Speaking of Wood…

Speaking of wood, Kid D is about due for The Talk.  Yes, I mean THE Talk.  He is in the third grade.  Too young, you say?  Seriously, have you ridden on a public school bus?  Have you watched a rerun of Friends on television?  Have you heard of a little thing called the internet?

S-E-X is everywhere.  And it has basically been motor boating my son since he was born.  He just wasn’t aware that boobs could be used as anything but food or a soft pillow until now.  And he has questions… I can see them trying to escape from his little boy mouth.  Mostly I see them now when I am showering and he lingers for a fraction of a second too long in my bathroom.  Then he leaves quickly, muttering, “…nevermind…”  because his little boy brain doesn’t yet know the words he wants to use for the things he wants to ask.  And his body will be changing soon and his friends will be saying things.  And I don’t want him to feel like he is an alien growing a fifth limb.

"Erections sometimes don't know when they're not wanted." - from "What's Happening to Me, " written by Peter Mayle and illustrated by Arthur Robins

“Erections sometimes don’t know when they’re not wanted.” – from “What’s Happening to Me, ” written by Peter Mayle and illustrated by Arthur Robins

I have several options about how I can handle this.  I can leave some brochures and books on his nightstand for him to peruse at his leisure.  But that seems so isolating and scary, and likely the pages would get stuck together before long.  I could ignore the issue and let him find out on his own, in a more organic way.  But what if he gets the wrong information or has questions or it freaks him out?  At that point, he likely won’t feel comfortable enough to come to me with questions because I never approached him with the facts in the first place.  Then sex becomes a dirty little secret in our house.  And those are NOT feelings that I want my kids to associate with sex, ever (well, the dirty part can be acceptable, but that’s a much more advanced lesson for later).

I learned about sex in a combination of all of the ways listed above.  I regularly organized my mom’s walk-in-closet (honestly, she had a ton of clothes that always ended up on the floor, and it gave me tremendous peace to fold them or hang them back up), and she conveniently left a copy of “What’s Happening to Me?” on a shelf for me to “find” when I was about eleven or twelve.  Little did she know that my cousin, now a lesbian for what that’s worth, had told me all about the nitty gritty when I was at her house for a sleepover.  I was nine.  Any other facts about body development or intercourse or STDs trickled in over the years via sex education classes, Seventeen magazine quizzes, and my friend McWorm, who explained to me in the 7th grade that Dexy’s Midnight Runners most definitely did not want Eileen to hurry up.

Taking what I learned from my own experiences, I went into my own parenting wasteland wishing to make a complete 180 when it came to talking to and teaching my kids about sex.  I’m not judging my parents for not talking to me.  I know firsthand how hard it is to have The Talk, for both the parents AND the kids.  And honestly, my parents didn’t get The Talk from their parents either.  So the dirty little secret is all they knew.  But I was adamant that I would try to make it, if not easy, than at least a smidge easier for my kids to talk to me about all things related to sex.  I would start being open when they were very young and we could build trust from there.  I thought it was a good plan.

When the girls were little, I drove a minivan.  A silver Mazda MPV, pre-sliding doors, but it was still super convenient for the car seat-toting set.  It was also the place where we had some of our best sex talks when they were young.  I was laying the groundwork.  For example:

One morning on the way to carpool, Kid A, who was in 1st grade at the time, asked what I’d be doing while she and her sisters were in school all day.  I took a deep breath and said that I had a doctor’s appointment.

“A well visit, Mommy?  Do you have to get a shot?” asked a very curious Kid B, who was in preschool.  She was used to her own pediatrician.

“Um, no, actually.  I am going to a mommy doctor called an OB/GYN.”  I steadied my nerves and looked straight ahead at the road (talks in the car were most awesome because there was never any eye contact involved).  “The OB stands for ‘obstetrician,’ and that’s a doctor who delivers babies.  I am not pregnant, so I’m not going for that.”

“Whew,” said a smartass Kid A, “‘Cause you’re usually pregnant a lot.”

“No, I am not pregnant right now.  So I am going for the GYN part – the ‘gynecologist…’ ”  I took a very deep breath.  “…and that is a doctor who takes care of your vagina.”

If the girls had brake pedals, we would have skidded out right there in the middle of the road.

“Whaaaaaaaaaat?” squealed both of the older kids.  Kid C toddler-giggled at their reaction.

“There is a doctor just for your your cha-china?”  More giggles from the backseat.

“Yes, ” I answered, determined to be calm and cool and all NBD about sex.  “He will check my weight and my blood pressure and ask me medical questions and do a check to make sure my vagina is all healthy and good. ”

“Well, that’s just like a well visit, Mommy, ” Kid A pointed out.

I was so proud for being straightforward and honest and open about sex with my daughters.  They understood.  I was making progress.  Change is good!  And then Kid B broke me.

“But what about if you make a stinker out of your vagina when the doctor is checking you.  What happens then, Mommy?  If you make a stinker?  Out of your vagina?”

I slammed on the brakes at that point, both figuratively on the conversation and literally on the minivan.  Fortunately, we had just pulled in to the school drop off.  “Have a good day, girls!”  I fake-smiled and waved and completely ignored the final, utterly unnerving question about S-E-X.  I was actually shaking in my seat.  Where was that kid from?

Kids are evil.  They are ornery.  Kids are put on this earth to pulverize their parents’ best intentions into dust particles and then throw them into our faces.  Groundwork, shmoundwork.

Now that I think about it, I’ll wait just a little while longer before I give Kid D The Talk.  He can learn about S-E-X like everybody else, the old-fashioned way… from a Victoria’s Secret catalog.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

I mean to do some random things… wash my car, clean out the storage room in the basement, send a wedding present to the couple who Sheepdog knows but I don’t, and who has now been married for well over a year – maybe even two or three.  I think they just had a baby.  I guess I should add “send a baby gift” to the list now too.  For whatever reason, I am just not inspired to do these things.  Ugh.  Thinking about it makes me feel like a slacker and a little icky, so I just put it off until later.  Much later.

But when it comes to my blog, I am motivated to write about things as they are happening in my life.  It goes nicely with my intention for “This Is How I Do It” to be a sort of memory keeper for me and my family.  If it is out of order or if too much time passes between the actual event and the time I press “Publish,” then it just seems wrong to me.  I don’t mean “untrue or fake,” because I don’t make up the stuff I write about here.   Maybe I mean it makes me feel like a slacker and a little icky, like the things on the never-ending, random to-do list.  But lets instead call it “less genuine and organic.”  Yes, that is exactly what it feels like.  Nevertheless, I’m finding out that sometimes it is necessary to break my own rules…

There is a milestone that I meant to address at the end of the school year, but it got pushed aside when Braden died.

(Quick side note:  Man, I really miss that kid.  I continue to struggle with understanding his sickness and his untimely passing.  I waffle back and forth between believing that life is precious and meaningful and I should soak everything in like a desperate sponge, or thinking that it is all a random crapshoot, so why bother?  Fortunately, I loiter most often on the former side of that fence.  There are several songs that remind me of him and they move me to sobbing tears when I let myself listen.  I really want to argue with him about the NFL trades (like Welker to the Broncos and Tebow to the Patriots) and the IRS scandal, and Edward Snowden, and Egypt, and Turkey, and Trayvon Martin, and the list goes on and on and on.  I wish I could talk to him or text him.  But that is no longer possible.  Sigh.)


In May, Kid E finished his last year of pre-school.  They did a ceremony back in April with songs and dances and a picnic in the park to mark the special occasion.  They did it early because his school had two GA pre-K classes and both lead teachers were pregnant and due sometime during the month of May.  Both of them delivered their beautiful babies before classes were out for summer, so substitutes came in to finish out the year.  They were very nice teachers and the kids still learned and had fun, but the end result was that the last day of school was kind of  “meh.”  With everything else that was happening in the last two weeks of May this year, I let the last day of pre-school pass without much fanfare.  Stuff happens, right?

But it is too bright of a highlight to let it slip by unacknowledged.

Starting with Carol and ending with Miss Bethany, my kids had some of the most awesome pre-school teachers on the planet.  They loved them like they were their own children.  Even on the days when I could not have been happier to get them out of my sight drop them off at school.  Especially on those days, and that is something I am very thankful for.  These teachers taught my kids so many things, but they also taught me as well.  And I’m talking about the important stuff here…



I don’t care how cute those heathens look… this drop off deserves the Dance of Joy!

Carol taught Kid A how to be an outside kid.  She loaded up four or five kids a day and strollered them down to All-Wars Memorial Park, where they ran and jumped and played, until they collapsed in heaps and napped for hours.  Carol taught me the importance of regulating my kid’s day naps so that she would actually go to bed at night.  She also potty trained Kid A for me.  The first lesson was necessary for me to learn, but the second was just plain awesomeness.  Carol also taught me the importance of a margarita after the kids are in bed (her husband rented out the big machines for parties as a side business), which I found to be invaluable advice over the years.  Cheers to Carol!

Rosemary taught Kid B how to soothe herself to sleep when she was almost a year old.  Up until then, Sheepdog and I traded nights of sleep… he would get one, then I would get one.  It was a special time in our lives (and by that I mean e-special-ly SUCKY).  Kid B did not go to sleep unless someone was bouncing her, even during the day.  I don’t know if she had colic or we spoiled her, or what, but it was just plain awful.  And then like an angel from heaven, Rosemary came into our lives, and Kid B started sleeping through the night.  And it turned out she wasn’t a horrible devil-kid.  Rosemary also potty trained Kid B.  I did nothing but drop her off at pre-school and then I would pick up a non-diaper-wearing kid at the end of the day.  So I guess Rosemary taught me that, even after having two kids, you still may not know how to do the basic stuff, like get them to sleep or potty train them.  She also talked me off of the ledge when I was completely desperate and sleep-deprived and wanted to sell Kid B on e-Bay.  I really owe her a debt of gratitude for that one.

Kid C had the least amount of pre-school teachers because I had stopped working after I had her.  Following the adage of quality over quantity, the one that stands out the most in my mind is Miss Cora.  She was from a faraway land and said Kid C’s name in the most awesome way, with about seven more syllables than it actually has.  She taught Kid C about letting her freak flag fly.  Up until then, I had been butting heads with that kid about absolutely everything, mainly because she had/ has a very different way of doing things than I was used to.  Kid C took Cora’s lessons to heart and really started being her true self without reservation, which is a little bit crazy and a lot of bit different.  And somehow, they both showed me that it was okay for me to let it happen too.  It was a very good lesson for all of us.  Oh, and Cora also taught me that when a kid swallows a button during quiet time because her friend dared her to, don’t freak out because it will be just fine and probably just come out in her poop.  Another good lesson.

Miss Carla taught Kid D how to read.  In pre-school!  She was a seasoned veteran when it came to teaching kids (and their parents) all sorts of things, but the timing was just right (he was ready; she was so very patient) for her to instill a love of books and reading that continues with him to this day.  And even after four years I was still adjusting to having a kid with a penis, so Carla’s incredible patience was a well-timed example that I definitely needed in my life right then.  That patience also came in handy when I had to eventually potty-train the last kid.  I guess I had to learn sometime, right?

Kid E started pre-school early, especially given that I was a full-time SAHM.  But he would just follow me around all day, staring at me, muttering, “Where my brudder?”  So, I loaded up his backpack and his lunchbox and sent him out the door when he was barely two.  He had the most awesome teachers… every single one was fabulous.  Miss Lori, Miss Judy and Miss Tina (You’re Not Ugly) at Little Creek, and then Miss Waldy, Miss Robin, Miss Bethany and Miss Erica at Open Arms, just to name a few.  They taught him so many things, but they all taught me that teachers do sometimes have favorites, and it is pretty damn awesome when it is your kid.

Yes, the pre-school years have finally come to an end for my kids.  They were filled with some amazing experiences, and some crappy ones as well (lice letters, anyone?), but overall I can say that pre-school has left an indelible mark on both me and my kids forever and ever.  And for that I am very grateful.

This is a mark that I left on one of the schools when I may or may not have backed my truck into a No Parking sign.

…and this is the mark that I allegedly left on one of the schools when I may or may not have backed my truck into a No Parking sign.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Summer Update – One Down…

… two to go.  Months, that is.  Seriously.  This is insane!  Have you looked at the calendar?  It is June 24th already!!!

Today we are officially one full month into our summer vacation.  And we have been doing lots of summery things… staying up too late to catch lightning bugs or looking for the super moon, grilling everything we get our hands on, enjoying the summer brews, spending our afternoons running through the sprinkler and swimming at the pool.  But, at the same time, we have also been adhering to quite a full schedule, which does not seem the least bit summery to me.

Kid A just left yesterday for four weeks in the Governor’s Honors Program.  She already traveled to the beach and New York City with friends for a week.  Kid B just returned from five days at goalkeeper camp, and she is in the final week of a three-week-long summer bridge program (so she can get her driver’s permit this Fall).  Oh, and she is signed up for another soccer camp at the high school during the evenings this week.  And remember that we drove to Alabama for that regional soccer tournament as well.  Kid C earned a promotion to dancing en pointe, so she hasn’t stopped her twice weekly classes.  And last week she attended a summer intensive dance program from 10AM – 4PM every single day.  That’s nuts, right?  How did this become our relaxed, summer schedule?

In the past, I would put my foot down and we didn’t do camps or activities or much of anything in the summertime.  We just watched movies, read books and hung out at the neighborhood pool.  Then we would spend a glorious week at the beach.  I soaked it up like the summer sun, because doing nothing can be quite fabulous.  And I truly believe it is therapeutic and necessary, especially because it seems as if we do all of the things during the regular school year.  But, as the kids have gotten older, things have changed and we don’t seem to get as much down time, even throughout the months of June, July, and August.  Sports and school and their social lives have all gotten so much more intense.  Out of necessity and albeit grudgingly, I have adjusted.

But the boys are a different story.  They are still young and I can get away with keeping their summer schedules blankety-blank, just as I like it.  While the older three are off practicing for college and soccering and dancing, the boys and I are doing a whole lot of summertime nada.  Kid D has been playing real and virtual ball (all of the kinds) outside and inside and Kid E learned/ is still learning how to swim on his own.  It has been really fun, even the “I’m bored!” parts.  But then they both got super complain-y all of a sudden.  It took me a while before I realized they might be sick.  In the summertime.  Who does that?

So then I had to add a doctor’s visit to the calendar, but fortunately the doctor figured out that both of them were being so whiny because they had sinus infections.  Or maybe allergies.  Whatever… please just fix them.  So the doctor sent us to the pharmacy to treat both possibilities simultaneously.

We had to wait for our order, so I made my way to the foot care section (I needed toe spacers for Kid C’s newly acquired foot pain obsession due to dancing atop her toes… that’s crazy difficult, y’all!), and the boys followed me there.  This year Kid E also learned/ is still learning how to read.  Conveniently, the feminine products share real estate in the foot care aisle (I was not aware that the vagina bone’s connected to the foot bone.  Mental note to discuss a more logical store organization with CVS.)  While I was determining which gel product would best keep my baby from getting bunions, I hear Kid E yelling to me from just a yard away.

“Mom, what are max pads?”

I completely and blatantly ignore him.

“Mom!  I mean, what are MAX-eye pads?  What are they, Mom, huh?  What are they for?  Max-EYE pads.”  He started getting louder.

“Nothing.  They are for nothing you need to know about, ” I whisper.  I’m so not in the mood for this.  I would so much rather be feet in the sand, face toward the sun right now.

Kid D is all of a sudden interested in this conversation too.  “No!  They are not max-eye pads, they are maxi pads!  See, it says ‘maxi pads,’ not ‘max-eye’ pads.  Mom, what are maxi pads?  Look at how big the package is!  What are they, Mom?  This box is huge!”

I hear all of the people in the pharmacy snickering as I navigate this minefield.  Thanks for the solidarity, sisters.  I guess I’m on my own.

“They are grown up lady woman things that you do not need to know about today.  Put them back on the shelf now and stop yelling, please.”

Kid E becomes incredulous.  “I just want to know what they are for!  Just tell me what the max-eye pads are for, Mom!  I just want to know!  Tell me!  Tell me, please!”  More blatant laughter from the traitors in the pharmacy.

Simpler summer times… no schedules, no camps and no boys asking questions about girls getting their periods

I quickly calculate that I have two choices here.  I can go for shock and awe, or I can distract.  And although I consider myself one of the hardcore members of the fan club for the former, I have not yet gotten my full summer recharge and I am not up for speeches and questions about tampons versus pads.  So, I opt for the lazy choice – the latter.  I chose a complete and utter cop-out.

“Hey, didn’t I see water guns at the front near the gum?  Why don’t you boys go pick out some squirters and we can play with them once you feel better.”

Fortunately, they run off without any more questions and I am spared continued awkwardness for the moment.

I do, however, plan to look into summer camps for these boys as soon as possible.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Ding Dong, Bitch

There’s this Halloween tradition in the suburbs called “Boo-ing.”  I’ve attached a copy of the note (go to http://www.beenbooed.com) that anonymous revelers leave along with the treats on your front porch, Ding Dong Ditch-style, that pretty much explains it all.  I don’t care how it came about; I simply find it awesome that people leave candy for me right on my front porch.  I hope that once day the girl scouts will start doing it this way with their cookies.  And I wish they would do it during the day instead of at night when all of my pesky kids are around to lay claim to the goodies.  But I’m also considering cutting my doorbell wire.

We got Boo-ed a couple of weeks ago.  It was dark out and Kid B had just come home from soccer practice.  The boys were already in bed.  I have no idea where A and C were… I tend to lose track of a few them as the night goes on.  Eh, they’ll come back home when they’re hungry.

I am a grouchy old lady, so I turn my front porch light off early in hopes that it will deter any late night visitors.  Most people ignore this, so I was not surprised when I heard the doorbell ring after 8 p.m.  Kid B answered it and proudly announced to everyone and no one that we got treats.  I just crossed my fingers that the boys (a) didn’t get woken up by the doorbell, and (b) did not inherit my sixth sense about chocolate being anywhere within a 50-foot radius.  Luckily, the boys stayed in bed.  Luckily, we had candy in the house (not for long!).  Unluckily, now we had a job to do.  The very next night we had to go Boo some neighbors.

“There are three things I’ve learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.” – Linus Van Pelt, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

I don’t know if you have ever tried to do anything stealthily with little kids, but I can assure you it is next to impossible.  Remember, Boo-ing is supposed to be done anonymously so you have to leave the basket of goodies and skiddoo.  This created several technical difficulties for us.

Obstacle Number One: My youngest kids go to bed by 7:30, when it is still kind of light out.  That meant that our mission had to be carried out without them (yeah, right) or at dinnertime in the daylight with the hopes that the recipients take at least ninety seconds to get up from the table and come to the door, so we would have enough time to run out of sight after we rang the bell.

Obstacle Number Two: Little kids can’t run very fast, no matter how much you yell at them.  They aren’t very quiet, nor do they follow directions until they are given to them umpteen times.  They also don’t react well in situations of panic.

Obstacle Number Three: Who to Boo?  I never knew that these kids had so many “best friends.”  Where are these so-called best friends when there’s heavy lifting to be done, huh?  I immediately narrowed the list to one house.  Boo-ing rules be dammed.  This was going to be crazy enough once without having to do it again.

So with a basket full of Halloween candy and a “You’ve Been Boo-ed” note, we finally headed out into the pre-twilight to accomplish our mission.  The house we had agreed upon was at the end of our street so we decided to drive most of the way down for a quicker getaway.  But not in my (highly identifiable) XL truck.  We opted instead to take Kid A’s car, which fewer people would recognize, and hide it behind some bushes.  We mapped out a plan so that everyone got to partake in the fun, while also attempting maximum potential for a clean escape.  When we got to the house we saw that both parent’s cars were in the driveway and the garage door was open, indicating they were most likely at home.  It was on.

Kid A stayed in her well-hidden car, with both back seat doors open and ready for the quick getaway.  Kid C held Kid E’s hand along the front walkway so he wouldn’t have to maneuver up or down any steps (face plant on the concrete driveway, anyone?) during their escape.  Kid D had the biggest and most important responsibility of carrying the basket to the porch and dinging the dong.  I stood at the end of the driveway to watch everything go down (that’s when I realized that Kid B wasn’t even with us… oops).  After a minute or two of absolutely nothing I whisper-yelled to Kid D, “Ring the bell, dummy, so we can ditch!”

Several things happened at once.  Kid D jumped off the porch.  Kids C and E spun around to hightail it out of there, but C was giggling and E got confused and ran in the wrong direction.  D and E collided somewhere along the driveway, but they quickly recovered and everyone headed for Kid A’s car.  They made good time, but they were so pumped up from their caper (or the body slamming) that they went in one back door and exited the other one.  Twice.  Finally, I was like, “Get in and stay in!” and we sped away.  With Kid E in the middle back seat yelling, “I’m not hooked!” I asked Kid D if he heard them coming to the door after he rang the doorbell.  His answer, “I don’t even know if I actually rang the bell.”  Awesome.


This morning parents and kids were in our driveway waiting for the school bus.  Today was also my day to drive for pre-school carpool, so Kid E and his friend were running around all of the elementary school kids.  They kept running to our front porch and then back to me, laughing hysterically.  When I asked what they were doing, Kid E announced to everyone (in his little boy, lispy speech) that they were “practicing the ‘Bing Bong Bitch,’ I mean the ‘Ding Dong, Bitch'” so they would be better at it next time.  Double awesome in front of a school bus full of kids.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Poems of Procrastination

In homage to those like Keats, Wordsworth and Shelley (and because my kids are all out of my house and off to the first day of school and I’m kind of bored and putting off my workout and other various and sundry chores), I have decided to write a poem.

“An Ode to Summer”
by Stacy Swiger
O! glorious season of unencumbered trotters and limbs – 
How my soul thunders at your sweet smells and irradiated hours.
Why, thou art bursting with vivid comestibles and waterlogged reverie!
The waning of your days is forever married with my ebbing enthuse.
What splendor dreamt by deities in sculpting your essence.

Well, that didn’t take nearly long enough, despite the constant thesaurus look-ups.  Maybe I’ll go a little less formal with a haiku.

“A Haiku Poem About Summer”
by Stacy Swiger
Bare… feet, legs, iCal
Summer is wet, bright and free.
Fall is too leafy.
“And Another”
by Stacy Swiger
Haiku.  “Gesundheit”
Must be the freshly mowed grass.
Where’s the ice cream man?

Kid A = 11th grade, Kid B = 8th grade, Kid C = 6th grade, Kid D = 2nd grade, and Kid E = Georgia pre-K. Mom = sad that summer is over.

I am always bummed that summer is essentially over for us when school starts, even though it is still August.  But I can say that I am happy to get back to writing more regularly.  And I know that the kids could certainly use some time apart from each other.

Just the other day, I listened from my office as I heard Kid E driving his siblings absolutely batty.  He went from one to the next, just nudging and annoying them with his, “Play with me” and “Get this for me”  and “Will someone wipe me?”  Finally I heard that he was left alone in the upstairs hallway, as everyone else had retreated to their rooms for some much-needed alone time.  Never to be discouraged, Kid E knocked on someone’s bedroom door.

Knock, knock.

“Who is it?”

(In his own, undisguised voice) “It is NOT me.  He he he he he he he he.”

Whatever.  It got them to open the door.

Happy First Day of School, my southern peeps.  And to those of you that still get to go to the beaches and the pools and sleep in for a few weeks longer, I hope you appreciate how good you’ve got it.  Enjoy your vivid comestibles and waterlogged reverie.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…


Just Say No to Cash

For those of you who know me very well (and there are only like nine of you on the whole planet… “I’m a loner, Dottie.  A rebel.”), you are well aware that I do not enjoy chatting on the phone.  There are certainly exceptions, but I rarely spend my free time yakking it up.  Yesterday was a unique day for me in that I called or was called by every single person in my family of origin (also known as “907 Chelsea Peeps”).  It wasn’t even anybody’s birthday or a holiday or anything really special.  I can’t tell you the last time that happened.  Not that we need to stop the presses or anything.  I’m just saying.

So in talking to everybody I got a crapload of new information… updates, ideas, stories, gossip.  You know, the good stuff.  Some of it was really good stuff too.  Let me just say that in the game of OMG One-Up, my family will probably win.  We’d come in second place at the very least.  There’s some crazy stuff out there, people.

Anyway, Sister B called me in the middle of the day and mentioned that she was collecting money for some group teacher gifts and she had an idea for a nicer presentation than just handing over cash in an envelope.  I was unaware that cash in an envelope was not nice, but apparently I don’t know anything.  So I told her to write a post and I’d put it on my blog so anybody who reads it can copy her idea.

Or you can just give cash in an envelope.  Seriously, I don’t see how that can be a bad thing.


End of the Year Gift Idea by Guest Writer, Sister B

It is that time of the year again…soccer banquets, religious education end of year parties, graduations, last day of school parties, ballet recitals, cub scouts graduation ceremonies…I don’t know about you but my wallet is empty!  I am so thankful for the adults who help my children throughout the year in so many different ways, whether it be their coaches, teachers, school administrators, instructors or leaders.  They work so hard, demonstrate incredible patience, foster a love of learning in so any ways, and I took on the coordination of the donation of funds towards a group gift.

I know from my teacher friends that gift cards are always the best because if they get another candle or apple-themed “#1 Teacher” mug they are going to literally scream.  But I just didn’t want to put a big gift card in an envelope and call it a day.  I wanted to take a few minutes and a little creativity to show those who have earned a year end gift that we appreciate all that they have done each and every day of this past year.  I did not want to spend a lot of money because the majority of the funds should go towards the gift card for the individual who deserves the kudos!

I searched the internet and found this adorable phrase – “Thanks for helping us ‘grow’ this year!”

I was inspired to create a gift card holder with a flower theme.  I found small baskets 2 for $1 at the local dollar store.  Target had faux felt flowers in the $1 section and they were bright and colorful and cheery.  I found gardening signs also in the $1 section at Target and made a sign on my computer with the clever phrase.  I purchased a styrofoam cube from the dollar store, cut it in half and placed it in the bottom of the basket.   Then, covered the styrofoam with shredded paper, inserted the faux flowers, stuck in the sign and voila!  Instant end of the year gift card holder!  Can’t wait to give these to my kids’ specialists, coaches and teachers and they can enjoy them for many years to come.


There are several other variations of this gift idea.  You could purchase fresh flowers and just make the sign.  You could buy a plant from Home Depot or Lowe’s.  You could have your kids make homemade tissue paper flowers.  The possibilities are endless.  But with a little creativity, you can really show the teachers in your life your thanks for all of their time this past year.  And your gift will stand out from the rest of the pile of gift cards in plain envelopes, guaranteed!

What Did One Math Book Say To The Other Math Book?

“Dude, I’ve got a lot of problems.”

I love that joke.  Probably because I am a math book.  And one of my biggest problems keeps popping up lately… I am very ornery and I tend to bring out the ornery in those around me.  And that can get us into some hot water at times.

For example, I see Kid C and D’s elementary school bus driver every weekday morning.  He is a really nice, reliable man in his late forties or early fifties.   He drives safely and he keeps the kids in line and they all say he is a great bus driver.  Everybody likes him.  I even know his wife (she was the previous elementary school bus driver for Kids A and B when we first moved here).  We always exchange pleasantries and what’s-going-on’s, but we are usually limited to yelling just a few words back and forth to each other over the very loud diesel engine.

Prior to Spring Break he told me that he was going to Las Vegas for vacation.  For the last few days before school was out I would yell, “Vegas, Baby!” while raising my arms and laughing uncontrollably whenever he opened the bus doors.  The other kids on the bus looked at my kids and were like, “Is your mom drunk again?”  Whatever.  It made me giggle.  And, no, there is nothing else in my coffee.

So when we returned from Spring Break and all of the groggy kids were climbing onto the school bus on Monday morning I asked the bus driver how his trip went.  He smiled a wistful smile and said it was really fun, as if he had either lost a lot of money at the craps tables or he really wished he was still on vacation.  Or both.  I didn’t want him to be sad, so my ornery busted out with some bright-side support and I yelled, “At least you still have your pants on!”

He laughed out loud and then succumbed to my bad influence.  The engine was very loud but I think I heard him yell back, “Yeah, but I’m not wearing any underpants!”  …in front of a school bus full of little kids.  The poor man realized what he said as soon as it came out of his mouth and was mortified.  Imagine the face that a minister would make if he dropped the F-bomb in the middle of a church picnic.  The bus driver made that exact face.  Thank goodness all of the kids already think I am crazy and don’t pay attention to anything I say, so nobody was really listening to us anyway.  I don’t want anybody getting in trouble, so I will say again that the engine was really loud and I probably did not hear him correctly.  But if he did say it, then chalk up one more for my very bad influence.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Thank goodness.

Speaking of Vegas, Sheepdog gave a speech on food traceability and its impact on recalls in litigation at a food-borne illness conference in Las Vegas last week (I know, I know… how sexy is that?).  Now, I have shared a lot about Sheepdog over the past year, so I feel like you all should know him pretty well.  Even so, I can not stress enough how much of a square peg Sheepdog is in the holes of Sin City.  He does not drink, he is the married father of five children, and if he is not working like a madman to pay for all of those children to be housed, clothed, fed and educated, he is either running or riding his bicycle somewhere.  Not exactly the things that come to mind when you think of Vegas, right?

Sheepdog is more than a fish out of water on the Vegas Strip.  The place genuinely scares the crap out of him.  He went there only one time years ago for our brother-in-law’s bachelor party weekend.  He went out there with something like $200 “fun money” in his pocket (the most money he ever had in his possession at one time up until that point, and it was a big deal financially for us to send him there with that much) and then called me from a strip club or somewhere because he had already used up all of the money.  After only being there for an hour.  I won’t even say how much cash he ended up dropping that weekend, but it was not an itty-bitty number.  Apparently there was just so much of everything available twenty-four hours a day.  And apparently Sheepdog’s intensity does not translate into anything good in a place like that.

So Sheepdog and I were both joking how ever since that trip Vegas scares the bejesus out of him.  And it turns out that at least somebody was paying attention when we were talking.

On the drive home from preschool on Wednesday, we were talking about Sheepdog and I reminded Kid E that his Daddy was in Las Vegas.  From the backseat I hear him say to nobody in particular, “Daddy is a-scared of Vegas.”  For whatever reason, I found this to be particularly funny.  And I found it to be even more hysterical when Kid E asked what, specifically, it was that Sheepdog was a-scared of.  Cue the ornery me.

Now, I’m not proud of this (although I do keep laughing about it), but I told Kid E that Daddy was scared of “too much boobies and drinking and spending money.”  And being a four-year-old boy, he thought that me saying those things was absolutely fantastic, and he proceeded to repeat them over and over and over again.  And I, of course, kept encouraging him because he follows up saying “boobies” with that priceless little kid giggle that just melts my heart.  At least I did remind him that he wasn’t allowed to mention any of this when he was at his Lutheran Church-based preschool.  Fingers crossed that I don’t get a note from his teacher anytime soon.

“Dude, I’ve got a lot of problems.”  Trust me, I know.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Opening the Floodgates

The summer before Kid E turned two years old I started to worry.  He did not talk very much at all.  And with all of the very vocal people already in this house he seemed to get lost in the shuffle.  Often his siblings would just answer for him or bring him toys until they brought what he wanted.  When I looked into it some more I realized that he was way behind in his speech development, so as each day passed I began to fret more and more that there was something wrong with him.  Speech was definitely not his go-to form of communication.  He would much rather point and grunt at the things he wanted.  He also did this sing-songy gibberish thing with lots of inflection.  It was kind of cool and sounded pretty, but I still knew that something about my baby was way off.

Fortunately, my sisters told me that Georgia has a program called “Babies Can’t Wait,” which facilitates testing and early intervention for children under age three who are exhibiting developmental delays.  I contacted the Fulton County coordinator for Babies Can’t Wait and was able to get Kid E scheduled for testing shortly after his second birthday.  The test results confirmed that his expressive communication skills (how he interacted with others) were horribly low (4th percentile), but his auditory comprehension skills (what he understood) were above average.  The therapist classified him with a severe expressive language disorder, but she also said in her report that he showed favorable chances for improved communicative functioning through speech therapy two times a week.  His file was submitted for processing.  So we waited.

By mid-October I hadn’t heard back from anyone, so I called again.  I was told we were on a list.  Apparently the babies CAN and WILL wait.  Fortunately for Kid E, we had the means to take him to private speech therapy, so I set about the task of applying for a spot in several local, highly recommended therapy programs.  You would think I was applying for a conceal and carry permit with the amount of paperwork that was involved in signing a kid up for speech therapy.  And they asked me all kinds of crazy questions too.

Have any shocks or unusual stress during pregnancy?  Um, yes.  I was shocked that I was pregnant.  AGAIN.
What was the child’s birth weight?  Did I mention he was my 5th baby?  I do not remember what he weighed.  I would check his baby book, but I never got around to doing one.  I’ll guess about 7-ish pounds.
Apgar scores?  1 minute _____  5 minutes _____  You’re kidding, right?  I don’t even remember how much the kid weighed.
Age when child: Began babbling _____ First word spoken (what was it?) _____ Using two-word phrases (age they started) _____ Feeds self with fingers _____ Feeds self with spoon _____ Feeds self with fork _____ Drinks from open cup _____ Rolled over _____ Sat without assistance _____ Crawled _____ Walked _____ Jumped with two feet _____ Toilet trained _____ Ride a tricycle/ bicycle _____  OK, So now we have successfully established that I am a horrible mother who did not keep track of most or any of these milestones and my son will probably grow up hating me and needing more therapy because of it.  Thanks.
What typically calms/ soothes your child?  Thumb sucking.  And even though you didn’t ask, what soothes me after a long day of not being able to communicate effectively with this child is a big bottle of wine.  Please allow him to come to your facility for speech therapy.  Pretty please.  I am begging.

So we were accepted and soon we started going in for therapy twice a week.  I would sit in the waiting room and the therapist would take Kid E back to some magical place where they performed voodoo rituals or some other magical wizardry of the speech therapy variety, because Kid E began to talk almost immediately.  And talk and talk and talk.  It was like the floodgates had been opened.  His therapist was so good at what she did and he responded so well to her treatments that they kicked us out after the New Year.  Fast forward to present day and the kid does not ever shut up.  And I am incredibly grateful, forevermore.

Floodgates at the Lake Sinclair Dam in Milledgeville, Georgia

I definitely pay more attention to his developmental milestones now.  I even paid attention when I had a parent/ teacher conference for his preschool at the mid-year mark.  When it was over I reported to Sheepdog what we discussed.  I read to him from the evaluation.

Kid E “is sweet and agreeable and able to grasp new concepts, especially mathematical ones.  He shows less confidence outside on the playground, but he also shows a determination to master new skills, like climbing.  He is positive and willing to try new things.  At this time he seems more comfortable speaking to adults than his peers.”

I told Sheepdog that I had laughed out loud during the conference about that last comment because I thought it was a good thing.  What?  Most little kids are annoying when you talk to them.  I also mentioned that the teacher said in passing that Kid E still has trouble saying words that start with an “s,” followed by a consonant.  It is apparently fairly common for four-year-olds, but given his history of previous speech issues, I have decided to keep a close eye (ear) on him in this regard.

I have started playing a little game in the car while we drive to and from school.  It is a guessing game.  One person thinks of a word and gives some clues about it and the other person has to guess that word.  Kid E loves playing games in the car so he was all for it.  But I fear that he has already figured out that this game is a form of speech therapy, as I always use “s”-followed-by-a-consonant words when it is my turn.

Me:  “I have a word.  It is one of your favorite dinners.  It has long, stringy noodles and it is covered in tomato sauce and sometimes you eat it with meatballs.”

Kid E:  He sighs at me.  “Pasghetti.”

Me:  “That’s right, but you said it backwards.  Repeat after me.  First say ‘spaghetti,’  then say, ‘sssss.’  ‘Paghetti.’  ‘Sssss.’  ‘Paghetti.’  ‘Spaghetti!’  That’s right!  Excellent!”

Me:  “OK, I am thinking of another word.  It means ‘to knock over or to topple, especially something liquid or slippery… like a drink or the beans.'”

Kid E:  Nothing.  He has already caught on to my speech therapy trick, and he wants nothing to do with it.

Me:  “Let’s forget about the beans.  What is it called when you tip over your drink at dinnertime and it goes all over the table?  That is a big…”

Kid E:  Deliberately, he looks at me in the rear-view mirror and answers with all of the clarity and articulation he can muster, “Flood.”

Game over.  That kid is wicked smart.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Have You Heard About the Lonesome Loser?

Today was officially the first day of preschool for Kid E.  I have to say that it was kind of a letdown.  We didn’t make a big deal out of it last night.  We didn’t pick out a special first day of school outfit.  I almost forgot to take him in on time (and no, it was not because I was playing video games… smart asses) and I didn’t even stop to take his picture out front.  I already did that stuff three weeks ago when he went to camp.  He gave me a high-five then went into the room without so much as a glance in my direction.  So I just paid his tuition and went outside to my car.  It was then that I realized that I had my freedom back, at least for three and a half hours each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I got kind of tingly thinking about what I was going to do today.

As I was climbing into the driver’s seat I heard music pumping from the speakers outside of the pizzeria next door.

Sit down, take a look at yourself
Don’t you want to be somebody
Someday somebody’s gonna see inside
You have to face up, you can’t run and hide

Damn you, Little River Band.

I really do not like it when the universe smacks me on the head and demands that I pay attention.  But there was my message, coming at me on the voices of Australian rockers.  And I have learned that you either pay attention to these messages, or you’d better get ready for a fight that you will probably never, ever win.

So today I will make a plan.  Today I will set goals.  I will write them on paper and I will post them where I will see them every day.  And I will be productive and proud.

So actually I thank you, Little River Band.  And I think that’s Australian for “light a fire under your butt.”

For my easy-going friends

... and for my Type A peeps - Holla!

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

You’re Not Ugly

Some of my kids I worry about, but not so much Kid E.  What is one of the most critical things to master in the grown-up world?  People Skills.  You won’t get anywhere if you don’t know how to deal with people.  And the best of the best always seem to leave us wanting more.  That’s why I think Kid E is on his way to having it all figured out.  Seriously.  But did I mention that he is three?

He goes to pre-school a few mornings a week.  Pre-school in a strip mall.  I learned years ago that the best pre-schools are not the pretty new buildings with the high-tech computer rooms for babies and the young, sexy teachers (Sheepdog was sad, sad, sad when I figured that out), but the best places to send your kids are the ones that sometimes smell just faintly of pee and have women running the show in sweatpants and ball caps.  Some of the best pre-school teachers and day care providers I have met have been the ones who work in older facilities that have been around for ages and put more money into macaroni and glitter than any of that other unnecessary stuff.  These are the women who usually have kids of their own and they have been through all of it and yet they still choose to work in a place filled with other people’s snotty, whiny children all day long.  They actually like what they do and they care about my kids.  These are the women I want running my pre-school show.

Anyway, Kid E goes to school and he loves it.  He learns letters and shapes and colors and songs.  He ends his days with a sticker and a stamp.  It doesn’t get much better than that for him.  He really loves his teacher.  She came in mid-year and replaced another teacher who he couldn’t get enough of, yet apparently he loves the new one more.  Do you want to know how I know?  He paid her his highest compliment.  He totally grabbed both of her cheeks with both of his sweaty little hands and looked her straight in the eyes and said with all the seriousness he could muster, “You’re.  Not.  Ugly.”  And, just like that (snap!), she was putty in his hands.

It is true because shortly after he buttered her up they had a conflict regarding the overuse of hand soap in the bathroom.  She was (rightfully) telling him not to do something and he got mad at her.  She stuck to her guns and he shut her out the rest of the day.  He wasn’t disrespectful (not allowed), but he withheld hugs and would not even say goodbye when we left.  I could see the pain in her eyes as he left her.  I think that she probably cried herself to sleep that night.  I told her that she should be ashamed for allowing a little kid to outsmart her.  He was becoming a master puppeteer already.  We are in for some serious manipulation, folks.

Think about the genius of it for a moment.  We all love to have compliments paid to us.  Don’t you get a little extra bounce in your walk if somebody notices a new haircut or mentions how cute your outfit is on any regular day?  Of course you do.  And it is hard to deny the drawing power of someone who plays hard to get.  That unreachable, untouchable, unattainable something or someone can be like crack if you get it in your head deep enough.  Somehow, with three simple words this kid managed to combine the two.  It’s not really a compliment, yet it makes you feel like you are special.  It is actually just a negated insult presented as kudos.  Unbelievable.

So my little Pre-School Playa continued to woo the masses.  He sensed the power and started to dole out variations like, “You’re not scary” and “You don’t smell bad.”  People would eat it up.  They think he is charming.  He was starting to get comfortable and I was momentarily a little worried that he might grow up to be one of those jerks who only gave out backhand compliments as some sort of control move.  This was the kind of boy that I didn’t ever want coming near my daughters.  What if I became the Mother of one?  I had to stop this behavior immediately, no matter how cute it was coming from a toddler.  Then one day out of the blue he grabbed both of my cheeks with both of his sweaty little hands, looked me straight in the eyes and said with all the sincerity in the world, “You.  Are.  Cute.”  My heart swelled with joy as I replied, “and You’re.  Not.  Stupid.”

Nope, I really don’t worry so much about that kid.