Monday, September 22, 2008

To Buy Or Not To Buy... That Is The Question

To buy or not to buy... that is the question. I don't even want to know how much money I've actually spent over these 12 years of parenting on educational supplies. I'm a compulsive book buyer. We have flash cards, we have CD-Roms, we have workbooks and board games... not a whole lot of it has proven to raise my kids' grades signifigantly. So, when a telemarketer called me this morning to guilt me into try to sell me a CD-ROM system that supposedly raises your child's IQ by at least 30 points and brings them up 2 letter grades, I was both intrigued and skeptical. I had already spent an insane amount of money on something similiar just this summer. I had been planning on going to Sylvan, but this program was less expensive and we could use it in the comfort of our own home (Sylvan is a 40 minute drive away a few times a week after all.) I figured if it didn't work out we could always resort to Sylvan after we tried this other program. Well, school is now in session and we never did go to Sylvan. That isn't to say that the other program was so amazing that we didn't need to. I just didn't feel like it would work motivated to try yet another thing after so many other things hadn't gotten results.

Each Friday all the kids bring home progress reports and a certain someone continues to decorate his progress reports with a certain letter that starts the words Flaky and Fragile and Fail. I have NO idea what to do about this. I've tried SO hard. I read to him diligently from birth on. He grew up watching Sesame Street and Between The Lions and Magic School Bus. Like I said, we've invested in just about every educational product that we came across, especially the ones that are supposed to "trick" you into learning by making it into something fun (like a computer game.) Even my shower curtain is a giant world map (you never know what you might subconciously learn while in the bathroom after all.) I have FOUR kids and I've parented them all the same. They all have access to the same books & products & discipline. Yet, they all have different strengths and weaknesses. I have one kid pulling in straight A+'s and complaining he's bored and another that has such poor grades that we celebrate when he gets C's. Speaking of celebrating, we've also tried a variety of reward & incentive programs. None of them seemed to be rewarding enough / effective.

So... when the phone rang and this gentleman (who was a fabulous salesman, BTW) worked to convince me that I would be a horrible mother if I didn't give him a debit card number so that my kids could become genius rocket scientists that win the Nobel Prize,I didn't know what to think or feel. What do you think, educated reader? Haven't I spent enough moolah over the years in this department? If the school can't get him to learn and all these other products can't get through to him either... why should this one be any different? Or... maybe, just maybe I SHOULD get it. Maybe I should sell a kidney or something so that I can afford to hire the world's best tutors and buy every educational CD-ROM in the english language and a couple of french & spanish ones for good measure? What would you do?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

So that's What Brooke Thinks Of Me...

I found this idea on Kelly's blog & thought it was cute. Here's what Brooke answered:

1) What is something mom always says to you? I love you

2) What makes mom happy? when I'm nice to her

3) What makes mom sad? when the kids don't do what she says

4) What does you mom do to make you laugh? tell jokes

5) How old is your mom? 29

6) What was your mom like as a child? a good little girl

7) How tall is your mom? I don't know

8) What is your mom's favorite thing to do? go on the computer

9) What does your mom do when your not around? stay at home bored

10) If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for? because she's a rockstar

11) What is your mom really good at? cleaning

12) What is your mom not so good at? running

13) What does your mom do for her job? lock up the gates at night

14) What is your mom's favorite food? spicy???

15) What makes you proud of your mom? nothing

16) If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be? Dora's Mom

17) What do you and your mom do together? walk up Strawberry Hill

18) How are you and your mom the same? we're both girls

19) How are you and your mom different? I play and she doesn't

20) How do you know your mom loves you? because she says it

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What Goes Up Must Come Down

What goes up must come down. This applies to children's moods as well. You can bet that when my kids have had an exceptionally good day they're going to melt down at bedtime. You would think that having a good day would equal going to bed happy but this is simply not the way it works. In our family we refer to this phenomenon as "having too much fun." Yesterday was a VERY fun day. It started off with a hyped up PTA assembly at school. Then, I brought birthday cupcakes into Russell's 2nd grade class. As soon as Russell got off the bus his dad took him to play golf while we set up for his "surprise" party (that he had basically planned himself.) His friends & family came, wolfed down 9 pizzas, a carrot cake, cheesecake ripple brownies, vanilla ice cream, and root beer. He opened a ton of really cool presents and found out that his dad had actually found a way to get him the quad (actually two) that he hasn't stopped talking about for a month. He and his friends took turns riding the quads for an hour or so and when it was finally too dark to ride anymore we calmed down by watching Speed Racer. Seriously fun day. I think Tatton's face says it best:

Today... well, today was busy and fun as well. There were new birthday toys to play with and a special birthday breakfast to consume before we rushed off to multiple soccer games. Once the soccer games were out of the way there were quads to ride again, of course. Then, Russ decided to pull a klondike and take a swim in the lake even though it's a tad bit chilly out today. Back to back fun times. Until... too much fun. Taking turns on the quads (or the lack thereof) spurred a fist fight. I jumped in and seperated the brutes within moments, but blood was shed regardless. So, everyone was sent to their own corners for a little quiet time. It has been a LONG time since my kids have been young enough to have manditory nap time, but we broke manditory nap time out of retirement. As I sit here typing, all 4 children are in tears in their respective corners (again.) Which brings me to my point: slow & steady is the name of the game. Kids are WAY better off having fun in small doses, which is the best way to fully enjoy it. Fun & candy are very similiar in the sense that a little goes a long way and when you've overdosed you just don't feel so well because what goes up must come down.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ode To Russell

Eight years ago tomorrow we welcomed Russell into the world. I can't believe it's been that long! He has been such an amazing addition to our family and (as with all of our children) I can't imagine our world without him.


Russell enjoys all the stereotypical "guy" stuff. He loves anything with wheels, but especially quads and muscle cars. He loves playing "army guys", fishing, and building things (forts, bike jumps, taking apart things he's not supposed to take apart to try & turn it into something else...) He has an amazing talent for music and can sing really well and plays songs on the keyboard by ear (even though he's way too shy to let anyone see him do that.) His favorite foods are corn dogs and cheese quesadillas. He throws a mean spiral and is pretty good at golf for his age. He's such an interesting kid. He's one of the only kids I know that loves hard work and cleaning. He's very OCD-ish (actually he probably DOES have it since his big bro Lane really does and it is genetic.) He gets really particular about his room being organized & gets nervous about germs (he uses more neosporin and band-aids than anyone else I know.) Russell doesn't love to watch TV or movies and complains when his brothers are "too busy sitting around being lazy butts & couch potatoes" to play with him. He is incredibly protective of his little sister and even though he rolls his eyes and declares her "so spoiled" he is amazingly patient with her. All she has to say is "my legs are tired" and he scoops her up and carries her. (She really IS spoiled!) He's not a big fan of school work, but he likes recess and school lunches. I'm so proud of what an amazing man he's growing into and just want to take today to say how blessed I feel to have Russell for my son.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tag- I'm It!

Ten Natalie Quirks

1. I always have to have a variety of herbal teas in the house. I like to make tea (preferably peppermint, lemon, or chai spice) in a big mason jar. It's my favorite way to get lots of calorie free fluids and feel full all day without eating much.

2. I've been trying to practice letting go of my kids already. I've realized that I have a tendency to baby them and that even though my overprotecting seems like I'm just being a loving parent to me it can come across as me not believing in their ability to handle things on their own to them and that's not good for their self-esteem or their ability to work through things independently and come out stronger for it. So... I'm making a concious effort to back off. Which is kind of a funny thing since it means I'm now simultaneously being accused of being over AND underprotective by well meaning loud mouthed friends & family. Every one has an opinion...

3. I thrive on variety. I'm constantly rearranging my furniture, trying new recipes, changing the radio station... It really cracks me up since Dustin is super predictable. We're polar opposites in the sense that he's the adventurous sort who's gone sky diving and repeling and never drives the speed limit... but he doesn't like to try new foods and gravitates to the same style / color of clothes, etc. I'm not into extreme sports whatsoever and always set my cruise control when I'm driving, but I would go absolutely stir crazy if I wasn't able to change it up in other areas of my life. I can't even do the same exercise dvd two days in a row.

4. I feel kind of like a crazy person because I just KNOW that there is another soul out there that is supposed to be part of our family. It's hard to express the fact that you so strongly believe that your family isn't complete. I wouldn't feel so much like a crazy person if it weren't for the fact that I already have my hands full with 4 kids and I had my tubes tied. People really do look at you wierd when you try to explain that you somehow feel in your gut that there's "someone" missing.

5. I'm paranoid about water. I'm NOT a strong swimmer. I can swim when I'm in a pool and can see the bottom / the depth written on the side. I panic and can't swim when I'm in a lake / river and am nervous about drop-offs & stuff. Living here (sandwiched by water) has been interesting for me. I've been trying not to transfer my phobias to the kids though and want them to be strong swimmers (see quirk #2 above) so I frequently take them swimming in the lake and hold my breath to keep from screeching, "Don't go too deep! Watch out for the drop-off!" in a frazzled, the sky is falling voice.

6. Another thing that really scares me is that I don't think we're living off the land enough. Every time I pop a frozen pizza in the oven I feel a twinge of guilt & a punched in the stomach feeling of anxiety since I HATE leaving my family's nourishment in the hands of big business. Yet, I don't take the initiative to stop cooking those frozen pizzas! We did plant a couple of fruit trees, but I want a monstrous garden and chickens and... you get the point.

7. I LOVE to teach. It's a game to me. I love trying to come up with creative ways to make things stick in people's brains. Last school year I had the most fun volunteering in Brooke's kindergarten class and seeing those kids start to "get it" (especially the hispanic kids who come from non-english speaking homes. How awesome is it that they start off at the beginning of the school year barely able to speak english and they're beginning to read it by the end of the year?) Those kids are amazing! I wish I could learn stuff as quickly now as little kids are able to. Their minds are like sponges! I really would love to do some sort of tutoring / after school program in Grays Harbor. Being the parent of kids with extreme strengths and weaknesses I know that there aren't enough programs in our area for kids who are either struggling in school or gifted and bored. Being involved in something like that sounds like the ultimate hobby to me.

8. Wow- this is really long. I'm running out of quirks. Hmmm... I love music. I love that my kids love music and know the words to so many old or funky songs so that days like yesterday can happen. We were riding in the car (rushing from Cub Scouts to soccer) and Tatton starts a Fleetwood Mac medley of Don't Stop & Twisted Sister's We're Not Gonna Take It. Everyone joined in and the next thing I knew Tatton was laughing uncontrollably because he had taken my cell phone and recorded our singing and set it as my new ringtone. So, now everytime my phone rings I hear my kids rocking out and it makes me laugh.

9. This is the first fall that I haven't wanted to bake. Usually, this time of year rolls around and I start craving apple crisp and pumpkin bread and cinnamon rolls. It's strange that since school started I've only made homemade cookies for after school snack once. I hope that this means my diet is on track and healthiness is ahead in the near future.

10. I don't see how the people on Wife Swap could possibly be for real. I know people are strange, but how is it seriously possible that they're able to find this many extreme cases that are willing to go on television and act the way they do? It's like a car accident. It's so terrible that I can't take my eyes off of it. It's got to be scripted or something.

Well, that's me... pretty boring. If you're still reading I'm impressed.

Thanks Jenny, for the tag. I tag Chelsea, Kelly, and Annie (yes, I know you don't do tags.) Ten quirks about you, Ladies!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Russell is planning his own surprise party. I suppose I should probably attempt to explain to him that it doesn't really work that way, but hey... at least the kid knows what he wants & is willing and able to go after it, I guess. Last night he informed me that his dad would be taking him to play golf and when they came back from playing golf everyone he knows will be there ready to jump out and yell, "Surprise!" After that, I will serve carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and we will present him with his new quad, dirt bike, or go cart (he's giving me three choices since he DOES like surprises.) As a parent, this sort of situation is sticky. I'm torn between the side of me that loves my child so much it hurts and can't stand the thought of disappointing him if and when his very precise ideals can't be met and the side of me that feels pinned against the wall by his expectations and feels a little like squashing his dreams before they get any bigger and therefore more unrealistic. (Boy, it sounds ugly when I say it like that...) Anyway, those of you who know me well know that I'm a people pleasing pushover so be expecting a party invitation.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Tooth Fairies & Unfinished Business

The Tooth Fairy came to our house last night. She came to see Brooke who had lost her first tooth. I'm sure she was confused since Russell has had his top two front teeth loose almost all summer and now his permanent teeth are growing in behind them and he still refuses to just yank those baby teeth out. Brooke, on the other hand, noticed her tooth was SLIGHTLY loose during dinner & surprised us by wiggling it into submission by bedtime. I've told you that girl is determined.

One of the many things that Brooke is determined about is not getting her fingernails clipped. I have seen her nails grow so long that the white part on top is literally 3 times as long as the pink part on bottom. It really bothers me. I let her get away with it for the summer, but told her that she was expected to clip them every Saturday night throughout the school year. She was putting up too good of a fight this Saturday night though, so in desperation I decided to sneak in and clip them while she was sleeping last night.

After I was certain she was sleeping soundly enough, I sneaked in and slipped a dollar bill under her pillow. I was so intent on getting those fingernails clipped that I moved right on to it and didn't take the tooth. I got about 6 nails done and she started to wiggle and talk in her sleep, making me suspect that she would wake up if I kept clipping so I tip-toed out of the room. I guess I should have stayed and finished the job 'cause she woke up anyway. In her light sleeping state, she sensed her shorter nails and started crying hysterically. That's the part I hate about clipping her nails while she's sleeping. She always flips out when she wakes up & finds out. Once, when I did it, she wouldn't fall asleep without a fight for a couple of weeks because she was afraid someone would "mess with my body when I'm sleeping". She couldn't let her guard down. Which made me feel horribly guilty for making my poor little girl so distrusting & paranoid! Anyway... back to the story...

There Brooke was bawling about her clipped nails and I couldn't calm her down & get her back to sleep. I apologized for disturbing her (apologies usually work wonders with Brookie) and told her that I had told her that she had to have them clipped once a week during the school year so it's not like she wasn't warned, etc. I tried to snuggle her and tickle her face while I told her stories, but she just wouldn't settle down. So, I told her good night and went to my own bed figuring that I would just let her cry herself to sleep. Her daddy took pity on her though. He would. He's the one who keeps insisting that I shouldn't worry about her excessively long nails. "She's a girl. Just take her in and have a manicure so they look clean & groomed." is his philosophy. I'm sorry. I'm not paying for a manicure for a six year old and it still grosses me out thinking about those crazy Ripley's Believe It or Not nails of hers.

So, Dustin went in and asked her what was wrong. She wailed, "Mom c-c-clipped my n-n-nails!" (sob) Dustin sympathized, "Oh, I'm sorry. Mean Mommy." Nice, honey... Then, he tried to distract her with, "hey, did the tooth fairy come yet?" She instantly stopped crying and looked under her pillow. "She gave me a dollar." Dustin spying the tooth still sitting there in the baggie said, "Oh! Look! She didn't take the tooth! I bet you she was here when you started throwing a fit and you scared her off. You better go back to sleep in case she's waiting to finish the job. I bet she was going to give you more money." Like magic, Brooke laid down and quickly went back to sleep.

So, I tiptoed in and left her more money and made sure to take the tooth this time. When I woke Brooke up for school this morning, she was STILL mad at me. So, I tried her dad's trick and told her to check under her pillow. "hey! She took the tooth and I have $2.50!" Which made all of her brothers run in saying, "WHAT?! She got $2.50?! No fair! We never got that much! Why did the tooth fairy give her so much?!" So, I had to spin a tale about inflation and how the tooth fairy must have raised her rates of compensation, etc. So, we apparently have a new more expensive standard now. Hopefully Russell will be able to part with those top two teeth soon in light of the new pricing policy.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Where's Russell?

Yep. We all survived the first day back to school. Well, pretty much. Russell's teacher called me at the end of the day and told me that he was probably going to be a little upset when he got off the bus. He was. Very. Apparently, he was at PE and all of the students went to the water fountain to get drinks. Another group of students walked by the water fountains and he got confused and latched himself on to their group (thinking it was his class) and followed them to recess. So, there he was playing at recess with this other group while his teacher & several other staff members frantically tried to find him. It sounds like it took quite a long time. They finally had to call his name over the intercom, which humiliated super shy Russell so he froze & hid.

His teacher was obviously stressed about this and had a talk with him about following directions & listening. Which made him shut down even more since he felt like he was in big trouble when he didn't do anything wrong on purpose. In his mind, he had followed his class to recess (and just didn't realize it wasn't his class since he didn't know anyone anyway) but it seemed to her like he had just chosen to go play instead of being where he was supposed to be and that when he wasn't answering / coming when they called him that he was being stubborn. So, there was basically a big communication issue.

It's all pretty funny when you think about a little almost eight year old getting confused & going to recess with the wrong group while a search party is forming for him, in hindsight. He was mortified at the time though. His biggest complaint "they said my name on the intercom!" makes sense since Russ hates being the center of attention more than just about anything. We went to Cub Scouts after school and he was too exhausted to participate so he went and took a nap instead. Then, I let him choose dinner (Subway works for me!) and he fell asleep again after dinner. I wasn't sure what to expect the next morning and was somewhat prepared for a fight to get him to go back to school, but he was surprisingly the first one of the kids ready. As he trudged off to the school bus I thought my heart was going to explode with pride at his resilience. Here's hoping he doesn't get lost again. That's the sort of thing that could only happen once, right? Right?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

And Exhale...

Just another day in the life of a helicopter mom. Always hovering. Always lots of things spinning & up in the air. I decided to put the kids on the bus for the first day of school. Then, I stalked it. When I got into the school parking lot (feeling like a retard for trying to find that one elusive parking spot when I didn't even have any kids with me) I saw all of the cute, happy little families walking hand in hand to find their classrooms and felt a twinge of guilt for throwing my poor children out into the cruel world of public bussing and finding their classrooms on their own. Hey, at least I followed the bus I thought. It occurred to me that I was perhaps slightly like a spirit mom (watching from afar.) They couldn't see me or hear me but I was there nonetheless ready to jump in and rescue them & give them guidance if they needed it.

I had given Tatton the "special" job of making sure everyone got to their classrooms. (Why is it that I can't even say special without feeling like I'm making fun of someone now? Why did they have to go and ruin that word?) Anyway... At the open house last night I noticed that it worked out well that Tatton's class was the furthest from the bus drop-off zone since he's gone to that school longer than the other kids. So, as they walk from the bus together they drop off each kid as they come to their class door with Tatton's class being last right after Brooke's. I sat in my car anxiously observing to make sure that he was, in fact, the good big brother that I suspected and that he chaperoned his little sister to her class. Once I witnessed that my anxiety ALMOST subsided & I was able to drive home to my QUIET house.

Coming home to a quiet house is a very bittersweet thing. While it's entirely delicious to have 6 straight hours to do what I want / need to do without interruption there is an underlying guilt aspect that adds it's own stress. It's sometimes hard enough to explain being a stay at home mom when you have preschoolers. When all of your kids are in school full time people tend to look at you weird & ask rude questions. I'd like to use this blog to publicly make a statement. I just want to shout out into the universe, "No I do not sit around watching soap operas and eating bon bons all day, okay?!"

It was kind of nice over the summer in the sense that with 4 busy kids around staying home seemed justified. When I had 4 tag-alongs at the grocery store nobody questioned my busy-ness level. In fact, people would comment on how I had my "hands full" and ask if I was going for a basketball team. At the beginning of September though those comments change to "must be nice" (if you heard the tone that it's said in you would understand what's implied) and "what do you do with yourself?"

Okay, I'll be the first to say that it IS nice. Those 4 kids don't magically take all of their needs with them to school. They still generate a ton of laundry. They still need me to grocery shop & cook for them. There are still dentist appointments. I volunteer in their classrooms and chaperon on field trips. The six hours that school is in session fly by in a flurry of chores & errands. I feel bad because I just barely pull it all together and so I have no idea how moms who work full time do it. I'm in awe. I feel like I NEED to be home to give my family the mom & wife that they deserve. It makes me kind of resent the women's rights movement because back when my grandma was raising her kids practically all of the moms stayed home. Now, most women HAVE TO work and they're still doing all of the stuff that they were before too. Dustin prefers for me to stay home, so that works for me. As long as he doesn't make any (totally innocent) comments like he made last night. I was filling out all of the kids' paperwork for school and he was impatiently waiting for me to snuggle up & watch a movie with him. He said, "I just figured you could do that tomorrow on your nice, relaxing day off when the house is quiet." I snapped, "It's not a relaxing day off!" and threatened to get a full time job.

Don't people know that being a helicopter mom is exhausting?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Last Second Touchdown

This week has been insane (I THINK in a good way.) Getting 4 kids ready for back to school feels a little like running a marathon with bags of sand strapped to your ankles. Of course, being the procrastinator that I am hasn't made things easier by any means. I'm sure it would have been lovely to have gotten my kids' school supplies back when they first stocked the shelves with them instead of running around to multiple stores desperately searching for a place that wasn't out of paper and pencils. I am SO stoked that I hit the Labor Day sales at Value Village yesterday and made a haul though. I found some great stuff. My favorite was a little navy blue pleated Tommy Hilfiger jumper for Brooke. It still had the original tag on it from Macy's for $39.99 but I got it for $2.50. How sweet is that?

Today was all about tying up loose ends. Getting the kids' hair cut, picking up Russell's new glasses, making sure all the new clothes & supplies & lunch money are ready to go for tomorrow.. I spent a good deal of the summer running the kids to a menagerie of appointments with the objective of not having to miss any school during the school year. That would have been a splendid plan if we happened to go to any medical practices that had a competent staff. We've apparently had a running theme of having our appointments rescheduled without anyone calling us. That happened again this afternoon for Brooke's post-op check-up with the ENT (which is an hour and a half from our home.) I drove 10-15 miles per hour over the speed limit all the way there anxiously trying to get there on time just so they could tell me that the doctor wasn't in and I needed to reschedule. Dustin said I should have demanded a fuel reimbursement but I'm not gutsy like that. I just got my parking validated & walked out with my tail between my legs. What I WAS upset about was that they wanted to reschedule her for Thursday (her second day of school.) The whole point of having the appointment today was so that we didn't have to worry about it during the school year! So, that's irritating.

As I said, we've had this sort of thing happen A LOT this summer. The worst offender has been Lane's therapist. For starters, their practice is in a big old brick building with multiple entrances. For his evaluation, we went in one side of the building. So, when we went back I went in that same door. The receptionist told me that we were supposed to go to the other side of the building in the West entrance. So, we hurried and found the door with the W on it just to be told that our appointment had been rescheduled to the next day. I expressed that I would try to make that since it was important to me that he was seen but that it was highly inconvenient to have to arrange childcare for the other 3 kids yet again, etc. The next day, we rushed down there and went in the West entrance. The receptionist told me that I needed to go to the building across the street. Bizarre musical doors, but okay... and guess what? Our appointment had been rescheduled. We STILL haven't gotten in even though I've wasted a tank of gasoline & secured childcare repeatedly. I started to wonder if this wasn't part of the therapy? Are they TRYING to make me crazy so that they make more money off us when we finally get seen? I'm sure I'll be full on certifiable by then & I wasn't even the original patient!