Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Urban Camping

Tonight Mike is sleeping in a tent, in a parking lot, about a football field away from an ultra busy freeway.  He is camping with my brother and 98 perfect strangers, striving to win a certain number of free meals from Chick-fil-a.  Roughly twenty four hours ago he told me he wasn't sure it was worth it, and for sure it didn't make any sense, monetarily.  Then he woke up super early, qualified as one of the 100 permitted campers, and spent all day, in the rain, in the Chick-fil-a parking lot.  
It's interesting what people choose to do with their free time, no?
Mike and the tent city.
 Beautiful views from the campsite.
Mike borrowed the canopy from a friend.  Most campers stayed inside their tents to keep dry but Mike's group didn't have to.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Zeke's First Loose Tooth

"Wanna see the hole where my tooth was, Ben?"
"What?  What hole?"  Ben said, turning in his seat to look back at Zeke.
"There," Zeke pointed, holding his bottom lip down.  "That's where my tooth was."
Ben looks for a moment, studying what is different.  "Why'd you lose your tooth?"  he asks.  Zeke ignores this.
"And you're never gonna guess what's under my pillow right now!  I'll show it to you when we get home."
"Oh boy, Zeke!  I can't wait to see!"
"Oh yeah, you'll never guess!"
Zeke pauses for a moment, happy and excited.  "Are you thinking it's a tooth, Ben?"
"Nope," Ben says, turning back around to look out his window.  "I'm thinking it's a bazooka."

That's what I heard on the way home from preschool.  I tried so hard to remember it word for word because it made me laugh.  They continued the discussion by debating whether the tooth fairy could carry a bazooka, but Lily was crying for that part so I can't reproduce it here.

Zeke's First Tooth!
9 days of wiggling
1 happy boy 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Jelly Week

Handley Elementary officially opened its doors and started strong with a week of jelly.  We spelled jelly, we read jelly, we ate jelly, we wrote jelly, and we visited the sea jellies at the aquarium.  I think it was a successful beginning.
As the headmaster at Handley, I learned many valuable lessons.
1.  Never teach a hungry student.
2.  Always keep the markers well away from the 18 month old explorer.
3.  Think longer term.

I was so excited/nervous about my first week at school that I threw everything I had into it. I stayed up late researching and making lesson plans.  I did prep-work at night when I should have been sleeping.  I sacrificed sanity and peace during the day for extra minutes of lesson time.  My thoughts seemed to assume that there was nothing beyond Friday.
I was very wrong.
This isn't an experiment and it certainly isn't a week's vacation.  This is a choice to be with my kids all day, every day, with no breaks (Zeke doesn't nap).  It's a bit of an adjustment for all of us.      

Highlight of Jelly Week:
We went to a small local aquarium to see the sea jellies one afternoon and I had one of those amazing peaceful, "this is good" moments.  While I was chasing little ones around wishing that someone would just close all the doors, Zeke stood at the touch tank and talked with the volunteer there for 20 minutes.  On his own.  The volunteer was patient, kind and excited.  She listened to Zeke and Zeke listened to her.  He loved the personal attention and all that time with the hermit crabs, sea stars, limpets and sundry.  We got a one-on-one lesson from a different volunteer about microscopes, barnacles, sea urchins and brine fish.  I'm not sure Zeke understood all of it, but he remembered that a barnacle eats with his feet, and he watched the barnacle grabbing brine fish and stuffing them in his mouth.         

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bad School Day

Today was not so great and I wanna make sure I remember:

1.  Not every day will be great.
2.  He probably learned something anyway.

We did this math exercise where I gave him a ruler, a regular ruler, and I called it a stick.  We each gave a "guess" about how many sticks there were between the house and the garage and we wrote our guesses on the dry erase board.  Then we measured.  He moved the stick and I marked each length with sidewalk chalk.  Then we counted.  The real number was 24.5 "sticks" and his guess was 12 "sticks".  My guess was 22 "sticks".  I asked him which guess was closer to the correct answer and he said his was.  I asked him a different way and he repeated that his guess was still the closest.
I thought about what his answer meant for my math lessons and said, "Let's go play Monopoly."
When we sat up to the game board and he took the dice to roll.  Without prompting he paused and said, "I told you my guess was closer because I wanted to win.  I know your guess was closer."
Then he rolled, counted the dots on the dice, and reminded me that he was owed $200.

[Insert:  Picture of Zeke with lots of Monopoly money and devilish grin.]

PS  My camera battery needs charging and I can't find the charger.  Just one more thing I lost in the move.  I'll probably find it the day after I order a new one.  

Friday, October 17, 2014


One afternoon I was searching for a quick and easy recipe that Zeke could make with minimal adult interference.  I found this caramel apple recipe that called for four ingredients - apples, caramel candies, milk and sticks.  It was even better because there was a video demonstrating how to make the apples.  Zeke watched it twice and decided he was ready.  (Truthfully, it had an automatic replay and he is bewitched by screens.)
In addition to be very willing to sample the caramel candies he unwrapped, Zeke did an amazing job.  He liked best using a big kitchen knife to make a slit in the apple for the sticks.  (He improvised this step, the recipe didn't call for it.)

At the end of it all I had a very sticky kitchen, a sticky floor, sticky chairs, sticky table, sticky children, and a big pool of caramel on the wax paper instead of the apples.
Turns out, children don't like eating apples on sticks - it's much too difficult and, well, sticky. 
Lesson learned, pictures taken - never again. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dodge Ball

Mike bought these three little playground balls to replace the four or five balls that have been popped by accidental run-ins with our tangerine tree.  (It has vicious two-inch thorns.) 
The kids each adopted their favorite color of ball:  Zeke - red, Ben - green, and Lily - whatever was leftover.  Then Dad introduced the game of Dodge Ball, and the children re-voted him as Favorite Parent of the Year.   
They like to do the "dodging" while I do the throwing.  If I play by the rule that I'm only allowed to aim at their knees and lower, it's a pretty fair match.  (Plus, they have unlimited numbers of lives and we usually play until I'm too tired.  They are never tired.  Ever.)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dear LEGO,

I recently put together one of your StarWars sets with my 5 year old son.  It was a "microfighter"set, rated for ages 6 through 12 and it contained 97 pieces.
I do not know how I survived the experience.
I have failed in my attempts to convince my son to throw away everything your company has ever made.  Therefore, here are my suggestions for improving your product:

1.  Stop making different colors of grey.
We had four different shades of grey in our box of bricks, which meant that even when I found the long-piece-with-four-bumps-and-a-knobby-part-on-the-end, it was useless until I found it in the darkest shade of grey.
2.  Please restrict yourself to only 20 different shapes of bricks.
Maybe things won't look as slick, but I promise you - your customers, and their parents, will suffer fewer headaches and/or tantrums.  

3.  Make your instruction booklets so they self-destruct after the first construction.  

Friday, September 5, 2014

Be grateful for what you have...

This is the last picture of me taken before I fell:

Ben took that in our backyard just yesterday and I think he did a great job.
Today I fell while I was playing a chase game with Lily.  I landed splat on my face, without using my arms or hands to soften the blow.  My chin and front tooth seem to have taken the lion's share of the impact.  The dentist said that the bruises and scrapes will heal but the tooth is a "wait and see" injury.      
I'm not ready to have a new picture taken just yet.  Maybe tomorrow when the bruises have more color.  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mom the Advocate

I got to the playground five minutes earlier than usual, which Ben loved.  He immediately found Zeke and ran over saying, "Zeke!  Zeke!  I'm here!"  Reunions are big things to Ben.
I pushed tired Lily's stroller close to the door to the classroom and glanced inside the open door.  Mrs. E was there, and I waved to her.  Then Zeke showed me the paper air plane he was having trouble with and I threw it a couple of times with him.
Mrs. E came out of her class room and approached me.  She said, "Hi!  I'm glad you're here early because it will give us a chance to talk."
I smiled and said nothing.
"I haven't asked at the front office but do they know why Zeke always leaves early?"
This was the question I had known was coming and had even prepared for.  But suddenly I was not prepared.  I felt caught, seized, collared, trapped.  My written, prepared answer dissolved in my brain.
"They don't know," I dodged.  "Those ladies are very nice.  I fill out the form, we smile and wave and that's it." 
"Well, can I ask why he leaves early?" Mrs. E pressed.  "I mean, it isn't for speech therapy and it isn't for, you know... I mean, he's doing fine.  He can do the work.  So what is it?"
A million things went through my head.  Insecurity won.
"It's not him," I said, already beginning to crumble.  "It's me.  I want to pick him up early.  I expected that kindergarten would be four hours but this, this is all day-"
"-You wanted a half-day kindergarten class?"
"Yes, and when we didn't get into SuperAwesome School District-"
"-They still have half-day kindergarten?" she asked, surprised.
"Yes, but we didn't get in so..."
"I understand," she said.  "I'm old-school.  I agree with you.  Developmentally, I agree with you."
"We go home and we play," I lied.  "We don't do anything special.  We play, we do homework-"
"I understand," she said, in as neutral a tone as she could muster.  "Well, let's get the homework for today."
Then we went into the classroom and Zeke got his things and I wished her good luck with the rest of the afternoon.   

I have spent two months thinking about and trying to defend my decision to pick up Zeke from school early everyday.  Now, finally, after the Moment That Mattered, I have my 30 second answer:
I decided that Zeke needs to come home after lunch each day because I believe this is the best thing to do for Zeke.  He's five and right now he needs time to play and explore.  I am facilitating that. 
Zeke and Ben play rescue helicopters, imaginative play very strongly narrated by Zeke with supplemental sound effects by Ben.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Natural Consequences

He said, "No, I won't do it."
I waited him out.
When he finally sat up to the table and I tricked him into choosing a "Printing Practice" homework sheet, we settled down to write the letter "F" sixty times.
He wrote the first 10 "F"s and deliberately made the top horizontal line a fraction of an inch underneath the top line.  He also deliberately made all the second horizontal lines longer than the top horizontal lines by several millimeters. Ten identical and exactly wrong "F"s.
For the second 10 "F"s, he drew one solid horizontal line through the middle of the writing space, then he drew a second solid horizontal line through the top of the writing space.  Finally he slashed 10 vertical lines down through these at evenly spaced intervals, telling me it was much faster this way.
I stopped him and said, "No, that's not right.  That's not the way the teacher wants you to do it."
He had chosen to write in highlighter so I handed him a pencil and told him to re-write the "F"s the right way.
He threw the pencil at me.
I stared and thought.
He picked up a colored pencil and scribbled on the entire paper.
I bit my tongue and thought some more.
He said, "stupid" several times and grabbed the paper to crumble it.
I reached out and stilled his hands.
"You win," I said.  "We're done."  Then I took the paper, put it back in his folder, and put the other seven, entirely blank "Printing Practice" papers in the folder too. 

This is Zeke's life journey, not mine.  He gets to live it anyway he wants.  I can encourage, I can suggest, I can facilitate, but there are fewer and fewer moments now when I can force.  The training wheels are off and they aren't going back on.  Zeke knows how to use a screwdriver.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I have an alarm clock by my bed now and it is set to ring every morning at 6:15am.  This is the first time in five and a half years that I have used an alarm clock.  
In truth, I don't need an alarm clock 90% of the time; it's a pretty safe bet that at least one of my children is awake before 6:15am on any given morning.  The device is really a symbol and its message is simple - my freedom is gone.   

Lily, with kindergarten gear. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


This boy went to Kindergarten today:

He was very brave and didn't need any hand-holding or coddling.  He just waved goodbye and walked into the classroom, no problems.  At the end of the day he was glad to see me again, but he was full of good (and bad) stories about his adventures. 

He is very pleased with his new backpack and his new shoes (not pictured).  When I asked what happened at school the very first thing he said was, "Do you know what happens at kindergarten, Mom?  We eat breakfast and watch movies!" 
Ah, public education. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Week at Grandma's

This past week we spent three and a half days at Grandma E's house.  She has air-conditioning and a trampoline so there was plenty to do.  We brought our bikes and the boys far and wide in the still-too-hot morning hours with Grandpa.  We ran through the sprinklers and even went swimming in Grandma W's pool (who, alas, was not home.  She was sorely missed.  Me swimming with three dare-devil kids is just asking for trouble.)
One morning we even invaded Aunt Nurse's house and had a tea party with a cousin.  She's the same age as Lily so it was really cute.  They fought over the same toys, had the same attachments to baby dolls and tricycles and insisted on equal treatment at the tea party table.  Grandma will probably be getting a bigger tea set from us for her next birthday. 
The boys were ready participants in the tea party too, and they also liked climbing trees and digging in some dirt at a nearby park. 

We're half-way through the summer and kindergarten is just around the corner. (yea!  no!  help!)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

And the borrower is servant to the lender

Well, we finally did it. We bought a house. And while we realize that hundreds of people buy houses every day all around the world, we're still in awe that we bought a house. Or maybe we're in shock.  We're not really sure.


It's a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom single family home built in the 50s and remodeled about 10 years ago to expand the master suite and build on a very large garage in the backyard.  There are an assortment of fruit trees in the yard, which we've been enjoying. The street is relatively quiet, and about 2 blocks from an elementary school that we hope we can get in for next year. The kitchen is nicely done. Overall, it's a great fit for us, and even better since we didn't need to do much before we moved in.


There is an apple tree in the side yard (variety unknown) that has been producing quite well for us, and we are happy to share a few near the top with some birds. There is an avocado tree that's coming in okay. We're told this is the first year that it's producing, so we look forward to trying the avocados. There is a satsuma tree with wicked sharp thorns and delicious oranges. We have a big scraggly pomegranate tree with a handful of blooms transitioning to pomegranates. There's another apple tree with plenty of green apples that should start turning around pretty soon. There's an orange tree with a pretty serious white fly infestation, but the oranges are still good. And a lemon tree in the front yard that we mostly ignore.
The start of a pomegranate
The rest of the trees are less interesting. One tree is the "stick tree" because it's pretty much dead, but we get to use the branches for sticks to sword fight. One tree looks like it might be a short peach tree, but we're not sure. We'll have to wait and see what comes in. The last tree looks like someone grafted two different types of trees together, and we have no idea what's going on with that one. 

Finally, there's a nice large elm tree in the backyard that we used to set up a tire swing. It's a nice big tree with lots of shade. 

Tire swing and boy


We're very happy with our new house, and are still working on moving in. I think we know where most of the things are, but there are still plenty of boxes to work through. We've met most of the neighbors, and they're all very nice. We look forward to having folks over to visit with us, play in our backyard and maybe enjoy an apple or two.

Fun times in the backyard

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Just some pictures

Just for fun, here are some pictures of our little girl who is now growing quite a bit.

Monday, April 7, 2014


Today we went to the beach.  We live walking distance from a terrific beach but I've taken a two year hiatus from "mom and kids" beach trips, mostly because I am certain someone will deliberately drown, just because I asked them not to.
Today was different because we went with another mom and her two kids.  I'm very motivated to do things when there is a social aspect to the activity - even difficult activities like dragging three kids and all their gear to the beach and back.
Early in the trip, I took the three older kids down to the water to fill up some buckets while my friend played with the babies in the sand under our umbrellas.  Zeke ran into the water, not even pausing to notice the lower than 60 degree temperature.  I yelled at him several times to come back and stay close to me, but he usually got distracted and forgot.  Ben took his time getting used to the chilly water, but he quickly committed to some big splashing.  The three-year old friend we brought along wouldn't go near the water.  Wouldn't even dip his toe in.  He stood where it was safe and gave me his bucket to fill for him.  What an amazing kid.
Playing croquet at the beach.
Ben was gathering water in a spot where two competing currents were sucking the waves back with a strong pull (a typical rip current), and the waves were getting bigger with the rising tide.  I saw the problem quickly, but I couldn't get to him fast enough.  I saw a wave surprise Ben and he went down on his bum, still holding his bucket against the current to fill it.  He wasn't going to let go of that bucket and it was acting like a sail, sucking him down and back with the water.  As I ran I shouted, "Let go of the bucket!  I don't care about the old dumb bucket!  I care about Ben!"  Then I was there and I grabbed his arm.  He let go of the bucket at the same time and I dug in my feet and pulled him up against the current.  Then I carried him up onto the beach and he stood there dripping, staring out at the water.
I stood between him and the ocean, looking back only to see if Zeke needed a rescue.
After a minute his face got very sad and, still looking at the water, he said, "Mom?  What happened to the old, dumb, bucket?"
About an hour later I spotted it washed ashore and now, both Ben and bucket are safely home.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Many Days and Many Ways

Life goes on, although most of it seems like the typical struggle for control and sanity that accompanies life with small children. But at least there is often fun juxtaposed with the tumult.

Behold the wild natives communicating in their local tongue, working together to show their dominance over foreign custom and forced rule:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Milestone Post - Lily is starting to walk

And we're all in very serious trouble.

As much as we've tried to delay this milestone, she seems determined to get up and run with her brothers, or perhaps, to run away.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Ben!

Ben recently turned 3!  We are very glad to have him in our family.  He is very literal, active, and anxious to laugh.  He is also very difficult to catch (fleet footed) and immune to all types of persuasion except for bribery with sugar. 
We had a fun party at Grandma's house with race cars, the trampoline, and an amazing cake made by Grandma Wilson.

Who wore it better?  

   Birthday Ben with hat.

  Lily tries it on. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pushing buttons

Last Friday, I heard the following conversation at least ten times:

Zeke:  We hate mom, right Ben?
Ben:   Yeah, we hate mom.  She's a criminal.
Zeke:  But we love Dad, right Ben?
Ben:   Right.

I'm pretty sure that Ben is using, "criminal" in this instance as a synonym for "Bad Guy".  And I'm pretty sure Zeke knows exactly what he's doing.
I felt better after the weekend when Mike had some solo time with the boys and he said he had been accused of being a criminal multiple times as well.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ain't she sweet

No, Lily is not walking.  
But isn't she cute?

To buy a house, part 1

August, last year
We go to see a house with a pre-approval letter in hand.  The house is exciting.  It is old, needs work, has a dying apple tree in the backyard, stinks strongly of cigarette smoke from the previous owners' 63 years of smoking, and has a hole in the floor in the bathroom through which daylight is visible.  Also, the flipper who currently owns the property put in new kitchen cabinets and covered up the gas line hook up for the stove.  The house has no appliances.
The asking price is in our budget range.
We want to make an offer but do not (complications with agents).

January, this year
We finally convince our real estate agent to view the house with us.  The real estate agent (hereafter, REA) looks at property with disdain.  The house has been taken off the market and then re-listed, so it wouldn't look like the unwanted, rundown disappointment that it is.  Also, the house has now been staged so it is much harder to notice the kitchen flaws and hole in the floor in the bathroom.
We say we want to make an offer.
REA says, eh, okay.  It's a risk, and you'll want to get a lot of inspectors in here, but, eh.  What number do you want to offer?
We say, Price - $24k.
REA says, okay.  It's been on the market a long time.  Seller might bite, just to stop losing money on the property.

The offer is made.
After 5 days of waiting, Seller responds.
We want more money, Seller says.  Make a higher offer.
Seller has no other pending offers.

We think.  We respond, same day, with an offer of Price - $9k.
We are angry that we have been asked to bid against ourselves.
REA says, good offer.  It's in the middle of your opening bid and their asking.  Good compromise.
We wait.  We wait 5 more days.

While we are waiting, we go to an open house for a Different House.  Different House is okay, not awesome, but okay.  We are tired of waiting and decide to make an offer on Different House.  REA says, Different House got more than 3 offers on the day of the open house.  (It is now the day after the open house.)  The seller is still accepting offers, but the highest bid is now $Price + $40k.  REA asks what is our offer?  We say, nope, not interested.

Same day, Seller of hole-in-the-floor comes back on our offer of Price - $9k.
I will lose money, Seller whines.  I have another bidder, Seller claims.  Their offer is much higher, Seller taunts.  You should make a higher offer, Seller moans.

We think Seller is a liar.  We think Seller is trying to squeeze more money out of us.
The market is going up, REA says.  If you want the house, be aggressive, REA counsels.
We remember that the house has a hole-in-the-floor.
It is silly to lose a house over $9k, REA says.

We make another offer, hours later.  The new offer is Price + $1k.
We wait.

Next day, Seller responds: I took the other offer.

REA says: you lose, cheapskate.  Market is going up, prices are going up.  You must pay more money, you must go higher faster.  Be ready to spend and spend big when the next one comes up.

What??  It's been eleven days.  How can "the market" suddenly be selling at $50k over asking eleven days after absolutely nothing was being sold or even offered?  How can "the market" be hot, hot, hot now when just five days ago we were the first people to even bid on the stinking house in five months?  How can a house be worth more than asking price just because someone rented pretty furniture to make it look more appealing?  When the pretty furniture doesn't even come with the house?

I haven't bought a house yet and, already, I want my money back.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy New Year!

Big things will be happening in 2014!  (I hope I remember to take pictures and blog about them.)


What exciting changes do we expect this year?
  • Mike and Tina will buy a house
  • Zeke will start Kindergarten
  • Ben will be potty trained
  • Lily will learn to walk
  • Kiwi comes back from his mission
  • We will not go to Utah this summer
  • Tina will get rid of one of the cribs 
  • Lily will get a better hairstylist
  • All the duploes will be picked up and put away for at least 15 consecutive minutes