Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Feature: John's Easter artwork

Thursday was Parent/Teacher conference day, so I got to see artwork that was hanging in the hallway outside of John's classroom.

This Easter is going to be electric! It's electric!

In case you need the translation: "My egg is electric. It will shock you. It will hurt a lot. My egg has a lot of wires. It is big."

Now that I've typed it out, I'm trying to decide if I should be a little worried. Or disturbed. Or just chalk it up to the crazy imagination of boys. Hmm.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Let me eat cake!

One of these days, I'm going to post about how lucky I am to work where I do with the people I do. Today is a little preview, because of this little tidbit I just learned: every Wednesday is apparently CAKE DAY around here.

If that doesn't give you enough of a glimpse into the way we roll at the Fayetteville, Arkansas, Procter & Gamble office, let me elaborate. I work in a two story building, with different sub-teams in different parts of the building. On the opposite side from where I work on the ground floor is a group of amazingly talented analysts, many of whom I've gotten to know in the break room over coffee refuels.

One of the young men, Chad, apparently has a mom who is a finalist in the World's Greatest Mom showdown. She bakes a cake every single Wednesday for him to bring to the office. How I am just now learning about this after almost two years here is a mystery to me, but once I learned of this astonishing perk, I wasted about zero minutes in hustling across the hall and asking if I could join the indulgence.

Oh. My. Goodness. Easter week, Easter cake. Homemade red velvet cake with coconut frosting.

There were also coconut cupcakes with coconut frosting, malted chocolate Easter eggs, and Easter candy canes for the handles. You know, Easter basket cupcakes!! Too bad I ate mine before I thought to stop and take a picture.

I can see this becoming a problem. An Elaine-sized problem. Anyone remember the Seinfeld episode where Elaine has to get her afternoon cake fix? I can totally see that being me in about a month if I keep indulging.

Business may be tough; the customer may always want more than we can give; but if there's cake on Wednesdays, I'm pretty sure it can never really be that bad.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

All good things must come to an end

And so we arrive at Sunday night, on the eve of returning to school after Spring Break. I distinctly remember suffering from the Sunday Night Blues for much of my college life, and much to my chagrin, the affliction has continued into much of my adult life. There's just something melancholic about the weekend ending.

Times a million for the last weekend of Spring Break.

John is more affected by this disorder than Caroline; she enjoys school enough that after a week off, she looks forward to getting back to the classroom. Little Man, notsomuch. His funk started early today - we didn't have to referee any fights to or from church, or even tell them to stop yelling and use a speaking voice more appropriate for small, confined spaces like the van. In fact, there was no conversation at all from the backseat. I turned around a few times on the way there and again on the way back, only to find John staring listlessly out the window.


I have a little bit of parental guilt because we didn't take the kids somewhere on some Awesome Spring Break Trip. Somehow in the 30 years between my adolescence and my parenting days, vacations during the one week March respite have become almost compulsory. That's a pretty far cry from what I remember as a week of some sleeping in; some yard work; some washing windows; and general spring cleaning. Heading to the beach or the slopes was never even a discussion, as far as I remember.

So while my kids may not have an Awesome Spring Break Trip Story to share at morning meeting in class tomorrow, I do think they had a fun week. Nothing but free play time, sleeping in, a little bit later bedtime, movies, library, Mom taking a couple of days off to be home, video games, play date, extra desserts, and computer time. Lots of computer time.

Aren't the little things what's awesome about being a kid, anyway?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Friday Feature: Caroline's schoolwork

A day late, but with it being Spring Break and no folders coming home this week, it slipped my mind. Hooray for a Spring Break fun enough to forget minor responsibilities!!

This week, Caroline's schoolwork / artwork. To learn their vocabulary, they sometimes draw pictures of the word and the teacher tries to match the pictures to the words. I think Caroline did a terrific job on this, but her picture of "dreary" is my favorite. Her teacher didn't get it - I'm not sure I would have, either - but when you have the word to go with the picture, it's totally obvious, isn't it?

Friday, March 22, 2013

The kids are stir crazy

The day started with an irrationally frustrated John trying to buckle his seatbelt so that we could go out for breakfast at the Briar Rose, a local bakery renowned for its cinnamon rolls. I told him to relax, to which he replied angrily:

"I hate to relax! It's so boring!"

And in that one outburst, I think John pretty much summed up the difference between bring a kid and being a grown up.

We managed to get to Briar Rose, and look how cute it is!!

Orange rolls for John and Caroline and Daddy, and monkey bread for Mommy. The only mistake we made was letting them have chocolate milk with their breakfast:

They were absolutely bouncing off the WALLS by the time we got home. With the rain slash snow slash sleet falling outside, there was nowhere for them to go to run off the craziness, so we just had to alternate between letting them play together interspersed with lots of screaming about not-fairness and sending them to their rooms.

Not much of a fun spring break day, huh?

With no travel plans and lousy weather preventing outdoor playing, we felt a little badly that our kids weren't going to have much of a spring break. Of course, there are a million fun things to do in Fayetteville, so all we really had to do was think of one of them and get going...

Enter Arkadia Retrocade!! John would play video games 26 hours a day if we let him, and Caroline is generally up for anything new, so we told the kids we had a surprise, piled in the van, and headed out into the rain slash snow slash sleet.

The concept of this place is genius - all of these old video games from the '80s, from our childhood days. Pac Man, Ms. Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Pole Position, Centipede, Millipede, even air hockey and foosball. And the price is right, too - $5 gets you in the door, and it's unlimited play, no coins needed. I can see this becoming an all-afternoon hangout for the Tween set this summer in Fayetteville.

It was kind of hit or miss for what was working, but I figured we had to cut them a break. Some of those games were 30+ years old. John loved anything that involved shooting - go figure. Alllllll boy. I thought it was great that he gravitated to Galaxian - I had a miniature version of this game that I got for Christmas years ago, and I wore out some C batteries playing that thing!!

I think Caroline liked Ms. Pac Man the best, but I got all excited when I saw Burger Time... I remember playing this, but can't remember if it was an arcade game or someone's home Atari system. Either way, she and I took turns on this one. Totally fun.

Speaking of home Atari systems - that's right. They had an Atari 2600 with at least 30 games. Frogger! Super Breakout! Berzerk! Kaboom!

Since there were quite a few people there, we found ourselves waiting for the video games the kids wanted to play... so naturally, it was time for FOOSBALL!!!

We only spent about an hour there, as it turns out the kids aren't quite old enough to play many of the games, but it was an hour of entertainment, for sure. We might not have jetted off to a Florida beach house or taken a ski trip to Vail, but we managed to find some Spring Break fun right here in town.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Just a Swingin'

Spring Break week here in Arkansas, and the weather forecast isn't exactly spring-like. Last Saturday was beautiful, but the next day saw rain, gray skies, and chilly, chilly temperatures.

Monday wasn't much better, but by the time I got home at least it was dry out. Given that the kids were already bouncing off the walls, stir crazy with having been home all day, Justin had sent them outside to play in the backyard. They were happily looking through the cracks in the fence talking to the dogs next door when I looked out the window, and I got two happy waves back when they saw me.

My respite when I get home generally lasts exactly the amount of time it takes 1) for the kids to realize I'm home and 2) for them to cross whatever distance lays between us. Monday was no different; within 10 minutes of being home I had already been talked into putting my sneakers on and participating in backyard races between the fences. Strangely, I can run a marathon, but six times back and forth across the backyard, and I was winded. I was also soundly beaten by both kiddos.

I begged off, claiming too-tiredness and chilliness with the sun having gone down behind the neighbor's house. It was too cold in the shadows of late day without a coat, so off I went back inside.

I escaped inside to help Justin with dinner, but with all the windows in our kitchen, I had no problem keeping an eye on the kiddos while they kept playing outside. They eventually migrated to the playset (which, as an aside, I continually think was worth every.single.penny we spent on it - and that was a lot of pennies) to sit on the swings.

I knew what was coming - a request for me to come outside and push. I did my best to not-look; eye contact in this situation would have done me in. Kids are persistent, though, and always know what it takes to get their way - just a few minutes later, Caroline burst in the back door. Not to ask for me to come out and push John, though. Nope - bigger news.

John had finally, finally learned how to pump his legs and propel himself on the swing. This is yet another one those things you think kids Just Know. Wrong again - despite multiple efforts over the last many months, John just hasn't been able to get the rhythm down of extend the legs, bend the knees, and shift your weight back and forth to propel the swing back and forth, up and down. I guess it took his big sister explaining the concept, though, because he got it. Finally.

And both kids were happily swinging together, chattering excitedly, comparing how high they could get and talking about rocket ships.

Isn't this how we'd all like to spend the evenings? Not a care in the world, our best friend by our side. Just a swingin'.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Big Things and the Little Things: my Life List

At this point, pretty much everyone knows the concept of a Bucket List. Thanks to Hollywood, maybe most of us have seen a fictionalized account of living the dream of marking every single item off. But I bet very few of us have taken the time to sit, think, and write out the wonderful experiences that would make our time here uniquely our own, individual experience.

My dear friend Sarah (whose blog inspired me to start my own) has an excellent list, and in the Grand Re-Opening of her "Musings of Mother Hood" blog, she's revisited the list that she wrote several years ago. She calls it her "Life List," which I prefer to "Bucket List," so I'm borrowing that moniker, too.

Reading Sarah's list the first time, and again this time, naturally got me thinking: what would be on my list?

I started one several months ago, but I have to admit that thinking of 100, even 50, things that were dramatic enough or inspiring enough or unique enough to include on the list is a daunting task. To the point that when I tried it the first time, I got less than one page of a small spiral notebook into my list, put it down, and didn't return to it. Until today. (Weirdly, I did manage to cross one thing off the list in the lapse between then and now... so it counts. Totally.)

With Sarah's recent post, I'm inspired to start again. Maybe my list won't have 100 things on it - for some reason, 100 feels like the magic number to me - but nobody said I had to write the whole the list right now, and nobody said it couldn't be a running list as I am inspired by the little things that happen, 365 days a year. That's what this blog is all about in the first place, right?

So here goes: the beginnings of the list of all the cool things I want to do while I'm here.

  1. Donate enough money to have my name on something at West Point
  2. Celebrate the 4th of July in Boston
  3. Win 1st place in my age group in a race - DONE!!
  4. Cross something off a friend's life list together
  5. Sing in a symphony chorus
  6. Go to the Olympic Games
  7. Watch Army play in a bowl game in person
  8. Take a train as my primary mode of transportation on a trip or vacation
  9. See my cousin Jay perform live
  10. Become a published author
  11. Visit the American Cemetery in Normandy
  12. Take my kids to the Army/Navy game
  13. Be in Punxsutawney on Groundhog Day
  14. Run a marathon in all 50 states
  15. See Mt. Rushmore
  16. Take a Creative Writing course
  17. Go to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC 
  18. Buy something at the actual brick-and-mortar Akinz, my cousin Suzanne's retail store - DONE!!
  19. Swim around Key West
  20. Watch the Dallas Cowboys play a regular season game in Cowboys Stadium
  21. Spend a whole day riding roller coasters and amusement park rides with my kids - DONE!!
  22. Give a graduation speech
  23. Tour the White House
  24. Complete a full Ironman Triathlon
  25. Hike some of the Appalachian Trail
  26. Grow strawberries in my garden
  27. Learn to surf
  28. Visit Yellowstone National Park
  29. Sew matching outfits for my daughter and her American Girl doll
  30. Qualify for and run the Boston Marathon 
  31. Decorate a fancy cake, like one from a bakery
  32. Cook / bake every single recipe in a cookbook
  33. Own season tickets to something
  34. See the Rose Parade in person
  35. Take a vacation with my sister Susannah, just the two of us
  36. Read a biography of every U.S. President
  37. See Lenny Kravitz in concert
  38. Own a convertible
  39. Take my kids on a Civil War staff ride vacation
  40. Apply to be a contestant on The Amazing Race
  41. See the California Redwoods
  42. Walk underneath / behind a waterfall
  43. Legitimately begin a presentation with the words, "My fellow Americans..."
Do you have a list? Any recommendations for me? Anything you thought for sure you'd see on my list but is conspicuously absent?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Feature: John's artwork for Daddy's birthday

No schoolwork this week, because the best artwork of the week was John's present to Daddy on his birthday.

And yes, John. Yes he is. Love.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sounds A Little Fishy To Me

After two years of attending Caroline's music programs, it was finally time for John's debut. The Holcomb kindergarten classes were ready to debut their spring program, "Sounds A Little Fishy To Me!"

We had received a note several weeks ago indicating John had a speaking part, and that he needed to practice his line: something along the lines of, "For the fish that never grims."

Grims? I just assumed it was a play on words, though the concept of "grim" felt a little off in a kindergarten music program. No matter - practice we did, and John was ready to go! The day of the program, there was a dress rehearsal for all of the other grades in the school. John apparently nailed his line - and also apparently got feedback from big sister that she was pretty sure it was supposed to be "the fish that never GRINS." Script editing, people! Stat! Good thing John is used to taking orders feedback easily from Big Sister.

Evening program started at 7:00, and the music makers needed to arrive by 6:45. As they were finishing up dinner I asked if John needed a costume. Nope - well, I mean, other than a beach shirt. And a beach towel. And sunglasses, if we have them. But that's not a costume.

Off to hunt for a "beach shirt" in the closet... I suggested several sleeveless shirts, all of which were pronounced not-beach shirts. Fine... we are officially at the age that they can pick their own clothes. Not the fight to pick. John apparently interpreted glow-in-the-dark-Spiderman as a beach shirt. The glasses and towel set it off well, I think.

Once we got to the cafeteria after drop off at the music room, I realized that getting there at 6:45 was apparently getting there late. We were in the back row. Seriously, people? What time did you get here? You know it's a kindergarten music program, right? Guess I'm not winning Mom of the Year...

Off we go, recorded music, lots of sweet little voices that sound like music with unintelligble words, but cute nonetheless.

With the edited script, John's line made sense, and he nailed it:

I'm still not 100% sure what context it was in, but whatever - he was speaking into a microphone and I could hear him. I win.

As we watched John throughout the program, there was a lot of body language that indicated he was just-not-that-into-it. A little bit of nose picking, lots of messing around with the sunglasses. Singing, yes, but not so much with the hand movements the other kids did as part of the songs. I think it's just not really his thing, but I hate to make assumptions, so on the way home I asked him what he thought.

Me: "John, did you like being in that program?"
Caroline: "Yes!!"
Me: "Let me ask John that question. John, did you like being in that program?"
John : "Um, I don't really know about it. Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom."

A star is born.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

On the DL

I had great intentions of sharing the pictures and story from John's kindergarten program earlier this week, but I've been down for the count on anything other than the bare minimum thanks to excruciating tooth pain.


I find it patently unfair that I've been keeping this blog for less than four months and already have a second opportunity to share that I needed a root canal today. Apparently, I like to do these things in pairs.

So after self medicating for a couple of days and hoping it was just me grinding my teeth in my sleep, I finally accepted the unfortunate truth, made an appointment, and parted with another $398 of my hard earned dollars.

I promise, tomorrow, a more upbeat sharing of John's program. Until then, feel free to feel sorry for me. I've done a lot of that myself.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The games they play

It's a rainy Sunday, with no plans for going anywhere this afternoon, and the kids are in charge of entertaining each other. With a couple of bites left of their lunch, the squabbling began... with Caroline screeching that John never plays the games she wants to play, and John thundering back that he just.doesn'

Threats of spending the afternoon alone, in their respective rooms, easily put an end to the arguing. I've learned that asking questions about their plans tends to lead to negotiations and compromises, too, so I inquired what game it was that Caroline wanted to play and John didn't.

C: "It doesn't really have a name. It's just a game where the kids have money and are in charge."

Does any really great, made up game from the imagination of a child have a name? How easily we forget that. John gave it some thought, though:

J: "It's called Kid Lifestyle."

I had no idea what that really meant, but it was catchy, and the arguing ended. Apparently once John had put his own stamp on it, he was much more interested in playing the game. They disappeared upstairs and the playing commenced.

Mommy and Daddy were left with the blissful semi-quiet downstairs, and everyone was happy. I had to run out for a couple of errands, and upon returning home, found the kids still playing enthusiastically together. Not sure what they're playing - apparently Kid Lifestyle already ran its course - but they're happy, not fighting, and not in front of a screen. Success.

So on this rainy, grey Sunday, thought I'd share what happiness in our house looks like today.

They've been busy.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Feature: John's artwork

I know he's only in kindergarten, but I have high expectations for my son when it comes to school. High expectations for both of my kids, but Caroline is an achievement oriented child who rarely needs an extra push to do her best.

John, on the other hand, frequently sees school as one big play date.

He's very smart, and highly capable. But sometimes his work comes home and it's obvious that he rushed through it, that he didn't give it his best effort. We frequently talk about all the reasons it's so important to do your best in school, usually ending with "because smart people rule the world."

This week's artwork I think shows John's cleverness, his ability that exceeds expectations for kindergarten level work. But look closely - up in the top left hand corners you'll see the teacher made a note that says "2nd try." Because his first try was pitiful and unacceptable.

Much better to learn this lesson early, huh?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rabbit food for my bunnies

We've hit another milestone - both of my kids ask for salads with their dinners. Well, salad, loosely defined.

John primarily likes salad for the cucumbers and ranch dressing. Unfortunately, tonight we are out of cucumbers, so his salad consists of... Lettuce and one baby carrot, sliced up. Hold the tomatoes, please.

Caroline waffled on lettuce for a long time, but the love of ranch dressing overcame her ambivalence toward the leafy stuff. So tonight, for her, it's lettuce, tomatoes, and... Oh, wait. That's it. Just lettuce and tomatoes.

I thought both of these an insubstantial effort for salad, so I rattled off all of the other options... Green onions (blech face), mushrooms (gagging noise), peppers (Mom, are you crazy? face), croutons... Wait, whaaaaaat? Stop the presses - croutons? Yes, please.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Crazy car conversations

On the way home tonight:

J: "It's getting hot back here."
M: "Sorry, buddy. I had the heat on because I was cold."
C: "Mommy is always cold."
J: "I wish I was Mommy so I was cold."
M: "Do you think the house will be nice and cozy when we get home?"
J: "Yeah! Maybe it will be 120 degrees!"
M: "I hope not, buddy. That would be super hot!"
C: "Yeah! Maybe it will be 65 degrees."
M: "I think Daddy likes to keep it at about 68 degrees, honey."
C: "Ms. Mitchell's classroom is 78 degrees. It's like the classroom is the boiling water pot and I'm the lobster."



J: "I see stars!"
M: "Oh yeah? Which ones?"
J: "I see Orion's belt!"
M: "John, how do you know which one is Orion?"
J: "Daddy showed me!"
M: "How many stars are in Orion's belt?" (Mommy is, by nature, a skeptic.)
J: "Three!" (Guess he showed me.)
M: "What else do you look for when you see Orion's belt, John?"
J: "His sword!"
M: "Wow, John, that's really good!" (I seriously can't believe my kids know this stuff.)
M: "What else do you see in Orion, John?"
J: "His pistol!"

At this point, I feel at least a little bit vindicated in my skepticism.

M: "You silly, Orion doesn't have a pistol. You can find his feet and hands."
J, laughing like a goon: "I know. I just like to say the word pistol."

Monday, March 4, 2013

Moment of panic

When you become a mom, I think you automatically become good at imagining worst cases scenarios. Husband is late coming home: definitely in a car accident. Forgot to double check whether you turned the straightening iron off: house definitely burned down.

Lucky for most of us, though, our worst fears never come to pass. Our active imaginations are just that. Imaginations.

So when my phone rang with a call at 7:03 on my way home from my run this morning and my husband's first words were, "Is John with you?" I realized that all of the other things I had feared in my imagination were nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the sheer panic and fear when faced with a question like that.

What do you mean he's not there? What do you mean he isn't in his room, the play room, the bonus room, the bathroom...

And I tried, immediately, I tried to think rationally. He's too little to have unhooked the chain locks on the doors... But he could've gone out the door to the garage that I left unlocked when I left.

Think rationally. His clothes were still on the dresser, so of course as soon as he got out in the cold in his pajamas, he would've come back in because it wouldn't have been fun anymore.

But simultaneously, as I tried to tell myself to think rationally, my stomach was lurching; my heart was racing; my mind was praying, begging him to just be in the house somewhere. The fear, the panic, the unfathomable idea that your child is gone - that is fear.

Of course, he was in the house. The law of unintended consequences: after a fun Saturday night playing hide and seek with the sitter combined with his typical "I don't want to go to school on Monday" attitude, he was in the linen closet waiting to be found. Thinking it funny not to answer Daddy.

We had a talk about that behavior, after I calmed down enough to do it. And then I hugged him. A lot. And his sister, too. I don't know what it would be like to lose a child, in any way. I'm just thankful and blessed that this morning, the only thing that happened was my imagination running away.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Harry Potter: Eyeballs to Earbuds

Today is one of those days when I wonder why there isn't a profession that would allow me to do nothing but read books of my own choosing 10 hours a day and get paid like a rock star. Hard to understand why that job doesn't exist.

Like most people, I've bounced around from hobby to hobby in my life, with a few that have stuck - scrapbooking, running, and reading. When I think about it, I'm not sure reading really counts as a hobby. If something is as essential to your happiness and well being as breathing, eating, or sleeping, should you still define it as a hobby?

I recently combined two of my passions - running and reading. Given that for the last several months I've spent a cumulative 6ish hours a week wearing out the soles of my Saucony sneakers, I've listened to my fair share of "motivational music playlists" with the same songs. Even with 80+ songs on a playlist, at some point, you've heard them all waaaay too many times.

Time for a new solution. Audiobooks.

Lucky for me, the Fayetteville Public Library has a collection of audiobooks for check out. Free. And not just obscure titles - best sellers, classics, etc. Over the course of the last few weeks, I've been working my way through the Harry Potter series. I've read all of the books a bazillion times, but this is the first time I've listened to them.

You know what? Totally different. I  hear things I don't remember - nuances in the words and the language, and more than that, the interpretation of the emotion and inflection behind the words. I guess when I read, I hear them in my head the same way, every time. But listening to the narrator's interpretation gives a new richness and depth to the characters.

Don't you love good books that you can read over and over, never get tired of, and even find new things in the story every time you read them? What is it about some books that makes them enjoyable on the fifteenth - or even twentieth - reading?

I love J.K. Rowling's series, in part because she makes the characters so alive in the pages. The more I read them, and now hear them, I realize that I also love them because the writing is so engaging. As I've listened to them, I've been struck by how deliberate and artful her word choices are; her sentence structure is; her balance of dialogue and narrative thoughts to move the story along. I think in every English major there aspires the Great American Writer, but knowing a book as well as I know all of the Harry Potter books makes me realize just how difficult and unique a thing it is to write well.

So here's to audiobooks bringing favorite books to life. And here's to books you can read countless times and love as much or more every time. I'd love to hear what your own personal classics are, so if you would, take a moment and give me a title or two to add to my list.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday Feature: Caroline's artwork

LOVE this one. 

Caroline's class got an assignment to describe a plan or resolution for the New Year. You never know what you'll get with open ended questions asked of 2nd graders, but I certainly would not have guessed this would be her first thought: run a kids' triathlon in 2013.

She may look 100% like my husband; her personality may be more Justin than me; but there's no denying that in this case, she is 100% Mommy's kiddo.

Party hat resolution with a step by step plan. Let's do it!!