Thursday, December 31, 2009


Up until Wednesday, Christmas break was calm and relaxing. The weather was cold but beautiful, and the boys have been riding bikes from the crack of dawn until I make them come in late in the day. In fact, on the first day of Christmas vacation, Tucker called me out into the driveway to show me he had learned how to ride his bike, something we spent all of last summer trying to do. I guess just leaving him alone to do it on his own was the solution to that one.

The calm atmosphere melted away yesterday with the yucky, rainy weather, and as the day went on things became frantic and crazy. I had started taking down the Christmas decorations the day before, so I was determined to get my house totally put back together yesterday. The boys had other ideas.

First, there are the foam swords. Someone who doesn't have kids (Nathan Barrett) got the boys these huge foam swords for Christmas. You're never going to believe what they do with them.

They beat the hell out of each other. (Aren't you surprised?) Then they take turns crying because the other one has beaten the hell out of them with a giant foam sword. It's great fun. One of my other favorite sword-related activities is when Tucker slams the sword flat onto the surface of my IKEA leather couch, creating what I'm certain is a sonic boom. Then he looks up at me like, "What? I didn't smack Keaton on the head with it this time. Lighten up, you old hag."

So yesterday morning I offered some harsh words and confiscated the swords. Over and over again. I hid them. I threatened. I sent kids to their rooms. Still the swords surfaced all morning.

Keaton was in a particularly grouchy mood, so anytime I said anything to him he responded like an angst-ridden teenager. For example:

Me: Keaton, you cannot ride your bike in the house.

Me: Keaton, you cannot play outside in the rain.
Me: The temperature is 47, and it's raining!

And so on and so forth. As a result, Keaton spent much of the day in his room where he "WAS JUST GOING TO PLAY AND HAVE FUN ANYWAY SO I DON'T CARE IF YOU SEND ME TO MY ROOM."

God help us when that kid is sixteen.

Finally, the Lord smiled on me and the sun came out. I "suggested" that the boys go outside, and they jumped on the idea. This was, of course, followed by several hundred admonitions to "CLOSE THE DOOR" and "PUT ON YOUR JACKET," which were, of course, ignored. It's like I had totally lost my voice, but I didn't know it. I thought I heard words coming out of my mouth, but clearly there was nothing because the words had no impact.

As the boys played outside and I put away decorations, I checked every five or ten minutes to make sure they were within sight and everything was okay. Things began to settle down. On several checks they were actually wearing jackets and playing nicely with one another. That must be when I let my guard down.

Because the next time I opened the door I found the boys washing my car. Now, I know what you're thinking -- how sweet that they wanted to do something nice for their mother after such a crazy day! Well, you're wrong. Very, very wrong.

See, they were washing my car with water from the mud puddle in the driveway, and they had taken off their jackets, shoes, and socks to do so. And their clothes were soaking wet, and my previously relatively clean car was covered in mud. Doesn't sound too sweet now, does it?

In the house they came, stripped from their muddy, wet clothes and sent straight to their room. I think they understood at that point that they had gone too far because things were a little bit calm around here for an hour or so.

That's when they started sweetly begging for hot chocolate. Of course, I said no, but they begged and begged until in my exceeding motherly kindness I relented. It was Christmas break, after all, and they had already made so many messes that I'd already cleaned up they had to know that I was at my limit. I felt the the hot chocolate was as safe as anything.

So I made it, told them to keep it in the kitchen and make no messes, and then retired to my room to sit in the massage chair and pick up my book. The house was clean and successfully un-Christmas-decorated, the boys had calmed down, and the day was finally starting to look up.

It was at this point that Keaton came running in to tell me, "MAAAHHHHMMMM. WE HAVE A BIG PROBLEM!"

"Just clean it up," I replied. "You better make sure it's cleaned up before I get in there or you're both going to be in so much trouble." Then I went back to my book. How bad could it be?

Pretty bad, apparently. When I finally made it into the kitchen there was chocolate-tinted water all over the bar, the counter, and the floor, and no boys to be found. They were kind enough, however, to take the "wet floor" sign from the garage (that I'm pretty sure Trey stole from somewhere when he was in college) and place it at the entrance to the kitchen. I guess they didn't want me to slip. How kind.

So here we are the next morning, me blogging about the ridiculous day before and the boys, parked in their room, calling my cell phone from the house phone. I keep clicking "ignore" on the phone, but I'm afraid I might have several anonymous voice mails explaining that I'm a "poo poo head." I'm up to twelve missed calls so far.

When does school start again?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

It's my blog, and I'll rant if I want to

On Sunday nights I enjoy listening to Focus on the Family Weekend Magazine. It plays on our Christian radio station, and I either find the week's topic enlightening or offensive, and both make great food for thought. I've greatly enjoyed the recent discussions of adoption and how it parallels our relationship with Christ, we being fully adopted into his family. On the other hand, of particular offense to me are the weeks when a woman gets on the radio and talks about submission to one's husband as taking care of all the laundry and cooking so that when he gets home from what was no doubt a difficult day at the office he can sit quietly and not be bothered with household chores, and she then frets over us poor souls who are forced to work outside the home. I do my best not to scream at the radio, but I'm not promising I don't.

One of the evening's topics tonight was teens and movies.

A listener had written in for advice. The scenario: she thought her teenage daughters should be able to see movies with a little profanity and maybe even some sexually suggestive stuff, but she always researched movies before taking them (she used the Plugged in Movie Review, which I love). Her husband, however, did not allow them to see anything with even one word of profanity, and if he heard it in a movie he would get up and leave every time. What were they to do?

My thoughts are plentiful on the issue, including 1) the woman is rude to her husband for taking the girls to movies he is vehemently against (which she admitted to in the letter), and she had to know of his extreme views before she married him, so she kind of signed up to live with those extreme views, and 2) I hope those kids are home-schooled because if I stormed out of a room every time I heard profanity I would have to flee from my school building about forty-seven-thousand times a day. That doesn't mean I like it, but it does mean that I live in reality, 3) Who actually writes letters to strangers for random advice on movie watching? Did she call her friends tonight to gleefully explain that they had actually read her letter on the air? Lame.

The oh-so-wise Focus on the Family advice guy (whose name I do not know) had a very different take on the situation. His response to the woman was something to the effect of "Your marriage is in trouble! If you and your husband can't compromise on this movie issue then there must be much bigger issues lurking there, waiting to jump out and cause you to disagree. God forbid!"

Yes, I'm paraphrasing. But it gets better.

"You should run out right now and purchase This Random Marriage Book from Focus on the Family to save your marriage! Hurry! There's no time to waste!"

I wanted to scream.

Thanks, Weekend Magazine for taking a little issue of life and calling it a marriage in trouble. Thanks for explaining to what is likely millions of listeners that if you disagree with your spouse, something must be terribly wrong. Thanks for trying to sell your book instead of actually answering a question.

It frustrates me to no end when Christian organizations put forth this super-human expectation of perfection when life is so far from perfect that it's not even funny.

End of rant.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Where are your hands right now?

I'm just going to guess, okay I'm going to hope, that your hands aren't in your pants. And I'm going to assume that the reason your hands aren't in your pants is that your mom diligently reminded you (and nagged, and yelled, and scolded) that polite little boys and girls don't walk around with their hands in their pants. And it worked for you, didn't it? Please tell me it worked.

You see, my oldest child has developed the habit of going through life with his hands down his pants. Now don't get ahead of me here because there's nothing vulgar about this. It's just a bad habit that I WILL BREAK.

I'm no stranger to bad habits. I think I started chewing my nails in the womb, and on any given day I will have one beautiful, well-manicured nail just to prove I can grow nails. My small victory. And for a short period of my life I had those fabulous solar nails that looked perfect and couldn't be chewed, but it's just not economically feasible for me to buy nails when God gave me the ability to grow them. So I chew them. All the time.

I also have the fabulous bad habit of munching (on food, not nails) when I need to do a mundane task. Jelly Belly jelly beans are my favorite, and I can go through an average sized bag of them every time I give a TAKS test. While I "actively monitor" students, I eat jelly beans one at a time, and sometimes I count to a certain number in between beans. Or I park the beans at one area of the room and allow myself to have one on every third pass. I usually end up with a little stomach ache, but I keep my sanity during four hours of watching people take tests.

I also need to munch when I'm trying to focus really hard something tedious. I tried to buy lots of almonds last year when I was working on the English department master schedule because I knew I would need to munch. Peanut M&M's work well, too, but I have to eat them in three steps each. You know, take a bite, eat it, eat the peanut from the middle, then eat the other chocolate candy half. Everyone does that right? Somehow it makes me focus - like my chewing jaws are a little motor for my brain. Now that I think about it, munching might give me genius superpowers.

But I never put my hands down my pants. That's just weird.

Tuck's a pretty smart kid, and I think he's decided that pants without pockets can have make-shift pockets if you stick your hands down the waistband. It's been colder lately, so perhaps he's trying to keep his hands warm while wearing pocket-less pants.

Either way, I find myself constantly saying, "Get your hands out of your pants." I thought the problem was confined to home, but yesterday we were Christmas shopping and I caught him with his hands warming just under his waistband. I called him over, grabbed his little face, and whispered, "You do not want me to scream at you across the store to get your hands out of your pants. You will be very embarrassed. It's just not polite." That seemed to fix the problem for the rest of the shopping trip.

But it didn't stop the problem. And it didn't stop me from thinking about him being the weird kid at school who the girls describe with a disapproving scowl: "Tucker always has his hands in his pants. It's sooooo gross." Just ask Wesley Green, the kid in my third grade class who picked his nose. He could tell you. I'm sure he ended up as a social outcast who had to get a job at the North Pole because everyone knew he picked his boogers in the third grade and he couldn't stand the humiliation.

So I persevere. "Get your hands out of your pants," I say, and I mean it. Then five minutes later I say it again. And again. And again.

So this holiday season, thank your mom that you're not reading this post with your hands in your pants. Trust me, it was no easy job to get you here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's me again!

Whew. It's been a long time without a blog post. I've been busy, but I'm well aware that my busy isn't any more than anyone else's busy this time of year. I just got a little bit behind in my life, and it didn't seem like catching up was possible. (As a side note, the Hickman family Christmas card hasn't been done, so it's just turned into the Hickman family New Year's card, and you can expect it in January.)

Now that things have calmed down, I would like to extend a special bit of gratitude to those of you who kept me sane when I edged myself closer to the brink in the last week and a half or so. You know who you are because you ran scantrons, wrote me a nice note, stayed married to me, attended interviews with me well after you were supposed to be gone home for the holidays, checked email on your day off so I could turn my homework in, and/or listened to me whine (gasp! not me! whine? I'm so ashamed, but it happened, and I think it happened a lot. Foxy could tell you for sure.)

Anyway, I work with the gosh-darned awesomest people on the planet and my husband is a saint, and I thanked God for you all lots and lots of times last week when things got crazy.

Now on to the blogging part. These are unrelated items that need to be documented here for posterity.

1) Keaton is certain that all angels have names, and he is downright offended when we don't call them by their names. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing? There are angels in that nativity scene? "Which ones?" he wants to know, and he isn't satisfied until we throw out names that seem fitting for angels. In addition, we always have to mention Gabriel. If we don't, he'll add, "And Gabriel. I think it was Gabriel, too."

2) Tucker's random fact-ness is getting a little out of control. As usual, he entertains us during breakfast each morning with sports facts from the night before. Unfortunately, all sports in the world don't end when he goes to bed, so he has to read all the updates on and YELL THEM AT US while we get ready for school/work/church. It usually goes something like this:


Trey and I pretend to care for a few minutes (because that's what good parents do, right?) and then when I reach my breaking point I have to tell him to use his inside voice and STOP YELLING SCORES AT ME BEFORE BREAKFAST! After all, his inside voice is much easier to tune out before 8:00 a.m. (and that's what great parents do, right?).

On the way to church yesterday morning, we sat quietly in the car listening to softly playing Christmas music when Tucker screamed, "LAWRENCE TAYLOR WAS BORN IN 1959! HOW OLD IS HE NOW? FIFTY! LAWRENCE TAYLOR IS FIFTY!"

Is there a version of Turrets for sports fan? I think Tucker has it.

3) Keaton was nicely dressed for church yesterday morning in jeans, boots, and a blue long-sleeved collared shirt. It wasn't until we got into the car that I realized he had added a giant sun hat and a green plastic lei to the ensemble. When I asked him about it, he told me he wasn't going to wear the hat into church.

Great. So he was planning to wear the lei? I let it go until we were getting out of the car at church, and then I gently took it off of him and explained that he couldn't wear that inside either. He huffed at me a little, "Ooookaaaaay."

That didn't, however, stop him from trying to wear both accessories into the restaurant after church. God help us when this kid is allowed to dress himself.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Creeper Santa

We were having one of those mornings.

Okay, we were all fine, but Keaton was having one of those mornings.

He woke up early and announced, "I am not eating at home this morning. You will stop and get me breakfast." You know I LOVED that.

Then he started with "I'm not feeling well. Mommy! I'm not feeeeeeliiiing welllllll. I'm siiiiiiick. I want to stay home." I told him he was welcome to stay home all by himself, but there was no one to stay with him because we all had things to do.

Things progressed as expected with significant crying, screaming, demanding, etc. As I picked him to take him in our room to get him dressed, he began squirming and kicking. So I held him out away from me, my hands under his armpits, his skinny little body flopping around in a full-on temper tantrum.

I've learned that Keaton reacts if I react, so I pretended it wasn't happening until the time came that I couldn't get his pants on his squirming little legs. In desperation and frustration, I blurted out, "SANTA IS WATCHING YOU!"

And there was silence. Immediate silence. Surprised, he finally asked, "What did you say?"

Me: I said Santa is watching to see if you're a good boy or a bad boy.

Keaton: He's watching me right now?

Me: Yes. He's always watching you.

Now this is where Bad Santa comes in. I had this evil moment-slash-moment of genius when I realized the Wild Thing was paying attention. I realized it and I used it. I used it good.

Me: You know what happens to bad little boys?

Keaton (not sure he wants to know): What?

Me (in my super-scary voice): They get rocks in their stockings. (This was followed by Vincent Price-style evil laughter in my head, and I am only a little ashamed.)

Keaton: Rocks?

Me: Yes, rocks. Only the good boys and girls get toys, and Santa is always watching so he can put you on his good list or his bad list to see if you get toys or ROCKS.

We finished getting him dressed in total, compliant silence, and I felt I had entered a new world. I realized this is it. This is THE YEAR that I can use this. It's never worked before, and it will never work again, but THIS YEAR I will use it until bedtime Christmas Eve. I wondered if it would be possible for Santa to mail a behavior report card to Keaton just to let him know that the Big Guy is keeping tabs. I pictured myself slipping a ten to the mall Santa and whispering in his ear whatever boyish trouble Keaton had gotten in that day so he could have a little heart to heart with the kid. This is big, I thought, and I'm a freaking genius for figuring it out.

After a reasonably quiet breakfast at home (turkey bacon and juice, the breakfast of champions), Keaton was climbing the ladder that's still in the living room along with the half-displayed Christmas decorations and their boxes. "Mommy?" he asked in a sweet voice, "is Santa outside the window right now?"

Sensing his timidity, I responded kindly, "No, baby. He's not outside."

Keaton shrugged his disbelief and turned his freaked out little face to the window.

And that's how I made Santa a creeper. Will that get me Mother of the Year?