Thursday, December 06, 2007

Reading is fun!

My little boy is a reader:) I never thought I would get so excited by the sentence, "Mat sat on Mac."
We bought Lucas some Bob Books a couple of months ago and at first he wasn't too interested. He's known his letters for a few years now, and has known their sounds for quite some time, too, but he didn't want to sit down and actually put letter sounds together.
About a month ago, I gave him a choice of activities for an afternoon and he chose reading the Bob Books. The first few days were a real struggle -- his first instinct was to go for the long sound of vowels but these books start with most vowels using their short sound.
But now we've moved onto our second set of books and he is reading in the hallway to himself, sounding out words, while I brush Amanda's teeth.
I admit that I'm one of those annoying parents who cheers when my kid goes down the slide, or starts swinging on the swing by himself, so of course, everytime he reads a string of new words, I give him a high five.
He brought his books to school for show and tell and both of his teachers came up to me at the end of the day to remark on how well he is reading and asked how often we practice. I beamed with pride and it almost canceled out the previous talk I had with his teachers about my boy's rambunctious behavior in the classroom.

I don't think I started reading until I was probably 6 years old. Luc is almost 5, so he's got me beat already.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

License Plate Cover Seen Today

My other toy
has tits


I guess he must have paid a lot for them if he feels the need to tell the world.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mellow Thanksgiving and Ghostriding Causes Me to Break My Butt

The members of the Crouse Haus headed down to O.C. to visit the Grandparents Crouse for a little Thanksgiving goodness. The highlight of the trip, for me, was making it down there in under an hour and fifteen minutes on Wednesday night. We have never made it down there that quickly before. It was amazing... the kids barely had time to get started complaining when we pulled up in the driveway. This is just the third time in my life that I've been away from my siblings and parents on Thanksgiving and it was very mellow. I come from a family of 7 kids, so when you add spouses and kids, the place gets wild. This year there were just six of us and it was nice. There was room for everyone at one table and there weren't a zillion different dishes that I felt obligated to try.
We hit South Coast Plaza the day after Thanksgiving just to watch the shoppers. Holy crap, I cannot believe how many people were there. It was like a movie, with people bumping into one another, strollers loaded with so much crap that the babies were being dragged along by their parents. We left just spending $2 to ride the carousel and a bit on lunch. Nice. I've done most of my shopping online and just have a few odds and ends to pick up. The hardest part for me is wrapping, because I am a shitty wrapper.

Thank God I have a laptop, because I'm typing this while lying down. I think I broke my tailbone today. My husband says it's just bruised a bit, but shit, it hurts. My kids love it when my husband straps them into the double stroller and ghostrides them. He stands in our culdesac and gives them a trememdous push and they ride all the way to the top of our driveway, where I am waiting to give them a shove back down to my husband. They freak out it is so much fun. Hubby ate a little too much spinach for lunch and he gave them too big of a push this afternoon. They came zooming at me -- only a few inches behind me was the garage door -- and I couldn't fully stop the thing. I don't know exactly what happened, except I went flying in the air and landed square on my ass. It hurt like a bitch! That's 115 pounds (well, probably 118 after the Thanksgiving feast) coming down on my little tailbone. Over the course of the afternoon, the pain has increased. I just pray I won't be sitting on a donut this week at work.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

nanowrimo a little behind...

I got a late start with nanowrimo.org because I didn't find out about the thing until we were well into November. What a great idea, and just what I need to put a fire under my ass.
I'm only up to about 3,800 words so I doubt I'll "win" this year, but hey, it's good practice. My husband has taken the kids out this afternoon so I can get a bit more words down, and I needed to take a break -- take a break by writing more.

This afternoon my husband asked when I was going to finish my book and bring in a million bucks. I replied that I needed to be rich so that I could devote all time to writing instead of pushing papers at work and scrubbing toilets on the side. He said that once I made my million I could "write for a living." But there's the catch 22, right. I need money in order to keep the dream alive. I find that at the end of the day -- after putting in time with work, caring for the kiddos and keeping the house from falling part -- my brain is in a fog. The past few months have been dry. I am all too happy to pick up a book and stick my nose in it for 2 hours in the evening rather than spending that type pounding on the keyboard.

So, here I am with another hour or two of writing time -- minus the 15 it took me to get dinner in the oven -- and I'm taking a quick break to write some nonsense here. It may be silly, but it does help clear my head. Writing down the day to day junk here gets it out of my head and leaves room for better things.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bee Movie gets an A and where are my kids?

I took the kids + cousin Ben to see Bee Movie today. I was a little worried because it was PG and I thought it might not hold their interest, but at less than 90 minutes running time, I decided to give it a go. The kids loved it and so did I. A few folks didn't make it through the movie, but my charges sat almost quietly through the entire thing. They did eat their weight in junior mints and I had to take out a small home equity loan to pay for the movie and snacks, but it was worth it.
Now they are all happily building a fort in the living room and I have a few minutes to waste.

Speaking of the good behavior at the movies, what the hell has happened to my kids lately? A few weeks ago I was ready to tear my hair out. They were constantly fighting and never listening to a word I was saying. The past two weeks have been, well, strange. I am getting compliments on how well-behaved my kids are and now I wonder what the hell I was doing wrong for so long.

I have been plenty stressed out the past 6 months or so.... mostly about money and jobs, both mine and my husband's. Those situations haven't gotten better. Husband seems to keep getting bad news and taking out business loans, while medicare hasn't reimbursed his business since April! 80% of his patients are medicare, so that basically means no money for the business. Apparently a lot of PTs and doctors are having trouble with medicare, so we're not alone, but shit, we're talking the death of a business. Anyway, my anxiety level was at an all time high and trying to meditate or exercise my anxiety away wasn't working. After yelling at my kids for something trivial because I was stressed out, I decided to ask my doctor for a little help. 13 days into taking medication for my anxiety and I feel like a new person.

I didn't realize how much my anxiety could have been affecting my kids until I noticed how their behavior started to improve as I started to feel better. They weren't little out of control monsters, their mother was.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Invasion

The invasion has begun and I'm on a mission of destruction. The other day some ants invaded the master bathroom. I got rid of them and hoped that would be that. The next morning as Lucas was using the kids' bathroom he yelled that he was surrounded by ants... they hadn't gone, just moved. Ants in my house are one of my worst nightmares. The kids don't bring food into their rooms and I try to keep things pretty clean by dusting and vacuuming regularly -- apparently, the ants don't care. They want in.

I called my Orkin guy because we have a service every two months around the outside of the house to keep ants and spiders at a minimum. The guy came out this morning and took care of the problem in the bathroom. About an hour ago I went to put the kids down for a nap. I decided to lie down with them for a bit because I was damn tired. A few minutes into naptime, I heard son saying, "I see ants!" I looked up and sure enough, there were hundreds of critters trailing all along the baseboards. I quickly shooed the kids into my room and I tried to get a handle on the situation.
Of course, since this is the kids' room, I don't want to fill it with Raid. I filled a bottle up with vinegar and sprayed all over. They were under the mattresses, along the wall, climbing on the bookcase... everywhere. Help!
After soaking them with vinegar, I sprinkled all around with baking soda. I'm not sure what else to do that is natural. I will wait for everything to dry and then vacuum and dump the vacuum bag. If they keep coming back I'm going to abandon the house and move in with my mom:) The thought of an ant climbing on my precious child while he is sleeping is more than I can bear.

Anyone get rid of ants indoors without using chemicals? I don't mind spraying that stuff outside, but inside... I'm a little leery.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

It's all relative and Halloween movie suggestions

I stopped by the local CVS store today to pick up new toothbrushes for the kids -- we had an ant invasion in the kid's bathroom (I swear it is clean) and I found a few of the critters on the toothbrushes. Yuck! Anyway, we had to stop by the Halloween section to try on scary masks. Amanda was scared of all of them until Lucas picked up a hockey mask, and said, "Look, Amanda, this one isn't scary at all." "You're right, Lucas," she said, as she picked up her own hockey mask to try on and my two little Jasons walked up and down the aisle wondering why people were running for their lives. My kids haven't seen Friday the Thirteenth, so the hockey mask thing isn't a bit scary. I really found that amusing. Guess I need to get out more.

Every Halloween, I rent the movie Halloween and carve my pumpkin. Since the kids came along, we carve the pumpkin first and I save the scary movie for when they are tucked in bed. Then hubby and I bake our pumpkin seeds and watch the show. I know, it is a cheesy horror flick from the '70's but for some reason, that movie always leaves me anxious for the next few nights. I'll turn out the lights and that music starts playing in my head. I usually have about 3 or 4 nights of not sleeping well.
Anyway, I think I'm going to make a change this year and skip watching Halloween, even though I love it. I need my sleep these days, so a nice, old-timey thriller will do.
If anyone reads this and has any suggestions, let me know.
I'm thinking along the lines of "Sorry Wrong Number" or "Dial M for Murder".

Monday, October 15, 2007

First day of school

My daughter had her first day of school today:)
She barely had time to say goodbye to me as I dropped her off -- so much for first day jitters.
She's been going to the school for a year and half now with me to drop off my son, so she is familiar with all the teachers and many of the kids. She is a favorite of the other two Amanda's who already attend -- that makes three Amandas in a very small preschool.
After the drop-off, which I expected to take a while, but actually only took a few minutes, I headed home to dig into work. Man, did I get some work done today. It's amazing how much I can accomplish in 4 hours when I am not constantly interrupted to have a tea party or dress up like Batman. I was really lucky to have more than 2.5 years with daughter right by my side, but I was more than ready to have her start her education:)
I think we'll all be a little better off with the kids in school a few hours a week and my boss will be happy that our customers are getting some attention.

Tonight my daughter called grandma (my mom-in-law) to tell her about the first day. MIL said that I must have been staring at the walls wondering what to do with myself while the kids were away. I had to walk in the other room and count to ten... come on, woman, I have a JOB outside of laundry and cooking and I barely had time to finish up before I gobbled down a Lean Cuisine (at my desk) and ran out the door to pick the kids up in time. I know she meant well, but damn, it really made me feel like she doesn't know beans about me.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Confusion... is it really mine? Decisions....

After re-reading my last post, it seems that I am the one who is confused, not my kids.
They are asking totally logical questions but they just aren't the ones I was expecting yet. We're all ready for "why is the sky blue?" and all that, but haven't given much thought to questions about different types of people or families that are out there.
I did tell my son that, yes, some boys do marry other boys, but that most people happen to marry someone of the opposite sex. Is that all I need to say at this point? Do I need to add more, like it's OK to marry someone of the same sex but I'm hoping we don't have to cross that bridge? Doesn't that make it sound like I don't approve? I want to teach the kids to be accepting of all good humans out there and to care for other people no matter the color of their skin, the language they speak or if they choose a mate who has the same body parts as themselves. All of those things are easy for me to talk to them about at this point in time, but I'm wondering how I'm going to handle things when they demand more of an explanation.

The Crouse Haus is under a tremendous amount of stress lately. My job, which I've had for more than 12 years, is on shaky ground and I don't know if it will be there in a few months. My husband's clinic is having issues right now and we aren't bringing in the same income we were when we purchased this house with a huge mortgage. We've been in the red for about 9 months now and the savings have vanished. My husband seems to be totally out to lunch concerning these issues and being that I am the one who handles all the finances, I feel that I am shouldering all the stress right now. I've tried to approach the subject of possibly selling our house and his response was to bring in an extra $50/mo by renting out the side of our house to someone for RV or boat storage.
Of course, for my husband, moving "down" would be a totally shot at his ego. Here he is, working 50 hours a week at his own clinic and he can't even afford a decent house for his family. I don't look at it like that, but he does.
Our options are to try to cut costs at home -- cancel cable, never turn on lights, eat spaghetti every night, shop at used clothing stores, cut our own hair and cancel Christmas and vacations for the next 3 years.
Option 2 would be to sell our home and find a nice townhouse or possibly rent a place for a year or two.
Anyone out there rent with kids? I'm wondering if the kids will suffer by not living in a "neighborhood". Will other kids want to come over to play? We've owned a house since before we had the kids and I grew up living in a regular single family dwelling.

One thing is for sure, something's got to give. For my own mental health and the mental health of my kids, I'm hoping husband will go for option 2.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My kids are confused

My daughter demands to wear her brother's Power Ranger pajamas every night and now she insists that she "must" be Robin (from Batman and Robin fame) for Halloween. She has some princess dressup stuff from grandma and her cousin will loan her a mermaid costume, but no, she has to be Robin.

Yesterday my son asked me if he could marry his cousin, Benjamin. I told him no, you can't marry your cousin. "Well," he said, "I want to marry a boy." Oh, shit, it was only 9 a.m., too early for my brain to come up with some great parental comeback.
Cut to yesterday afternoon on the way back from the library... "Mom, I really want to marry Ben." I tell my son again that he can't marry his cousin and that I'm sure he'll meet a nice lady that he'll want to marry when he is a grown-up. "Mom, do some boys marry other boys?" WTF.... "You're in preschool, son, get back to me in a couple of years and I'll formulate the correct response."

What the hell is wrong with my kids? Maybe it's all the recent talk of God wanting us to love everyone no matter how different they are. God made everyone and we should all love each other. But, I'll tell you what... as a mother of a 2.5 and almost 5 year old, I don't want to deal with how I'm going to love my transgender/gay kids just yet.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Annoyed that I was annoyed

My son goes to a small preschool which he really likes. I haven't really gotten to know any of the parents because I'm always running in and out... with work commitments, I don't have much time to stand around and chat or plan playdates. He does have one good buddy there who has come over and the mom seems friendly enough. Of course, there is also the problem of me being a total social-phobe.... being the self-absorbed person that I am, I always feel I flub with small-talk and people must think I'm an idiot. Which is why I'm so annoyed that I reacted the way that I did today....
Another mom I haven't seen before was waiting outside for her preschooler and she started calling her little toddler over to her, "Lucas, come here." I went up and said, "Lucas, that's such a nice name. That's my son's name, he's in the blah, blah blah..."
"Oh," she said, "do you spell his name with a 'c'?"
"Yes," I replied.
"Oh, we used a 'k', EVERYONE uses a 'c'." I mumbled something and then turned away annoyed with her comment. So, now I'm everyone and a moron for not being more creative with my son's name?
Anyway, right after I turned away to stare at the preschool door I felt ashamed for feeling annoyed with this totally unoffensive comment. I've said things like that before with people I don't know. You just say something without thinking and then immediately feel like such a dork. I should have turned back to her to talk some more, but I didn't and so now I'm annoyed with myself.

Oops I did it again!

No, I didn't play with your heart, but I did end up at Chuck E. Cheese today and then regretted it as soon as we walked out the door and my son burst into tears because his cheap ass "prize" broke 30 seconds after it was received.
There is a Chuck E. Cheese about a mile from my house. I have been there 5 times now in the last 3.5 years. All of these trips, except for one desperate rainy day, were made because of birthday parties or rewards for potty training. Today was a reward for potty-training for my daughter. She finally kicked the poop-in-your pants habit. We're going on 3 straight days of making it to the potty on time and for the first time in 4 years and 9 months I am diaper free! Yipee! The kids had a fine time at the restaurant and I didn't have a terrible time because the place was deserted and I had a coupon! The problem started when my tired son broke the cheap toy that he won.
He doesn't understand why they hand out crap.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Time lady is gone and why I like fall better than spring

It happened and I missed it. The time lady is no more in Southern California. I knew the end was near, but I thought I had a few more days. I tried to call last night and I was informed that the time lady had already passed on. I'm upset. I have vivid memories of being in my childhood kitchen and calling the time lady on our rotary phone. I don't know why, but sometimes we would listen to her voice for a minute or more. It was familiar, soothing, always there.... Now it's gone.

I love fall and we are having a bit of autumnal weather around So. Cal this week. It is quite early for such weather, but I'll take it even if it only lasts a couple of days. Although there is a chill in the air, fall carries with it some of the warmth left over from summer. I can't describe it except to say that my bones must have socked away some of the summer heat and they slowly release it when an autumn breeze blows.
Spring, on the other hand, carries with it the cold of winter. My bones haven't completely thawed out by the time spring rolls around and those cool spring breezes always leave me chilled. The temperature could be the same in spring and fall, but I would always feel warmer at my core when the leaves are changing (wishful thinking where I live) and the pumpkins are being carved.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Poop training just won't end, church carnivals and poker face

So my daughter simply refuses to poop on the potty. She has pee down pat... she makes it to the potty on time all the time for that. For poop, though, she just won't do it. Give her a favorite pair of underpants and she'll soil them in an instant. Promise her a puppy, trip to McDonald's, any toy in the toy store... on and on and she still won't do it. She knows what she's doing; it's not like she is having "accidents". She'll suddenly disappear and if I hear her door close, I know it's too late. She's quick... I can be in her room 1 second after she shuts the door and she'll say, "Change Me!" Yet if we stick at home for two days, not allowing her to wear pants of any sort, she'll hold it in (sorry, but there's no other way to put it). Then, as soon as we put her to bed with pants or a pullup on, she'll come out of her room 5 minutes later demanding to be changed.
The girl is almost 2.9 years old, for God's sake! My son was potty-trained in 7 days at age 2.5. She's supposed to start preschool in 1 month, but she has to be toilet-trained. If she doesn't go to preschool, I can't work and if I can't work, we can't pay our mortgage (yes, things are getting very tough around the Crouse Haus) and we'll have to move. If we do end up having to sell our house and move to an apartment, should I let her know it is all her fault because she can't sit her butt down on the potty and do what every other normal person does? She speaks in multiple sentences, she can kick my butt at Candyland and Go Fish. What is wrong???

After changing my daughter this afternoon, we went to a carnival held at a local Catholic Church/School. It was the church I grew up attending and I went to their carnival every year. It's been about 15 years since I've attended their carnival and not much has changed. Even the kids look the same. There's the same Cake Walk, rides, baked goods sale, carnival games and, of course, the Knights of Columbus sponsored beer booth:) About the only thing that has changed is the price of tickets for rides. We dropped about $40 just for the kids to go on about 5 rides each. Damn. My parents had 7 kids, so I know they couldn't have afforded that back in the day. The kids had a really fun time, though, and so did I. Amanda ate her weight in cotton candy and Lucas has stains all over his brand new robot shirt from his delicious snow cone. We put $10 in for the raffle of various gift baskets and maybe we'll win something when they do the drawing tomorrow. The experience even made me wonder if myself and the kids aren't missing out on something by not belonging to a church. Sure, I don't agree with many of the teachings, but who can argue with making friends in a community of folks who follow Jesus' teachings.? If only church leaders were a bit more like Jesus, I would readily sign up. If you believe everything you read in the Bible, we should all try to be more like him... if we were, then all the shit going on in the world, wouldn't be going on.

Now we come to the poker face. Apparently I don't have one. We have really taken to playing Go Fish around the Crouse Haus. Everyone in the household can play it, but I, according to Lucas, don't play well. As soon as I draw a card from the pile, he immediately knows whether I got the card I was looking for or not. He says my face gives it all away. Damn, he's only 4.5 and already he kicks my butt at cards!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Morning at the beach

I packed three kids into the car early this morning in an attempt to escape the heat. It is probably about 100 now in the Conejo Valley. The weather in Malibu was absolutely perfect. Not a cloud in the sky and a slight breeze helped keep us all cool. The kids were freakin wild and as I stood on the beach watching the three of them tempt fate in the waves I thought, "what the hell was I thinking about bringing three young children to the beach!" I almost had a heart attack a few times when a big wave would come crashing and the three barely made it back to the beach. But I held back, as much as I wanted to run and scoop them all up.

I also met a lovely woman and her son. The reason I mention it is because this woman, Lisa, has the personality I dream of having. The woman must have spoken with at least a dozen people as we watched our kids and then headed across the street to have lunch (with the richies) at a little place in the Malibu Country Mart. She came up to me and said something like, "I hope you don't mind if we hang out because I think our kids might have fun together." Then she invited me to join her and another friend for lunch. She calmly reprimanded my son for throwing sand, she asked another woman if she would mind if we sat at her table and she picked up another conversation with a woman sitting alone on a bench. That is more talking with strangers than I usually do in a whole month. She seems like one of those women who can easily strike up a conversation with someone standing in line at the supermarket. I love that. I wish I could be like that. I know that unless I decided to become heavily medicated I'll never be that way, but it is refreshing to meet friendly people like that. It's too bad she lives about 30 minutes from us.... actually, lucky for her or else I might just try to hang out with her more often:)

We're now back in the oven. I broke down and turned on the air because my daughter is napping. The boys are tearing about the playroom, so I better go investigate. Only about 5 more hours before it will be cool enough to run around outside.... help!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Black Hole

I was crunching some of our household numbers today and the song "Black Hole Sun" game into my head. My budget doesn't have anything to do with that song, but whenever I am thinking of black holes that song just immediately begins to play.

There is a black hole in our household. It is eating up money and we can't quite figure out where it is all going. When the kids start preschool in the fall -- daughter's first year of school and my son's last year of preschool -- I'll be able to put in a few more hours at work. Of course, all that extra money will quickly disappear to pay for the crazy preschool costs. After I pay taxes on my salary, I'm left with enough for each hour of work to buy some sort of Venti concoction at Starbucks.
Ah, well, they really need school and my work needs more attention than I can give it when I'm trying to put tape over my kids' mouths as I make an important phone call (kidding...)

In any case, the Crouse Haus is going on a serious budget diet. The kids are going to be moaning about going without fancy stickers and disgusting junk food. I'm going to go back to home coloring for my hair -- looks like I'll be back to brown, since I'm not allowed to attempt blond at home after the strawberry blond incident. As for my husband... he already does with so little and he works like a dog -- I think he can continue to get his fancy-pants beers.

Monday, August 27, 2007

That's just gross!

My kids are about average on the gross factor. They do things all the time that give me the heebie-jeebies. My son once licked the floor of an ice-cream store... I guess he wanted to see what it flavor it was. In public restrooms, my daughter likes to put her hands in the bubbles that are left behind after she has washed her hands -- doesn't she know how many dirty people have washed their hands in those sinks?!

This evening my daughter did something, that I'm sure seemed perfectly natural to her, but it totally grossed me out. We have two step-stools in the bathroom for the one sink. The kids stand side by side to brush their teeth. First I brush my son's teeth and my daughter does her own, then we switch. Tonight I was brushing my son's teeth and he spit in the sink -- so far, so good. My daughter immediately dipped her toothbrush in the foam her brother just spat out and before I could stop it, the toothbrush was back in her mouth. Ew! Double ew! We either need to think about remodeling the kids' bath to include two sinks or we have to move.

Demogirl has left the building

Demogirl, who happens to be my baby sister, moved out of the Crouse Haus on Saturday. We are all sad to see her go and the kids keep looking at the room where she was sleeping and they sadly ask, "where's Aunt Molly?" It was so nice having her with us the past 3 months but I'm sure she'll be much happier not having to share a bathroom with two preschoolers.
Demogirl is headed up to S.F. to put down some roots and make some business contacts.
If you see her walking around the streets of San Francisco, be sure to say "hi".

We wish you luck, Balz, and we hope you get a really big apartment so the members of the Crouse Haus can come up for a visit soon. Heehaw!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Driving with the windows down and 100%

I got my first car when I turned 18. It was a 1992 Toyota Tercel... my car payment never went about $108/mo. It was a great little car and got me across the country a couple of times before I traded it in (read: gave it away) in 1999. My little green car had no air conditioning -- the car was manual transmission, no air, no cd or tape player, manual windows, no floor mats!
I moved to the mountains of Colorado shortly after I bought the car, so the no air thing didn't matter. It only came into play when I was driving for a visit home and had to drive through Las Vegas in the middle of July. I also moved to North Carolina for a spell, and air would have come in handy during the humid summer months.
Needless to say, the windows were often down in my car. I took for granted all of the sounds, feelings and smells you experience while driving with the windows down. I currently have a minivan (barf) and living in the hot Conejo Valley I rarely have the windows down. Yesterday as the kids and I were driving around doing errands I put down three windows to circulate the stale air. Wow, it felt freakin great. I could hear all the traffic around me, the moving air felt great on my face and there was something about listening to "Rock 'N Roll Radio" (yes, I own the Shrek III soundtrack) with the windows down that made the music seem more, well, rockin!
I'm definitely going to drive with the wind blowing my hair more often.

I received the score on my first test from my online writing class -- 100%. Yes! I still remember some of the grammar I learned in high school:) The first exercise was a grammar test, so it was yes and no answers. The test has me very excited about the next lecture. I hope that the writing assignments can kick my butt into high gear and get me more motivated about writing again.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Love Stubb's BBQ and Pippi

The BBQ went well at our pad today. I think I'm getting the hang of it and, really, it is easy as long as I have my pal Stubbs in the pantry. I got turned onto this BBQ sauce a few months back and I can't go wrong with it. Ribs in the crockpot... done! Steak on the bbq, easy. Today I was bold and I prepared chicken, ribs and veggie skewers -- all marinated in various Stubb's creations. Our buddy Paul took a few bites of the ribs and said to me, "tell me everything you can about these ribs." Dude, the ribs were on sale for about $1 a pound at Vons and Stubb's did the rest:)

After the other adults left our place, we ended up with two extra kids. Our kids wanted their cousins to stay the night and we decided we had enough energy left to brush two extra sets of teeth. I checked "Pippi in the South Seas" out of the library the other day and turned it on for the kids tonight. Man, they loved it. Some of it was, of course, a bit corny, but I still freakin love that movie. I remember watching it as a kid... it was on like 3 or 4 times a year on Channel 5 out here. I'm going to check out some of the other Pippi episodes -- it's such an innocent movie and I'll happily let him watch things like Pippi as long as I can get away with it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Can't close a bad book

I have a problem. I can't stop reading a bad book, even if I am not enjoying it.
I have been a lover of books since I can remember. I think I came out of the womb loving words.
I would love to finish one of the books I have started writing but my problem is that my writing is not so great. I think that is why I have a problem dissing a book that isn't satisfying. Who am I to give up one someone who has been published?

I love to read anything. I read blogs, I read books, magazines, junk mail....
When I read beautiful prose, I feel really good. Many (many, many) times I don't "get" a book, but if the writing is pretty, I keep reading because I get some sort of euphoric feeling from reading those beautiful words. One recent example is "Arlington Park" by Rachel Cusk. The book left me feeling a little dirty and sad because the women in the book were scary to me. But the writing, man, it was really good.

In the library I usually have about 10 seconds to choose a book. The kids and I usually pick out books for them and then head over to the "grownup" section. The new books are right near the children's section, so I scan the stacks and grab one or two books before my two kids start to climb up the bookcases. The oldies don't take kindly to little monkeys disturbing their browsing in the "Large Print" section. I know... I worked in the library (loved it!) in high school and those seniors can get downright bitchy if children run wild.

This past trip I grabbed two books. I started the first one a few nights ago and it is painful. I won't name names -- as I said above, who am I to say a published writer (this one is a first novel) is crappy? It's like watching a stiff teenager "acting" in a play. You want to turn away, but you feel you owe them some respect.
I don't know if I'll be able to finish this one, but I'm sure going to try. The crazy thing about this book is that some of the writing looks very familiar. I scanned some of my own journals and noticed that, yes, I am that bad. Time to read some more quality books and see if that will help my own writing improve. I'm also about to start an online course to help improve my writing and hopefully get some criticism. I've never taken an online writing class before, so wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

He is my son

I have seen the movie Iron Giant so many times, and I cannot stop myself from crying every single time. I am a very emotional person and cry when I hear a sad song, see a sad movie, or hear a sad story. The waterworks are always waiting to be turned on.
My son is so much like me -- he is super sensitive.

I have sung to my kids since they were born. I sing the songs my mom sang to me as a child. Two songs that used to be in the loop were "Molly Malone" and "You Are My Sunshine". Lucas has not allowed me to sing these songs since he was old enough to protest... "too sad, mommy."
My kids are now sharing a bedroom and the other night Amanda requested "Molly Malone". Lucas said, "No." She then requested "You Are My Sunshine" so I sang.
After the song was finished, I noticed my son was hiding under his blanket. I peeked under and asked if he was OK and the waterworks started. He was so, so sad. The song just brought him to tears. I better not bring out Danny Boy -- that was banned about two years ago.

Unlike my son, I do enjoy a good sad song and the tears that go along with it. I'd be right at home in an Irish pub listening to a sorrowful song while the whole place is brought to tears.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

He won't do that again

I guess it is one of those lessons that my son really wanted to find out for himself. He just didn't believe my husband or myself. Granted, he doesn't see the iron very often because I could theoretically work in my pajamas so I don't really own many clothes that require anything more than prompt removal from the dryer. I do have one pair of pants that like to wrinkle if you even threaten to wash them. I decided to wear them to a BBQ yesterday afternoon, which meant I would have to iron them. Out came the ironing board and iron. Son said he wanted to sit on my bed and watch me de-wrinkle my pants. I said that was fine. He kept asking if the iron was hot, and how hot is the iron, and on and on. I told him he needed to stay away from it because it is very, very hot and could badly hurt him.
My husband entered the room and we started to talk while I toiled. My son got off the bed and asked again how hot the iron was (I'm going to take him to the doctor Monday to test for brain damange) and my husband and I both said, it's very hot, just don't touch it -- we were both getting a little annoyed. The kid, didn't seem to believe us because he made like he was going to walk out of the room and then he quickly backtracked and held out his hand and grabbed the iron before I could stop him.
Of course, there was much screaming. I know it must have hurt like hell and he definitely wasn't expecting pain like that. We held off on the lectures and raced him to the kitchen to put his hand under cold water. However, since we have a flat roof and our pipes are on the roof, there was no freakin cold water coming out of the faucet -- it takes a few minutes.
I grabbed some ice cubes, threw them in a pick cup of water and put his hand in there.
It wasn't a bad burn.. but it did leave a little blister and hopefully a painful memory for the child.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Goodbye Hal Fishman

I woke up this morning to sad news.... Hal Fishman passed away early this morning. Hal was already in his "Golden Years" by the time I really started watching the news. I think that I thought he would always be there, he'd would continue to read the 10 o'clock news even after I grew old. I didn't know Mr. Fishman, but he was a constantly in my living room. Phil and I loved watching him, and sometimes poking a bit of fun at him. I always imagined him as a really smart, nice guy and I often wondered why he decided to stay in local news for so many years.
My wonderful uncle, who died a decade ago, told me stories of having Hal Fishman as his political science professor... I was always amazed and could never figure out how old Hal Fishman really was. I mean, he was teaching my Uncle political science way back in the day and he'd been on the news as long as I could remember. I never thought to look up his age, it didn't really matter. It just mattered that this friendly face would always be invited into my house via the tv.

I'll miss Hal Fishman. There isn't really anyone like him in news that I can think of.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ralph Nader flick and Ode To My Legs

Husband and I sat down and actually watched a whole movie together last night. I didn't get up a hundred times to clean something and I wasn't working on my laptop as I usually do when I "watch" a movie. Netflix delivered "An Unreasonable Man" to our house and we loved it. Well... as much as you can love a documentary. The movie was really interesting and I felt even more warm towards Nader than I did before I watched the film.
I also felt even colder toward Michael Moore than I did before. I think the first words out of my mouth after we turned off the movie were "Michael Moore is a total motherfucker" (excuse my language).
Anyway, I recommend renting it.

Ode To My Legs
Legs, legs, what are you doing to me?
In the shower I looked behind my knee and I moaned, but I'm only thirty-three!

A tiny patch of spider veins stared at me with angry red eyes

Legs, we've been through so much
How can you turn on me like this, after all I've done for you
I've tried to keep you trim and keep you out of the sun
The waxing, the shaving, the self-tanning lotion
This is how you repay me

If that's how you feel, I'm going to kick your ass on the treadmill tonight
Watch out legs, I'm going to bring on the pain

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sibling retreat

What I really mean is Sibling Drinkfest!
Saturday night was the first annual McDonald Sibling Bash. I kicked my husband and kids out of the house and instructed my six siblings to head over to the Crouse Haus for dinner and a slumber party -- no spouses or kids allowed! No one objected to the rules and everyone showed up around 4 p.m. My siblings range in age from 29 to 42 -- I'm #6. We see each other often because we live in close proximity. However, I can't remember ever having just the 7 of us alone.

I threw some steaks on the BBQ and they turned out great -- it was my first solo bbq moment and I took pride in it. We use charcoal... no gas here. We are of Irish ancestry, so the drinks were flowing. The talk spanned children, work, politics and religion. The 5 older siblings are definitely bent toward the right, while my younger sister and myself find ourselves looking at them inquisitively from the left. It makes for interesting conversation. There's lots of teasing from both sides, but I think we all can appreciate the different ways in which we view the world. My brother, Pat, who biked 50 miles from his place in Valenica to my pad, was the first to go down... about midnight. I followed at about 1 a.m., but I heard much chattering going on outside. Apparently 3 of my siblings lasted until 4 or 4:30 in the morning! I'm so happy to have such a big and boisterous family. Others might call us obnoxious when we are all together, but we all still talk to each other and care about one another.

I took a bunch of pics that night and a common theme seemed to be the extension of the middle finger. It was like... kids gone, sailor mouth comes out and rude behavior abounds. Hey, it's fun to act like a "carny" every once-in-a-while.


Katie, Joe, John-boy and Balz (note Balz flipping me the bird)


Pat, Joe and Balz -- note the fingers


I do not remember getting up on a chair.



John-boy


Pat and Tom not giving me the finger for once


First man down always gets fucked with.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Moon Sand Rocks!

I went to the local school supply store with the kids today to pick up some fun workbooks and stickers for Lucas. As I was checking out, we noticed this cool sandbox... it had what appeared to be sticky sand and some molds. I'm in the store often and the woman gave me a good deal on the kit and it seems to be well worth the money. The kit comes with 5 pounds of Moon Sand -- sand acts like wet sand so it is easy to mold, but it never dries out -- a big plastic bin that you use to keep the sand contained, and a bunch of molds.
The kids spent over an hour today playing with the stuff. They can make a castle, all sorts of shapes and destroy each other's creations. The mess was minimal... I found that if I put a plastic tablecloth under the kids' table, I could just dump the sand back in the box when they were done playing. I'm always happy to find a product that isn't a piece of junk, which is difficult to do these days. Moon Sand seems like it will entertain the kids for a good period of time and they like playing with it together. I've been having trouble finding things that both the kids can work on together since my daughter is a bit young for most of the things that son wants to play.
The kit I purchased looks like the one at:
http://deltaplaysand.com/?gclid=CMbtkbXLyY0CFRY9YQodVUs7HA

Friday, July 20, 2007

Awesome day without the nanny!

All I can say is today was the type of day I dream about when faced with watching four children and trying to get a bit of work done. I won't go through the play by play, although I'd like to because we did so much shit and the kids were so into everything I had planned for the day.
One moment really made me sit back and say, "yeah, this is what it is all about". I filled a big storage tub up with water and told the kids they could dip water cans in it and water my dying plants. I headed into the kitchen (I could see them from the window) to clean up the lunch mess... I looked up after about 2 minutes and I saw three of the four sitting in the tub fully clothed. They were singing and laughing and having a blast. Boy cousin was singing some "hot tub" song and all afternoon he kept talking about going in the hot tub.
I grabbed my new camera, which is awesome, and took some pics and some video. I want to savor that fun moment.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bending the rules

My youngest is a true hater. She'll turn on you in an instant -- one minute you're her favorite person and then next minute she'll look you straight in the eye and say, "I really, really hate you!"
I don't know where she came up with all this hate stuff; she's not in preschool yet and has limited interaction with children other than her brother and cousins. In any case, it's been hate, hate, hate around the house lately. I tried to ignore it at first, but it is really beginning to annoy me -- I don't remember being so hateful when I was young. I made a rule that she gets a warning about using this word and she is encouraged to find other ways to express her feelings. If she ignores the warning she gets a time-out.

Miss smarty-pants has found a way around this rule. Yesterday I heard her telling her brother, "Lucas, I bate you. I really bate you." I asked son what the heck she was talking about. He said, "Oh mom, she means that she hates me." The little trickster isn't saying the forbidden word, but we know what she means. Can I punish her for using replacement words? Like if she starts saying "pit" instead of shit, do I punish her.... I mean, pit is a legitimate word. Should she be given brownie points for being creative:)
BTW, she hasn't busted out the "s" word yet. I try really hard to keep myself in check -- unchecked I curse like a sailor.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What's a nanny for?

What should nanny duties include? Are they employed simply to entertain children and then leave a path of destruction for the ass-tired parent?

Just wondering. I'm not good at this employing someone thing and I think I'm working way more now that I have the p/t nanny -- gotta make sure I have easy food to fix for snacks and lunches (not to mention food for her to eat). I feel like I'm often guiding her in what activities to play with the children or pushing her out the door to go for a walk. And nanny doesn't put toys away after they have been played with.
Kids love her, though!

Man... I don't think I can take it much more.

PS I Love You '07

I'm back to reality. I missed the kids, but I really, really enjoyed 4 days of doing as little as possible. My husband and I met a group of friends in Palm Springs for 4 days -- yes, it is 110 there in July, but we rented a house that had a pool and we parked our butts in it (oh yeah... the pool had umbrellas in it, so you didn't have to get sun while getting cooled off).
The girls all headed out one afternoon for a massage (the massuese beat the shit out of me!) and another afternoon we headed to the ghosttown (that's what it feels like in summer) and had a cocktail and bite to eat. Other than that, we didn't leave the house. We slept in, watched movies when it was just too damn hot and we ate like kings (my friends are all amazing cooks) and drank like fish. We swam naked and read a ton of trashy magazines that I would be embarrased to be seen with... let's just say that there were a lot of pictures of young famous people I have never heard of. But there is something fun about just looking at magazines filled with beautiful people who have more money than I do.
Husband and I had a chance to just chill and laugh with each other... something that hasn't been happening all that often around the Crouse Haus. We were once best pals and cracked each other up. He still makes me lose my shit... but I've been a total grump for the last few months and I don't think I'm making him laugh nearly as much as he does me.
In any case, if you have kids I highly recommend an occasional escape. The kids had a total blast with my husband's parents so we felt no guilt. I did need a "mama's little helper" for the drive out to PS because I was sure we were going to die in a car crash and leave our children orphans.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mahalo and Diving Board Revisited

We dusted off some of our Laurie Berkner CDs recently and put them back in the car playlist.
One of Luc's current favorites is "Mahalo". When I snuck into his room during his nap the other day he woke up and said, "Mommy, do you know what Mahalo means?" I said, "Yes, do you?" He told me that it means thank you in Hawaii. He then said, "Mommy, do you know what I'm thinking of?" I told him to tell me. "I'm thinking Mahalo for my family." I was so glad I decided to take a few minutes off work and go have a bit of quiet time with him.

Yesterday was day 5 of swim lessons. On Monday son watched all his classmates go off the diving board again and he again jumped off the side of the pool instead. But after class he said, "Mommy, I'm going to jump off the diving board tomorrow." Cool, I said. He did it!!!! He wasn't nervous, it just seemed that he had to watch all his classmates do it a few times before he was sure it would be OK.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

4th of July, one kid and first goal

It was a very mellow Crouse Haus 4th of July this year. We decided to relax at our own place for most of the day, only venturing out for a couple of hours to take the kids to see Ratatouille. Late in the day we dusted off the BBQ and grilled up some burgers and veggie burgers for my mom and sister and then we ventured onto the roof to watch the fireworks that were exploding a mile away. My daughter and I didn't get to join the group on the roof this year because she decided she was scared. I decided to humor her because I used to be that kid. My son was freaked out by fireworks when he was 2.5 but this year he really enjoyed the show -- I hope daughter grows out of her fear.

Just when my son thought his life couldn't get much better (after a night spent on the roof watching things explode in the sky), my older sister called us to say she and her daughter had headed North from P.V. to stay in a local hotel. Friday she came and picked up my son and he had a funfilled day swimming in the pool, eating lunch out, sharing horsdourves with his cousins and then enjoying room service while he lounged in bed and watched Deadliest Catch (which he apparently now loves!). While our son was busy being pampered my husband and I got a chance to hang out with our daughter. It's been 2.5 years since we had an only child. Damn, is it easy! I don't mean that to sound like a jerk, but when we had just one child, we didn't appreciate how much less complicated life was. It's easy to deal with the occasional meltdown of one 2 year old when you don't have another monkey trying to kill himself by jumping off the dining room table. Or potty training... potty training my son was a breeze. With daughter part of the difficulty comes from the fact that we are out doing a lot of things for our son or he needs help with something and I can't spend all day in the bathroom with daughter like I did with our son. Our daughter will officially be 2.5 next week and we are almost there with potty training... God, I can't wait! In any case, it was nice getting to play tea party or doll house with daughter without son's toy robots coming and destroying everything.

This morning my sis dropped off son and we immediately headed out to his first soccer class of the year. We attempted it last summer and he had absolutely no interest. He would take off running across the park last year and asking him to pay attention to the instructor was futile. This year something clicked. He really enjoyed himself. Towards the end of the class they played a little scrimage game and son scored the first goal.. it was kickass. I cheered for all the kids, but my heart warmed a bit more when son made his move and broke away from the pack to score the goal. Good Times:)

Only 5 more days until we leave for our annual "friends" trip. It's an annual trip for a group of friends my husband has known since grade school. We missed the last two years so we are so looking forward to this trip. It's a no kids allowed vacay-- although that only affects husband and I and one other couple. Drinks flow from morning 'til night and we try to accomplish little besides getting caught up with each other and recharging our brains. We're almost at the age where this thing is starting to seem like "The Big Chill".

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Diving Board

My son has come a long way in two years. Two summers ago Thursday afternoons were spent listening to my 2.5 year old scream in terror as he took his first swim lessons. We lasted 12 lessons (and $300) before I finally decided to stop torturing him. Shit... it took three years before we could get through baths without screams. The kid hated water anywhere near his face. Last summer I went the cheap route and enrolled him in the swim program through the parks department. The lessons were every day and he slowly got used to the idea of getting a few drops of water on his sweet face.
On our recent vacation there was a pool in the hotel and my little boy has come so far from even last summer. Husband was throwing him across the pool and he was loving it! He put his face in the water to blow bubbles. Yippee!

Yesterday was the first lesson in the parks dept. summer swim class. He's graduated to the next level and is in the big pool. He did awesome in class -- one eye was watching my 2.5 year old in the kiddie pool and the other eye was proudly watching son dog-paddle out to his instructor.
Towards the end of the session son's class got out of the water and I wondered what was up. Then I saw the tiny swimmers heading toward the diving board! I immediately felt the fear I had when I was a new swimmer and my teacher would lead us the the board. I was petrified. As I watched my son, there was a pit in my stomach and I kept saying to myself, "please jump. Don't let the fear get to you, kid!" His three classmates all jumped before him. They all walked slowly to the edge, pondered their options and then bravely jumped into their teacher's arms. I watched son go up the ladder and walk out to the edge. For a second I thought he was going to do it. I thought... "the kid is going to do it, you were wrong to project your fears onto him." But he made a mistake... he thought about it. It was over. He looked down at his instructor, looked at the pool, and turned around and climbed back down the ladder.
Damn! Son is usually quite brave with things like this. He'll jump from very high places at the playground and he goes on any roller coaster that he is tall enough for.

Our goal is to do the jump before the end of this swim session in two weeks. I just don't want him to end up with the same fears that I had -- fears that stopped me from doing things that I should have been able to do. I know he'll do it, though. Look how far he's come in 2 years. And if he doesn't? Well, he's got a very understanding mom.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Why I don't like DIY and water balloons (WTF?)

I've been sprucing up the kids' bathroom for about 2 months now. It's a minor paint and sanding job, but it is taking so much longer than I anticipated. Before I had kids, I enjoyed painting and home improvement. That's not to say I'm good at it. I lack the design gene that most women take for granted and inevitably I have the wrong tools or supplies for the job I've decided to take on. Today, for instance, I was sidetracked by an hour trying to remove the screws from the godd#$n toilet paper roll that was attached to the vanity. I started a couple of months back by sanding the baseboards and putting a few coats of paint. Done. Primed the walls and painted them yellow. The color wasn't exactly what I wanted, but once it was on, I wasn't about to do it over. Painting the vanity is taking much longer. It's probably from the 70's or 80's and is oak or something. The color was very dark. Today was spent sanding, sanding, sanding. Then I moved on to the primer. Thank goodness for the heat because that dried quickly. I'm currently waiting for the second coat of paint to dry so I can put the third (hopefully final) coat of paint and hit the hay. Husband doesn't partake in my home improvement adventures because he is pretty much happy with how things are. A home not updated since the 70's, fine by him.
Why do I now hate DIY when in the past it didn't bother me? The kids. I basically missed out on spending more than a few minutes with them today. If I had the cash, I would hire someone to do all this shit in a second. As much as I complain about the little buggers, I want to hang out with them and I feel guilty as sin when I don't. I'll post some pics when everything is put back in place. It's not fabulous, but it's a $150 bathroom remodel! I don't have before pics, but I'll post pics of the ugly master bath because it has the same vanity and baseboards. The master
bathroom is next unless my husband stops me.

I took a brief break this afternoon to play outside with the family. My husband had filled up a bunch of water balloons for the kids to throw at us. Not one of them freakin broke on a body! WTF? I remember having awesome water balloon fights with my siblings and friends long ago. Those things almost always broke, unless some jacky made really small balloons and hucked them at you with the intention of inflicting pain. My husband and I tried throwing the balloons at eachother today and we couldn't get them to break. My husband has a mean curve ball and the darn things just left red marks on my legs and then broke on the ground. The kids didn't care... they just loved watching the ballons break on the grass. I'm going to have to investigate the best way to prepare water balloons these days.

Last night my husband and I attended a memorial for one of his patients. I only met Gary a few times and by the time I met him, his ALS had robbed him of the ability to speak too clearly. But I felt I really knew him because my husband always talked about him. Gary gave us his lawn mower 5 years ago when we bought our first house. He was so, so young, and had a very young family. From the turnout at the memorial, I'm even more sure he was an amazing person. My husband treated him for about 7 years. He just stopped by to see Gary about 2 weeks ago and told me about the visit. He said Gary seemed to be doing well. While we were on our vacation he apparently took a turn for the worst and the day Phil got back into his office he got the word that Gary had passed. We walked the ALS walk a couple of years ago (husband has done it a few times). It is a heinous disease with no cure. Attending the memorial was so emotional. Seeing his beautiful, young family touched me. I better appreciate all that I do have, now. I am constantly seeing the glass as half empty lately. I'm determined to fill up that glass.

http://webgla.alsa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=GLA_homepage

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer and Batman and Robin

The first day of summer! Yesterday was my son's last day of preschool for the year and he was very excited that he gets to "take the summer off". It is the first time in his life that he can do so. He went to daycare starting at 6 months of age and then when I started working from home so I could be with the monsters, he still went to preschool a few days a week even in the summer. A woman's gotta work! This summer we're hiring a nanny part time to help out so I can still work three days. We'll see how it goes. The kids have never had a babysitter and it will be strange to have someone caring for the kids while I'm home working. The nanny is 19 and looks like I wished I looked when I was 19 -- not a pimple on her cute, freckled face.
This is my 34th first day of summer and my son's 4th first day of summer. It doesn't seem like I'm too old when I think... I've only seen 30 more June 21st's than Luc.

My husband often let's the kids sit on his lap while he searches YouTube for theme songs from old tv shows. The most requested one from the kids is Batman. They've never seen the show, but they get all the information they need from the opening song. Son and Daughter often "play" Batman and Robin. I think it is so funny how my daughter had no problem taking a supporting role in their play. She runs around the house yelling, "I'm Robin, I'm Robin". If I mistakenly call her by her real name, she quickly reminds me of my mistake. It's as if the 2nd born automatically knows their place in the world... they will always be Robin.


Bathman and Robin in their capes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Portraits


My daughter drew these portraits of me and my husband yesterday. She's not quite 2.5 yet, but damn, she blows my 4.5 y/o son out of the water in the art department. Don't cry, son, you were potty trained by the time you were your sister's age and that is a much more important skill.

Things my mom never did, part 1

First let me say I LOVE and respect my mom. She's an amazing woman who raised 7 kids who are only minimally crazy. She is there for me when I need to bitch about how hard it is to raise my two kids and she doesn't even crack a smile.
But when I'm playing with my kids, I often think, my mom didn't really play with me.

Yesterday was a fabulous day with my two kiddos. It was the type of day that made me want to sing out to the world about how wonderful it is to be a parent and about how I love my kids so much I almost can't stand it.
One thing we did was dance around the living room like three monkeys for over an hour. We had our snack set up on the hearth and we would stop and eat a grahamn cracker and then bust out with some more cool moves. We jumped off the couch, played red light, green light and chased each other all over the house.
I can't even picture my mom ever doing this with children.
She didn't have the luxury of an hour of time where she could put household duties on hold. There was laundry for 9, dinner for 9 and cleaning up the scum that 7 little ones left around the house.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Cheese sandwiches... yummy!

There's a crazy article in the L.A. Times today http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-cheese18jun18,0,7344584.story?coll=la-home-local

It seems that many school districts are forcing kids to eat alternative lunches if their parents haven't paid their lunch debt. One school offered a veggie and fruit plate to non-payers, while some schools offer cheese and crackers or a cheese sandwich. Parents are complaining that their kids are being ostracised for getting the cheese sandwich. So what! Kids have to learn how to deal with shit like that sometimes. And if you don't want them to go through that, then pay your darn bill.
Man... this is driving me crazy because I brought my lunch to school every freakin' day from K-12. There was the odd day that I might have some piggy bank money lying around and I might bring it to school to buy lunch, but there was no such think as a lunch tab. What is that?
Get up a few minutes early or go to bed a few minutes later and make your kid a PB&J sandwich for God's sake! Throw in a juice box, some strawberries or an apple and tell your child to eat it or be hungry. I sure wasn't teased because I brought tuna on white to school while some of my classmates were eating pizza.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Check it!

Check out my baby sister's Web site to see screencasts of new, cool things on the Web.
http://www.demogirl.com

Back to work....

Sunday, June 10, 2007

PMS can be a good thing

For the past 4 months my husband has had to listen to me give the reasons why having a 3rd child would be a great thing for our family. I've really had the baby bug lately -- part of it is because I'm 33 now and if I want to have a child before that magic age of 35 when you have to start doing all the genetic testing, I should get busy. Husband is definitely happy with 2 kids and I'm not sure there is any argument I could make that would make him change his mind. He came from a family of 2 and that was fine with him. I came from a family of 7 kids and while I wouldn't recommend that number of kids, 2 just seems so sad and lonely to me. Thinking of family holidays when the kids will come home to visit just seems lame with two:) Husband laughs when I say that.

This month I not only had a bad case of babyitis, I also came down with a horrible case of PMS. I don't know where this scary person came from, but I hope she packs up and leaves ASAP. The good thing to come out of it is that for the past two days I could barely stand the two children I do have and the thought of a third just makes me want to put a bullet in my brain. OK... I'm being dramatic, but seriously, I was able to sort of focus on what I do have -- two spirited (GD, I freakin' hate that word, but sometimes it fits) children and I just about have my hands full between them, my husband and my work.

On another note, I got some more flowers put in the ground today. Let me just say that I freaking hate my backyard -- oh, yeah, we've already established that I hate everything today. The backyard space itself has so much potential because it is quite large, but the retirees who lived here before designed it in such a poor way. There are ugly planters, plants that I hate and a patio cover that totally makes the yard feel closed in. There's not much we can do with it at this point in time besides minor cosmetic changes... like changing out some of the plants. So, I was out there today and got a bunch planted. Hopefully they'll live at least until the 4th when we have our bbq.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Sleeping

Sleeping... it's something I wish I did more often. I go to bed way too late and my kids wake up way too early. Something's got to change and I have a feeling it is going to have to be my night-owl tendencies.
When I'm playing the the kids I often lie on the floor and pretend to be asleep. I'm not really asleep, but my brain and eyeballs get a minute or two of rest. My daughter used to be fascinated when I would pretend to be asleep. She would snuggle up next to me on the floor and say, "OK, mommy, it's naptime." She'd give me about 45 seconds to 2 minutes of rest before she would say, "morning time!".
Apparently that is all over now. When I was playing sleep today, she quickly bent over me and tried to pluck out my eyelashes. While I didn't get quite the rest I was looking for, I was definitely energized again.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

New bike, old 'hood and Prairie Home Companion

We've been thinking about getting son a real bike. He's mastered the Big Wheel and his scooter and I really didn't want to see what happened to me happen to him. You see, I didn't get a bike until I was eight years old. My parents had a total of 7 kids and there were 5 in front of me, so I guess they forgot. Anyway, on my 8th Christmas I got a bike. I was so excited until my dad tried to teach me to ride -- they skipped the whole training wheel thing. The neighborhood kids were pointing and laughing as an eight-year-old was being pushed down the street by her dad. Folks, it was humiliating and I carry the scars to this day. I want to make sure son has mastered at least riding with no training wheels, if not riding with no hands, by the time he is eight -- he's 4.5 so I think we'll make it.
Last week I found a nice bike at a local sporting goods store. I wanted to talk it over with husband before I made the purchase. We decided to go ahead and do it, so this morning son and I headed over to the store to buy the bike. It was gone. Sold. Another one might be in on Tuesday. Son was a bit sad, but not as sad as me. We decided to head to another store in our old 'hood (more on that later) about 15 minutes away. It is a huge sporting goods store. Guess what? They don't sell bikes! The young teen who I was asking for help told me to go across to Target to get a nice bike. Target for a bike? NEVER! I didn't want son to get some lame superman, spiderman, or whatever flavor-of-the-month character would be splashed all over the bike. I wanted a real bike, a quality bike, one he would be proud to take care of.
My first bike was used and that never bothered me. It was a beautiful, blue schwinn. Our family got all of our bikes from "The Bike Man" in Venice -- he was some old dude who sold new bikes but also refurbished used bikes. It was a great bike and I rode it and cherished it for years. Anyway... I'm going on and on... while daughter napped, husband took son out to a bike store a few miles away and came home with a great bike. It brought tears to my eyes to watch son proudly peddling around the cul-de-sac with his little helmet on. And we have the added bonus of buying from a local small business.

While son and I were on our morning search we ended up in our old neighborhood. Son said he wanted to drive by our old house -- it's been almost exactly a year since we moved. As we drove up our old street I was hit with nostalgia big time. We moved to that house about 2 weeks before son was born. I started thinking about our first walks, first trips to the local park, first time trick-or-treating. We hit the neighborhood park for a few minutes and I almost started crying. I love my family now, but there is something so tender about that time I had alone with my son. I really enjoyed it and I remember thinking when I was pregnant with our daughter how I would lose out on time with my little buddy. He and I were pals. He would go with me to get coffee and shop for towels at Kohls. We would play in our front yard all the time. Since his sister joined our family I don't have as much one-on-one time with him. I love my daughter more than anything and I often wonder if she feels ripped off because she never got that same time with me. I really don't think so, she is a pistol and happy and funny and all that. The family expands and the love keeps growing.

As I type this I'm listening to A Prairie Home Companion. I admit it, I'm a public radio addict. If I don't have the kids in the car, it's all I listen to. If husband takes the kids out for a bit, that's what is flowing through the airwaves in my house -- yes, I'm lame. Husband doesn't care for this particular program, but for some reason, I do. Anyway, I was folding laundry a few minutes ago and listening to the show... a musical act came on and people were applauding at certain points and I'm like, yeah, that was some awesome fiddlin', but then in the middle of the music, everyone in the audience starts laughing and I'm like, what is so funny?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Spooky house

When you were a kid, was there was always one house in your neighborhood that was spooky? I had that growing up. There was the "Glass House" -- so called because the last name of the owners was Glass. But they also had this CRAZY stained glass front door and the whole place was overgrown and downright spooky. I don't remember ever meeting the owners and on Halloween they always left out a bowl of candy so no one would bother them. We would dare each other to go up to the door to take a treat. I even had some pretty spooky dreams about entering the house and my friends and I would fantasize that they were really vampires.
I think the house across the street from my current abode would qualify as spooky house to neighbhorhood kids. I only have daylight pics, but trust me, it is a bit spooky at night.
The house is apparently in foreclosure -- there are a bunch of families living there and I can't get a straight answer as to who the owner is. They stopped mowing about 4 months ago and there is trash everywhere. I like my house and I think our neighborhood is fine, but this house just jacks things up.
Now I know how my parents must have felt about the Glass House. Us kids loved it because it was mysterious to us, but the grownups in the neighbhorhood must have seen it as a place that was bringing down property values. I've turned into a grownup because part of me just wants to go over and mow the lawn and ask the folks to clean up their driveway.
In any case, the house should be auctioned off soon and I really hope a nice, not too spooky family moves in.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Day at the beach, new roommate and raccoons

Over the long weekend we made the obligatory trip to the beach. We got a bit of a late start and didn't arrive until about 10:30... I thought we were going to be screwed in the parking department, but it turns out that the beach was half empty. Yay for us! The masses showed up much later so we had plenty of time to explore the tidepools and splash in the water. Oh, God, that water was cold. The weather couldn't have been more perfect and it was just such an enjoyable day with the kiddos. It was the first time in 4 years we were at the beach with little equipment and didn't have to change diapers or nurse a baby on the beach. Nice!


Here son was getting buried alive


Daughter found a bunch of hermit crabs in the tidepools

We came home from the beach to welcome my baby sister home. She's going to be hanging at our pad for a few months. She's been up in Seattle for a while now and we are really glad to have her, even though we know she can only tolerate California in small doses. Balz's (baby sis) arrival coincided with the arrival of some unwelcome creatures... raccoons. They seem to hang out in the summer and fall and disappear in the winter. Well, they're back and bigger than ever. They boldy walk up to our back door and walk along our crumbling back wall. They have some possum buddies who also often show up. I don't mind the possum because they don't seem to be very confrontational. But the raccoons... man, they seem to be looking for a fight.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Shrek the Third, The Scarlet Letter and naptime

I woke up this morning and decided that I hadn't spent enough time with the kiddos lately (love the cousins, but I haven't had much alone time with my own), so I decided to let son play hookey from preschool and I played hookey from work. I called up SIL to let her know she wouldn't have to watch my two today and she said, let's all take the kids to see Shrek. Well, I wasn't going to have them see that movie (they haven't seen the first two) because it is PG and I thought it might be a bit too old for them. Well, I decided a movie with SIL and the cousins might be fun so I agreed. The kids were all really good in the movie theater and enjoyed eating too much popcorn and licorice, but I don't know about the movie. I thought it was alright, but a bit too mature for the little ones. Many of the jokes were more for adults and the animation wasn't quite animated enough for a 2 year old. I would recommend it for the 6 and up age range.

Speaking of movies, husband recently put The Scarlet Letter on our queue in Netflix. I haven't seen that movie in years and I read the book even longer ago. It was a really good movie, but it got me thinking... man, would it have sucked to have been a woman back then. Yes, times were more simple and kids had a lot more responsibility at a young age, but us ladies were treated like donkey-shit. Take out the witch trials and the hanging if convicted of adultery and you are still left with half of the population having basically no rights. My husband might have liked it, though, because his smart-ass, free-thinking, pants-wearing wife would have known her place:)

I'm writing this as two children moan and cry about 20 feet away. It's been almost a week since daughter napped and her tantrum-having booty needs a nap so they are both stuck in their rooms until they fall asleep. Since we gave up the binky she doesn't seem able to put herself to sleep at naptime. Also, I have to have both kids sleep together because my baby sister is coming to stay with us for a bit and she is going to be using son's room while she's here (Balz, if you read this, don't feel bad, they actually sleep way better at night when they are in the same room). It truly sucks because by about 4 p.m. daughter is just a screaming mess and by 7:30 I'm ready to drop her off at the orphanage. I try really hard to get into the frame of mind that it's her problem, not mine, when she's having a tantrum. I try to play soothing music in my head and count to ten, but man, it really does get to you after a while. And it's not like it's a once-a-day thing... that I could live with. It's five or six times a day with each tantrum lasting like 15 minutes. And loud, oh, god, she is so freaking loud. I just am about at my wits end. I'm trying really hard to use positive reinforcement and not yell (like my mom did), but I'm not sure what to do next. My son, who has his own moments, was not nearly as volatile when he was her age. I think part of it was that when he was 2, his baby sister was born and I just didn't have the time to deal with any nonsense from him, so he quickly adapted. I need an infant on loan for about 6 months just so daughter knows she's not #1 any more.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

binkys, stray cats and positive reinforcement


We said goodbye to daughter's binky yesterday and it has been hell around the Crouse Haus ever since. Although son can be a sissy (I can say that because he won't read this) about the small stuff in life, he has always been good about major changes. Giving up his binky at age 2, no big deal, moving to a big kid bed, cool, potty-training, no sweat, introduce a baby sister to the family, love it. All of the major things have been SO easy with him. Daughter is quite the opposite. She's so tough when it comes to a scraped knee or missing a turn in Candyland, but take away a girl's binky, you're in for trouble. I rue the day I forced the binky upon her. She didn't get one right away and was a champion nurser, but she was too good. The girl wanted to be latched onto me 24 hours a day. I had a 2 year old to entertain, so when she was about a month old I introduced her to one of her best friends (her absolute best friend is her "piggy" which cannot be replaced and I will never take away). She didn't want the thing at first but she finally agreed and has rarely been seen without it in the past 2 years.
We went for her first dental visit a couple of months ago and Dr. "B" said it was time for the binky to go unless we want to face lots of cash for orthodontic procedures in the future.
Yesterday we told daughter that if she wanted to mail her binkys to the "Binky Fairy" to give to new babies then she would be rewarded with a big-girl toy from the toy store. She agreed through tears. We mailed the things off and she picked a lame toy.
Yesterday went OK, with only a few requests for "binky-bink". She finally fell asleep last night but woke everyone up howling at about 1 a.m Husband has absolutely no patience for such nonsense so I banished him to the couch and daughter "slept" with me. She actually kept me up most of the night. Today was very tough for everyone. Son was seen most of the day with his hands over his ears because he was tired of his sister's screaming. It tried me a bit, but husband more. We had a huge row (can I say that if I'm not English?) and I am glad he is going to work tomorrow.
Tonight went OK... they are both sleeping now and I hope there won't be a repeat of tomorrow. But in case there is, I'm making up the fold-up couch now for husband.


We have a cat that is now hanging out in our yard and husband is trying his darndest to make this stray a part of the family. The cat has a slight limp, which is improving, and looks seriously malnourished. When the animal first started coming around last week, husband left some milk out for it. He stepped it up a notch yesterday and purchased cat food and cat treats... Cat food for God's sake! If there is one animal I don't want, it's a cat. I wish this animal no ill will. I'm not an animal-hater, but I don't do litter boxes and I don't agree with outside cats because all of the cats in the neighborhood already do their business in my yard and it grosses me out! Anyway, the kids are thrilled and love seeing the cat in the morning in the yard and feeding it with Daddy in the evenings. I'm going to make up flyers tomorrow and paste them around the neighborhood. I don't want to take it to the animal shelter because chances are that it will be euthanized and I don't want that on my conscience.

I'm looking for advice for positive reinforcement for preschoolers. My sis-in-law and I trade off childcare these days. She watches mine 2 days a week so I can get in a full day of work those days and I watch hers on three so she can go off to help support her family. In theory it works out well and we don't have to pay for childcare and all that. My son is in preschool for 9 hours a week and her daughter is in kindergarten, so it's not too bad. But most afternoons I have four children ages 5, 4, 3, and 2 running amok in the house. All the while I'm trying to potty-train, keep the house somewhat orderly and keep the kids stimulated without television. The kids have been hard of hearing lately and a bit disrespectful in both houses. Sis-in-law and I want to implement some reward charts for the kids and I'm trying to come up with good behavior to reward for these ages. Any ideas on what you do to give your kids incentives to be good citizens would be appreciated. We're not going to reward with toys because they are already so spoiled it is CRAZY (that is probably part of the problem and something I'm working on) but will probably reward with trips to the zoo or beach or something.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

15 year reunion and wating more

Saturday night was a night I had been nervous about for a couple of weeks. It was my 15th high school reunion. I went to lunch with an old friend a few days before the reunion -- she wasn't going to attend -- and she asked me, "why do you want to go? Didn't we hate high school?" That question made me stop and think. Yes, for the most part high school was painful for me. I had a couple of close friends and was a good student but high school definitely wasn't for me. I was, and still am, painfully shy. I've diagnosed myself with social phobia and working at my job for 12 years has only seemed to cause this social phobia to get worse -- I work on the computer, from home and don't see any of our customers.
Why would I want to go back? I guess the reason was that I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I wanted to walk up to someone I didn't really know and strike up a conversation. And I did it. It was painful and it required 2 glasses of wine, but I mingled with a couple of old classmates that I hadn't really known 15 years ago. Did I have a good time? No, but I'm glad I went. If I gained anything from the experience it was the knowledge that talking with another human being won't cause me to die and heck, the person I'm talking with probably won't just walk away from me while I'm in midsentence.
I also learned, from my a friend's husband, that my shyness isn't obvious to the world as I always assumed. He was shocked to hear that I considered myself socially awkward.
Well, I won't go out and make a bunch of new friends while at the park with the kids, I might be a little less hesitant to strike up a conversation with another mom.

OK, folks, I want out to Southern California. Less than a year ago I talked my husband into moving into a slightly bigger house in a neighboring city. We didn't need to move but I was convinced that living in this city would help me meet other parents and help the isolation I feel working from home with the kids. We now live in a house I love (although it is old and needs work we haven't the money for) in a great neighborhood. We can walk to most all shopping and services we need and we are surrounded by great parks. The schools in the area are supposed to be good and the city is very safe. I'm about 25 minutes from the beach and the weather is great. What the hell else could I want? Well, now I'm thinking I made a bad decision. We are strapped with a huge mortgage that forces me to continue at my job and doesn't leave any savings for fixing up the house, which really needs fixing up. The city we live in is only about 10 minutes from where I grew up. I hated it as a teen... living in an upper middle-class area when my family was always struggling even to buy clothes at Sears. I felt like an outcast and that other kids were so materialistic. It is still that way here. You should see the outfits that the 5 year olds wear here. For Mother's Day my husband treated me to a manicure -- the only other manicure I've had was before my wedding, so it was a real treat. When I went to the nail place, there were like 6 or 7 young girls in there getting mani/pedis. I'm talking 8 year old girls, for God's sake!
I find I'm wasting time in the evening, time that should be spent writing, looking on the computer at property in Washington State. My little sis lives up there and it just looks beautiful. I have visions of a house on an acre or more of land where my little ones can run free. They would have places to climb trees and explore, something they can't do here. I daydream of the two of them going out on a summer afternoon and exploring and using their imaginations to conjure up all sorts of adventures. They only get one childhood and I want more for them than I feel they'll get here. Husband is not on the same page as me and I feel like a bitch even approaching the subject since it was me who put us in this house in the first place. Who am I to ask for more when there are billions of people in the world who will never even have what I have now?
Anyway, I'm obsessed and I've got to do something. Either shelve the idea completely so I can focus my attention on my wonderful family, or stop being a pussy and just tell husband what I want to do. Poor man. He married a woman to whom the grass is always greener.

**update: Apparently my sister thinks I was drunk when I wrote this. Of course there is the obvious misspelling in the title, which I didn't catch. No, I wasn't drunk this morning, just dog tired and had a lot on my mind. Also the grammar is less than stellar -- not that it is ever that great when I'm just writing off the cuff. Also, I'm lazy and don't usually read my posts before I post them. That'll teach me. Thanks, Balz!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Case of the Monday's

Beware, there are references to preschooler poop in this post. I'm only sharing it to perhaps scare my little sis:)
I ended the evening at Chuck E Cheese with my kids. Not somewhere I usually go unless it's a birthday party my son really wants to go to. Otherwise, let's just say I'm not a Chuck E. Cheese kind of gal. Heck, I don't even let my kids go in the play area at McDonald's. So there I was, sitting at this place, eating cardboard pizza and wishing I could order one beer with my meal... alas, I was alone (husband jogging at home) and so I couldn't induldge. Why were we there? Daughter filled up her potty chart and this was her wish. To be honest, I think son had something to do with it.

I'll let you in on how she filled in that last square on the potty chart. It ended with a poop, but not in the usual celebratory manner. We had just arrived home from dropping boy and girl cousin off and I was bringing in the trash cans when daughter runs up to me and says, "poop!" That means, "get me to the bathroom now, mother, if you don't want me to soil these nice new underpants!"
I whisked her off to the bathroom and realized son was still out in the front yard. We live on a tiny cul-de-sac but even in this city they can't hang out alone. So I left daughter with a book on the potty and went to retrieve son. I couldn't have been more than 2 minutes -- I might have stopped to prop scooters and tricycles up against the side of the house instead of blocking the walkway -- when I heard daughter laughing and saying, "I did it, I did it!" I was excited for about 5 seconds and then I saw her. She walked out onto the front door with no pants on and poop all over her leg. I quickly picked her up and headed into the bathroom to survey the damage. It wasn't pretty, folks. I called for son and then cleaned up daughter and dropped her in the bath. I cleaned up the mess while she happily played in the bubbles, all the while singing that she was going to Chuck E. Cheese because she pooped on the potty.
That is how I ended up at that god forsaken place on a Monday night.

It wasn't my dream end to a nightmarish afternoon. The morning went all right with the little ones around, but by afternoon all four of them where a whining, fighting mess. They were in and out of the house because it was so hot today. They would go from happily splashing in the water to crying that someone splashed them. They were tracking dirt and grime everywhere they went. After snack I was cleaning one child while two others were happily smearing yogurt and grahamn cracker mush all over my walls and sofa. UGH! The house has now been cleaned up a bit, but not entirely. And it all starts again tomorrow. Hopefully not as early as today (5:30).
Oh, I hope Tuesday has more to offer me than Monday did.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Carnival fun and ditched by husband


Only a few more years til she gets her own pink car


Luc was a natural at bumping into his cousin and sister.

We headed over to Conejo Valley Days today -- it is a local carnival that comes to town every May. I've been going since I was 12 or so. It is so fun to now take my own kids! It is a little tough on the pocketbook, these days, though. $3.00 for one dart to pop a balloon?
We met grandma and cousin Julia over there and Julia had fun going on some rides with Lucas. It was a gorgeous day our and there were lots of families with young kids... a much different crowd comes out at night. That is when I used to go as a punky teen and now I avoid the night carnival like the plague.


Fun Apple ride with Luc, Julia, Amanda and me!


After returning home husband packed up and left. OK, so he didn't leave for good, but he headed down to O.C. to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with some friends. I opted out because I don't care to watch "the fight" or drink too many Dos Equis and then have to care for the kiddos tomorrow.
Since we just have the one car now, he had to rent a car. He chose a convertible, damn him. On this gorgeous day my husband is now cruising down south and getting a tan:)
I hope he has a good time, and I really hope son and daughter wake up from their naps in a good mood. We're going to have dinner at my mom's and then we'll have movie and ice-cream sundae night back here! Yipee!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Waste of time and money

They knew it was a waste of time from the beginning. And while people are hungry and homeless in our own country they continued to waste our tax dollars by passing a bill they knew would be vetoed. Why did they do this? Campaigning for the next election of course! Now they can go on the record to their constituents and say, "look what we tried to do, but the other side fought us. Vote for us!"
I am so fed up with both sides of the political aisle at this point. Disgusted that while the democratic majority congress is stuck with a stubborn "bleep" for the next 18 months they refuse to do the best they can with what they've got. Instead they are wasting our time and money by passing a bill that won't be signed. Our soldiers are dying, many more Iraqis are dying and no one is doing a damn thing about it. Sure, they act like "oh, we wanted to pass this spending bill, but the president is an idiot and won't sign it." Well, crackheads, you knew he wouldn't sign it so why not stop playing games and get to work on something he will sign. You aren't going to change him. I don't like him any more than you do, but I want to see you do something!
Oh, I'm enraged. I don't know who the hell I'll vote for in the next election because I'm so disgusted with everyone in Washington. The sad thing is, even if someone trustworthy and "real" came along, I probably wouldn't notice him or her because I'm so cynical. You jerks in government have taken all that was good about our country and shat on it and now it's not so good anymore.