Monday, September 30, 2013

Camp Papa

This week is Fall Break for Little Dude. He has an entire week off!!!

We had plans to take a mini-vacation, but that fell through. Then my parents had a brilliant plan... they would take Little Dude camping!


My dad wants to teach Little Dude how to fish. It's really important for granddads to teach the younger generations important skills like camping, fishing, catching bugs, farting when someone pulls your finger, setting things on fire, and napping. All valuable lessons for a growing boy.

My husband has been teaching Little Dude his own set of skills, like how to tie his shoes, how to ride a bike, how to build every Star Wars scene with Legos, how to avoid Gamer's Thumb during long Skylanders sessions, and how to fake a belch. But my husband didn't have many opportunities to go camping or fishing when he grew up and he's a little too safety-minded to throw caution to the wind and drive out to the middle of nowhere with just a sleeping bag, duct tape, and chopsticks. (Seriously, I think that's all I took one time during a spontaneous camping trip!)

However. my dad was in the Boy Scouts and his dad was his troop leader -- all something I recently learned now that I'm old enough to actually pay attention to him when he talks. He could probably built an entire fortress with just twigs and spit. Of course, that won't be necessary. Because these days, the ol' Boy Scout camps in a very comfortable 5th wheel. Nothing like enjoying the outdoors with indoor plumbing!

We enjoyed camping while I was growing up. Sometimes we camped in tents. Sometimes in a small trailer that sat in the back of our truck. We lots of adventures and created great memories. My dad was always quite skilled at setting up the camp, chopping wood, and starting a fire. We'd spending time hiking and exploring. And back at camp, we'd play games and read books.

Now while my dad easily earned his scout badge for camping, I'm not sure he ever earned one for fishing.

Throughout the years, my dad has had brief aspirations to fish. Every so often, he would get an inkling that he might actually enjoy it. However, I'm not sure I recall him ever actually catching something. He's more like the lucky mascot for everyone else who fishes with him. When he went fishing with my mom, she caught fish. When he took Big Dude on his first fishing expedition, my happy hubby came back with several fish. My dad? Nada. Zero. Zilch.

So really, I'm not sure why my dad decided to teach Little Dude how to fish. But at least it's better than teaching his how to set things on fire. And really, as long as he's fishing with my dad, Little Dude's almost guaranteed to come back with something other than mosquito bites and pockets full of rocks. I'm looking forward to Little Dude coming home from Camp Papa with lots of stories and memories... and possibly a fish or two.

And by the way... this morning as I was saying goodbye to Little Dude, the reality hit me... this is the longest that he's been away from us!

It didn't sink in until he pulled out his camera, and after taking a picture of Papa and Grandma, he took a picture of me. He said he wanted a picture of me in case he forgot what my face looks like!

Hmm... maybe I didn't explain how long his trip is. He may possibly be planning to stay with Papa and Grandma longer than I planned on!

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Mesopotamian Mind

Remember when you first learned about Mesopotamia? Cuneiform? Gilgamesh? Ziggurats?

Me neither!

Was it junior high? High school? College? I'm not sure I ever actually learned about Mesopotamia. I definitely don't remember learning anything about a guy named Hammurabi. And I could not point out Ur on a map.

But it's a new generation. Hello, Core Curriculum. Just a month into 1st Grade, my son brought home this study guide...

Yep. He had a test on Mesopotamia.


Now, I've been pretty positive so far about Core Curriculum. I like the idea that if we were to one day move to another state, Little Dude wouldn't miss a beat in school. I like the math that he's been doing (basic algebra right now). And I like the amount of time spent on reading, spelling, and writing.

But seriously? A test on Mesopotamia? I can't even pronounce "ziggurats" and he's supposed to know what it is? Shouldn't 1st Grade Social Studies be spent learning something more general instead of delving into a subject that college students spend an entire semester studying?

So last week, I found myself having to make a decision... whether to just help my kid memorize the answers to get through the test or to actually make sure he understood the subject. Hmm...

On one hand, I've survived this long without any academic knowledge of Mesopotamia. Unless Little Dude plans on completing the $800 question in the Mesopotamia category on Jeopardy, I'm sure he'll be fine with just memorizing. But on the other hand, with the way Core Curriculum is structured, what if this is the foundation for future lessons on Mesopotamia or other ancient civilizations? What if he gets into 3rd Grade and regrets having just memorized the answers because he now has to truly delve into the subject? What if he has to take The History of Ancient Mesopotamia in college and is behind all his peers... because mom just let him memorize the answers?

With nightmarish visions of my child's future failure in my mind, I sat down and starting quizzing him. Luckily, he knew most of the answers AND how to pronounce them. In fact, he even corrected my pronunciation a couple times.

Apparently I was worried for nothing. He knew the subject. We even Googled some Core Curriculum lesson plans on Mesopotamia and had fun looking at the pictures and PowerPoint slides as Little Dude taught me about Mesopotamia. He even told me the story of Gilgamesh.

Crisis averted!

This time.

Hopefully next time I'm facing a memorization vs. understanding choice, I'll remember this moment. The moment I realized my kid actually learns stuff in school. The moment I realized that memorization is also an important tool to learn and that my kid doesn't have to be an expert in every subject. The moment I realized that my title as the "Crazy Mom" at school is pretty secure because I tend to over think everything.

EPILOGUE: Little Dude went on to ace the Mesopotamia test. He didn't have to spell ziggurats or Euphrates. It was multiple choice. :-) He is now studying the Scientific Method. And Crazy Mom over here can't wait delve into that subject!!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Little Dude, Big Dreams

"Bonjour, Mama!"


"How do you say 'Mister' in French?"


"So it's 'Bonjour, Monsieur?'"


"Oh, that's 'yes' in French!"


"Oui, oui!"

This morning, Little Dude told me, "When I'm Daddy's age, I'm going to live in Paris." Clearly he's thought this out because then he told me that he'll need to learn French to do so, to which I replied, "Maybe we can learn French together." And he excitedly replied, "Oui, oui!"

I'm never really sure where Little Dude's big ideas come from. Sometimes I swear he has a secret life that I am not privy to, or maybe he's a reincarnated Ernest Hemingway. He'll tell us fantastic stories that we have never heard before. He'll express his disapproval by saying things like "that's inappropriate." He is suddenly in love with playing chess. And I wouldn't be surprised to come home one day and find him typing away at an old typewriter while smoking a pipe.

Seriously. Who's kid is this?

So this morning, I wasn't even shocked when he announced his plans to move to France in 30 years. I didn't even bother to ask him why or how or any of those tough questions. After all... he's has plenty of time to figure out the details. But right now, he's a dreamer.

And honestly... that's the best part about being a kid. Dreaming.

Remember the dreams you had as a kid? Before someone came along and told you they were impossible or too hard to achieve. I do. And maybe it's bad parenting, but I don't want to squash Little Dude's dreams. Maybe he will live in France one day. Maybe he will become a rock star-missionary-teacher-veterinarian-astronaut. Who to say he can't? Maybe if he keeps dreaming, he'll become the next Ernest Hemingway and achieve all those dreams in his books.

In the meantime, I'll support him as he figures out who he is and where he's going. Even if it means I have to learn how to say more than "Bonjour, Monsieur" in French!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fighting strep throat, ninjas and dust bunnies

My little guy spent the beginning of last week at home with strep throat. He'd only been in school for two weeks before the bug hit. Ugh!

So after staying home for part of Monday toting him to the doctor, I thought I could easily work from home while he continued on his road to recovery Tuesday. It should have been easy. Because sick kids just stay in bed all day, right?


Little Dude and I congregated in the office/"fun room" Tuesday morning. He had toys. I had files. He played on the iPad. I typed on the computer. I was in the middle of some paperwork when I noticed a flurry of movement from the corner of my eye. I turned to see Little Dude jumping up and down, doing karate chops and kicks. He quickly moved from one corner of the room to the other and back again. It was like watching the Tasmanian Devil do a Karate Kid impression after drinking a Red Bull.

Which spurred me to use one of the most commonly repeated mom questions: "What are you doing?"

"I'm fighting ninjas."


"Yeah. But you can't see them only I can."

"Because they're ninjas?"


Apparently I have failed in my mothering by never teaching my child how to "act sick." Didn't he know he should sit in bed all day whining that he was too sick to do anything? Didn't he know that if he whined enough about being sick that I would eventually cave in and let him watch cartoons or movies all day long? Didn't he know the rewards to be reaped for brilliantly exploited the slightest fever? Sheesh!

I'm not sure he truly appreciated what he had. Other kids have to go through the effort of faking a fever and cough.

If it wasn't for the fever, you would never have known this child was ever sick. He was a little worn down on Sunday afternoon when he first had a fever. But by Monday he acted like nothing was wrong. If it wasn't for the fever, the doctor wasn't sure she would have ordered a strep test. By Tuesday, he was a rambunctious ball of energy once again!

So I decided to put that energy to use.

"Since you have so much energy, why don't you dust?" I figured this would slow him down. Who really ever wants to dust even when they're well? I figured he'd plop down on the couch and finally start complaining that he doesn't feel well.

But no, not this ninja-fighting superhero. He was up for the challenge. It's on his list of chores anyway. And since he was sick, he negotiated the steep price of $.25 per floor.

So he grabbed his fluffy dusting wand and set off to fight dust bunnies.
Yes, there's an actual game called "Attack of the Dust
Bunnies." I need to find this for Little Dude!

Just as I was on a conference call (which is always the best time, isn't it?) Little Dude finished his battle against the nefarious dust bunnies of doom and came running into the room to tell me he had a completed his mission.

I can happily report that my house is now ninja and dust bunny free.

Oh, and strep throat free too. I just wish I have that much energy the next time I'm sick!!!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Little Preacher Boy

If you know Little Dude, then you know he loves Jesus. He talks about Jesus. He sings about Jesus. He makes up songs about Jesus. The kid has no problem letting his "little light shine!"

The other morning, I found out that Little Dude even talks about Jesus to his friends. Why not? It's only natural for a child to talk about the things they enjoy, the things that make them happy, the people in their lives.

And Little Dude discovered something too... that not everyone believes the same thing he does.

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Everybody experiences it at some point in their lives - the realization that not everyone thinks or believes the same way you do.

While we were getting ready to leave for school - which is always the time that the best conversations happen, because men always like to have the deep conversations when there's a limit on the clock or something totally distracting is going on - Little Dude told me that his friend Brandon* "said he didn't believe in God."

"When was this?"

"Remember that day at day care when he was there?"

"Um, yeah." (Vaguely.)

"I told him that God made the world and the universe. And he said that he didn't believe me."

"Well, not everyone believes the same thing you do."

Little Dude seemed to ponder this. Then decided, "Well, that's probably because he doesn't have a Bible at home." He also stated that he and Brandon were still friends.

I'll let you know if he starts trying to smuggle Bibles into school!

*Names changes to protect the young!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

1st Day of 1st Grade!

Leaving for school... super excited!
Today was Little Dude's FIRST DAY OF 1ST GRADE!!!

He was super excited this morning as we loaded up his backpack and several steamer trunks full of all his new school supplies. He couldn't wait to start the day!

When we met his new teacher earlier this week, she gave each child a special card to open on Wednesday night at bedtime. It had a little poem about the first day of school and some "magical" star confetti to sprinkle under the child's pillow to help them sleep.

It worked! He woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed... er, bushy headed actually. The cowlicks are crazy!

Anyhow, he was cheerful and looking forward to starting a new year at school!

Then... we actually got to school.

During our long 3-minute car ride, my peppy boy had quieted. We parked and I, as the designated family Sherpa, loaded up my arms and back with a few hundred pounds of school supplies and led the way to Little Dude's classroom. Little Dude glumly sat down at his desk while I unloaded the supplies. He looked sadder by the minute.
Once we got to school... not so excited.

Little Dude was bummed that his BFF was not going to be in the same class this year. We found that little piece of information out at "Meet the Teacher" night, and it didn't really hit Little Dude until today. Big Dude thought it might be a good thing that Little Dude and his BFF are separated for class time. What? Like school is about learning and not about socializing? Big Dude can sometimes be a little old-fashioned that way. But at least they would have recess together.

The good news was that Little Dude found out he has several other friends in his class this year, AND he gets to sit next to the prettiest, nicest girl in his class. That did help ease the pain of being separated from his BFF.

Side Note: I'm pretty sure Little Dude has a crush in the prettiest, nicest girl in the class, because when she arrived at "Meet the Teacher," the monkey boy suddenly stopped running around and acted all quiet and shy. It took him a while to finally muster up enough courage to say hi to her. How else do I know he has a crush on her? Because on the car ride home, he said that he was going to have to break up with his preschool girlfriend who is going to another school (long-distance relationships can be so tough... especially when you're too young to own a cell phone!) and that he wanted the prettiest, nicest girl in his class to be his new girlfriend. I simply reminded the little Casanova that he's in 1st Grade now and he needs to make sure he keeps his lips to himself this year.

Little Dude's teacher came over to greet him, and he perked up when he got to give her a bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper, her favorite drink. He was also happy to show her the bounty of supplies we had brought. (It's never to early to teach your children the value of sucking up kindness. Then he politely asked if he could go to the playground to find his friends.

So I said goodbye to my little 1st-grader and hoped he had a great first day. And thankfully he did! When we all got home tonight, Little Dude said he had a pretty good day after all. They sorted supplies. He met a few new friends. He played with some old friends. And he didn't have any homework, as he said, "Because it's only the first day!" Ah... let the school year begin!!!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Too Cool for Back to School

Ready to learn!
It's that time of year when parents everywhere rejoice... when we dream of routines, early bed times, and quiet hours while children are studying. BACK TO SCHOOL TIME!

Luckily, Little Dude is still young enough that he also looks forward to going back to school. He's excited to see his friends again and have his art class again and play on the playground again. Hey, the kid has priorities!

We kicked off our Back-to-School week with the all-important "Meet the Teacher" Night. We were really looking forward to finding out which class Little Dude would be in and who his teacher would be. 

I don't know how other parents feel, but "Meet the Teacher" Night is a little intense. You're meeting the person who is going to be teaching and influencing your child for the next 10 months. You want to make sure they are not going to instill some unsavory philosophy on your child or teach them something that contradicts the ethical standards you have at home. I truly doubt he would end up with a teacher that uses science class to teach him how to grow his own marijuana farm or a teacher that tells him lying is ok as long as he gets away with it. But you never know.

This year, Little Dude's teacher is not only brand new to the school, but it's also her second year of teaching overall. The good thing about having a teacher fresh out of school is that she's probably still quite enthusiastic and filled with new ideas and excitement.

This new teacher, Mrs. W., has obviously seen just enough action in her first year of teaching, that she was ready to answer any questions we parents threw at her. In fact, she already had a pre-defensive strategy prepared in the information packets she handed out. She vowed to answer emails, post lesson plans online, write daily notes about each child's progress and behavior, and fight for peace, justice and the American way.

I listened as other parents asked her whether our collective brain trust would be learning algebra this year. Yes, they will... along with some geometry. I listened as other parents asked her whether she would have something prepared for the child geniuses who are advanced readers. Yes, there will be an accelerated reading group. A parent would hurl a question and ping! she'd deflect it with her impenetrable bracelets. Another parent would ask her about her qualifications and pow! she'd banish any concerns with her golden lasso.
Little Dude's new teacher.

The thing is, not only were we in there sizing up the teacher, but she was probably judging us at the same time too. And first impressions can be crucial. Mrs. W can probably already guess which parents are going to fill up her email box every week, and which parents she'll probably never see again until the end of the year. She can probably guess which parents will hover over their children as they complete their homework, and which parents will probably never sign a single sheet all year.

Since I'm pretty sure the school office knows me as "The Crazy Mom," I tried to hold the crazy back. No reason to reveal my overbearing mother tendencies when all the other parents were peppering her with the same questions I would have asked. No reason to add to the madness while everyone was trying to convince her of how uniquely genius their child is. Besides... I'd rather have my child shock and amaze her with his highly exceptional intelligence in class. BAM! She'll probably hand the kid a diploma by the end of the week!

A little note here: Every parent I've ever met believes their child is the smartest, most talented and most beautiful child to ever walk the face of the earth. And they should... because it would be a crappy childhood if your parents were not the leaders of your cheering squad! 

Hubby had his own strategy to impress the new teacher. He name dropped. Big time!

Upon hearing that the teacher graduated from my own alma mater, which is a Christian university. Hubby name dropped with the biggest name you can possibly drop... God! I don't know how exactly he did it because I was still trying to be inconspicuous like some sort of parent ninja (I strike when you least expect it). But somehow he dropped that we are active church members. He hoped it helped make a good impressions.

Because later when I drop the crazy mom bomb on her... at least she'll know she can talk to our mutual friend (God) about me and He'll understand. Amen!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Little Big Boy

Last night I tucked a 5-year-old into bed. A few minutes later I heard a little voice softly calling, "Mom... Mo---om." I came upstairs and asked, "What's going on?"

"I don't want to turn 6 tomorrow," he replied with big tears in his eyes.

"Oh, kiddo. But turning 6 is going to be fun. Why don't you want to be 6?"

"Because then I'll have to turn 7 and then 8. And then I won't be able to go on the slide at school anymore. And I won't get to play. I'll be just like Gabriella's brother who just has to sit in school and learn and he can't do anything else."

Wow. If he thinks being 8 years old is dreadful, I wonder what he thinks about my age!

I countered, "But when you get to 4th Grade, you get to play sports after school with the other big kids. And you get to do a lot of really fun clubs."

"But I won't be your little boy anymore."

"No matter how big you get, you'll always be my little boy."

He eventually fell asleep and awoke in a much happier mood this morning! He got his first birthday phone call from his Papa whom he shares a birthday with. (I overheard Little Dude telling Papa that he was glad they share a birthday.) And then he fielded several other calls from other family members in between bites of the surprise birthday donuts his Auntie and cousin brought over late last night.

We spent the morning reading cards and postcards. (Little Dude can even read most of Grandma's half-cursive handwriting!) While reading one postcard from Papa and Grandma, I apparently mispronounced "Alabama." I pronounced it Al-uh-bam-uh. But Little Dude schooled me by saying that it must always be pronounced Al-uh-BAM-uh "with a little sass in it." (No, I don't know where he learns these things from.) And I realized he is growing up with a great sense of humor.

I listened to him pepper his conversation with words like "literally," "age-appropriate," and "excellent" -- all used correctly. And I realized how smart and capable he has become.

I watched him tie his shoes with his long fingers and stretch his long legs. And I realized how big he is growing.

After loading his birthday cupcakes into the car to take to his day care, I told him what an awesome, charming, funny, smart, handsome and talented man he is. He told me I forgot to add "adorable" to the list. And I realized how confident he is.

So cheers to the birthday boy. These last 6 years have been amazing. I can't wait to see what's to come!

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Note About a Boy Who Gave Our Realtor a Tip

Apparently we were not the only ones excited to finally get the keys to our new home...

Little Dude has been part of this process since the beginning. He bravely packed his toys while we were prepping our old house to sell. He went with us several times to look at new houses.

During one extra long Saturday of looking at houses, our realtor made Little Dude her special helper. His job was to leave one of her business cards at each house we visited. And he did! She rewarded with him a $5 gift card to Dairy Queen. He was so proud when he got to buy his own Blizzard with money he earned!

Little Dude was with us when we first saw our new house. He picked out his room and called the spare bedroom "the party room." He found the closet beneath the stairs and dubbed it "the iPad room." He went with us several times to go back to see the house.

And he was with Big Dude when he picked up the keys.

Little Dude told his dad that he wanted to give our realtor money so that we (me and Big Dude) didn't have to pay her.

Then he pulled the coins out of his pocket and handed her $0.55.

She tried to refused, but Little Dude wouldn't hear of it. So he gave our realtor a "tip."

He's already learning pride of ownership!

A week later, Little Dude spotted some change sitting on the entryway table and told Big Dude he wanted our realtor to come over again so he could giver her another tip. Lo, and behold, the doorbell rang and there was our awesome realtor! She had brought over a housewarming gift.

Little Dude was so excited!

It's actually nice to be in our own home once again. Big Dude comes home every day and says, "I love this house." Even though we aren't fully unpacked (I seriously think it may take a whole year!), we've already had people - mostly family - over. Little Dude had a friend over already and wanted to have his birthday party here. And I'm excited to finally be able to unpack some things so that we're not pulling our clothes out of cardboard boxes every morning. 

Home, sweet home!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Keys to Getting the Keys

Nothing is ever as easy as it seems. In fact, even when you know it's going to be hard, it's still even harder than you imagined. This is especially true when obtaining a mortgage.

Several months ago we decided to sell our house and buy a new one. Each step seemed to have its frustrations and successes. But as we neared the closing date, our excitement -- and impatience -- increased.

Of course, part of the impatience was due to the fact that we've been living in a retirement community and spending a lot more time driving and a lot less time with each other. So when our mortgage broker said we might get to close early (last Friday), we jumped for joy!

However, we should have really paid attention to the word might.

By Thursday we were told we'd be lucky to sign docs on Monday and maybe, best case, close on Wednesday. What?!?

But we did have a stroke of luck. Monday afternoon we signed our paperwork, handed over our cashier's check for the closing costs and down payment, and excitedly called the utility companies and moving truck rental. We quickly made our plans to move.

Do plans ever actually work? Really? Because I'd like to know someone who actually had a plan, any plan, work out for them.

Wednesday came and we anxiously awaited the keys. Instead, we got an email that morning asking for us to sign another form for the mortgage company ASAP. Um, OK. So my husband left work and met me to put his scrawl on the paper and I sent it in. 

A couple hours later we were told there was a mix up and we needed to get another cashier's check to them pronto. So my husband left work again to run to the bank and the title company. 

What was going on? We couldn't figure out if we just had some truly power-mad underwriter or a novice who didn't know the job. We had spent two months handing in information again and again. Twice we had supplied bank records and pay stubs. At one point I think we even had to fill out some sort of form asking us to list our hobbies, favorite recipes, and a history of our family tree.

I literally called the mortgage broker and asked him "are you certain this mortgage company isn't just some guy in a store front sitting on a folding chair and using a cardboard box for a desk?" Yes, those words exactly. He assured me that it's a company that has been around for a long time and that they were definitely making some unusual requests. (Google confirmed his story.) He had already been arguing with the underwriter about the demands and was trying to get to the bottom of it. I asked him to call me back at the end of the day and let me know what the status was.

But at the end of the day, he called to tell me that he had a feeling the underwriter was going to ask for an updated bank statement. So in the interest of not holding anything up, could I be proactive and go ahead and send it?

Oh, I sent it. And my email said (vital info being XX'd out):

Attached is one more checking statement for the mortgage company. And in case 
they do not have enough information, please let them know that [Big Dude] is 5' 8" and 
weighs about XXX. I'm 5' 8" and weigh about XXX. Our son is 5 years old, weighs 
55 lbs and is 46" inches tall. And our dog is under a foot tall and weighs only 
27 pounds. We can provide blood and urine samples upon request too. 

Our broker thought it was the funniest thing he'd seen all day.

By the time I got home, my husband was hanging up with our broker and informed me that the reason the mortgage company was acting all shifty and crazy was because they already planned to sell our loan and wanted to go ahead and get everything they possibly can to make the sale happen. They make plans... why can't we?!?

So this morning, my frustrated hubby and I waited. They had our signatures, our money, half a year's worth of bank statements and pay stubs, our credit history, every piece of vital information they could possibly want. It's the financial equivalent of strolling nude through a shopping mall.

But we had no keys.


Then, lo and behold, this afternoon a ray of light broke the gloomy skies above and... we were told the funding came through. Yee-haw! We would finally get our keys!!!

As the wise Hannibal Smith of the A-Team always said, "I love it when a plan comes together!"

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Evil Sister

On the phone with my mom today...

Mom: "Did you know your sister is evil?"

Me: "Yes, Mom! I've been trying to tell you this for years."

I'm not sure why no one really listens to me. For the last 30 years I have tried to convince my parents that my little sister is pure evil. And now they finally see it!

For decades, I've been awaiting justice. I could finally taste the sweet satisfaction of having my mom realize that all my past claims that my syrupy sweet little sister had falsely accused me of smacking her, had wrongly blamed me for various flagrant rule violations, and had often deceptively framed me for her misdeeds were true!
Don't let that innocent demeanor fool you...

Really, what older sibling does not happily await the day that their parents finally discover the younger sibling is devious, sinister, and deceitful?!?

And my mom's response to her sudden ascertainment?

"I should get her a t-shirt that says, 'Master Manipulator,'" she said with a laugh.

My hand smacked my forehead.

How did my mother finally stumble upon this revelation?

My sister was giving her advice on how to manipulate someone to get what she wants. She was divulging her secrets -- the tricks of her trade. And my mom realized that she had way too much knowledge for someone whom she had always believed was the model of innocence.

Actually, my sister was giving her good advice for the circumstance. A little manipulation comes in handy at times. For instance, it probably came in handy when my sister was a teacher. It would be a real survival tool when facing a classroom of 30+ sixth graders!

My mom pointed out that both she and my dad are firstborns. And I'm a first born. And we all tend to just get right down to brass tacks without beating around the bush. We tend to just point out things directly instead of persuading someone to see it. Although we're friendly and at times even outgoing, the three of us are actually introverts. And I swear we each have our own brand of OCD-ness!

Then we have my sister... who, now I realize, was left out of our own little "firstborn club." And if you believe all the "power of birth order" stuff, then you'd know how that story goes. She often found ways to get out of her chores and she totally knew (and still knows) how to steal all the attention.

I guess I can't be too hard on her, because it probably wasn't easy following me in everything. But we did eventually find different hobbies and sports to get involved in. We found our own spotlights to shine in so we weren't always competing with each other.

And if I'm totally honest, she wasn't the only manipulator in the family, because there was a time not long ago, that I finally revealed to my mom the truth about a certain childhood hair-trimming incident that was blamed on a totally defenseless 3-year-old sibling (a story to be shared at a later date).

OK, so maybe we're both a little evil. What can I say? We're sisters!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Strangers in a Foreign Land

Day 27: We have been stranded in this foreign land far too long. We are completely and utterly surrounded by desolate land, wild creatures and restless natives, and are unsure of how long they will continue to accept our presence. We pray that our rescue will come soon.

We are totally going bonkers at this point waiting for our new house to close while living in a retirement community. At first, it sounded like a great idea. We thought we'd enjoy the laid back pace, visit the multiple rec centers, and make friends with some eccentric lonely person with a vast fortune and no heirs.

But we haven't done any of those things because we have hour-long commutes and we're still playing the guess-which-box-holds-the-missing-_______ game. We wake up early and go to bed early. And while we may joke about the fact that it seems like every one here eats dinner at 4pm and all the stores and restaurants close by 8pm, the fact is, we're starting to acclimate. We are turning into one of them!

We're both cranky and tired. I've started taking daily vitamins. We think golf carts would be so much easier for trips to the store. We've both fallen asleep in front of the TV. I didn't even flinch the other day when I saw a Buick straddling the line and driving in both lanes. And I almost bought a pink flamingo for our new house!

It still feels really strange to be the only people younger than 55 everywhere we go. Last week, at the grocery store, it was quite surreal to wander the aisles and realize that the only child in the store was ours. I've never heard a grocery store so quiet. At first, we enjoyed the peace. But as we passed one quiet, elderly shopper after another, I started to get a little paranoid. It felt almost like a late sequel to Stepford Wives but with everyone turning into elderly people. Were they wondering why we were at this store? Did they feel like we were intruding in their private community?

I started to think that maybe I could carry around a jar of Olay and pretend that I just had blissfully youthful genes. But I didn't think that would fool them. Then I thought about making my husband pretend that we were shopping for a home-bound great aunt. But I realized that most elderly people probably don't buy Fruit Rollups and Hot & Spicy Cheez-Its for themselves.

As crazy as it sounds, I was afraid our youthful presence would offend them. They came to this community for a reason. And I didn't want to shatter their peaceful existence. We are simply visitors, and just like when camping, I'd like to leave the place without any trace that we had ever been there.

But to be honest, they don't seem to mind that we have turned a house on their block our summer home. They don't mind seeing us at the post office or gas station or grocery store. In fact, they seem to really enjoy having us here. The ladies at Dairy Queen absolutely love Little Dude and have made him special treats.

One of the neighbors across the street knocked on our door the other week. At first, Big Dude was worried that she was going to complain about us being there. But instead, she asked for his help. Her toilet was overflowing and she couldn't wait for the local handyman. So Hubby came to her rescue. He shut off the water, went to Ace Hardware for her, and replaced the broken part. I can guarantee there's at least one neighbor who's happy to have us around!

It shouldn't be too long now until we are able to move into our new house. And we are pretty thankful to have a place to stay in the meantime. We just have to make it through another week or two and then we can say farewell to this neighborhood... at least until we're ready to retire! ;-)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Feeling a Little Boxed In

We recently sold our house and are currently playing the waiting game while we wait for our new house to close. So a few weeks ago we loaded up a moving van with much more furniture and boxes than should ever have fit into our tiny little house (I seriously think we broke a few laws of physics there) and headed west... to a retirement community.


Yep. I look stinkin' good for my age!

Actually, my parents were gracious enough to let us stay at their house while they are working in another state. They warned told the neighbors we would be staying here, and, except for the occasional ambulance and firetruck, it's been pretty quiet.

A friend of mine asked if we were actually allowed to stay here since we're clearly not old enough and we're toting around a 5-year-old. I told her we absolutely were. But only for a limited time. We'll know we've overstayed our welcome when a blue-haired mob shows up in their golf carts with torches and pitch forks to slowly chase us out of town!

My mom always keeps a tidy house. Despite the fact that it had been empty for a few months, there was not a speck of dust to be anywhere when we moved in. Towels were neatly hung up ready for use. Crisp sheets were perfectly tucked on the beds. It was like moving into a vacation rental.

Luckily my mom is not here to see how we have filled her garage with our furniture and appliances. She's not here to see how we've moved our dressers and wardrobe boxes into her beautiful formal living room.

Dueling pianos! Just a little keyboard family reunion
before we moved in the dressers.

And she's not here to see how we redecorated her dining room.

Some people like to decorate their homes in a traditional, contemporary, country chic or even industrial style. We're going with a cardboard motif. Personally, I like how the chandelier and oil painting really bring balance to the whole room.

We took two days to move everything out of our old house. During one trip, my dear hubby saw a wild coyote strolling the retirement neighborhood. He was probably looking for the local Luby's. During the final trip, my same sweet hubby asked me to help him move the refrigerator by tipping it over on him. After making sure his life insurance was up-to-date I obliged by giving the giant appliance a shove toward him and listening for any screams that may have been muffled by the large metal box. Luckily, it somehow made it's way onto the dolly and down the ramp without claiming any victims.

We then spent the following two days starting all our conversations with "Have you seen my..." or "Do you know where we put the..." For the sake of our sanity, we cut through the five layers of tape that created an air-tight seal on each box and relabeled the boxes. We only unpacked what was necessary -- like food, toothbrushes and anxiety medicine. And now we are living out of boxes one day at a time.

We're exhausted. We're confused. And sometimes we're just plain cranky. You know... I guess we do fit into the neighborhood after all! ;-)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Leaving Home

Yes, I've been delinquent (again), but I've had a good reason... we are moving!!! Actually, it's not quite that simple, because, really, when is it ever?

So we spent two weekends clearing out clutter, packing up boxes, and cleaning. Granted, we only cleaned out half the house because we still had to live here! But it was worth it because we sold it in two weeks!

After that, we started spending quality time with our agent looking at houses over here. Looking at houses over there. Looking at houses everywhere!!! Weekends. Evenings. Afternoons. We crammed in as many houses as possible and put several bids down. And just this week, we finally had an offer accepted. Whoo-hoo!!! However, it doesn't close until the end of next month, so in the meantime, we'll be living at my parent's home... in a retirement community... with a five-year-old! Watch out, retirees! We are moving in next door!!!

Tomorrow, we pick up the moving van. Pack up the rest of our stuff. And move across town.

Tonight is the last night in the house that has been my home for over a decade. I bought this place while I was still single, and didn't have plans at that time to marry and have a kid. Come to think of it... we've tripled the occupancy since living here!

The first home improvement project I did was in the guest bath. It was the first time I battled full-scale hives, and I had to keep my hands busy so they wouldn't scratch. So I spent the week sponge painting and slapping down some tile.

Almost a year after I bought the house, I met my husband. We got to know each other when he installed a doggy door for me. A few months later, we had our first kiss here. And he asked me to marry him here...

After we got married, he thought I deserved to have roses all the time, so he added a rose garden...

Several years later, I found out I was pregnant here...

We brought our baby home and watched him grow up here...

We taught Little Dude to hit a slow pitch here in the back yard, and we used to enjoy watching our dogs race around playing tag in the evenings.

And, of course, my beautiful lemon tree lives back there, along with my vines that grow on the back fence.

My husband made his own contributions (other than the doggy door) by replacing all the faucets, a toilet, the stove, the shower doors, and the flooring. He created custom built-ins for the master closet, which I love, and installed a little air conditioner in the separated laundry room so I wouldn't get hot while doing laundry in the summer.

I'll miss the sound the rain makes on the patio roof. The scent of the citrus blossoming in the neighborhood. The neighbors who walk their dogs past us every morning while we leave for school and work.

We have been totally blessed with some really awesome neighbors. Some have already let us know that they're going to miss us, too. Everyone looks out for each other here. When the weather's nice, people enjoy walking and jogging and waving hello to each other. Holidays are always magical in our neighborhood -- hundreds of people walk up and down our street on Halloween, everyone enjoys showing off their Christmas decorations each year, flags fly for patriotic holidays, and several neighbors even decorate for Thanksgiving and Easter.

We are leaving with some wonderful memories, but we're looking forward to making some new memories in our new house.

Good-bye, kind old house.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April Fooled by a 5-year-old!

I enjoy a good practical joke every now and then. And I often look forward to the little jokes and pranks that come on April 1st. But combine the mischievousness of April Fool's Day with the innocence of a 5-year-old, and you've got a master at work.

Yesterday, I was driving my perfectly precious little 5-year-old boy to school when he announced, "I can't hear very good."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I can't hear when the TV is too quiet. It has to be really loud for me to hear. And I can't always hear the questions that the teacher asks, so I don't raise my hand in class."

This was a new one for me. Hmm... do I err on the side of caution this time or wait and see if this is a real issue? Sure, I try not to jump every time he skins a knee or busts a lip, but then again, if he's having a problem hearing, I might need to check it out right away. I doubted he was going deaf. Most likely, with all the pollen flying around right now, his ears were gunky from allergies.

Unintentional April Fool's prankster
or master trickster?
Little Dude told me, "It's like there's dirt in my ears and I can't hear through it."

"Do you need to go to the doctor?" I was hoping this would make him reconsider in case it wasn't a real problem. Instead, he seemed to perk up at the idea of going to the doctor.

"Yes! I really need to go to the doctor."

"OK, but it won't be until this afternoon, which means you'll miss recess." One last attempt.

"It's OK. I need to go to the doctor."

I dropped off Little Dude at school and called Big Dude who was immediately worried and wanted to get it checked out. Big Dude, you should know, had a burst eardrum as a child and as the veteran of such an affliction, he worries about ear infections... which for some reason never seem to exhibit any symptom in our child except the occasional "squishy" sound that his ears make when he yawns or opens his mouth as wide as possible. So, with that in mind, a co-pay is a small price to pay to make sure our kid isn't going to suffer some sort of aural trauma.

SIDE NOTE: Now, I know that as a reader, who is probably much wiser and more skilled in the ways of parenthood and child psychology, you can already see where this is headed. It seems as if everyone has some point in their childhood where they faked an injury and their parents fell for it. For me, I was about the same age when I feigned a broken arm for an entire day (apparently, I was quite an actress) and my parents finally rushed me to the doctor. I even had x-rays! Although I didn't have a broken arm, I was still disappointed I didn't get a cast.

So yesterday afternoon, Big Dude took Little Dude to the doctor. She checked his ears and gave him a hearing test... which he passed with a great big perfect score. Then she asked him again why he thought his hearing wasn't up to par. His answer? "Well, I don't always hear things the first time. They have to say it again before I hear it."

Big Dude said the kids down the hall could probably hear the doctors laughter. At least we know Little Dude could hear it!

And now, Little Dude doesn't have any excuse for not listening to us! We've got the proof. I think I might frame his hearing test for reference. Yep, those little ears work. He just needs to use them!

And from now on, when my kid tells me something out of the ordinary, I'll make sure to check the calendar first.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Kiss of Guilt

Last week I was about to step into a meeting at work when my cell phone rang. The caller ID caused my stomach to clench... It was the school.

Calls from school are not usually a good thing. It usually means either you're child is sick or hurt or your child did something terrible. This call was the former.

"[Little Dude] fell on the basketball court and bit into his lip. His top lip looks pretty bad and it looks like his bottom lip is hurt too. There's a lot of swelling and blood so it's hard to tell how bad it is. Do you want to come check him out?"

Now, if you ever think moms sometimes seem distracted, it's because we are busy doing a hundred calculations in our brains. As soon as the school receptionist asked if I wanted to come down there, my head was filled with all the variables...

He busts his lips all the time and it may not be too bad, but on the other hand he could have bitten all the way through his lip and that is bad, but if I go down there he'll have to come home with me because he won't want me to leave him especially after the trauma of biting his lips, but if it's not really that bad then he doesn't need to have me upset him emotionally by showing up and leaving, but  then again he may need me to rush him to urgent care, but he used to fall and hit bust his lips all the time at preschool and he always recovered and if I rush to school the first time he gets hurt and it's not truly serious then I might besetting a precedence that I'll always come to swoop in and rescue him, but he needs to learn to be a big boy and cope when he's not seriously hurt, but I really want to skip this meeting and go grab my baby boy and hug him and make sure he's ok, and maybe this is one of those times when he really needs mommy to come get him and hang out with him the rest of the day.

The debate in my head took all of 3 seconds before I said, "Put a bag of ice on his lips for about 20 minutes and then call me to tell me how they look."

Then I took my cell phone into the meeting, explained I may have to leave early and sat there thinking about my kid's bloody lips the whole time: It's before lunch and even if he stays at school he may need me to bring him something soft to eat. Maybe I can at least bring him a yogurt or a milkshake. Yeah, a milkshake would be good. The cold might be good for his mouth right now. Why hasn't the school called yet? Why didn't I just go down there? Maybe I should have gone down there. Now I'm not just the crazy mom who constantly calls the office to find out every detail for everything that's going on and bugs them about whether he's learning at the right level, but I'm also one of those moms who doesn't care when her kid is sick or hurt. What must they think of me? I'm definitely not winning any Mother of the Year awards for this. Why haven't they called me yet? Which urgent care is closest to the school?

After about 40 minutes of this, I excused myself from the meeting and called the school to find out his status.

"One of the teachers used to be a nurse and she took care of him and got him calmed down. The swelling stopped and he went back to class."

Ah, relief and the justifying knowledge that I DID make the right decision.

Of course, I spent the rest of the day imagining my kid sitting in class with tears and ice packs and blood down the front of his shirt. When my husband picked him up, he brought another flood of relief by telling me it wasn't bad at all. Just some scrapes. He was even well enough to kiss us goodnight later.

Ah, motherhood.

Talk about an imagination running wild!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Just a little bragging...

OK, so no funny story today... this is just a mom bragging on her kid. Her 5-year-old child. After a hard Wednesday night of memorizing a ton of verses (John 3:14-16 and some stuff somewhere in the book of Joshua), my child sat in the back seat while I drove him home. It was pretty quiet, until...

Obviously, that's not the back seat of my car. In the car he said everything perfectly and added the Pledge of Allegiance on for good measure. So I rewarded him like any good mother would... by making him do the whole thing again so I could videotape it!

They are learning some serious stuff in Kindergarten!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Going GQ in Kindergarten

Yesterday, the school sent a note home saying that today would be "Spring Picture Dress Up Day." It went on to explain... oh, whatever, I'll just cut and paste it so you can read it:

Tomorrow is Spring Picture Day… 
Students may “dress up” for their pictures.  This means that they may
wear whatever they deem appropriate for school pictures.  We call it a
“dress up” instead of a “dress down” but we mean the same thing…  Dress
your best for the occassion, uniforms not required but completely ok!

Little Dude took this to heart.

This morning, I picked out a nice blue button down shirt and khaki slacks for him. But it was not good enough for my little GQ man. Oh, no! Little Dude decided a three-piece vest outfit would be perfect.

You can't see it in the first picture, but his tie matches the little fake pocket square in the little fake pocket on his vest.

Now that's some rockin' confidence!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Whatever Makes the Medicine Go Down

Kids and medication often go together as well as cats and Tabasco sauce. Just when you think you can get it down their pipes, the taste kicks in and the revolt starts.*

But when the home remedies aren't working and you find yourself turning to medical science for a cure, or at least a way to ease some nasty symptoms, you do what you can to make sure your little ones swallow their jagged little pills... or nasty bubble gum flavored syrup.

Side note: I have often asked our pharmacist why every kids' antibiotic syrup seems to be bubble gum flavored? He has no idea and thinks it is a little strange, especially when pharmacies are capable of adding any flavoring these days. My kid has never had bubble gum and finds the flavor totally disgusting, so we have to double up on grape flavor to mask it. Yuck!

And back to my regular blogging...

Last week, I had to keep Little Dude home from school. And my motto is, "If he's sick enough to stay home, he's sick enough to go to the doctor." Good thing! Because he had strep throat, and possibly another bug on top of it.


So the doctor prescribed an antibiotic and a steroid. Plus, she recommended Benadryl (she described the back of his throat as "a river of snot"). And due to the massive fever, chills and sweating, we was already taking Tylenol.

Yes... if you can add, you've already figured out that he was taking FOUR medications.

Again... lovely.

So as I was lining up Little Dude's afternoon snack medication, he stalled with his usual tactics... questions.

What does this one do? It helps bring your fever down. It dries up all the snot in your head. It fights the infection and germs that are making you sick. It fights the swelling that's making you wheeze and cough.

Do I have to take it again? Only until your fever comes down a little. Yes, you have to take it again tonight. You don't have to take it again until tomorrow.

Am I done taking it forever? Nope. Just until you get better. I don't have to take it anymore? Yay!!! Sorry, Little Dude. You have to take these two again tomorrow and these two again in 6 hours.


But being the resilient and resourceful creature that he is, Little Dude came up with his own way to make his medication exciting...

He named them after superheroes!

After hearing what each medication is for, he appointed them monikers after a few of his favorite superheroes. He renamed his antibiotic "Iron Man" (the red coloring fit), his steroid "Thor," his Benadryl "Hulk" (which he later renamed "Pirates101") and his Tylenol "Captain America."

The names didn't make the medicine taste any better. But at least he seemed comforted in the knowledge that the medication was working like a superhero team fighting off nasty germs and symptoms, and that he wouldn't be taking them forever.

On the plus side, he is looking forward to learning how to swallow pills so next time he gets sick, he doesn't have to worry about bubble gum flavored medicine anymore!

*Disclaimer: I have never tried feeding a cat Tabasco sauce and would not recommend it. I'm pretty sure there would be some blood loss and dismemberment involved if someone ever did try it!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lemons = Viagra

Bet you didn't know that one, did you?

But it's true! We found that little fact out two weekends ago when my husband and I were juicing about half of the kazillion lemons we harvested from our little tree. Oh, and when I say "we harvested," I really mean me in the pitch black of night before a frost warning, pulling lemons off with fingers numb from the cold and getting scratched up like the loser of an alley cat fight.

Here's just one of the baskets that I picked:

Possibly the fruit of good and evil?

Our little 6-foot tree ended up filling over 5 of those bad boys (yes, I used laundry baskets... it's what was on hand late at night)! I gave away what I could to my parents, my friends, my hairdresser, strangers on the street, and then we used about half a basket for freezing.

Hubby juiced about 3 gallons, which we measured into individual cups and froze. I froze two gallon bags worth of individual lemons slices, and zested 2 cups of peel. We sliced some for our tea and water. And I immediately made a large pitcher of lemonade.

Our entire house smelled lemony fresh!

Standing in the kitchen together, my husband tried to ignore the sticky floor where we had spilled drops of lemons juice as we gazed into each other's eyes. I realized he sacrificed watching an NFL play-off on his big TV in the living room to spend time juicing lemons with me.

And before either of us could speak...

...we heard our kid yell, "No, [Furry Dude]! No!!!"

"Mooommmm... [Furry Dude] won't leave me alone."

"What's he doing?" I yelled back from the kitchen.

"He keeps grabbing my leg."

Uh oh.

Let me just say that Furry Dude is 13-years-old and is in the early stages of congestive heart failure. He doesn't do a whole lot of activity any more. But I had a bad feeling and was trying to find a way to ask my innocent 5-year-old if the dog was trying to do the nasty to his leg.

"Is he trying to dance with you?"

"Yeah. He keeps bothering me and I keep telling him no."

I kicked of my shoes, which were partially congealed to the lemon juice on the floor, and ran into Little Dude's room to see him perched on the top of the futon while Furry Dude was grabbing at his ankle.

With a "NO!" that reverberates across the neighborhood, I pulled the dog off my precious child. My husband, also shoeless, came running in and dragged the amorous creature out of the room.

"Dude, he's just trying to show you who's boss." I told our kid. "You have to be firm with him when you tell him 'No.'"

"Okay." And back to his games he went like nothing happened.

Meanwhile, back in the sanctuary of lemony goodness, Big Dude was trying to settle down Furry Dude. We resumed our work with the lemons, but we could see Furry Dude out of the corner of eyes in the doorway of the kitchen.

"Look," my husband said as he pointed at the pitiful creature.

And we both snickered as we saw Furry Dude literally hump the air.

"That's enough," my husband told him, try to muster some authority (which is not easy when you're laughing).

Furry Dude sat down and we went back to work.

"Oh, no," I said, "look at him now."

And again, Furry Dude was humping the air. It was like he couldn't help himself. Every time my husband would say "that's enough" he'd sit down, but poor little Furry Dude had a serious boner. It lasted for hours and we considered seeking medical advice at one point to heed the warning on some of those ED medication ads ("If you have an erection for over four hours...").

*Note: No blankets or other items were harmed or humped during the making of this photo.
We've never seen Furry Dude in such a frenzy before... I mean, without a female dog around. He's been fixed for years. And although he might do a little "dancing" in his mixed up effort to get another dog to play with him (obviously, he needs some counseling), but nothing like this has ever happened.

"I think it's the lemons," my husband said. "There must be something in the scent that's making him horny."

Great. That's just what I needed to hear when we were both covered in juice.

But my husband found a bright side: "At least he's getting some exercise."

It took a day for the overpowering smell of lemons to dissipate. And sure enough, Furry Dude's lust waned at the same time. The leftover lemons have since found a good home at a local food bank. And our home, and dog, are back to normal.

But we will never again underestimate the power of lemons!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Biology and the Kindergartner

Poor Little Dude had a case of croup, so I spent the last few days working from home and taking care of the small sickie. I love spending extra time with him - even when he's sick. It's always interesting hearing what comes out of his mouth.

For instance, he used to end every thrilling story with, "just like that." Now he starts each exciting story with, "This is going to blow... your... mind." Sometimes he breaks out in the latest pop song. Sometimes he makes up his own songs. Sometimes he'll just randomly walk up to me, offer his hand and ask, "May I have this dance, milady." And sometimes he'll make some odd observation.

Yesterday was one of those odd observations.

He was laying on the couch eating an Otter pop and watching TV when he piped up, "Mom, my legs are growing!"

"Right now?"

"Yeah! They can reach the other end of the couch and they didn't used to do that! You gotta see this!"

"Honey, I know. Your whole body is growing."

This was quite a surprise to him. "What?!? My whole body? I cannot believe that! Are my arms growing?"


"Are my feet growing?"


"Are my ears growing?"


"Are my bones growing?"

"Yes. Your entire body is growing."

"Wow! I never knew that!"

And that's how you teach basic biology to a Kindergartner!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Whatever Happened to Old Yeller's Family?

I don't usually do New Year's Resolutions. However, I'm breaking a resolution I made years ago to never make another New Year's resolution. And I'm actually making a new resolution. (Somewhat foreboding, isn't it?)

My resolution is to have a quieter house.

We are naturally loud people. All three of us have been gifted with super-human lung capacity and reverberating voices.

I, for one, sing and play the saxophone and other wind instruments. I have the lung capacity of a great ape. My laugh can be heard across concert halls. I can be quiet. But get me going and I get louder and louder.

My hubby, on the other hand, doesn't have a quiet setting. He has to whisper from across the room... and I can still hear him loud and clear. We joke that he came from a stereotypical loud Italian family, except they're not actually Italian and they don't talk with their hands. When the family is together, things get exciting... and loud.

Our son... oh, our poor son. He never stood a chance. He can be quiet. But the more excited he gets, the louder he gets. And that kid has some serious volume! You should hear him belt out a song. Oh, wait... if you're within a 10 mile radius, you probably have heard him! I've actually had to work on teaching him to sing quietly.

I have no doubt that our neighbors can hear just about every conversation we have. When we're shopping, people across the store can pick up our dialogue. We are loud... and I'm not proud about it.

The other day, my parents took Little Dude to their (retirement community) rec center. He gets very excited while playing mini-golf. And the more excited he got, the louder he got. He likes a quick game, so he was jumping up and down and shouting. Some lady came by and asked if he was deaf (nope, but anyone around him probably is). When the group ahead would move on to the next hole, Little Dude would shout, "The old people in front of us are done!" My parents thought it was hilarious.

So this year, we're going to try to make the windows shake less at our house. We have a "yelling jar" so that when one of us starts getting loud, they have to drop in a quarter. Don't know what we'll do with the quarters yet... but hopefully we won't have to spend them on earplugs!