Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Nakedboy!

Halloween is the perfect time of year for my boys to delve deeply into one of their favorite fantasies: Superherodom.

In my male-dominated household (MDH), someone has been a superhero at least one time or another throughout the day every day since birth. Granted, when they were babies this came in the form of my husband flying them through the air with their arms stretched out and their heads bobbling while drool dripped onto the floor below.

Pretending to be superheroes just seems to be a very natural pastime for boys. They get to dress up without playing “dress up.” They get to pretend they have powers. They get to use weapons. They get to try to fly. They get to try to pick up stuff that is way too heavy (i.e., the couch or their brother). They get to beat the snot out of each other under the guise of saving the world. But someone usually has to be the enemy to make it seem more real. Guess who? Yep, you guessed it. Mommy is the enemy and must be destroyed, although sometimes they do let me on their team and we destroy daddy. I think I make an easier target.

My boys seem to get along pretty well when they are playing superheroes. It’s as if they are united in a common goal to protect the world from domination. The problems begin when they are choosing their superpowers. It goes something like this:

Jack: My powers are strength and speed.
Luke: Mine too.
Jack: Luuuukkkkeee. You can’t have the same powers as me!
Luke: Mommy, what’s a good superpower?
Me: How about flying, turning invisible and shooting lasers with your eyes?
Luke: Yes, those are my powers.
Jack: Mine too.
Luke: Jaaaccckkk. You said we couldn’t have the same powers.
Jack: I changed my mind.

This progresses into a wrestling match until someone gets hurt. Too bad their superpowers don’t include invincibility.

With all of the costumes and accessories out around this time of year, my boys cannot only play the part, they can look the part. Usually we just have to make do with what we have lying around the house. Towels can be capes, paper towel tubes can be swords, balls can be bombs, and so on. It’s amazing how creative boys can be when they are interested and excited about something. Jack made a costume with my mom’s help out of her old black sweat suit and one of those red leather tie belts from the ‘80s. He thought it was the best costume he had ever seen in his life. Forget that fact that it was ten sizes too big.

Luke on the other hand needs nothing to be a superhero. I overheard the boys playing in Jack’s room one day. They were having too much fun, so I immediately became suspicious. When I went to check them out, what I saw was Jack sufficiently accessorized to be a fairly respectable superhero, and Luke was naked. “We’re playing superheroes,” Jack informed me. “I’m Superman,” followed by Luke who told me, “And I’m Nakedboy!” Of course you are, sweetie.

Here is Nakedboy with is wrapping paper roll sword.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's Not Good For Us? We'll Eat It!

With Halloween coming, I am extra sensitive to all of the junk my kids are eating. They get enough candy as it is without adding all of the extra treats that start materializing weeks before the actual holiday. Luke had his Halloween party at school today, and brought home not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 goody bags. None of these contained a tooth brush.

My kids are connoisseurs of less than healthy food. If it has no redeeming healthful qualities, they’ll eat it. No matter what it may be. How can green beans be gross, but sour gummy worms filled with oozing liquid are not?

I think of the book and movie How to Eat Fried Worms and wonder – do boys have more of a penchant for tasting gross things than girls do? Would a group of girls ever come up with a contest like that? Being a girl, I doubt it. But then again, I hear about women on reality television shows like Survivor and Fear Factor and the things that they’ve eaten and can only think one thing - Barf!

Here are some examples of things that my boys have eaten or put in their mouths that defy explanation:

Snow and ice – I know that snow is a kid magnet, but most kids wait until there are at least 6 inches and no visible ground or grass before partaking. My son Jack eats snow even when there has only been a slight dusting. We constantly remind him of the color rules – no brown, no yellow, etc. He also can’t get enough of ice. He will take ice out of a cooler and eat it, thinking it is perfectly clean because it is in a receptacle. I try to explain to him that the ice was touching all of the cans that have been who knows where, not to mention all of the hands that reach in and feel around in the ice for the drinks. He doesn’t care. All this from a kid who won’t let me open his fruit roll up with my teeth. Here is a picture of Jack with my mom in Colorado a few years back. He almost ate all of the snow off the mountain. I thought his face was going to freeze off.

Things off of the ground – I can usually predict when this is going to happen and stop them in time. And, at 4 and 6 years of age, they pretty much know not to eat anything off of the ground. But sometimes it just happens. When we were at the pumpkin patch on Sunday and Luke was escaping from another one of those child-birth type bounce house exits, his gum popped out of his mouth. Before I could stop him he picked it up and popped it back in. He immediately spit it out, and picked grass and dirt off of his tongue for the next 15 minutes.

Grass – Jack didn’t eat grass because he thought it would taste good or because he was curious or because someone dared him. He did it to get away from a girl. There is a girl that always wants to play with him at recess, but he wants to go play tag with the boys. He ends up playing with her because he says it makes her sad if he does not. Come to find out, he has been thinking up creative ways to get out of playing with her. One day, he thought that if he ate grass she would think he was going to be sick because grass is so gross, and that would allow him to escape. It worked, which was counterproductive to my talk with him about why he should not eat grass.

Plant juice – We were at our neighbors’ house one day playing fetch with their dog. The neighbors had pulled giant leaves that looked like elephant ears (life-sized) from one of their many plantings, and laid them on the ground. The boys found them, including the adult boy my husband, and began trying to suck juice out of the stems. They were not successful.

Dog toy – This video shows my son, Luke, playing fetch with my Uncle Kiley on Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. That is an actual used dog toy that they are playing with. And later Luke refused to taste the turkey. It takes most people three or four children before they lighten up on the germ patrol. I did it in two.

All of this adventurousness is paying off a little. Jack has become very brave when trying new foods – at least brave for him. He regularly eats Mexican food now, and tried Chinese food the other night. He ate wontons, shrimp, chicken and beef. He even tried snow peas, broccoli and baby corn. He liked everything but the rice. He put a big bite in his mouth and immediately spit it out on his plate. When John was looking for more rice later, Jack told him to eat his. John wasn’t very excited about the prospect of eating ABC food, so Jack told him, and I quote, “You can eat child spit, you’re in my family dude.”

Monday, October 29, 2007

Accessories Not Included

I am back from my trip and very glad to be home. It’s always a comfort to return, even if a whole pile of chores awaits. Things were in pretty good shape when I got home. We hosted our neighborhood chili cook-off on Saturday, so John and his mom spent most of the week getting the house and yard ready for that party. They did a tremendous job. We have hosted the chili cook-off for three years now, and it is the motivation we need to get our yard and garage into shape. Otherwise, I’d probably never be able to park my car in the garage. We learned our lesson after the first year we hosted when our garage was such a disaster that we wouldn’t even open the door to let anyone in. It rained that year. And hailed.

The boys were happy to see me when I got home. They each gave me a relatively enthusiastic “Hi” before disappearing downstairs. John said that they had a great time while I was gone, and that everyone got along splendidly. Does this say something about my parenting, or are his expectations different than mine? The way I see it, they all band together to make it through the excruciating loneliness they feel when I’m gone. It really isn’t more fun when I’m gone. I’m sure of it. As promised, here is a picture of the boys with their pumpkins, and of John’s Rastafarian and crocodile from past years.

We will be busy for the next few days with Halloween stuff. We have school parades, school parties, and our annual Halloween party and Trick-Or-Treating. The boys have had their costumes for several weeks, and may not even feel like wearing them on the big night since they’ve had them on continuously since we bought them.

I don’t know how everyone else decides what they want to be for Halloween, but it in my male-dominated household (MDH), the decision is easy – Which costume has the best weapons? Looking through the nine hundred catalogs we received, the boys chose the costumes with the biggest, scariest, and most weapons. Never heard of the character before? Who cares? Didn’t you see the size of that sword?

The costume sellers have a real racket there. They put these pictures of kids in the catalogs with all of these awesome accessories, none of which are included with the costume. So, the kids see the picture, fall in love with the costume, and then you have to figure out how to pay for all of the accessories. We took out a second mortgage.

And how about those fake muscles? When did costumes start coming with built-in muscles? Like kids need any help feeling invincible. I feel obligated to keep reminding my children that the muscles are fake, and they really aren’t strong enough to battle evil minions, or to run at full speed into the wall and knock a huge hole in it. Well, that part they can do, but it usually involves broken bones and a trip to the hospital.

Ultimately, Luke went with the Blue Power Ranger and Jack went with black (or bad, as they call him) Spiderman. Unfortunately, our school parties don’t allow masks or weapons. Is there a boy costume out there that doesn’t come with a mask or a weapon? It doesn’t really seem fair. All of the ballerinas, mermaids, fairies, princesses, cheerleaders and brides will have complete costumes. The boys, however, will be maskless and de-accessorized. At least they get to wear the whole shebang while Trick-Or-Treating. And the nice thing about those full body costumes with all the accessories and masks? They won't have to wear coats that cover up their costumes! At least not where I live. Unless you’re a ballerina, mermaid, fairy, princess, cheerleader or bride.

I really wish they’d let John make their costumes for them. Check out the Steve Irwin (Crocodile Hunter) costume he made for a party we went to before we had kids. Yes – he made that crocodile eating his arm.

At the end of the night, all of the men boys at the party burned the crocodile in the bon-fire.

You can look back over my boys’ choices of costumes, and see their progression from cute and cuddly to weapons of mass destruction:

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fun With Pumpkins

It is day two of my business trip, and it feels like one hundred. The boys are keeping busy, and doing lots of fun things with Grandma Sue. Jack will talk to me on the phone, but Luke will not. I tell myself it is a self-preservation thing.

The boys carved pumpkins while I was gone. Of course, I missed the one craft that they can really get into. Knives! Slimy, gooey, innards! Fire! What’s not to like? I can’t wait to see the results. My husband has done some pretty creative carvings, including a Rastafarian and a crocodile. Here's one I did last year:

We bought the pumpkins on Saturday before I went out of town. When I was a kid, a pumpkin patch was a pumpkin patch. There were rows and rows of pumpkins, and if you were lucky, a hay bale or two piled up for climbing. Now, there are elaborate corn mazes, hay and wood forts, petting zoos, playgrounds, bounce houses, crafts, and all kinds of other fun activities that cost $3.00 a pop. We did all of these things at the pumpkin patch, and spent about $50 in the 15 minutes that we were there.

One of the activities was a large bounce house/obstacle course with a big slide at the end. The kids lined up to wait their turn, and the workers let them enter in manageable groups. What is the size of a manageable group when the kids are hopped up on adrenaline and kettle corn, and teenage girls are in charge of the festivities? Apparently a manageable group is a lot less than what was occurring at that place. The recitation of rules went on and on before we were allowed to enter. I got a picture in my mind of the way the development of the rules progressed throughout the day, as I watched the young girl’s mind churn through the events of the day and spit the rules out of her mouth as her eyes glazed over.
  1. No running. Have Fun.
  2. No running. No pushing. Have fun.
  3. No running. No pushing. No sliding head first. Have fun.
  4. No running. No pushing. No sliding head first. No biting. No hair pulling. Have fun.
  5. No running. No pushing. No sliding head first. No biting. No hair pulling. Only one kid on the slide at a time. Have fun. (This is where we came in).
  6. No running. No pushing. No sliding head first. No biting. No hair pulling. Only one kid on the slide at a time. No dragging someone else down the slide. Have fun.
  7. No running. No pushing. No sliding head first. No biting. No hair pulling. Only one kid on the slide at a time. No dragging someone else down the slide. No throwing items down or off of the slide. Have fun.
  8. No running. No pushing. No sliding head first. No biting. No hair pulling. Only one kid on the slide at a time. No dragging someone else down the slide. No throwing items down or off of the slide. No trapping someone in the obstacle course. Have fun.
  9. Do whatever you want. I quit.
Even with all of the rules, the boys had a great time. I don’t know how they got in and out of the obstacle course. It looked like it was giving birth to fully-grown children.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

While I'm Gone

I leave tonight for a business trip and will be gone until Friday afternoon. I haven’t had to do one of these long trips in awhile, so I can’t complain. No matter how many of these trips I go on, it never gets any easier for me. It’s hard to be away from my boys for that long. Some moms, when they hear about my business trips, ask, “Isn’t it nice and relaxing to get away for awhile?” I guess it would seem that way, but it really is not. My days are usually 12 – 14 hours of work, and I am often in some decidedly non-glamorous place in a less than stellar hotel where the only choices for dining are the gas station or the fast food joint.

Before I leave on a business trip, I find it necessary to have everything as organized as possible for those that I’m leaving behind. I tell myself that this is to make John’s life easier, but it really is to make my life easier. If I get everything lined out, I don’t worry while I’m gone about Jack not getting to go to the library because he forgot to bring his books or Luke not having food because he forgot his lunch. Being the anal freak organized person that I am, I find this organization to be a comfort to me while I’m gone.

John’s organizational style is decidedly different than mine. He is much more laid back and doesn’t worry about every minute detail the way I do. Things get done, even if they may get done a little late. And being a little late once in a while is no big deal (I am trying to make this my new mantra, repeating it over and over again until I actually believe it). It’s hard for me to let go of the control of running everyone’s life. John accepts this about me, and tries to ignore my micromanaging and over organizing. So, when I rattle off the to do list at one hundred miles a minute, he nods his head and pretends to listen, knowing full well that he doesn’t need to listen because I will write it all down for him, and then call home at least 4 times a day to make sure it is all actually getting done. He deserves a lot of credit. It’s not easy being the one staying home and running things alone for a week, especially when you know you’re going to be critiqued daily by the one who is gone. I don’t know how he can stand to be around me. It must be true love because he allows me to act this way without beating me over the head.

So, here is the list I am leaving him for this week:

  1. Make sure to bathe the children.
  2. Make sure to feed the pets.
  3. Make sure to feed the children.
  4. Make sure to let the dog out.
  5. Make sure to let the dog in.
  6. Don’t keep the kids up late playing video games.
  7. Don’t wrestle right before bed. Everyone gets wound up and someone gets hurt and then no one can sleep.
  8. Don’t watch scary movies right before bed, or Jack and Luke will hear things moaning in their closets and won’t be able to sleep.
  9. Make sure Luke wears underwear to school.
  10. If the kids are not brushing their teeth and getting their shoes on by 8:15, they will be late for school.
  11. Don’t let them out of the house without brushing their hair.
  12. Don’t let the kids eat the pumpkin innards.
  13. Don’t let the kids track the pumpkin innards through the house.
  14. Don’t let the kids carve pumpkins in their Halloween costumes.
  15. Don’t give the kids knives when carving pumpkins.
  16. Better yet, give the kids markers to draw on their pumpkins.
  17. Don’t let the kids draw on each other with markers.
  18. Make sure Luke eats more than just bread and Tootsie Rolls for dinner.
  19. Please keep all of the mail in a neat little pile on the table so I can look through it when I get home.
  20. Have fun.

This list is just a joke. Really. I don’t leave a list like this for John when I go out of town. Really. The real list is in my head so I can check things off when I call home three times a day.

By the way, while I’m gone this week it will be extremely difficult for me to post on my blog. You probably won’t hear from me again until next week. John’s mom will be staying with John and the boys for a couple of days while I’m gone. Maybe she’ll be able to guest write for me. I’m sure she will encounter some of the male-dominated household (MDH) experiences that I write about in this blog. I can’t wait to hear about them.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Best and Worst Trip of My Life

I travel an above average amount as part of my Environmental Engineering job. When traveling that much, it is normal to have occasional travel delays and unappealing experiences that make you want to work in a sweat shop before you ever get on a plane again. None of my experiences have been that horrible, though I’ve heard my share of stories that, if they happened to me, would send me into early retirement.

On occasion, work takes me to a place that my family has always wanted to vacation and we are able to combine a family trip with a business trip. We did this last year when I had to go to Orlando for a certification exam. The boys have always wanted to go to Sea World and everything just kind of fell into place, so we were able to plan a short but jam-packed three days in Orlando. Wouldn’t you know that the day we were supposed to leave brought with it a freak early November ice storm in St. Louis? That ice storm kicked off one of the best and worst travel experiences of my life:

11:30 am on Thursday, departure day: Sleet starts to fall.
12:00 pm: Sleet turns to ice.
12:30 pm: Check the flight status, and flight is listed as on time.
1:00 pm: Check the flight status, and flight is listed as on time.
1:25 pm: Check the flight status, and flight is listed as on time.
1:30 pm: We all pile in the car to head to the airport. The boys are so excited they can hardly stay in their seats.
1:31 pm: Before we are even out of the garage, I receive a text message that our flight is cancelled. Emotional breakdowns ensue in the back seat.
2:00 pm: I call the airline to try to get us on another flight. I have to be in Orlando by 11:00 am on Friday to take the exam. If I am any later, I miss the exam and the business trip turns into a personal trip (read, no reimbursement of any expenses).
2:30 pm: I have been assured that the four of us have been booked with seating assignments on the 6:30 am flight to Orlando the next day. That whittles our three night trip down to two, but we are determined to go.
3:00 pm: Hotel and rental car are rebooked with new schedule.
4:00 pm: Boys stop crying.
7:30 pm: Get the boys to bed as we have to be at the airport by 4:30 am so have to leave the house by 4:00 am.
8:30 pm: Power in the house goes out. The coldness is good for food in the refrigerator and freezer, but not good for us. We turn on our gas fireplaces and bundle up with blankets.
3:30 am: We leave some water dribbling, as power is still out and we don’t want to come home to busted water lines, and wake the boys to get ready to head to the airport.
4:00 am: We get our car up the ice-slicked driveway, dodge fallen trees, traverse very dangerous roads, and begin our trek to the airport.
4:30 am: We arrive at the Parking Spot, for which I have reserved free parking for the weekend. Parking Spot has no power. We have to park in the airport’s short term parking lot. Cha ching!
5:00 am: We make it to the ticket agent to check in for our flights. None of us are sitting together. No big deal, because we can switch around on the plane. Luke's seat just happens to be on the 6:30 am flight the following day.
5:15 am: Things get worked out and we all manage to be booked on the same flight, still not sitting together.
6:00 am: Boarding time has come and gone.
6:30 am: Kids are getting restless.
7:00 am: Kids are getting agitated.
7:30 am: Kids have passed over into the superhyper delirious stage.
8:00 am: Parents are ready to give up. Kids are running around like Tasmanian devils.
8:30 am: We board the plane! Yes!
9:00 am: Still sitting.
9:30 am: Still sitting.
10:00 am: They begin deicing the plane.
11:00 am: They are still deicing the plane. By this time, Luke has taken his nap and woke up, and we have played with all of the toys we brought as distractions and ate all of our snacks. There are 23 other children on this plane, 5 of which are not crying.
12:00 pm: They are still deicing the plane. I have missed my exam, which was the whole reason we were going to Orlando in the first place (cha-ching, cha-ching!)
12:30 pm: Wheels up! Here we come, Orlando.
1:00 pm: Kids are starving. We haven’t eaten since 6:00 am and have no more snacks. The flight attendants have no snacks.
4:30 pm: We land in Orlando, get our bags and head to the rental car counter (on a bus, of course, because we haven’t been compartmentalized enough today).
4:45 pm: Guess what? No car for you! But I’m a Gold member, so they come up with a car for us.
5:00 pm: Get to the car, which was a mile walk from the counter with exhausted, hungry, tired children and cranky adults. Someone has left the passenger side window down. Did I mention it had been raining in Orlando? At this point, the trek back to the counter to ask for another car is more than overwhelming. John lays his jacket out and sits his butt in the wet seat with a squish. The kids fine this hilarious. Finally, something to laugh about. We head for the hotel.
5:30 pm: Arrive at the hotel. Guess what? Nothing is wrong here! Surprise! You have a room! Our pool is open! The restaurant is open! We head for the bar restaurant and spend the rest of the night drinking swimming.
Saturday and Sunday – We have one of the best trips ever, exploring all Sea World has to offer.
Sunday 10:00 pm: Arrive in St. Louis. Our power is still out. The boys and I head to my mom’s house. John heads home to check on our house.
Sunday 11:00 pm: John holds a watery funeral for our fish and frogs, who all have frozen except for one. He is dubbed “Lucky.”
Monday 7:00 pm: Power is restored to our house and we return home, after being gone for three days that felt like 300 years.

I know compared to those poor people who spent 8 hours stuck on a plane on the runway, my story probably doesn’t compare. But for us, it was about as bad as it can get. At least the bad stuff happened on the way there and not on the way home, so all my boys have are good memories of the trip. And I have a good story to tell.


Our Christmas card photo

Watching the dolphins. Peaceful, right? That's Luke going "eeek, eeek."

Feeding the dolphins

Feeding the sting rays.

Not tired yet.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Gray Factor

My family has a history of aging gracefully. People have always mistaken members of my family to be younger than they truly are. This used to bother me, especially when I was 23 and would not be allowed to do things that an 18 year old could do unless I produced an ID. I was told then that I would appreciate looking younger when I reached a certain age. That probably would have been true, if it still applied.

You see, those people in my family that have looked so young throughout their lives were not living in male-dominated households (MDH). They were living in female-dominated or equal gender households. I live in a MDH, and because of this I suffer from a condition known as The Gray Factor. The Gray Factor is a male-dominated household ailment (MDHA) known to attack the age defying genes that exist in my body causing gray hairs to sprout on my head. It also causes wrinkles, lines, furrows, age spots, and bags under my eyes. I know that these are the facts of life and everyone is faced with these changes when growing older. But, I have the age-defying gene! I looked like a 10 year old boy until I was 16 and was promised I would appreciate this gene when I was older.

My first gray hair came soon after Jack was born. He had colic and vomited copious amounts of fluid 6 times a day. Then, when he became mobile and began colluding with his father to see how hard they could push the envelope without giving me a heart attack, the one gray hair turned into a little village of grays. That’s about the time I decided my boys were turning me gray.

I have assigned the following Gray Factor points as a measure of how many gray hairs a day’s activities may cause to sprout on my head. This is in no way a complete list, but you’ll get the idea.

  1. Boys losing an item = 1 gray hair
  2. Boys losing an item for the third straight day in a row = 3 gray hairs
  3. Boys not cleaning up after themselves = 2 gray hairs
  4. Trying to clean up after themselves and spilling drinks and food all over the floor in the process = 4 gray hairs
  5. Not eating a good lunch at school = 2 gray hairs
  6. Pouring water out of the bathtub, flooding the bathroom floor = 5 gray hairs
  7. Peeing on the floor = 10 gray hairs
  8. Hiding from me in public places and not coming out, even when I threaten the worst possible punishment (e.g., throwing the Gameboy in the trash) = 25 gray hairs
  9. Ganging up on me to get to do something I don’t want them to do and telling me, “Daddy is the boss of you.” = 7 gray hairs
  10. When we are running really late for school, and the boys suddenly forget how to dress themselves, brush their teeth, or walk = 10 gray hairs
  11. Making me repeat myself 3 300 times = 1 gray hair for each repeat
  12. Playing any of the dangerous wrestling, chasing, tossing, jumping, climbing games that I talk about on this blog = varies based on the intensity of the game, but usually 5 to 10 gray hairs, plus 10 more for each injury
  13. Asking for a puppy, ferret, guinea pig, etc. = 3 gray hairs
  14. Asking for a baby brother = 100 gray hairs

Based on this, you’d expect me to be complete gray-headed. As you can see from my picture, I am not (yes, that is my natural color). I have assigned the following points to show how the Gray Factor can be counteracted:

  1. When Jack says, “Ladies first,” and holds the door for me even when my hands aren’t full = -3 gray hairs
  2. Agreeing on what show to watch or what game to play without a fight = -5 gray hairs
  3. Sharing a new toy = -3 gray hairs
  4. Eating vegetables at dinner = -3 gray hairs
  5. Helping with chores they don’t normally have to do, like the laundry = -5 gray hairs
  6. Playing something they don’t really want to at school when their other friends are doing something else so a class mate is not sad or lonely = -15 gray hairs
  7. Telling me that I drive better than daddy = -5 gray hairs
  8. Getting out of bed, getting dressed, and brushing their teeth in the morning without me even asking = -10 gray hairs
  9. Telling me a funny story or singing a new song learned at school = -5 gray hairs
  10. Sitting at the kitchen table quietly doing a puzzle or drawing while I cook dinner = -15 gray hairs
  11. Saying “I love you,” or, “You’re the best mommy in the world.” = -50 gray hairs
  12. Giving me a hug and a kiss, even at school in front of friends = -100 gray hairs per hug or kiss

It doesn’t take much to keep me from going completely gray. An “I love you” here and there and some hugs and kisses does the trick nicely.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Stronger Than Gravity

Some may think that gravity is the strongest force on earth. I know better. The strongest force on earth is the magnetic force that permeates space between my boys and any number of things that I would prefer them to avoid. As sure as a compass will point toward magnetic north, there are things that my boys are drawn to anytime, anywhere. And the same way people are powerless to resist the pull of gravity, I am powerless to resist the magnetic forces that rule my male-dominated household (MDH).

Here is a list that I put together of things that have magnetic control over my boys. Each of these things attracts my boys with a varying level of force. The force depends on the appeal of the item and its distance from the boys. The closer and seemingly more dangerous something is, the higher the magnetic force.

Holes – I used to work in environmental remediation. Anytime we dug a hole, we’d attract an audience of every Y chromosome that happened to be walking by. Are boys enraptured by the possibilities of what may be buried or living in a hole? My boys can’t walk by a hole without stopping to inspect it. If it is a small hole, they poke around in it and try to dig it out to see what may be hiding. If it is a big hole, they want to live in it.

Big piles of dirt – Nothing invites a climb like a big pile of dirt. Our school district is building a new concession stand at the soccer fields. To do this they needed to bring in a huge pile of dirt. On a Saturday. During soccer games. See where this is headed? Before long, the big pile of dirt looked like an ant hill. This pile magnetism also applies to big piles of sand, bricks, salt, logs, rocks, etc.

Water – Water is a huge attraction. And I don’t mean swimming pools, although they have their mainstream appeal. I mean running outside in the rain, splashing in puddles in parking lots, waddling in mud puddles in the yard, and wading through creeks in the woods.

Fire – We bought a huge chimenea for our back yard. I’d like to say we use it for warmth, but it’s more often used for burning leaves and sticks. Whenever we have a fire going, I have to stand in front of it with my arms out to keep my boys from getting too close. They love to throw things in it and watch them burn.

Construction – Boys love construction. Can you blame them? Look at the marketing directed at boys from birth. It’s all trucks and construction play sets and blocks and Legos. John took us down to watch the old Busch Stadium being demolished. My boys were in construction heaven. So were the other men lined up and down the sidewalk with portable chairs, coolers of beer and video cameras.

Caves – My dad and stepmom live in a wonderful little country home with a spring-fed pond and lots of acreage. My dad, who is all boy at heart, is quite the explorer. He has found many caves near his home. When we visit him, he shares with us stories of his adventures into the caves. My boys hear this: “Blah blah blah blah cave blah blah blah explore.” Some of the caves are more than we can handle, like the one in which the spring originates that is accessed through a hole in the ground followed by a 60 foot drop (a hole and a cave!). I’m not completely insane that I would let them go into this one. Others, like the one that is a short hike up a hill with a wide opening and a high ceiling, I can deal with. The boys even have their own head lamps for wearing when exploring caves.

Sideshows – Anything that’s a little freaky and out of the ordinary gains an audience. I tell them staring is rude, but they fall into a hypnotic trance and have trouble looking away. We recently stopped at a gas station where we encountered a dog with one eye being carried in a baby sling by the owner who was riding a motorcycle, and a miniature pony roped into the back of a pickup truck that had a wood fence built around it the driver of which had one glass eye and another eye that was only partially in working order. I really wanted to take pictures because you had to see it to believe it, but I thought that would be disrespectful and most likely get me shot.

Anything that can be turned into a makeshift playground – This is especially true for things that can be used as slides and swings. Picture a vine, hanging over a ditch that is filled with water and housing hungry crocodiles. No worries, mate. A swing is a swing.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What Goes Around Comes Around

Call it Karma. Call it justice. Call it retribution. Whatever you call it, I call it about time. Let me explain.

For over a month now, I’ve been writing about my male-dominated household (MDH) and the experiences I endure while living in my MDH. A lot of the experiences and adventures that occur in my MDH are perpetuated by the big boy of the house, my husband. Once he starts the boys down a path, it is hard to get them to stop. Like, for example, the game of football the boys invented. John throws the ball to them, they catch it, and then barrel at him like a runaway train head first knocking him backwards into the pile of pillows. This is a game that I am expected to play as well, and I just can’t say no to the boys when they turn on the charm. John finds this all pretty amusing. I find it pretty painful.

Last week, I had the pleasure of witnessing fathers finally getting a little taste of what they have been enabling all these years. Jack is on a soccer team made up of first and second grade boys. At practice last week, I watched the dads try to coral the boys, hold their attention, and get them to run practice drills. My first instinct was to help the coaches, to tell the boys to settle down and do what their coaches asked. I looked around at the other moms, who were watching the practice unfold with knowing and somewhat satisfied grins on their faces, and decided the best thing I could do was join the other moms. After all, it’s not often that moms get to witness the tide turn. My only regret was that there weren’t more of the dads trying to help coach so that they could get a little taste of their own medicine. Was that malicious of us? Perhaps. But it sure was fun to watch.

The boys were wrestling, they were chasing each other, they were picking each other up into the air. The small cones used to mark boundaries were used by the boys as weapons. They threw the cones, they hid the cones, they jumped on the cones and tried to crush the cones. While the coaches tried to talk and direct, the boys yelled and chattered and giggled. They tried to keep the balls away from the coaches when the coaches were trying to gather them. I heard coaches say, “Do that again and you’ll have to sit out,” or, “If you’re not listening you need to go sit down,” only to be totally and completely ignored by the boys. The coaches oozed frustration. The moms oozed gratification.

The head coach, Danny, is a poor young sucker that got talked into coaching this team. He does not have kids, and I doubt after this experience that he ever will. He does seem to be gaining a little insight into the workings of boys, however. Near the end of practice, he took the “If you can’t beat them, join them approach,” and set the boys off running back and forth across the field. No balls, no rules, just run as fast as you can for as long as you can. They ran like maniacs. And, of course, while they ran they screamed, and giggled, and tried to trip and tag each other.

A saw a young girl walk up to watch the end of practice. Maybe a sister of one of the boys? She just stood there and shook her head, her own knowing look discernible on her face. We know, honey, we know.

Here is our pillow dive game, invented when Luke was still in diapers. This has been upgraded to football tackle.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Crafty, Not Crafty

My boys are crafty, as in sneaky, cunning, and tricky. They are not crafty, as in sit quietly and peacefully at a table and color or make stuff. I’ve tried to get them to do crafts, but they are just not into it. Is this a boy thing, or have my boys been irreversibly shaped by the rush that they get when doing the male-dominated household (MDH) things that require megajoules of energy and leave me begging for Motrin at the end of the day?

I visited a girlfriend a while back. She has three adorable daughters. John had gone golfing, and I had become inflicted with a bladder infection over the weekend in a city that was not my own with no doctor to come to my rescue. My boys were as rowdy as ever, and her girls were all sitting nicely at the kitchen island doing crafts together. I tried really hard not to hate her. Instead, I prayed for some bolt of enlightenment to enter my boys and convince them that doing crafts was oodles of more fun than chase, wrestle, attack, or any other game that required me to move. As I suspected they would, my prayers went unanswered. God knows boys, and wouldn’t dare try to change them.

So today I decided to try the craft thing again. This time, I used cookies. And icing. And sprinkles. My strategy to ply them with the promise of sugar worked, and the boys happily joined me at the kitchen table to roll out the dough (Pillsbury, thank you very much) and cut the Halloween shapes with our cookie cutters that I had bought many Halloweens ago but have rarely used. Then they waited impatiently as the cookies baked and cooled, and were raring to go when ready for the decorating stage.

I learned a few things during this cookie extravaganza:

  1. My boys don’t do crafts because I can’t stand the mess.
  2. My boys are uninterested in helping clean up the mess once they grow tired of the activity.
  3. My boys grow tired of the activity approximately 5 minutes and 32 seconds into it.
  4. Round sprinkles can roll for miles before they come to a stop.
  5. Of the 4 million sprinkles that come out of the container, about 25 make it on to the cookie. The rest go all over the table and the floor.
  6. Once I say they can’t eat anymore of the cookies or icing but can keep decorating, all interest flies out the window.
  7. I can’t decorate any of the cookies, until the boys lose interest and then I am in charge of decorating the rest.
  8. Either way, I don’t get to eat any.
  9. Each cookie must have one bite taken out of it before it is considered complete.
  10. Icing sticks to hair almost as well as gum does.

At least they enjoyed eating them. So, maybe we'll try again next year. Anyway, here are pics of our cookie extravaganza.

I think only one or two of these cookies made it onto the tray without a bite missing. I guess we won't share them with friends. We will share them with dad.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Top Ten Fifteen Phrases Used By Me in My MDH

15. Don’t answer the door naked.

14. You have to wear underwear to school.

13. You have to wear clothes when people are over.

12. Please stop flashing the babysitter. (Do you recognize a theme here?)

11. You better stop annoying your brother before he punches you.

10. Take your finger out of your brother's nose (eye, ear, mouth, etc.)

9. Don’t wrestle on the bunk bed!

8. Don’t touch the snake!

7. Stay away from the edge!

6. What's that smell?

5. You can only jump from the fifth step, not the tenth step. (or fifteenth, or twentieth)

4. No, I don’t know where you put it. I’m not in charge of your stuff.

3. Why doesn’t anyone ever listen to me the first time I ask something? (Said in a whiny, frustrated tone of voice that is immediately filtered by my boys’ Selective Hearing)

2. The first one to get hurt has to go into timeout.

And, the number one phrase used by me in my MDH:

1. Who peed on the floor?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Tooth Experiment

In a male-dominated household (MDH), even the pulling of a tooth has to turn into a perilous experiment.

Jack has had a loose tooth for awhile, and while eating corn on the cob at dinner last night it became even looser and started bleeding. I have to believe that, in a household not overrun with boys, a loose tooth would mean wiggling and twisting and moving it around until it fell out naturally. Then, it would calmly go under the pillow to await the Tooth Fairy.

In my MDH, a tooth this loose called for the string around the door knob experiment. Jack was all for it, even behaving very impatiently while John gathered the supplies and decided the best door to use for slamming. Luke also was teeming with excitement. He couldn’t wait to see Jack’s tooth come flying out of his mouth.

The boys were so excited in fact that John, a boy through and through, promised that they could do super jumps off of the bunk bed once the tooth fell out. He said, “When the tooth comes out, you guys can do super jumps off of the bed and mommy can go somewhere else so she doesn’t have to watch.” Such thoughtfulness.

I couldn’t bear to watch either the tooth pull or the super jumps, so I trained the video camera in the right direction and closed my eyes, waiting for the cries of pain to begin.

The String

The Celebration (Notice Jack's dancing, and the fact that he calls me a Secret Video Villain, and tells me to stop taping because I don't like it when they jump.)

Here is a video of the Ninja Kitty, discussed in another post. You see at the end that Luke stops behaving like Ninja Kitty and says that he stubbed his toe. I turned off the camera to check on him, and he Ninja Kitty kicked me when I got over to him. I should have known better.


I saw this joke and thought women, even those not living in a MDH, would appreciate it:

When a man volunteers to do the 'BBQ' the following chain of events are put into motion:

  1. The woman goes to the store.

  2. The woman fixes the salad, vegetables, and dessert.

  3. The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils, and takes it to the man, who is lounging beside the grill, beer in hand.

  4. The man places the meat on the grill.

  5. The woman goes inside to set the table and check the vegetables.

  6. The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is burning.

  7. The man takes the meat off the grill and hands it to the woman.

  8. The woman prepares the plates and brings them to the table.

  9. After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes.

  10. Everyone praises the man and thanks him for his cooking efforts.

  11. The man asks the woman how she enjoyed "her night off."

  12. And, upon seeing her annoyed reaction, concludes that there's just no pleasing some women.

Submitted by Barb, Unionville, Pa.

Monday, October 8, 2007

A Non-Outnumbered Weekend

Every year, my mom tries to take my boys on a special night or weekend trip without John and me. Jack and Luke think this is great fun, getting to do things they wouldn’t normally get to do - like stay up until 2 am watching movies.

She took them to the Lake of the Ozarks to stay at Tan-Tar-A for the weekend. They left first thing Friday morning and returned Sunday afternoon. This is one of those areas where a mother’s emotions are in conflict. On one hand, I was excited by the prospect of a relaxing weekend without the boys. On the other hand, I was saddened by the prospect of a lonely weekend without the boys. Knowing that the boys would have a terrific time tipped the scale from saddened to excited.

I was also excited at the prospect of spending a weekend in a house in which I was not outnumbered by boys. Just me and my husband! Mano y womano! I pictured lazy hours around the house, sleeping in, reading the newspaper in bed, perusing the wares at the Best of Missouri Market, eating out at a fabulous restaurant, seeing a movie of my choice and so on. Basically, the weekend had the makings of a woman’s (at least my) dream.

So, how did I spend my weekend? In Columbia, Missouri at the Mizzou-Nebraska football game. How is it that, even when I’m not outnumbered, I end up doing decidedly male activities? No offense to the alums of Mizzou or to the women who love to watch football. I just happen to be neither of those things.

When our neighbors invited us, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go. But, I had never done the whole tailgate/college football thing, so I was curious. And our neighbors are great fun, so I knew it would be a fun time. We could leave for Columbia early on Saturday, tailgate, watch the game, drive back to St. Louis, and I’d still have plenty of time to cram in some relaxing. But, when I found out that the day game was changed to a night game that started at 8:15 pm, I saw my relaxing weekend slipping away.

So how was it? Magnificent. The energy at this game, from the tailgating crowd (some of which started before 10 am so I’d say their revelry may have been fueled more by beverage than the upcoming game) to the crowd at the game was palpable. It was hard not to be taken in and caught up by the experience of it all.

There were over 70,000 people in attendance at the stadium. Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, seats less than 50,000. This may be the norm in other college towns, but where I went to college (University of Missouri-Rolla), sports just weren’t that important and the football facilities were slightly larger than that of a football town's high school. And, it was a “Gold Rush” game, so everyone but Nebraska fans wore gold.

One of my favorite parts of the game was when the crowd started doing the wave. I normally don’t care much about the wave, but to watch it progress around a stadium filled with gold was irresistible. There was one small section filled with red shirts, the Nebraska fans, who didn’t much feel like doing the wave. Whenever the wave reached this section, all of the fans in gold stopped cheering and yelled “Boooo,” until the next section of gold started the wave again and the crowd switched from booing to cheering. It was hilarious! I tried to take video of it to post, but only seeing it live could do it justice.

To top it all off, Mizzou creamed Nebraska 41 to 6 (sorry Nebraska fans). It was an unforgettable night.

Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow. Had I done what I wanted to do on my non-outnumbered weekend, I would have missed out on an experience bursting with such exuberance and exhilaration that it captivated me, a non-football fan, so completely that I had to write about it on my blog.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Glossary of Terms

The people at Merriam-Webster know that new words and terms are created daily in the English language. A lot of these start out as slang, but some spring up from advancement in science or technology or from growing trends. The dictionary is regularly updated to include these new words that are used so often in our vernacular they are deemed appropriate additions to the dictionary. For example , the 2007 copyright version of the best-selling Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary, Eleventh Edition - available this fall in bookstores everywhere – added the word ginormous. Are you telling me that this word is used enough that it needs to be added to the dictionary? People can’t just say really big or humongous anymore? I guess we can chalk that up to the age of the super size, where even words about size have to be super sized.

The point I am trying to make here is that new words are created every day. It is important that there is a resource for learning these new words so people can avoid making ginormous mistakes, such as ordering ravioli when you meant to order agnolotti.

I have my own contenders for additions to future revisions of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, some of which are listed here for your reference when reading my blog. Be warned - some of them are gross, but I live in a house full of boys so you should expect that. Here they are in no particular order.

Male-dominated household (MDH) – a household in which the female member(s) is/are outnumbered by the male members. In my household, the ratio is 1 female to 3 males (two females if you count my dog).

Male-dominated household ailments (MDHA) – The illnesses or ailments that a female may suffer from or contract while living in a MDH, or that may manifest in the males living within the MDH. Examples include Selective Hearing and all of its subsets, Questionitis and Wrestlemania.

__enis – The way I have to refer to a certain member of the male anatomy within this blog or be faced with less than stellar advertisements appearing. I don’t think that the blank will outsmart any of them though, so bear with me as I catch them and filter them out.

__agina – The female version of the above.

Down in China – According to my son Luke, the location of the above mentioned female part, as in “Girls have a __agina because it’s down by China.” Thanks to my sister Shannon for teaching him that one. I don’t think it will make the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Wenis __enis – The cute nickname by which my boys refer to their anatomy. If they’re saying the clinical term anyway, why not just leave it at that? I guess it sounds funnier in a rhyme.

Number 3 – What the boys call it when they have to poop. There is no Number 2, because according to them you always pee when you poop. So, Number 1 plus Number 2 is Number 3. Who knew using the bathroom could incorporate math lessons?

Mercy flush – The habit of flushing in the middle of Number 3 to clear out some of the odor.

Wet farts – I cannot even believe I am typing this. According to my son Jack, this is gas that leaves a stain in your underwear. Please forgive me.

Hate schedule – Apparently, this is the schedule that my son Luke keeps in his head of all the people and things that have made him mad that day. He informed me of this schedule very casually the other day. Out of the blue in the middle of a very pleasant evening, he said, “Hey, mom. I put my whole family on my hate schedule today. Even you and daddy.” It's not a list, it's a schedule, as if he is sitting around planning a calendar on who he is going to hate that day and how much he will hate them and for how long. The lower the score, the better, but it looks like you can never make it off the schedule. My sister, who Luke loves more than anyone, is on the schedule but she is at zero. I am at 132.

Ninja Kitty – Luke’s alter ego, the one he uses when he tricks you by acting all cute and sweet and purring like a kitty, and then sending a Ninja Kick at your body when you try to cuddle with him.

Fermp – This word has broad uses to cover many nonspecific situations. It can be used to fill a silence. It can be used to make someone laugh. It can be used when you are poking someone in the belly. It can be used when you are doing something silly or when you drop something or make a mistake. It can be used as a filler when you don't want to say something bad in front of the kids. Like when you stub your toe and scream out, "Fermp!"

I hope to update this glossary often. If you have any words you would like to include, send them along and I’ll add them to the next update. We'll see if we can get in the next dictionary update.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Are You a Monkey or a Boy?

Is there a surface in the world that a boy will not climb on? If there is, please tell me because I would like to build my house and all of my furniture out of it.

My boys are drawn to any surface or structure that has even a miniscule chance of being climbable (Is that a word? It is in a male-dominated household (MDH)). The need to climb intensifies when: 1. I am in a hurry, 2. We are running late, and 3. We are in the middle of the most crowded event in history with cars zooming by at 45 miles per hour (the more dangerous the situation, the better the climb apparently.) Most days, I have to add an extra 15 minutes to our schedule to ensure that we arrive at our destination on time. If I forget to do that and we are running behind, I have learned to use my body as a shield, blocking the boys’ view of any potentially climbable apparatus.

I understand the joy of climbing on certain things at certain times, and often participate in the predictable climbing extravaganzas. When we go hiking, we climb over and across fallen logs, we use fallen trees as bridges, we climb up and slide down big boulders, and we hop over rocks to cross creeks. This climbing I can understand. Why else go for a hike, if not to be adventurous and climb on whatever you can find?

Then there is the nonstandard climbing that my boys partake in. When we went to the balloon race a few weeks ago, the boys couldn’t go 10 feet without stopping to climb on something. We almost missed the race, even though we started heading that way an hour before it was scheduled to begin. They climbed on retaining walls. The climbed on stair rails (What’s wrong with just using the stairs? They’re right there!). They climbed on street curbs. They climbed on benches. They climbed on bike racks, from which Jack almost had to be rescued. Jack even tried to climb a lamppost. I think he was surprised that he couldn’t make it to the top. He must think he’s part monkey. Thanks a lot, Darwin!

When Jack was a baby, his love of climbing was a terrifying proposition for me. He had no fear, and there was nothing in front of him that he would not attempt to climb. This was a startling introduction into motherhood for me, and started my hair down the path to gray. Until, one day almost by accident, we came up with the brilliant game we called “Playing Couch.” This game consisted of John sitting on one side of the couch and me on the other. Jack would climb back and forth between us, on the top, front, back, and sides of the couch. Jack thought this was a great climbing game, but it really was a way for John and I to get a little rest.

Now that the boys are older, John doesn’t care to play the safe and restful climbing games anymore, not that the boys would participate. John has actually helped and encouraged them on their path to becoming climbing legends. He started small, with furniture. Then he advanced them to the tops of playground equipment, like jungle gyms or monkey bars.

Then he moved them onto trees. Then, the top of the car.

Then, they advanced to rock walls. And not the small rock walls. I'm talking the big ones that trained climbers practice on. What does that leave?

And I am powerless to stop it. I know that I'm about to see something scary whenever John yells, "Heather, bring the camera!"

Luckily, we live in St. Louis where there is a wonderful place called City Museum. I am both terrified and thrilled by this place. It is an explosion of an adult boy's imagination, and offers plenty of safe opportunities for climbing. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Big, Bigger, Biggest

I just read a news story about one of the families that was featured on The Supernanny. I never watched this reality television show, but was familiar with its premise of sending the Supernanny into homes with overly rambunctious children (I’m being kind) to try to tame them. In 2005, the show was in the UK helping a woman with her five children, I think all of them boys under the age of eleven. Talk about your male-dominated households (MDH)! I do feel for the mother of this MDH. I have two boys and find it hard to channel their energy into something safe and non-destructive. I can’t imagine trying to do this with five boys, with dad making six. Anyway, I guess being on Supernanny didn’t work because TMZ reported that the three-year old in the family just burned the house down. He reportedly started the fire in the kitchen, and when the mom was trying to put it out he ran into the dining room and set the curtains on fire. The family is now staying in a hotel. Who can guess the only thing worse than living in a house with five boys? Living in a hotel with five boys. Well, that’s not true. The worst thing would be having your three-year old burn your house down and being forced to live in a hotel. I’m very thankful that no one was hurt. At least the mom will have a hotel maid service for awhile. Read the story here:

My kids, as far as I know, have never ever played with matches, or lighters, or candles, or anything else that might start a fire. In fact, Jack brought a fire extinguisher that he made home from school and had me set it by the stove in case of a grease fire. I think my boys are afraid of fire, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned because they don’t seem to be afraid of anything else. The more dangerous something is, the bigger the attraction. In physics, magnetism is one of the phenomena by which materials exert attractive or repulsive forces on other materials. Some well known materials that exhibit easily detectable magnetic properties are nickel, iron and their alloys. In motherhood, magnetism is one of the phenomena by which dangerous situations exert attractive forces on my sons. Some well known situations that exhibit easily detectable magnetic properties are any structures that are accessible for climbing, ledges dangling over death drops, and poisonous or rabid critters and their relatives.

Is danger a game to all boys, or just in my house? Or, I should say the game is, “Let’s do something that will scare the pants off of mom and see how she reacts.” If I don’t react sufficiently, because the older they get the more it takes to freak me out, they escalate the level of danger. They do this until they hit my breaking point, or until someone cries. With John’s help (as in, “Hey boys, come jump off of the bunk bed onto the other bed!”), they build up my resistance to their antics and I let things go on and on until someone gets hurt. An injury lowers my resistance and they have to build it up again by starting slow and working to bigger things. It goes something like this:

Big: Jump off of the couch onto the bean bag chair placed across the room.
Bigger: Jump off of the couch onto the bean bag chair placed across the room with a mouth full of apple.
Biggest: Throw your brother off of the couch onto the bean bag chair placed across the room.

Big: Point out the snake in the grass.
Bigger: Point out the snake in the grass while poking it with a stick.
Biggest: Pick up the snake (my kids are too scared for this one, but not my husband).

Big: Jump from the lowest bunk bed ladder rung onto the bottom bed.
Bigger: Jump from the highest bunk bed ladder rung onto the bottom bed.
Biggest: Jump from the top of the bunk bed to the twin bed on the other side of the room.

Big: Stand at the edge of the cliff that drops 1,000 feet to the water fall.
Bigger: Stand at the edge of the cliff that drops 1,000 feet to the water fall and throw rocks in.
Biggest: Climb over the edge of the cliff that drops 1,000 feet to the water fall (my didn't get away with this one, but my uncle and his son did.)

My uncle and cousin standing on the ledge above the waterfall. Doesn't look too bad, right?

Now, from a distance, you can see where my uncle and cousin are standing on the ledge above the waterfall. See the blue and red specks in the middle of the photo? That is them.

When I try to quash something that looks particularly dangerous, I get the “Boys will be boys” speech. Sometimes this works on me, but only when I can leave the room and compel my husband to take the blame when someone gets hurt (although, as you read under my “You Should’ve…” post, I get the blame anyway). Other times, I use the “Better safe than sorry speech” and force the activity to stop. I’m trying to find the balance between letting my boys be boys, and protecting them from hurt. If the boys wear themselves out during the day and fall asleep easily at bedtime, and the worst thing that happened that day was some shed tears and a band-aid or two, I figure that I succeeded in finding the balance for that day. Then I thank God for letting us survive another day, and pray for balance the next day.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

I know that all kids love to hide, but I think the motive behind hiding is different between boys and girls. When I was a girl playing hide-and-seek, I recall wanting to find the best hiding spot so that no one would be able to find me. One time at a birthday party I hid so well that everyone forgot about me until I walked into the house many minutes after the game had ended and the cake had been cut.

Boys, in my experience in my male-dominated household (MDH), are a different story. It seems to me that boys like to hide for two reasons: 1. To sneak attack you as you walk by and 2. To cause you to have a heart attack from fear that they have gone missing.

The last time I took the boys to the mall with me, which I have not done again without reinforcements, they hid in the middle of one of those round, rotating clothes racks. They are smart and picked one displaying pants so I couldn’t even see their feet. As I ran around calling their names and threatening all manners of punishment if they did not come out, the giggling finally gave them away. It was a sale weekend so it took me a very, very long time to find them. They didn’t understand why I was so mad and why we left without buying anything.

Luke in particular can find the smallest of secret places and squeeze his body into them. We were shopping at Target one day, and I was keeping him close by my side because I really needed things and couldn’t leave without buying those things as I had done at the mall. I looked up to reach an item on the shelf, and when I looked down he was gone. He had managed to squeeze himself onto the bottom shelf behind the cleaning supplies without moving any of them an inch or making a sound. I was too impressed to be mad.

The time I lost him at Monkey Joe’s was another story. I don’t know if you have heard of Monkey Joe’s, but it is a fabulous place with huge inflatables. And the inflatables are not just your average bounce houses; there are enormous slides and obstacle courses. If you have one of these where you live and have a house full of boy energy, I highly recommend it.

Anyway, one of the inflatables has a giant monkey, the legs of which make the entrance to the obstacle course. Luke was heading into the obstacle course, and I told him I’d meet him on the other side at the bottom of the slide. When he never came down the slide, I went back to the front. He wasn’t at the front, so I figured he had made it to the back so I went back to the slide. On and on it went until I figured out he wasn’t coming through. I sent Jack in to look for him. Jack informed me that Luke was not in the obstacle course. Thus began the manhunt, with me running around in a panic and sending Jack into every obstacle course and bounce house to look for Luke (because if you’re an adult, especially one that suffers from claustrophobia, there is just no way you’re getting into every nook and cranny). Jack thought it was a game, but I was panic-stricken. John had gone to the car to get a water bottle, and when he came back he set off to look as well. I told the management to lock the place down, which they wouldn’t because they said no one could get out the front door without them noticing (I wanted to ask if they had ever witnessed the stealth with which boys operate, but didn’t want to waste time on that argument). Some nice father eventually found Luke hiding behind and underneath the giant monkey’s shoe. I gave Luke a big hug and then went immediately to the bathroom and cried.

Given my boys’ history of hiding, I should have known better. But, as a product of the Kirby bloodline, I began to think and imagine the worst possible scenario. I think I learned my lesson. I know my boys, and my boys love to hide. I just have to improve my seeking skills so I will save myself a lot of premature gray hairs and wrinkles when they hide in crowded public places in the future.

Now that I fully understand their penchant for hiding, I have learned to embrace it and use it to my advantage. For example, I needed to buy a new desk for my office over the weekend. When John and I were looking at desks and trying to decide what we could get and what would fit in the car, the boys were being their usual cooperative selves by running around the store like maniacs. I spotted a nice little cranny under a desk and pointed it out to them. While we paid and got the desk loaded, they sat in their secret hiding spot feeling as if they were getting away with something.

Luke can almost completely disappear when he wants to.

Fun at Monkey Joe's, before the incident.

More fun, after the incident.

Monday, October 1, 2007

I Am Not Your Napkin

Some days, I think back on what I was like before I was a wife and a mother. I know that person still resides in me somewhere, but a lot of times I just feel like The Wife or The Mother and not like Heather. As mothers, it’s hard for women to maintain their previous selves. Oftentimes, that person gets pushed aside by the new roles and absorbed within, peeking out occasionally when gathered with friends or when stealing some alone time.

Since becoming a mother, I’ve taken on many roles, none of which I classified myself as prior to the birth of my boys. Some of these are very common with motherhood, such as The Maid, The Cook, and The Chauffeur. These go with the territory. But, I’ve also taken on other roles that I never expected:

The Pack Mule. This is especially true when I am trying to get from the car to the house with the keys, my purse, the mail, the boys’ shoes that they kicked off in the car, the backpacks from school, the Gameboy case, the bags from the store or McDonald’s, and 1,000 other things. Usually, right when I’ve got everything balanced just so and one more item will cause me to tip over like a turtle (this happened to me at the airport once in the middle of the thoroughfare – quite embarrassing), Luke asks me, “Will you carry these toys for me because I only have two hands and already have two things to carry?” Hellllooo? Can’t you see all of the things I’m carrying? Of course he can, but the boys in my male-dominated household (MDH) suffer from Selective Eyesight, a condition that I will talk about another day.

The Tackle Dummy. Have you ever been walking along peacefully, only to be ambushed from behind and dragged to the floor? At my house, we call this pile on, as in “Everyone pile on mommy!” This can be particularly hard on someone that suffers from claustrophobia, especially when you are held on the ground unable to move your limbs. Usually telling my boys that they have until the count of three to let me up will advert any enclosed space-type freak outs. I have to admit that I am sometimes the Tackle Dummy by choice. We have great fun at my house when I place pillows behind me and one in front of me, and let the boys run full-bore at me from across the room, diving into the pillow and knocking me onto the other pillows. This is a game that could only be imagined in a MDH, and I credit my husband John with its invention.

The Punching Bag. This is similar to the Tackle Dummy, but comes more in the form of me being the target for karate practice or simulating the moves of a Power Ranger or TMNT.

The Playground. I am a monkey gym. I am a swing. I am a rock wall. I am a merry-go-round. I am a slide. I am a bouncing pony. I am in pain.

The Gang. When Jack was little, he used to make me talk like members of the Mystery Inc. Gang from Scooby Doo. He’d say, “You be Daphne, and I’ll be Jack.” Then I had to be Fred, then Velma, and sometimes the entire gang at the same time. Jack wouldn’t talk, he’d just sit there and I’d have to simulate conversations between the different members of the Gang. If anyone heard me during those times, they would have believed that I suffered from multiple personality disorder. Nope. Just male-dominated household ailments (MDHA). Whenever Jack watched a new show, I had to learn how to talk like new characters. Think Shrek, Donkey, Nala from the Lion King, Aerial from the Little Mermaid, etc.

The Detective. All of my boys lose things. A lot. And they are not very good at finding things. I ask, “Did you look on your dresser.” And they answer, “Yes, it wasn’t there.” And I go look on the dresser. And there it is. Sometimes, I look for things that one of the boys hid to keep his brother from finding and playing with. This goes like, “Mom, have you seen my silly putty?” “No, where did you have it last?” “I hid it from Luke, but now I can’t remember where.” Fortunately for me, my boys use the same hiding spots over and over again so I can usually find things fairly quickly.

The Napkin. O.K. I know that I will not be winning any fashion awards, and I rarely have occasion to dress in anything nicer than a T-Shirt and jeans, but when did I become the quicker-picker-upper? Am I really dressed that badly, that my boys think my clothes resemble rags? Luke cannot get a drink out of the drinking fountain without water running down his chin. It has become the norm for him to use my shirt as his napkin. Everyday I try to stay far enough away from him that the water dries before he gets to me, but it never works. The other day at his preschool, he wiped his mouth on my shirt so many times that I felt obligated to tell anyone that I passed that I had not drooled on myself or sweat through my shirt, or, as it was a long shirt and he wiped at the bottom, peed in my pants.

The Kleenex. My boys would rather rub their noses on my shirt rather than risk getting snot on their fingers while using a Kleenex. They don’t know that when I was little I used to vomit every time I saw a booger, or had to blow my nose, or my sister pretended to wipe snot on me. Everyone told me that when I had kids I would get over the things that grossed me out, but I didn’t believe them. I guess they were right. I have never once vomited when being used as a Kleenex by the boys. I don’t even think I changed my shirt.