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Father Knows Best

Jonas has gone through several hair-related trials over the past year or so. There was the infamous “page boy” cut that nearly resulted in us mohawking the kid and DID result in three visits to and my MIL opening a can on Fantastic Sam’s and a super short little boy haircut. OK, that was really the only trial. And it was really more of a trial for me because I love my little boy’s shaggy blond hair. It grew out again quite nicely and I got it trimmed a couple more times, this time at one of those fancy pants kid salon places who know what a “long surfer boy haircut” is. And oh, he was adorable:

[INSERT “BEFORE” PICTURE I SHOULD’VE TAKEN WITH MY PHONE BUT DIDN’T BECAUSE I SUCK]

This past weekend, however, my husband decided it was time to get the boy’s hair shorn again, due to some super gross cradle cap that won’t go away. He figured maybe the shorter cut would enable us to better attack The Gross with Tea Tree oil and expensive spray leave-in conditioner from the fancy pants kid salon. Plus, the kid’s been asking for a haircut for a while so I figure, y’know, it’s his hair. And really it’s par for the course with this kid and his needing to have a say in how he looks ways.

Matt: “Is that kid haircutting place over by Kid’s Rack?”

Me: “Yeah, why? Are you taking him in?”

Matt: (casually) “Yeah, maybe, I was thinking about it.”

Me: “Are you going to go short?”

Matt: “Oh yeah. Really short.”

Me: (uneasy) “Ok….”

Matt: “Hey, Jonas! You want to go get your hair cut today?”

Jonas: “YAY!!!!!” (much jumping up and down and running around) “I’m go get my haircut! YAY! I going to [preschool gibberish]!!”

Matt: (looks at me)

Me: “I’m going to sit in the fire truck and ring the bell.”

Matt: “Oh! OK. Well, let’s go buddy.”

Jonas insisted on bringing Squeaky Turtle along, wearing his Toy Story sneakers (with flashing lights!), and his golfer’s cap.

40 minutes or so later, the boys came home and I squealed and almost cried. “OH! LOOK AT YOU!! OH! YOU’RE SO HANDSOME! OH! IT’S SO SHORT!”

As you can see, it’s quite short but he wears it well. He looks so grown up now. Both kids have hit a growth spurt over the past month and they need to just stop it right now.

****************************************************************

Saturday, I woke up from my nap and heard Matt saying, “Don’t just lick the peanut butter off, Jaden.” And Jaden responding, “I know.”

WELL.

That evening I went into the freezer to get some ice and found this:

It would appear the knowledge is one thing and actions are a completely different matter.

************************************************************

Sunday we took the kids to the “dollar theater” –so called because it used to cost a dollar, now it’s $3 or $2.50 for matinees—and saw “Puss in Boots”. I would recommend it. Very cute and it stars Antonio Banderas and Selma Hayek who are both just awesome. When we got home the kids asked to play outside and seeing as it’s been 40 degrees in JANUARY in MINNESOTA, we said sure and off they ran. Five minutes later, Matt threw open the patio door and yelled, “HEY! PUT YOUR COATS ON!” and then went out to lecture them:

“Just because it’s unseasonably warm, doesn’t mean you don’t have to wear your coats outside.”

Indistinct protest

“If you get warm, come inside!”

And I laughed a lot.

I love that man.

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.

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.

Fighting Genetics

The flooring is done! And that’s really all that’s “done”. The rest of the house is very reminiscent of the days shortly after we moved into the house. Living room and dining room furniture is in the kids’ bedrooms. Those same rooms have clothes all over the place, both clean and dirty. The basement, which is now a fully working family home theatre complete with stained loveseat and housing several piles and baskets of clothes in varying states of cleanliness.

**Side Note**

I keep thinking that some magical day I will become a responsible grown up parent who always folds the clothes straight out of the dryer and puts them away instead of letting the clothes sit in a basket for a week before sorting them into “owner” piles before folding them and putting the now folded piles of clothes back into the baskets and placing each basket into the proper room where they will be rifled through each morning in a frantic attempt to piece together a matching outfit.

So far that day hasn’t happened. But my fingers retain a tenuous grasp on that thin ledge of hope.

**End Side Note**

The kitchen, well, honestly, the kitchen looks the most normal. Unfortunately “normal” in our house means “cluttered beyond belief” with piles of papers and bags and pencils and pens and scissors and empty beer bottles that need to be brought to the basement to be stored until the next brewing session, random socks and hoodies (yes, there are even clothes in the kitchen. Just assume that any room I ever talk about ever for the past and remaining life of this blog until the above mentioned Magical Day of Organization finally comes around has at least one article of clothing that doesn’t belong there.) and probably there are some dishes and empty frozen veggie bags somewhere. “Abnormal” is that 2 hour window between “SPARKLING CLEAN!” and the above mentioned state of things. Only THIS time, add in a new stove that’s hooked up to the gas line but not pushed up against the wall because the Anti-tilt bracket things need to be installed.

The only “clean” part of the house is the newly floored living room and it looks FABULOUS but is missing the new rug and coffee table we just ordered today.

Ok, so now that you have this mental image of garbage house firmly fixed in your mind, let me tell you this very short Jaden anecdote that I will undoubtedly draw out far too long.

Today is April 20, 2011 and this morning the entire state of MN woke to find a nice layer of snow (of varying depth dependent upon where its residents slept last night.) on the ground. The majority of us have packed away all the winter gear because we figured by mid-April we’re in the clear.

We ALWAYS think we’re in the clear. Even I, who refused to be duped this year, put away the winter gear. However, I maintain it was in an effort to add SOME organization to my life.

Every year. EVERY. DAMN. YEAR. DARN YOU, MIDWEST!!

So this morning I dug out the snow pants and winter coats and boots and Matt dug out the gloves and hats. I packed the snow pants into Jaden’s back pack; she put on her boots, coat, and hat. Jonas put on his rain boots (refusing to wear his winter boots because, well, he’s Jonas and he’s stubborn about odd things.) and coat and put on his little golf hat that looks like Daddy’s. (He’s taken a shine to that little hat and sweaters over the last few weeks. It’s adorable and also oddly prophetic in that his sweater fixation started right at the Spring Solstice. It’s as if he KNEW consistently warm weather was a long time coming.) We said goodbye to Matt, I dropped the kids off at the in-laws and got to work where I diligently performed my job until around 11 when I got a call from the school nurse.

“Hi, I have Jaden here in my office.”

“Oh, no.” I said, fearing an ear infection or a sore throat to go with that cough she’s had for a couple weeks.

“Well, she said she was wearing her snow pants when she went out for recess but somehow her pants and underpants got wet. She’s soaked.”

“Oh no!”

“Yeah, I’m not sure how** but she’s completely wet and we have no extra clothes here. Would someone be able to bring her a change of clothes?”

Frantically I think of a solution and the only one that will work comes out of my mouth:

“I’ll ask her grandma to bring some over.”

“Ok, great! Jaden will be here in my office waiting.”

“Great thanks!”

**I still don’t know how she got soaked through her snow pants that had just a couple weeks ago worked fine. It’s Jaden. For all I know she found a drain spout, held open her pants and let the water pour on in.**

Then the call to my wonderful, beautiful, saintly mother in law:

“Hi! Are the flooring guys there?”

“Oh, yeah, they’re here.”

“Good good! Say, listen, could I ask a huge favor of you?”

“Sure…”

“Jaden’s pants and underpants got soaked at recess and needs a change of clothes. Could you possibly go to our house and get some clothes and bring them to her?”

“Oh, sure, not a problem!”

“Oh, it will be,” I think, “You don’t know how bad our house is.”

“Great! Ok, here’s the thing. Our house is sort of all kinds of falling apart and we haven’t put it back together again after the flooring got installed. SO! There should be some underpants in Jaden’s dresser and there should be some pants on her floor. Actually there are probably several pairs. Just find a pair you think will fit. If there aren’t any, there are some clothes in the dryer.” Please please please don’t be forced to go downstairs.

“Ok, I’ll find something.”

“Great! Thanks!”

Then I die of embarrassment. See, I can navigate the labyrinth that is our laundry situation but the thought of anyone else trying? Here’s how it would go if I tried to explain the FULL process I go through every morning:

“First, check the dresser. Nothing there? Check Jaden’s floor. There are some for-sure-clean clothes in the little moses basket that used to be Jonas’ bassinet before it became the cat’s bed, then it was housed under Jaden’s bed and now it’s out again and has some clothes in it for some reason. Yeah, there. Ok, only shirts and jammies? No, don’t bother looking in the closet. You won’t find anything useful there. Go downstairs. Yeah, sorry about the toys. Ok, over by the love seat you’ll see a few small piles of clothes. Jaden’s are not in any of those. Hers are in one of the baskets. I can’t remember which one. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t think she’s got any there. Go to the laundry room. I KNOW she’s got some in the dryer and in the giant pile on the folding table and there are some socks and underwear in the clothes basket there. Good luck and godspeed!”

EVERY MORNING! With both kids and myself! And then Matt asks where his socks are and I throw a basket of socks at his head.

***

Added today, April 21.

I had a nice chat with my mom yesterday. “Mommy,” I said in a whimpery kind of tone, “I have such hopes and dreams of being organized. I swear every time I go to do laundry that THIS time I will fold the clothes straight out of the dryer and put them away. THIS time I will put the shoes away as soon as we get home. THIS time I will lead by example and throw my clothes down the chute and NOT on the floor.” She laughed sympathetically and said, “Oh, honey. You’re fighting genetics. I have the same hopes and dreams. Whenever I get really frustrated, I remember my parents and feel a little better. You can only fight nature so far, y’know.”

Well! I sure showed her. Sort of. Instead of going shopping with friends last night (yes. I have friends!) (Ok, they were the ladies from work and they’re all over 45. But still!) I went home and cleaned! And Matt cleaned! There is still a long way to go but at least you can see the fancy new floors and the old bedroom floors in the kids’ rooms now.

Tonight, I will surrender to my genetic code and ignore the laundry some more and play my game.

Don’t you judge me!

Oh, suppose you’d like to see the flooring (just double click the images to get a full size view).

           Dining Room Before

 

                             After
            

                               Before

                                            After
 
Sorry, I don’t have a “before” handy