Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Point Made

Michael wants to be a Lego designer when he grows up, a career goal that has remained unchanged for at least the last three years. He has already mentally designed thematic Lego sets that center on Sonic the Hedgehog, much like the sets that offer your favorite Star Wars scene.

Any chance Michael gets, he tells me all about the designs for his Lego sets. Usually, he gets my undivided attention when he manages to snag the front passenger seat of the van from his older sister, like today when I left her at home alone for the first time (more about that later).

There have been other occasions when we have been sans big sister when he has talked my ear off. On May 3, I took Alex to American Heritage Girls. After we dropped her off, Michael moved up front and talked non-stop for the 20 minutes back home. The conversation ended abruptly when we got home, but the minute we got back into the car for the 20 minute ride back to the church to pick Alex up, he picked up right where he left off.

So today, over 3 weeks after this last intense conversation about all the workings of the Sonic the Hedgehog Lego set, I got into the car, Michael in the front seat. "Now where was I?" he asked. Somehow I knew exactly what he meant by that. And he dove right back into the important matter of Sonic Lego design.

I'm not a huge Lego fan (I know...go figure, since I just started an FLL team!), and I'm even less of a Sonic the Hedgehog fan. I've certainly never wanted to be one of those parents who tunes out their children, but I have to honestly admit that my mind tends to wander during these very-lengthy-he-doesn't-even-take-a-breath descriptions. I try to listen, honest I do. Today, though, I finally suggested, "Michael, why don't you draw pictures of these things you are describing for me because I'm not familiar with these characters so I really have no idea what you're talking about."

Here's where I hang my little homeschooling head in shame. Because he looked up and me and said, "That's how I am when you read all those books to us."

Touché. And ouch.


As I mentioned, we went out today, the 4 of us without Alex. She has been asking to stay home alone, but I just haven't been able to let go of all of my fears of what could happen to her. But today I did it. And only called her twice in the space of 30 minutes.

While we were gone, she made trail mix and set a place setting complete with a name card for each of her siblings. She poured Kool-Aid for each of them, and they all enjoyed a snack when we got home. In addition, she cleaned the kitchen and the dining room. I think I'll leave her at home alone more often.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Robots and Marshmallows

The Determinators had their first official First Lego League meeting today after an unofficial gathering a few weeks ago, called to order for the sole purpose of determining a team name. Our meeting went very well. We talked a lot about teamwork, obviously a very important facet to the success of any FLL team.

Among the various team building activities we did today was the Marshmallow Tower. This is an activity I stole picked up from my friend Tisha who I helped assist in co-op in a Team Building class. For the activity, each team is given a bag of marshmallows and a package of spaghetti. In the space of 10 minutes, each team must work together to build a tower. The team with the tallest tower wins. Our two teams within a team did great and created towers within an inch of each other.

After a few of the sweeter building supplies were consumed, the kids were ready for a little robot time. We just opened our robot last night. As I loaded the software for the robot, I worried about learning all of this so I could adequately teach it to my children. I needn't have worried; I relinquished control, turned them loose with the robot, and they had it built and programmed in a couple of hours. (Needless to say, I'm not feeling any younger knowing my children are overtaking me in my computer knowledge.) Any questions that came up as my own kids became acquainted with the robot, they were able to ask a teammate who has a robotics class under his hat.

Overall, it was a great start to our first FLL season, and I'm looking forward to what's ahead.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Disney 2010

I think I left my writing inspiration at Disney. I would say I left my muse at Disney so I would sound all writerly, but I don't believe I've ever had a muse. Unless you count the kids. And I definitely did not leave them at Disney. Although over the last couple of days I've secretly wished I had left them at Disney. We've had a few Vacation Habits to break: staying up 'til all hours of the night and then sleeping in until 10:00 (OK, so that's me too), eating whenever they what, whatever they want.

I really should have stayed up to date on Treasured Chapters while on our vacation because then I could better capture the details of our trip. But now--alas--it is but such a distant memory, so I'll just offer some sketchy details:

Day 1 (Tuesday):
1. Bright Futures

2. pick up TravelDaddy from the airport

3. sit in the car for 7 hours

4. plan French for 2010-11 school year

5. freak out because I thought I left my wallet--with all the cash and the rest of my life in it--sitting in a nasty bathroom in a lonely gas station; thankfully I had just absent-mindedly set it on the car seat, and hubby absent-mindedly put it on the floor

6. check into a Marriott hotel, which caused a bit of a stir with the Princess who was not at all inclined to believe that we had actually arrived at the correct destination; we tried to explain that we were not going to waste Disney vacation points on a few hours sleep

7. Princess does not understand Disney vacation points, but she does understand Balloon Guy at the nearby Chili's and declares that Chili's the best one EVER

Day 2 (Wednesday):
1. move over to the REAL Disney, the Beach Club Resort to be exact

2. enjoy the really unique, awesome pool--being the Beach Club and all, they set it up as such with a sandy bottom pool

Day 3 (Thursday):
1. Epcot

Day 4 (Friday):
1. more pool fun

2. a tiring trip on a 6-person surrey

3. dinner at Animal Kingdom at our favorite restaurant where we enjoyed an African meal

4. Princess and the Frog on the beach

Day 5 (Saturday):
1. a relaxing day poolside, er, beachside

Day 6 (Sunday):
1. no more room at the beach inn, so we moved over to Saratoga Springs Resort which is where we stayed last year

2. more pool fun at our new resort

Day 7 (Monday):
1. plans to go to Magic Kingdom are put on the back burner because of a rainy forecast, but should have known better--only about an hour of rain

2. Downtown Disney

Day 8 (Tuesday):
1. Magic Kingdom

Day 9 (Wednesday):
1. drive home

Day 10 (Thursday):
Vacation? What vacation?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Back to Reality

I've been gone awhile because...we've been here:

We got home around 6:00 this evening, I unpacked half the suitcases, we went for pizza, came home, and I finished unpacking. Now it doesn't even seem like Disney ever happened. But then there are all the pictures I must sort through in order to revive the memories. If you need me, I'll be wading through all of those pictures so I can adequately capture last week.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Letter from the Toothfairy

Dear Boss,

First of all, I'd like to thank you for your suggestion to use my computer reminder system to keep up with my clients. Since the Tooth Catastrophe of 2008, I have done much better in being attentive to my clients. I have a little problem now, however, which I hope you can help me with. I have these 3 clients who--well, I don't like to play favorites, but they--are the cutest clients ever. It's their mom who is the problem. She's a little crazy.

When she filled out her application some 5 or 6 years ago, she checked the box instructing me to leave her kids' teeth with her. (Personally, I think this is gross, but I run into a lot of overly-sentimental moms like this.) She also filled in the line which gives me instructions on where to leave the teeth (in her underwear drawer, no less; honestly, I don't think you pay me enough to be stumbling around in the dark looking for underwear drawers!). However, she did not give me further instructions on how many of each child's teeth to leave, etc.

Now the woman is complaining, first of all, because her kids found the stash of teeth in her underwear drawer. Like I said, that is where she told me to leave them, so she has no one to blame but herself. She said she was able to fix that, though, by telling the children the truth: that I leave them with her so she can keep them for sentimental reasons.

But here's where it gets really bizarre. The crazy woman has filed a complaint against me because she says I did not label the teeth and now she knows neither which tooth belongs to whom, nor which tooth was each child's first tooth, which was really the only tooth she meant to keep in the first place.

Like I said, she did not give me further instructions on how to label the teeth, which ones to leave, or how many to leave. She just said to leave them in her underwear drawer. Honestly, it is incompetent, unreasonable moms like this that makes me wish I dealt directly with the children. This woman has another child who will become a client in the next year or so; as adorable as this child is, I am just not sure I can take her on since her crazy mama comes with her.

If there is anything you can do to help, I would greatly appreciate it.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

I'm dating again...

Shhh!! Don't tell Mark, but I went on a date tonight with two men. At the same time. One ordered chocolate milk and put ketchup on everything. A lot of ketchup. And he passed the waiting time zooming a cow over a centerpiece carnation which he dubbed "the moon." The other man has a quieter personality and didn't say a whole lot but did at one point engage me in a conversation about his Silly Bandz.

The two men took me to Chick-fil-A* which had been especially set up for the occasion. The tables were prettied up with doilies, pink napkins, and balloons, and the register lines were replaced with waiters. At one point during our meal, the waiter asked my two dates to follow him. They excused themselves from the table and returned a few moments later, each bearing a beautiful red rose to present to me. A photographer captured the evening and gave me a photo souvenir.

There were conversation starters on the table, but my two men and me? We quickly got beyond our favorite colors and TV shows and focused on the important stuff like Legos and our favorite rides at Disney World.

I couldn't have chosen a better setting, more delightful conversation, or two better men with whom I would like to spend an evening!

*This special Mother/Son event further solidifies the fact that Chick-fil-A is my favorite establishment in the world. They are the only ones who consistently offer friendly, quality service to their customers. They think outside the box to go above and beyond what is expected of a fast-food establishment. I won't ever forget the evening I showed up at the drive-thru a few years ago. I had switched diaper bags and had forgotten to put my wallet in the new bag. I realized this when I pulled up to pay. "Just hold the food for me," I said. "I'll run home and get my wallet." "Oh, no! Don't worry about it. Meal's on us!" Seriously. You can't beat that!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Renaissance Festival: Likes & Dislikes

Things I Didn't Like About the Renaissance Festival:

1. Needs no explanation; we all know how I feel about crowds:

2. We got nickel and dimed for EVERYTHING. $3.00 for a maze that took 3 minutes. $3.00 for a swing ride on the Nina, the Pinta, or the Santa Maria, and...3 bucks to slide down a slide. Granted, it was a tall, long slide, but I firmly put my foot down to paying $12.oo for the children to do something they can do FOR FREE at any local park, thankyouverymuch.

3. The food lines were obnoxious. One had to stand in one long line for chicken tenders and fries, another line for a pretzel, another line for a turkey leg, a different line for a Coke, a different line for ice cream. Lots of fun with 4 kids who all want something different.

Things I Liked About the Renaissance Festival:

1. Cool shows.

2. The squeals of delight emanating from the Princess and the smile on her face as she rode the $3.00 Santa Maria swing.

3. We brought our lunch, so we had the freedom to wait until the lines had dwindled down to nothing to buy special treats and snacks.

4. The petting zoo was free.

5. We had about a half an hour of having the place to ourselves after the school groups left and before the festival closed.

6. The acrobatic show was great. And funny too.

7. We had a great time with friends.

8. Oh, and our knight, Sir Maximillian, won the joust.

Imaginary Friends

It's not unusual to glance at the middle seat of the van and discover Audrey seated next to an empty seat with the belt securely fastened. "Are Sarah and Jennie in the car with us today?" I'll ask. She'll nod her head nonchalantly and resume her quiet whispers, presumably little conversations with Sarah and Jennie.

On this particular day, however, my normal question was met with a shake of her head. "Well, who did you just strap in?" I pressed.

"Mommy, I have lots of imaginary friends!"

"Oh." I turned back around to ponder this fact, another question nagging. It was only a few months ago that we sat in our favorite pizza joint. As we waited for our dinner, Audrey took what appeared to be an important call on her pink Barbie phone. "That was Sarah and Jennie," she had explained.

"Oh? I thought Sarah and Jennie were here having pizza with us," I had replied. "Where are they this evening?"

"They're at Disney World," she had answered matter-of-factly.

"Wow!" I had exclaimed. "Are they scoping out all the best places to visit? The fun things to do?"

A nod of the head.

And now I turned back around to interrupt yet another whispered conversation. "Audrey," I asked slowly, "are ALL of your imaginary friends going to Disney World with us?" My voice was tinged with excitement, but inside I cringed a bit knowing just how difficult it is to keep track of four children at an amusement park. Add a group of crazy kids I can't even see? Impossible!

Her eyes lit up, and she grinned. "Yes, Mommy!"

"But, Audrey," I continued, "how will we fit all of your friends in our car and in the hotel?"

"Mommy! I don't have THAT many imaginary friends!"

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Funeral for a Crab. Or Not.

I didn't hear the sobbing over my blowdryer, so Alex came to report it. I found him upstairs beside the crab's domain. This has happened before when the crabs have appeared so still in their shells, the kids have presumed them dead. But this time, yes, there was the crab body, dry and lifeless on the tank bottom.

We scooped Lightening's body up, placed it in a box, and set it aside to await Daddy's return so the funeral could be a proper family affair. (Well, that, and I thought Daddy might dig a better hole.) It was a lovely little ceremony. Daddy dug the hole, and Michael laid Lightening's Duncan Hines brownie box into the hole, and threw in the first shovelful of dirt. Then an unmarked headstone was placed on the tiny grave.

A few days later, I was talking with some friends and related the sad tale of Lightening's passing. One of them questioned, "Are you sure he was dead?"

Which got me thinking. Our crabs have molted a couple of times since we brought them home with us from Florida (who knew you could buy them at the mall here in Georgia?), but they have never shed their entire exoskeleton in one piece like I have read can happen. I did find it odd how very dry dead Lightening was, especially considering the kids said they had seen him alive the night before. So I threw out a theory and labeled it such so as not to repeat the sobbing and other Drama.

To test my theory, I carefully pulled the tank out so the kids could scope out the bottom. And sure enough, Michael spied Lightening's leg buried in the sand. Though I can't yet prove there is more than just a leg under there, I am hoping he is indeed just molting and that we held a funeral for just an empty exoskeleton.