Tuesday, December 14, 2010

FISHING FOR MICE. AND THIS AIN'T NO METAPHOR.

Yes, it's mine. And no,
see, it's not pink!
Yes, the saga continues.

And the dead mouse smell that has been driving me insane for two weeks...FOUND!!  At long last.

I've been unable to use my dishwasher for a week now because the last time I ran it, it smelled like a little rodent sauna.  Oh, yes. I'll let that simmer a while just so you can feel the full effect.

Needless to say, I was pretty certain the little fucker had up and died somewhere beneath or behind the dishwasher, which is screwed into my granite-top counter. By a professional, no doubt.

So I text my landlord ('cause he's cool like that) and ask him for his suggestion.

"Do you have a tool belt?" he asks.

Uh...hello...I'm a lesbian.

But then I had to really psyche myself up for it, had a double-chai, flipped my leopard print hat on backwards ('cause, well, just 'cause), and strapped on the brand new, never-been-used belt.  As soon as I tried to unscrew the thing with my tiniest philips screwdriver, I quickly realized this was gonna be nothing like replacing the batteries in Chago's roaring dinosaur.  I'd have to pull out the big guns for this one.

So, I grabbed my flashlight, my Ryobi, kicked off my 5" heels, laid flat on my belly, and got smacked right in the face by the putrid odor.  My eyes welled with tears immediately and I reached frantically for the Lysol, Fabreze, and some crystal gel odor-eating thing I had at the bottom of the nearest cabinet.

So, finally all geared up to go, I then find that it helps to have had your power tool plugged in and charged first. For a while, apparently. And I'm thinking this is a life lesson, applicable across a number of scenarios.  So just take note, and we'll revisit this one later.

Thirty minutes later then and we're back in the saddle. I get the bottom cover off and unscrew it from the countertop with surprisingly little effort.  The heft and vibration of the power tool make me wonder why I haven't taken up carpentry before.  Or, at a minimum, a QA position with Babes in Toyland.  But the jiggling of the dishwasher to carefully maneuver it out of its very tight spot reminded me that you probably need a whole heck of a lot more patience than that with which I come naturally equipped.

Poor little dude. Time's up, buddy.
Under the further misimpression that the dishwasher was just gonna slide all the way out to allow me clear and complete access, I was thoroughly disheartened to discover I'd have to resolve this entire issue from my flat-belly position on the floor.

Flashlight back in hand. Odor-neutralizing gel within reach. I scanned the area behind the dishwasher for less than 2 seconds before coming across the flattened, furry, rigor-mortised, little body.

"HA! HAAAA!" I cackled to no one.  "I've got you now!!"  And I suddenly had a flash of the crazy 90-year-old woman I would eventually become.

But for now...how to get him out.

My mind immediately went to the 3am commercials and that hand-held reach extension thingamajig with the pincher on the end.  Yeah. You know the one.  That would TOTALLY work. Perfectly.  But the nearest As Seen On TV Store is at least 10 miles away. (Do NOT ask me why I know this.)  And right now, I'm on a mission.  And, typically, very easily distracted.  See, there I go again. Stop sidetracking me, people.

Giving a whole new meaning to
what's in your toolbelt?
So, I search my garage, search the kids' outside toybox, search the holiday boxes, the giveaway stack, the gardening corner. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

And then I see a little glint out of the corner of my eye.  Something tucked just behind the tackle boxes.  I stepped closer. Sneaking up on it for absolutely no reason whatsoever. I quickly push aside the scooters to reveal a silver fish. Dangling midair. From fishing line.  Attached to a rod.

I think I may have actually wrung my hands like the old witch in Snow White just before she doles out the apple.

But out he came. His stiff little paw curled tightly around the line. If only you'd found me last week, his rancid aura whispered.  It was all very melodramatic.  I'm fairly certain Celine Dion was playing somewhere.

[End scene.]

Lesson learned: ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS just go get the damned live mice traps. Or a cat.
...

Monday, December 06, 2010

DO YOU DO CLASSROOM GIFTS?

We don't, typically. As a rule.

Or at least, I didn't think we did.

Until the kids asked what we were going to be doing for the classroom holiday gifts this year.  And I'm sure I had the same blank expression then that I have on now because for the life of me, I have no idea what they're talking about.  And then it occurred to me, it must've happened during the black-out.

You know, the Christmas shopping black-out that begins the day after Thanksgiving and continues up until about the 23rd of December?  It's that place that you go to in order to justify to yourself and to your dwindling bank account and smoking credit cards that you haven't. yet. covered. everyone.

So, evidently, during these black-outs, I've been easily convinced in previous years to purchase classroom gifts for each of my kids' classes. I'm still in a state of shock as to how this actually happens.  Apparently, I'm a pretty functional shopaholic. Buying, wrapping, tagging, shipping.  Even the postman gets a little sum'n sum'n (no, not THAT kinda sum'n).

So, I'm still staring at Saia, mouth completely agape, as she regales me with tales of our wonderful shopping sprees, and how much she enjoys being able to give something to every single person in her class, so that no one feels left out, and how she's so happy with the gift we picked up for her teacher, and how much she's loved wrapping gifts so early for our family this year, and how it was really cool that we adopted that family last year and that we should really do that again, and how she's already been thinking about what to do for her class this year.

And I felt myself beginning to hyperventilate.  Suddenly, it was all beginning to make sense.  The flood of bills in January.  The inexplicable loss of funds. The utter sense of emptiness and gloom at the end of the year.  I was shopping myself into oblivion without even realizing it.

"Mama?" she says.  "Are you listening?"

And I grab the corner of the table to stabilize myself.

"So, Mama, can I tell you my idea for this year?" she continues, oblivious to my impending heart attack.

"Sure, sweetheart. What is it?" I eek out, my cheeks all flushed, perspiration beginning to collect on my brow.

"Well, see, we all have pencils at our desks and little pencil sharpeners, but the sharpeners we have are for regular pencils, and they don't work on colored pencils because they're just a little bit thicker, and since we have both regular pencils and colored pencils in our own pencil boxes, it would make more sense if we all had little colored pencil sharpeners at our desks that sharpen BOTH kinds of pencils, so that we wouldn't have to stand in line to wait to use the electric sharpener."

She takes a deep breath.

And as the color begins to seep back into my face, I feel a smile overtaking me from head to toe. I mean, seriously, who is she kidding? She cannot possibly be this adorable. :)

And I'm off to Staples this afternoon.

[Incidentally, as I was googling for an image for this post, I typed in "group gifts." Eww...just don't. Not the combination I was looking for.]
...

Friday, December 03, 2010

IT'S OK, BABY, I CRY OVER MY BUDGET, TOO

Working on her budget
So, the monsters' school held their annual fundraiser, a holiday gift shop, which included trinkets and chincheria from a quarter up to $17.

But new this year was a little budget envelope that accompanied the flyer.  On it, were three columns: Name, Amount Budgeted, Amount Spent.  And then the whole thing was divided up into categories, like Family, Friends, Pets, and Others.

So, the kids sat down and started listing the folks they wanted to pick up gifts for.  It started out with 8, and ended up somewhere around 15.  Each. Mommy and I huddled to determine a reasonable budget max.  Then huddled twice after that to adjust and re-adjust it.

Upwards.

Is that a genetic trait? Spending?

Anyway...

Working on his budget
with Mommy
Gift Shoppe day finally arrives, which is clearly meant to be a charming holiday experience, as evidenced by the intentional use of the Old English spelling of "shoppe," with its aggressively quaint double p, and, therefore, providing implicit permission to thoroughly enjoy and spend at will, as opposed to "shop," which clearly means a bunch of flea market crap we got donated to us and are trying to hock to your children for their allowance money using the classic marketing tools of guilt and compassion.

Two. Hours. Later.  And Saia finally appeared to be done. I checked and rechecked her calculations, and was pretty pleased to see that she'd come in under budget by $5, which she promptly pocketed. :)

Santiago, however, took his right up to the very last penny. Not that there's anything wrong with that. He absolutely got his money's worth, and at least he didn't go over.

The 5th graders provided complimentary gift-wrapping with purchase, so the monsters insisted on getting the gifts that they'd bought for Mommy and I wrapped before we headed home.

When Saia was done, she came right up to me with a half-smile on her face.  She looked nervous. Something was wrong. And then she said, "Mama, you know that little jewelry box we picked out for Sally?"

"Yeah, baby."

Waiting to check out
"Well, did you like it?" she asks, forcibly stretching the corners of her mouth into an eerie joker-like grin.

"Um...yeah, I liked it fine, sweetheart. I think it's a perfect choice for Sally," I said a little tentatively.

"Well, good," she says, "because I wrapped it for you instead." Big cheesy smile.

"Wait. What?"

"I couldn't find the gift that I thought I bought for you, so I just picked out another gift from my bag and they wrapped that one for you. See, here it is," she rushes out.

"Oh, baby. I don't want something you picked out for someone else," I said. "I mean..."

But it was too late. The tears had begun to pour. Her cheeks flashed red. Her nose crinkled. And I began looking for a place to duck. Fast.

Getting her gifts
wrapped
I ushered her around the corner of the building just in time for her to burst, and then she let me have it.

"BUT, MAMA! IT'S A GIFT FROM ME!" she exclaimed. "HOW CAN YOU NOT WANT A GIFT FROM ME??!?!?!"

"Okay, okay, now, wait just a second, baby," I said, getting down onto my knees and trying to get her to focus on me and away from the hundred little demons perched on her shoulders ready to pounce.

"Clearly, you thought you'd put something for me into your bag, but maybe you set it down accidentally," I explained. "That would certainly explain why you had that $5 left over when we thought we had accounted for all of it, wouldn't it?"

"BUT MAMA!!!" she heaves. "WHY CAN'T YOU JUST KEEP THE ONE I WRAPPED?!?!"

"For two reasons, mama.  One, you picked that out for Sally. And won't you be disappointed if you can't give that to her? And two, you had something else that you wanted to give to me. That you picked out for me. From you. And that's what I want from you. Not something intended for someone else," I say, suddenly realizing that I'm describing my own penchant for re-gifting with painfully stinging accuracy.

"BUT MAMA!?!? I DON'T WANNA GO BACK IN THERE!! THEY ALREADY SAW ME LEAVE!!"

"Oh, oh, oh..." I say, finally starting to get it. "Baby, there's nothing wrong with going back into a store to get something that you forgot. Mama does that ALL THE TIME.  And you have that money in your pocket already, so all you have to do is go back in, pick up the item that you probably set down, and get back in line to pay for it."

[Sniffle. Sniffle.]

"Are my eyes red?" she asks, wiping her cheeks.

"No, no," I say, blowing softly on her face, "You can't even tell you've been crying," and I kiss her red bulbous nose.

So, she smiles, turns on her heels, and skips off all Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hydish back into the shop.  About a minute later she comes running out...without a gift...money still in hand.

"Mama, can I have another dollar?" she says.

"What? No. That'll put you OVER budget now, babe," I whine.

"BUT, MAAAAAMAAAAAAAAAA!!!! IT'S FOR YOUUUUUUU!!!"

Oh, for pete's sake.  And I just handed over the damn bill.

video
Chago's Shopping Spree
...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

THE COCK AND THE PEARL -- IT'S EXACTLY WHAT YOU THINK!!

Sitting in Saia's karate class tonight, flipping through my email, reminding Chago every two seconds to focus on his book, he's got twenty minutes left to do.

"Mom, I'm so boooooored with it already!" he says, slouching his shoulders, hanging his head, the whole nine dramatic yards.

"Alright, bubba. Let's find you something else."

[Whip out the iPhone. Scroll thru the eBooks library for new freebies. First children's author I see, I pick. It's alphabetical. It was Aesop.]

He reads solid for the next 35 minutes, gingerly flicking his finger to advance pages as he hops with relative ease from fable to fable to fable.  They're not new to him.  He's read them at home, but suddenly everything old is new again. It's just the gadgetphoria. I know. I get it.  He's all aglow in backlight.  I'm both proud and disgusted at the same time.

When we get home, though, he of course brags to Saia what he got to do while she was working.  Predictably, two seconds later, she says, "Mom, can I..."

"Yes, of course, Saia," I preempt. "Here you go."

So, I'm at the stove making dinner. Mommy's looking over Chago's shoulder as he draws.  And Saia's creepily fondling my iPhone, which, as an aside, suddenly makes me wonder if that's what I look like, all hunched over, fingers flying mindlessly, euphoric grin spreading across her face.  Nevermind, don't answer that.  And she suddenly shouts out, "Mom, what's a cock?"

I Dorothy Hammill spin, spatula in one hand, wine glass in the other, my mouth completely agape.  Amy gives me the what-the-hell-have-you-been-doing-with-your-iphone look.  And Chago, still drawing, waves his left hand above his head and says, "I know. I know."

As it turns out, she'd actually only benignly opened the Aesop's Fables ebook and was referring to the following story:
The Cock and The Pearl 
A cock was once strutting up and down the farmyard among the hens when suddenly he espied something shinning amid the straw. "Ho! ho!" quoth he, "that's for me," and soon rooted it out from beneath the straw. 
What did it turn out to be but a Pearl that by some chance had been lost in the yard? "You may be a treasure," quoth Master Cock, "to men that prize you, but for me I would rather have a single barley-corn than a peck of pearls."
Precious things are for those that can prize them.
Yeah. I know.  Go ahead and read it again.

So suddenly I'm kinda viewing Aesop a little more like Joey from Friends ("Grandma's chiiiiickeeen saaaalaaad").

Is EVERY fable he's ever written so sexually-laden (The Snake and The File, The Ass and The Enemy...)? How is it possible that all these years I never noticed the obvious subtext (The Crow and The Pitcher, The Golden Eggs...)?  Is it just me (The Fir and The Bramble, The Hart and The Vine...)?  It's an age thing, isn't it (The Trees and The Woodman, The Man That Pleased None...)?  And exactly how has someone in the porn industry not picked up on the golden marketing opportunity here?  I mean, you could really do an entire series...

Anyway...whole 'nother conversation.
...

Monday, November 29, 2010

THE CURIOUSLY RANCID CASE OF THE MISSING PANTS

"Santiago, what have you been doing with all your pants?!?!" I yell on Monday morning as I stare at the white plywood bottom of his pants drawer.

"What do you mean, Mom? Nothing! I don't even have any pants!!" he retorts.

"That's my point, papa," I say.

So, I text Mommy, "Do you have any of his pants over there? We have none over here. I don't know where they've all gone!"

"Nothing over here," she says. "They're probably strewn about his room, and in his dress-up box, and under the bed..."

So I traipse upstairs and literally tear their room apart, which, really, just gave me an even bigger heart attack because, jesusagechrist, how can two little bodies make such a horrendously phenomenal disaster disguised under a thin veil of "clean enough"??

But besides the 4 million bits and pieces of army guy body parts, transportation pieces, puzzle corners, crazy bands, legos, legos, and more legos, at least 5 mismatched socks, about 386 crayon halves, and an inordinate number of feathers (that I still can not, for the life of me, place), I didn't find a single. pair. of. pants.

So, I move on to Saia's closet. Could she have hijacked them? They wouldn't even fit her. Why would they be in here? And, of course, they weren't.

I searched suit cases, hall closets, toy boxes, bathroom cabinets, and old backpacks.  Running out of places to look, I began to resign myself to the fact that they just up and disappeared. Went the the way of the lost dryer sock.  Gone. For good. Out there in the in-between world of misplaced clothes. Stuck forever in laundry purgatory.

The laundry?

Hmm...

So, off I go to the garage, flip open the top of the washer and am immediately, brutally, olfactorily assaulted by the smell of 6-day-old wet clothes.

Case closed.
...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

HAPPY TURKEY DAY, ONE AND ALL!


Personal Pumpkin Pies
The Spread

Did you get it ALL, Mama?
She insisted the cheese plate be
closest to her

Can I eat it NOW, Mom?

Not waiting any longer!!

Cheers, Mommy!


Watching The Haunted
marathon on Animal Planet

As for us, we made it through.

I woke up late today, sandwiched between two steamy little bodies who'd snuck in before the sun rose, all of us exhausted from Bubba's coughing and grunting and random bursts of "OUCH!" at his stinging prickly throat all night long.  So I took a poll, and we unanimously agreed to skip our regular morning leche and instead lounged in bed watching The Haunted marathon on Animal Planet for a couple of hours before finally springing down the stairs when suddenly I realized that I couldn't smell the turkey anymore.

Lovely new safety feature on my oven, turns out. Auto-shut-off.  Nice.

But everything made it to the table on time, regardless. That's the great thing about Thanksgiving. It's all day long.  Whenever the bird's ready, it's turkey time.  So, everyone gave thanks for all our blessings. Everyone used their manners, gobbled down their pie, and even cleaned off their place settings. And everyone managed to control their coughing, sneezing, sniffling, and moaning -- for at least an hour.

Then the kids and I spent the rest of the evening snuggled on the sofa, nursing our throats with herbal teas and finishing the last leg of The Haunted Animal Planet marathon.

Quiet. Uneventful. Comforting. And perfect.

Hope your Thanksgiving was everything you needed it to be, too.
...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

ABRACADABRA, ALAKAZAM, MAKE MY SISTER LOOK LIKE A BAKED HAM!

"WHOA! Bubba! Stop right there!" I yell, as I just happen to turn away from the stove in time to see him with the children's pumpkin carving knife held menacingly above his head.

Saia looks up naively from the box into which he's coerced her.  "No, Mom, it's okay. I'm fine," she says with a smile, as she suddenly reminds me of those Tom & Jerry cartoons, body of a pre-carved turkey with the talking head of my daughter.

"Exactly WHAT do you think you're doing, son?" I ask without trying to imply...too much.

"A magic trick," he says very matter-of-factly.

"From your magic book?" I ask.

"From my head," he says, gleaming.

"With knives?" I ask.

"No, Mom," he rolls his eyes. "Not knives. Just one knife," he reassures.

"And, Saia, you think this is a good idea?" I ask.

"He said he knew what he was doing," she shrugs her shoulders.

[Oh, no, baby. We'll have to take that one on some other time.]

"Ok, son.  Let's make a deal. I'll trade you that single pumpkin knife for SIX plastic ones if you can tell me exactly how you're gonna do this without touching your sister. At. All."

"At ALL?!?!" he says in utter exasperation.

video
The Famous 7 Swords Trick
...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

THREE BLIND MICE, THREE BLIND MICE, SEE HOW THEY...KEEL OVER AND DIE?

It was different when I thought they were rats.

It was ok somehow. Tolerable at the very least.

But this past weekend they began to surface.  One evening, as the kids and I were huddled around the living room, Santiago says, in an unusually (and surprisingly) calm voice, "There's a mouse."

And I'm still a little dazed, only on day 2 of the illness from hell that actually knocked me off all social media for an entire weekend, but I sit up, groggy, squinting, holding my head together and say, "Huh?"

But by that time, Saia's screaming and pointing, climbing up on top of the ottoman, and now Chago's all riled up, but visibly wrestling with himself and his natural instinct to swoop the little thing right up into his arms and coo.

Mommy came in and scooted him into a box with very little effort, as he was clearly drugged out of his little mousey mind, and out to the garage he went, to die a peaceful hallucinogenic death.

But they haven't all gone that quietly.

I've since, evidently, turned into the Dr. Momgele, Attila the Mum, The Mominator of the rodent world, and it's starting to creep me out a little.  I felt horrible last night, watching another little thing stumble out from beneath the wine cabinet, wander over to the little tray of poison, sneak some toxic treats, and trot happily back to his hiding place.

Then sometime after midnight, I heard squeaking.  A lot of squeaking.  Which actually kinda sent me into a panic because I initially thought it was a bunch of mice babies.  But when I turned the lamp on and climbed entirely up onto the arm of the couch in that way that I scold the children not to, I could then see him perfectly.  The cutest, gentlest (read: high as a little kite) furry little thing, staggering and stumbling around.  I was for a second reminded of so many long-forgotten late-night college parties.  But then he squeaked again, bumping into a wall or three.  And then just stood there at some point, and swayed.

So, I grabbed a little box, set it down right next to him, scooted his soft little pliable body into it, and closed it shut.

"Squeak," he said.  And I nearly cried.

Me. The one who catches and releases every single spider or moth.  The one who chases garter snakes out of the yard.  The one who can't stand to see any living thing injured, let alone killed. Ever. Is now single-handedly responsible for the murder of at least 5 of God's furry little creatures.

And I just don't think I can bear it anymore. Not one more. Really.

So, although their entrance routes into the house are temporarily blocked by dust rags and Christmas decoration boxes, I will have to have to have to pick up a live trap (which Bubba is just gonna LOVE) to catch whomever decides to eek his way out for Santa's cookies.

Any ideas on where to release them once I've got them all held hostage?
...

Monday, November 22, 2010

THE SAIA AND CHAGO SHOW: TAKE ME OUT TO...ANYWHERE BUT HERE!!

Really, REALLY, this is all about stir-craziness and how their little, now perfectly well, bodies just can no longer contain themselves and you can tell, you can see it, that they are just. bursting. at. the. seams!!!

[Yeah, I'm pretty much thinking at this point it's more dangerous for all involved if we DON'T get out of this house tomorrow.]

video

FINGERS AND TOES...FINGERS AND TOES...NOM, NOM, NOM, NOM, NOM

I looooooove my children's fingers and toes. Since they were babies. Could not get enough.  I'd nibble and suck and pretend to chew and swallow them, and they'd giggle and squeal and fill me with joy from deep down in my belly.

But they're not babies anymore, and haven't been for 7 years now.  And one would think that crazy obsessive behaviors like that would begin to dwindle at some point. Eventually.  But no. Not yet.

And last night, as Saia was reading poems and nursery rhymes to us, she came across one about Jack Frost, who, apparently, also has a particular penchant for children's fingers and toes.


Jack Frost
By C.E. Pike
------------
Look out! Look out!
Jack Frost is about!
He’s after our fingers and toes;
And all through the night,
The gay little sprite
Is working where nobody knows.

He’ll climb each tree,
So nimble is he,
His silvery powder he’ll shake.
To windows he’ll creep
And while we’re asleep
Such wonderful pictures he’ll make.

Across the grass
He’ll merrily pass,
And change all its greenness to white.
Then home he will go
And laugh ho, ho ho!
What fun I have had in the night.

And right on cue, the two of them look at each, mouths agape. They turn towards me, half smiling, half faux-terrified, pointing and squealing, "Mama's Jack Frost!  Mama's Jack Frost! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" [lots of running around the house and screaming with hands waving above their heads ensued]

And no, I'm not really sure what to do with that.  Except, as an aside, to perhaps consider stopping the digit-gnoshing before they hit their teens.  Maybe.
...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

AND SO THE BUG FROM THE GIRL CROSSES OVER TO THE BOY AND I AM NOW IN MY 5TH DAY OF SWEATS

I can't believe she got
me sick!
It's one of life's certainties, I know. It's an inevitability, really. We do know this. We do expect this.

And yet, we hope, futilely and without reason, that whatever little bug happened to magically penetrate the forcefield of one of our children's kryptonitic immune systems, it won't make it past the awesomeness of their white blood cell army.

And while it does seem like, depending upon who gets it first, the strain that gets passed on is oftentimes weaker, or else the rest of us are just stronger, it's still such a pain to have to watch it run its full course every. single. time.

Mama's Caldo de Pollo
(again)
So...food, fluids, and rest for our little boy, just as his stir crazy sister is up and raring to go.  He blames her -- utterly -- for this.  That's him, giving her the evil eye up there.  She, of course, could care less. She's bouncing around, giddy and joyful to be in the 98.6 range again and G-L-O-A-T-I-N-G beyond belief about being "free of the fever monster!!!"  I'm pretty sure she even came up with a song.

So, for the second time in less than two weeks, I made chicken soup. (Nevermind the fact that I *just happened* to have two whole frozen chickens in my freezer.)  And coaxed yet another sleepy cruddy child into slurping up as much of it as possible.

Saia, in her fevered haze,
accidentally left the
remote in the fridge
But he's my not-so-easy-when-sick child.  Yet another trait he miraculously inherited from his Mommy.  He's the one that, for some inexplicable reason, suddenly resorts to these primitive grunts and moans when he's not feeling well.  He loses every syllable of his extensive vocabulary, and regresses directly back into a mini-caveman. He groans. He points. He pouts.  And, don't misunderstand me, he actually eases into this role without very much effort. He may even have uttered the words, "Mama, I like this. It's like I'm the king and you're my servant," but I can't be sure, because before he got to finish, Saia slammed him in the face with a pillow and a "SHHHH!!!!"

Friday, November 19, 2010

NOT QUITE THE PHONE CALL FROM SCHOOL I WAS EXPECTING

Chago sportin' his new kicks!
[bbbbrrrrrriiiinnngggg!!]

"Hello??" I say, always wary when it's a number I don't recognize.

"HI, MAMA!!" he says, all chipper, and sounding like he's right in the next room.

"Hi, bubba. Is everything okay?"

"Yes, ma'm," he says, and I can hear the clamor of second-graders around him.

"So...kiddo...what's going on? Shouldn't you be in class already, son?"

"Oh," he says, as if he's completely forgotten not only why he called, but THAT he called, and THAT he was standing in the middle of a roomful of 7-year-olds.

"Ms. G. found your earring, Mom," he says brightly.  "The one you lost yesterday when you came to teach PEP."

"Oh, that's great! Please tell her thank you for me, bubba.  And would you mind putting it in your backpack to keep it safe?"

"Oh, sure, Mom," he says.  And then he just sits there. Waiting.

"So...papa...was that all you called for?"

"OH!" he says, "No, I forgot to tell you that I turned in Saia's homework for her."

"Ok, son, that's great.  I'm sure she really appreciates that," I say, glancing over at our little fevered girl who's clearly still upset with me for making her stay home, but is becoming increasingly more comfortable with the idea as she splays out on the sofa watching cartoons with a pile of good-for-her snacks at the ready.

Saia sportin' her...self :)
"Is she watching a movie?" he asks.

"Santiago."

"What's she watching?" he continues.

"Santiago?"

"It sounds like Ben10. Is she watching Ben10?"

"Chaguito. You need to get back to your class, sweetheart.  No more calling home, and no going to the office with imaginary symptoms, okay?  I know you'd rather be here hanging out, but Saia's not having any fun, baby. She's sick and can't play.  You're very lucky you're feeling well enough to go to school today. It's your last day before Thanksgiving vacation. It's gonna be a fun day for you, pop!!"

"So, is it Ben10?"
...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

OK, LET'S TALK ABOUT NOSEBLEEDS

Saia in the Doc's Office
My daughter is my absolute favorite sick person in the whole wide world.  She is the toughest cookie I've ever met.  So often has already pushed thru some little bug before we're even aware that it was around.

Most of the time, that's a really great thing.  But, she's 7.  And mostly, as a parent, you really want to know, need to know, if something's going on with your child, because, inevitably, it either leads to something else or will oh-so-easily be transferred to someone else, or worse...YOU, and some advance notice is always a good thing.

But this was her. Yesterday.  And in case you didn't know what two days of 101-fever, after a bloody nose, a couple of headaches, and a little nausea and dizziness looks like, here it is.

I know, I know. I thought it looked different, too.

But then...

I checked in on her before I went to bed last night. She rolled over and opened her sleepy eyes and said, "Mama?"

"Yes, baby."

"So, do I have a fever? Can I go to school?"

[Yes, seriously.]

This morning, again, first thing.  And while she did register a mild temperature, it was the fact that she was moving pretty slowly that really got my attention.  And then when she finally made it downstairs and immediately handed over control of the breakfast movie pick to her brother even though it was her turn, that's when I knew something was really really wrong.
Waiting @Sbux instead of the Dr's Office Lobby

But she kept insisting that she felt fine. That she wanted to go to school. That she could make it.  (I know, WHO'S child is THIS?!?!)

But it's just a half day, I kept telling her.  She wasn't REALLY gonna miss out on all that much if she stayed home.  But they had a Stone Soup project today, she whined, and she'd already hand-picked the 4 fingerling potatoes she was taking, labeled the little baggie and placed it perfectly atop her backpack. Clearly, she was looking forward to it, and I was already bracing for the argument when I finally did have to tell her she probably wasn't gonna be able to make it...

When...she sneezed.

And the blood began to...

Pour.

Down.

Her.

Face.

And we did all the things we knew to do. Applied pressure. Pinched the nostrils. Tilted her head forward. (Did you think it was backward, too? I had to double-check that one.)  And tried to calm her down.

But she kept trying to talk. Asking why? Trying to reason with us. Trying to process what was happening to her.  And even as I kept talking to her, trying to get her to look me in the eye, I realized in that moment how very much like me she is.  She was trying so hard to be brave. Trying so hard to ignore the flood gushing from her nose.  Trying not to completely flip out.  And analyzing every. single. little. moment.  So desperately searching for the answer she wanted.  Waiting so impatiently for one of us, either of us, anyone, to just say the one thing that would make her feel better, do the one thing that would make it all go away.

But it just kept coming. Fast and watery. Drenching every single tissue and cottonball as fast as we replaced them.  And beginning to make my heart pound quicker by the minute.

And if it sounds a little melodramatic, well, it really kinda was.

We've actually never experienced a nosebleed with either of them before.  And although the doctor explained just yesterday that the one she had at school was very common for someone who's coming down with something, with the change in weather, and the fever dehydrating her body and irritating the lining of her nostrils, it was an entirely different thing to stand there with your hands covered in your child's blood, hear the panic in her voice, and just not be able to make it flippin' stop!!!

And it wouldn't. Stop. It just wouldn't. And it felt like forever, although only 2 minutes had actually passed, because I remember looking up at the clock at some point as I was actively trying not to freak out in front of her, with the intention of, as soon as enough time passed (and no, I'm not really sure what that magic number would have been), legitimately allowing myself to freakthehellout, and off to the emergency room we'd be.

Saia for the rest of this morning
But then she said, "Mama, I can't see really well." And that's when it started coming out of her eye.

HER EYE, FORFUCKSSAKE!!!!

And now her Mommy and I are both hovered over her, taking turns switching out her blood-drenched tissues and making faces and eyes at one another over her head, which, loosely translated from parental-ese pretty much means, "WTF?!?!!?"

And, of course, the logical side of my brain tells me that we're blocking the natural route of the nosebleed, that it's gotten backed up, and so out the next closest orifice it goes.  But there was no way to tell her what we were looking at in that moment (and blocking Chago from looking at in that moment) because in that moment all I could think about was how she looked exactly like those South Texas horned toads that shoot blood out of their eyes that we were terrified of as children. Or else, a creepy demon child. Which, please, you're ALWAYS terrified of. Forever.

So, we said nothing.

But after cleaning her up, laying her down on the floor, and covering her with a blanket, the blood FINALLY stopped flowing.  And we could ALL breathe again.  As Mommy took the boy to school, I moved Saia to the sofa and got her to drink some orange juice.  Since then, she's been getting (apparently) progressively better. Her fever hovering around 99.5, but drinking and eating without problem or hesitation.

She keeps asking about school tomorrow. (Seriously, have you ever known such a determined child?!)  But whatever she's got, it's a stubborn and merciless little sucker, and I'm happy to let the fever, rest, food, and fluids work their magic for as long as they need to. Within reason, of course.

When I asked her if she was afraid this morning, she said that, at first, all of that blood flooding her nose and oozing down her throat really scared her because she didn't think it was ever going to stop.  And now that it has, the one thing that scares her most is..."sneezing again." :)

When we picked up Bubba from school this afternoon, he asked about her before even saying hello to me.  Several of his little friends came up to ask me if Saia was ok.  And the second he got into the truck, he leaned over the console, put his head on her shoulder, wrapped his scrawny little arms around her, and told her, "I'm so glad to see you."

Funny how it makes all the drama (almost) worth it.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I DON'T OWN THE PEDOPHILE'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND PLEASURE

But I support the freedom and right of others to do so.

Amazon.com is apparently selling just such a book (or three or four) online, and it's got the feathers of many a parent (legitimately) ruffled.  Calls for a boycott have spread like wildfire through Facebook and Twitter (using #AmazonFail).  And hundreds of thousands of people contacting the company through a variety of mechanisms are demanding they remove the book from their shelves.

A commenter on the original Business Insider article reported that Amazon's response was this:
As a retailer, our goal is to provide customers with the broadest selection possible so they can find, discover, and buy any item they might be seeking. That selection includes some items which many people may find objectionable. Therefore, the items offered on our website represent a wide spectrum of opinions on a variety of topics.

Let me assure you that Amazon.com does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts; we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.

Amazon.com believes it is censorship not to sell certain titles because we believe their message is objectionable. Therefore, we'll continue to make controversial works available in the United States and everywhere else, except where they're prohibited by law. We also allow readers, authors, and publishers to express their views freely about these titles and other products we offer on our website. However, Amazon.com doesn't endorse opinions expressed by individual authors, musical artists, or filmmakers.
And I have to say that I agree with Amazon.

Yes, I am the mother of two 7-year-old children, the aunt to a beautiful niece and 2 gorgeous nephews, and the cousin and family friend to many many more.  And yes, I temper every single day my fears and anxieties about the million-and-one things that can happen, and do happen to children in my town, in this country, in this world every minute of every day.  And yes, I worry myself sick on occasion about what I would do, how I would deal, how I would ever survive if anything ever happened to someone that I know and love. Let alone, my own children.

But...

Although I may find the content objectionable and incendiary and deplorable and even possibly criminal, I do firmly believe that we can not as a country begin to allow the censoring of books under these terms.

A handbook is not a necessity for the pedophile.  And the absence of it won't lessen the instances of their attacks on our children, and certainly won't prevent them from "educating" themselves elsewhere.

But to demand that a public retail store remove something from their shelves that does not violate their stated policy or any laws, is absolutely and unequivocally censorship.  And while there is a risk that this book may easily fall into the wrong hands (and, perhaps, even more so now that this boycott has called so much attention to it), the greater risk is that of becoming a society that condones the infringement of free speech, and the right of any retailer to make a buck off of it.

I won't even go into the slippery slope argument.  But you can see it right there.  Can of worms. Floodgates. And all.

It is, nonetheless, without a doubt your personal choice as to whether or not you continue to patronize such businesses, whether or not you choose to share your personal views with your friends and family, and whether or not you choose to read or purchase material that others may disagree with or find downright offensive.  And that is a right that you have because so many have fought and died to defend it. And it is, therefore, a right that we ALL have in this country, pedophiles and online bookstores included. And it's certainly not one that I'm willing to waive.

So while it is inarguably reprehensible from my perspective that there is even a market for such filth (and I have to say that I haven't even actually read it, so I honestly can't speak objectively to its actual contents, only to my presumption based on the overheated responses), I would much rather have my children live in a land where I have the right to voice that opinion, where you have the right to spend your hard-earned dollars elsewhere, and where our children are afforded the opportunities of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, than not.
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wordless wednesday: jar of hearts

Monday, November 08, 2010

RATS! WE HAVE RATS!! AND NOT THE KIND YOU FEED AND PET.

And with a bleeding heart for a son, and Ratatouille easily in the top 5 movies we'd take with us if ever there were a fire in our kitchen, deciding the best method (read: least amount of tolerable guilt for Mama) for ridding ourselves of our unwelcomed guests was not going to be easy.

But the rainy season has, evidently, descended upon our tiny hamlet.  And with that, spiders and rodents seeking warm and dry shelter.  Spiders, we're used to.  Spiders, I love.  Rats, eh...not so much.

And, you know, I think I probably wouldn't have such a problem with them if they were just a little more, I don't know, like their not-so-vile cousins, the squirrels, who come around the house when they're looking for something to eat, yes, but don't ever get too close, are usually content with birdfeeder leftovers, and don't ever actually stay.  AND they don't leave seemingly endless trails of their excrement behind.  AND they don't scurry through the walls, beneath the house, and nosy around in our attic and garage.  In the middle of the night.  Once all the lights have gone out.  When I'm just on the verge of falling asleep, and then am cursed with the creepy crawlies ALL NIGHT LONG.

That's. Just. So. Not. Cool.

So, because they're rude, they must die.

Having made that (surprisingly easy) unilateral decision, however, I now needed to convince everyone else in the house that there was really no other option.

Saia is our very logical child. Rats are unsanitary, I said. Rats carry disease, I said. Rats will walk all over the floors that you walk on barefoot and lay down on to read...and all over the counters and tables where you do your homework and eat your food...and...all over...your...bed, I said.  And that was it. She was in.

Santiago, however, was having none of it.  The idea of suddenly being surrounded by potentially hundreds of furry little creatures practically made him giddy with excitement.

So...naturally, none of the rational, logical arguments worked.  Made-up theories and horror stories of mutant vampire-fanged creatures didn't work.  Boldfaced lies didn't work. And I'm certain I even threw in a because-I-said-so or two that clearly didn't work.

But, eventually, he gave in, ONLY on the condition that he be allowed to warn the intruders of their impending demise (click on the letter to the right to enlarge).  And that I give them a full 24-hour period to flee of their own little ratty free will before the extermination begins.

We pinky-shook, and it was a done deal.  Let the countdown begin.
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Saturday, November 06, 2010

WHAT DO BALLOON ANIMALS, HONEY STICKS, AND BOUNCY HOUSES HAVE IN COMMON?

Love our Saturday morning trips to the Farmer's Market.

Gave the kiddos each $4 to spend.  They chose balloon animals (a snowman and a white rabbit), honey sticks (@ 5/$1), and 5 minutes in a bouncy house (@ 2 bucks a pop! yeesh. what a rip off.), and in that order, and just that fast.

Within 30 minutes, it was G-O-N-E.

And all I kept thinking, as I carefully and painstakingly sorted through the tables and crates of ripe and shiny fruits and veggies, is how they would have nothing to show for it.

How they didn't even walk all the way through the market before deciding. I mean, what if there was something they wanted more at the very end?

How maybe they should've saved it for something bigger and better another day. Maybe tomorrow even, when we'd have to go and pick up some birthday gifts for a party.

How they just threw $8 away. Just like that. Like it was nothing.

But...

Then you look at these pictures. And I hear them retell the morning to their Mommy on the phone tonight, and they're smiling all over and feeling utterly satisfied with their purchases. And it suddenly doesn't matter all that much anymore.

But it does make me wonder when I lost it. When that child's view of the world, of living every single day in the moment, of being absolutely present all. of. the. time., when does that go away?

And how can I get that back?
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Thursday, November 04, 2010

MOM! I FORGOT MY LIBRARY BOOKS! WE *HAVE* TO GO BACK HOME!!

But after ragging on a friend just a few weeks ago about her son forgetting his show-and-tell at home, how could I do it? How could I just turn around and take him back home to pick them up?

Especially when this isn't the first time this has happened.

Especially when we just did this same thing last week when he forgot his sunglasses at home on Shade Out Drugs day, and I DID turn around and go home, which made us a little later than normal, and sent my law-abiding citizen of a daughter into such a (legitimate) tizzy, that I wasn't sure I'd be able to talk her down from the ledge.

And especially since we just went to our town's public library yesterday and left with TWELVE books!!!  I mean, it's not like he's lacking, for pete's sake.  His own personal bookshelves are jam-packed and overflowing already.

But it's BOOKS!!  And I have a reaaaal soft spot for any and everything having to do with reading.  And he pretty much knows that.  And he puts on that face.  And he's just got those eyes.  And he says please, and pretty please, and oh, Mama, but you know how much I loooooove books, and I won't be able to check ANYTHING out from school today if I don't return the ones I have.

So, I drop the monsters off, and come home to work on my writing.  And the books, like the tell-tale heart, are staring at me from the stepstool in the kitchen.  Pounding... thumping... whispering my name.

And I ignore them as best I can, turning up the TV in one room, Pandora in another.

And when noontime rolls around, I walk over to the books, gently sliding my finger across the top of the pile, listening to them sigh, contemplating the ease with which I could just load them into my truck and trot them over to his classroom before library time this afternoon.

I imagine his glee at coming back from lunch to find his books neatly piled atop his desk, waiting to be returned, to be exchanged, to give him joy.

I imagine the huge gorgeous smile on his face as he runs up to me after school, calling me the best mom in the whole wide world, and giving me the best bear hugs on the planet.

And out of the corner of my imagining eye, I see my daughter, my Jiminy Cricket, scowling at me for giving in.  Making me stick to my guns.  And I turn back around and walk upstairs.

When I picked them up from school, he was visibly upset, as he had just come from the library -- empty-handed.

"What's wrong, son?" I ask.

"Everyone else got to check out books today," he mumbled.

"Hmm...I see."

"And you didn't bring me mine, so I was the only one who couldn't," he jabs.

"Ah," I say.

And suddenly I'm the bad mama. And I hate the way this moment feels. He's so disappointed. And it's something I could have prevented.  And I want to fix it, but know that I can't.  So, I stop walking, squat down, look him in the eye, and say...

"But it was whose responsibility, pop?"

"Mine," he pouts, kicking a pebble and looking down at his shoes.

"And Mama reminded you how many times last night?" I ask.

"Three," he mumbles, still refusing to look up at me.

"And so next week you'll remember to..."

"Put my books into my backpack the first time you remind me."

[And that's all we can hope for, isn't it?  Maybe not next week.  But eventually.  And then hopefully, for the rest of their lives.]
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

IT'S A GRILLED ALL-GOURD PATTI, SPECIAL SAUCE, LETTUCE, CHEESE, ONIONS, PICKLES ON A SESAME SEED BUN!!

Santiago and His BOO!-Burger with Cheese
Busy, busy day today.  At pick-up, the kiddos reminded me that we still needed to carve two more pumpkins for their pumpkin carving competition at school tomorrow. Tomorrow. Of course. Last minute is always my favorite time of day.

On the way there, I find out from Saia that Santiago was in the office today. Twice.  But, no, not for behavior. (See how quickly you went there? Tsk, tsk, tsk.) But because he was feeling yucky.  No temp and two glasses of water later, and off he goes back to class.  But this evening, you could really just see something coming on.  He's got a major case of the creepy cruddies.  Totally not himself.

Saia & Her Shrunken Head
of Frankenstein
So, while I got them going with their pumpkins in the garage, I put a chicken on to boil (why does that always sound like voodoo when I say it? I mean, it was frozen, for pete's sake. It's not like I went and snapped the little head myself.) for some caldo de pollo, the tried-and-true cure-all for everyone south of San Antonio.

And then the milking began...

At his request, from beneath the covers and cool washcloth, his Mommy read him his new favorite comic, replete with superhero voices and sound effects.  He got his o.j. in his favorite pumpkin cup on the couch (totally not allowed) so he could watch the game.  I practically spoon-fed him his dinner myself, even letting him pick out his favorite parts (read: avocado slices), so long as he got some of the broth down, too.  And even offered to carry him up to bed as soon as it was time.

But...we STILL had to finish HIS pumpkin. Saia had already finished hers. Of course.  Had been working diligently on it since we got home.  Carved it and hand-painted it all herself.  Every little bit of it.  And she did a damn good job, too.  But now we were down to the wire. We had 15 minutes til bedtime.  And he had to do this himself.  Had to. If it wasn't done by his own hand, it would not be submitted for the competition -- WOULD NOT -- unlike some other nameless spawnofthedevil who submitted her pumpkin so obviously designed AND carved by her parents last year, and yet still won.

But not this time.  And not by our boy.  Because he knew he wasn't feeling well when we went to buy the thing. And he'd so obviously thought it through, and realized that what he needed was something fun that wasn't gonna require a whole lotta work.  So he chose a beautiful harvest pumpkin, carved some lines around the equator, and painted them in with brown, yellow, red, and green.  Boom! It's a Boo!-Burger with Cheese, he says.  Brilliant child.  Just freakin' brilliant.

If one of them doesn't come home with at least a ribbon for this, I might have to pull my little neon orange plastic pumpkin gutter on someone.

Just sayin'.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

SCHOOL PORTRAITS ARE THE DEATH KNELL OF CHILDHOOD

Saia - 2nd Grade - 7.5 yrs old
So hard to believe that these little monsters were bald, in diapers, and attached to my boobies like ravenous piglets just a few short years ago.

This time of year, school portrait time, is always just so painful for me.  It's never something you're prepared for as a parent.  I mean, you dressed them that morning. It's not like you weren't there. You were aware that they were dressing for pictures.  But then, a few weeks later, when you're cleaning out their backpacks and there's the now dreaded crinkly envelope buried beneath sweatshirts and math pages, empty fruit roll-up wrappers, and a random toy car and chapstick, and their suddenly oh-so-grown-up-looking faces are right there staring up at you, peeking out of the little plastic window, all teeth and hair, and it just takes your breath away because the second you open it, the moment you pull back the sticky flap, you can almost see the vapor of childhood escaping.

Chago - 2nd Grade - 7.5 yrs old
And it's like that moment when you see yourself on video and realize, wow, do I really talk like that? Do I really look that way? Act that way?  I always pictured myself so differently.  When did I get so old? When did I become my mother?

Or maybe that's just me.

But the point is that you're abruptly aware that they're not babies anymore, and it's just never something I'm ready for.  Or willing to admit.

In fact, somewhere in my head, they're 3 years old still.

And always will be.

And granted, that's gonna be a little weird when we have the sex talk, but I guess I'll just have to deal with that then.
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Sunday, October 24, 2010

DEAR BOX-TOP PEOPLE: IT'S *YOUR* FREAKIN' CAMPAIGN...

Why is it that you can't seem to follow the very basic rule here?
Your Rule, part 1: Box.
Your Rule, part 2: Top.
And if you reverse it, it works even better.  TOP of the freakin' BOX!!!!

Just look at this brand new, poor, innocent, dissected little cereal box. Oh, the unnecessary carnage.  If only you'd put them up on top...where they belonged...where they thought they'd be. The superfluous flap could have been sacrificed to save the whole. One corner. Just one little corner. Up on top. Instead of this. This...destruction!

And for what? They're each only worth .10 cents.

But this box...had TWO!

And ten will make a dollar.

And a dollar's worth of Box Tops in a Ziploc snack bag with their name on it gets them entered into a random drawing for free food/game tickets at their school's Halloween Carnival this Friday.

So tonight, for them, tonight I sit before my pantry, boxes and boxes of granola bars and cereal, biscuits and croissants, strewn about me, my sharpest sewing scissors at the ready, as I, like you, do whatever we need to do to make our children happy.

Tonight.  I commit...cardboardicide.
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Friday, October 22, 2010

LET THE PRE-PUMPKIN PREPOSTEROUSNESS START!!

Foolin' around at
the Halloween store
You would think this would get easier.  As they grow. As they develop their identities. As they're more easily able to identify and then vocalize their likes and dislikes.

I mean, you'd THINK!!!

But...no.

They've changed their minds at least 42 times over the last 12 months.  And then another 5 times just on our way to the costume store alone.  And then at least once WHILE we were actually standing in the check-out line, for crissakes.

But I think, I THINK, he's finally settled on a vampire. And not just any old vampire costume would do either. He must've fiddled with and fingered every single one until he found exactly the one he wanted. Just the right vest, just the right collar medallion, just the right sleeves, and, the pi├Ęce de resistance, the all-important red-lined black cape.  Then he went and picked out these grotesque-looking fangs, his white-face make-up with accompanying fake-blood capsules, and is now anxiously looking forward to my slicking his hair back so that the coffin-shaped shades, that he snagged right there at the end as they were sliding my little wilted card through the machine, will frame his face perfectly.

And then, oh, my God, my darling girl, after uttering the make-my-ears-bleed phrase, "Um...I dunno..." for, like, the katrillionth time, during which every single strand on my head turned grey, finally settled upon a devil.  And, yeah, I'm pretty sure I laughed out loud at the irony, right there in the middle of that damn Spirit Superstore, cackling from the delirium, head thrown back from sheer exhaustion. No one even noticed.

Her accessories include a long black wig, red creme face make-up, red tinted sunglasses, a red headband with little horns, and a red sequined pitch fork.

But it doesn't end there.

Then begins the when-are-we-gonna-decorate, when-are-we-gonna-decorate, when-are-we-gonna-decorate, today-looks-like-a-good-day-to-decorate, don't-you-think-it's-time-we-started-decorating-mama? business.

So, because today was a teacher's in-service day, I got the monsters. All. Day. Long.  And from the moment they woke up this morning, it was ALL about decorating for Halloween. So, after my second (or maybe even third) chai, I thought I was finally awake enough to brave the 3 gigantic orange-and-black tubs looming in the garage.  But, as it turns out, they weren't even the scariest part of my morning.

Our beautiful little angel, our darling little Saita? Turns out she's a frickin' task master!!!  But we (and when I say we, I mean me, while the monsters rode their scooters up and down the sidewalk saying, "A little to the left, Mom. No, a little more to the right.") eventually got it all done, just before the rains came, and just in time to turn all the lights on and oooh and ahhhh a little before dinner.

But it ain't over yet, folks.

Tomorrow morning, of course, we've still got the insanity of the pumpkin patch on the weekend before Halloween in 62-degree weather with 70% chance of rain, the freakishly giant corn maze, and then, of course, they'll flee, leaving me with uber-detailed drawings and instructions on exactly how to carve out 12+ pumpkins while they spend the weekend with their Mommy playing G.I. Joe and building Lego cities.  Even when we lived together, the three of them somehow managed to get out of it every single year.  Oh, they make their official appearances.  Roll up their sleeves.  Fight over the best tools.  I get some great pictures. And then about two minutes after shoveling pumpkin guts, they all magically disappear.

And they all give me the whole you-are-just-the-best-pumpkin-carver-in-the-world-mama.  And, yeah, I guess I kinda do fall for it every single time.
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