, dress up, drawings, whatever indicates where their imaginative minds led them when I wasn't part of the game. 

This morning, I told the kids to play for a few minutes until I was ready to get out of bed. 

They did.  And they didn't interrupt me much.

When I shuffled into the kitchen, which adjoins the family room, I found this:
All the dolls that Wolfie loves most.

These dolls all live in his bed so he selected each one and placed them all on the couch and then fixed each one of them a plate of food.  Darling, right?

I'm not so good at capturing images of my children on film.  I'm working on it.  It's my goal to be a better mama-photographer.  But now I think I could do a whole thing on evidence.  I don't know.

My other favorite place to find evidence is in the play purses.  Know what I mean?  Like when I'm picking up toys and what not after the kids have gone to bed and I pick up a play purse and there's some weight to it.  Or some sort of jingly, clanky or crinkly noise comes from within.  I love to open up the play purse and see what has been placed inside.

Recently it was about 20 wooden pizza toppings from a pizza playset we have.  You have this toy too, certainly.  Or you've seen it.  Or you have it's cousin the birthday cake.

Anyway, a plush purple butterfly-shaped purse with 20 pieces of pretend pepperoni inside brightens my day...or my night spent picking up "evidence".