Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nothing is Free

Its always amazing how creative companies get to lure you in. We ive in an age when even your contact information is bought and sold. Normally I am not the conspiracy theorist type, and I will go ahead and enter my name in a raffle knowing full well that what they really want is my age, demographic and phone number. I have worked in Marketing and I know the value of owning up-to-date lists and a big group of potential leads. What gets me though is how hard they go after kids. When I was a kid, if a cereal box said that they were holding a contest and any box could win, it was pretty straight forward. You open the box, it says Sorry you are not a winner. Play again. End of game. Now the cereal boxes lure you in and then printed inside is a code that you can enter on their website and view lots of other special offers and you cant find out if your box of cereal was a winner until you have completed registration and created a password and agreed to a huge legal document of disclaimers. I love hearing the commercials say "Kids! Ask your parents before logging on!"

I had an uncle growing up who prided himself on the fact that he never lied to his children. From birth his children were told that Santa was a generous person who lived many years ago, and we have continued the tradition that he started by putting presents under the tree on Christmas eve. Really its the child's parents who do this etc. etc. This particular couple felt like it was better to never willfully deceive their children and spare them the let down when they would inevitably find out the truth. I always thought he was just a big scrooge and I also noted with joy when his kids were little that they did believe in Santa, no matter how rationally it was explained to them. There was one unfortunate instance when someone questioned the oldest child Andrea about Santa and she replied "My dad told me all about Santa. Santa is dead." I imagine that incident earned them fewer holiday party invitations.

As a mother of a 6 year old and a 2 year old, I'm just now starting to come around to Uncle Mark's philosophy. The other day I over heard a conversation between Jack and the ever clever Isaac Sly. Isaac is a year older than Jack and has two older siblings who have clearly set him straight, although he is obviously still figuring out where he stands in the Santa debate. Jack mentioned something about Santa and Isaac cut him off. "Dude. You know that there's no such thing as santa, right?

Jack looked at him like he was nuts. "Yes there is. He brings me Christmas presents every year. duh."

"No, Dude. Its your parents. They buy the presents and put them under the tree and then tell you it was santa."

At this point I almost burst in to the interaction to change the subject and protect Jack from the hard truth. Then I realized that the kid is almost 7 and that this is part of the cycle of growing up. I could tell that Jack was deep in thought about it all too so I just let it lay. Eventually Jack came up to me and said Isaac says theres no such thing as Santa. Is he right? Luckily I am a genius of avoidance. "Did Isaac tell you why he doesn't believe?"

"No he says Cameron told him."

"What do you think, Jack?"

"Santa has always brought me presents. Maybe Isaac is on the naughty list."

"Maybe. If I were you I would just worry about your own list status."

Mom, how come if I tell you I want something from Santa that is really expensive you say that it costs too much. Why do you care how much money Santa spends?

I would hate to see Santa go bankrupt because of greedy kids. I think we do him a favor by keeping our Christmas gift requests modest. Plus, I know he tries to keep it pretty fair. That gets difficult when one kid starts asking for extravagant gifts. I'm just trying to help him out. He gave me a lot of great Christmases and He deserves some payback. I like to help make his life easier. Sounds like you have a lot of thinking to do. Try not to worry. I'm sure Christmas will be fabulous no matter what.

Then today he recieved his monthly issue of Highlight's magazine. They were running a promotion where you could match three (very obvious stars) and affix them to a card and mail it off. If you do that then they send you a poster map of a state with an accompanying book. The first one is free. No obligation. Totally yours forever. Then they send you another state every month for 6 bucks plus undisclosed shipping and handling. This will continue until you return one of their packages within 10 days of the original shipment date with a signed letter specifically requesting termination of one's club membership. Here in my reality, this translates into our mailbox being over run by unwanted maps and book with accompanying invoices that either add to the clutter of the house and create more tasks and eventually the company turns us over to collections and our wages get garnished for a stack of maps that we never wanted and somehow always missed the ten day window. I tried explaining this to Jack because he was all excited to send away for his free "no obligation" gift.

"Mom, it is free. Look. Right here. It says FREE. "

I countered by reading the small print on the back of the card about implied consent and how shipping and handling would be determined at the sole discretion of Highlights magazine and would be due and payable immediately upon receipt.

But I thought I won something for free.

Son, I have bad news for you. Nothing is free. Anything that sounds too good to be true, is too good to be true. Highlights wants to give you those free things so that they can screw you over later. Nothing is free. If you ever think something is, you have to look harder. TV? The network gets money for running ads. If they make more popular shows, more people watch and then they can charge more money to run ads. We watch the ads and then buy their stuff. No body does something for nothing.

What about Santa? What does he get out of it?

He gets the good feeling that comes with giving and he gets to do his favorite hobby and he gets to see happy children and know that he is reminding us of Jesus when he gives us presents."

"Well What about Jesus? What does Jesus get out of it? Why does he care what we do?

"Because Jesus is our brother and he is doing the work of our father and it makes both of them happy to see us succeed and to have meaningful lives."

This has started as a typical never ending why why why conversation that usually goes around in circles but when I answered his question about what motivates Jesus to bless us, I could feel the Holy Ghost rush in and confirm every word. It left me emotional and almost unable to speak. "Do you know how much Jesus loves you, Jack? So much that he died so that you can have a chance. He is your Brother and He loves you so much He gave up His life for you.

Then my little Jack says "I get it. I would give my life for Abe if I had to, Mom. He's my brother and I love him."

I was speechless. I am not a perfect mother but that doesn't mean there are no paydays. My Jack could understand a bit of Christ's love for us through the love he feels for his earthly brother. I couldn't have taught it better if I tried.

"How do you feel right now while we are talking about this?"

"I feel warm and nice".

"Do you feel like getting in fights or doing bad things?"

"No I just want to do nice things and hug and stuff."

"That is the Holy Ghost, Jack. He is giving you peace so that you will know that these things we are talking about are true. I know Christ lives and he is the Savior of the World and I know by the power of the Holy Ghost who has blessed me with this feeling when I have asked. He is also answering your prayers too. "

"It feels the same as when we sing Christmas songs or go to the temple."

These are the moments that make the hustle of Christmas worthwhile. These are the moments I hope he will remember when his faith is tested. When the stakes are much higher than the existence of Santa. Santa worries him and his heart can't quite find peace with it. The concept of Christ gives his heart comfort and calms him. Its these small moments that I think will ultimately shape him. I'm seeing every day the advantages of the tell no lies, take no prisoners approach to Santa clause that my Uncle Mark took. I always worry that asking him to believe in a being that can deliver presents to a planet of children in one day is about like asking him to believe in a man who took upon himself all sin and pain that ever was or ever will be and then offers the reward to us. I see now that kids aren't dumb. Sure its a process, but the Holy Ghost is there to help us sort it all out. We can know the counterfeit from the real thing. The joy from the pleasure, the lust from the love, The glass from the diamonds, the mythical from the Messianic. I'm so glad I'm not in this alone.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

To spank or not to spank?

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that Jack wanted me to spank Ham's butt in response to being bitten. I am one of those people who let anyone on the planet comment on my blog without jumping through hoops and there have been a few times I have gotten odd responses from random people (probably machines). This one was from someone promoting a method of child discipline that is totally free of hitting of any kind and I'm sure they just periodically google search any family blog with the word spank on it and crank out a link to their anti-spanking literature. Which is actually fine with me. Any blogger lives for comments and I get very few so I'll take even hostile robotically generated ones.

Always a good sport, I took the time to read the anti-spanking literature. I'm not a big believer in spanking anyway. Even when I threaten to paddle a child's backside I am fully aware of the irony of punishing bad behavior with bad behavior. It made me give a lot of thought to the whole concept of the role of any kind of violence in problem solving or changing behavior and the more I thought about it I realized that I would probably feel a lot better about the overall quality of my mothering if hitting of any kind was totally eliminated as an option. The thing is, its the threat of being spanked that most of us rely on anyway so it wouldn't be a big jump for me to lay down the law and say Kramers Don't Hit Each Other Ever. Simple enough right?

So I sat down with Jack at what I thought was a reasonable moment and I said, " In the past Your dad and I have sometimes used spanking as a method to try and teach you to behave. Usually you get spanked because you have hurt someone or done something equally anti-social. I have realized that to try and get you to be less violent by using violence is wrong. So buddy, from now on there will be no more spanking from me. I will deal with misbehavior in a more appropriate way. "

So here I think I'm mother of the year for coming to this loving conclusion and then Jack freaks out. "Please don't stop spanking!"

Why in the world would a child want to keep the spanking going? I was perplexed.

In total exasperation he started going on and on about how now I'm probably going to make him spend hours in his room and give him long annoying lectures and he would much rather just get his butt whipped and be done with it!

I suggested that perhaps he commit to eliminate behaviors that merit any of those consequences and we will all live happily ever after.

"Common, mom. You know I'm going to attack Abe every now and then. Lets not make it take hours. Please just keep spanking me."

This kid blows my mind. I know for a fact that the real reason behind the argument is that his personality hates change of any kind and even positive policy updates create anxiety for him. He likes to know what can be expected, even if that involves corporal punishment. I told him that the good news is that I hadn't discussed it with Dad and I'm sure he will be more than happy to swat your backside every now and again if it makes you feel better. He was totally satisfied with that.

The reason there is no instruction manuals for raising children is that you would need a new manual for every child who ever existed. The curve balls keep it interesting and hilarious and oh-so-challenging.

Jack has a number of loose teeth these days but he has yet to lose one. I guess he is right on target since he is months from his seventh birthday, but it is somehow deeply sad for me to let those little baby teeth go. Like its totally out of my control. Also, I have invested so much effort into keeping those little teeth cavity free and then they just fall out and are gone forever. I guess if your kid was riddled with cavities it would be a great relief to get a do-over, but it just feels like a waste to me!

Speaking of growing up, Ham is not potty trained at all despite all of our valiant effort. Actually, not trained is not accurate terminology. He is very trained indeed. Just not to pee and poo on the toilet. In fact, he has taken to changing his own diaper. At first he was bringing us the clean diaper and giving us detailed verbal instructions on what he wanted done with it. We told him that a man who can command his own diaper change is surely capable of using a toilet. Then he began taking care of the changes himself. He removes the old diaper, throws it away, does some wiping, and then straps the new one on. Sometimes he even throws powder into the mix and there was one run in with Desitin that almost gave us a white Christmas. His obsession with independence will one day manifest itself with the proper use of the household plumbing facilities. Until then, I'm happy to buy diapers if he handles the rest.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas is upon us

How do I know this? There are a few reasons. First of all, the grenades flying around my living room resemble holiday cheer. I can't get everything done, everyone is sick or hurt, we have been attending parties and shows galore.

Last night was a particular treat. The Skyline Ranch First Grade put on an evening of singing and dancing and even a little dancing. Jack had this crazy muscle ache yesterday morning that was so severe he ended up in the ER. Once they got him hydrated and x-rayed and medicated he felt much better and so even though he hadn't attended school that day he was dying to go do his special part in the Christmas show. Actually, in the name of accuracy this was not a Christmas show. It was a Winter Festival or a Holiday Play or something like that. They would never dare say the word Christmas at the Christmas show. Can you imagine how offensive that would be? Almost as offensive as the flyer they sent home in every child's backpack from a local church which invited all the children and their families to attend a class where they would teach all about the Mormons and why we are not really Christians. Classy. The bad news is I have definitely gained a reputation for myself as a woman who should not be messed with. The good news is every child and their families will be invited to come visit the Temple and learn about Mormons straight from the source if they are so inclined. A perfect ending if you ask me.

Of course yesterday when we arrived for the Holiday show, Jack was informed that since he had been absent that schoolday, he would be prohibited from participating in the show. I make it a priority to not be a helicopter mom, solving all of my kid's problems and fighting all of their fights, but I had listened to Jack practice those songs all day long and I watched as his excitement grew all day long and by the time we were getting in the car he was telling us that maybe all he wants to do with his life is sing and dance for people. From one of the most bashful kids I have ever known, this was a nice surprise. Imagine my dismay when he comes trotting into the audience totally deflated. "They said I can't be in it."

I was all over that one. Every mom has to go into helicopter mode every now and then and lets just say I tend to resemble an Apache Longbow Attack Helicopter. Suffice it to say that Jack did perform his part which consisted of walking on stage, pretending to bite a cookie and then rubbing his tummy. Aside from an obvious and giant case of stage fright which almost took down "cookie boy #5" He pulled it off. During the entire rest of the show he seemed to never have even heard the songs and he would do every dance move inasmuch as he didn't have to remove his elbows from his sides. It was a subdued performance. Except for my personal favorite part, when he snuck a few boogers because he thought no one was looking. The crowded auditorium and plethora of cameras rolling was no deterrent. So I'm not applying for the Screen Actors Guild for him just yet. First we will work on the proper disposal of bodily mucosa.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The trials of learning English and politics

Ham has been expanding his vocabulary by leaps and bounds. Everyday is a slew of new words and we just delight in seeing how smart he is and how hard he is trying to express himself. You can see him practice words and sounds and teach his little lips to form the words he is thinking of. Here is a hilarious conversation we had last night at bed time: (don't call CPS on me. I swear he has never been exposed to incest, violence, or sexual crime of any sort.)

Ham: I want to rape you, please.
Me: No, I don't understand what you are trying to say, but its not that. What do you mean?
Ham: I want to rrrraaaape yoooou. (impatiently now)
Me: You want to read to me maybe?
Ham: No, mommy. I want to rape you.

I changed the topic. It was funny but disturbing.

But then a little bit later he saw all of the chihuahuas laying on me and it went like this:

Ham: Look! The dogs are raping you!
Me: Ham, you gotta stop saying that, Baby. What are you trying to say?
Ham: The dogs! They are raping you. I want them to rape on Ham.
Me: Sleep? The dogs are sleeping on me?
Ham: Yeah. They are raping on you. Uhh.. The dogs are reeeping on you.

I could see his mouth trying to say it like me. The best he could get out was reeeping. I was far more comfortable with my two year old using that word. By the next day he had the word sleep down pat and with any luck I will never hear the word rape out of that sweet little mouth again.

I can't lie and say there is no domestic violence around here. Every day there are punches thrown and injuries inflicted. This happens between Ham and Jack (or even more commonly, a Gartner child).

Yesterday Abe walked up and bit Jack on the back for no apparent reason. We gave him a stern "NO!" and recited the household biting policy "We don't bite people in this family."

Jack is at an age where he is very interested in fairness. He wants to see the same punishments handed out for the same crimes etc. and lets just say that when it comes to giving Abe consequences, he's a hangin' judge. "If I bit Abe, you would send me to my room forever and put vinegar in my mouth. You are not going to do anything to him!? Send him to his room and spank his butt!" He was indignant.

He made a good point and I am always inclined to listen and reward kids when they attempt to form rational arguments, rather than just throwing a tantrum. "Jack. Why do you want Abe to have a consequence? Is it because it will feel good to get revenge on your brother for biting?

The kid is not dumb and apparently he has been listening to my lectures when I discipline him because he said "No. because next time he wants to bite me he wont because he's afraid to get sent to his room for alone time."

"So do you see why we send you to your room? Do you see that we are trying to help you to be a good person?" There was no way I was letting this little lesson slip past.

"Okay. I see it. Give him his punishment!"

I hauled Ham upstairs to his room and told him he could come out when I felt like I could trust him around people. He cried and beat on the door but eventually figured out the point "Let Ham out! Ham sweet! Ham calm! Ham sowwy!"

I let him out and asked him if he knew why he was in there. He told me that it was because he bit Jack. I added that biting hurts and no one wants to be bit. yada yada yada.

So we went downstairs to have him apologize to Jack "Ham sowwy."

"And are you ever going to bite your brother again?"

And then in what I can only describe as an Eyore tone (depressed donkey from Winnie the Pooh) he says "No. Ham no bite. Ham just pinch." I could tell that he honestly thought that was the answer I was fishing for.

"No! We don't pinch in this family either! Oh whatever. I give up. go play outside and keep your hands and your mouths to yourselves."

Today we also had a funny conversation with Jack. John had offered to pay him a couple of dollars for some extra chores. He worked on them for maybe two minutes before coming to tell us that he quits but he still wanted to get paid. He argued that he had tried it and he didn't like it so he was still owed the pay. No deal, dude. We explained that he was welcome to do the work and get paid and he was welcome to not do the work and not get paid. Those were the only two options.

So he did what he does best. Threw a big tantrum. "You owe me! You have to give me money! You are my parents! Its your job to give me stuff!".

This bratty entitled attitude was the wrong way to go. "Get up off of the floor. We are not raising you like this. You're acting like a Democrat."

You have never seen a six year old so deeply offended by an offhand parental criticism. He has lived long enough to know that in this house, that is not a compliment. "I am not a Democrat! Mom called me a Democrat! Take it back! I'm not a Democrat!"

"Honey, of course you are not a Democrat. You are not old enough to affiliate with any political party and that will be your choice when you are an adult. I said you are acting like a Democrat. And you are. You are acting like a liberal Democrat. Get up and go work or quit and be quiet."

Lets just say that calling Jack the L-word was more offensive to him than the D-word. The tantrum continued. John and I were biting our lips trying not to burst out laughing at how right wing biased we have trained this child to be already. His horror at being called a liberal democrat is hilarious and heart-warming.

Then John made him sit down for a long talk with illustrations about the difference between a liberal and a conservative. It was very grasshopper-and-the-ant-ish. The conservative works hard and makes money and the liberal refuses to work and demands that he gets paid anyway, so the government takes money away from the hard working man and gives it to the lazy man. "Is that fair, Jack?" I was actually really impressed with John's kid appropriate presentation. Then we started lecturing about the fine line between plunder and taxes. "Just because its legal doesn't make it moral."
I recently read the Frederic Bastiat classic The Law so I was all ready to go on and on. two minutes into my political lecture he turned on his heel and declared as he walked out "I get it. I'm going to go work."

I told John to withhold a portion of Jack's pay against his will and give it to Abe because Abe didn't have a job. We won't take our object lesson that far this time but its tempting. Every day when I pray I just say "God, I know I will never be a perfect mother but please just help me to not totally screw these kids up." So far, so good I hope.

Friday, November 26, 2010

New Thanksgiving Tradition

This year we broke out of our usual Thanksgiving mode and started a few new traditions that I hope to keep going every year. Instead of a big formal turkey dinner, it was all about the pies. Everyone brought their own favorites (Village Inn made big money on us) and we had turkey sandwiches. See, I have a theory about Thanksgiving. The reason we don't eat stuffing and turkey and cranberry sauce etc. the rest of the year is simple: We don't like it that much. Think about it. If it were that good, we would eat it at other times during the year. its not like any of it is hard to make or super expensive or something... just mediocre. Except the pies of course. So we had French Silks and Lemon Meringues and pumpkins and apple and cherry pies. It was truly fantastic. Cheryl made her famous homemade rolls for the sandwiches to be made with and I brined and baked a turkey the day before for meat. Everyone went to the movies beforehand and then we all met here at my house afterwards for the most hassle-free Thanksgiving gathering in history.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I went in for the follow up with my endocrinologist today and we made a game plan and I got a little more info. basically, there are two reasons a person would have the kind of elevated prolactin I have. The most common is a small tumor on the pituitary gland. the less common reason would be a side effect of some specific drug that I have never heard of or had so that can be ruled out. Which brings us back to the brain tumor. It sounds scary, but it really isn't. Were talking about a few extra cells pushing on my pituitary gland just enough to make it crank out a little too much of this or that. Often they are too small to be seen on MRIs or CT scans and since we can pretty much assume it is there by process of elimination, the scans are really just for confirmation and to make sure that theres not something bigger than they suspect, but based on all of my blood work levels, its probably just a little teeny tiny benign thing that can be dissolved with medication. Also, the doctor started me on meds to counteract the excessive prolactin immediately so it may all work it self out. One sucky thing about the recent blood work is that my anemia is back. lame. I just spent months getting biweekly IV treatments of Iron and my blood count was back up and I was feeling fab. The Hematologist said that it was likely that once my body got back on top of things that I may never need treatments like that again, or possibly every year or two. I didn't expect my blood count to plummet this quickly. Don't worry, I'm all over it. Following up with the Hematologist and having a Endoscopy with the GI this week to be sure I'm not bleeding from ulcers and losing blood some crazy way like that. I suspect that it all just comes back to my body's stubborn refusal to absorb what it should through my gut. or that pesky brain tumor..who knows?

The whole brain tumor thing really is no big deal, but I feel compelled to milk it for all its worth, because really, who wouldn't? "Honey can you do the dishes? I have a brain tumor." I'm already planning on "sorry I need a sub to teach primary this week, its just that my brain tumor is really bumming me out." or how about "Foot long subs aren't five dollars until after four o'clock, and it is only three thirty? I'd be better able to deal with that disappointment if I hadn't just found out that I have a brain tumor today." or "kids, just go to bed a half hour early. Mommy has a headache and a brain tumor, so no fussing, k?" The options are limitless, really. In fact, I'm already mourning the day that they tell me my brain tumor is gone. It's already like my little pet that gets me out of volunteering in nursery and gives me an excuse to be absent from anything. Maybe I shouldn't reveal too much on the blog here, but get ready for some serious milking. I might even start doing things purposely odd, like wearing my bra on the outside of my clothes or speaking with a british accent, just to freak people out. I am willing to bet that there are some delicious relief society meals in it for me.

I already got a day of free childcare out of Cheryl today (as if she needs a tumor to serve someone) and I've got John offering all kinds of housework and foot-rubs. (incidentally, he does need a tumor to serve)

So, just like everything else in mortality, its all going to be okay, its just going to be a huge pain in the ass between now and then. They really should put that in the scriptures somewhere, because, really, doesn't it just sum up life.Here's D&C 122. pretty much my favorite scripture ever:
7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the apit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the bdeep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to chedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of dhell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee eexperience, and shall be for thy good.
8 The aSon of Man hath bdescended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

and then something in verse none that I somehow missed before: Thy ddays are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, efear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.

Really, what else do we need to know in times of trial? My days are known and my years shall not be numbered less.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Crappy Day

As part of my ongoing, seemingly endless health drama, I recently had a bunch of bloodwork done because even though I have improved overall, I still have a lot of weird symptoms. So the bloodwork came back with a lot of my "fancy hormones" at odd levels, but in particular a hormone called prolactin was so high it was off the charts. Like the normal range is between 10 and 20 or something like that and I was at like 72. My doctor referred me to a really specialized endocrinologist and ordered the same panel of blood work be done again to double check that the high result wasn't a lab error. The second set of tests came back with my prolactin in the normal range. So which one is the lab error? Of course the only thing to do is go back and do all of the bloodwork a third time. The results came back today and the stupid prolactin is off the charts high again. The normal one was the incorrect one. Not great news. The endocrinologist says that the most common reason for elevated prolactin is a brain tumor on the pituitary gland. They are sending me in for MRIs and all kinds of testing and it will basically be a process of elimination to determine why all of my hormones are so out of whack and then when they know more about what is causing it they can start figuring out how to treat it.

I spent a little bit of time googling it today and within about five minutes decided I'm not going to do that anymore. I'm sure everything will be fine and I really think my Endocrinologist is competent and it will all most likely turn out to be nothing big, but it was still not the kind of news I was hoping for.

Also today I found out some heartbreaking news about a close friend who is facing a lot of personal adversity and then right after that Jack came home from school having crapped his pants yet again. I wanted to just sit down and watch tv but the remote is totally missing. I figured I would read some blogs and veg out but discovered that my computer is totally broken. another nice surprise. I decided it would be theraputic to blog my crappy day so I borrowed Kristen's computer and that brings you to where I am now. Eating hot fresh buttery rolls and parmesan crusted shrimp and bitching to whoever will listen about my problems. Yes, the rolls and shrimp are almost good enough to counteract the depessing news of a possible brain tumor. Of course, if my mother is reading this I'm sure she will point out that refined white flour and butter are the very root of all health ailments but all I have to say is bon appetite. Carbs are all I got between sanity and total breakdown.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Heartwarming Milestone: Abe's First Joke

I used to post pictures on here but then I got this new stupid computer that I can't for the life of me figure out how to download pictures from my camera. Not to mention that my camera requires the user to have an IQ higher than mine. Everyone always raves about Mac computers, but I spend my whole time on the verge of screaming "JUST LET ME RIGHT CLICK." The transition from PC to Mac has been rough and I don't know if I will ever post pictures again. So, If you want to hear about what the Kramers have been up to, you'll most likely have to use your imagination or else come on over and hang out with us. If you go the imagination route, please picture me with muscular, yet feminine arms, thick hair and no freckles. If you come over, bring a bag of chips or something and avert your eyes from my flabby arms.

This morning I was asking the boys what they want for breakfast. Jack requested a bowl of Cocoa Krispies. Chocolate flavored cereals, or actually any super sugary cereal are a real problem around here. Jack and John are totally incapable of moderation when it comes to consuming them. Jack will demand Cocoa Krispies for breakfast lunch and dinner and snacks if they are in the house. If he is denied then it is guaranteed that a fit will ensue followed by hours of begging and obsessing. Usually I just make it a point to not buy the cereals I know are going to start a fight, and it solves the problem. He will eat healthy and well balanced meals. The problem is that Kristen who I like to call Queen of the Coupon, recently bought an entire pantry full of cereals that are off limits on the Kramer side of the communal living commune.

Kristen is my sister and my best friend and we live next door to each other and tore down the wall between the two backyards. The kids roam freely between the two households and it is the perfect set up. We can watch each other's kids all the time. There's always someone fun to talk to, and we usually take turns cooking meals and share everything. Actually, I can't imagine not living next to my sister. How does everyone else in the world get a shower?

Sometimes the commune concept has snags though. like when Kristen, Queen of Coupons, figured out how to ad match cereal to a price that is equal to a coupon she found. One week she ended up with probably 70 boxes of cereal for a few dollars. Of course, they were all sugar cereals so now my kids look at my offering of Cheerios, Bran Flakes, or Special K and then high tail it next door.

This week I made a deal with Jack that he could have one box of Cocoa Crispies from the Gartner's stash but only one bowl a day. I thought that they would be gone soon and that John would come in one day and save the day by eating the whole box in one setting and it would be over. Instead these Cocoa Crispies are like that story in the Bible where the woman gives her last bit of meal and oil to the stranger who turned out to be a prophet of God and after that, her barrel of meal and her jug of oil were never empty again. There was always just one more loaf of bread to be made. She never ran out. I don't know who Jack ever served this to, but I swear there is something supernatural going on here. The Cocoa Crispies NEVER run out. For me it isn't a blessing, it's a curse.

So this morning, Jack asked for his usual. When he said "Cocoa Crispies" Ham laughed and pointed and said in his two year old pronunciation Go Go Pee Pee, CO CO CISPEE. It kind of reminded me of a yo mamma joke without the yo mamma. He said it in this taunting, sarcastic way that was obviously to trash talk Jack. Abe and I laughed and laughed. I thought it was pretty good that he came up with the rhyme and the attitude. Jack was less entertained. He countered with the age old "me Chinese, me play joke, me go pee pee in your coke" of course, with his hands pulling his eyes back into his best asian impression. He didn't get why Ham's joke was a home run and his was a bomb. I'll admit that in my childhood I said this same rhyme and thought it was hilarious but this time I gave him a good long talking to about racism and sensitivity. Of course, he repeated the joke about four hundred times in the days that followed. I swear these boys are turning into adults before my very eyes. Its almost disturbing. Almost. Mostly it's just hilarious.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Timing is Everything

So Yesterday I had a strange experience. Actually a string of experiences that were all a huge pain in the butt but from which I learned a lot. I've been having a lot of that lately in my life. So, It was time to grocery shop because I was out of everything. John and Jack went away for the week to the beach in California for an air show and I enjoyed a glorious staycation here with Abe. It truly was glorious. I did whatever I wanted and If I didn't feel like doing it, I just didn't. Abe and I are the two members of this household who enjoy that approach so it was a truly restful week. But, grocery shopping is just not something I felt like doing while staycationing, so our cupboards were bare. John had the day off so I got to go to the store all by myself. Also it was payday and I had done a bunch of research on ad-matching and clipped coupons etc. and was ready to recharge my food storage. I like shopping with a friend so I called Kara Sly and asked her to tag along because I knew she was due for a shopping trip too. She wanted to come but was getting her kids down for naps, and jumping in the shower etc. so she said she'd head over and call me when she got there to see if I was still shopping.

One hour later, I had a couple of hundred bucks of food packed into a cart. The bottom was all packed, it was overflowing, and every nook and cranny was filled. Most of it was frozen or refrigerated stuff so I was trying to hurry so it would all stay cold. Of course when I wanted to check out, Every other human being in the store had the same idea and the lines were four or five carts deep.

While we are talking about the checkout lines at Walmart, I just want to know, Why do they even bother building all of those lanes if they have no intention of ever using them all at the same time? I have been there on Christmas Eve with hundreds of shoppers milling around in snaking lines to check out and still I have never seen even fifty percent of the lanes lit up at the same time. I want to stand on my cart and yell, "ATTENTION WAL MART EMPLOYEES, THIS IS NOT A DRILL! THESE ARE ACTUAL PEOPLE TRYING TO GIVE THEIR MONEY TO WAL MART. ALL HANDS ON DECK! OPEN ALL THE LANES!" Of course I would never do this especially since I have found that one's friendliness level is directly proportionate with the level of cooperation one receives in attempting to use Walmart's ad-matching policy liberally.

I have an uncle who claims that his cars are magnetically attracted to uninsured Indians. I feel this way about my shopping cart and customers paying with multiple forms of government assistance and using expired coupons and writing checks and haggling over every item. I also tend to get the check out lady who is brand new and has been abandoned without any training or help. All of these things were true yesterday and by the time I got all my stuff rang up I was dying to get out the door. Thats also when Kara called saying that she had just arrived. I told her it was too late, I was already checking out. We'd have to do something else together soon. peace, out.

Then I swiped my card and it was DECLINED! This has never happened to me and I was mortified! The lady tried running my card again but it declined again. At this point Karma kicked in hard and the people behind me in line who had all of their frozen goods on the belt were shooting me daggers with their eyes. I had become exactly what I loathe. The problem is I had literally no other way to pay. I could call John but by the time he could get their with cash or a credit card, it would be at least twenty minutes. So the check out clerk was trying to do that trick where they suspend your transaction and let you step aside and check other people out while you figure out your dilemma but something was malfunctioning and they couldn't get it to do that. Then I remembered Kara! It was a miracle. I got her on the first ring "Emergency at aisle 5! RUN!" She appeared within seconds with her fully functioning debit card and saved the day. I have never felt such relief. Plus, I happened to loan Kara a couple of hundred dollars a few days previous and the total of my groceries was almost exactly what she owed me and was going to pay back that day anyway. Turns out Karma doesn't hate me as much as she likes to screw with me every now and then.

You would think that this is the end of the story about timing saving the day but it is actually only the beginning. I got out to the parking lot and was madly filling my minivan with bags when I saw a woman who was holding a tiny baby (maybe two months old) in one arm and had a huge armload of groceries in the other arm. She was then attempting to make a phone call on a phone that was not working. She was pacing around trying to get a signal and it was like a million degrees outside. I asked her if she needed help. She told me her phone wasn't working and asked if she could use my cell phone to make a call. Sure. Then she made the call but she was obviously calling really obscure acquaintances asking them to track down other people to try and track down a ride. I stopped her. "I can give you a ride." She was elated. I even had unused baby car seats installed and ready to go. I was glad to help. We got all loaded up and headed to her house and she told me her story. She just moved here from California and doesn't know a single person here. She has two little kids and she had to go to the grocery store that day because they were totally out of food and she had no choice but to walk carrying the baby. She hadn't realized how far it really was and she really didn't know how hot it would be. The further we drove to get her home the more concerned I became. She had walked for miles and was planning on walking back those miles carrying the groceries. No stroller, no help. She was so grateful for my help. She thanked me and thanked me. I told her that I'd like to exchange phone numbers and I could give her a ride to the store next time she needed it. She was elated. I told her that I could bring her to church and there would be hundreds of fabulous women with similar minivans who would like nothing more than to be friends with her and give her whatever help she needed. We also do playgroups and crafts and have an entire organization devoted to getting your family everything you need. She wants to come to church right away and I am sending the missionaries to her house. It felt so nice to help someone in need and it gave me a good opportunity to count my blessings and to be glad that I didn't have to walk anywhere or even pay for my own groceries. My life is so damn abundant. There really isn't any other way to put it. Abundant with friends, sweet minivans, beautiful healthy children, and a world wide church that is set up so that I could move anywhere on the planet and have an instant network of sincere friends and trusted social programs. Driving that woman home was nothing more than a five minute drive to me but to her it was a big deal.

John pointed out that she could have been a serial killer and I guess thats true but the baby put the odds in her favor of being non-homicidal. I was actually the more dangerous person involved as it did cross my mind to steal her baby. I have been baby hungry like nobody's business and I want a girl so bad. This was one of those perfect little hispanic babies with huge brown eyes and a hairdo that could be mistaken for a wig. Her mom let me take her out of the seat and she just cooed and smiled at me. She had velvety thigh rolls and smelled like baby powder. Yes, I was definitely the only one who considered committing a felony by driving away with that baby and never looking back. Instead I carried her into the house and gave her back to her very grateful mother.

I drove home thinking of how glad I was that a freak banking error had delayed me just to the right moment that I could help someone in need. It felt good to serve and it really was worth the mortification of debit card denial.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tonsillectomy: part III

I'm posting this from the seventh floor of Banner Cardon Children's Medical Canter. Abe had his surgery yesterday and it went really well. He is already breathing so much better. He can sleep with his mouth closed and he says he can hear better.

He is in a lot of pain. He's just a little too young to understand that the yucky tasting liquid is what makes him feel better. Especially when it hurts so bad to swallow. The pain medicine is problematic. He can have it every four hours, but it only works for three. When the three hour mark hits, its like flipping a switch. He goes from being totally content to writhing in pain, screaming and tearing at his throat. Then of course he is in no mood to swallow anything, especially not horrible tasting Lortab, so he freaks out and ends up spitting most of it out and there's no way of measuring how much he actually got so they can't give him more for four hours even though there's more medicine on the towel than in his mouth. This sends me into what I can only call a Mama Bear Rampage that has definitely been a source of nurse's station gossip. Lets just say they approach me with caution. I have found that the great thing about hospital nurses is that you get a totally new set every ten hours and the new set never knows what kind of fit I threw to the last set. In all honesty they have been fabulous. We are just really ready to go home. Hopefully the doctor will come clear us soon.

This whole hospital drama has been interesting. I didn't know an experience could be simultaneously so stressful and so boring. I'm sleep deprived and in need of a shower, but mostly I'm just glad to have this surgery done and Ham on the mend.

He has been working it with the nurses and staff. Everyone adores him and he has definitely been batting his lashes for attention. Yesterday before surgery I overheard a funny conversation. They didn't know I could hear them. One nurse came into the hall with a big stuffed dinosaur and told the other nurse that she didn't know what to do because she only had one stuffed animal left and she couldn't decide which kid to give it to. The other nurse said, "Give it to that super cute one." She agreed and then walked in and gave it to Abe.

Our room is in the pediatric oncology ward. This provides a healthy reality check if I get to feeling sorry for Abe. The other kids on this floor are undergoing chemotherapy and recovering from transplants etc. I met a woman in the cafeteria this morning who's child has a raging case of meningitis and may not survive. This makes me so thankful for my healthy children. Words can't express my gratitude. This is what I think about during the fourth hour while we are waiting for pain meds.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Never Without a Crisis

Ham has had a snotty nose for what feels like forever. He has always been a heavy mouth breather which has earned him the nickname Darth Vader, which he loves. I don't like to use antibiotics, but I was finally worn down and decided to take him in to the doctor. I have always assumed that he will need his tonsils out at some point. Our family doctor didn't have any available appointments so I made an apt. with the Ear Nose and Throat Doctor that did Jack and John's surgery earlier this year. I kept trying to talk myself out of the appointment because he's really not sick sick, and I wondered if I was over-reacting by taking him to a specialist right off the bat. I decided to go anyway. Better safe than sorry.

When we got in to see the doctor I explained that he has had a runny nose and I just need a scrip for antibiotics. I reminded him about Jack and John and then asked him at what age he would consider doing a tonsillectomy. He said that he is way to young to consider it. He apologized and insisted that a kid has to be at least three before surgery or else it is just too risky. I was like, "Hey no biggie. we're just here for antibiotics anyway. We'll come back for a tonsil checkup in the next few years."

Then the Doctor looked into Abe's throat. He burst out laughing. He said "I'm going to now completely contradict myself and tell you that this kid has to have his tonsils and adenoids out immediately. Lets call the hospital and get their next opening right now. I have never seen a case so bad in a kid this young in my entire career. This can NOT wait until he is three."

By the time we finished the exam we learned the following things:

Abe has two raging ear infections, needs tubes in both ears and has probably been in major pain for a long time. He probably has significant hearing loss and most likely hears everything like he's underwater. The doctor was surprised that he doesn't have delayed speech.

Abe's adenoids and sinuses are so inflamed that he has no airflow in his nose at all and his airflow is so restricted by his tonsils that its like breathing through a little straw. He probably hasn't slept for a solid chunk of time for a long time because of airway restriction. Major obstructive sleep apnea.

The reason he is so drool-y is because swallowing is super painful and he would rather let the saliva drip out than swallow unnecessarily.

We're having the surgery at Banner Desert on Friday morning and he has to stay in the hospital afterwards because of his age and the risk involved with operating on such a young kid. It won't be a simple out-patient thing like Jack had, but a minimum of two days and one night in the hospital. It will be a super painful recovery but will restore his breathing and hearing and save him from a life time of chronic infection. I told Ham about what we have to do and told him he won't sound like a Sith Lord anymore. Now he can be Han Solo. He wants to still be Darth Vader because he wants to wield a light saber. He told me this emphatically with hand gestures showing me Darth Vader's mask over his mouth and then lots of sword motions with his arm and light saber noises. I told him he could be Luke Skywalker and keep the light saber. He was satisfied so surgery is on for Friday He has no concept of what it means to be at a hospital across town by five in the morning. Frankly, neither do I. I am very anxious about the whole thing but more than anything I'm glad that there is a solution to this problem. I was freaking out about the whole thing and then stopped myself and said a prayer of gratitude for the blessing of modern medicine and competent doctors and mommy intuition.

I feel so bad for him to know he's been hurting without complaining at all. I didn't even know he had an ear infection or a sore throat. Poor little guy. I'm so glad I took him in now. I realize now that I was more prompted than paranoid.

They put him on strong antibiotics to knock down some of the infection before surgery. The anesthesia is less risky if he is clear. The problem is I can never get this kid to take medicine of any kind. Its always a wrestling match. Jack has always been the same way so I was prepared to negotiate when I gave him his first dose last night. We had finished reading books for the night and he wanted to read one more so I told him that if he would eat this delicious liquid candy then I would read one more book. We made a deal but then of course ended up having to hold him down on the bed and funnel it in to his mouth with a syringe while he tried to spit it out. It got all over the place and was a major fight before I was satisfied that he got enough consumed. Then he walked over and handed me the unread book. "Read Book now."

I said "I don't know, Ham. You didn't really keep your end of the bargain. You made it really hard and you tried to spit it out. That wasn't in the deal." Without missing a beat he looked me in the eye, pointed to the empty syringe and stated "Not candy."

I read the book. It is simultaneously heartwarming and disturbing to lose an argument to my two year old.

In other Kramer Family Crisis news... I wrecked both of our cars at the same time. Yes, thats right, both of 'em. I backed out of the garage in the van and John's car was in my blind spot and I completely dented up the sides of both vehicles, ripping the rear view mirror off of the Focus. Not my finest moment. Of course the repair cost is not much more than the deductible so insurance will help but not much, and either way our policy doesn't contain anything that will make me feel like less of an idiot. I had the entire family in the car plus a couple of neighbor kids so there was no escaping my shame. I'm so mad at myself about it. I have to remember my gratitude... No one was hurt and the cars are still driveable, just a little trashy looking now. Oh well. Life goes on. Hopefully we have met our monthly quota of drama for the month and it will be smooth sailing for a while. We just have to get through Abraham's surgery and we're golden. I'll keep ya posted.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Raising my presidents

This may be a little early to announce but I think I can safely say that Abraham speaks English. This year has been full of learning for him and its like his communication skills have just exploded. A few things Ham has come to appreciate in recent days:
Gravity. I swear he is all of a sudden more coordinated and has far fewer unintended run ins with the surface of Earth. He is still crazy active but seems more coordinated too so thats always good.

Ham has learned the power of the potty. I won't go so far as to call him trained, but he definitely has a healthy respect for big boy underwear and pee pee prizes. He is still reaching for the brass ring of the poo poo prize. We are so close.
Ham is just fun to be around. He will eat anything he is fed, even raw vegetables and food storage creations. Incidentally, he loves a good nap, and is pretty much happy tagging along with me wherever I go. He's smart too. He knows his colors and sounds, he can trash the house in the time it takes for one adult to shower. He loves to go to Church and Shopping. Especially Sam's Club (Which he honestly believes is called Ham's Club) It is his personal store. Just ask him. He walks in with his chest out pointing to himself with both hands "Hams's Club." He's not the least bit surprised when he is offered free food at every corner. It is after all, his club. If we can harness his curiosity, creativity, and ingenuity, don't be surprised if you really are spending forty bucks a year to shop at his store in about 30 years. Jack likes to tell about how Abe will be president of the United States because he's named after a president. This is about the time we dropped the JFK news on our John "Jack" Fredrick Kramer. He too has a name that puts him in the running to be a president. Incidentally, he promises that he won't let himself get shot and he won't be a democrat either. I was vaguely aware that we gave our boys presidential names, but didn't realize we picked presidents who met violent ends. Leave it to Jack to figure that out.

Jack is so much fun for me right now. He comes up with the funniest stuff. Yesterday he asked me what it is called when there are two dots in a sentence, one on top of the other? I responded, "a colon?" He was totally exasperated. "no, mom." me: sorry, I thought you were talking about a device used in a sentence to make lists called a colon. What were you talking about?" {big annoyed sigh...} It is a colon, mom. You're not supposed to answer the question. You're supposed to say 'I don't know' and then let me tell you about the colon and then you're supposed to be so amazed that I know what a colon is and say how smart I am. To which I responded, "I was supposed to pretend I didn't know? I was supposed to hide my own smartness to highlight yours?what about me? Who is gonna tell me I'm smart when I know what a colon is?" "Uhhh... call grandma. She'll tell you you're smart." So the circle of life continues. I have agreed to let Jack answer his own questions and have agreed to seek my own self esteem from my own mom. That works, I guess. Mom, this is your cue to leave a comment telling me how great I am. I know you'll come through for me. Next time I see you remind me to tell you all about the magical world of punctuation.Please pretend to be dazzled.

We went to the public pool for the last time this summer. I'm glad it is cooling off, but I will miss that awesome pool. I discovered it a little late in the season so we only went a few times but its the best $.75 you can spend when its 110 degrees out. Jack mastered the low diving board and Ham and I spent hours in the lazy river. I keep Ham in a padded swimsuit. You know those ones that have big foam inserts on the chest and back. They look a little ridiculous, but they make it totally impossible for a kid to go under. Our particular suit is not technically coast guard approved like a life vest but I like that it gives sun protection too.

Speaking of fabulous swimsuits, I also got a new tankini top that I love. Its the first swimsuit I have ever found that actually has a sized built in bra so it really gives support. Not like a stupid soft cup shelf bra, or a typical swimsuit half bra, but a full built in, choose your real cup and band built in bra. Plus a smoothing liner inside. The only swimsuit that I have ever felt publicly presentable in. So I was waiting to get into the lazy river with Ham and I had just told my friend Kara about my new swimsuit and the lifeguard stopped us. The following exchange took place:

lifeguard: "oh, sorry, we don't allow padded swimsuits like that."
me: flustered and embarrassed and annoyed "What in the world are you talking about? Its not padded! Its just really really supportive!"
lifeguard: "Yes, it is obviously padded but its just not coast guard approved. I'll let it go this time but next time put him in trunks and they will give you a life vest rental for free at the office."
Oh. Abe's swimsuit. yeah. I knew that. I'm not an idiot. did I mention that I know exactly what a colon is and how to use it? I'm smart. I swear. right, mom?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Insomnia and the Microwave

It is three in the morning and I am wide awake. As a confirmed insomniac, I knew getting up and getting something done would be far less torturous than laying in bed wide awake mentally listing things I should get done. Blogging was the least noisy thing I could think of and the chihuahuas thought they had died and gone to heaven when they saw me coming down the stairs wrapped in a down comforter. Then I microwaved a DiGiorno Chicken Bacon Ranch Flatbread Melt and they pretty much lost their little walnut sized brains over the whole experience. Lap Dog Nirvana.

Speaking of Digiorno Chicken Bacon Ranch Flatbread Melts, they are my new food obsession. If you haven't tried one yet, I recommend that you never do because its like crack. Be smart. Don't start. I must say that one of the advantages of my mystery illness that made me drop sixty pounds inexplicably, is that I can consume insane amounts of calories at any time of day and feel like I'm doing something good for my body. I have gained 15 pounds back and been feeling much better and I'm sure that at some point I will feel compelled to curb my caloric intake but for now the microwave is my best electronic friend.

Speaking of my microwave, I just discovered many of its previously unknown talents. I was standing there waiting for my flatbread to melt and since I really had nothing else more pressing at three AM, I decided to be useful and change the little lightbulb that had burned out on the underside. I swear that bulb burns out weekly. Then I noticed that there is a feature where you can program it to turn on and off every day at a set time so I followed the annoyingly slow scrolling instructions and set the night light timer. Then I realized that you can program the scrolling instructions to scroll faster so I did that. Then I saw the help button, so what the hell... let's see what help this appliance offers. Turns out you can tell the microwave exactly what you are cooking and it will magically sense how long it needs to cook for. Genius. Queso dip? warmed to perfection. Ramen Noodle Soup? I'll never use the stovetop again. Frozen leftover lasagna? a no brainer. I almost feel guilty that I have owned this thing for four years and never even knew it's skills. It is now also set to remind me when it is time to pick the kids up from school and it promises to use it's quieter less irritating beep to do so. Years from now when Jack has children of his own and he realizes what a pain in the neck it is to leave the house at just the right moment so as to avoid the hellish elementary school traffic jam but to also avoid losing a child to heat stroke, and he thanks me for being so lovingly diligent on my carpool day, I will give full credit to the microwave development department of General Electric and then celebrate the moment of parenting success with a bag of popcorn that has no un-popped kernels but is not scorched at all.

Okay, now it is four am. I'm doing pretty good with this whole time killing thing. Feel free to quit reading at any time. I'm sure the rest of this post will be far less scintillating than my love affair with the microwave. Although before you abandon me completely, please take a moment to push the help button on your own Spacesaver 3000, because heaven knows, we could all use some help anywhere we can get it.

Speaking of help and parenting success, I have been reading every parenting book I can get my hands on lately. Like most moms I'm just figuring it out as I go along and mostly raising these children with the good old method of trial and error. Of course, just when I get something figured out, the child grows up out of that phase and then the next child is so completely different that whatever I learned the first time around is totally useless. I was recently reading a book called Nurture by Nature where it uses the Myers Briggs personality types to help you figure out how to parent each individual child based on their unique personality needs. I have always been a big fan of personality tests. If you are not familiar with it, google it. Or ask your microwave. I'm pretty sure mine completes full psychological inventories. Basically, everyone is one of 16 types. Some combination of the letters ENFP or ISTJ. When you do the test and then read your profile, its almost creepy how well they know you. Like they have been spying on you or reading your diary or interrogating your microwave (okay, I swear I will let the microwave thing go now). I am an ENFP Jack is an ISFJ. This of course makes him almost exactly opposite of me. Ham is still too young to really accurately peg but I guarantee he is much closer to me than Jack is. Its been a huge eye-opener to recognize the different needs of different members of the family. For instance, I thrive on change. If a routine develops, I go out of my way to change things up because to me consistency is boring and I instinctively dismantle structure. The problem is that ISFJs of course thrive on structure and consistency. This would also be a good time to mention that I married an ISTJ, who is my EXACT opposite. I had no idea I was going to end up with a house full of schedule loving, promise logging, variety-detesting people. When I look at the times that Jack has had a lot of melt-downs, its always a time when a lot of things are changing. Even good things. So here I am trying to be a super cool mom creating all kinds of fun new experiences and changing things up all of the time so that everyone's creativity can flow and no one has to be enslaved by repetitive monotony, and then I find out that certain people will probably stop pooping their pants and throwing tantrums in public if I just set a damn schedule and stick to it. So I have gritted my teeth and instituted some strict timelines and chore requirements and what do you know... everything is running much more smoothly. I didn't realize that when I say something like "Hey Jack, I'm going to let you stay up an extra hour tonight." or "I know I usually only let you get one thing at McDonalds but today you can have a Happy Meal!" What he is hearing is "Hey Jack, your whole world can crumble at any moment and you can't rely on any of your cherished rules, but I hope that Kid's Meal toy is worth all of our sanity!" Okay, Its not that bad, but you get the idea. I realized that I am doing him no favors by changing the rules. ever. Its just who he is. I have also realized that unless I am totally prepared to follow through on something, I can not even mention it. Statements such as "wow, the weather is cooling off. I bet we can start going to the park again soon." will inevitably result in the following harassment: "When are we going to the park? You said we were going to the park. Lets go to the park right now. Park. You promised. I want to go to the park. Its cool out, so were supposed to go to the park. When are we going to the park? We never go to the park even though you said we would go to the park. park. park. park." Then theres Abe who is like, "hey, screw the park. Lets just empty the toy box and play with the dogs and check out what the microwave can do at three AM, and by the way, that Happy Meal was the bomb." Okay, he doesn't actually use the English language to communicate all of that, but we are clearly on the same page.

It got me thinking about how life is all about picking your priorities. We can never make everyone happy all of the time and as a parent and spouse, we actually end up more satisfied when everyone else's preference gets met first. I find that most of the time my guiding parenting principle is the question "What will inflict the least amount of emotional damage?" And then I go with my gut. I figure that between that effort and a lot of time spent in prayer begging for the well being of my children, The odds are in my favor that these boys will grow up to be well adjusted adults who will eventually thank me for going against my grain and picking them up from school at exactly the same time each day.

I have read that human beings are hard-wired to blame their parents. For example, I had the happiest, most loving childhood known to human kind. My parents provided for me in every way and my mom in particular raised me with a sense of fun and faith and instilled in me a sense of self worth that is absolutely priceless. But when I think about my childhood, whats the most salient memory? I was enrolled in Weight Watchers at age 9. (Mom, if you're reading this, I SWEAR I am over it and I'm so sorry to have just posted that on the world wide web, but the good news is, you are the only one in the world who loves me enough to still be reading this post this far down, so technically, thats still just between you and me and the other fatties from 1986.)

As I mentioned earlier, Jack has had some bumps in the road with keeping his underwear skid free, much to my dismay. I have tried a number of different tactics to incentivize him in this matter. Prizes, rewards, beatings, you name it. Then the other day I noticed that it had been a while since he had been in the restroom so I urged him cheerfully to go in and do his business. The kid looked me in the eye and said, "What kind of prize am I gonna get for it?" To which I replied, "Jack, you are going to get the best prize of all. You are going to get a freaking sense of self respect and the knowledge that you are not a disgusting freak who is six years old and okay with the sensation of feces on your own ass." Yeah... Not my proudest parenting moment. Sometimes the ability to hit the nail on the head verbally is a skill I wish I didn't have. John overheard and he was unimpressed with my harshness as well. It was true but it was mean. These are the moments Jack is likely to blog about in thirty years.

My point is, I think we all do better with slightly imperfect upbringings. If we raised our kids perfectly and never had inappropriate moments, I'm not sure how prepared they would end up for real life. Thats what I keep telling myself anyway. I am so thankful for my family. it boggles my mind that I should be so blessed to even know these people. My parents, my siblings, my husband, my kids, my friends, my microwave. I am blessed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ham is a Big Boy, I am a Dork.

Abraham seems to be growing up so fast that it blows my mind. Yesterday he made his own popcorn. He got into the pantry, got out the packet, pushed a chair up to the microwave, put the popcorn in and pushed the button. Then when he was sick of waiting (about 50% popped) he opened the bag, poured it into a big bowl and then proclaimed to the world that he is a "Big Boy" and went around offering popcorn to everyone saying "Ham do it." He carried that bowl of popcorn around all day long. He was so proud of himself. I have to say I was pretty proud of him too. As much as I wish he wouldn't get into the pantry and climb onto countertops, I am impressed with his skills at only two years old. Obviously we have modeled the microwave popcorn process pretty regularly. He had an unfortunate attempt to make chocolate milk this week that didn't go as well as the popcorn. Chocolate syrup is a pain to clean off of floors. He's naughty but he's smart. A lot of work but a lot of fun.

Potty training is not going as well as popcorn training. In Ham's defense, potty training is so much more about training mom than training baby. I went full force and then fizzled out. This is not an unfamiliar pattern for me, but instead of beating myself up about it I remind myself that even retarded kids eventually poop on the potty, so whatever. It will happen eventually. I actually prefer changing diapers to cleaning mattresses and shampooing carpet. Actually now that I think about it, I don't mind changing diapers at all. I probably should hate it, but I don't. Maybe I'm just hanging on to the baby that is left in my Big Boy.

As I have been typing this Abe made his own peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Yes, it is as big a mess as you imagine. He is at that stage where the only way to get him to do something is to either make it an interesting challenge (as in, "I'm Lets see if you can really do it!") or else totally forbid the desired behavior (as in, "You are not allowed to eat these veggies. If you eat them you are in big trouble. Whatever you do, DO NOT chew them up and swallow them!")

Speaking of growing up, Jack starts first grade next week. he is in a pleasant phase of life right now and even though I am so done with summer break, Jack and I have had a really good time bonding this summer. There is nothing like a mother-child relationship and I can't express how satisfying it is to have actual conversations with my own child and hear his original thoughts and to consider him a friend. I recently bought a used old school Super Nintendo with Super Mario Brothers at a used bookstore. I knew that my princess-saving skills would impress him to no end. I was right. Turns out all that time I wasted playing Nintendo as a kid wasn't wasted after all. I have earned the eternal respect of this six year old. He tells his friends, "My mom is so cool. She is the Master of Super Mario. Little does he know that this actually qualifies me as a dork. Who knew that Super Mario was like riding a bike? I picked it up after a twenty year break and I remember every move. I have lost the thumb calluses but I still have the touch. Awesome.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Staci's Book of Mormon Reading Program

I am compelled to write and tell anyone who will listen all about my new scripture reading program. First of all let me tell you that I have already read all of the standard works multiple times and I have a testimony that every word comes from God. With that said, I was still having a life-long struggle to consistently read the Book of Mormon every day. Its frustrating because I know I should, I know the blessings one recieves from scripture study, and I really want my children to have a mother who studies the words of God every day. Between our stops and sdtarts as a family, and my own unfinished starts, I have read 1 Nephi probably hundreds of times. We always start off good and then we hit those Isiah Chapters in 2 Nephi and we stall out. I am one of those people who loves taking on a big project, but the details of followup and finishing? not so much. I always feel so guilty about being such a scripture flake. So in an effort to actually solve my little problem and therefore reap the blessings that I know await me if I can just be a little more diligent I decided to make a couple of admissions. The first one you will probably relate to, and the second one you will probably be offended by, even though I know you will relate to me on this one as well. First, I need stimulating things to read in order for me to pay attention long enough to get it. I have a small case of scripture study ADD. My mind wanders and I can never keep track of which Nephi is which or who begat who. Instead of beating myself up about this, I'm going to EMBRACE it. Second, Its time for me to admit that the Book of Mormon is mostly boring. really boring. And in this day and age it has to compete with reality TV, the Internet and even Conference Talks. I would rather listen to Jeffery R Holland tell it in his powerful way all day long than wade through the allegory of the Olive Tree. I'd rather see who got kicked off American Idol than hear about horrible violent wars. I know, its offensive. My point is I've decided to EMBRACE the fact that the Book of Mormon is mostly boring too. Between these two epiphanies, I came up with a new study program that has literally changed my life. It has taken me from reading occassionally and then feeling bad about it to devouring the scriptures everyday and having a guaranteed daily spiritual experience. I call my program "Only Read the Awesome Chapters" I know, the name needs work, but I'm telling you it changed my spiritual life. The book of Mormon is about 70% boring but the other 30% is AMAZING! Find the amazing chapters and skip the rest and vow to not feel bad about the stuff you skip. Ether 12, Alma 32, Moroni 7, Mosiah 4, Read about Enos' amazing repentance. Read about how justice and mercy work together in Alma 42, read about the brother of Jared seeing the finger of the Lord, Read King Benjamin's address. Read Lehi's dream. Read the Sermons, Read when the Prophets bust out the hard core teaching moments. When you get to thinking about it, there are enough awesome chapters to keep you super engaged for months and months. Ask around. See which chapters other people consider awesome and then read that. re-read your favorites out of order. There is so much great stuff in there that I'm almost embarassed that I didn't come up with this sooner. I have been wasting my precious scripture study time with boring stuff when the good stuff is just waiting to be read. Now I look forward to reading and I carry it around in my purse to grab extra study moments here and there. I had to admit that I wasn't enjoying my scriptures before I could deal with it and get a program that made me enjoy it. Now I crave the scriptures. If it starts to get boring, I just stop what I'm reading and go find an awesome chapter. Its never hard to find. My scripture ADD is cured by embracing it and working within it.

I recommend this method to everyone except for those people who claim to love Isaiah (by the way, we all know you are lying so you can drop the act.) If you are feeling like every day is a personal spiritual feast, you don't need my program, keep doing whatever you're doing. Maybe one day I will be like that. Until then, I'll be reading the Awesome Chapters and skipping the rest.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

POP goes the Hambone


Abraham is two and he is in a tough spot as far as communicating with the world. He is just on the verge of speaking English but still relies mostly on a system of hand gestures, English inspired noises, and emotional displays. I spend the most time with him and therefore understand most of what he is trying to say. We have been working on sign language too and he loves that. I think he is right on the cusp of a huge language explosion and for the sake of everyone's sanity I can't wait till he can just say exactly what he wants to say whenever he wants to say it (I need a volunteer to read this blog entry back to me when he is a sassy four year old and I want him to shut up)

What has struck me as I have watched Abe's vocabulary blossom is how many words there are that have multiple uses. I already blogged about the utility of "nudder un" (another one) but there are a whole list of words like this.

At the moment he uses the word "pop" in almost every sentence. First of all, his Grandpas are both Pop-pop. Plus he has the Otter pop addiction so he's always pointing to the freezer and saying "pop". If he is pointing to the pantry and demanding "pop" then he wants either a Pop-Tart or pop corn. Also on his list of favorites are pop-sicles, lolly-pops and soda pop. All of which he asks for by looking me in the eye and earnestly saying "POP".

I give him balloons if he uses the toilet. He begs for another balloon and when I tell him I just gave him one two minutes ago and ask where that one is he puts his hands up in exasperation and says "pop." His favorite song is "Popcorn Popping" and he loves singing "Pop Goes the Weasel".

There are other dualities going on. If he says "Go-go" I'm not sure if he is asking to go for a trip or requesting an episode of Go Diego. When he says "Ba Ba" Is he asking for a bottle or asking for Bob Bob (Spongebob Squarepants)? The list goes on and on

This kid is so much fun and so much work! The terrible twos are well underway and I want him to grow up, but I already miss my baby.

Friday, June 18, 2010

John's New Girlfriend




There is one gun that John has fantasized about since before I have known him. Its a Steyr AUG. He bought an off brand model last year but that just didn't totally do it for him. This week he got a real brand new Steyr AUG. Check out the smile on his face. Its true love.
Awww...don't they make a cute couple!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Summertime Playdates

Summer is here and these kids are officially bored and cooped up. I have been busily making plans and playdates to fill the hot days. We went to Peter Piper Pizza this week, made freezer jam at the Sly's, went swimming at Grandma's house, played one million hours of X box and learned to ride a bike without training wheels. Abraham has developed an unhealthy obsession of Otter Pops that I only realized was truly out of control when I saw that his poop has become otter pop colored. Sir Isaac Lime and Louis Blue Raspberry seem to go through his system totally undigested. Also those empty Otter Pop wrappers are EVERYWHERE. At first it seems cool that they sell them in packs of 100, but now I wonder what they were thinking. My carpet will never be quite the same. Also, I have a bone to pick with the geniuses that put the following on the otterpop box: "100% Fruit Juice!" and then underneath in small print it says "From Concentrate With Added Ingredients" I'm no mathmetician but if there are added ingredients then the percentage of fruit juice is obviously less than 100. So it is 100 percent juice except for all of those other things, which if you read the ingredient list, totals two percent. I think they get away with this because no one cares about otter pop regulation enough to sue them, but I personally find it offensive. Do they really think we are dumb enough to believe this lie? I don't know why I get so fired up about a contradictory statement on my box of frozen juice bars, but I think there should be a class action law suit or something.

We had a little girl named Alexis over for a playdate this week. She was in Jack's kindergarten class this year and we ran into her and her family at Paradise bakery so we exchanged phone numbers. Shortly after this exchange Jack got a little bit obsessed with the idea of having Alexis over. It became obvious that he has a little crush on her. He kept telling me about how she's the nicest girl in school and she's the smartest and she never gets in trouble ever. This is high praise from Jack. He has good taste too. She is adorable with long blonde hair and an impeccable wardrobe. When she came over she carried a little silk purse and had a voice like she had been sucking helium. SOOO feminine. Jack counted the days until she came. Before she arrived he made some preparations. He got out stuff to draw and color with and pulled out the Spongebob Operation boardgame. When she was finally here they had the most hilarious conversation.
Jack: I got lots of stuff we can do. You get to pick whatever you want.
Alexis: I don't know.
Jack: I usually play with boys and boys like playing army but you're a girl so I put away all of the army stuff. We can do whatever you want.
Alexis: Uhh... I don't know.
Jack:We can do whatever girl stuff you want. Like you can put on makeup and paint your nails, or you can watch girly TV shows or you can play dolls. Its totally up to you.
Alexis: Well, I like to play on the monkey bars and swingset.
Jack: Okay, lets go out back and you can pretend to be a princess while you swing.

I think he was a little surprised to find that girly girls can hold their own on a jungle gym. It was very good to see him on his best behavior for a girl.

Jack has been playing a lot with Isaac Sly. His mom Kara is one of my best friends so its super convenient that Isaac and Jack get along so well. Isaac is a really nice kid and I don't ever have to worry that he will teach Jack bad things or get into trouble when they are together. Those two can play for days and days on end and never get bored or irritated. They also had a funny conversation yesterday.
Isaac: What does your dad do for a living?
Jack: He's a police officer
Isaac: Cool! He gets to shoot people!
Jack: Well, not really. Mostly he makes phone calls and writes reports and stuff.
Isaac: So he's like, "Stop, badguy! or I'll..... call you? Stop, or I'll use my ....pen?"
Thats pretty quick sarcastic wit for a first grader. I like him.

I already can't wait for summer to be over with. I wish we had a pool or something so that there was anything to do outside. For now we are just hunkering down in the air conditioned house and waiting for fall.John has summer especially bad. Directing traffic for eight hours in direct sunlight when its over 105 degrees while wearing head to toe black and twenty pounds of gear and a bullet proof vest is not my idea of a good time.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Clones




I was going through some pictures of the boys today and I came across these two shots of Jack and Abe at two years old. I know they look alike but to see pictures taken at the same age is absolutely mind boggling. I basically gave birth to identical twins four years apart.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Graduation






Jack has successfully completed Kindergarten. Grandma and Grandpa Kramer came out to the big graduation ceremony complete with square caps and fancy diplomas. Afterward we all went out to eat and Jack was showered with congratulations and gifts. Like his daddy, Jack loves formality. He loved the procession and the hat and he took it all very seriously. He insisted on wearing his cap at a really sharp forward angle and walked really stiffly. It was all very military. He loves structure. He likes to know exactly what the chain of command is and he loves uniforms and things like saluting. He measures other kids by their obedience and he does not like rule-breakers. He is so much like John in so many ways.
He has been done with the school year for less than a day and he is already asking when school starts again because he is bored. Its gonna be a long summer.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Shameless Reptile

We have five tortoises. For the most part we love having them. They just eat the grass and they are totally fine with being messed with by small children. They are as friendly as reptiles are capable of being. The biggest one weighs about 40 pounds, is a foot and a half in diameter and his name is El Guappo. The only problem with El Guappo is that he is, how shall I put this... lonely. I have been tempted to post an ad on craigslist to search for an attractive single female tortoise. I am not looking to own another tortoise, maybe just to arrange dates. I'm sure there is some nice female out there who would love to be swept off her shell.

In the mean time, El Guappo has put all of his romantic energy into a relationship with our soccer ball. What he does to that ball is obscene. There is something about the octagon pattern and the contrasting black and white that turns him on. If given access, he spends hours upon hours mounting it. The worst part is the grunting noise and the thick layer of slime. We recently hosted a big party at out house with about sixty guests. I heard a commotion in the back yard and discovered that the tortoise had gotten to the soccer ball and was hooking up right in front of everyone. The kids were in an uproar and were all asking what he was doing. The adults were all shocked and either disgusted or entertained or both. Nobody knew what to do about it or how to explain it to the children. A few people laughed and snapped pictures. I had to go out there and push him off of it and hide the ball. It was pretty much the highlight of the afternoon.

So if you know anyone with a girl sulcata, send them my way. He is handsome, virile and obviously not too picky.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Swagga Wagon

I make it a point not to embed random things in the family blog unless I LOVE them. ASnd this fits the bill. Take a minute and watch this commercial. This is a genius ad campaign. enjoy...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Jack has skills




Let me take a moment to do a little bragging about Jack. He is a genius artist. It is always amazing to see what interests and personality traits emerge in children as they grow. Jack has always loved drawing but what really gets me is his accuracy and his ability to draw things from different angles. Once when he was four I asked him to draw the room we were sitting in. When he was done it was just a strange smattering of rectangles. Then I realized that he had drawn an aerial view of the room and all of its furniture. The fact that his little brain could translate it onto paper was incredible but that he was drawing from a perspective that he hadn't actually seen blew my mind. He is in Kindergarden and at an age when a lot of kids his age are still drawing people with legs coming right out of their heads. Jacks drawing are not only accurate, they are super detailed. Here is a sample of one of his recent doodles:
These are three different views of a plane. Check out the detail! This is straight out of his little brain. You will notice on the left he doesn't always get which direction the numbers and letters are supposed to go (it says 2010 Jack Kramer) but he has the side view of the airplane wing right on and how about that Air Force logo!? I don't know if he'll end up as an aircraft engineer or a sketch artist, but I know that he's got my drawing skills beat at 6 years old.

Kramer Boys

Kramer Boys