Posts Tagged With: kids

No Excuses

I must be the meanest Mom around.

First of all, we didn’t watch the Rose Parade.  Well, we couldn’t, because we don’t have a TV.  Halfway through last year, realizing that the only time we watched the thing was, well, on New Year’s Day for the Rose Parade, we moved it out to the garage and reclaimed a nice chunk of the family room for more important things (i.e. a bookcase).

Besides, I really dislike parades.  I don’t much like firework shows either.  And I’ve never been to a baseball game. This year I plan to apply for U.S. citizenship, and I truly hope these facts do not impinge upon my application’s acceptance.

059I did make donuts this morning, so I’m pretty sure my kids didn’t really miss the parade much. I would like to report that I put the proper amount of salt in my batch of donuts, but the fact that I accidentally doubled it, given the 14 year old’s unfortunate misreading of the same measurement last night, is completely inexcusable.  Fortunately I noticed right away, so I was able to fish the extra salt out of the bowl.  Most of it, anyway.

The 14 year old completed our nutritionally bankrupt meal this morning by deep frying some bacon.  Big pot of oil, just the right temp… how could she not?

Once I had them all sugared up on donuts, I dropped the bomb.  We would be doing our school work today. My resolve stayed flinty, even in the presence of heartfelt wails of injustice. “But it’s a HOLIDAY, Mom.”  “But even the BANKS are closed today, Mom.”  Nothing moved me.

I happen to know that both of my younger kids are quite a few lessons behind in their math, among other things. I also happen to remember hearing multiple promises of “I’ll catch up over Christmas break” in the past month or so. So I put my foot down and pointed out that if they hadn’t taken little personal holidays on days when there was no excuse for not doing their school, they wouldn’t be doing school today when everyone else had the day off.

Unfortunately for them, I possess the ability to compartmentalize doom for days, even weeks at a time, as long as there are enough fires that need to be put out and other deadlines that need to be met.  My last deadline was Boxing Day, when we visited with my side of the family to exchange gifts.  It took exactly five days of not having a deadline looming on the horizon for me to realize how many things I had been letting slip for the past few months.   I had my crisis yesterday, while they were at the movies enjoying The Hobbit.

Today it was their turn.

They will thank me later.  Like, next Thursday, when they get to their respective Classical Conversations classes and actually have something finished to turn in.

As firm as my resolve is today, given the freshness of my Biannual I-can’t-do-everything-I’m-supposed-to-do Meltdown, I sincerely hope and pray that it will continue, at least until the end of this semester.  Because I know myself too well to think that this one foot planting itself firmly today is going to remain that way without major changes being made, not in my kids’ hearts and attitudes, but in mine.

And I know how I am.

For example, my husband found this workout program in a drawer the other day, unopened.  I bought it at least four years ago.


At least I can use this with my Brit Lit students as a good example of the concept of “irony.”




Categories: Education, Family, Homeschooling | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

No Filter December – Day 13: A Boy And His Christmas Tree

Two out of the Three Men of the house (the third has succumbed to the stomach flu the rest of us had last week) went out foraging for a Christmas tree this morning.  It was the 12 year old’s first time really getting his hands in there when it came time to prep the tree.

First, he helped tie it to the roof and untie it when they got home.  Next, joy of joys, Alan actually let him use the chainsaw to cut the end of the trunk off.

And then we decorated.  Well, we tried to decorate.  All that lumberjacking and chainsawing apparently went to his head, because he insisted that we were putting the lights on the tree the wrong way.  Which would have been okay, but he went on to insist that not only was it wrong, but that we had NEVER DONE IT THIS WAY BEFORE.  Okay, but I can think of at least, well, 22 prior Christmases since this family was founded.  Not to mention the ones I had at my parents’ house before that.  Ever since I was 16 and my Dad realized it was a more efficient method to string the lights vertically instead of wrapping them around the tree, the lights went on up and down, not round and round.  My Dad was an engineer.  There was no reason to ever do it the other way.

Before I could do more than mention, “Pop taught us this way,” the 14 year old jumped in, so I stepped back and let her take over.  All the debate training she has had this year in Classical Conversations came into play.  It got vehement.

The 12 year old is stubborn, however.  Mulish.  So we let him win, which meant he got to string the lights on all by himself.  We waited for him to get overwhelmed, but he was so happy with his win, he set about stringing the lights quite happily, singing along with the Christmas carols playing on the radio.   “‘Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree O, Christmas Tree…’  Hey!  I totally know these lyrics!”

The lights are uneven and clump together in spots, but that’s just how we will leave them.  Because sometimes you have to choose between being “right” and being happy, and Christmas is definitely one of those times.


Categories: Around Town, Christmas, Family, Relationships | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

Sprouts, Poptarts and Humble Pie

001It was Friday night. The hubby and I needed some alone time, so we went out.  To the grocery store.

This is how you can tell our age and domestic status.  Married, four kids, pushing 50… yup, date night means a trip to the grocery store.

And because we are this family, with our various auto-immune challenges, ranging from gluten, soy and casein sensitivity to Vitiligo to Type 1 Diabetes, with some lactose intolerance thrown in for good measure, we were having our “date night” at Sprouts, the Valhalla of special ingredients, stocking up on gluten-free pancake mix, dairy-free “yogurt” and the all important Bio-K to balance out our digestive tracts.

Don’t worry, that’s as TMI as I will get about digestive tracts.

I always look forward to a visit to Sprouts, because with all the dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, MSG-free, hydrogenated-oil-free foods they offer, it feels like they speak my language. And a couple of times a year, they speak my language for half-price for a full 8 days, so that really makes it fun to shop there.

Except we missed the memo that this Friday night was “take your overwrought and fussy children shopping” night.

I heard him before I saw him.  I heard him running from one end of the store to the other.  From my position in the juice aisle I paused and looked toward the center aisle of the store.  Sure enough, I caught a glimpse of him.  A small, black-haired boy, running, just as his footsteps had suggested, full-tilt, waving both arms above his head yelling, “Mommy!  Mommy!  MOOOOOOMMMMMMY!”

Artwork by Erin

Artwork by Erin

He was not lost.  He was not distraught.  He was obviously having the time of his life.  I stood there with a bottle of organic lemonade in my hand and tried to project authoritative displeasure in his direction the next time he sped by the end of my aisle, but he went by so fast I barely saw him, so the “Thou Must Stop With Thine Misbehavior” vibes apparently bounced right off him.

I contented myself with packing things into my cart while vehemently thinking the things I would like to say to his mother about the importance of Keeping One’s Children In Check In Public Places.

Now, you would think, with four of my own, and with a small nephew who almost exactly fits the description of this little boy, apart from hair color, that I would have a modicum of sympathy.  Or at least understanding.  And see, NOW, from the comfort of my home, after the fact, I do.  I totally get it.  But I’m getting ahead of my story here.

Because at the time, I was supposed to be having ALONE TIME with the hubby.  And this whirlwind of a child was distracting me from my date.

In 20-20 hindsight, it does not escape me that while half the problem here might have been this boy’s mistaken assumption that the grocery store was a playground, the other half might very well have been my mistaken assumption that the grocery store was a venue for Quality Time With One’s Spouse.

However, at the time, it was all about how little his mother was doing to curb misplaced exuberance.

It didn’t help that there was another lady there at the same time with no fewer than six 5 to 8 year olds in tow.  I must admit that she was doing a spectacular job at keeping them polite and orderly, despite the fact that Whirlwind Boy was flying by with distressing regularity and tempting her youngest beyond the poor child’s ability to resist.  A quick, “Hold my hand NOW!” from Mother was necessary to prevent the hand-waving cavorting from becoming epidemic.

Which, by comparison, made Whirlwind Boy’s mother look even more lax in her duties and added fuel to my vehement mental fire.

I finally took refuge behind a display of Christmas treats, actually feeling thankful that they were on display two months early, since they made such an admirable shield from possible collisions with flailing five-year-old arms and legs.  There I waited for the ruckus to subside, and eventually it did.

My date, on the other hand, was bravely shopping for cheese as if nothing was amiss.  He’s bigger than me.

Once the store was quiet again, I assumed the Whirlwind Family had left the shore, heaved a sigh of relief and ventured out from my hiding place, rejoicing that while I was there, I had discovered gluten-free Toaster Pastries in two flavors.

I met back up with the hubby and we had a conference that went something like this:

ME: Is that it?

ALAN: Ummmm… I don’t know, can you think of anything?

ME: I don’t know. Did you get cheese?

ALAN: Yep, I got cheese.  So… what else?

ME: Ummm….. I don’t know.

ALAN: We should go home.  We sound pitiful.

ME: Yeah, we should go home. We can always come back later. After we have slept.

Let’s just say it had been a long week.

We made our way to the checkout, and as soon as we got in line, who should pull her cart up behind us but… yep, you guessed it.  Whirlwind Boy’s Mom.  With son.  And daughter, who was a slightly toned down version of her brother.

Our stuff was already on the conveyer belt, so we were stuck.  Whirlwind Boy ran around us and stood where we needed to stand to pay and struck up a conversation with the checker.


The checker took it all in stride and chatted with him, while I, feeling slightly huffy, had to maneuver my cart around the boy to get it to the end of the checkstand.

“My name is Cory.  What’s yours?” bantered the checker.

“MY NAME IS COLIN!” he announced to everyone in the store except for those at the far end in the dairy section, who were probably out of earshot, what with the humming of the refrigerators.

He finally threaded his way between Alan and I to stand by his mother, who had been quietly but firmly trying to get him to return to her this whole time.  As he walked past Alan, Alan said, ‘Hi, Colin!”

The boy whirled around, mouth agape, and said, “How did you know my name?”

At this point, just like the Grinch when he hears the Whos singing in Whoville despite his attempts to steal Christmas from them, I began to feel the ice around my heart begin to crack.  Because this kid was undeniably cute.

I was still judging, of course, because when we are tired and not reining ourselves in and fall back on our natural inclinations, judging comes so much easier than, oh, reasoning, or empathy, or connecting with our fellow human beings.

“He has probably had too much sugar,” I mused, feeling superior because I never took MY children shopping when they were all sugared up.  (In order to think this way, you understand, I had to conveniently forget the Sideways Tipping of a Full Basket of Groceries Incident, as well as the one that involved a two year old colliding with a sweet lady’s cart of vegetables. And we won’t even talk about how an entire department store was locked down when another two year old of mine hid under a rack of girl’s clothing.)

Selective memory is so comforting, but it always comes with a price… that inevitable fall before which pride goeth.

Almost as soon as that judgmental thought had crossed my mind, the friendly checker grabbed a container of Organic Lollipops and offered them to Whirlwind Boy and his sister.

The sheer panic in their mother’s voice stopped my self-righteous self in its tracks.

“NO! No, please, don’t give them sugar!”

So.  Apparently this child’s behavior had nothing to do with the mother’s inattention to healthy diet.  The fact that she was shopping at a store that carries healthier food than most should have clued me in.  Apparently this mother knew all about the evils of sugar and red food dye and nitrates and all the other crazy-making ingredients being sold by Evil Big Business Food Companies.

Which left only one conclusion: this child was just like this.  All. The. Time.

Within a split second, I went from judging the mother to my heart going out to her.

This child was not a monster.  This child was a delightful, outgoing and very intelligent young man.  He was the type of piano student I love to teach, even though he would most likely fall sideways off the piano bench or get his fingers stuck in the lid while sitting on it.  The type of teen I love to have in my English classes, even though he would most likely stir up enough of a ruckus that building maintenance personnel would feel the need to remind me on a regular basis that There Is A Class Below Yours And You Are Shaking The Building.

ESTELA, Tratamiento Facial (2)

ESTELA, Tratamiento Facial (2)
(Photo credit: estelabelleza)

The type that is often misunderstood by the system and those who cling to the status quo, who gets shackled with labels and drugged into submission but ends up growing into the kind of adult who can change the world for the better. The type whose mother should be awarded instant Saint status when the child comes of age, along with a life-time membership at a spa and a free yearly vacation in Hawaii.

This is what Ty Pennington looked like as a child.

And apparently, it was very, VERY bad to give this child sugar and his mother knew ALL about that.

Without hesitation the checker whisked the lollipops out of sight with one hand and offered a box of stickers with the others.  Whirlwind Boy declined politely and commenced trying to hang upside down off the neighboring checkstand. Alan and I picked up our groceries and left the store, but not before I caught the mother’s eye and smiled at her.  A little nod of solidarity.  A little glance of, “Don’t worry, he’s awesome.”

And although she probably didn’t know it, a little moment of, “I am so sorry for judging you and I vow I will never, ever, ever do it again.”

Categories: Around Town, Diabetes, Family, Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ultimate Safety

Image representing Club Penguin as depicted in...

Image via CrunchBase

The 10 year old is an avid member of Club Penguin.  Think Runescape or The Sims for kids.  They make up a name and personality and walk around the Club Penguin landscape with an avatar in the shape of, well, a penguin.  This is fine with me — I get a car or two washed each month in payment for the monthly membership fee, and he gets to play games online in a safe environment.  I use it as part of a reward system for finishing chores and homework, as well.

According to the site, he has had his account for over 1400 days.  Being a homeschooler, I may assign him a math problem on Monday and have him convert that to years for us, then come back and update this post, but at the moment I’m suffering from a That-Wasn’t-Decaf-After-All-Last-Night hangover, so I’m not going to attempt it myself.

It’s been a while, though, I do know that.  The reason I know this is that when we set it up, we set his “chat” capability to “Ultimate Safe,” which means that he has only been able to choose from a list of canned phrases when chatting with other penguins on the site.  When he was 7, this was a great idea, if only for the reason that his mother has a reputation as a Spelling Cop. The temptation to read over his shoulder and correct his spelling would have been too great.  At any rate, that’s how the account was set up, and although he has become perfectly capable of handling a chat session in a safe environment like Club Penguin, that’s how it has stayed, for the simple reason that I haven’t been able to figure out how to change it.

Today he bumped into one of his best friends on Club Penguin and was once again frustrated that he couldn’t chat.  This friend lives in another country and the boys only see each other when his family comes to LA to visit a couple of times a year.   It was one of those “so close and yet so far” scenarios, and hit enough of a chord with my own heart, missing the boy’s mother, that I became determined to figure out the ever-elusive Changing of The Account Settings.

At last I was successful, and the 10 year old logged into the site, cackling with glee and excitement.  I know this because he was sitting on my lap at the time.    Now, he’s only an inch away from passing me up in height, well past the lap-sitting size, so you must understand that this wasn’t a precious mother/son moment.  It was simply the result of the fact that he was so impatient to get on, he didn’t wait for me to vacate the chair.

I gently convinced him to use another computer (read: catapulted him off my lap into the couch and glared at him until he left the room) and let him have some fun exploring the site with his newfound voice, pleased that I was finally able to provide him with an expanded experience to go with his maturing years, confident that he would comport himself with appropriate behavior.

An hour later, I went in to tell him it was time to get off the computer, only to hear him reply,

“I can’t right now, Mom.  I’m right in the middle of a date.”

They went to the Club Penguin virtual pizza parlor, they went to a virtual movie, and when I walked in the room, they were sitting on a virtual rock on an iceberg, looking at the virtual moon.

His older sisters are trolling Club Penguin as we speak, trying to track this penguin down so they can scare her away.  His older brother responded with a fist-bump.

His father and I are responding with an appropriate level of parental affection.   We’re changing that puppy back to Ultimate Safe so fast his head is going to spin.  Pretty sure we’re going to keep it that way until he’s 21.

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Home Grown Greetings – We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Store Bought

It’s a tradition in our family for the kids to make greeting cards rather than buying them.  With a brood of budding artists, it seems like the logical thing to do.  Plus it saves us a good $20-25 per event on purchased greeting cards.

Over the years, the quality of the cards has steadily improved, from the typical kindergarten effort that requires cryptography skills to decode:

Hapy Bert Berthday.
Mom I love you alot

…to the heartfelt artwork of a preteen:

… to some pieces of teenage artwork I would like to frame:

Some of the cards, while undoubtedly sincere, come across a little self-serving:

Some are unintentionally hilarious:

Apparently the author of this is so enamored with me that he/she couldn’t tear his/her eyes away long enough to sign the card.

continued below…

Winner of the Turn Around a Train Wreck and Make Mom Cry Happy Tears At The Same Time award.

Some are just sweet in their sincerity:

Well on his way to becoming a man. Hoo-rah.

And some can only be filed under the heading, It’s The Thought That Counts:

Love how my son tries to capitalize on my vivid imagination by instructing me to “Just pretend, ok” about the rose.

However, this year’s birthday offerings are among my favorites:

While I can see we need to concentrate on spelling in the fall, I do appreciate the sentiment. Especially the part about deserving foot rubs.
And I have to give kudos for the 10 year old philosophy.

The 12 year old has come up with a stroke of genius here — how to get away with not writing a paragraph of mushiness in your mother’s birthday card.

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

From Clean to Peanut Butter In Four Seconds Flat

SOMEONE in this house, someone who shall go nameless (partly because I’m not completely sure who the someone is), put the peanut butter back in the fridge with the lid set neatly on top, but not screwed down.

Where is the logic in that, I ask you?  Setting the lid ON TOP, but not finishing the task?  Why not just leave the lid off?  If you’re going to set it on top, why not screw the thing down?  But no, this person set the lid on top so that it LOOKED closed, but it wasn’t.   And then this person set the jar in the fridge, a time-bomb waiting for an unsuspecting victim with a penchant for peanut butter.

That victim, of course, would be me, in a hurry to make a sandwich for the 18 year old, who was about to leave for his third shift in 24 hours. Grabbing the peanut butter jar with my left hand and the bread with the right, I turned to put them on the counter, only to discover that all I held in my left hand was a lid.

The plastic peanut butter jar cascaded slowly out of the fridge behind me, turning end over end, spewing its contents as it fell.  Hitting the ground hard, it bounced high and continued its spectacular journey, coming to rest only after it had spun a few more times, hit the ground and rolled across the kitchen floor.

The 18 year old witnessed the disaster in all its glory from a prime seat in the sitting room next to the kitchen.  It rendered him speechless.  Or perhaps that was just lack of sleep.

I stood, frozen for a second, and surveyed the damage.  Peanut butter on the floor.  Peanut butter on each shelf, as well as the door of the fridge.  Peanut butter on my shirt, my pants, my shoes, my feet.  Peanut butter dripping down my calf.  Peanut butter on the stove behind me, on the wall, and on the cabinet at the other end of the kitchen.

The 18 year old, finally finding his voice,  pointed out that there was even peanut butter on the armchair next to him in the sitting room.

So I did what any self-respecting homemaker would do.  I took a deep breath, picked up the jar of peanut butter…. and called the dogs.   They were ecstatic.

I let them handle the floor, the walls, and eventually, my feet.  I worked on the fridge.  The kitchen’s pretty clean now, the dogs are content, and the sandwich has been happily carried to work by the 18 year old for a midnight snack.  It was a teamwork kind of moment.

As a homeschooler, I feel it is my duty to turn each life experience into a lesson, so I’m considering assigning a back-to-school essay in September for the three kids still under my tutelage.  Something along the lines of “Domestic Responsibility: Why It Is Important To Finish Each Task To Which I Set My Hand.”  That way I will most likely address the issue with the culprit, and for the two innocent children, whichever they turn out to be, it will be a good opportunity to learn from another’s mistake.  Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

Unless the culprit turns out to be my husband…

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being A Piano Teacher at home

10) I never have to study up ahead of time — been teaching the same songs for 20 years now.
9) Even though the songs are the same, no lesson is ever the same as any other lesson
8) Apart from teaching a child to read, there’s nothing like watching a young brain start to understand written music
7) It’s very easy to curry favor with my clients (bribe them with candy at the end of the lesson)
6) I can tell the same jokes over and over and still get a laugh.
5) I get gifts from students on Valentine’s Day and Christmas
4) I get to shop for stickers and fun pencils and write them off as a business expense.
3) Things my students say provide me with a never-ending source of Facebook statuses.
2) Can’t beat the commute.

And the Number One Reason I Love Teaching Piano:

1) The day I heard a student had said to her mother, “I like the new teacher. She doesn’t yell at me.”

Categories: Around Town, Education, Family | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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