"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Monday, December 22, 2014

now or never

"What'll it be for lunch, cutie?" I asked her a few weeks ago.

Now that Molly is on the downslope to three [gulp.] she has opinions about things that she never had before. I can no longer choose her clothes for her (or shoes! My god do NOT suggest which shoes she wear, if you know what's good for you!), and I should not, if I want her to eat, prepare her lunch without her prior consent.

She tapped her chin thoughtfully as she furrowed her brows in concentration. "Um. Lemme see....peanut butter sandwich, if you say so!"

"If I say so? Well, I don't say so, I'm asking you what you would like."

"Peanut butter sandwich, and I say so!" she decided.

One of my favorite things; one that sings with the adorableness of a burgeoning vocabulary and smiles at how confusing the development of the English language can be, is when little kids practice using grown up phrases and idioms in their speech.

I'm not sure I've ever said, "if you say so" to Molly, but she's clearly heard it somewhere and was looking forward to trying it out for herself.

Several days ago, after she finished her breakfast of waffles and syrup, she asked me to wash off her hands. "Mommy! I sticky! Wash off my hands please, now or never!"

"Now or never? Well, how about never? If I never wash your hands, you'll have to wash your own hands," I reasoned.

"No, Mommy, you do it. Not never. Now, please."

And today, at naptime, I tucked her in and read her a story. As she twirled a strand of my hair around her fingers she yawned, her eyes drowsy. "I take a nappy, Mommy?"

"Yes, baby. It's time to take a nap."

"Now or never?"

"Now, baby."

"Okay, Mommy."

And with that, she was out.

Lesson Learned:
No, no...this is my favorite stage.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Dangers of Doorbells

Let me give you a little thought exercise for the evening:

My mom and dad have eight children.

No, no...that's not all. It gets crazier: So they have eight kids. That's eight Christmas lists; eight piles of presents hidden throughout their modest split-level. My parents provided a magical, Santa-fueled Christmas for EIGHT kids.

And there's more: When they were in the thick of it, with eight little believers (or "believers"...my older sister and I were the queens of pretending for the sake of the littles...) to shop for...there was no such thing as online shopping.

Seriously. I can not even begin to wrap my brain around how it was even possible to pull off Christmas without Amazon.

...until the day online shopping nearly ruined the Magic of Christmas.

Let me set the scene:

Evan is at school and Max, Molly, and I are taking advantage of Max's no-school Monday morning. They're still in jammies and we're up to our elbows in sugar cookie dough. Once the dough is mixed and chilling in the fridge, they decide to pull out the wooden train set while I try to knock out a stationery order. (For you new readers--welcome! Thanks for reading! In addition to being a mom and spilling my guts on this blog, I also make personalized stationery for kids.)

So, I'm in the office, which looks out onto our front porch. I'm printing out some notecards when I see a man in a familiar brown uniform standing at my front door. He has clearly just delivered a package and is about to ring the doorbell to announce it's arrival. I quickly meet him at the door and, through the window in the door, make the universal gesture to Shhhhhhh! OHMYGOD! Do NOT ring that doorbell! That is probably a CHRISTMAS PRESENT you just delivered and if you ring the bell, two small children will come running to greet you! They will demand to see who the package is for and will insist that we open the box Now! Mommy! Right now! Mommy!

I then wave him away with a smile and because he's probably a dad, he smiles knowingly back and quietly retreats off the porch.

[I have had a lot of practice with the white lies this year. Every time the kids notice a package on the porch (which is, like, every day because Hello, Christmas and Hello, online shopping), I tell them that it's a delivery either for my stationery business (which makes a bit of sense) or for Uncle Mike's juice company (which doesn't make any sense at all).]

So, as soon as I wave the UPS man away, I open the door to bring in, what I assume to be a smallish, nondescript Amazon box, which I would then tuck away in the office until after bedtime.

But on this morning, with two little ones who are constructing their own wooden version of the Polar Express just ten feet behind me...I open the door to see a huge box: five-and-a half feet in length and four feet tall...with a full-size drawing of the contents within: Our Family Gift...a tabletop air hockey table.

There was no explaining this one away with a casual "it's probably just boring stuff for Sara Kate Kids!"

I slammed that door so fast and near-screamed "I think the cookie dough is ready!"


Three hours later, as I was tucking Max into his bed with some books for Quiet Time, he looked at me square in the face and asked, "So who was that at the door this morning?" Refusing to meet his eye, I replied, with a kiss to the forehead, "Hmm? Not sure. I never even heard the doorbell ring..."

Lesson Learned:
Thank you, Mr. UPS Man, for not ringing the doorbell. I've learned my lesson: Never again will I open that door in the month of December...unless the kids are asleep.

And, for the billionth time: Oh, my god, Mom and Dad. HOW did you do it?! I literally can't even...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bear Ticklish does it again

As we were getting into the car after preschool this morning, Max said, "And I think there's one more thing I want to add to my wish list. Cecelia brought the Cootie Bug game to school and it's so fun. So I think I'll ask for it so I can play with it whenever I want."

Now, here's the thing about Christmas wish lists in this house: They would be added to and amended repeatedly, right up until the moment these children's eyes close on Christmas Eve if we didn't have a Wish List Close Date. And so, our good little elf takes those wish lists up to the North Pole and delivers them to Santa sometime during the second week of December. Santa needs time to make all those gifts, you know....and not every one of Santa's helpers has Amazon Prime two-day shipping.

"Well, buddy," I said as I put the car into drive and headed towards home, "I'm pretty sure Bear Ticklish already brought your wish list to Santa, but maybe you could save your money for Cootie Bugs and buy it for yourself."


Then a sniff.

A glance in my rearview mirror showed me the saddest face I've seen in a long time. Big pouty lips, huge tears in his eyes, and the threat of an imminent meltdown.

Now, here's the other thing about those Christmas wish lists in this house: Not all wishes are fulfilled, but some wishes that don't make it on to the Official Lists, have been known to magically come true on Christmas morning. The Cootie Bug game? That's like five bucks at Target, which I'm sure I'll swing by sometime next week anyway. Wish Granted! Christmas Magic FTW!

But, even knowing that I could make this magic happen, I couldn't just let him melt down on me on the way home from preschool. We still had to make it through lunch before Quiet Time and Molly was starting to whimper, assuming that if Max was upset, she probably should be, too.

So, we came up with a plan:

"Listen, even if your wish list is already up at the North Pole, Bear Ticklish is still here! Maybe...just maybe!...if you're extra sweet and ask him very nicely, Bear Ticklish can add one more thing to your wish list. But make sure it's something you're really sure about! You don't want to ask him for more than one extra thing or he might think you're acting greedy."

"Do you think he will?"

"Well, you never know. But it doesn't hurt to ask, right?"

"I guess," he sighed, wiping his tears away.

After we took off shoes and coats and hats and mittens and washed our hands, I started to get lunch ready. For about five full minutes, Max stood at the counter talking quietly to Bear Ticklish. I couldn't hear everything he said, but I watched as he used hand motions to help him explain what the game is and how it's played.

As he turned back toward me, I asked, "Feel better, bud?"

"Yup," he said, "And I think Bear Ticklish is really going to tell Santa. I think I saw him smile at me a little bigger which means he will."

Lesson Learned:

You're the best, Bear Ticklish. And I'd better jot that one down on my Target list...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

the magic is alive...for now

He had been playing with his Legos in the playroom before he met me in the kitchen with a keen observation:

"After we go to bed, you and Daddy stay up later," Evan announced.

"We do," I agreed, distracted by the safety pins and ribbons I was counting on to solve Max's costume crisis of the moment.

"But I mean you guys stay up later. Downstairs," he persisted.

"Yeah, we're downstairs for awhile after you guys go to sleep. But not for too long," I assured him, thinking he was campaigning for a later bedtime. Max's Belle gown was properly pinned and tucked and tied, yet he stayed by my side, paying more attention to the conversation than I was.

"When you're downstairs," Evan started carefully...deliberately, "you have the perfect chance to secretly move the Elf without us knowing."

Aaaaaaannnnd here we go.

I won't lie to my kids.

I'll keep the Magic alive until they're ready, until they want to know the Truth.

And then, when they're Ready, I'll tell them.

I took a breath to survey the scene:

It was the week before Thanksgiving; our Elf, Bear Ticklish, hadn't even returned to us yet. Clearly, Evan's wheels have been turning. But Max was right there, his attention rapt. The next words out of my mouth were Important.

But, instead of taking my time...instead of thinking it through...instead of making a plan, I made a snap decision and spoke the words before they even made a quick pass through my brain:

"Yeah, we could move Bear Ticklish," I said with a sideways grin, "but can you really imagine me and Daddy playing with an Elf after you guys go to bed?!"

Max giggled.

Evan smiled. Then skipped back to the playroom...back to this Legos and to his deep thoughts.

He still wants to believe.

Maybe I'm just telling myself that to justify my response to his observation...but I think it's true. I think if he had really wanted to know, he would have phrased it as a question: "Do you and Daddy move the Elf after we go to bed?" Instead, subconsciously, he gave me an out. I didn't lie. But I didn't tell him the Truth. I don't think he's Ready.

I know I'm not.

I think his rational brain is working hard to connect the irrational dots, but I think his heart is still in it. And I want his heart to win for as long as possible. I want him to Believe.

But the end is near, I know.

As we were pulling into our driveway after our Thanksgiving weekend away, Evan was undoing the straps of his car seat (my string bean still uses a 5-point harness...see! Still so little!) before the car was even in Park. He ran into the house before the rest of us had unbuckled.

I knew what he was up to:
She can move the Elf at night, but how could she set up the Elf when we were out of town all weekend?!

It was a Test.

And Christmas Magic won.

I walked in to find him standing, motionless, staring at Bear Ticklish...who was right there in our foyer, sitting on a shelf, smiling that creepy smile.

Bear Ticklish, who I had quickly and secretly placed on that shelf while the kids were getting strapped into their car seats on Wednesday morning...

Bear Ticklish, who, for now, will keep the Magic alive....

Lesson Learned:

Do I wait until he asks me, point blank, if Santa is real...and risk anger and resentment over us "tricking" him?
Do I preempt the situation and gently tell him the truth...and risk ruining the Magic before he was really ready?
Do I keep the Magic "alive" forever...and risk my kids going blind of excessive eye-rolling as tweens and teens as they write their "Santa letters?"

Parents who have walked this path before us:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Stitch Fix: A Review

Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod!

Look what was in my mailbox this afternoon!

My very first Stitch Fix box. Squeeeee!

I've been thinking of trying Stitch Fix for a while now. It's an online personal shopping service, which, in theory, is right up my alley. I'm not a good clothes-shopper. Mostly, it's because I rarely go into stores other than Target and the grocery store. Also, I'm usually with at least one small child while shopping, for whom dressing rooms become small and boring and escapable quite quickly...usually about halfway into that first pair of jeans. And finally, I suck at shopping for clothes because, when faced with an entire store full of clothing options, I more than likely leave the store with an armful of black, gray, and white t-shirts.

So, for my birthday this year, I decided to put my Birthday Fun Money (which my parents give to me each year with the firm instructions to "Spend this on something for you! Something frivolous! Something fun!") towards my very first Fix. What could be more frivolous than filling out a quick questionnaire online and magically receiving a box full of new clothes?!

For this gray t-shirt girl, not a whole lot.

The online questionnaire was quick and painless. In fact, I wasn't convinced that the little information they asked of me could yield a thorough and accurate style profile, but I was happy to trust the system.

At the last minute (like, last week, when I got the reminder email that my Fix was being assembled), I remembered that I have been wearing my two (ahem, black) cardigans Every. Single. Day. I decided to add a note about my affinity for the librarian staple...you know, just in case my stylist had somehow misinterpreted my style profile and was imagining me to be some edgy hipster or something.

Then. I waited. Until today. (Two days before the day the Fix was scheduled for, by the way! It's like she knows me!)


Inside that pretty little package are five, specifically-selected-for-me articles of clothing and/or accessories. You have three days to try on and decide whether or not you want to keep the clothes. If you decide not to keep something, you simply stick it in the self-addressed, postage-paid mailer included in the package and drop it off at the post office. Anything you'd like to keep, you pay for through your Stitch Fix account. If you choose to keep all five articles, a discount of 25% is applied to your total order.

Let's take a peek, shall we?

[So now comes the portion of the program during which we enter my closet and I take selfies while trying on my new clothes. Totally normal blog material.]

The Distressed Boyfriend Jean 

I'm not usually one for cropped jeans. Mostly because of my pencil-thin ankles coupled with my had-three-babies hips. But these? These, I like.


 The Open-Draped Knit Cardigan

I mean. LOVE. I'll live in this thing.


The Draped Colorblock Cardigan

Okay. First of all, look at this. It's a rectangle. With arms.

And it's burgandy. Burgandy is definitely not black, gray, or white.
I never in a million years would have picked this thing up off a rack.


I like it!

And then...OMG it's like a Snuggie you can wear out in public!

I LOVE this.


The V-neck Dolman top

Another no-brainer. Easy and comfy like a t-shirt, but with a shape that says I Give a Damn About My Appearance!


The Arrow Pendant Necklace

I'm not a big jewelry person. I wear my wedding bands and tiny silver hoop earrings, and aside from an occasional bracelet, that's it. I see this as a gift...something extra that I wouldn't have bought for myself but that I'll be happy to wear now that I have it.


Total: $290

Okay. I don't spend $300 on clothing for me. Ever. My wedding dress cost less than $300.
with the $20 styling fee credit...
and the 25% discount for keeping all five items...

New Total: $202.50
Which is, for me, a reasonable amount of (mostly birthday!) money to spend on five great, high-quality items that will completely round out my wardrobe this season....and will last a lot longer than a cheapy-Target tee.

(Target! I'm kidding! Don't listen to me. I love you and your cheapy tees!!)

Lesson Learned:
This was such a fun birthday present for me. I'll probably get another Fix someday. Maybe in the spring when I'm looking at my closet full of boring white tees....

In the meantime, if you want to try your own Stitch Fix, use my referral code! I'll get the credit and you'll get the karma:


Happy not shopping!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

35 things

I'm 35 today. I remember when my mom was 35. That's totally, indisputably, mid-30s. That's like, elementary-school-volunteering, minivan-driving, Book-Club-attending, Mom mom.

And I'm completely fine with it. I've surprised myself, over the past two years, by not mourning the end of my Baby Days. I'm embracing the Growing Up of my kids...and myself. Do I feel like a Grown Up? No. Does anyone, ever? Grown ups have it all Figured Out. I've yet to meet anyone, at any age, that claims such confidence. But 35? I ain't mad atcha.

I was watching a 15-year old (I mean, she was probably well into her 20s, but whatever) perform on The Tonight Show the other night and my first thought wasn't Imagine being up on that stage...introduced by Jimmy Fallon...LIVING your dream? 

It was Imagine seeing your baby up on that stage, living HER dream?

I'm a Mom. Bonafide. And I'm loving my mid-30s.

On this, my 35th Birthday, here are 35 Things...all about me. You're welcome.

  1. When I was in high school, my family got a chocolate lab. We named him Moose. When I met Sam, he had a chocolate lab...named Moose. My Moose died on our wedding day. Sam's Moose lived long enough for our boys to know. Molly's the one who would have loved him the most...
  2. ...but we're not getting a puppy. No matter how much Sam practices his "But think of how happy Molly would be!" routine.
  3. I still don't know how to "do my hair" besides pulling it back into a loose, low ponytail. 
  4. Also: make-up? It's powder, mascara, and Chapstick only, leaving those around-the-eye wrinkles for all the world to see.
  5. Ghostbusters is the best movie of all time. 
  6. I read The Sound and the Fury five times during college (twice within six months) and found something new within it's pages each time. And I would if I read it again today...but, oh, that's a bit dense for Quiet Time.
  7. I've had more than a few conversations lately in which I've said, "Gah! People! They are just the worst!" And I meant it. Because, idiots. 
  8. I still carry regret over the way a friendship ended just after college.
  9. Although I express myself best through words, they need to be written. Talking is hard.
  10. But listening isn't. I can listen without judgment. I've become a sounding board for friends and family members, and that is one of my greatest sources of pride.
  11. I can't resist, though, offering advice; even when it's unsolicited. I want to be a problem-solver....even when the problems aren't mine to solve.
  12. I'll eat any vegetable (except mushrooms, if those count as vegetables, which they don't because they're FUNGI) but rarely pick up a piece of fruit unless it's leftover on my kids' plates.
  13. I need to listen to more music. I miss my Radiohead, Beatles, Dylan, Coldplay, and Dave Matthews CDs, but I'm too lazy to upload them to my phone...and when would I listen to an actual CD? 
  14. I want to see the world. Meh. Not really. I want to sit on my couch under my cozy blanket with a glass of wine and let Anthony Bourdain show it to me.
  15. Though I loved my job and excelled at it, I'll never go back to teaching.
  16. My favorite time of day is reading to my kids at bedtime...especially now that my oldest is reading books like the Percy Jackson series. I look forward to Bedtime Reading as much for the snuggling as for the next plot development.
  17. In third grade, we hatched chicken eggs in an incubator in our classroom. Even though my mom had recently had her FIFTH child (and we had at least one cat at home), she said, "Sure, you can bring two of those chicks home with you!" I kept them in our basement bathtub for a few weeks, feeding them crushed Cheerios. When they were big enough to hop out of the tub, we brought them to live at a petting farm. I told my mom I named them Buttercup and Daffodil, but really, I called them Darryl and Randall. (She's learning that along with the rest of you right now.)
  18. If I never set foot in a bar or club again for the rest of my life, I'll be totally okay with that.
  19. Though I know I'm not supposed to (because of the Mommy Wars), I do enjoy a smug sense of satisfaction knowing that I had three unmedicated childbirths. Not because I'm a card-carrying member of the anti-epidural crowd, but because I'm usually such a pathetic cry-baby when it comes to feats of pain-endurance that I'm still kinda shocked I actually did it (three times!).
  20. People who don't "support" gay marriage blow my fucking mind. 
  21. That was the first time I wrote "fucking" on my blog. 
  22. I wear black, white, gray, and sometimes brown. I keep trying to buy colors but they intimidate me.
  23. I designed my own wedding dress (and my mom made it!) because I didn't want something frilly or lacy or fluffy or fancy. The simple, comfy, straight-lined result was elegant and perfect.
  24. I can't eat steak. But I'm not a vegetarian. But I could be.
  25. When I was a teenager, I was with my family at Friendly's Ice Cream Shop. The hot waiter came over to take my order and, in an astonishingly Freudian slip of the tongue, I ordered the Reese's Penis Sundae. I did not recover smoothly.
  26. Instagram is my true social media love.
  27. Sam and I record and binge-watch Aerial America on The Smithsonian Channel because we're cool like that.
  28. Commercials for scary movies make me cry from fear. So no, I don't watch scary movies.
  29. I've written a children's book. And, hopefully, I'll have more to say about that someday soon.
  30. Blogging might be the single best thing I did for my mental health since becoming a mom.
  31. I picture myself as a blonde, though I've been a brunette for over 25 years. It's not because I want to be blonde, but because six of my seven siblings are blondes, so I assume I must be, too.
  32. And speaking of that motley crew: I'm the luckiest person in the world to have the brothers and sisters that I do. Even though they won't let me live down that damn Reese's Penis Sundae slip.
  33. When I was pregnant with Max, I craved Hot Soup (in the middle of a blazing hot summer). To this day, when I eat a bowl of soup, I am mentally and emotionally transported back to that pregnancy. Despite the fact that it was a stressful pregnancy, I still love soup.
  34. When I met Sam, the last thing I was looking for was a serious, long-term relationship. I had just graduated, was living with my girlfriends, and was ready to have some Fun. Sometimes you don't choose the path...it, thankfully, chooses you. I'm just glad I took a chance on that path-I-didn't-think-I-wanted.
  35. Though I thought I knew it all as far back as my 20s, I had not experienced my true depth and range of emotions until I had my children. They bring out both the best in me...and they've seen me at my worst. They're my favorite things in this whole wide world....and, like I sang to them today in the car, loudly, over their many protests: I have loved them for 1,000 years and I'll love them for 1,000 more....so bring on the birthdays!
Lesson Learned:
Now let's eat cake!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Scary Mommy Thanksgiving Project

Now that Halloween is behind us, we have officially entered the Very Best Time of the Year. The world is gorgeous right now; painted in yellows, oranges, and reds, set in front of a backdrop of brilliant, endless blue. My birthday is right around the corner (and it's a big one this year, too...35. No longer can I say that I'm [ahem, basically] 30...I am firmly and solidly in my mid-30s now). And of course, Thanksgiving planning is in full-swing with Christmas hot on it's heels behind it. But the spirit of the season is what makes it the best of the year: It is warm and festive and generous and thankful.

Every year we do some variation on the Thankful Tree we made when Evan was three. This year, I found some great, big "silk" leaves at the dollar store with wire stems. They look nice in a vase on our dinner table...

But they look fabulous strung together in a garland, with words of thanks written on each one...

The first night I had them out at dinner, the boys knew exactly what to do. Molly, the little joiner, picked up on the rules of the game pretty quickly.

"I'm thankful for carving pumpkins!" Max immediately shouted.

"I love my cozy bed!" Molly said.

"I'm going to go write mine over there where no one can see," said Evan, ever the Mystery Man.

He came back with a good one: "All of our money to buy food."

It reminded me of a project that I'd wanted to participate in this year: The Scary Mommy Thanksgiving project. For the past three years, Thanksgiving meals have been donated to families who would otherwise have gone without on the holiday. Each year, the program has grown as more families have admitted to needing assistance, and more and more members of the Scary Mommy community have offered donations.

I've considered myself a part of the Scary Mommy community as a reader for several years now, but I've never participated in the Thanksgiving project. We've always chosen to donate locally around the holidays, but also, those families in need? They seem so distant, so faceless...so...on the other side of a computer screen.

This year, Jill Smokler, the mommy behind the wildly successful website, made me a Writer. She's published several pieces of my writing on her website and, in doing so, has helped that little flicker of motivation to write inside of me grow into a full-blown campfire. A kumbaya kind of campfire that is warm, festive, and generous. I'm thankful for this new motivation. I'm grateful for this opportunity. And those families that benefit from this project? They're not so distant. They're not so different. And their need is just as great. And so, we decided to double our giving this year, both to our local food bank and to the Scary Mommy Thanksgiving project. Sitting around the dinner table that night, writing our thankful leaves, we told the kids about our plans to donate; for giving thanks through giving.

"I will, too," Evan immediately said. He ran upstairs to get his wallet.

Max followed closely behind.

When they came downstairs, Max handed me four dollar bills. They had been birthday dollars from his Great MomMom last year, before she passed away. They still had the lollipop stickers that she had stuck on them before putting them inside his birthday card.

Evan had two five-dollar bills: The change from the $10 Lego mini-figure that he broke his beloved $20-bill to purchase.

And my heart, which is already at near-maximum capacity just by beating during this, my favorite time of the year...burst wide open.

"Are you going to cry happy tears, Mommy?" Max asked.

Yes. Yes, I am.


You can find out more about the Scary Mommy Thanksgiving project and make your own donation here.

Lesson Learned:
Be kinder than necessary. Give what you can.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Say "No" to Homework? Don't be a jerk.

There's a blog post swirling around (again) that has me shaking my head (again). It's a couple years old but was recently re-posted by a local preschool and, subsequently, a couple of moms in the neighborhood. It's called Why We Say "NO" To Homework and you can find it here.

It the article, the mom states that she cares about her kids' learning...and that's why she chooses tree forts over homework.

She goes on to say that, after a long day in school, the last thing her kids need is more sitting and worksheet-completing. She says they need to play. They need time with their family, a chance to goof off, and an early bed time to ensure adequate sleep.

And I agree with her. That's why, in our house, when Evan comes home from school, he does whatever he wants. Maybe it's some screen time, maybe it's Legos, maybe it's sitting at the counter eating a snack and telling me (one-word answer by one-word answer) about his day.

Then, after some veg time, we go outside...to a park or our own backyard...and we play. I'll get some weeding done while the kids play together in their playhouse. We'll walk to the creek or ride bikes around the block. My kids will play with the neighborhood kids while I catch up with the other moms. It's play time; it's family time; it's time to goof off.

But then, we come inside. While I make dinner, Evan sits at the counter and does his homework.

By this time, Sam is home and is occupying the little ones so, while I'm cooking and Evan's sorting his word study words or completing a math practice sheet, Evan is, technically, missing out on playtime. But I don't see that as a bad thing. He's giving up a few extra minutes of Legos but, in doing his school work with me right across the counter, he's giving me insight into his day. I get to see what he's learning about and how well he understands the content.

And more often than not, it's during this homework time that we actually talk about his day, in more than one-word answers. While he's sorting his words and I'm steaming the broccoli, he'll tell me about the literacy centers he went to that morning and what he wrote about in his writing journal. While he's completing his place value practice sheet and I'm turning the chicken, he'll tell me about the funny thing his partner said during their math game. He'll remember the cool book they read as part of their social studies unit and tell me all about it while I cut the carrots and pour the milks. It was during homework time that I learned that Evan loves chorus. I'm sorry, did you say, chorus? My kid; my introverted, non-performing, clam-up-on-stage-during-both-the-kindergarten-and-first-grade-musicals kid loves chorus?! Who knew?!

Well, I do. Thanks to the time of our day that is dedicated to talking about school.

Homework brings school home. I feel like I know where he is academically because I'm seeing him in learning mode. I know what subject areas he's comfortable with and what he needs to keep practicing. I know what he's learning about so I can share my own experiences with the subject matter.

So, homework? I ain't mad atcha.

I'm not mad at the mom who hates the homework, either. Maybe her kids aren't as lucky as mine...maybe they go to a school that assigns hours and hours of mindless, worksheet-completion-type homework, or homework that covers material not-yet-taught in class that drives parents and children both to frustrated aggravation.

Evan, in second grade, has weekly word study (spelling) for which he needs to do one activity a night, an occasional math practice sheet (about once a week), and nightly reading (which doesn't even count in my opinion, because that's a given). For second grade, I think that's perfectly reasonable.

But what does get me fired up about this article is this part:

"Time to write THAT letter again. The letter to my child's new teacher that explains why our family bans homework."

She includes a sample letter to be sent to the teacher that is both condescending ("Can we talk?") and self-righteous ("My view is homework interrupts home learning. Homework tends to give school/learning a bad name..."). She says that homework has "no place" in a young child's life. (She defines this stage of development as preschool through 11 years old.)

Okay, Homework Hating Mom, here we go.

You want to know what really interrupts "home" learning? School. In a school that is not your home. If you don't want to interrupt "home" learning, then "home" school. That's an actual thing that you can actually do if you don't like the policies in place in your local, FREE, public school.

I'm imagining this teacher, receiving this letter. This teacher, who is already probably the hardest-working, most undervalued person in Homework Hating Mom's life, is being told that her policies (that are probably not even hers, but her school's or even district's) just aren't going to work for this one student in her class, so if she could just please change her (the school's/district's) policies for this one student in her class that would be great, mmmmmkay?

This teacher, who is already working diligently to meet the academic and social needs of 20-25 different learners; who will now need to come up with a different grading system (because I can't imagine the parent will stand for her child receiving zeroes on work that he "shouldn't have to" complete); and who will have to deal with an entitled jerk of a student who will, undoubtedly, say things to his classmates like, "My mom says I don't have to do that." Which will be interpreted by his classmates, undoubtedly, as "I don't have to do what she (the teacher) says." Which is the most disrespectful, obnoxious lesson you could ever possibly teach your child.

What happens when this kid gets to middle and high school? Well, according to HHM, he'll do his homework...but she won't tell him to do it. "No parent signatures signing off on assignments, etc." Okay. So this kid you've been teaching for eleven years, that school-wide policies do not apply to him, will enter middle and high school super-eager to start completing homework ON HIS OWN?

Good luck with that one.

And in the real world? You think your kid will be able to pick and choose what work he completes and which ones he doesn't? Have you ever had a job, HHM? Because the world doesn't work like that.

So, fine. Don't do homework. But then don't send your child to public school.

Lesson Learned:
There are probably a lot of problems with homework across this country. We've been lucky that the homework Evan has been given so far has been reasonable in amount and purpose. But if it wasn't...if Evan was receiving so much homework that he had no free time to play or was needing to stay up past his bedtime to complete it...I'd go in and talk to the teacher. I'd ask about the homework policies and I'd ask about change. But to send a letter to the teacher at the beginning of the school year stating that your child will not be doing any homework, regardless of school policy? Don't be a jerk.

And more importantly: Don't raise a jerk.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

all I want for Christmas...

It's the most wonderful time of the year!
It's holiday catalog season!

My kids are catalog lovers, too. They've been poring over the American Girl, Magic Cabin, and Lego glossies as they've arrived in our mailbox; making and amending wish lists for the upcoming holiday season.

Well, I've been making my own wish list and I found all I want for Christmas in this one, glorious catalog of brilliance.

Hellooooooo, Hammacher Schlemmer! 
I've missed you and your ingenious products since I saw you last about a year ago. 

Thank you for helping me to realize, for instance, that when it comes to sucking up bugs, no ordinary vacuum will do! I need the BEST bug vacuum!

Forget the fact that this, BEST, bug vacuum puts me closer to the little beasties than my regular vacuum cleaner hose would...this BEST bug vacuum can suck up as many as 24 live crickets in just 15 seconds! Add it to the list!

Ever wonder if your party guests are honestly having a good a time as they assure you they are? Well wonder no more! With this Home Lie Detector Test, you can put your guests to the test

Or maybe you've got a teen at home. Were they actually where they said they were when they were out with their friends? Meet 'em at the door at curfew with this baby and watch your relationship, built on honesty and trust, blossom......or.....not.

Speaking of teens! What's with all the phone chargers all over the house, am I right? Now you can keep all of those cords in one convenient location....your paper towel holder, of course!

Wait, what?

Anyway. As much as I'm looking forward to the Presents portion of the holiday, the anticipation leading up to Christmas is almost just as great. And what better way is there to build Christmas Spirit momentum than by decking the halls? That's why this is going on my list: 
The Fashionista Christmas Tree!

$250?! What a steal!

And for our yard, I can't wait to see this hilarious 12-foot Inflatable Slumbering Santa blow up. 

Because there's no image my kids would rather see in the weeks leading up to Christmas than that of Santa in a deep, non-toy-producing sleep.

You know what's just the worst?
Paparazzi. That's what.

Well let's see them try to take a picture of me now, huh?

Put that in your precious Us Weekly, you jerk.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen a friend across the way on a cold, winter day, flashed her the universal signal for "Call Me!" and wished that I could, in that moment, actually call her. With my gloved hand.

Well now I can. (Or I will if my wish is fulfilled!)

What can't they put bluetooth technology in these days?

As a caffeine-fueled mama who still, after seven-and-a-half LOOONNNGGG years, is woken up in the middle of most nights by at least one of her children, the idea of a Power Nap makes me weak in the knees. No seriously. I'm pretty much always tired.

With this Power Nap Head Pillow, I'll be able to catch a few ZZZ's no matter where I am!

Sitting at the table "coloring" with the kids? Nap time!
Story time at the library? Nap time!
Waiting in the school drop-off lane? Nap time!
PTO meeting? Nap time! 
(Ha ha! Totally kidding about that last one, PTO friends!)

And finally.
I'm not sure if I've ever told you guys this, but I've always wished I could communicate with other cats, I mean people, with my ears. Like a cat. I've always wished that my brainwaves could animate large, cartoonish, cat-like ears on the top of my head in accordance to my mood and attentiveness.

But who hasn't wished that, right?

This is going to be the Best Christmas Ever!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Lalaloopsy Birthday Party!

Saturday morning started early, as birthdays often do. At 2am, Max tiptoed into my room. His face inches from mine, he whisper-yelled, "It's Saturday! I'm FIVE!" 

"Ignore the clock. It's not Saturday yet because it's still nighttime. Go back to sleep."

He came back at 5:15 and crawled into my bed. 

"I just can't sleep!" he whispered in my ear. "It's too exciting to sleep!"

He tossed and turned and hummed until 6, when I finally agreed to open my eyes for the day. And what a day it was.

Do you know how amazing this kid is? He's so amazing that he let his brother and sister each open one of his presents for him. That is amazing.

Notice that it is, arguably, STILL nighttime when these photos were taken.

He couldn't watch. The excitement was palpable.

And, after he helped Max open his presents, Evan went and amazed me, too, with something he pulled out of its hiding place behind the couch cushion.

"Hey, Max, close your eyes and open your hands. It's $2.75 from my wallet. Happy birthday!"

And I died. Because, as much as they can push each others' buttons like no one else, and as often as their wildness and roughness and self-centered behavior can drive me absolutely nuts, these three kids of mine love each other.

After a breakfast of very fancy store-bought frozen waffles, it was party time!

Max started planning this party a year ago. He bounced around from theme to theme for a few weeks last winter, but once he settled on Lalaloopsy, I was thrilled. I mean, come on, Lalaloopsies are just sew damn cute. 

We went button-crazy for the decor...

Button garlands and "sewn" burlap buntings were hung in doorways and windows around the party space. 

And for the table, I used my standard formula of cheap plastic table cloth covered with a "runner" of cheap wrapping paper.

We had centers set up around the party space for kids to go to during free play times or if they didn't want to participate in the party games.

Reading Tent with Bea Spells-a-Lot

Button Estimation with Dot Starlight
(This was adorable. As you can imagine, the four- and five-year olds estimates ranged from 11 to 150. Actual number in the jar: 736!! It blew their minds.)

Button Necklaces with Jewel Sparkles

Color Time with Spot Splatter Splash

"Lalaloopsy Land" was set up in the playroom...we got out aaaaalllll of Max and Molly's "Lala's" and every castle and house we have. We set them up around the playroom and ran a track of GeoTrax around the town. The kids loved this area. 

For the party games, we played Stick the Peppermint on Mint E. Stripes.

Button Freeze Dance with Harmony B. Sharp

This games is like musical chairs, but with construction paper "buttons" instead of chairs.

I played music (Max requested The Imperial March, otherwise known as Darth Vader's theme song, which was super festive to dance to. I definitely should have gone over that with him before the party and picked a more dance-able song.) while the kids danced. When the music stopped, they had to find a button. The person without a button was out for the round. 

This game failed for us because the kids who wanted to dance didn't care about ending up on a button when the music stopped--in fact, they didn't stop dancing when the music stopped. The kids who really wanted to end up on a button didn't get off their button to dance at all!

It ended up just being a dance party/watch your friends dance party. Which was actually pretty perfect for a party full of four- and five-year olds. 

Pop! with Bubble Smack and Pop

This is a game Max insisted upon, as it's his favorite game he plays in school. All the kids sit in a circle. The birthday boy starts counting, "1." The kid next to him says "2," and so on, going around the circle until they count up to "10," at which point the kid says, "10. POP!" and stands up (and remains standing for the rest of the game). The game continues, skipping the kids who are standing until there's just one child sitting. We played with the slight variation of saying "10. Bubble Smack and Pop!" who is one of Max's favorite Lalaloopsy characters. 

The Pinata!

Max has wanted to have a pinata at his birthday party forever. This year, I found one that had Lalaloopsy girls on it, I could stuff it myself, and it had pull strings to release the goodies without anyone needing to beat anything with a stick!! It was perfect. 

I only wish I'd gotten a picture of my birthday boy realizing his birthday pinata dream...  

Finally, it was time for cake. 
True to form, we went the cupcake and toppers route. I just don't do fancy cakes.

I don't think they cared...

It was a great, easy party. The kids, who have been together in school since last year, played so beautifully together. They get along so well and have such a special group relationship. I'm really going to be sad to see them split up when they head to kindergarten next year.

And my guys continued to do well together, too. At one point, one dad asked Sam, "Do they always play so well together?" My heart burst a bit at the compliment, though Sam admitted, "Oh, they have their moments...but they get along well for the most part."

And if there's anything as heart-bursting as seeing your kids love on each other at a birthday party, it's seeing them love on their cousins at the family party the next day.

Family parties are great around here because there's a LOT of family.
We had 19 here in addition to our five...so there was plenty of family love to go around. 
(We missed you Kelly, Steven, Duke, Matt, Megan + Leo, Jack, Christina, and Jordan!)

And, always, more cake...and more singing...

And one giant Mother Smother kiss at the end.

Happy Happy Birthday, Maxwell!!

Lesson Learned:
If you're a birthday party hater, go on and hate...I know it's very popular right now to make fun of the super-crafty, over-achieving, Pinterest mom. But I happen to love this stuff so I'll keep right on birthday party craft exploding over here. I can't help it. It just happens. I don't even Pinterest. It must be genetic...