Friday, March 27, 2009

What does a calf say?

I learned something new today.

Keaton: What does a calf say?
Me: Moo
Keaton: No, a calf. What does a calf say?
Me: Well, a calf is a baby cow, so I think it says moo like a cow.
Keaton: No. A calf is a baby brother. I saw one, and it was a baby brother and it said "YeeHaw."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Boy Who Cried Tummy Ache

Tucker is the kind of kid who is made for school. He loves to learn and does best with a schedule. That's why I knew kindergarten would be a dream for him. And a dream it was. Until he discovered the nurse.

His first trip to the nurse occurred at 9:30 a.m. early in the school year. He has eczema, and his skin was really itchy. The nurse put lotion on for him and cared for him better than his own mother. Wouldn't you know that the next day at 9:30 he started itching again, and he was pleased to learn that the sweet nurse was still there to sooth him. And at 9:30 the following day the itches returned, and you can guess what happened next. And the day after that. And the day after that.

I don't remember how I learned about these nurse trips. It could have come up in a casual conversation with his teacher. If memory serves, I learned of his obsession with the nurse at the same time I learned that he "takes a knee" during the moment of silence every day (because when a game is silent that means a player is down and everyone else takes a knee, duh).

Anyway, Trey and I talked to Tucker about how you should only go to the nurse when you are really sick or really hurt, and that seemed to help things for a while.

Sometime later he realized that if he was sick enough the nurse would call someone to come and pick him up and take him home. The first time or two this happened, I decided that he was probably just tired and needed the rest. Interestingly, he kept having tummy aches just before lunch.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, his Mimi was called to pick him up because he had a tummy ache. He thought he might feel better if he ate, and the only thing that sounded good to him was Mi Cocina. So he had a Mexican food lunch with his Mimi and played Wii Sports all afternoon. Now I'm no doctor, but this was not the behavior of a sick little boy.

Thus I launched Operation Interrogation. I started stealthily asking him questions about school. It went something like this:
Me: Do you like school?
Tucker: yeah
Me: Is anyone mean to you at school?
Tucker: (thinks for a moment, then) One time this girl Jordan bit me. That wasn't nice.
Me: What is your favorite part of school?
Tucker: Stations
Me: What do you like the least about school?
Tucker: math tubs
Me: When do you do math tubs?
Tucker: right before lunch

AHA! I had my answer! He didn't like math tubs, so he was arranging to leave school instead of participating in them. After more investigation, I learned that the problem with math tubs is that he finishes them too fast and then he's bored.

If you've ever met me, you've probably heard me brag about how smart Tucker is. I don't do it on purpose, but he just impresses me so much. Don't get me wrong, he's not doing calculus and curing cancer (yet), but the "know-it-all" in him makes him just want to know stuff. He learns so quickly because he wants to know everything.

My big fear is that he'll be that kid who is more than capable of being successful in school, but decides at an early age that it's just too boring to be worth his time. So I had to do something! Despite my better judgement, I became worse than a helicopter mom. I became a helicopter mom who is also a teacher.

Tucker's teacher (who is awesome, by the way) and I came up with a five part plan.

Part One: I made Tucker a nurse pass that he can use only once per week. Once he uses it, he can't go back unless he's bleeding.

Part Two: The teacher talked to the nurse and Tucker's other teachers and let them know about his little shenanigans. He wouldn't be fooling them anymore.

Part Three: Tucker's teacher would move him to a level K reader to give him more of a challenge at school.

Part Four: This was Tucker's idea. He suggested that after he goes to bed at night I can write two digit addition problems on paper and put them in his backpack (so he can't see them). Then, if he finishes math tubs early, he can do the math problems I made up for him. Yes, my child asks me to make math problems for him to do in his free time. Yes, he is a nerd. Instead of giving myself homework every night I just bought a math workbook at Walmart for him to keep in his backpack.

Part Five: We made it very clear to Tucker that if he comes home from school sick he is to lay in the bed until school would be out. All day. For hours. Laying in the bed only.The idea is that if you're sick enough to come home, you're sick enough to stay in bed.

In short, I am a genius. My kid wouldn't stay at school, but he was no match for me. I am a mother, for goodness sakes! I laughed in the face of this problem!

Until Tuesday. Tuesday I got an email from Tucker's teacher saying that he'd been to the nurse for a tummy ache, and the nurse had sent him back to class. But at the time of the email he was laying n the floor next to the trash can. My baby was pitiful. I replied to the teacher to say I'd be right there to get him.

When I walked into his classroom his back was to me. He was standing up counting every letter in the class's "100 letter rhyme" because he believed it to be 101 letters. He was happy and confident and counting away. Rotten little kid.

When he finally turned and saw me, it was the best production I've seen in a while. He clutched his stomach, doubled over, and huge tears welled up in his eyes. He whispered, "I'm so glad you're here. I'm sick."

But this kid was clearly not sick. I took him out into the hall and told him that I was glad he was feeling better and I had just come to check on him. Then the waterworks really started. I think the only time I've seen him look so helpless was when he had a serious case of pneumonia and couldn't hold his head up. I guess now I have to wonder if he faked his chest x-ray that day. Hmmm...

I was faced with a dilemma - leave my screaming child there and risk being the world's worst mother when he puked all over the classroom or take him home even though I knew he wasn't sick. The situation was further complicated by the fact that I was absolutely certain he could put on a puking performance given the proper inspiration, and my leaving would have provided just that.

So I took him home and relegated him to his bedroom. I'd see him get up, and I'd put on my best Mom face and point my finger and announce "You get back in that bed! You're sick, remember?" His request for chocolate milk was met with my reminder that his tummy hurt. Chocolate milk wasn't good for tummy aches. I heard the radio turn on, and made him turn it off because I didn't want it to disturb his rest. I was stoic, unbeatable. I was certain I'd won.

Five hours from the time we walked through those elementary school doors, I let him come out of his room. Even though I knew the answer, I knew I had proved my point, I asked the question anyway. "Tucker, did you have fun today?"

"Yeah, I had a pretty good day," he shrugged.

And I lost again.

Today he went to the library, and I told him to look for "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." He asked the librarian for it and checked it out for the week. Tonight we read it, and I asked him, "What do you think would happen to a boy who said he was sick all the time?"

His answer, "When he really is sick no one will believe him."

I kissed him on the cheek and thought to myself, "That book would have saved me some time a few weeks ago."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Few Days with the Cousins, The Finale

Monday was, well, Monday. Trey went to work so it was just me and the kiddos. Did I mention there were five of them? Anyway, the weather finally warmed up at about 11:00 a.m., so the kids played outside a big part of the day.

Just imagine lots of "Stormy, Brian/Colton/Melanie/Keaton/Tucker hit me in the arm/leg/head/etc."and "Stormy, Brian/Colton/Melanie/Keaton/Tucker won't give me the baseball bat/glove/remote/etc." and it will be just like you were there.

Sidenote, sometime Monday morning Keaton decided to start calling me "Storm." None of the other kids called me that, which makes it a little more awkward. I hope it wears off before he starts school. I can just see him telling his teacher, "Sure, I'll get Storm to sign that report card right away."

Sometime Monday morning Tucker put his DS on the counter and mentioned that he didn't think it had worked since Brian dropped in the toilet on Sunday. Surprisingly, this was the first I'd heard of the DS's little swimming trip in the toilet. More surprisingly, I did absolutely nothing about it because I was quite busy cooking a healthy gourmet lunch of chicken nuggets and french fries.

When Trey came home, I mentioned Tucker's comment to him. Together we remembered the day before when Brian came into the living room, said the DS wasn't working, and plugged it in to charge. Trey picked up the DS from the counter where Tucker had left it and as he opened it toilet water ran from every nook and cranny onto the kitchen counter. Don't worry, I think I protected the nuggets.

In Brian's defense, I have on occasion taken a book into the bathroom because I couldn't hold it anymore, and I couldn't just leave the serial killer and his victim alone because of my weakness. The only solution in that case is to take the book with you to the potty. I can honestly say, however, that I've yet to drop the book in and then try to fix it by plugging it in to an electrical outlet. He is only eight, and I'm quite glad he didn't electrocute himself.

The real fun started Monday night at bathtime. Five stinky kids to get clean did not scare Trey and me. Why? We're an awesome team, that's why. We had Colton in the shower in our bathroom, Tucker in the bathtub in our bathroom, and Brian in the boys' bathtub. We were going to be done in record time.

Until Melanie threw up fruit punch on the living room carpet. More specifically, she threw up a hot dog, some chips, some left over birthday cake, some fruit punch, and what I believe to be about six packages of fruit roll-ups. Who let her eat all that crap? It's like there was no one in charge here or something! Oh, wait...

Anyway, Trey being the hero that he is, he grabbed Melanie and flung her into bathroom, planting her face three inches from the toilet bowl itself. (I wonder if she saw any other electronics in there?) This was a bit of a problem because her older brother was perfectly happy alone in the bathtub until his weird uncle and baby sister came screaming into the room. I hope Mom and Dad's health insurance pays for therapy.

He cleaned up the kid, I cleaned up the puke, and all was right with the world again.

On Tuesday morning I decided I could get a little yard work done while the kids played outside. Dad was coming to pick Brian, Colton, and Melanie up that morning, and it wouldn't hurt for me to get a head start on my Spring Break chores. Things were great. The kids were taking turns hitting golf balls with these little padded clubs that Tucker got at the Dallas Cowboys store, and there was very little fighting and yelling.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Tucker walking through the back door, bringing his real golf clubs from inside the house. I told him no way, and he countered with "but we're being so good." With a stern "be careful" I let them have the clubs. They were being good, and today was a new day.

It was probably a good twenty minutes before I heard the crack and the screams. Colton stood too close behind Brian as Brian attempted a great shot with the driver, and the club had hit Colton squarely in the mouth. His head leaned forward and blood pooled quickly under him.

I ran to his aid, and the first thing I noticed was how quiet all the other kids were. Colton was screaming bloody murder, of course, but the sight of all that blood shocked the other four into complete silence. Is it sad that I noticed the quiet? Don't judge me.

I held Colton's head, instructed Brian and Tucker to go get me some paper towels, and my eyes began searching the ground for Colton's teeth.

Tucker and Brian were quite thorough but incredibly slow. They brought the whole roll of paper towels, perhaps prepared for Colton to lose his entire blood supply. The blood continued to pour from Colton's face, and there was nothing I could do but stand there. Well, I also yelled for them to hurry. Okay, I screamed for them to hurry.

When I finally got the blood sopped off his face, my first thought was not who to call, but who not to call. There was no way I was calling my sister until I had a better handle on this situation. Since I had no insurance information and no official guardianship of this kid, I didn't figure a doctor would treat him if I took him in. I called Dr. Don, a family friend, hoping he would at least take a look at his mouth and tell me if I needed to go to the emergency room (or to a dentist or a plastic surgeon).

He answered his cell phone from the beach in Florida. He was very kind, but unavailable to inspect the bleeding child.

Then I called Trey and told him I didn't need anything, that I had the situation fully under control. Why did I call him? Because he's Trey, and that's what I do. I also called Mom, then Dad's cell, which he didn't answer.

Somewhere in there I corralled all of the children into the house and put an ice pack on Colton's face. I also found myself speaking in that eerily calm voice that one uses around children when you don't want them to suspect a problem from one side of a phone conversation, saying things like, "Well, Colton's been hit in the mouth with a golf club...yes...there was some bleeding...yes...I think his teeth are still attached....yes..."

Colton had a gash on the inside of his mouth underneath his bottom lip, which was the source of most of the bleeding. It did not go all the way through, although you could see it from the outside of his mouth. Upon further inspection I found another cut above his two front teeth, and I'm pretty sure I could see his permanent tooth lurking there under his gums. All in all, it was kind of gross.

Dad arrived about ten minutes after the incident, having been on his way to pick up the kids. He pronounced Colton "just fine," loaded him the van, hugged me and Tucker and Keaton, and sped out of here. If I didn't know better, I would say he drove away like his kids' lives depended on it!

Somewhere in there I called my sister (Colton's mom), but only after I had completely mastered the everything-is-a-okay voice. Think of it, "Your son's been hit in the mouth with a golf club going full swing, but it's okay. I think he only lost a pint of blood - that's like nothing. He sure has some strong teeth because they're just hanging on! You must give him lots of milk....No, really, Dad said he's 'just fine.' Do you have a dentist?"

And then it was quiet. For about five seconds. Then Tucker and Keaton started fighting about the Wii and the remote and which movie to watch, and I went into my room and sat on my couch and totally ignored everything they had to say. I am such a good mother.

In all honesty, I am so grateful that my boys have cousins their age to fight with and play with. I grew up with lots of cousins, and I have so many great memories from those days. I can just hear them in ten years, after they've asked to borrow the car and been denied, forced to stay home and hang out with the old folks. One of them will say, "Remember the time Brian hit Colton in the face with a golf club?" And it will all be worth it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Few Days with the Cousins, Part Four

Things in the van quieted down. I even took a short nap on the way home. There were no stops for bathroom breaks or screams about movies. It was a pleasant trip.

We got home, and the kids piled out of the van. They wanted to play Wii first thing. The only problem was that there were five kids and only four Wii controllers. We compromised that one person could play Tucker's Nintendo DS while the other four played Wii.

That worked for about six minutes. Then they started fighting about what Wii game to play. Harsh words were exchanged and punches were thrown before I had to break things up. "No more Wii today," I announced. After a little moaning and groaning the boys went back to the playroom and Melanie continued to play DS.

That's when we had our first real problem. Grocery day is Sunday around here, and it was Saturday night. Trey suggested grilled cheese sandwiches, but we didn't have enough bread. So off he went to the nearest gas station to pick up a loaf of bread.

This was when Colton told me he was allergic to grilled cheese sandwiches. I understood rather quickly that "allergic to" is code for "don't like" and I made him a grilled cheese anyway. Which he ate.

Melanie continued to play DS. She played long enough that Brian complained because he wanted a turn, and he was right. I made Melanie give Brian the game. This was the beginning of the end for that game.

Bedtime rolled around. The extra kids had baths before they left their respective houses, so only our boys needed baths. They were in and out pretty quickly, and I told all five to brush their teeth while I started getting out everyone's church clothes for the next morning.

But I couldn't find any church shoes for Melanie. She only had tennis shoes and pink crocs. Maybe she was supposed to wear the tennis shoes to church?

Me: Melanie, did you bring church shoes?
Melanie: No.
Me: So can you wear your tennis shoes to church?
Melanie: No, I can't. I didn't bring my church shoes.

It was at this moment that I realized Colton and Brian didn't bring toothbrushes. Trey was store-bound again, this time for toothbrushes some size eleven girls shoes for Melanie to wear to church.

Now, let's leave Trey at Walmart for a moment so I can fill you in on a little back story. Brian and Melanie are technically my brother's children. However, my parents have custody and I commonly refer to Brian and Melanie as Mom and Dad's kids. Because Mom and Dad are raising them. Now, my parents already raised the three of us, so starting over with two young kids is a great sacrifice for them, if you ask me. There is no doubt in my mind that my mom needed a break for a few days, and we were happy to take the kids.

That probably won't stop me from making a joke about how she threw some stuff in a bag and waved goodbye from the window, and then likely sat down on the couch, opened a fresh bag of double stuffed Oreos, and watched Lifetime movies for three days straight while I lovingly cared for these five children. (Okay, I know she didn't do that, but it's certainly what I would have done!)

Trey returned home with two toothbrushes and some cute, shiny church shoes. Upon further inspection of these shoes, he realized that even though the little plastic hangy thingy said size eleven, the shoes were actually a size nine.

Sunday morning came, and Melanie thought the shoes were beautiful.

Me: Melanie, you can just wear your tennis shoes.
Melanie: No. I will wear these shoes. I love them.
Me: But I think they're too small.
Melanie: They hurt my feet.
Me: Then just wear the other shoes, hon.
Melanie: No, I will wear these because they're beautiful. I love them.

And I let her. If she wants to be a slave to fashion, who am I to stop her? I learned later from Mom that she doesn't have church shoes because she refuses to wear them. Hmmmm...

The kids were all wonderful Sunday morning. We had to get to church early because Keaton's choir was singing, and it wasn't a problem at all. The kids ate breakfast, got dressed, brushed teeth, and piled happily into the van (yes, even my kids, the most not-morning-people I know). Finally we were going to have a good time together.

At church there was an incident. I mention it here only for those of you who think Trey and I are weird because we don't fight. We honestly only fight about once a year, if that. Well, there was an incident Sunday morning, and we had our annual argument sitting in the van instead of going to Sunday school because (you're not going to believe this) I was crying and refused to go sit in a room where people would just be uncomfortable and wondering why I was crying. Good timing, right?

The good thing about fighting with Trey is that it doesn't ever really last. He hates for me to be mad at him and I hate for him to be mad at me, so we usually have it out and then move on. Looks like we're covered for another year or so.

The rest of Sunday was uneventful. I went to the grocery store and bought hot dogs even though Colton was allergic to them. The kids fought and played, but I think they played more than they fought.

Sometime Sunday afternoon the DS stopped working. Brian announced that it probably needed to be charged and plugged it in. This will be important later.

Then came Monday. Monday brought vomiting, toilet problems, and loads and loads of Batman fruit roll-ups. And it was easy compared to Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Few Days with the Cousins, Part Three

Our story picks up in a van. Not just any van, though. This van was parked in a muddy driveway on a cold day and held five children ages three to eight. This van had a nifty built-in car seat for the three year old. It was this car seat that began our trek home.


I don't think he wanted to sit there.

However, it was the only car seat in the van suitable for him, so I gave Trey an awful look (because this was his fault?), strapped in the screaming child, and moved on to the other issue brewing in the van.

It seemed there was some sort of disturbance regarding what movie we should watch on the way to College Station. "Let's take a vote!" was shouted out, followed by "Peter Pan!," "The Incredibles!," "Polar Express!" (do I need commas and exclamation points in that series? I'm too lazy to look it up.)The problem with voting is that sometimes no one agrees on anything. An issue that kind of set the tone for the whole three days.

Finally, I squelched all talk of movies until we were down the road a little way, hoping that some quiet time of reflection would help them agree (and perhaps I subconsciously hoped to find a filled flask in the glove box). This little plan didn't work and there was no flask, so I had to put my foot down.

Keaton could choose. After all, he is my baby and he had screamed the most. Seems fair, doesn't it? I'm not proud of it, but I was desperate for a movie choice and some silence after the twelve long minutes we'd been in this screaming hell.

So Keaton, my sweet baby, chose Veggie Tales, his favorite movie of late.
I started flipping through the DVD cases, remembering how sweet Keaton sounds when he sings all of the songs in this movie, proud of myself for my swift decision making skills. But as I looked I became more and more frantic. Where was it? Where was Lord of the Beans? It had to be here! We had finally decided on a movie. Could the worst really be happening?

Yep. It was in the DVD player in the truck we left at Grandma and Pop's house. We had no Veggie Tales.


After a deep breath, I used my best negotiating skills to talk the kids into another movie. I asked Brian, the oldest of the kids and child of the van's owner, to put the DVD in. He kindly obliged, but there was a problem. It was a "disc error" to be more specific.

So we tried another disc. Without breaking the law by taking off my seat belt, I contorted myself into the back seat, ducked my head under the DVD screen, and began pressing buttons. When I could no longer feel my body from the neck down, I told the kids we'd have to wait until Trey stopped to get gas. When he stopped, I'd get the movie going. No worries.

No luck. We stopped to get gas, I climbed into the back seat, tried every movie we had, pressed every possible button. This thing was broken. Toast. There would be no movies.

"It'll be okay," I assured them. All the while I was sobbing inside.

We were in Corsicana. A full twenty minutes from Mom and Dad's. This was going to be a long trip.

A Few Days with the Cousins, Part Two

"The fun part"
As usual, we had a great time at my parents. It was freezing and wet, but that didn't stop us from having a little fun. Mom and Dad have moved back to the land we lived on when we first moved to Rice. It's way out in the country, and they've had lots of work to do clearing everything out again. Recently my sister and her husband have decided to move out to the front part of the land, so there has been lots of brush cleared out to prepare for their house. This means it's starting to look more and more like it did when I lived there.

On Friday night we celebrated Melanie's birthday a few days early. The birthday girl will be six on Thursday. Here she is:

Saturday morning I ventured out to take some pictures while Dad and the boys went to town to get gas for the Polaris. I had to borrow a pair of Dad's boots to stuff my pants into (so I wouldn't ruin them in the mud), and they worked great.

There's a great big tree in the middle of the above picture. It hangs out over a small creek, and when I was a kid there were vines hanging from the branches. We could wade out into the water, catch a vine, and pull it over to the bank. Then we'd hang on for dear life and see who could swing out the farthest before dropping down into the water. It was so much fun!
This creek and tree, however, where the easy ones. At the back our land, there was a much larger creek with a steeper bank and stronger vine. That one was the best because you had to climb the tree to get the vine. We'd "accidentally" fall in the water when we weren't supposed to be swimming. I'm guessing you probably can't get back to that creek right now without a machete. We used to have a trail that I'm sure is all grown up now.

This picture shows the beginning of our path to freedom as kids. In the woods, we'd play war and hide and go seek; we'd dream up stories about escaped criminals who were hiding in our woods (we needed to capture them, of course); we'd shoot at rabbits and the occasional snake; we'd pick peaches from the tree in the dried up creekbed, and eat them before we got home because we weren't supposed to be in that creekbed. So many adventures began with this trail.

There used to be a natural bridge here (where you see water now). On the right was the creek in the previous picture, and on the left was a small pool of water about four or five feet deep. Once you crossed the bridge, you could go straight back to the place we called The Circle. It was a huge bois d'arc tree that had been completely cleared out all the way around by the horse. It stood near the back fenceline and served as our permanent camp, base, or other meeting point. All of our friends knew where The Circle was, and if you were lost or scared or wondering where everyone else went, you could find your way to The Circle and know that someone would be there soon.

This is in front of the house. They've cleared out so much more land than we had cleared when we lived there before. The little stream you see in the picture has always been there, and I distinctly remember a Sunday afternoon when about four of us (my brother and our friends) got into a mud fight in that stream. We were all soaked and laughing with mud caked in our ears and hair and between our toes. There are pictures somewhere. I looked for them at Mom's but didn't find them. Someday when I run across them I'll post them here.

Well, when Dad and the boys got back we went mudding. It was about thirty-five degrees, and the boys wore old ski clothes to keep from getting too wet and muddy. Keaton had fun for a little while, but then he started saying, "No more!" so we dropped him off at the house.
Pretty soon my nephew Brian got too cold and wanted to go in. He's eight, so we just dropped him off where we were and let him walk up to the house. Too bad his boots got stuck in the mud. We had to rescue him and drop him off at the door.
Tucker was the most adventurous of the bunch. He stuck with us to the end even though we were all freezing and wet and cold. My eyes were watering so much from the cold I'm surprised I could see to drive! I think going through the deepest part of the creek was Dad's favorite.

Then it was time to gather eggs. Keaton had been talking about gathering eggs with his Pop from the moment he found out we were going to Rice, and he's continued to talk about it ever since.

The parting picture for part two is one of the dogs. Dad wanted every grandson he ever had to be named Augustus and called Gus, but none of us came through. So recently he got a new puppy and named him Gus. The hound is named Elvis, of course.

It was a fun-filled, memorable trip. Around two o'clock we loaded up all five kids, Tucker, Keaton, Melanie, Brian, and Colton, in Mom's van and headed back to good ol' College Station.

Little did we know that the peaceful Saturday was only a short respite from what was to come.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Few Days with the Cousins, part one

or, as an alternate title, "Why I Don't Have Five Kids"

As Spring Break 2009 approached, I was excited about the relaxation and possibilities it would bring. I was ready, oh so ready, for the luxurious days of no work. In fact, I even started my own personal spring break a little early, spending my seventh period conference on Friday in the comfort of my classroom eating a Cadbury Cream Egg and watching the Lady Aggies win a basketball game. Granted, it wasn't the most productive way to spend my last few hours of work before the sweet release of the school bell, but I decided I've been working hard enough to earn it.

Before I left school, I called my mom. She knew we were heading to Rice for a quick visit, and I was just checking in before we hit the road. She had left me a message earlier in the day wondering if I wanted to bring my two nephews and niece back to College Station with me for a few days. So we talked briefly about how I was glad to bring them here for a visit, and we decided to work out the details of their return trip to Rice a little later.

Then I started making mistakes.

Instead of coming home to pack and picking the boys up from school on the way out of town, I stopped to get them first. While I threw underwear and extra socks into a duffel bag, Tucker packed snacks for the trip and Keaton started packing his own bag.

Keaton preferred the rolling backpack to the duffel I decided we could share. He had to work hard to get it, opening the door to the extra closet and pulling out suitcases, wrapping paper, and board games before he could finally uncover the amazing rolling bag. There was no need to put all of those things back, of course, because the maid would be by later to take care of it. Oh wait, we don't have a maid. He must have forgotten.

Tucker packed a healthy little cooler of snacks, complete with bottled water, pop tarts, and about two dozen Oreos. In his defense, it is about a two hour and fifteen minute trip. We could've died from Oreo starvation in that time. He probably saved our lives.

The previously clean house was now a disaster of suitcase and Oreo crumb proportions, and we left it that way. It was Spring Break, and we were headed to Grandma and Pop's.

We stopped to pick up Trey from work, then turned the truck northward.

The pouring rain made it clear that this would be no leisurely drive. After all, it hasn't rained here in several months, so most people had forgotten that cars still work in the rain. In fact, they needed to slow down to thirty or even forty miles per hour on the highway because they were afraid the rain would somehow injure their automobiles. No one wants to make one of those pesky insurance claims because the rain hit his car too hard as he drove down the highway. Driving extra slow was the frugal thing to do.

Of course we needed gas, but the first station we stopped at didn't have any open spaces for gas or parking. We waved goodbye to that crowded place and stopped at the next one. Trey braved the sub-fifty degree temperatures and rain to gas us up for the trip. Now, finally, we were good to go!

About 45 miles down the road, we heard the familiar, "I have to go to the bathroom" from one of the boys. You're not going to believe this, but in all of my motherly wisdom I actually told them to go to the bathroom before we left the house. Wouldn't you know it, they didn't have to go then. But they had to go now, so we needed to stop.

Trey suggested McDonald's because we knew it would make the boys happy and we're all about making them happy.

Wait, actually he suggested that we go to McDonald's because it would cause the least amount of whining and fighting between the boys, and we were willing to eat some nasty Mickey D's in order to NOT listen to any of that.

Just as we announced to the boys that we'd be stopping at McDonald's for dinner and potty breaks, we notice the parking lot of said restaurant. It was so full that there was only one lonely spot left for us. We could see the lines of people inside and wanted so badly to bolt to the Sonic across the street, but we had told the boys McDonald's. We had committed. No matter how many millions of cars in the lot, we were having happy meals. and we were going to be happy about it.

It wasn't until we were inside that we saw the tour bus parked on the other side of the restaurant, and the lines fifteen people deep coming from the restrooms, and the line at the register that threatened at any moment to stretch out the door into the pouring rain.

But we persevered. I stood in the food line while Trey took the boys to the bathroom. When they got back we traded and they stood in the food line while I stood in the potty line. Four to-go burgers and thirty long minutes later, we were back on the road.

I dropped ketchup on my shirt twice because the first time didn't sufficiently ruin it, but other than that the rest of the drive was uneventful. We finally arrived at Grandma and Pop's. Spring Break had finally begun.

Or so we thought.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Preschool Racial Issues

On Tuesday night, we were watching American Idol when Keaton looked at me and said, "God made white people."

I was initially stunned by this comment, mostly because I've never heard him use the words "white people." We've had several conversations about what color we are, and he has always been certain that we're a very light pink. In fact both boys described their African American friends as "brown" until recently. When Tucker learned that Obama was the first black president, he informed us all of this grievous error.

I never corrected the kids when they decide what color people are. Really, what would the point be? To indoctrinate them into society's definition of a particular race? Seems silly to me, especially since I teach Huck Finn in which we see without a doubt that racism is a learned behavior. Who cares if they think we're pink or white or brown or black? Not me. One of the things I love about Keaton's school is that he is growing up with kids and adults of all races and economic backgrounds. He's as used to diversity as you can be in Central Texas, and I'm thankful for that.

This incident has me freaking out. My kid thinks he's special because he's white! How did this happen? Where did I go wrong? Will his life be all downhill hill from here? Has he had a character defining moment at the tender age of three?

I think you can see my problem. Anyway, back to the story.

Keaton says, "God made white people."

After a moment, I respond, "Yes, baby, God made all people."

"No he didn't," Keaton replied, "He didn't make M--." (his favorite friend, a little boy who isn't white. I won't put his name here because he's not my kid and I don't want to put his name on the internet)

Now I'm shocked, astonished, appalled. Where on earth did he get this? First he says "white people" and then he acts like we're special or something because God made us but not other people. I don't know whether to spank him, chastise him, or read him Huck Finn. I'm lost. Finally, I ask, "Who told you that?"

"Miss Avian," he replies with confidence. You see, Miss Avian is his teacher and he loves her more than just about anything. In his eyes I am obviously an idiot for even questioning his declaration about God's creations because Miss Avian said it was true. This was the "conversation over, I win" statement in his mind. As a teacher, I can appreciate this, and I let it go.

Then today when I picked Keaton from school, I told Miss Avian my story. She shook her head and told me the real story (which I knew was definitely not the Keaton version). Apparently there's a little girl in his class who is white but wants to be brown like her dad. She's really distressed over this, so naturally the evil little children give her a hard time about it, saying "You're white" to her. Miss Avian didn't know why what God made came into Keaton's little announcement to me, but she figured the discussion of black and white came from the situation she'd been dealing with in his class.

While we talked, Keaton went to get his lunchbox. When he came back, she crouched down to look him right in the eye, held him by the shoulders, and said firmly, "Keaton, God made white people and black people and everyone. He's such a big God that he can do all of that. He loves me very much and he loves you very much, okay?"

"Okay!" Keaton replied. And all order was restored to his little three year old world.

I think when Keaton's a teenager and not listening to me about coming home on time or not getting tattoos until he's eighteen or not dating skanky girls, I'm going to have to go find Miss Avian.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Dear Adam and Eve

Dear Adam and Eve,

I've got a bone to pick with you. First, let me say that I don't blame you for all the wrong in the world. I mean, I'm a pretty curious little thing myself, and I don't always make the right choices. Who's to say that if I were in that garden I wouldn't have listened to the snake and chowed down on a shiny red apple? Certainly not me. In fact, I'm pretty sure I would've loved the possibility of knowing all things good and evil. Heck, if Anthony Bourdain had done a show espousing the deliciousness of apples, I probably would've eaten it without all the knowledge stuff thrown in as a bonus. I would have eaten it and felt sophisticated about it, too.

So I can't blame you for all the ills of the world because I may have done the same thing in your situation.

However, I think you did something more. Be honest with me. Something else must have happened. How else can you explain ragweed?

This is not your typical punishment for original sin. It's evil. And possessed. It's evil and possessed.

The evil beast multiplies at an unfathomable rate. It watches me pull up its little friends and cackles silently at my curses. When its prickly flesh pierces my skin through my industrial strength gardening gloves, it revels in my bloodloss.

I pull it up, determined to eradicate it from my life, yet it grows. For each awful weed I eliminate, three more spring up in its place. On many occasions, as I pull with all my might, it breaks off in my hands and leaves me sprawled on my back holding only the part that exists above the earth, leaving the heart of the plant to regenerate and come back heartier and more evil than before.

And so, Adam and Eve, I blame you. I blame you for whatever other sin you committed that caused God to plant this horrible menace. I am certain now that hell is but pasture after pasture of ragweed, and the unrepentant man is sentenced to forever pluck it. Hell is that awful place with no Round-Up, and the existence of ragweed on earth is our reminder of the eternal torment that awaits the unforgiven.

And it must be your fault.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sometimes you just gotta dance...

Wednesday, March 4th

It's been a great evening. My 4:00 meeting ran late, so Trey had to pick up the boys from choir. Because of the traffic at 5:00, this led me to get home before the boys.

I was in the kitchen cooking up some pork chops and jamming to Ben Folds, when Isabelle the Super Chihuahua barked to let me know the boys were here. Keaton ran in the door and yelled, "Momma! Someone's here for you!"

"Who is it?" I asked.

"It's MEEEEE!" he shouted!

Then Tucker came in and told me to close my eyes. When I opened them he was wearing a red clown nose! Two clowns from the circus went to his school today, and he got a super-cool red nose out of the deal. Pretty cool! Tucker grabbed a basketball and ran outside.

Keaton pulled an orange out of his lunchbox and said, "Mimi gave me an orange! May I eat it with my supper please?" His politeness shocked me, but I did manage to tell him yes. Then I was even more shocked when he said, "Thank you, Momma!" in his sweetest voice. Keaton then ran out the door to play with his brother.

We had dinner. Trey and I had a conversation. We cleaned the kitchen. It was wonderful.

I put Tucker in the bath and went to add the new Kanye CD to my computer so I could put it on my ipod (thanks, Jodi!). Keaton came in to see what I was up to, so I played "Heartless" for him. Of course, he just had to dance.

When that song was over, he asked for me to play his song, so I turned on James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James." Sometimes you just gotta interpretative dance.

Now that I was fully entertained, it was time to get Tucker out of the bath and put Keaton in. While Keaton soaked, Tucker and I raced on the Wheel of Fortune puzzles. I am happy to say that I beat him on every puzzle today!

Tucker doesn't gotta dance. He's gotta make up intricate games. So we played Tucker's Wheel of Fortune for about five rounds. Trey got the puzzles for "American Flag" and "Texas Flag," but I got "Let's Go Aggies" and the final puzzle of then night, "Keaton stinks, not Tucker."

Just a regular day, but so much fun!

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Thought

If I had my own show on the travel channel, I wouldn't have to give the TAKS test.

That is all.