Cookies, Chaos and Camo Crosses

My girlfriends and I used to have this tradition. Every Christmas break, we’d get together and bake cookies. A lot of cookies. We’d bake them, package them and deliver them to clients, coworkers, family and friends. That, my friends, was several kids ago. The tradition died off for a few years – as more and more babies entered the picture.

This year, we decided to try the tradition again. Just her and me and our 11, 8, 8, 3, 3 and 1 year olds. What could go wrong?

A lot. A lot can go wrong when you bake attempt to bake cookies with children. At first, the two-three year olds and the one year old sat on the counter, watching. Then, they decided to help. It was with the “helping” that things began to go awry. We were adding ingredients by measured cup and tablespoon, a scene from a classic American tale. But, soon, the recipe became one that we all know – all too well, when we added the extra ingredient of distraction:

1 cup of sugar

“Wait, how many cups did you just add?”

Turning around to grab the cinnamon

1 teaspoon of….

“Whoa! Boys – wait – wait!”

Another cup of sugar

“Why does the batter look funny? How many cups of sugar did we put in? Better add another.”

Bake

Results: flat, cratered looking brownish white sugary tasty things.

 

Everything we made that day became something that only slightly resembled what we were trying to make. But, we still had fun.

Speaking of cookies: my youngest – one of the ones “helping” bake the cookies – lost his repeatedly all morning long. Lets hope “contagion” isn’t the gift our family will be giving this year.

Lastly, I wanted to offer this cautionary tale about asking your kids to be more detailed about their Christmas lists. My children wrote their letters to Santa, requesting items like:

a horse

a dog

dog food

every American Girl imaginable

a blue lava lamp

a blue pocket knife

 

So, when I asked my second grader what he really wanted for Christmas – in an attempt to get him to say something that Santa could actually provide – we have a no-live-animals policy – my son replied that he wanted a cross.

“What kind of cross?”

“A cross necklace.”

(At this point, I was not surprised – this is the same son, after all, that says he wants to be a Saint when he grows up.)

“Anything special about the necklace?” This is where I went horribly wrong. A cross necklace Santa can do. What he answered would prove to be a challenge.

“Yes. It has to be camo.”

As you might imagine, Santa and all his helpers have been in search for the requested item ever since. Santa found one online, but they wanted more in shipping than they did to for the item itself. Grr. Anyway, Santa has found something that may work. Here’s hoping.

Merry Christmas, my friends. Here’s to friends, family, Christmas cookies, and not losing yours.

God bless you all!

 

 

“I was SO embarrassed!” – aka, the mantra of all tween girls

Last night, in one single conversation, my daughter must have repeated the phrase, “I was so embarrassed” at least a handful of times. At first, she was recounting the events of watching a movie at school the Friday before. It came to a scary part and her little brother – who is eight – got a tad freaked out and came to sit with her. He sat on her lap. She consoled him. And then, in his words, “She screamed at me and told me to go away!” Why? Because she was “so embarrassed.” You see, she’s eleven and she was sitting with her friends at the time. Apparently, in fifth grade, having your second grade brother sit on your lap is uncool.

The same day she was telling me the tale of woe of her brother cuddling up with her at school, she was knocked in the face by that very same brother – while he was sledding. The sled came up and whacked her right in the cheek. It turned purple and was swollen. That night, she asked me to check it again. The swelling and discoloration had gone down, but apparently her anxiety over it had not. When I asked her why she was so worried, she said, she’d be “so embarrassed” if she went to school with a black eye.

And so it begins. We had a nice chat about how beauty is skin deep and that what really matters is on the inside. Yeah, try telling that to a tween girl. Is there a way to skip ahead to that level of maturity where you have self-confidence measured with humility? No? Okay then. Fine. Anyone have any tips on dealing with self-conscious girls?

 

Betrayal and Personal Pan Pizzas

You know those reading incentive programs – where kids read for a certain number of hours and then they can win  a free personal pan pizza? Yeah, it’s a good thing those kinds of incentives aren’t a feature of nuclear disarmament talks. We’d all be in big trouble.

My second grade son recently won a free pizza for reading multiple hours in school. He brought home the prized certificate, glowing with pride.  We hung his reading work on the fridge and put the certificate in my purse. We picked up his pizza tonight. He was very excited. At first. It’s amazing how quickly sibling relationships can break down over a little thing like Canadian Bacon.

As soon as he got in the car, things got a little crazy. Instantly, his younger brother and older sister began peppering him with pleas for pizza. (Say that three times fast!) Within seconds, they were taking sides:

“Give me a slice or I’m not on your team anymore.”

“You can’t have any. It’s all mine.”

“We’re not on your side if you don’t give us any pizza.”

“How dare you betray me?!”

“You’re being selfish!”

And repeat.

Needless to say, talks broke down after that. I decided to let them handle this. I was interested to see how this would turn out. By the time we got home, he had parceled out the tiniest peck of pizza for his siblings. In fact, I think it was just a shred of partially burnt Canadian Bacon…

He did give them each a crumb of crust. It seems to have satisfied things. Then, he got out a marker and wrote a threatening message on the pizza box before he put it in the fridge. Things were said. Threats were made, including a threat to kick his sister in the balls if she took any of his pizza. Not sure where to start with that one…

Sibling relations are back to normal. That is, until next month and the next personal pan pizza….

They Call them ‘Fun Bags’ for a Reason

My youngest son is three. He likes trucks and dinosaurs, cars, harassing his big brother and sister, snuggling, reading books and boobs. Yes, he loves boobs.

I breastfed him until he was just shy of two years old. But I know plenty of women who breastfed until that age with no negative side effects. I’m not saying breastfeeding is to blame. I’m just giving some background as to why he has so much experience with them at the ripe old age of three.

Often times, we’ll be reading a book and he’ll ask to sit on my lap, “criss cross apple sauce.” He’ll shimmy his body back, further and further until his head has come to rest between the built-in mommy headrest. Other times, if he falls or gets hurt in some way, he’ll come for a comforting hug. Once his body is close to mine, he’ll lower his head until it’s right at motor-boating level. It’s bad when kissing your son goodnight starts to feel like the end of a very awkward date.

Last weekend, my mom watched our kids for a night. She called me a few days later to tell me about something that had happened at the store. They’d walked in and saw one of those mannequin witches – the ones with sensors in them that cackle and move when you walk by. My mom explained that as my youngest son was walking by, the witch started to move. He stopped. I thought she was going to say he started to cry or maybe that he hit the doll. Nope. My son reached over, pulled her dress up and felt her boobs. The woman behind the counter and my mother began nervously laughing together. I wasn’t even there and my face was bright red just hearing about it!

Have I mentioned that my son likes boobs? A lot. He’ll walk by me and point to them saying, “Boobs!” as loud as he can. Unless he’s practicing to be the stereotypical New York construction worker, I’m certain this is not a good thing.

I’ve explained that this is not appropriate behavior and that he can’t go grabbing, groping, cat-calling women. What’s worse – I think he thinks it’s funny. Of course, it doesn’t help that when he does grab at them or holler out the word, “boobs,” most people start laughing.

I dread the day he makes his love of breasts known at preschool. I can just imagine that phone call….

How would you handle the breast-obsession?

“When I grow up, I want to be…”

A Saint. Yes, you read that right. My second grader recently informed me that he wants to be a saint when he grows up.

My eight year old is such a sweet boy, it’s not a big stretch to see him wanting to do saintly things for a living. Of course, I’d prefer him alive! So, after I explained that little detail… we are working on alternatives or things he can do in this lifetime.

He’s always had a strong love of God and a concern for people in need. In fact, at the last parent teacher conferences, his teacher said if there was a “heart of gold” category, he’d have the highest grade possible. He wants to share ways to feel better, he wants to gather his toys for those who don’t have any, he wants to raise money for the less fortunate.

He and my daughter have been working on this special project for some time now. They have created posters for a play – something to do with G.I. Joe. I’m not sure they’ve actually got around to writing the play, but they know for sure that everything they raise (tickets are a dollar) they plan to give to the church to be shared with those who need money.

Although he hasn’t given up his quest to become a saint, my son has started asking questions about becoming a priest or a pastor. He wants to know what that would take and what he’d do as one.

He is a sweet little soul, but he’s also an eight year old boy. In one day, I can be telling him the details about living a Christ-centered life, and moments later sending him to his room for saying something nasty to his sister.

What really gets me is the passion – and limitlessness – our children have when it comes to their futures. They can be anything – do anything – solve anything. My prayer is they never lose that.

“What’s the ‘N’ Word?”

Growing up in Alaska, I never really knew the depths of racism in our country and how alive it is today, until I went to college in the midwest. There I saw and heard things that caught my eye and clenched my heart. Of course, these sparse comments and doings were mixed with daily living and were not as on-the-surface as they are in other parts of the country.

After moving back to Alaska, I found myself surrounded by a community that had become even more diverse than it was when I’d left several years prior. At times, I find the same sayings I had heard in Illinois being spoken – in hushed voices – here, too. But, it seems, the rumblings and rantings of racists are being quieted more and more in mainstream society.

That’s why, it’s an amazing thing to be able to write what I am about to write.

2013-10-09_07-54-13_519My daughter is in fifth grade. Her class has been reading Tom Sawyer. She was assigned to read a few chapters every night. Trying to improve her reading skills, I’ve been having her read aloud. It helps her two younger brothers, as well. They listen along to story time. Usually, this is a good thing. That is, until my dear child blurts out the ‘N’ word. It stopped me dead in my tracks. The way that hateful word rolled off her tongue, like she was saying, “ball” or “tree,” caught me so off guard I wasn’t sure I’d heard her right.

“WHAT did you just say?” I asked my daughter.

She repeated the sentence, word for word. After she’d said the word I was dreading hearing, I asked her if she knew what that word meant.

“Which word?” she asked.

I pointed to it. She repeated the word again.

“No,” she said, “what does (insert word I don’t even like typing) mean?”

I proceeded to explain the word and how it’s a word meant to degrade people. We talked about the word for a while and I thought everything was understood. It’s not a word I say, not a word I am comfortable hearing, or even reading for that matter. So, when it was my turn to read the book aloud with her, I’d skip it. Maybe that’s sanitizing Mark Twain and that era too much. But, I just can’t even stand to speak it.

What amazes me is that my daughter doesn’t even hesitate when she sees it. She reads it like any other word. She’d never even heard the word until she read it in a book. It makes me wonder if the word is losing its power, at least in the younger generations. Has that word lost its sting among our youth?

For those that know me, you can probably assume I’ve never felt the sting  of that word. I have the pastiest white flesh you’ve ever laid eyes on. I’ve never felt the pain a word like that can bring. I’ve only seen the damage it can do when hurled at someone who can.

Just as I was thinking about how far we’ve come as a society, that sly little devil – racism – reared its ugly head again. I was at a get together on Halloween and a man told what I’m sure he considered to be a joke. To say the least, it wasn’t funny. He has children the same age as mine. I wonder what lessons he’s teaching in his home.

Do your children know that word? Do they know what it means? How would you or have you explained the word to your kids?

 

Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?!

I used to think the idea of a show comparing your wits to that of a 5th grader was ridiculous. Now, I know better. Because now, now I have a 5th grader. And I feel infinitely stupid each and every time she brings homework home.

Let me start by saying, we are only in the second week of school, people! This should not be this hard yet! But it is. It started with some grammar homework. I have a journalism degree. I write for a living. One would think this would be a breeze. Nope. Not at all. She had interrogative statements and exclamatory and some other stuff I can’t even remember. She had to figure out which sentence was what. I found myself saying things like, “Well, this is your homework. What do you think the answer is?” Surely, she’s going to catch on sooner than later that I don’t know the answers to the questions she is asking.

Then, as if the grammar homework wasn’t embarrassingly defeating enough… she came home with Social Studies homework. Did I mention I have a minor in history? Please do not tell my college professors about the following. She came home with a sheet about Mesopotamia and the Sumerians, among others. She had to determine who did what in history. Then, she had an assignment to unscramble the letters to come up with inventions associated with the groups. We struggled through a majority of them. Until we came across this little gem. Look at question 11. 1150722_10151840176702722_1901209540_o

Say what?! I knew the second word was “writing.” I was stumped. She was stumped. I asked my mom. She was stumped too. I Googled it. You know what I found? A ton of other people asking the same darn thing! And no one had any answers. So, my next logical step was to take it to Facebook. Apparently, my friends are much smarter than me. Half of them knew the answer right away. The other half wanted to know when my daughter had started college….

So, people – what do you think the answer is?

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