The half-star day

Three stars
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Boy #3 has been having, let’s call it “issues,” in school. I told you a couple weeks ago that he’s been naughty lately. The little dude is still struggling, and so are we.

Last week, after getting an email from his teacher informing us of his little habit of “testing” her when she asks him to follow directions, Husband and I created a chart for Boy #3. For every day that he comes home with a good report, he gets to put a star sticker on the chart. If he comes home with a not-so-good report, he doesn’t get a star, and he also doesn’t get to watch TV that night. After 10 stars, he gets the pack of SpongeBob Silly Bandz I picked up at Fareway. (Oh, how those Silly Bandz are taunting him from their place on the counter…)

After initiating the chart, he did very well. He got a good report the rest of the week and happily gave himself his stars.

When he climbed in the van after school today, however, the story was not quite as good. I asked him if he’d had a good day, and there was a pregnant pause. Definitely not a good sign. I have to hand it to the little stinker, though, he did tell me the truth. Well, most of it, anyway.

“No,” he said.

When I asked him why, he answered, “Because I threw the cards on the ground.” Why did he throw the cards on the ground, you may wonder? “I didn’t get to play CandyLand 2!” he told me. Man, kindergarten is rough these days!

So we talked about it and I asked him if it was worth throwing the cards on the floor. Did it make him feel better to get into trouble? No, he said. He seemed to understand what he’d done wrong and feel genuinely bad about it. And I was feeling pretty good about it, all things considered.

That is, until I got home and read the email from his teacher. It seems Boy #3 had sugar-coated his misbehavior just a teensy bit. The first clue to that was the use of the term “very destructive behavior during center time” by his teacher.

It seems that he didn’t just throw the cards on the ground, but after repeated warnings, mixed up all of her decks of cards together and threw them on the ground and also was cutting other kids’ papers up (which they didn’t want him to do). And my favorite? During cleanup time, he proceeded to headbutt other kids in the chest.

Despite all this, Boy #3 still thought that he should get a half of a star on his chart. His reasoning:

“But I was good in the morning!”

If only life worked that way, dear. If only . . .

Needless to say, since this is the first we’ve had to deal with destructive and disruptive behavior with our kids AT SCHOOL (Please, they are destructive and disruptive AS A RULE at home!), I’d love any advice you could give, or stories of your own kids’ bad behavior just to make me feel better. (wink)

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Sometimes we pretend we’re normal folk

Once in a while — a great while — the stars align and we manage to accomplish a handful of feats that may be everyday to some but are a rare glimpse into normalcy for us.

Yesterday appeared to be one of those days.

Feat #1: I washed all of the laundry that was stacked in the laundry room. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but I swear, we have more laundry than any other family. It’s a job that has no beginning or end, like a grass-stained and foul-smelling Mobius strip. Part of this could be because I suspect that I wash Boy #1’s clothes over and over again without him ever wearing them. His hamper is ALWAYS spilling over, and he wears the same 2 or 3 outfits every day. Seems a bit suspicious to me.

Nonetheless, we are always woefully behind on the laundry, which means I usually just get the dirty clothes from our bedroom washed (if we’re lucky), and leave the 4 or so baskets full of random rugs, winter coats and mismatched socks in the laundry room for “another time.” Well, “another time” was apparently yesterday, because those baskets are now pretty much empty.

Notice I didn’t say that I had all the laundry from our bedrooms caught up as well. That would be WAY too normal for us…

Feat #2: I prepared supper ahead of time, and it was actually good! Okay, so it was easy as sin, but that’s not the point. I actually put chili on the stove at lunchtime and let it simmer all day, the way it’s supposed to (unlike the 20 minutes I usually give it) and we could tell the difference. Yum!

Feat #3: I made dessert for once. This is not a regular feature for us. In fact, Boy #2 asked me what I was doing in the kitchen this afternoon, and I said, “Making a cake.” His response — “Why?” This is so different from my house growing up. After every meal, my dad could be counted on to ask, “What’s for dessert?” And Mom always had something (still does). It’s that farm wife in her, I suppose. Apparently I didn’t inherit that gene.

Feat #4: Boy #3 wore matching pajamas to bed. How sad is it that we were both excited when I found (in my recently folded laundry piles) the Toy Story 3 pajama top AND pajama bottoms? To top it all off, we even found Toy Story 3 underwear. “Now I just need Toy Story 3 socks!” Boy #3 said.

Even though I swear the boys have about 35 pairs of pajamas between them, if they ever actually put on something other than underwear to sleep in, it’s always a complete mismatched spectacle. Star Wars size 4T top that’s now a midriff paired with a size 8 pair of blue snowflake pajama pants that are more than a little saggy in the rear. The night before last, Boy #3 completed the look with one black sock and one white sock. And he wore this most of the day. Last night, however, he looked respectable . . . even if no one but us saw him.

Feat #5: I actually played with my kids. Well, two of them anyway. Boy #1 is in that doing-stuff-with-the-family-is-so-uncool phase, so he opted out. But Boys #2 and #3 and I set out to put together a 100-piece puzzle. Which would’ve been much easier if we hadn’t started putting together a puzzle that, for some reason, we have two copies of, in the same box. So we had twice as many pieces than we needed and not only had to put this bad boy together but also had to determine which were duplicate pieces. We took puzzle putting-together to a whole new level. And there was only minor yelling and hitting between the boys. I consider that a good evening.

But despite the fact that we dipped our toes into the “normal family” pool, we didn’t exactly jump in with both feet. It was after 10:00 when I finally got the two youngest to bed, and that was after Boy #2 told me he was scared someone was going to jump through his (second-story) window. And then he told me that he was the most afraid that Fred, that totally annoying internet-sensation teen who talks in that stupid baby voice, would be the one to come through the window. Darn new-fangled media. Now it’s making kids paranoid! (Although I have to admit I’m a little bit afraid of Fred too. He’s creepy!)

I’m sure the normalcy won’t last long, though. It never does. I noticed as I left for work this morning that we have a Tonka dump truck that’s  been spray-painted red in the driveway (That little sh*t “It Wasn’t Me!” did it, of course.), and the largest Nerf gun I’ve ever seen (that I think must launch nuclear missiles) is lying in our landscaping. I’m sure by tonight the boys will be either naked or mismatched, and we’ll be reverting back to the McDonald’s drive-thru for supper.

I’ve learned to never get too cocky.

Naughty Baby

What is it about the youngest?

That’s what I’m asking myself this week as I reflect on Boy #3’s recent behavior (AND my reaction to it).

It appears that he’s either going through a bit of a “naughty phase” or has become possessed by the ghost of Darth Maul.

Need some concrete examples? No problem. I have puh-lenty.

Let’s see… In the past two weeks, he’s:

  • spit his food at another boy in the lunchroom
  • written on the hardwood floor in the kitchen with a black permanent marker
  • scratched Husband’s car with some elusive sharp object, including writing “PH” on the front quarter panel. And no, those aren’t his initials. And no, I have no idea what “PH” stands for. Apparently neither does he. (Maybe he’s going to be a chemist when he grows up? Or maybe just a pool cleaner…)
  • lost his shoes at his cousin’s house
  • cut his shoelaces at school during a math lesson
  • decorated our sidelight window with a red permanent marker
  • brought home a toy gun from school that he apparently traded with another kid for Pokemon cards. (I have no idea why the other kid brought a toy gun to school. I’m just thankful that no teachers witnessed this exchange. Expulsion is not on our agenda for kindergarten!)
  • lost his brand-new shirt while playing outside with his brother
  • took the headband out of my hair and while examining it, accidentally snapped it in half

What is it about him, though, that makes it impossible for me to get really mad at him? One minute I’m lecturing him about how Sharpies are OFF LIMITS and spray paint is NOT A TOY, and the next minute I’m showering him with smooches.

Is it this way with the baby in all families? Or am I just a complete pushover?

Thinking back to when I was growing up, my youngest sister did seem to hold some spell on everyone she met, including my parents. Whether she was hiding under the bathroom sink after covering her body in lipstick, breaking the porcelain lid to the back of the toilet because she wanted to see what was in the tank, or holding a cat hostage while brushing its teeth, it was always considered “cute.” No one could get mad at her. Well, except her older sisters. But maybe that’s because she also did things like conduct a “study” to see how we reacted to various annoying sounds while trapped in a car with her on vacation…

Come to think of it, most everything she did actually was pretty cute, in a mischievous kind of way. And today she’s one of the kindest and most creative people I know. This gives me hope for Boy #3.

Is anyone else’s youngest child extra naughty? Or am I just so old and worn out now that I’ve inadvertently created a monster???

Let Them Eat Cake (Just not in my bed)

I’m not sure if this is a trait of boys in general, or if my boys have some genetic malfunction.

It certainly couldn’t have anything to do with my parenting skills…

But I’m beginning to notice a trend. Granted, it’s only taken me about five years to recognize the trend, but you know, I’ve never been accused at being quick at anything.

So here’s the deal: I am finding food EVERYWHERE.

No, I don’t mean going out and foraging the forest for berries. I mean I’m finding food everywhere in my house. Besides the kitchen.

As I said, this has been an ongoing phenomenon. Remember when I found the loaf of bread behind the couch?

Or when the bologna with the face was staring up at me?

Yeah, as I said, this has been years in the making.

Lately, I’ve noticed that this trend is getting worse. Let me give you an example of what I found last week alone.

Remember how it was Boy #3’s birthday last week? And I bought him that uber-generic cake? (Yes, the cake that gave me severe gas cramps.) Well, his birthday was Tuesday, and Wednesday evening I noticed that the leftover cake was not on the counter where it was that morning. Weird, I thought. Well, the kids must’ve finished it and thrown the packaging away.

And I didn’t think too much more of it.

That is, until I went to my bedroom later in the evening and found a huge crumbling mass of chocolate cake beside my bed, along with some telltale crumbs actually IN my bed.

Upon investigation, I found the round piece of cardboard that the cake had been placed on in Boy #2’s room, under his desk.

As you can imagine, I was not a happy mom.

But, people, that’s not all. I also walked into the family room later in the week to find a carton of Schwann’s sherbet, 3/4 full, just sitting on the floor with its lid off. Completely melted.

I am almost embarrassed to tell you that I also found an opened bag of Cheetos beside my bed as well, and a small, but empty, carton of Starbucks coffee-flavored ice cream in one of the boys’ bedrooms that for some reason was just sitting by itself in this humongous cardboard box someone had dragged in there. I’m guessing that coffee flavored ice cream wasn’t the best-tasting stuff they’ve ever had, but that obviously didn’t deter them.

Now, we’ve told them they are NOT to eat anywhere outside of the kitchen. And they DO get in trouble when we find food all over the house. But apparently we are going to have to start either padlocking the refrigerator or tethering them to our side whenever we are home, because nothing else seems to be working.

Or maybe I’ll just quit feeding them.

And just last night, people, an entire loaf of just-bought whole wheat bread went missing.

That is still under investigation.

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We’ve got armpit hair! I repeat—we’ve got armpit hair!

As much as I’d like to think of Boy #1 as that cute little dude in overalls and moon boots who I caught pushing the mop in the kitchen and saying, “I help, Mommy?” in that cute toddler voice, it’s probably time I face the facts . . .

He’s a tween. In 6 months he will officially be a teen.

And he has armpit hair.

How do I know? Well, let me tell you…

I was driving him to his baseball game yesterday late afternoon, minding my own business, when from out of the blue, he blurted, “I have hair under my arms, Mom.”

“You do?” I asked, choking back the tears and the desire to start rocking him while singing “You Are My Sunshine” in a key that would probably offend my former-music-teacher-Grandma’s ears.

“Yeah,” he said. Apparently he had noticed them in the shower hours earlier. “I have a few really short ones and then two longer ones.”

“See?” he suddenly said, and as I tried to keep the van on the road, I glanced over to where he was pulling over his sleeve and saw what no mom wants to see:

Not one or two armpit hairs, but a whole herd of hairs. And they weren’t short, either. They were long enough to start curling over.

It was horrifying.

“Stop it!” I yelled involuntarily. “Would you just stop growing up, for crying out loud?”

I’m just waiting for him to open his mouth someday soon and hear not his voice, but the guy’s voice in the Oakridge Boys who sings “Oompapa Oompapa mow mow” in the song “Elvira.”

Yes, I realize I’m pushing 40. Yes, I realize that other people my age have high schoolers, or even kids who are legally adults.

But when it’s happening to me, it just seems way too fast. And I don’t like it. Not one bit.

Well, at least I have two more who are content to stay little boys, at least for a while. Boy #3 still thinks he’s going to marry me.

We have a few more years until that starts feeling creepy.

A Tale of a Boy Mom—The Stowaway

This is something that would only happen to a mom of boys…

I was leaving work a few days ago and was walking around the back of my van in the parking ramp when I spotted this:

If you don’t know what it is, then you obviously don’t have boys between the ages of 5 and 14. And that’s okay. Allow me to explain.

It’s called a Bakugan. You’ve probably seen them overtaking the toy aisles at Target. I’m still trying to figure out how exactly they work, but basically they are balls that have a magnet on them. There are magnetic collector cards that you can use with them. If you place a Bakugan ball on a magnetic card, the ball “transforms” into a creature. It kind of pops open and then can go to battle for you. I really don’t get that part. It involves adding up g-power points and some other rules that don’t make sense to this estrogen-laden brain. Oh, and you have to yell, “Bakugan brawl!” I do know that part. I only hear it about 750 times a day. But I’m getting off topic. It really doesn’t matter that you understand the intricacies of a Bakugan battle brawl. My point is…

…a Bakugan rode 10 miles with me and then hung out on my minivan the entire 7+ hours I was at work.

Here were my thoughts after I climbed into the van with my hitchhiker, which I allowed to ride inside on the way home. Because I’m nice like that. (And possibly because I didn’t want the other downtown commuters to point and snicker when I drove by.)

  1. Damn, that is one strong magnet!
  2. Ooh, I wonder how many people walked past my minivan in the ramp and thought, “What the hell?”
  3. *Sigh* My “boy mom” identity follows me wherever I go. Even if it has to cling for life on the back of my vehicle.

Any other moms (or dads) out there relate?

Or is it just me?

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Reducing and Reusing—Recycling’s Less Popular Stepsisters

Recently Boy #2 (the second-grader) has been throwing around some “green” lingo, most likely spurred by a discussion at school about Earth Day and the importance of taking care of our environment. While I don’t disagree that we need to turn off lights when we’re not using them, and I agree that only having one car would be eco-friendly (albeit uber inconvenient), I can’t help but wish that environmental education focused less on recycling and more on reusing, or *gasp* not buying crap we don’t need in the first place.

This, my friends, is where the problem lies in our house. Not only having too much stuff, but also taking care of the stuff we DO have so that it doesn’t either 1) go to waste or 2) have to be replaced. And this is where my kids will feel it. Not that they don’t already whine when they’re asked to carry empty cereal boxes and milk jugs to the recycling bin outside; they think that’s some extreme manual labor. But when told we need to cut down on what we have (which uses energy and resources to produce, sell, and transport) AND that they need to respect and protect the things they own (which means don’t leave your Bakugan balls lying in the yard for 4 days or throw a Pokemon card in the toilet just to see what happens) — and being “environmental” is really going to mean something to them. They’re gonna feel it.

If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m not a jump-on-the-bandwagon environmental freak. I don’t think Al Gore has all the answers. I don’t buy into the global warming pandemic.  And I’m not planning on going dumpster diving so I can live with the Freegans in “zero waste-land.” However, I do think we should take care of our planet and our resources because that is the responsible thing to do — and because I believe that everything we have belongs to God and should be treated accordingly.

I try to reuse whenever I can. It’s not only better for the planet, but it’s also better for my checkbook. Plus, I have no desire to have the same clothing or home decor as everyone else. I like being a little different. Having all boys has been an advantage for me because I can hand down clothing, shoes, and toys. Thanks to my mother-in-law and a weekend spent in hand-me-down hell (otherwise known as my basement), I have also realized that it’s not necessary to save everything, especially if you can donate items to a family or a thrift store so that they can be used now as opposed to 10 years down the road when Boy #3 can finally fit into those size 16 jeans. And when I do need to buy clothing or shoes for the boys, I always check Goodwill first, or garage sales if we’re not in the dead of winter. Last weekend I stopped at a garage sale while in Rochester visiting family and scored a pair of men’s adidas golf shoes for Boy #1 that look like they’ve never been worn. The price? $10. Fortunately, the boys have gotten used to my secondhand shopping and don’t grimace when I tell them their “new” clothes aren’t exactly new. Even Husband has, I think, secretly appreciated my finds for him after realizing that I do have standards and won’t bring him home a patterned sweater from the 80s or a polyester leisure suit that smells like a mixture of Old Spice and mothballs and expect him to wear it to school. Nearly all of my clothes are secondhand. I love it when I get a compliment on my outfit and someone asks, “Where’d you get it?”

So I think, in honor of Earth Day, I’m going to make an effort to “reduce” and “reuse” this year, especially when it comes to the boys. And if it helps me keep my house picked up in the process, I’ll consider that an added bonus.

How do you approach “being green” with your family?

Image from eduardtrag