Hug a Teacher

The best days are those when a child actually gives a real response to the everyday questions, “How was your day?”

This unbelievable occurrence happened in my household on February 28th at approximately 3:11 p.m.

I notated the date and time because it is a rarity.  Rarer than the talking dog from the film Up.  Rarer than my husband likes his steak.  Rarer than me being on time for an event.  I am talking rare, my friends.

Since my oldest has hit middle school, he arrives home before the rest of the household.  He usually has about 10 minutes before I get there. Most of the time I find him watching The Family Guy on Netflix (he has been instructed since the beginning of time to start his homework, alas it doesn’t happen often without prompting).  This was different.  The TV was silent and the dude was sitting at the computer looking something up on Google.

“How was your day?” I asked.

“It was OK,” he answered.  A typical response at our house.

“That’s good.  Anything else going on?” I questioned, hoping he may add something to the conversation.

“Mom, you know what?”

I turned, shocked that I was actually asked a question!  “What, kiddo?”

“It stinks that it is the end of February.  I liked February.”

My mind raced trying to think of why… Maybe it was because he had one of the leads in our community theater’s production of Willy Wonka (he was Mike TV, appropriately) and we were heading into the final weekend of the show? Maybe because snow days are fewer in March? Maybe because a free Pokemon download wasn’t available after February at Game Stop?  Maybe I should just ask him?  Yeah.  That’s the ticket.

“So, why did you like February?”

“We learned a lot this month in Social Studies.  We learned about all sorts of people I had never heard of,” he replied looking a little melancholy.

“Really?  That’s awesome!” I exclaimed, excited that he is actually absorbing what he has been taught. Then, curiously, I added, “Who was the person you liked learning about the best?”

“Ella Fitzgerald.  She was very talented.  She was an inspiration,” he answered without hesitation.

“Wow, I’m impressed,” I said.

“I know, right?  Who knew February would be such a great month in Social Studies!” he said, jumping onto Minecraft on his iPod.

“So true,” I said as I began humming a little Ella.

I will be hugging his teacher soon.  For sure.

And he is back on technology. Again.

And he is back on technology. Again.

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“You Old Hag” and other not-so-nice sayings

I knew that I had a wild child when he told my dear grandmother, Charlotte, that she was “nice stupid.”

My youngest, Squishy, has a way with words.

Here is Squishy at age 3. He is on the right with the not-a-smile expression. An expression of wild.

Here is Squishy at age 3. He is on the right with the not-a-smile expression. An expression of wild.

When he was just a little dude at the tender age of three, he vocalized his feelings.  He didn’t hold back; he just said whatever was on his mind.

My dear grandmother, who was in her early 80s at the time, was talking to him asking him what he wanted to eat (she always wanted to feed all of us – all of the time).  He kept telling her that he wanted ice cream, but she had trouble decifering the toddler-speak.

Finally, when she asked him for the third time, he stood up, put his hand on his hips, and blurted out, “Mam-ma, you’re stupid.”

Enter epic parenting fail.

She, however, didn’t miss a beat, and, this time, she perfectly understood what he just said to her. No decoding needed.

“Luke, Mam-ma is not stupid.  Mam-ma is nice,” she calmly retorted.

He turned as if he was about to leave the room, and then turned back, dropping his arms to his side and tilting his head ever so slightly.  The wheels were turning in that three-year-old brain of his.

And I was petrified by what he would say next.

“You’re right, Mam-ma.  You are not stupid… You are nice stupid,” and he did an about face and left the room.

This is when I knew I was in trouble.

At school, Squishy was (and is) the perfect angel.  It is just at home where his filter is lacking.

A few summers ago, when Squishy was six, he called my mother-in-law an old hag…in front of her bridge club.  (Yes, I am a proud parent – cough, cough).  Apparently he was “just kidding” and “only wanted some snacks.”  When she asked where he learned that phrase, he said “my mom.” I don’t recall ever in my life uttering the words “you old hag,” but in his mind, it was a free pass out of trouble.

How can anyone be mad at this face? Or not laugh at this crazy expression?

How can anyone be mad at this face? Or not laugh at this crazy expression?

More recently, he has been caught saying “shut your pie hole.”  Now I do know where this reference came from.  It is from the movie “The Sandlot” and The Captain was very excited the dudes liked the film.  Very excited, indeed, especially when Squishy not-so-subtly said this to my mother-in-law.

I found out about this gem of a phrase when I walked in on my mother-in-law discussing my “poor parenting choices” with a friend of hers.  She went on to tell the friend, “and she just laughs at what he says instead of disciplines him.”  Later I found that, once again, he blamed me for teaching him the phrase.  Hmmm.  Is there a trend going on?

When I addressed the behavior, he justified it by saying, “She wouldn’t stop talking, Mom.”

Touche, Squishy, touche.

Autumn and the Zombie Archives

In Ohio, the autumn weather can be tricky.  Usually there are some pretty days of glorious color followed by overcast and drizzly days.  This past weekend, we were lucky enough to have one of those gorgeous fall days when I want to spin on a hilltop singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music!”  Wait, that is another fantasy.  I digress.  Of course, there are only a few pretty days left on the calendar, and this was one of them.

With a beautiful weekend day comes the classic question: “Mom, can we go outside and play?”

Of course, my answer is, “Yes, please, do, go, bye!”

On Saturday, the sun was shining, and I received the question I knew was first thing on their minds when they woke up that morning.

“Mom,” said Squishy, “It is nice outside! Can we go outside and play?”

“Of course you can,” I said, looking up from the waffles I was making. (Actually, Eggo made them. I put them in the toaster. For me, this is domestic bliss.)

“Well, when can we go? We have some business in the woods to take care of,” he said sounding like he was about to audition for The Sopranos.

“What ‘business’ do you have in the woods?” I asked.

“Oh, Mom, all you need to know is that it is for your protection. OK?”

“What, in fact, are you protecting me from?” I questioned him as I sprinkled cinnamon on the waffles (see, I am a domestic diva!)

Zombies are the thing.

Zombies are the thing.

“We are saving the neighborhood from the upcoming zombie attack,” he said with sheer seriousness.

I turned to him in horror thinking maybe he had seen an episode of The Walking Dead or something?!

“What would make you believe there is an upcoming zombie attack,” I asked, praying he didn’t access my Netflix account on the iPad (darn you, zombie shows that pull me in, darn you!)

“Mom, it is just a matter of time when someone makes a vaccine that will take out the human race and turn everyone into a zombie.  Seriously, you should know this. You are a teacher.  Gosh,” he stated as he rolled his eyes, disgusted with me.

Now I am wondering if he was scoping out my Kindle and came across my latest read, The Passage.  Or maybe I Am Legend.  Was there some zombie thing on TBS or something?  Darn you, TBS, darn you!

“I highly doubt that will happen, Squishy, but if it does…”

“If it does, Mom, you will probably make us have the shot at the doctors, and you really won’t be prepared when we turn into zombies. So, we must prepare now,” he said interrupting me.

What the heck is he watching on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel?

“OK,” I said, knowing full well he was getting antsy to get outside and save the world.

Taking zombie precautions one street at a time.

Taking zombie precautions one street at a time.

After a while, I went outside to check on the progress of thwarting the impending zombie apocalypse.  I found Nerf guns, sticks and a mountain of leaves ready to protect the innocent.  I also found the neighborhood posse in the middle of the street strategic planning their next move.

“What are you all working on?” I said to the group of defenders.

“Mom, I already told you. We are making sure the neighborhood is safe,” Squishy answered.  The rest of the posse nodded enthusiastically.

“Well, in that case,” I said, “carry on.”

And they did.

So, a message to all zombies: Beware, zombies, beware of our street.  We have protection in the form of elementary students.  Scary, right?

For Halloween we had a zombie and a werewolf.

For Halloween we had a zombie and a werewolf.

The Birds, the Bees and Puppies

You never know when you may have to explain the birds and the bees to your children.

I did not think this would come into play at their tender ages of 11 and eight, but thanks to my mother-in-law, I had the horror opportunity to tell them a little bit about how babies are made.

One Tuesday night as I was in the middle of teaching a tap class, I received a frantic voice mail from my mother-in-law, Salt.

It went a little like this:  “Allison, hey. We have a problem here. The dogs are stuck together and I don’t know what to do! They have been stuck for over 20 minutes and I can’t get a hold of anyone.  You must call me back as soon as you get this because I just don’t know what to do!”

Reluctantly I returned the call.

“Hi there.  I only have a minute because I am in between classes,” I said.

“Chewie and Maisy got stuck together!  It has been over 30 minutes!  I didn’t know what to do!” she wailed.

“Are they still stuck together?” I asked in a calm voice so I could try and assess the situation.

“No. Finally they got themselves unstuck.  I called the vet because I couldn’t get anyone on the phone,” she exclaimed, her voice revealing how stressful it had been for her. “And the boys wanted to watch it the entire time!  I had to close the curtains!”

After hanging up with her and finishing teaching my dance classes, I ran my dudes to the store.

It would be an understatement to say there were a few questions that were asked.

“Mom, why were the dogs stuck together?”

“Mom, grandma said that Chewie’s penis had to shrink before they could be unstuck.  Why?”

“Mom, what does amorous mean?”

“Mom, why did grandma tell the vet the dogs were ‘getting it on’?  What does ‘getting it on’ mean and where were they getting it on to?”

“Mom, did you know that Chewie looked like he was doing the Harlem Shake on Maisy’s back?”

“Mom, Grandma kept trying to close the curtains so we couldn’t see the dogs. Why was she doing that?”

and the biggest question of all:

“Mom, is that how people make babies?”

OMG.

By this time, I am standing in front of the cashier at Kohl’s.  She is staring at me like I have lost my marbles (which, at that second, I wished was true).  Both boys were staring at me, too, waiting for answers.

Surely this should have been the exact moment I could’ve said, “Ask your father.”  But, alas, I am not that lucky.

I started lightly.  “Amorous means really, really lovey.”  Yes, I took the easiest question first.  Can you blame me?

Next answer: “Chewie probably doesn’t know the Harlem Shake,” but then I asked the stupidest question, “How exactly did this start?

Both dudes jumped at the chance to answer, speaking over each other.  The cashier looked at me like I had horns.

“Well, you see Mom, Chewie came inside and started following Maisy around. I mean, literally, (he uses this word a lot – he is 8) Chewie would not leave her alone,” Squishy chimed in.

“Yeah, and then he started to jump on her and stuff,” said 11-year-old String Bean with a wide-eyed grin, “And he wouldn’t stop, don’t be mad if I say this next part, Mom, OK?  Grandma said it wasn’t a bad word.”

“Ummm, OK, I guess?!” Fear bubbled up inside of me.

“Chewie started humping her.  That is what Grandma called it,” he said, looking at me to gauge my reaction.

Squishy interjects, “Yeah, Mom, it was crazy! It looked like this,” as he begins a vivid demonstration even Elvis would not have attempted on national TV.

“OK. You can stop showing me now,” I said as I pushed them out of Kohl’s.

“And Grandma said Maisy was a hussy.  What exactly is a hussy, Mom?  I’ve never heard of that word before.”

And so it goes.

As I tucked the dudes into bed that night, they were still buzzing about the events of the evening. They were hoping puppies would arrive soon (I did have to break down and explain how puppies are made), and they were bouncing off of the walls about the entire situation.

Squishy did have an ace up his sleeve.  “Mom, look at this!” he said, shoving his iPod in my face, “Here they are stuck together!”

Photographic proof of the event taken by an eight-year-old.  Amorous, indeed.

Stuck together.

Stuck together.

Hey, Santa!

Yes, you, Santa, the man in red with the belly bursting out of your suit, the laughter that is practically trademarked and the rosy cheeks from too much exertion after eating junk food.  You.  I have a bone to pick with you.

You, Santa, yeah you.

You, Santa, yeah you.

Look, jolly dude, I am getting tired of not being on your payroll.  You owe me big time.  I am so busy doing things for you, and I am getting sick of not getting any of the accolades.

You need to cough up some dough for this job I am doing for you, Santa.

Let me start with the search for the perfect gifts that I can’t even put my name on.  Yeah, I spent three hours hunting down an obscure Lego set, yet you get the smiles and the thanks.  Really?  Is this fair, Santa baby?  I don’t think so.  And now, both of my dudes want iPods.  These are not cheap, Kris Kringle, and, yet, your name will go on them.  That stinks, bearded man, it really does.  Will you set them up for the dudes?  No?  Oh, so add this to the list of another one of my grievances.

And then there is the Advent calendar.  Each night (or early in the morning when I wake up startled by the fact that I forgot the night before), I run and put little gifts in the Advent calendar.  Gifts that are “supposedly” from one of your minions.  Yeah, the elf that sneaks into our house, i.e. me, is getting ticked, Santa.  So are the dogs.  Why, you ask?  Because they get blamed when there is nothing left in the calendar.  Poor dogs, Santa.  Poor, poor dogs.  They sit, hearing the blame, and tuck their tales between their legs.  Is that fair, Kringle?  Shouldn’t you be sending a reliable elf each night that doesn’t have to swear through piles of essays to grade?  Yes, Santa, you should.  And you owe my sweet, innocent dogs.  Big time.

Creepy Elf. Sneaking into the manger. The horror.

Creepy Elf. Sneaking into the manger. The horror.

And then the creepy Elf on the Shelf.  Do you know where he was one of the mornings?  Why he was sitting next to Mary and Joseph in our manger scene.  He actually moved Mary and the baby Jesus in order to fit in there.  Creepy?  Heck yes, Santa.  He also has these spooky, hollow eyes – I almost feel like he is following me (and even undressing me) with them.  It is a strange feeling, Santa, and one you both should be aware of.  The last thing that looked at me like that, the chocolate Easter bunny, met an untimely demise.  IMG_2889 The dogs are mad at him, too, because they were also blamed for his failure to relocate one evening. I am sure they would like to have him as a chew toy, Kringle, so you need to tell the Elf, who the dudes named Henry, to keep himself out of the dog’s reach.  And stay away from my martini glasses.  Seriously, Papa Noel, those are not for children.

It is diet time, Santa. Yeah, you heard me.

It is diet time, Santa. Yeah, you heard me.

Oh, and Santa?  I just want you to know that I am leaving you carrots and celery this year.  They are for you so don’t try and pass them off to the reindeer.  Maybe it is time you join Cookie Monster in demonstrating a healthy lifestyle.  You need to be careful, Santa dear.  Plus, I have discontinued the candy tradition in the Advent calendar.  Why, you ask?  Have you ever witnessed an eight-year-old who has candy for breakfast?  No?  It is not pretty, St. Nick, but you wouldn’t know anything about that because you haven’t been there to talk a small child down from swinging on the chandelier.

Checking my list.  Twice.

Checking my list. Twice.

Your present this year is a lump of coal.  You are on my naughty list, Santa dude, yes indeed.  You may make it to my good list if, and only if, you can turn that coal into a diamond for me next year.

I need to go, Santa, I am bidding on eBay for a present that is completely sold out at Toys-R-Us.  You owe me.  Big time.  Ho, ho, ho.

Chasing Harry Potter (Legos)

My boys love Legos.  They LOVE them.  I can’t begin to describe this love, but it is very intense in their 11 and 8-year-old minds.  Legos are all over my finished basement.  I am not exaggerating this.  They are EVERYWHERE.  Seriously, I even found one on top of the toilet.  It was Yoda.  He was using the force to change the toilet paper roll (I wish!)

Have you ever stepped on a Lego?  It hurts more than a staple gun.  It is sheer pain, and, chances are, if you step on one, during your hopping and jumping and screaming, you will step on another.  Legos can cause serious injury.  You have been warned.

But, back to Lego Loves.  It is exciting when there are new Lego sets released. In fact, it is a feeding frenzy.  There are phrases such as, “Mom, I neeeeeeed this Lego set,” and, “I must have it today.  Can we go to Toys-R-Us?”  Pathetically, I get in on the action by saying things like, “Oh, yeah, that one is really cool,” and “Is Princess Leia included in that set? If so, we will have to get it!”

The Captain (my husband) gets frustrated with the Lego obsession.  His usual statements are, “Do we really need yet another Star Wars Lego set?” and, “Do we really even know what sets we have down there?”  (Side note:  Notice the “we” in his questions.  The “we” is not only directed at the dudes.  Oh, no.  Who has two thumbs and knows the “we” includes her?  Yeah, this girl.)

The Captain felt this way for a long time.  Until last November when Lego introduced the Harry Potter Hogwarts castle.

This set was the mecca of Lego wonderment.  It looked huge on the internet, and all of us (and I mean all) imagined ourselves in Hogwarts fighting along side of Harry defeating Valdomort.

It had to be ours.

And then, magic happened.  A coupon appeared in my inbox from the toy giant of all toy giants.  Thirty percent off all Legos (except Star Wars Legos, of course).  This was it! After all, who needed the Star Wars Legos when we could be at Hogwarts.  The magic, the mystery, the castle would be ours!  All ours!

So, I ventured to the palace of toys, grabbed the iconic castle and waltzed up to the register.  I presented my coupon and my rewards card (seriously, ten bucks off a later purchase – which would most likely be a Star Wars Lego set – was a supero dealio) and opened my wallet.

Panic.  No wallet was in my purse.  I proceeded to dump it out on the counter in front of the cashier.  Heat was rising in my face as I scrambled to remember where my wallet was.  Bells went off as I realized it was in another purse, and one I had carried for only a pathetic two hours that past weekend.

“Will you take a check?” I asked the cashier while he stared at the feminine hygiene products I was trying to sweep back into my purse.

“Yes, of course, with a driver’s license,” he said, stunned by the massive amount of lipstick, store receipts and gum wrappers that were plopped on the scanner.

“Well, that would be in my wallet, you see, which is in my other purse.  At home.  Thirty miles away,” I added the last bit more for effect.

“Sorry, m’am.  Can’t take a check without a license,” he said as he pulled the glorious castle from the bag.

“Stop!  Put that back!  I have a card in case of emergency – hang on and let me get it!”  Not only did he stop, but now the rest of the store is staring at the frantic woman who is pointing viciously at the cashier with the flashlight on her key chain.

The hallelujah choir began singing.  Birds chirped in the distance.  And a peaceful ocean breeze passed over me as I brought out the shiny blue card.

“Will this work?” I said, smiling like the Mad Hatter.

“Ah, sure,” said the cashier contemplating whether to finish the sale or have me committed.

As I walked out with the bag, glowing in my purchase, I shuddered when remembered the words once spoken to me by The Captain:

“Only use the emergency card in extreme emergencies.”

I stood there, keys in hand, glorious Lego castle encased in the brightly colored bag and paused for a moment thinking to myself: Does this qualify as an emergency?

Ode to the magic of Harry Potter.

It didn’t take me long to load the bag in my car and drive home with it.

I apologized to The Captain, but it wasn’t necessary.  Once he saw the amazing treasure, he, too, was wonder struck by its awesomeness.

Magical times.  Magical times indeed.

To Give is Human, To Bribe is Divine

String Bean is enjoying fifth grade.  Thank goodness.

The Captain and I were more than ready for the continued horror of the fourth grade to be over.

At the beginning of the String Bean’s fourth grade school year, he was happy, enjoyed going, and was excited to share what he learned.

After a month in, we learned that the rules for fourth grade were quite different from third grade.  One of the biggest rules we learned right from the get go was it’s every man for himself.  I wrote about our struggles here.

If the district really knew what I thought about fourth grade, they might not be too happy.

Being high school teachers, The Captain and I have some strong mild philosophies on education. We believe that our duty as teachers is to teach and empower students, not to tear them down.  For some reason, the fourth grade philosophy is different.  It adds an excited dose of humiliation and public embarrassment into the mix.  Fourth grade for my son this past year beheld a different theory.  It specialized in Darwin’s survival of the fittest.  Not a good thing.

By the last nine weeks, it got to the point where my husband, The Captain, started bribing String Bean.

Let me rewind for a moment.  The Captain does not believe in giving monetary rewards for grades.  He does not believe in giving gifts for grades.  He does not believe in any tangible rewards for grades.  Until now.

In the car this past spring, the dudes were talking about the upcoming state mandated tests.

“My class gets to have a movie day Friday after our tests are over,” Squishy said, happily.

“Well, we get a cool pizza party when our tests are over,” added String Bean.

The Captain is seething. “We let kids graduate when they pass our tests.”

Squishy interjects, “Your butt is going to graduate.”

“Dad’s butt already graduated,” I said.  (Side note: I have boys.  Butt jokes and fart jokes are imperative ways to get everyone’s attention.  It works.  Ask any mom of boys.)

“I don’t think these parties are necessary,” stated The Captain, or, Captain Obvious because it was obvious how he felt about the matter.

“It is a nice motivator for the kids, don’t you think?” I said.  I am the awesome peacemaker/cheerleader/glass half full/uber positive one in the family.

“I don’t think they should be rewarded.  I hate bribes,”  said The Captain.

“Dad, if I do well on the tests, will you get me an XBox 360?” String Bean asks.

I looked over at The Captain.  His ears turned red, a vein pulsated on his neck and he is in a low growl.  The car teetered on silence that seems to stretch on for miles.  No one breathes.  The air is frozen. All are awaiting the response that is surely going to include the word “no” in it.

“Maybe. Well, yes,” he finally said.

What the heck?!

“Yes, I will get you an Xbox 360 if you do well on the tests,” he stated.

I almost steered off of the road.

“Do you realize how expensive those things are?” I quietly asked him.

“No. Fifty bucks or something?” he asked.

“Uh, try two fifty, dude,” I said.  “Plus, we have a Wii already. We really don’t need one.”

Meanwhile, the back seat of the car is all abuzz with the amazing news.  I heard snippets about how awesome Dad was, and the games they were going to get, and how much they needed to get it with two controllers, and that they needed Kinect so even Mom can play games like Just Dance.

The Captain looked pained.

“A deals a deal, dude,” I said to him as we pulled into our destination.

The tests were taken. May ended.  Summer began with the anxiety of when THE RESULTS would come.

It took a while.

Finally, in late July, it arrived.  Believe me when I say that there were many heartbreaking trips to the mailbox – back and forth, back and forth – from May until then.  What happens when kids have time to kill in the summer?  Stalk the mail lady, of course!

On the day of THE LETTER’s miraculous arrival, String Bean grabbed it and raced up the driveway to have me open it on the spot.  To this day I am still unsure of how he knew it was THE LETTER.  All the envelope said was the district name (which is also where The Captain teaches – that letter could’ve been anything.) But it was certainly the one the dudes had been waiting for.

I opened it in a truly dramatic fashion, slowly and meticulously peeling it out of the envelope.  It was “the one.”

The results were there in black and white. String Bean did fine on the tests.  The Captain had to get an XBox 360.

A happy dude!

To give is human, to bribe (only this one time, I promise) was divine.

So excuse me while I go and play Just Dance.  After all, the dudes insisted on it.  So sweet of them!

Tales of the No Good, Very Bad Fourth Grade

String Bean is reaching the end of fourth grade. I must admit that it has been a no good, very bad school year for him.

He liked school in the third grade. He liked school in the second grade. He liked school in the first grade. He liked kindergarten and preschool.

He hates fourth grade.

The homework menace.

Each day after school is a struggle. He has more homework than I assign high school Language Arts students. Some days, we sit for over two hours while he works on his homework. This is not only torture for String Bean, but torture for The Captain and me.

I have to be honest when I say that the homework routine gets really draining. Who knew that 4th grade would be so hard? There are some days when I have come to be the peace maker during homework time. If String Bean gets frustrated, The Captain gets frustrated. The cycle is endless. It usually ends with tears (from the 4th grader) and me calming both parties down. I should have been in politics.

As a teacher, I want both String Bean and Squishy to love school. I want them to enjoy learning and become passionate about subjects that interest them.

But I do not have patience with a grade that is killing my child’s love of school.

The Salt Map of Ohio. I am not even going on record to say how long it took us to make this.

In fourth grade, String Bean had to make a salt map of the state of Ohio. I do not know what the point of this was besides seeing whose parents make the coolest project.

In fourth grade, String Bean had to create a brown bag book report. Now, I am all for book reports, but apparently the brown bag I sent along was not the correct brown bag. Minus 10 points for String Bean because I wasn’t correctly informed.

In fourth grade, String Bean has been sent home with four behavior slips. This is my quiet, Lego building child. Turns out, the behavior slips are not for what one would think are traditional “behavior” issues. One was for neglecting to put his name on his paper. One was for leaving his folder (which was empty) at home. One was for not have eight lines in a poem (he had seven). And the last one, the one that The Captain almost rocketed through the roof about, was when a girl tossed a swing that hit him on the back at recess, he told the teacher about it and the girl said it was his fault and he got into trouble. What a democracy!

As I look toward the light at the end of the tunnel, I hope I can salvage String Bean’s zest for learning. I hope I can remind him of what he liked about school before this year. I hope I can re-engage his curiosity in the world around him. I hope.

But, for now, I will hold my breath, hold my frustration and keep smiling to help him make it to the end of the fourth grade road.

Wish me luck.

I am ready for this sweet smile.

When Children Learn to Read

Or, what really happens now that my children are reading.

My seven-year-old, Squishy, loves to read.  He is at the point where he reads everything. He will read over my shoulder.  He will read labels.  He will read t-shirts.  He will read basically anything.

There is a fun print my sister-in-law gave The Captain for his birthday.  He likes to make (and drink) martinis.  Squishy now knows how to: 1.  Say martini and 2. Spell martini.

Squishy has become a reading machine.

He also likes to read over my shoulder while I am on my Kindle.

“Mom, what the crap is wrong with this lady?”

“What lady?” I ask, “and don’t say crap.”

“The lady in your book named Anne.  She is a freak.”

I am reading about Anne Boleyn.  “She is not a freak, Squishy, she just had some issues.”

“Like what?” he asks as I wonder briefly how far to take this.

“She was married to a famous king of England and it didn’t end well for her,” I strategically answered.

“Why?  Is his name Henry?”

“How do you know that?” I asked.

“I read it over your shoulder,” he grinned triumphantly, “See ya, I am going outside, OK Mom?”

“Sounds like a plan,” I answered.

Yesterday, heading for a quick grocery store stop, Squishy said, “Mom, the truck next to us has a bad word on a sticker.”

“What does it say?” I asked, trying to navigate through the zillion traffic lights in our small town.

“Will I get in trouble if I say it?” he asked.

“Just read it to me,” I said, with the patience and kindness of a women with mild road rage.

“Bad ass,” he said, “It says bad ass.  Why is he a bad ass, Mom?  He doesn’t look like a bad ass.”

“OK,” I said, using the mom voice, “You can stop saying it now.”

“Well, he doesn’t look like one anyway…Hey, Mom, the sign over there says not to text and drive.  And that one says the service begins at 10, and that one says…”  And so on, and so on.

I think I may need that martini.  Stat.

Just a Ukulele, Please

Sometimes a small, silly suggestion makes perfect sense down the road.  Here is a tale of goofy present with fun results.

For Christmas 2010, I didn’t want anything.  Nada.  Zip, zero, nothing.  Many asked.  Everyone got the same answer.  Nothing.  It was one of those years.

Lots o' Legos.

Once I had children, the holidays changed.  It was all about what I could find for them, what Santa would bring, what batteries I needed to buy to make sure their toys lit up, played music and had motion.  As my boys have gotten a little older, holiday shopping turned into finding the perfect Lego sets and Nintendo DS games.  Christmas wasn’t about me anymore, and that was perfectly OK with me.

Unfortunately, my personal philosophy about the holidays didn’t stop everyone from asking what I wanted for Christmas.  Some members in my family were not to the point where they understood how one could not even care less about what they are getting for the highly over-commercialized holiday.  The Captain, my husband, was frustrated because usually every year I give him an idea of something that I would like him to buy for me – i.e. a print-out with the exact item, store, size and price.  I kept telling him that I needed nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch.  He wouldn’t let up.  So, after being exhausted from being asked, I told him, “Just a ukulele, please.”

He thought I was kidding.  Maybe because a ukulele is an uncommon thing for someone like me who has absolutely no musical talent whatsoever.  For some reason, at his staff holiday party, it became the story of the night.  His principal walked me around the room to retell the story about what I wanted for Christmas.  I tried to explain to her it wasn’t really much of a funny story at all, I just told my husband to get me a ukulele.  She thought this was hilarious.

On Christmas morning, after the boys tore into their gifts, The Captain surprised me with a big box.  I opened it, and voila, there was a real, genuine, no-bones-about-it ukulele.  I was surprisingly ecstatic with the gift.  I couldn’t believe he actually got me a uke.  Hilarious – yes!  A proud ukulele owner am I!

Since then, I have written a few songs for the ukulele.  Most are in reference to what my little dudes are up to.  Mind you, I have no idea how to play the thing, besides strumming randomly, so the songs don’t really count.  But, it turns out, that creating a silly song on the uke is very motivating (and somewhat embarrassing) for two boys.  Phoebe from Friends knew it all along!  Here are a few of the titles to further explain my point:

Sleepover, Yeah, I Better Sleep

Don’t Eat Your Boogers ‘Cause It’s Gross

The Homework Blues

Put the Seat Down or Mommy May Drown

Nine-Year-Old Crankie Pants

Little Brothers Sure Make Me Fart

Don’t Tell Daddy

Not Gonna Buy It

and last, but not least,

Livin’ on Chicken Nuggets and Chips.

A few weeks ago, I ran into my husband’s principal.  She introduced me to her friend as “the one who asked for a ukulele last year for Christmas and writes silly songs for it.”  I chuckled and asked her why she even thought of the ukulele.  She replied, “I think it is so funny, cool and unique.”  Mmmm.   Maybe next year I will ask for an oboe.

The Uke of 2010. A Holiday Hitmaster.