Monday, January 27, 2014

Big Brain Boy

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Big Brain Boy!

Saturday morning is the one day of the week that anyone under the age of ten is up and going long before our normal 7:30 wake up call.  Total television independence in the form of Saturday morning cartoons lures them from their bed.  Although this Saturday I couldn't thank Sponge Bob or Scooby Doo for watching my kids while I caught up on some sleep (should I be ashamed......hmmmm probably but nope I'm not), apparently I had a couple of boys who were way too excited to zone out in front of the big black box.  They were anxiously awaiting my promise I'd made the day before, a promise to complete one Big Brain Boy costume.

This Friday in Sol's Kindergarten class they're having a Super Hero Party, but not with your typical superheroes.  No Spidermans or Batmans on the invite list, but instead student created and teacher approved superheroes.  Sol was a little disappointed when I told him that his own creation, Rainbow Ranger, probably wouldn't make the cut, however maybe Reading Rainbow Ranger would, just got the eye roll on that suggestion.  Spelling Boy, Math Attack, Helper Hero..... Brainy Boy, that one got his attention, I added another B word, and told him we could make him a costume with a really big brain, and Rainbow Ranger was forgotten, he was ready to adopt his new secret identity.

So this Saturday I was awoken and reminded that I had a promise to make good on.  Saturdays usually mean a family ski day, so with only a couple of hours before our departure time, I knew I couldn't stall any longer.  Our big brain was already completed, thanks to a friend and a color alteration on a Megamind pattern.  Just a cape, maybe two, and by judging Jo's excitement he was expecting some sort of costume accessory too (I was right, his request, a cloak). 

He does his best to look creepy, but really with his cute face I can't help asking "Hi Red, how's Grandma?", but he's always quick with a comeback, "She's not looking good, got great big eyes, and I think she quit brushing her teeth."

Abe was completely happy with a red scrap tied in the front, nothing else needed, well nothing except one cheap plastic sword

With great power come's great responsibility, so with my superhero reasponsibilities completed for the day, maybe I can sneak away from the front room battle between the Red Cloaked Villain and Big Brain Boy and his green sword carrying side kick.  Then possibly I can get back to my typical Saturday morning activity, getting a little rest before it's time to take this superhero squad to the slopes. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014


I learn so much from my preschoolers, they're the ones I get plenty of inspiration from.  This month we're learning about goal striving.  We spent some time sharing stories and learning about goals, and then decided to set some of our own.  With some influence from our shared stories, our young little class agreed we'd begin to learn the process of shoe tying, and also recognize and write the first letter of our name, both pretty acheivable goals for my smart and special students.  They also each chose one other goal they wished to accomplish (or at least practice) by the months end.  Some where quick when choosing their goal, others took a bit, especially when I had to gently explain that 'learn to mow the lawn', wasn't an entirely reachable goal given the time of year and three being a little young to push a grass slaying machine.  My biggest goal for our class, just something to encourage little ones to stay seated safely (we've had more than our fair share of tumbles off and out of chairs) in their chairs.  At the end of the day I was proud of each one of them, they'd made some great goal choices, spent some quality time practicing their goals, and even made and decorated an amazing chart to help them stay motivated and visually track their hard work and progress.

We've been doing some goal striving at our own house too.  The last few months I've done a lot of thinking on how to help my children become more accountable and responsible for their own success.  My boys have a small amount of things they are responsible for, cleaning bedrooms, taking care of pets, garbage duties, all realitively easy.  However they never seem to do them without a lot of parental reminding.  I wish they would do them on their own, I'm even willing to reward them for any above and beyond efforts, but we've never reached that point.  But possibly with our new system that will change.  Sol, always wanting and saving for some sort of new toy, was completely willing and ready to help make some charts and rules for our new technique.

What only 5 cents for picking up the front room, this is slave labor!
I'd seen a friend do a similar version of this pay scale, you wouldn't think nickle and dimes would add up, but they do, Sol earned four dollars last week, and is on track to do it again this week.  Everything is pretty straight forward, they know what they need to do to earn money.  I have only one rule it's that they have to at least complete 12 jobs by the end of the week to get paid any money, this helps justify the fact that I'm paying them for things they should be doing reguardless (making bed, pick up room, laundry away).  Jo is yet to get a paycheck, I'm hoping eventually he'll see the benefits to earning money (this might take a while), maybe offering him fun activities in place of money could speed up this process.  Even Abe is catching on, although I don't know how I feel about him taking me seriously when I offered him a penny to let the dog in and out during the day (already with Sol's help he's tracked 11 cents on his own chart). 

I want my children to be successful and happy, I think helping them realize the importance of their responsibilities and their consequences is a major part of that.  I hope that our new system encourages these realizations...... even if it's only one nickle at a time.   

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Three Little Monkeys Jumping Off the Bed.....

"That is not an acceptable way to get down from the table", "Please get down from there!", "Your going to get hurt!", "What happens if your hands slip?", "Your going to break something!" "Please Stop!".

I can't count the number of times I've been knocked in the head from a swinging leg the last couple of months.  You heard me right, a swinging leg, swinging in the middle of the kitchen.  I guess it's time to set some rules about using house structures as monkey bars.

I enjoy having help with Saturday morning breakfast, but having a three year old using your cutting board and stove top as a hurdle in his obstacle course seems a bit precarious.

Even the furniture isn't safe, the couch becomes a base in a game of hot lava, and anything elevated becomes a jumping platform.

A quick glance in the mirror, and then a perfect spinning dismount (which he did right after this picture was taken)

The loud thumps, from flying children, I hear resonating from their bedroom is further cause for alarm.  I can't help but gasp when I wake a very sleepy, stumbly, eight year old and he clumsily jumps from his top bunk (can't even function enough to get dressed, but jumps from his bed like a long jump champ).

And why use the steps like a normal person when you can scale up the side like a monkey.

The short hall to get to the bathroom isn't without it's challenges.  For some finding a 'little monkey'  hanging from the sink when they get to the bathroom might seem strange, but not me that just means he's practicing good hygiene and just washed his hands.

We all watched my pick from the movie section at the library the other night, Chimpanzee by Disney, it was a big hit (well Monte wouldn't join us, seen one to many Chimpanzee gone wild specials on Animal Planet).  I found myself totally relating to the mother chimpanzee's glazed over expressions as they attempted to function normally all while a troop of little ones flipped, tumbled, swung, and dangled over their heads.  What do you think, is 27 degrees warm enough for a trip for the park, not to ice skate, but to use up some of this extra energy on a set of real monkey bars?  Probably not, but in the mean time I don't know what to do about all this monkey business, where did they learn it was alright to use the house as their playground....... I wonder???????

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Top Marks

My hands trembled as I fumbled with the envelope addressed with, To the Parents of Jonas Stewart.  I'd already opened Sol's and skimmed over it quickly, no real surprise, all top marks, was even pretty impressed, looks like he can now write to 308, not too shabby for my five year old.  But as I nervously unfold Jonas's report card, I find that I'm holding my breath, only after a swift review do I let the sigh of relief exit my lungs.  Everything looks good, nothing like Sol's (I hate comparing the two, but still I do), a few areas to work on, but I'm happy overall.

I might have led some to think that Jo doesn't like school, that wasn't my intention, he actually loves school, even hates to miss it (most of the time), it's the reading, writing, arithmetic aspect of school he struggles with.  After the hard time spent on homework some nights, I am totally baffled to how he even functions in school, but I'm always reassured when I meet with his teachers for our quarterly conferences.  Even since his Kindergarten conferences, I've always heard the same thing, 'He is such a fun boy, full of imagination and creativity, young at heart and a bit in his own world, beautiful handwriting, needs to work a little on his reading and his completion speed, but what a kind student'.  I leave happy, all our hard work is paying off, Jo is completely....... average (only average on his school record, I know that he is extraordinary), and I couldn't be more proud.  So often I feel like his 'needs work' marks are more of a reflection of myself, but is that true?  I don't feel the same about Sol's marks, I can't take the credit for his perfect scores, it's just who he is.  So is the same to be said about Jonas?  Something to think about.

However, what else did I pull from Jo's backpack, something much more fun then that silly envelope..... apparently Jonas celebrated his 1/2 birthday with his class.  This is what I love about school, the fact that his teacher, knowing he has a summer birthday, puts together a group of birthday notes from all the other students in the class.  Lets look at what Jo received top marks on (according to his classmates)-

Being a Great Friend..........A
Day Dreaming...................A
(what no plus, found it kind of funny this made the list, but it did, a number of times)
Being Funny......................A
Being Kind........................A

Why was I worried, well I'm not anymore, not with those amazing scores.  I did pick my top five birthday notes, I hope Jonas will always know and remember the effect he has on others.  So here they are in no particular order-

'you are a kind friend.  you are a rily good friend.  you are a osum friend.  you are a funny friend.  you are a fun friendfrum Hannah  (I loved her same sentence start, had a great effect)

And from Abby his very first friend, 'you are very funny.  you are a very awesome friend.  what's your favorite thing to do and whoes you favorite friend?'  (a subtle question at the end, don't worry Abby your friend ranking is safe)

'Happy birthday Jonas Your the best frind any body can have.  you are so nise you have a good emagenashion.  you are realley terifec at monkey bares and the rocet.  every boddy likes to play whith you.'  from Noelle  (I don't know Noelle, never even heard mention of her, but I love her, even complimenting his athletic ability, wonder if I can sway his crush her way, I read his crush's birthday letter no hidden message of her undying love, really pretty predictable)

Katie writes 'Happy Birthday Jonas.  Hi you are so nice you have the best hand writing ever.  you have a good imagination when you dream!!!  You are so extrodinary and nice.  however (think this is supposed to be who ever) is your friend loves you like a friend.  So what do you play with, I think it is a fun game with you arond.  You are so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so (that is 17 sos) funny you are the funnyest person here do you think?  I think you are.'  (she filled every line on the paper, I can totally picture Kaite, do you think you can?  I think I can.)

And probably my most favorite line from a birthday note comes from Brinlee 'I would not be suprised if aliens took you because you are unnaturally good at everything!'  (I realized while reading Jo's notes, that he too must have written a bunch to his birthday bound class mates, I wondered what he wrote, I only wondered until I read Brinlee's comment, I'm sure his given birthday notes were very similar to hers, with just a few more spelling errors.)

A half a birthday sounds like a cause for a celebration, guess we'll spend the freezing evening at the park doing a little ice skating and doughnut eating!  Happy 1/2 birthday Jonas!!!  (it seemed like just 6 months ago we were celebrating your eighth birthday..... oh wait, it was)

This is why school is important, it's not about their marks or scores, but all about friendships and experiencesSo I can breathe a little easier, at least until next quarters end....... breathe easier.... right....that is unless I notice some unexplained crop circles a little too close to home. 

Friday, January 17, 2014


An off to school hug send off
Days with no fighting, 
and  heaps of stray kittens.
Simple made dinners, 
and warm gifted mittens.
Brown cardboard packages the Fedex guy brings, 
these are a few of my favorite things!

So maybe Julie Andrews said it a little better, but I too have a list of favorite things.  Cozy fire, the end of a sunny winter day, a night with no homework, a dinner with no leftovers, the makings of a favorite evening spent at home.  And after putting my favorite boys to bed,  a little time to reflect on my own favorites.  Favorite moments from our normal days, and favorite attributes from my not normal but special children.   

I've found that one of my most favorite things, is the relationship that my boys share.  The simplicity of that  relationship is incredible, sure they have their fair share of disagreements, but they are small and unimportant in the larger scope of things.  They love playing together, they often forget about friends, their play is so straightforward it requires little effort to keep it fun.  I'm not responsible for this relationship, I think the credit goes to the personality traits that they each individually bring to their friendship.  

Jonas, so easy going, not a care in the world except fun and laughter (school, toys, homework, rules, schedule, money, books, no care for any).  We've had to have some serious talks lately about others not sharing his love for only fun, some do get tired of snowball fights, and you'll eventually get tackled into the snow, and buried (His reaction, just laughter, probably only made them more angry?).  His laid back approach isn't without it's struggles, but it allows him to accept others and their views with absolutely no judgement.  He almost instantly forgives (& forgets, both a blessing and a curse), he realizes the amount of effort it takes to remain angry over something that's already done and in the past is far more then just letting it go, so he moves on, remembering only the good (if only I could follow his example).  He's a great example to his younger brothers, I hope that they can take some of what he brings to their trio and use it in their own character.  


Solomon, so sweet, loving, caring and...... stubborn.  My boy of strong opinions, he's ready to debate his view on the most powerful Power Ranger, and with strong evidence to back up his stand.  He's already perfected his eyeroll, because truly he knows more than I.  He's full of passion, in all it's forms, his emotions get the better of him more often than he'd like.  He has a hard time holding back tears, even when he really tries.  Same thing when he's angry, usually a mean comment, betraying his effort, escapes his lips.  And his love, he can't seem to restrain that either.  When teaching his preschool class last year I over heard him confess his love to his four year old crush, lucky little man, she shared a similar opinion of him.  Now a year later, the infatuation mostly worn off, he still carries a love for her and her friendship, wearing her gifted bubble necklace, and sleeping with her given stuffed owl.  He's the one that lingers, even somewhat awkwardly, over hugs, never the first to let go, I've even had to pry his little hands from my neck at bed time.  Loves all of his brothers, never afraid to tell them so, I've seen, and heard, him clumsily stumble from his bed and a down a flight of steps to give his older brother a last minute hug and a farewell 'I love you!', before he leaves to catch the bus for school in the early morning.  He even made a request for an alteration of some hand-me-down jammies.  His pajama top, once owned by his older brother, bared Jonas's name and a painted hand print on the back.  Sol promptly knew what to add to make the top fitting for him to wear, even brought me the markers to make sure his demand was immediate. 

Playing lovingly with his little brother, see the yellow string around his neck, that's his bubble necklace, a special gift from one he loves.

He quickly comforts Abe when he's hurt, either physically or mentally, even if by his own hand, he helps him find his way to his mother's magic kisses (which I recently heard were slobbery, 'Your kisses are slobbery!', 'Yeah I know, Mom you really have slobbery kisses!', really you're both in agreeance, funny I've never had any complaints, I'm I offended?.....  so I guess... maybe... I think... I'm sorry to any of you that may have been the recipients of my slobbery kisses).  What better attribute to have than plenty of love to share,and so this is my favorite from Sol. 

My hug before off to school today, a little awkwardly long?

Abe, my little one who makes me chuckle.  He really thinks that he's half duck (and half human, and half pig), even tries flapping his wings and flying off the furniture.  So little in size, but large in spirit.  Never a hesitation to join in the fun with his two older brothers.  He's often found climbing, jumping, or upside down on objects three times his size, I sense a little jealousy from his older brothers at his agility, but still they can't deny his talent, so they too are impressed.  A natural people pleaser, it brings him pleasure to make others happy.  He keeps the group young, they've learned to appreciate his opinion on the current game or activity.  His comments so quirky and funny you can't help but laugh.  His talent is his ability to make you smile, such a gift to the entire family.  How fortunate am I to have such exceptional favorites?!

When housework bites, when my ears ring, when I'm feeling sad, I simply remember my boys and their favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad!

*not the first, and probably not the last time I'll misuse the lyrics of someone else's hard work.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sleep Schedule

I still remember that moment, the moment filled with both excitement and fear, the moment when I held my own babe for the first time.  Before my own, I'd always been pretty afraid of babies, especially the new ones, I was happy to admire them from afar, so holding one of my very own was a completely new feeling.  I thought I had it all figured out, I'd read books, listened to others, even took a couple classes, but none of that really prepared me for the adventure I was about to begin.  First babies are special, it's just the two of you, there is no one else waiting for a turn to be held, all of your attention is focused for one.  At the time I remember thinking that Jonas was a high maintenance baby, but really I was just a high maintenance mama.  I'd set some pretty big standards for myself, the sooner I let those go, the easier things became.

Schedule, that word is beat into you the moment you talk about having a baby.  Feeding schedule, bathing schedule, changing schedule, sleeping schedule, you litterally need a schedule to remind you of all your schedules.  When Jonas was just days old I felt like a failure, he wasn't making it long enough between feedings, I thought for sure he was pooping way to much, and our sleeping situation was a mess.  Nothing was following my schedule that I thought was so important to keep.  That all changed when an unexpected visitor shared the bed with me one night.

From total exhaustion, Jo never made it back to his bassinet after a mid night nursing.  At first I was pretty terrified when I realized he'd spent most of the night next to me in bed, and so close, but then I noticed we'd both slept peacefully for almost four hours.  I knew then there was something to be said about co-sleeping.  That was close to nine years ago, now with two more babes under my belt, I've figured out our schedule.

By the time Sol was born, a baby schedule was long gone.  Having no schedule worked for us (I know it doesn't work for all).  I was lucky that I was able to be at home with my babes so I nursed on demand, slept with a little one nestled close, and loved every minute of it.  Solomon was such an easy baby, content, peaceful, fat, and happy.  He slept so close, his little arm draped up the side of my body.  He taught me how to do just about anything with a baby tucked near.  I'd given up on society's norms, and created a system of my own.

We'd find Sol asleep everywhere and anywhere, just this year we found him out cold on the toilet, it was a hard task but he was wiped and dressed and laid in bed, never once stirring

My children nursed longer than most, Sol let it go the easiest at around 20 months, my lap had lost some of it's comfort, he was sharing it with my growing belly (even then Abe was fighting for his spot).  My other two boys were into their two's, weird for some, but for me completely natural.  I was sad to see those days go, they seem to grow up faster once they stop nursing.  Our shared talent we'd mastered so well (I swear Abe could do headstands while nursing, and my gift, the ability to hang on to my wiggly bundle while trimming the fingernails of two other rambunctious boys), was discarded.  We upgraded to a King after Jonas, a little more space for us and our tiny bodied companion (that and the fact that we usually gain another bed mate come morning time).  A happy family of four, I figured we knew what we were doing, so why not add another. 

Heavenly, Abe had me in his trance, so sweet, and sleepy, he was the only baby I ever woke to nurse.  He slept long stretches from the very start. After six hours I'd start to worry, so I'd gently rouse him enough to eat, and he'd doze back off as soon as he'd got his fill.  The first five months of his life I rarely saw him with his eyes open, little did I know that he was resting up for what was to come (6 mo - 16 mo, the hardest months of my life, a story for another time).

Abe fast asleep in his sling, out for our weekly 'Mom's' hike, and by the looks of the baby acne, approaching 1 month

Now that we have no baby, we follow a schedule, school has a way of making that choice for you.  After months of begging we've finally moved all three boys into the same room (this was their demand), this means the same scheduled bedtimes.  With all the boys in their own bed (for at least part of the night anyhow), I was feeling a little incomplete, nothing snuggled close at night, well so I thought (no not what your thinking, no baby on the way, although I've had dozens of requests for a baby sister), there is a little something sneaking it's way under the covers and finding the spot close to my heart........

He slinks under the covers, starts at my feet, but by morning he's got his nose tucked under my chin (silly dog).

He slinks under the covers, skips my feet all together and has stolen my pillow by morning (silly boy).

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dance Party

"Mom will you find me that one song on youtube..... you know that I wanna see you be brave song"
I just shrug my shoulders and look over at Monte, he looks equally as puzzled, but Jonas keeps singing, filling in his own words for most of the song.  The requests continue through the evening, and  finally I give in and type I w a n n a  s e e  y o u  b e  b r a v e in youtube's search box, up pops Sara Bareilles 'Brave'.  We huddle around the screen and watch the video, cute and catchy, kind of reminds me of my own awkward shyness from my youth.

"Soooo, where'd you hear that?"

"Oh you know Mom, on the bus."

Of course, the place where they spend close to an hour each day, being transported to and from school.  Funny, their bus driver doesn't look the type to rock out to pop music, but maybe he's adopted my musical theory.  I've given up my musical rights, it's far easier to let the children control the radio.  Oh sure there's the occasional stand off, but usually I give in, I'd rather keep the harmony of the group.

I don't know when it happened, but fairly recently I noticed a big change in song favorites.  Gone are the days when everyone was satisfied with the Curious George soundtrack, now it's all about Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and do I dare say, Christina Aguilera.  Pretty hip and trendy artist choices from my five year old, and my son who's chic awareness is comparable with your Great Aunt Myrdle's (I'm talking about Jo, he could seriously care less on what's considered 'cool', remember his Christmas outfit of choice, I rest my case).  There's even been some big disputes over which song content is better, 'Brave' or 'Roar'?  Jo stands firm on his 'Brave' song choice. Sol, a big Katy Perry fan, says Roar is waaaaay better, and why you ask?  Because it's easier for him to get his groove on.

  Cause I am a champion...

And your gonna hear me roar!!!!!

Louder, louder than a lion, your gonna hear me roar!!!!!
(You guessed it, these are his dancin' actions to the song)

Solomon loves to sing, his ease that which he remembers the words of his favorite songs is amazing.  He doesn't stop with just the singing however, he dances too.  The music compels him to dance, even while in the car I'll see fist pumps and head bobs in the rear view mirror, he can't control it.  Nothing simple about his dancing either, large jerky movements, jumps, head spins, and when he begins to feel a little self conscious he grabs my hand.  Doesn't matter what I'm doing, he'll even come and get me from the bathroom, he needs a partner, a partner for his Dance Party!  Teen bop music blaring from the speakers, a couple of great dance partners, and a whole bunch of silly fun, everyone joins in, that's what our dance parties are all about.

When I sent Sol to the bus stop this morning he was singing..... "We could of had it alllllllllllllll....", I think it was Adele, maybe it's time for a new favorite?  In the mean time we dance on, and the debate continues.  As for me, I think it's best if I keep my opinion to myself.... I mean say what you wanna say..... they don't have to show me, how big their 'Fav.' is. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014


A typical night at home, spaghetti for dinner, light conversation, maybe even a little t.v., then it's off to bed, goodnight to another uneventful evening.  There is one thing however that can completely change all of that.  This thing has nothing to do with what's on the menu, or even anything that comes after that, it's a simple invite, an invite to friends.  Friends mean your plain spaghetti diner becomes a diner party, and your light conversation gets a bit more interesting.  Friendships new and old (another shout out), each one so different but lovingly cherished.   Even the friendships that have weakened or even broke remain special to me.  Friends are like magic, they transform the normal into the extraordinary.  A movie watched with brothers, pretty entertaining, but throw in a few extra friends, and seats are made, popcorn is popped, and ticket stubs are needed, a child made family room movie theater becomes the norm.
Yesterday we had a random day off from school, given the large amount of new snow we got, we thought it would be the perfect day to go sledding.  Word spreads fast among friends, our simple sledding outing quickly became an all day sledding party.  It was a fun day spent with friends, sledding, building, playing, eating, laughing and lingering.  I love watching my children play with their friends.  They nurture their friendships the same way I nurture my own, through love, patience, understanding, forgiveness, and pretty importantly fun.  Friends, if your heart is open, are so easily found, you're drawn to each other through a smile, a shared comment, similar interest, or possibly even a college locker room.   

From left to right, not me, my S.F.A.M., Sam, Jo, Abe, Noah

"Are you guys sisters?", I've learned to let her respond to that frequently asked question, "From another mister!", the couple of times I answered no, she'd gasped, let her hand flutter to heart, and then she'd make some sarcastic comment on how she obviously thought more of our friendship then I.  We met over 15 years ago, in college, were we spent our mornings, afternoons, and even sometimes evenings in the college pool (Go Utes!).  There's no better way to get to know someone then sharing a locker room shower (don't interpret this the wrong way).
Even then her pace was slow (not in swimming, there she was really fast), after a long day of practices I'd go to leave the locker room, "Oh are you already leaving?  Just give me a minute, we'll walk out together, I'm almost done.", I'd take a seat and get comfortable, I had a while to wait, she was still in her towel.  Not much has changed, always so peaceful, patient, and calm, her pace allows her to see the beauty in all things, I guess that's why she's an artist.  Her pace forces me to see a different perspective in so many ways.... oh the things I would miss without her.  Her and I so different.... but so much the same.

Our resemblance has remained as we've aged together, the same wrinkles around the eyes, our once blonde locks now darkened a couple of shades, our weight fluctuations seem to follow similar patterns, and even with our growth in years we've gained no knowledge of makeup, or current popular hair styles.  Both with three little ones, both married young just a year apart, both sharing pregnancies, both living in the same small town (that took some convincing), and still both continuing to nurture our aging and growing friendship.  She's become the second mother to my children, she never tells them no, they've learned where to go to ask for seconds on ice cream.  Our children mirror each other in age, and so they too mirror our friendship.

Our oldests Abby and Jo, their friendship is that of a brother and sister, they embarrassingly giggle when we tell them they used to bathe together.  Still, they share excitement over sitting next to each other in their 3rd grade class.  Jo even openly admits that she is the cutest girl in the class, but purely an observation, his school boy crush is that of another (I'm sworn to secrecy to never tell).  I hope their relationship far surpasses societies standard of boy/girl friendships.  Next is Noah and Sol, they play so well together, tinkering with Legos and other toys, you often won't see them for hours, only emerging for a snack or a bathroom break.  They're friendship is so easygoing, they're completely content just being side by side in their play.  Really I've saved the best for last, Sam and Abe, they've been playmates most of their life, and at three there is no hesitation when you ask, Who's your best bud?  Sam, although only a few months older then Abe, towers over him in size, he's always so quick to apologize when his play is a bit too rough for my gentle spirited boy.  I have no doubt he'll be the first to challenge the one who bullies his petite, tender hearted friend.  Even our husbands have a strong friendship after close to 20 years. 

I guess I have no more time to reminisce about the value of friendships, I've got kids to tend to and diner to make.....what to have.....maybe tacos..... but one simple phone call and taco night can be..... a FIESTA, one where all five of us can have our own La Cucaracha dance partner.

Friends like magic.....Thumpity thump thump, thumpity thump.....

Friday, January 10, 2014

Snakes in the Crawl Space

Great place to watch a movie.... I don't know Abe looks pretty upset.... maybe it's the smell?!

Snakes in the Crawl Space, sounds like a movie title, like Aliens in the Attic or Snakes on Planes (embarrassed to say that I think I've seen both), right.  Well it's no movie, not unless I have the starring role, and it's my crawlspace.  Oh I knew what the smell was far before I found it's source, I've lived in this old house of mine long enough to know that I share the crawl spaces with plenty of critters.  I've come to accept the occasional mouse in the dog food, and I'm not even phased by the seemingly large spider population in the basement, however there is one critter I could do without, snakes.

Every summer we inspect the exterior perimeter of the house, filling in any gaps or holes that slithery winter guest may try to enter, really to no avail.  I think we're marked, I catch snakes creeping in an open backdoor every fall, and they're headed straight to the basement and up the wall to the crawl space.  One fall day after taking advantage of my already spooky basement, I was picking up the remnants of the afternoons Halloween spook alley, "Funny I didn't remember any rubber snake decorations?", then it moved, I squealed (I have only a couple of really girly quirks, and squealing at snakes is one of them), and no friends came to my rescue (you know who you are).  But the very worst was the year we put in hot water heating.

Did you know that garter snakes hibernate in the winter, somewhere cool, maybe just below the frost line?  I do, because right below my feet is a snake den.  The year we decided to stop living off the grid and get a real and reliable heat source in the house, I was plenty pregnant with Abe.  Monte, such the trooper, ran hot water heating through the entire house, even the crawl space (still to frightened to say what he saw in there).  Consistent warmth..... in our house...... it was blissful...... so blissful it stirred our fork tongued friends.  Apparently we'd created a fake spring, in February.  There was no way for them to get out, not with a couple of feet of snow blocking their previous entrances, so it was up in the house they came.  First one in the office, then one in the middle of the front room, by the time I had to patiently wrestle one from in between the heat register fins, I was squealing in an Australian accent, "Blimey she's a beaut!"

That early, early spring, Monte found their entrance, set up post, and killed 19 snakes leaving our crawlspace, what was the death tole if I add in the ones that had ventured up into the house, I'd rather not say.  Before that time when we'd stumble across a snake in the yard we'd leave be, they were good for the garden, and little boys.  Those days are long gone, I can't let them roam so close, knowing they'll be looking to live in our home come fall. This summer while painting the house there was more then a few in my path.  Lucky for me I don't go anywhere without my cat (and dog) entourage, with a simple toss I'd give my cat a new toy, one he'd soon tire of, and eventually half eat.         

I live in a house full of boys, so I try and have even somewhat succeeded in hiding my disdain for the slithery creatures, I don't want them to use the same girly squeal every time one passes their path (although this summer at Lake Alice, there was some snake squealing, not done by me).  But when they sneak their way into my kitchen, beside my couch, or even curled up tightly under my baby's blanket (yes this really happened), I have no problem escorting them outside and chopping them in half with a shovel (Sorry Tiff, I know your love, but no love here).   

So please come and visit, we've got plenty of beds to share......what's that smell you say, the smell by the entrance to the basement, a little like the reptile house at the zoo...... oh it's nothing, you know just the odors of an old house, well that and about 27 snakes.    

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Remembering Hands

He was a big man, broad shouldered, calves the size of a gallon of milk, and his hands, enormous.  I remember his hands the best, you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their hands.  The hands that pulled coins from his pockets, which I’d greedily grab for payment for one brightly colored gumball .  It was those hands that engulfed mine even as I grew from child to adult.  The hands that smelled of grease and metal, they were strong, cracked, and dirty.  Growing up the only time we ever saw our father with clean hands was at the end of a long vacation, only after days and days away from work would they lose their blackish tint.  I remember when the funeral home was applying the dreaded makeup to my father’s skin, and how they paused when they reached his hands, they had to, to remove my mother’s own hands from his, “Not too much on the hands,” she said “it just wouldn’t look right.”  Mom knew best, Dad with clean hands didn’t seem right.  What little makeup they did apply was rubbed completely off by the end of the viewing, my mother held his hand through the entire thing, crazed and frantic, she grasped tightly to those hands knowing all too soon it would be her last, in this life anyhow.  She was never the same without him. Sometimes these memories hurt, but I know not remembering them would be far more hurtful.

One of maybe four pictures I have of my father and I together, a good reason to make sure you take plenty of pictures

It was his style to go suddenly, and really too young, he would never allow or want someone to take care of him, no lingering sickness or the ailments that age brings.  Not the touchy, feely type at all.  He wasn’t real affectionate, sometimes it felt odd for me to hug him, our love was something we just knew, not something we talked about.  His emotions always in check, no tears shed at his father’s death, no over excitement of any kind, and only a handful of times did I see his temper get the best of him. But there were times when I saw his emotions fight back, the noises he made trying to hold back tears, who was he fooling, just let it go, sometimes it feels good to cry, but he didn’t, wouldn’t.  

He made some funny noises that day, but he still drug me down the aisle so fast I tripped, twice, heels and long dresses have never really been my thing.

I wish I knew more about his childhood, he wasn’t big on sharing stories about himself.   I know only a couple, nothing real deep, a story of how he and his brother and sister spent all their money for food on Macaroni and Cheese when they were left alone for a week, and one on how his father once put something gross in the Hersey Syrup can to stop little ones from sneakily snagging a taste.  The rest of his past is just what I’ve pieced together.  I know his parents divorced during a time when divorce wasn’t real common.  His dad had a mistress and a bit of another life, one that he was not part of.  His father eventually married his mistress, and she was the only grandmother I ever knew.  He was a high school dropout, twice, don’t think he ever made it to the 11th grade.  Fairly young and rebelling against his “frufru” (his words not mine) upbringing, he took his talent for all things mechanical, a leather jacket,  whatever car he was currently working on, some bad habits, and tried to make a living on his own.  Then he met my mom, the woman he knew he’d eventually marry, a woman he was willing to wait for (such passion from a man who shows so little emotion).  His chase eventually became hers and they married, her a few months pregnant, with only love to support them.  They were homeless for a short period, lost a couple of babies during childbirth, made a few bad decisions, lost a few parents between the two of them, and fell again on hard times, all of this before I was even born, but they’d made it, and still happy.  He’d had more than his fair share of hardships, but not once did I ever hear a complaint about them.  

Sharing stories about himself wasn’t his thing, but his talent for story telling of others was amazing.  I wish I could find his collection of funny stories he wrote, I know there was a comical detective series, and one about killer hangers and their ability to multiply, too bad he didn’t blog.  He never told a joke quickly, it was always a story, a story you thought was true until he got to the punch line, man he got me every time.  He loved being the center of attention, which was funny because he was such a natural loner.  Yes a loner, I don’t think he would have left the house much if my mother didn’t make him, well….. maybe he’d still find a way to his favorite diner and definitely a stop to pick up cookies for his stash, other than that, he was perfectly content at home, doing whatever he did on that computer of his.  

So what other things can I tell from his hands.... I can tell he was a list maker, even put things like "shave" on them.  He loved coffee, chocolate, cookies, snack cakes, and breakfast foods.  He loved sarcasm and humor, and never missed the opportunity to growl in my ear through a cardboard tube.  He loved my mother, unconditionally.  He loved old cars, Xena reruns, Destroyer Novels, and warm places.  He was honest and wise, our talks were always full of good advice.  He was the King of One Liners, always telling me "Don't bite anyone!", every time I left the house.  He knew after a first meeting whether or not a person was trustworthy.  He always claimed "I hate kids", but he was the man who'd stay up until the wee morning hours when I'd waited till the last minute to finish a school project, even patiently took my frustrated comments.  He never wore shorts, but did find a love for suspenders the last few years of his life.  He freed himself of all his bad habits (well maybe not the goodies), even quit smoking one day because he was tired of it, simple, cut and precise, in typical Dad fashion.  He was a laborer, a thinker, a tinkerer, a husband and a father.  He's the man I can thank for my insomnia, my love for cookies, and one over sized rib cage (could have done without the last one Dad, I'm happy just getting your eyes).  He's seen in Sol's looks and tinkering talent, in Jo's humor and honesty, and Abe's ability to tell a story, it captivates an entire room. 

I’ll take the advice of a young boy, one who is even younger at heart, a boy who seems familiar at this stage of my life, almost like he could fit in with my own little clan of “lost boys”.  Peter Pan tells us “Fairies live forever, as long as you remember to believe.”  People live forever too, I’ll always remember…. Especially those hands.