Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Bean is so great.  She’s so five-year-old.  Literal.  I love it.  She says things that just make me laugh all the time.  She has words that she uses that I can’t fix.  Or I don’t want to fix.  I love that she wipes her face with her “mapkin” when she eats.  And I love that she uses big words in places they don’t belong.  And how she spells words “icegream” (ice cream) and “egsatly” (exactly) and “pishur” (picture).  I love that she draws pictures for grandparents and writes “I love everybody in South Carolina” on the back. 

She’s so emotional.  It’s raw, unjaded emotion.  “Really? REALLY?? Why does everyone have to be so mean to me?” when I ask her to feed the dogs.  And it’s passionate.  I hope she never loses it.  I’m so afraid that life will take that away from her.  Sure the stomping and crying at Every. Little. Thing. gets old.  The exaggeration of anger in her statements is annoying.  But it’s her.  It’s so Bean.  It’s going to be a pain when she’s a teenager.  But I hope she keeps it.  And her perception is amazing.  I love the way she sees the world.  I wish that we could all wear Bean Glasses every once in a while.  Just to know what it’s like.  To know why wearing hot pink cowboy boots with everything is cool.  To know why clothes that seemingly don’t match at all are perfect.  To be able to dance when there is no music, laugh at everything, and believe that everyone lives “happily ever after”.  And her wrong words are great.  Her most recent is so funny because she doesn’t realize its wrong, and doesn’t realize it’s funny. 

Peanut threw a ball up on our roof and it went into the gutter.  But one of the exhaust chimneys for the gas furnace has a bit of a shiny brass bit on it.  So we’re sitting on the hammock in our back yard and Bean says “Hey!  I see the yellow ball!”  We all begin looking for what she might see.  “I don’t see it” I tell her.  “It’s in the gutter” Peanut said.  “It’s right there!” Bean said.  After lots of “where?” and “we can’t see it.” She finally says “ARE YOU BLONDE?!? It’s RIGHT THERE!”  Yup.  Blonde.  Funny stuff.  Not to her.  The window treatments you can open and close are blondes too.  It’s a word mistake she doesn’t know she’s making.  But to me, her screaming “are you BLONDE?” is so funny.  Why?  A million blonde jokes growing up.  The fact that none of us are blonde, so it’s funny.  And because it’s Bean.  It’s so Bean! And I hope it never changes.     

Monday, May 30, 2011


Really.  I still do the same healthy lunches now that school's out.  Kids need healthy lunches.  Here are two non-bentos I have done since school got out.

Ham & Cheese Pita, pickles, cheese cube, strawberries and carrots with ranch dressing

Make-your-own pizzas (tortilla triangles, pepperonis, pizza sauce and cheese) and carrots with ranch dressing

So keep on bentoing and being creative!  I know I will!

Friday, May 27, 2011

No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches!!!

I’ve given my children a complex.  A Peanut Butter Sandwich Complex.  Some day a therapist will thank me for PB sandwiches.  It all started with respect.  Aretha style R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  My kids didn’t have it.  For anyone.  Not for me and Clark Kent.  Not for each other.  Dogs. Toys. Electronics. Paper. The furniture.  The walls. Bugs. You name it.  A whole lot of “sass mouth” had moved up in here.  I blame school and other people’s kids.  Though it’s likely not that.  It’s likely that we slacked off and at some point allowed it once.  Sass mouth tolerance.  Bad juju, just so you know. 

So I went to my discipline gurus.  I asked “Oh great guru mothers who are so wise, what shall I ever do with these foul mouth beasts?”  Shipping them off to China was suggested, but I had already thought of that.  The sheer cost, I mean, can you even imagine?  Selling them to gypsies sounded like another good one, but apparently that is “illegal” too.  Washing their mouths out with soap seemed tedious and expensive.  I mean, we buy good soap around here.  Wasteful.  Kidding.  For those of you who are reading and don’t really get sarcasm through typing.  KIDDING.  My best great guru of discipline Mrs. S gave me the best idea.  She always has the best ideas.  She’s got 4 kids too.  She knows how to make things work.  Her kids don’t sass.  Much.  She taught me the “4 strikes and your out” dinner policy. 

Quick break down:  Every time you are disrespectful to someone/something, but mostly someone, you get a ‘strike’.  This is yelling, screaming, gnashing teeth, etc.  You have 4 chances. That’s 4 chances to straighten up and fly right.  4 Mulligans.  If you use up all four, you get a sandwich and go to bed.  No dinner with family.  No evening TV time (which is precious around here).  No yummy dessert if there is one.  Nothing.  Peanut butter sandwich and bed.  And you do so at 6:00, at the breakfast bar, away from your siblings and parents.  BOOM! Respect laws laid down.  BOOM! End of disrespectfulness.  Mostly.  85%.  It works.  And it backfires.  It does so in three ways.

Scenario #1: “Hey kids, let’s have grilled cheeses and chips for dinner tonight, I’m pretty pooped and you had a hot cooked lunch.” “NOOO!!! We haven’t been bad!  We can’t have sandwiches for dinner!!”  What? Oh, crap.  Right.  Sandwiches = bad, disrespectful behavior. 

Scenario #2: Monkey man has made a public service announcement.  “Mommy, I don’t like peanut butter anymore.  I’m a jelly kid now.  I didn’t get in trouble, so I don’t eat peanut butter.  Can I have a jelly sandwich?”

Most Conniving Scenario #3:  Dinner is served, all three children are griping because Mommy put squash in the vegetable pasta.  But Peanut and Bean eat it, eating around the poisonous-because-they-are-too-good-for-you vegetables.  Not Monkey Man.  Oh no.  The child who didn’t eat his lunch at the restaurant where you choose your own lunch.  The child who has had cereal and a snack bar all day.  The child who has to be starving because, well, he hasn’t eaten anything today.  He sits and refuses to eat.  He whines.  He asked to be excused from the table.  Clark Kent tells him if he tries to get down before taking his “No Thank You Bite” that he is going to be in trouble.  Monkey Man is smart.  He sits for a minute, then he pushes himself away from the table.  “Mommy, I’m in trouble.  Can I have a peanut butter sandwich?”  Oh yes he did.  He turned my rule around and tried to use it against me! Turkey.  Smart, smart turkey.  Clark Kent looked at me appalled.  I said “hey, he’s a super smart kid.  What do you want me to do?”  He didn’t get a PB sandwich.  He just didn’t eat.  He went to bed.  Ate a whole bowl of cereal this morning.  And so here we go again.  PB Sandwich complex.  It’s what’s keeping the sass mouths away here.  You’re welcome Dr. Future Psychiatrists. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Happy Dirt

All four kids are quietly watching Tangled.  Thank you Disney ™ for your awesome ability to capture children’s attention.  It’s the most TV they’ve watched all week.  I’m cooking dinner and I can’t help but wonder what the pioneers did on rainy days.  You know, those people who lived before Blu Ray and TV and Smartphones.  The ones who let their kids out to play in that stuff called “mud”.  Yeah, yeah, I’m not that bad.  My kids play outside a lot.  A lot. 

So, it was rather funny when we had run up to the grocery store last night.  We needed to go, despite it being 7:30.  The three older kids had been playing outside all day.  In the dirt.  So up to the store we went.  Bug needed formula.  Someone going by us made the usual “hands full” and then said something about how dirty they all were.  Yeah, they were.  We went to the store before bath time.  And the store gives free cookies.  Chocolate with chocolate chips and M&Ms is almost always the choice with my kids.  So my dirty children now looked like they had been sucking dirt popsicles.  So I laughed at the lady and said “Yeah, this is what kids who can’t watch TV all day look like.”  She of course said “Good for you, mama” and went about her shopping.  And it’s true for the most part.

We have a summer schedule here.  An every-minute-is-planned type of schedule.  A keep kids from asking when is snack schedule.  A no arguing about chores schedule.  A keep mom sane schedule.  It gives them one hour of TV a day, and an hour and a half of video game or movie time in the evening.  Otherwise they are outside.  It’s what summer was when I was a kid.  It’s what summer should be.  Dirt, popsicles, swimming, lightening bugs, and the smell of jasmine on the air.  Laughter becomes the soundtrack for our house in summer.  And it’s dirty.  Good happy dirty.  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Four times the crazy looks

It’s so funny to me the way people react to you based on the number of children you have and what sex they are.  They say things I don't think they realize are rude.  When Peanut was born everyone stopped me in the store to see her.  “Let me see that precious baby.” “Oh my goodness, what a princess.”  And of course, the occasional “He’s so cute.”  Yeah.  I like to dress my son in frilly pink dresses.  It’s how I roll.  I want the therapy needs to start really really early.  Duh.

When Bean was born it was “oh, you have two precious girls” and “Oh my goodness you’re so blessed to have two healthy babies” and “Those are such beautiful kids!” And of course, the occasional “He’s so cute.”  And “What’s her name? Isn’t that a boy’s name?”  Old women are fun.  Bless their hearts. 

Once Monkey Man was born the comments changed from polite and cute to borderline rude.  “Oh, I just know you’re so glad you finally got that boy” Yes.  I hate girls.  They are gross and stupid and PHEW for one with a penis.  “Oh, my you have to be relieved to have a boy finally” Yes.  Because the succession to the throne was in question.  But we’ve got it all figured out now! “Oh my goodness, you have your hands full” Really?  Do I?  Three is “hands full” but two is just “cute”?  Yeah, I have my hands full.  I always wanted to respond “I KNOW! Thank goodness I could leave the other 5 at home!”

Then Bug was born.  No more cheeky comments.  No more semi-polite comments.  Just “Oh WOW!” and “You are either brave or crazy” and an actual “Oh Em Gee” (said just like that because it’s fashionable to say acronyms out loud now, apparently).  So what I’ve learned in the last 3 months is I’m either a “good Catholic or a crazy Baptist”.  I’ve also got “more than a handful” because I must be “trying to keep up with that Duggar lady” and I’m “awfully brave”.  I just want to scream “Nope, my husband’s just allergic to latex” and walk off.  See if they get it.  Or explain that I’m trying to replace all the jerks in the world with kind people.  Someone has to. 

Truth is I’ve always wanted four kids.  I’ve always wanted girls and boys.  I’ve got two of each, and they are side by side in age.  Peanut and Bean play together, and it won’t be long before Monkey Man and Bug are too.  God has blessed me in an amazing way, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  And yeah, you better believe I know what causes it. ;)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Most Amazing Singer Ever

Dear Taylor Swift,

My sons are genetically predisposed to love you.  That is all.


Monkey Man LOVES Taylor Swift.  Adores her.  “She’s beautiful” “She has nice lips” “She sings so pretty” “I love her hair”.  He has a Taylor Swift doll that sings.  He has all her albums (and he knows the names of each album).  He has a Taylor Swift blanket.  He’d have a shirt if they weren’t so big.  He knows all the songs.  He knows most of the words to the songs.  He knows Taylor.  If there was a “Name that Tune: Taylor Swift” edition he’d win.  Even if the radio is cut down.  Even if Bug is screaming at the top of his lungs.  He hears five seconds and it’s always “THAT’S TAYLOR SWIFT!”

Who’s the greatest singer in the world? Taylor Swift.  Who has hair beautiful like Rapunzel? Taylor Swift.  Best songs ever? Taylor Swift. Most recognizable face in the planet? Taylor Swift.  Can be found better than Where’s Waldo? Taylor Swift.  We walk into a store and Monkey Man can see her face from 30 yards away.  Even if it’s minute. Even if it’s blended in.  Even if it’s on the cover of a CD 100 feet from us.  He knows her face.  “MOM! TAYLOR SWIFT!” As I look frantically everywhere to be able to confirm he is, in fact, correct. 

And Bug loves her too.  Bug never coos or gagas too much.  He’s a quiet man.  Sits back and watches the world go by.  But today, when Taylor was on the TV … boy went crazy.  Cooing and Gagaing along with Taylor.  Something about her is enchanting.  And my boys love every single moment of her.  So much so that Monkey Man is saving every dime for her concert.  Its here in Memphis in October.  No, I don’t have tickets … yet.  But he’s saving his money.  The dollar from the Easter Bunny? For the concert.  Birthday money from grandparents? Concert. Change from Clark Kent’s pocket found on the couch? Concert money.  Other three-year-olds want cars and action figures.  Not my son.  He wants to see Taylor Swift and buy something at the concert.  It’s a phenomenon that few parents ever get to see.  This is beyond crush level.  This is near obsession (but not in a creepy way) level.  He wants her to come to our house to play upstairs in our playroom with him.  He wants to marry her.  He just wants to hear her sing.  Any chance he gets.  So, Taylor, if you ever read this, I’ve got your biggest little fan right here.  Waiting for you to come play dinosaurs with him.

I love every minute of it.  I love the way his eyes light up when he hears her songs on the radio.  I love how excited he gets when he sees the Covergirl ™ ad in the store.  I love that he sleeps with his blanket and his book (about all things Taylor) at night.  There are few moments in childhood that a parent can just watch happen and be amazed by.  Monkey Man amazes me every time he sings her songs.  No one else is allowed to sing.  This is “Taylor’s song, mommy.  Let her sing.”  And he belts it out along with her.  I love the shocked gasps when her song is on in a store and he hears it.  He can be running around the living room screaming like a banshee, but have a Taylor song come on the radio in the kitchen and he stops, comes in the kitchen and states in an excited voice “MOM! I hear Taylor!”  It’s a moment I laugh at every time.  The sheer joy of a child over something that he loves.  It’s an amazing thing and I hope he does get to see Taylor sing live.  Will he remember it?  Maybe.  There will be pictures, and we’ll talk about it.  But he doesn’t have to remember all the details.  To him it will be just as awesome (perhaps) as a play date.  Because she’s her and at three years old, he can’t possibly be more intrigued with anything else.  Thanks, Taylor, wherever you are. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It's Oh So [NOT] Quiet

Time.  It’s an amazing thing.  Someone great (or someone great being portrayed in a movie) once said time can’t possibly mean anything, because at the moment you discover the hour and minute, it's already past and you’ve wasted it figuring out what time it is.  I remember seeing in a movie.  It probably wasn’t a real quote.  Thirteen years ago I’d have laughed at you if you told me I was ever going to meet “Mr. Right”.  Eleven years ago I’d have committed you as certifiably crazy if you told me I’d have four kids and live in Memphis, TN.  Five minutes ago I didn’t believe there would ever be a moment in my house where someone wasn’t crying.  Time.  There’s never enough, or there’s too much.  People spend half the day complaining about the other half of it.  I see it on Facebook ™.

Today my time was spent between crying sessions.  Whiney World was the sub name of my house today.  Peanut and her runny nose, Monkey Man and his “this is not what I wanted” typical three-year-old routine, Bug (that’s my new name for Little Frog, BTW) was generally fussy.  But the main sponsor of Whiney World today was Bean.  Oh my Lord at the whining.  Whining over paper.  Over markers.  Over the air we breathe.  Over everything.  After I started, dinner I threw them outside, fed Bug and started other chores.  Then the whining began again.  Our door “ding dongs” when you open it.  It’s a great feature if you want to know when someone is coming and going.  Not so when someone is whining.

DING DONG “Peanut said I’m not 5” DING DONG “Peanut said I can’t play on the slide” DING DONG “Monkey Man threw something at me” DING DONG “How much longer until dinner?” DING DONG “The dogs are barking too loud” DING DONG “I’m cold” DING DONG “I need a drink of water” DING DONG “Is it dinner time yet?” DING DONG “Peanut told me to quit tattling” DING DONG DING DONG DING DONG DING DONG DING DONG DING DONG

“Oh for crying out loud! Open that door one more time and you’re going to live outside!”   No, I wouldn’t make them live outside.  But the thought has crossed my mind.  Just for the quiet.  And no ding dongs.  Then I realize that it’s time.  Time is what they want.  Time is what I don’t have much of with them.  In the long run.  It’s been twelve years since I met Clark Kent, but it seems like yesterday.  Bug is already 3 ½ months old.  Summer is coming up.  Life is going 100mph on a slow day.  It’s already May.  The middle of May.  It’s all I can do to grab hold of it and grip it with all I’ve got and hope it doesn’t leave me in the dust.  I’ll spit bugs out along the way and wipe the dirt from my face.  I’ll take the five minutes of quiet and make it mine.  And I know I’ll miss the whining.  Right? RIGHT?!?  Everyone tells me I’m going to miss the whining.  Whining and inconsolable crying.  The things that drive a mother mad because she has them all the time, and then suddenly doesn’t have them anymore.  When the house is so quiet that all you can hear is the lonely.  Then who’ll be whining?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Everything is a question?

Kids are fun.  They really do say the darndest things.  Things like “napkins are erasers for my face” and “you’re skinny-fattish”.  They ask questions about everyone and everything.  And three-year-olds ask questions.  Lord have mercy, do they ask questions.  Constant questions.  Monkey Man is no different.  He turned three Saturday.  And as if on cue, he began making every sentence a question.  And following questions with questions.  And then of course, answering the questions.  My answers are not good enough.  I know nothing.  Here is this morning’s breakfast conversation:

[Interior.  Breakfast area.  Mom is preparing breakfast for Monkey Man]

Me: I’m going to make your breakfast; do you want a blueberry bagel?
MM: Blueberry bagel?
Me: Yes, that is what is for breakfast.
MM: Breakfast?
Me: Do you want it toasted? With spread on it?
MM: Toasted? Spread?
[Huge sigh of resignation because he is NOT going to answer me, but apparently mimic each question I ask in simple worded re-questions]
Me: Here, Blueberry bagel, not toasted, with cream cheese.  And some yogurt
MM: Yogurt?
Me: Yes, would you like milk?
MM: Milk?  Chocolate Milk?
Me:  Yup.  Here you go … chocolate milk in your orange cup.
MM: Orange cup?
[Even larger sigh, because my day is shaping up to be a bad game show or something.  Off to eat my breakfast]
MM:  Mom, you’re the best mommy ever.

… And that’s why the questions are okay.   They are so worth it.  Even the inane ones.  Even when Bean asks something that is so obvious.  Everyday after school they get snack.  Every day.  Not just occasional days I remember to feed them.  Every. Single. Day.  And if they’ve gotten good behavior at school (an “E” for “excellent”) they get a treat.  Something small that says, “Hey, way to go you!  You managed to keep your mouth shut at school all day!”   They get a treat for an E.  Every time.  Its how life works at the zoo.  We give treats to the beasts who behave nicely.  Pavlov – plain and simple.  They want the treat, they behave at school.  Yet, every day after school, as we are walking back to the car, Bean asks “Mom, I got an E today.  When we get home can I have snack and a treat?”  One day I’m going to change up.  “No,” I’ll say.  “You are getting dog food and moldy bread for today.” Just to see if she’s listening.  Because I’m sure they don’t listen.  Children don’t listen to 99% of what we say.  Like Charlie Brown’s teacher.  When they are listening, I know.  I know because they will repeat what I said in the form of a question.  Smart little Jeopardy kids.  I’ll take “wouldn’t trade it for all the world” for $1000 Alex.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Summer Fever

Summer is so great!  Grilling, swimming, lightening bugs.  Its glorious!  We love summer here.  We play outside until its dark, catch bugs, go on walks (or we should).  So fun!  In honor of the great grilling season, and because the weather is finally nice, I sent the girls to school with Summer Cookout Bentos Monday.

Cookout Bento: Lemon Squares, Baked Beans, Fried Chicken (w/ Chick Fil A dipping sauce), fresh strawberries and blackberries, cole slaw, and potato salad.  And of course a cheese stick, because that's what goes in lunchboxes, I've been told. :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wearing My Feet

Sometimes life is funny.  Even when it’s not trying.  Mundane moments suddenly become hysterical with the tiniest joke or nuance.  Comedians who have kids don’t have to make jokes up; they just have to write life down as it happens.  My kids make me laugh doing things they don’t realize is funny.  And maybe it’s not what they did that was so funny, but the though process behind their actions or requests.  It’s the thoughts I have about what they say.  This morning was one of those funny moments.  It was a brilliant morning.  A funny request morning.  It was a chocolate cake morning.  This morning Monkey Man was full of great ideas.  It started when I was preparing Bean and Peanut their lunch for school.  I took a break from the usual creativeness and just sent them pasta with meatballs.  None of the canned junk with “Papa” on it
(the good Chef favors my dad -- see picture, enjoy creepy look alikes), m’kay?  Yummy homemade meatballs and the little cute pasta they like.  Monkey Man decided right then he wanted pasta for breakfast.  Pasta and meatballs.  For breakfast.   

Clark Kent commented he was just being a “good Italian kid” (nod to the Sicilian side of our family).  I tried to convince him that cereal, or eggs and toast, or cheese toast would be better, but he would have none of it.  So, pasta it was.  After all, meatballs and pasta isn’t that far off from sausage and grits, right?  Right.  So he had his high-carb breakfast and wanted to play outside.

Here in western Tennessee we have had rain.  Torrential rain.  Tornado-spawning, river flooding rain.  Someone go call Noah rain.  All kinds of rain.  And it’s overflowed the rivers.  All of them.  Especially the Mississippi.  As I type this, Old Man River is slowly creeping up into the yards of friends.  Last year on May 1st we were flooded out in parts off the county.  My dearest friend lost almost everything.  And here we are again. 

Needless to say, my yard is a soggy mess.  And that’s after two days of pure warm sunshine.  So, when Monkey Man asked to go outside I told him he needed his rain boots.  “Can’t I wear my Crocs ™ mom?” he asked.  No, rain boots are a must, because it’s gross out.  Reasonable request.  Nothing doing.  Instead he asks, “Why can’t I just wear my feet?”  I giggled and told him his Crocs ™ were fine.  And out he went to squish in the mud and play in the sand box, which is a muddy water box now.  And he got wet.  But it was a good, happy, fun wet.  Little boys have a way of making every situation they are in fun.  That’s why I love them.  Next time I think I’ll go squish in the mud with him.  And you better believe we’ll both just wear our feet.