Monday, June 29, 2009

Big Brother Hates Me

First, the back story.

Sometime in May, I was taking Keaton to school per our usual routine and I ran the stop sign in our subdivision. In my defense, I drive past that stop sign every single morning, and every single morning I meet a kid on his bike. So, I was watching carefully for my little biker friend and I apparently didn't stop for the full three seconds. I'm guilty, so I just complained a lot and took the online defensive driving course. I finished it last Monday, and the certificate is in the mail.

Back story, part two: The State of Texas has decided that all people certified by the State Board of Educator Certification must be fingerprinted since we're likely to all be criminals. I suppose if I steal a Gatorade from the cafeteria, they want to be able to prosecute me to the fullest extent of the law. Our district just went ahead and scheduled everyone, and my June 15th scheduled appointment was when I was in Huntsville doing training (for school, of course). So I was told I could just pop in to the fingerprinting lady sometime during the two weeks she was here.

Okay, now for the actual story. I decided to step out of summer school one day to run across the street to get fingerprinted. My friend wanted to go at the same time, so she got me from summer school, I let my teacher partner know I was going, and we ran off to quickly do our patriotic duty. There was a student taking a final exam, but I knew we'd only be gone a minute and probably be back before he finished.

Only it wasn't quick. We got stopped on the way out of the building several times. Finally, fifteen or twenty minutes later, we arrived at the designated location to donate our prints to science. There were two or three people ahead of us, but my friends knew I was in a hurry, so they let me go first in our little group.

I got back to "the room" and a very scary lady told me to sit, then began signing and stamping papers at a pace I have heretofore not witnessed. Just as I got comfortable in my chair, she barked, "Do you have a license that's NOT EXPIRED?"

"No," I whispered in shame.


Okay, she didn't really say that, but it felt like it. My license is expired because it's time for me to go have another picture taken. Even though I much prefer the 32 year old me to the 21 year old me overall, the picture of the 21 year old me on my license makes me perfectly happy, so I put it off.

A few days after my humiliation, I decided to get my license renewed and then meet Trey for lunch. I drove all the way to the DPS office at their new location - practically in Oklahoma. When I approached the front of the line to get my number to get in line, the check-in lady informed me that they only take cash or check.

Really? Most places don't even take checks at all, but the State of Texas in the form of the Department of Public Safety can't take my debit card?

Frustrated but not beaten, I had lunch with Trey, got the checkbook, picked up Tucker, and drove back to Oklahoma. Patiently we waited. Finally they called number 51, and we were so close to freedom.

The lady renewing my license was very gentle, especially when she asked me to review my little stat sheet and I had to admit that I don't remember ever weighing 117 pounds. Maybe when I was seven.

Things went so well that I decided to go ahead and try the fingerprinting thing again. As I traveled carefully down a residential street, I passed a police officer on a motorcycle. It wasn't a big deal. Since my ticket last month and my subsequent drivers education course, I've been quite careful to follow all of the rules.

So I was very surprised when he pulled me over.

As the officer approached my window, he informed me that he pulled me over because my registration sticker expired in May. He was quite nice as he wrote my ticket, explaining that if I just renew my registration and take it up to the courthouse within ten days, the ticket will be dismissed.

After all, it will be convenient for me because I have to go turn in my driver's education certificate for my other ticket. It's like I'm a freakin' criminal. Or at least a repeat offender.

But I persevered, and let the mean lady roll my fingerprints this way and that on a magical computer screen, all the while wondering what type of student rage at me would result in me having to be identified by my fingerprints. Good thing someone has them, I guess.

When I got home, I immediately sat down at the computer to renew my registration sticker only to find that when it's expired, you can't do it online.

And the saga continues. Now I have to go to the courthouse to obtain the sticker that I have to take to the municipal court to dismiss the ticket, and while I'm there I have to turn in my defensive driving graduation certificate to dismiss the other ticket I got when I was innocently trying to save the life of a little boy on a bicycle.

Big Brother hates me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Let's Go Ride a Bike

I have a confession to make. I am a failure as a mother.

Let me elaborate. My over-achieving, good at everything, type A six-and-a-half year old doesn't know how to ride a bike. Looking back on my failure, I can't for the life of me figure out how this happened.
He's always had a bike. First a tricycle, then a small bike with training wheels, then a larger bike with training wheels that Grandpa had to get for him (it's a John Deere bike). Over the years we talked about taking off the training wheels, and Tucker always put it off for another day. He was never very interested in learning. It wasn't important to him.

Then last year at Christmas the boys wanted to get Trey a bike so they could all go ride bikes together. I thought it would be the perfect push to get Tucker on two wheels, so we got Daddy a bike.

The bike, however, turned out to be problematic. See, sometimes I'm, well, cheap. I didn't know if Trey would actually ride the bike, so I encouraged the boys to pick out the one that was $80 at Target. I figure if he loved it and rode it all the time, we could get him a cool bike for Father's Day in June. Basically, we picked out a test bike.

A test bike that Trey doesn't like. He's never actually voiced his displeasure, but I can tell. The bike is apparently rather trendy, and it's certainly not something Trey can see himself out riding around the neighborhood on. I should have remembered about my (dare I say) picky husband when I purchased the test bike, but I was too busy trying to be cheap. Either way, I don't believe he's ever actually been on it outside the privacy of our back patio. It looks something like this:

Sorry, Trey, if you are offended by my honesty. You are welcome to add your comments. Please remember that I love you. :) (If anyone reading this has a cool used bike that they'd like to trade for a trendy new bike, let me know.)
Back to the point of the story. About two months ago in a fit of wild determination, I took the training wheels off of Tucker's bike. I figured he'd sink or swim. Learn to ride the bike or don't ride at all. Tough love, that's what I was doing.

It didn't work. He still just didn't care. He'd much rather be playing baseball in the front yard than falling off a bike in the back, so he never practiced.

Then, for Keaton's fourth birthday on June 6th, he wanted (you guessed it!) a bike. Again, my determination to get Tucker on two wheels grew deeper. Surely he would want to out-do his baby brother who was on training wheels.

I told Trey that Tucker would learn to ride a bike this summer if we had to practice day and night. He can't be the only kid in first grade who doesn't know how to do it. I refused to let it happen. So Trey put a twenty dollar bill on the bar and told Tucker it was his when he could ride. Boy, did that get him practicing! Being Tucker, of course he didn't want too much help. He just wants to keep trying to figure it out himself.

In the mean time, we became a three bike family with a lazy mom. Thus, I began my quest for a cheap, used ladies bike. I scoured the school district's swap shop, message boards with classifieds, and craigslist. There were plenty of used women's bikes -- for like $200. Aside from domestic automobiles, nothing used should cost $200. The bike I was looking for didn't exist.
Until yesterday when God sent it to me. I happened to check craigslist at about 4:30, someone happened to post a bike for sale for $50, I happened to reply that I'd pay $30, and the person happened to respond that I had to pick it up by 6:30 because she was moving to another city. Coincidence? I don't think so, either. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision, but I went with my gut.

Here's my new bike:

The young woman I purchased it from said it works great and even has a brand new chain. She told me the back brakes need to be adjusted, and I said, "Oh, that's no big deal" even though I have no concept of what that actually means. It's rusty, the seat is torn on the side, and it needs some paint, but now I can finally take the boys on a bike ride. Just like a good mother would do.

Except Tucker still can't do it. He works and works and tries and tries and just can't figure it out. I keep telling him he's doing great and that once he gets it he'll be riding all over the place, but to no avail. I keep waiting for our sitcom moment - just like when Ben Seaver and Bobby Brady and Jennifer Keaton finally took off amidst the cheers of their entire families. It only took them thirty minutes to learn to ride a bike, and that was including commercials!

So if any of you are professional bike riding instructors, please pass along your wisdom. Help the Hickman family become those annoying people taking up the whole sidewalk with their family bike rides. If your advice is really good, we may even let you come along!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How to be a Not Terrible Mother

It was my nephew Nathan's birthday, and we gathered at Carol and Mike's to celebrate. Since Nathan's big day is only three days after Keaton's, Jackie and Michael (my niece and her boyfriend) gave Keaton his birthday present. It's a super-cool tee - slash - pitching machine -ish thing complete with a plastic bat. Awesome gift.

Around 8:00, the boys decided they wanted to swim. Being the benevolent mother I am, I allowed them thirty minutes in the pool, but then they had to go home and straight to bed. They followed instructions exactly, and at 8:30 they got out of the pool, changed into dry clothes, and began to tell everyone goodnight.

It was on the way to the car that things got ugly.

Keaton wanted to carry his birthday present. But the oldest child didn't want that to happen, so he raced to the toy and began running toward the car. Of course, Keaton began to scream a scream that woke the dead. Being a mother is really all about being a mediator, so I put on my stern face and called to Tucker, "Put that thing down right now!"

The only problem was that I was holding the little plastic bat that came with the toy. Okay, I had been holding the bat, but something about putting on my stern face and yelling made the bat seem a little more imposing.

A look of fear came across Tucker's face, and he clenched the toy and took off at a dead run. And Trey saw.

Then things got uglier. Tucker began to scream like he was being chased by a wild animal. Trey had fire coming out of his ears and was chasing Tucker in a half-walk/half-run with his fists clenched. They circled, and they circled, Tucker screamed and he screamed. In the background, Keaton was still screaming because Tucker still had his toy. It would have been funny if I weren't so concerned that the neighbors would call the cops. Thank goodness we were at someone else's house. Boy are those neighbors going to talk.

Finally, Tucker stopped. Trey administered a little corporal punishment and put him in the car, and I said comforting words to both boys in my calm, motherly voice. Aside from the occasional whimpers in the back seat, it was a silent ride home.

Trey and I, however, had an interesting conversation on the way without saying any actual words. He looked at me as we pulled away, and in my head I said, "He's really tired and I scared him because I yelled at him while I was holding the bat."

He looked back at me and thought, "Oh, whatever! You don't actually think he was afraid you would hit him with the bat!"

I responded with another look that said, "But he's really tired. I let him stay up too late."

And then Trey's eyes said, "You are such a sucker. He cannot act like that even if he's tired."

Then I told him (without speaking, of course), "Yeah, you're probably right."

We drove home amidst whimpers, and I hugged my sweet boys and put them straight to bed. I told myself that even though I inadvertently waved a bat at my son in a threatening way, I am not a terrible mother.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Guess Who has a Four Year Old?

Oh, dear readers! I have neglected you so! It has been eleven days since my last post. ELEVEN! Here's a brief synopsis of what you've missed:

1) Graduation. It was both the most wonderful and most awful event as we had to say goodbye to some phenomenal people. Kind of like childbirth in reverse.

2) Tucker officially completed kindergarten and is experiencing his first real summer. More on that later.

3) A week and a half of summer school has already gone by.

4) I'm still working on the yearbook, but the end is in sight.

5) I finally finished Gone With the Wind

6) I totally cleaned out and reorganized one side of the house so that Joe, our Brazos Valley Bomber could live with us this summer.

7) Joe moved in, and we couldn't ask for a better player to host.

So, you see I've been a little busy. That whole perception of teachers having summers off is a myth for me (well...unless you count July...hehehe).

Perhaps our family's biggest event of the past eleven days was Keaton's fourth birthday. He's four, and I can hardly believe it. Here he is showing off his tractor cake. He describes it as "a farm cake, just like I'm a farmer." He does have a strawberry plant in the front yard, so I guess that counts.
In case you were wondering about the decorations on the cake, Keaton explained, "The tractor is fake and the gate is fake and the trees are fake, but my name is real."

When we pressed and pressed him for what he wanted to do on the big day, he finally decided this: "I want to go fishing with Pop and catch some fish and cook them and eat them!" Since his Pop lives over two hours away, that wasn't happening on his birthday. We made arrangements for him to commune with nature and Pop on another weekend, and he was perfectly happy with that.

The next thing he really wanted to do was this: "I want to go to Mike and Carol's house and swim in the pool and roast marshmallows!" Thanks to a little help from Uncle Mike, this was easily arranged. Keaton's a little afraid of the water, so he likes to hang out in the shallow hot tub and shoot everyone with the water gun. As you can tell, he had a wonderful time.

He got lots of great gifts, including a new bike, a cool spiderman couch-slash-bed, and a fun sprinkler that shoots balls into the air.

I realize this picture is a little blurry, but I still love it and had to share.

He got one more gift, but like most things around our house, there's a story there. Tune in next time for that little gem.