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I hope this lasts forever

This morning, my MIL walked the kids to the bus stop as she does every weekday now. There’s my nephew, niece, Jaden and Jonas. I think the little ones are starting to miss not having their big siblings with them during the day. Jaden and Jonas are walking a little ahead of my MIL. MIL sees Jaden take her brother’s hand and kiss his palm. She catches up in time to hear Jaden tell her brother:

“That’s for later. If you miss me, put your hand on your cheek and I’ll be there.”

Cloud Gazing

Track Building

Protective Arm

So, yeah, I’m the mother of a first grader and a preschooler now:

Jonas is “homeschooling” at gramma’s and is rocking the connect the dots and colors and shapes. And we’re down to the last pullup from that first pack so he’ll be in just underpants soon.

Jaden is going back to her “magnet school” that focuses on math and environmental science. She doesn’t have any of her kindergarten friends in her class but she sees a couple at recess. According to yesterday’s report, there’s a bit of a power struggle as one of her old friends has a new friend who’s a bit bossy and Jaden doesn’t do well with bossy. She’s in the “let’s all agree on what to play together” camp.

  

Reading remains a thorn in Jaden’s side. She gets very frustrated and whines and just gives up. I tried something new last night: I told her I would read the book but before I read each page, she needed to pick five words she knew and one word she didn’t know but would try to read. It worked. By the end of the book she read a complete sentence all on her own without even realizing it. Baby steps. She’ll get there.

Looking at Jonas’ worksheets from yesterday, it looks like he has a long way to go before he’s an efficient writer of letters and numbers. But, dude, he’s three, I’m not worried. W all “mah baby is SOOO smrt!” looking at his work and how he circled the apple as his favorite red thing.

 

These four kids: my niece, my son, my nephew, and my daughter. God damn, but I am a lucky woman.

Sweet Music

Sassy Cowgirl

When we were visiting my cousins in Montana in July, the girls (me, Cuz and J) went shopping one afternoon. After we spent too much money at the local candy store, toy store and book store, I decided I wanted to get the kids cowboy hats. Cuz took us to a few places but I didn’t see anything that a) wasn’t less than $50 or b) wasn’t made of cheap straw. The last place we looked Jaden found the perfect hat. Only it was $20 and made of plastic. She modeled it for me as a compromise. (See above picture)

See that juice bottle in her hand? While I was walking around looking at all the western themed trinkets and talking myself out of buying an adorably over-adorned belt for Jonas, Jaden was trying to blow into that bottle to make music. Well, she succeeded: “Mommy!! I was blowing into my bottle so hard that I farted!” then she ran to Cuz on the other side of the giant open area we were in and I hear, “Yeah, I heard you tell your mom.”

She spent the rest of the time in the store trying to re-create the moment, but some moments are once-in-a-lifetime.

99 Cent Store

I mentioned in a couple posts back that I took piano lessons back in the day. That’s right: from 2nd grade through 5th grade I was one piano playing fool. Only I didn’t have a piano, I had a Casio keyboard. It was one of the a nice bigger ones, with all kinds of beats and sounds built in, including a Demo Mode that my mom banned after a full hour of hearing four kids press the dang thing on Christmas Eve (it took me YEARS to dare to press that button again, that’s how well I listened to authority). Unfortunately, it wasn’t a full 88-key keyboard (I think it was 30 or something, I dunno) and so as I progressed in my lessons and moved up and down the scale, I had to pretend I was playing the keys that weren’t there. That wasn’t why I quit though; I quit because while I caught on to the piano right away, after a few years it got hard and I actually had to practice and stuff and music theory was introduced and I don’t do well with theories so I stopped. My grampa was very disappointed and for years lamented the lack of a pianist in the family. (Never mind that my cousin took piano, too. I never heard her get any grief about quitting after a year.) (*arms crossed*huff*)

Fast forward years and years later to when I bought Matt a keyboard of his own for father’s day back in…2007 I think. It wasn’t a full 88-key keyboard but it was cool and he was happy to have something to play. And it had animal sounds, much to Jaden’s and later Jonas’ delight. We both talked about someday owning a piano and how nice it would be for the kids to take lessons and for Matt to have a real piano to play and for me to plunk out the first few strains of Fur Elise that I still remembered.

A couple months ago, for shits and giggles, I started looking up piano instructors in the area and saw some that offered lessons in the studio and in home. So, that took care of the instruction part because we could bring the kids into the studio for lessons. Then it dawned on me that the kids would need a piano to practice. Then I remembered my piano lesson days and playing phantom keys and thought about Matt’s keyboard (and this organ thing that his parents picked up at a garage sale…our house is a musical instrument menagerie) and decided before we sign up anyone for lessons, we would need a piano.

I don’t know if any of you know this but pianos are not cheap. Even used ones will go for hundreds of dollars. I didn’t know exactly how expensive so I hopped on ebay to see. “Yeah, that’s about what I figured,” scanning through dozens of pianos listed at $500+. Then I changed it to “local within so many miles of my zip code” and sorted by least expensive. That’s when I found an auction for fully functioning, slightly dinged/scratched, up-right piano ending in 4 hours and was still at its starting bid of 99 cents.

99 cents!!!

“Ok, what’s the catch,” I thought. I emailed the seller and asked what the deal was. Guy wrote back and said that they were relocating to Texas and all the people that played the piano had moved on either to the guitar or to college and they didn’t feel like hauling it across the country. He said it needed to be tuned but it sounds great.

“What do you think, Matt?” I asked, “Should I bid on it? It’s about an hour away and we’d need to pick it up.”

“Sure, go for it.”

“Hmmm,” I pondered what to put for my maximum bid, “I’ll go as high as 5 dahllas.” Then I laughed my ass off thinking about how awesome it would be to be able to say, “Dude, I just got a piano for less than a buck.”

Then some bastard came in and ruined my scenario by placing their own stupid bid.

So I got a piano for $2.25.

Matt got his buddies and my stepdad to go pick it up and then had a great time rearranging the living room to make room for the thing and honestly, I think it completes the room:

Not bad for $2.25

Not bad for $2.25

We haven’t signed up for lessons yet but Matt dug out some old music books from the basement and has already surpassed any piano playing ability I ever possessed. Because that’s what he does in life: shows me up in front of my children. Which is fine because there’s nothing cuter than seeing two sleepy kids rush out to see their daddy playing the piano after hearing the first few strains of music.

I think our instrument buying days are done for a while until Jaden starts violin lessons and Jonas starts whatever instrument he wants to play. Maybe THEN I’ll get my 99 cent instrument story.

Good Night Good Night

Looking through my phone I realize that I take a lot of pictures of my kids sleeping:

And my pets, too.

Clockwise from left: Meena, Meena and Daisy (!), Daisy, Polly and Daisy

What’s up with that?

 

My Grampa

This is what you’d call a “Stream of Consciesness” post. A memory dump if you will. Please forgive the lack of transition and (many) run on sentences.

Yesterday was my grandfather’s 87th birthday. It’s funny how people stay a certain age in your mind. My grampa will always be 60 to me: going to work at this big-time photo-processing lab (which according to Google, doesn’t exist anymore.) carrying his lunch box that held the lunch his wife lovingly packed for him, coming back from his deer hunting trips and tickling my cheek with his hunter’s stubble, chasing his grandkids around the house and tickling us until we cried(in a good way), making us buckwheat pancake people (and a music note in my case since I was taking piano lessons), making bird houses in his incredibly crowded and sawdust covered workshop—to this day, the smell of sawdust makes me feel happy and warm—and always the man behind the giant camcorder recording all of our childhood memories. I still remember the smell of the new station wagon he bought when I was 8 or 9. I’ve never smelled another new car like it. He spray painted the wings of the two ducks we had to set free so that if we ever saw them again, we’d know they were ours. It took me decades to realize that birds molt and we probably would never see those silver tagged wings, but he knew we didn’t know that at the time.

He started a band about 20 years ago called “The Aluminum Strings”. They play traditional hymnals and Scandinavian and German songs. We used to dance in the diningroom while he practiced his accordion or auto-harp. The band is still performing in churches and nursing homes, though the members have changed through the years. That happens when the median age of a band is 80.

He was in Germany during WWII as an engineer, working on tanks and other war machines. I showed him pictures of our trip to Berlin last year and he said, “It’s looked a little different when I was there.” That’s all I know about his army years. He’s not one to talk about The War.

He took care of my grandmother in the house he bought back in 1957 and lived in their entire marriage and raised two daughters in for as long as he could, probably longer than he should have. He then visited her in the nursing home every day when her Alzheimer’s became too much for him. She smiled whenever he came and he liked to think it was because some part of her remembered who he was. The picture of him standing by her grave while we all gave him some time alone will never leave me.

He gives everything he has to his children and asks for nothing in return. He is quite possibly the least-selfish man I’ve ever known.

When he met his first great-grandchild, my daughter, he had such a serene look of pride on his face when he said, “She has a beautiful complexion. Most babies are a little blotchy when they’re born but she’s perfect.” He tells me what a nice and handsome boy I have.

I showed this picture to my co-workers and my boss said I look a lot like my grandfather. I never saw it before but yes, I do. The oval face, the defined and high cheek apples. I always knew I got my sense of humor from my mom but she got it from her dad and oh, my grampa has a fantastically dry sense of humor. On our picture thing that we had at our wedding where people signed happy messages to the happy couple, my grandfather wrote: “Better late than never!” I laughed so hard when I read that the next day because, it’s so my grampa.

Yesterday he said, “I used to tell people that I’m getting older every year. I don’t say that anymore. I’ve arrived: I’m old!”

I left him a voice mail last night as I drove back home because I’ve never been good about expressing myself in the spoken word. I hope the simple and multiple “I love yous” conveyed everything I hold dear about this wonderful man I’m lucky enough to call my one and only grampa.

No sympathy from anyone ever.

It’s no secret to anyone who’s been reading this blog or who has known me during my parenting years that my daughter has a flare for the dramatics. She has turned “tugging at the heart strings” into a fine art. My favorite remains: (after being denied a second glass of milk and being offered water instead), “You are the worstest mommy, and this is the worstest house with the worstest daddy and the worstest brother!” (Matt not even being home at the time and her poor brother quietly eating his dinner and not participating in the debate at all.)

This morning we had another run-in with La reine de drame (The queen of drama). She’s not a morning person by any definition of the phrase and any slight will send her head spinning and the accusations of lost-love flying. This morning it was us demanding that she put her friggen pants on. She went with her old stand-by of proclaiming that we are the worst parents ever and we don’t love her and she doesn’t love us either. We used to be hurt by this but, much like a certain wolf-crying boy, we simply can’t believe her anymore.  So, instead of talking about hurt feelings and other hippie lovey dovey crap, Matt offered to call Child Services and ask if they had a better set of parents that she could go live with. He returned a few minutes later and announced that they checked their records and said they apologize, but we are the best parents around so she’s stuck with us.

That morning bit (save for the calling Child Services part) is pretty standard in the house and hardly worth mentioning. To get the REALLY good stuff, you have to wait until dinner time (see above mentioned favorite).

The other night Matt made burritos and we all sat down to watch the kids not eat. We have stopped fighting on this one. Either they eat, or they go to bed. We’re done. This night was no different and so when Jaden said she didn’t want to eat the bean and cheese burrito, I told her she could just march straight into her room and go to bed. She said she wanted a story and I said she didn’t deserve a story. She upped her game to pounding her fist on the table and screaming, “I WANT A STORY!!” I calmly told her that was not how we ask for anything and asked her when in her nearly 6 years of life her demands had ever been met (save for infancy, of course). I sent her to her room again. She stomped off to her room screaming about how unfair life was blah blah blah and slammed her door.

That was the WRONG thing to do. Matt jumped up and went straight to her room and explained that slamming doors was not permitted and if she didn’t start appreciating how good she’s got it in this house, than we would start removing the things she’s been taking for granted. He closed the door quietly and she burst into hurt and affronted sobs. Each round of sobs punctuated by proclamations of how hard her life was and how nobody understood her. (SHE’S NOT EVEN 6 YEARS OLD!! DEAR GOD ABOVE!)

After a few minutes of this, I asked myself why I wasn’t filming it because it was GOLD. In favor of protecting my child’s dignity, I will not post the video here. I will provide a teleplay:

Mom: *tip-toes down the dark hallway to her daughter’s closed bedroom door. Turns camera on and hits “record”. Films the closed door as there is no way to open the door without ruining the scene.*

Jaden: “incoherent sobs

Mom: *tries to film under the door but only gets glimpses of a very messy room indeed*

Jaden: “*sob* My mouth is starting to hurt from all my crying! And nobody cares! *gasp/sob* My vocal-cord is going to break–*gasp/sob*–and nobody will care! Not mommy! Not daddy! *gasp/sob* And I don’t even know sign language!”

Mom: *camera shakes slightly as she suppresses her laughter.*

Jaden: “DOESN’T ANYBODY CARE AT ALL??”

Jonas: *crouches next to mom and looks under the door* “Peaky-boo!”

/scene