Saturday, September 8, 2012

Whistler's Mother

It’s that time of year. Time for the first parent-teacher conferences of the new school year. Time to hear that Caleb tends to talk.  A lot. Mostly at inappropriate times. And that Josh doesn’t participate enough, although his grades are good. And that Anna is distracting others in class. Say what?

When I received the email announcing that parent-teacher conferences were next week at the middle school, I remembered a certain parent-teacher conference when my now-7th-grader was a teeny-tiny, shy eight-year-old. I walked into Mrs. H’s 3rd-grade classroom, honestly expecting her to lavish praise on my bright, albeit quiet, daughter. Instead, Mrs. H peered at me, unsmiling, exhaled a long-suffering sigh, and laid it on me.

“We have a whistling problem,” she said.

I laughed. Out loud. And was met with stony silence and an icy glare. I quickly coughed, while rearranging my features into a mask of concern.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“A whistling problem,” Mrs. H repeated, enunciating slowly. “She whistles and it is distracting to the other students,” she explained, obviously exasperated.

“Oh.” I wasn’t expecting this bombshell. “Well, she just learned how, and she’s been whistling around the house, too. It’s a new thing. I’ll be sure to talk to her about it,” I promised.

“I would appreciate that,” Mrs. H replied, clearly relieved. This must have been weighing on her mind. Keeping her up at night.

I’m really not sure what other things Mrs. H discussed, because I was kind of sitting there in stunned disbelief. Seriously, if this was the only thing she could find to criticize my child about, then I wanted to be a teacher, too. What was the weather like in her world?

I did discuss the whistling with Anna, and she denied that it was her. In fact, she seemed mortified that anyone would think that she would whistle in the middle of class. She said there were several kids in class who had been learning to whistle, and many of them practiced their new skill at inopportune times.

 And I believed her. At age eight, she really wasn’t the kind of student who wanted to stand out in a crowd and draw attention to herself. Instead, she liked to stay under the radar, keep her head down, and just do her work. Like Josh.

Now, Caleb, he’s a different story. Once he learns how to whistle, there may be a conference in my future to discuss him being distracting. But that wouldn’t be anything new. He would have just found a new way to drive his teacher crazy. He mastered the basic art of distraction long ago.

Anyway, I plan to attend the parent-teacher conferences next week. I’m anticipating a good report. My “delinquent” 3rd-grader has blossomed into a smart, respectful, sweet young lady. Hopefully, there won’t be any whistling issues to deal with.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The State Fair

Ah, the State Fair.

Funnel cakes, 4-H exhibits, cooking shows, deep-fried everything. The sights, the smells, the energy.

I had the opportunity to go back to the Kentucky State Fair again this year. My co-workers and I manned a booth for the American Cancer Society, and we took turns walking around to check out all the great offerings the fair had.

First, I had to check out the 4-H Cloverville exhibit to find all of Anna’s entries. I found 12 of them, but never did find the 13th – a photo.

It was so fun to look at all the creative work that kids from across Kentucky had submitted. Pillows, pictures, paintings. Quilts, jams, produce. Clothing, posters, wood crafts. So many great ideas.

The food entries were interesting by the 9th day of the fair. Alas, all of the banana bread, including Anna’s, had already been tossed. Most of the other culinary items that were still in the case needed to meet that same fate. And soon.

Then I walked through aisle after aisle of vendors. They were selling EVERYTHING. Things I didn’t even know existed. Things I didn’t realize I needed until I saw them.
Splat balls. Dips of all kinds. Grilling accessories. Mattresses. Hot tubs. T-shirts. Hair bows. Chair massages. You name it, it was there.

Off-handedly, as I was still walking, I asked the Star Mop guy how much they were. He answered and I prepared to keep walking. But he kept talking. And before I knew it, I had a microfiber mop in my hand and was scrubbing away at crayon marks on a tile floor. Crayon! And it came off with ease. I was being reeled in.

I’m a pretty savvy person. Frugal. Cynical. Not one to be suckered into buying something I didn’t need.

But this was different. I NEEDED this mop. Actually, it was a SYSTEM. Not just a run-of-the-mill mop. A SYSTEM. You could use it as a dry mop for dust, dirt, tiny crumbs. Or you could spritz it with just a little bit of water and remove scuff marks, dried food, spills. Did I mention crayon?

Then you just rinse it in the sink or toss it in the washer. It will save me hundreds of dollars in cleaning supplies.

I did walk away. Reluctantly. But in my heart of hearts, I knew I would be back. Our booth was across the aisle and a few feet away.  And I hadn’t purchased anything for Josh and Anna yet. This was going to make their lives so much easier.

I raved to my co-workers about the benefits of The System. They were interested.

So one of them approached the guy and asked what he could do for fellow vendors who were interested in purchasing three Systems. We negotiated. He threw in a mitt each, as well as a microfiber cloth. Sold.
As he was swiping my credit card, he whispered conspiratorially to me, begging me not to tell anyone else about the great deal he gave us. I know, I know. He was making sure we didn’t have buyer’s remorse, and that we walked away thinking we had really cleaned up. Get it? Cleaned up?

Anyway, I’m not one of those folks with the QVC number on speed dial, and I always wave away the people in the mall wanting to spray me with perfume or sell me a copycat version of Ray-Ban Wayfarers.

But I really think I’m going to like The System. Anna has already tried it out on the kitchen floor. She said it was easier to use than the Swiffer. I enjoy seeing my children smile. And you just can’t put a price on that.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Text Me!

Josh is a teenager.

I realize that, technically, he has been one since June 27, 2010.

But over the last several months, he has become the stereotypical teenager.

By that I mean he kind of grunts when spoken to. He stays up way too late playing video games or watching Seinfeld reruns. And he offers only the most minimal of information.

Last weekend, he went with the Daviess County High School Band on a trip to New York City. We sent him off to The Big Apple with clean underwear, deodorant, and his fully charged phone. And the simple request to call or text when he could.  Is that too much to ask?

Over the course of five days, here are his text responses to the thoughtful and enthusiastic questions I texted him:


“Not really.”

“We left.”

“On the bus.”

“On a tour.”



“Not yet.”




“Is the phone water proof?”

I must admit, that last long-winded text kind of caught me off-guard. I quickly (and correctly) ascertained it was raining on Sunday.

Yes, this was the sum of his text responses from the time he left on Thursday, all the way to Sunday afternoon.

To be perfectly fair, he did call twice. OVER FOUR DAYS.

But wait, there’s more.  On Sunday, I texted this: “Where are you going now? What are you doing?” His response?

“Restaurant now, shopping earlier.”

Then: “Have you had fun today? Was it very cold?”

Josh: “Some fun very cold.”

And then that was it. I sent six more text messages between Sunday evening and Monday, with no response. I called and received no answer. Hmmm, maybe that water proof question was legitimate.

Or, maybe, despite the “yes” answer earlier when I asked if he had charged his phone, his battery had died. Turns out that was the case.

He did have a fantastic time in New York. And I don’t blame him for not wanting to spend that time on the phone with his parents. But I must say, his texting habits are completely different than his sister’s. She is so chatty with us, both in person and through text messages.  Is that an age-difference thing? Or a boy/girl thing? I don’t know yet. But when I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

So, You Think You Can Yodel?

Sibling rivalry. Good times.
I remember when Caleb was born and Anna, then four, was so excited to have a baby brother. She helped me take care of him by fetching diapers and wipes, and by making silly faces at him to make him giggle. Ah, those were the days. The days of mutual love and adoration.
Fast forward seven and a half years.
“I’ve got two pieces of candy and I’m not sharing,” taunted Caleb a couple of weeks ago. Anna rolled her eyes. “Like I care,” she muttered under her breath. Then, I heard some more muttering. I couldn’t quite make it out, but Caleb apparently did, and took offense.
“Hey, that’s not nice!” Caleb exclaimed. More eye-rolling from Anna. She really has perfected the eye-rolling bit. Caleb squinted his eyes at Anna. “I know starcastic when I hear it!” he proclaimed, huffing just a little bit.
Yes, they’ve lost that loving feeling.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t still have fun together sometimes. As I was in the kitchen the other day, I heard them playing together in the den. In a loud, game-show-host-type voice, Anna proclaimed, “So, you THINK you can yodel!”
Caleb asserted that he was the next American Yodelist.
We watch way too much reality TV.
And then Caleb yodeled. I couldn’t help myself. The dishes could wait. I unashamedly began eavesdropping and peeking. That kid will do anything. He never gets embarrassed.
Anna had a notebook and pencil, sitting lady-like with her legs crossed on the couch. Caleb was performing in front of her. She was making notes.
He finished and waited for the judging. She kept writing, barely acknowledging him. Finally she critiqued him, “A bit pitchy, Dog.”
Caleb fake-cried, rubbing his eyes and sobbing dramatically. She was unmoved, yelling out, “Next!”
And then he changed his persona, swaggering onto the “stage” again. He yodeled again. I could tell he changed his technique just a little bit.
This time, Anna was the one wiping fake tears from her eyes. “Beautiful! You made me feel emotion!”
Caleb smiled in a knowing, smug way. He knew he had nailed it that time.
OK, so maybe they don’t always get along, but my kids sure do have creativity. And they crack me up.
 I wonder how they come up with this stuff.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tooth Fairy, Strike Two

Well, I’ve done it again.
Caleb lost another tooth yesterday. He excitedly put it in a Ziploc bag and tucked it under his pillow last night. I had full intentions of sneaking into his room after he was asleep to retrieve the tooth and leave a couple of bucks. But in between doing dishes and folding the laundry, I forgot.  That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
This morning, I went into his room to wake him up. His little eyes popped open quickly and his hand immediately went under his pillow. My heart sank. I had forgotten. Again.
He sighed, a little sad, but mostly ticked off. “Why doesn’t the tooth fairy ever come to get my teeth?” he asked.
I scrambled for an answer. “Well, maybe she tried to but couldn’t reach your bed because of all these toys cluttering your floor,” I said, eyeing the Legos and Lincoln Logs carpeting the room. I know. That’s a cheap shot. But still.
He rolled his eyes at my ignorance. “Mom, she’s a FAIRY. She flies. She doesn’t walk.”
Dang. Outwitted by a seven-year-old. It’s a familiar feeling.
“Well, maybe she had too many kids to visit last night and didn’t get around to our house,” I speculated.
He didn’t even bother to grace that idea with an answer. And he was in a foul mood the rest of the morning as he got ready for school.
I’m going to have to make up for it tonight. He’ll probably get an Abraham Lincoln instead of a couple of George Washingtons. My failings are costing me.
Hopefully, he’ll forgive the tooth fairy and give her another shot next time. By the looks of that bottom left incisor, she’ll get a second chance before the week’s out.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Crying Wolf

Kids are so literal.
I was thinking back today to when Josh was little. It seems like just yesterday. I remember one particular day, 10 years ago, when four-year-old Joshua thought it would be funny to frantically call me from the other room. Heart pounding, I rushed to his rescue only to hear him giggle hysterically once I got there. “Hi, Mommy,” he laughed innocently.
After one more panic-inducing episode, I decided to turn this into a teaching moment.
“Have you ever heard of the boy who cried wolf?” I asked. No, he had not.
I launched into Aesop’s Fable. “There was once this little boy who was a shepherd. He took care of sheep. He thought it would be funny to trick the people in his town into thinking that a wolf was about to kill his sheep. The townspeople would run to help the boy, only to find the little shepherd boy laughing because there was no wolf. He did this many times. The people came each time, but there was never a wolf threatening his flock. One day, though, a wolf actually did come to attack his sheep. The little boy cried desperately for help, but no one came because they thought they were being tricked again. So, the wolf killed the sheep.”
I paused, waiting for the little light bulb to go on in his head.
But instead of sorrow and shame, his big brown eyes grew even wider as he asked, “Mommy! How big was the wolf? What color was he? Were his teeth pointy?”
The moral went right over his head. But he sure enjoyed an entertaining story.
Sighing in defeat, I answered, “Big, brown, and very pointy.”
Kids are so literal.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Finding Answers

Anna and Google are tight. Any question she has, Google has the answer. And, in our world, Google is not just a noun, but also a verb.
We were baking this morning. Well, not exactly baking. It was a chocolate cream pie that required no baking. Anyway, one of the ingredients was evaporated milk. That got her to thinking.
“Why is this called ‘evaporated’ milk?” she asked as she poured out a liquid that was obviously not evaporated. You got me. “Google it,” I suggested.
Later, after the pie was chilling in the refrigerator, we shared a couple of oranges. She’s a healthy eater. I could take lessons. Anyway, she started talking about vitamin C. She asked why it was so important. “Scurvy!” I said confidently. “So you won’t get scurvy!” Anna started singing a snappy little tune about scurvy. “Sponge Bob?” I asked. She grinned. Her knowledge of scurvy begins and ends with Sponge Bob.
But really, what’s scurvy? “Sailors used to get it a lot,” I said. But honestly, what do I know about the link between scurvy and vitamin C? Not much. However, I, too, know where to find the answer.  I found a very informative piece on Wikipedia giving me more detail than I really needed to know, including a picture. I think I’m going to up my intake of vitamin C. Anna isn’t satisfied, though. She is now planning to research all the vitamins through “E.” She’ll get to the others later.
I had also recommended online research to her yesterday as we were watching The Twilight Zone marathon on the Syfy channel. There was an episode in which the children were playing Kick the Can. “So, what exactly is Kick the Can?” she asked me. “It doesn’t even sound fun.”
I’ve never played that game, so I directed her to the internet. I hope she tells me how to play because I’m a little curious, too.
Before we folded and got her a dog, she did her online research. She determined the breed she wanted, how to care for said breed, and the benefits of having a dog. She did a research paper in fourth grade that doubled as a plea to us. It worked. Her research and brilliant writing dazzled us, and before we knew what had happened, I was getting up twice a night to take a puppy out to pee.
She’s such a curious kid, and I hope she always has questions. And I also really hope that she is diligent enough to seek the answers. Sometimes those answers will come from Mark and me, or from her teachers, or from books. But when we fail, there is always the internet. Not always fail-safe, and not always correct, but she knows how to find the legitimate sites. She’s a savvy girl.