Oh, and Son, Never, ever, take your eyes off the clown.

So there I am, in Wal-Mart with the kids the other day, noodling around the Audio/Video area. I know that doing so just taunts the children, but it's pretty much the only department where we can all amuse ourselves for more than 2 minutes. H went straight for the Playstation, Yordi spent some time pressed in front of the iPod display, and eventually they both converged on the phones. As it's Halloween, the store had all the scary movies discounted and on display out front. We had walked right past them to get to the shiny things on the way in, but as he is so good at doing, on the way out Habtamu grabbed a random movie off the rack and asked if we could get it.

"No." I said in my hurried, irritated father voice, seeing only that he was carrying some black DVD.
"Why not?" He asked.
"Because it's scary," I said instinctively.
"Scary?" He said incredulously.
"Yeah. Scary. Like every other movie in this rack. Put it back. Let's go."
"If it's scary, why is there a little girl on it?"
I finally glanced back and actually looked at the DVD in his hand.

"Uh, yeah. Put it back."
"But she's just watching TV."
"Uh-huh. Trust me. Put it back."

Part of me really, really wants my kids to go through the certain rights of passage, and to have the same reflex to punch clowns in the face, as my generation does. If I do nothing else for my children, shouldn't I leave them with a healthy fear of possessed clown dolls? Everyone I know has some movie that they later confess they were too young to watch. I kind of think that when the time comes for my children, I'd rather it happen in my presence with a movie I'm familiar with, than having them come home sleepless and whimpering after some slumber party.

If Yordi wasn't already hearing things in her closet, I'd probably seriously consider it, but as it is, the last thing we need is for her to be afraid of her closet, the hall closet, the tree outside her window, and clowns under her bed. There's just no good that could come of that.

So this Halloween, you get a pass my little ones. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go punch a clown and then run and long jump into bed.

*Although not directly stated, the movie was Poltergiest. For us children of the 80's, it goes without saying.


Statistical Probability + Psychological Warfare = Yahtzee!

Habtamu does 'casual math' in his head like I remember doing. He'll sit in the car and divide out how many slices of pizza everyone should get for dinner, or figure out how many more quarters he needs to get to a dollar.

For Yordi however, it is taking more time to solidify some fundamental mathematical connections. For some reason, the fact that my daughter didn't intuitively know that two even numbers added together always equal another even number was really burning me up the other night. We were playing Yahtzee and she couldn't figure out why my voice kept rising every time she guessed at her die count.

"What's 27 plus 1?"
"Good so what's 28 plus another 1?"
*eye-roll* "Then what is 28 plus 2?"
"Umm, 30."
"Yes! Ok, so what's 30 minus 1?"
"No, minus. 30 minus 1?"
"UGH! No! if you have 5 dice and they are all sixes, how many points do you have?"
"What? No! Stop guessing."
"Yes! Yahtzee is 50 points."
"Urgh... No! Well,yes but... ok... (Deep breath) I meant how many dots are showing?"
"YES! Now, if I make one of those sixes a five, how many points do you have!?"
"twe....nty.... eight?"
"IDONTKNOWIDONTKNOWIDONTKNOW!!! Daddy, why are you yelling at me? It's just a game?"
"I do math in the morning. I don't know it now."
"NO! Math is like English! You NEVER get to turn it off! It's always important!"
(This time I get the eye-roll)
"Look, this is serious. What if you go to buy something at the store and..."
"I don't want to play any more."
"FINE. Add up your score and you can be excused."

My daughter then gets real low to the table and proceeds to add up her full Yahtzee card. For those of you aren't regular players, that's 6 numbers plus another 6 numbers which then have to be combined to get your final score. She then pushed her chair back, dropped her pencil on the table, and made a deliberate exit.

Curious (and petty,) I checked her math. "Wait a minute!" I yelled back at her. "You can add 12 numbers together correctly, but you can't tell me what 28 plus 1 is? You CAN do math at night just fine when you want to! What's going on here?"

"The game is finished," She said. "It's book time."

You know, I'm still not sure exactly which 'game' she's referring to.

Note to self: No Paul Newman movies for the child who is already sharking daddy at Yahtzee.


Just when you think you've got it all figured out

I've been trying to suppress my inner jerk, and it hasn't been easy this week. Habtamu had an awful game this weekend. We drove out to flippin' Lombard, which was 120 miles round trip, just to watch the team lose. H got injured, the extent of which is debatable, some time during the first half and did a whole lot of ball watching the rest of the game. He'd make a half-hearted kick somewhere in the vicinity of the ball, then watch the other team run by. As a soccer dad, so far that makes my blood boil the most. I'm sure he'll find some other way to tick me off, but for now, that's taking the cake.

So, you know, I tried to find something positive to talk about on the way home. His throw-ins were good. He really 'toughed it out' through his injury. Anything but what I was really thinking. We made it home in reasonably good spirits. But it's been in the back of my mind... Why is he just giving up? Why isn't he taking soccer seriously? When is he going to commit? Etc... All those things that sport Dads worry about.

Last night was rough too. Too much sugar and excitement, not enough cooldown time. Yordi got scared a couple times, I dreamt about being chased by Vampires (apparently I had too much candy too) and I didn't ask details, but the toilet upstairs flushed no less than 4 times between 6:30 and 6:45 this morning. So as I was coming home from work, I braced myself for who was going to be the biggest crabby patty when I walked in. And this is what I was met with:

That's right. My son, for the first time, had picked up a book and was reading through chapter one of Junie B Jones just because he wanted to and because he could. He would go a good 8 to 12 words before needing any help. He then read the second chapter after dinner. Chris and I high five'd in the kitchen when nobody was looking.

Yordi has already crossed the 'reading for pleasure' thresh-hold and even wrote a little story straight out of her own imagination the other day. She doesn't fear reading or sounding things out and will fudge unfamiliar words on the fly instead of getting bogged down and frustrated. Some days it's almost as if they are completely different people...

So it may not have been a banner week for soccer, but he certainly made up for it in the life skills department.


Moment of Zen

Murray is the best cat ever. He's not perfect... he's got a penchant for puking on our white bedspread... sometimes while we're in it. But if you want your lap warmed, just sit for 30 seconds, and he's there for you, man. He usually sleeps stretched out along my back, or curled up between Lee's and my heads. Lee and I often joke that "nothing will ever come between us... except Murray."

A friend of mine just had her BFF Cat die this summer, and it got me paranoid about Murray. There's nothing wrong with him that I know of, and I'm sure I'd be sad if something happened to the other cats, BUT... c'mon! It's Murray.

The kids are still campaigning to get rid of Rico, "the mean cat," and bring in Fluffer Nutter, "the nice one from outside." Oh? The one that has fleas and who we've been calling Night of the Living Dead since he got in a fight that ripped half his face off? That one?


Some people claim that there's a woman to blame...

... but I know, it's my own damn fault. (A little Jimmy Buffett for you. Sorry about the "D" word, but it fits.)

So, I've just been little Suzy Homemaker lately, making my own red sauce, making apple sauce, drying red salsa peppers...

I hung the peppers up to dry and they were doing fine, but I wanted to dry them faster. So, I pulled them all down and sliced them lengthwise, spread them on a baking sheet and put them in the oven on low.

In my defense, I usually don't have a cold that requires the blowing of my nose every 5 minutes. I realized something was very wrong when the outer edge of my nose caught on fire. What the? There was then a little mild swearing and vigorous hand washing to get the pepper oil OFF and meanwhile my nose is STILL ON FIRE and did I just RUB MY EYE? Am I a complete moron? It's not like I haven't done this to myself before. Hello? Gloves? I see why pepper spray is so effective... I just about knocked my own self out in my own kitchen. So, my face is on fire and I can't open my left eye. "Mommy? You ok?" "Peppers..." I choke out, and start coughing up a lung because I've just breathed in the pepper from the air.

I won't even show you the teeny tiny bag of dried red pepper flakes I got for all my trouble.

Last night, when Lee came to bed, I was still awake. I rolled over and wiggled my fingers at him and asked, "Are my fingers on fire?" He laughed, confused, and said, "No. Should they be?" I had trouble sleeping they were so hot. And today, "Mommy? Why are you shaking your hands like that?" They laughed at me too.

So, next year! Gloves! Remind me!


This is Your Child

This is Your Child... On Donuts!


English as a Second Language

It has been interesting, to say the least, to hear the children's language develop. We decided to let their language grow more or less organically.

There are still some words that give them trouble. Here are some of the current ones.

Glalola Bal - Granola Bar (They've had trouble with this one since day 1. It has finally started bugging me enough that I make them repeat the syllables after me before they can have one.)

FAMily - FINally (Yordanos uses Family for Finally, using the right inflection, so you ALMOST think she has said the right word.

reclistree - electricity (Yordanos is working on it... it's been a tongue twister for awhile.)


The Coldest Day EVER!

So, I drew the short straw for getting Yordanos to her 7:55 game Saturday morning. They have to be there 45 minutes before the game to warm up, so that makes the wake-up time somewhere in the "For the Love of all that's Holy, this is so early it's still yesterday" category. We didn't really draw straws... Lee was willing to take her, but Y looked up at me and wrinkled her cute little brow and said, "Mommy? I want YOU to take me." It wouldn't have been so bad except somebody's watch kept beeping every hour all night, so I saw 12:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00, 5:40, 6:00, 6:18 and finally decided it wasn't going to get any better, and dragged my weary carcass out of bed.

I was so glad I did because look what I got to see...

Does that look cold and slippery? Oh, yes.

She was crying in the car as her hands thawed out. We got more layers ready for the next game. Good thing, too, because it SNOWED during her 2nd game. Seriously? That goes against so many of my personal comfort issues. I didn't take any pictures of the 2nd game. I was too demoralized.


Life Lessons

Life Lesson #57: Don't let a white girl help you rinse your hair at the YMCA.

I've talked some about Yordanos' hair issues. Her hair is HUGE, and sometimes has a life of it's own. As it gets longer, we have to work harder and harder to keep the clumps out. Yes, clumps. If she wanted to do dread-locks, it would be absolutely NO problem... just let the clumps clump. Or maybe, if you're familiar with the properties of wool, you'd see that her hair will actually felt and make a water impervious shield-clump. Hmmm... we have had trouble finding hats to fit her a.) big head, and b.) her big head with big hair. Puffs do not fit under hats... not any hat that I've found.

After the big soccer weekend, I got her in the tub and performed a clump-ectomy. Not too bad since we'd done a massive 2 and a 1/2 hour detangling the weekend before.

Lee took the kids swimming at the Y yesterday with a couple of friends. Yordanoas wanted to wash her own hair after swimming. With deep misgivings, I said yes, and we went over the rules of hair care... only rinse and wash one direction - front to back.

Weeeeellllllllllll, she comes home with the whole back of her hair matted up. 2 big mega-clumps covering the back of her head. So, predictably, I get angry, she gets defensive, claiming it's not her fault.

ME: Well, whose fault is it then, because it's NOT MINE! And now we have to spend the whole evening detangling.

Y: I don't want to! I hate my hair! Why can't we do it tomorrow?

Me: It will just get worse if we leave it. We have to do it!

Y: Why are you mad at me? It's not my fault.

Me: It doesn't matter whose fault it is, we have to do it tonight.

Y: It was M! She helped me rinse my hair. (Turns out she rinsed it like you would rinse it if you had short straight hair, like hers.... by running your fingers up from the base of the neck.)

Me: Oh. Well. We still have to do it.

So, people, really, I was put OUT. This was going to be at least an hour's worth of work, which neither of us wanted to do, especially since we'd just detangled the day before. I wasn't even mad at the other child, I just didn't want to spend the evening making my daughter cry. Because, it really hurts when I have to rip the hair apart to get little clumps out of the big clump, then get 10 hairs at a time out of the little clump until it's gone. It makes a terrible sound, and she's crying and I'm crying, etc, etc...

Well, we got through it. I had M, the friend, come read to us while I pulled the clumps apart. It did take an hour or so, and we were all exhausted. As I was rinsing her head, Yordanos said, "Mommy? Thanks for getting the clumps out. You did a good job." Well, you can't pour burning coals on my head any more effectively than that. We hugged and kissed, and I told her that I didn't like that her hair hurts, and that she did a good job.

Anyway, she says she will not try to wash her own hair at the YMCA, and we had a talk with the friend about the right way to do it.


Oh, the Humanity!

One of the hardest things about parenting is that you find yourself trying to parent HUMAN children. And, unfortunately, you find yourself, gasp... human, as well. So terribly human.

You want a story now, I suppose...

Lee had yesterday off for Columbus Day, so we went to the pumpkin patch and the apple orchard. (Oh, and, all of Illinois' children who were off school? They were all at the apple orchard. All of them.)

That made today a Monday, for all intents and purposes. Habtamu, predictably, cannot take the resumption of our regular days. He went into, well, let's just call it "ornery" mode while using his spelling words in sentences. I corrected him on one very small point of grammar, gave him options of what would be right, and he, predictably, made it seem like the end of the world. "I Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan't!" "It will be wrong whatever I do!"

I try very hard to be a reasonable person, but this behavior makes my anger level go from 0 to 120 in 2 seconds. It's not like I hit his knuckles when he uses English incorrectly. I don't berate, belittle, or in any way indicate that I am displeased when I correct him. His overreaction to my correction is, well, there's obviously something deeper going on. Me getting angry doesn't help, but, OY! Do I want to whap the back of his head with my pencil? Yes! But, do I? No. Instead I take the higher road, and try not to take his anger personally.

Then, I try to think of the good days like yesterday...