Merry Christmas Like a Boss

We have three cats that take pot shots at ornaments on the Christmas tree and act like they're king of the jungle.  Then there's Murray who actually brought us TWO Christmas presents this year. He's so thoughtful.  The tricky part is getting him to drop it... 
For the record, a while back I saw him swat a bat out of the air.  He's the only surface-to-air cat I've ever known.  And yes, his eyes glow like that when he's in hunt mode.  He's just that awesome.

Rico, our Grinchy, child-hating feline, has been camping out under the Christmas tree, hissing and swatting at any kids who come by to sniff around their presents.  So I guess he's been kind of our Christmas Day insurance policy.  The other two cats have been completely useless unless you count 'permanent bed warmer' as a job.

The kids aren't fairing much better today.  The change in routine that comes with vacation time combined with Christmas anticipation is really throwing them off.  We were talking to some other parents at church tonight about how both our kids had been sent to their rooms today.  Yo heard the conversation and wanted everyone to know that she had only gone *once,* knowing that her brother couldn't say the same. Habta has been all over the emotional map today.  It could just be jitters and too much screen time, but we're kind of thinking that the MSG from the mountain of Chinese food we had last night might have something to do with it.  He rarely gets crabby right after eating, and for three meals we've been working down those leftovers and his mood swings.  If we're right, it could explain some things.  We also watched a movie tonight where a father and his teenage son deal with the death of their wife/mother.  I swear I had no idea that was going to be a plot point.  I'm sure THAT had nothing to do with it...

On a lighter note, the kids got to open one present each tonight, of mama's choosing.  They were unwrapped with a squee, because who wouldn't want pink panda one-piece footed pajamas ??? and a slow and low "These are awe-some" from the teen boy who can now dream of Chuck Norris in his new camouflage flannels. I'm sure Chuck sleeps in camos too.


So, what did you do today?

A lot, actually.

Cleaned the bathroom
Put dishes away from dishwasher
Washed other dishes
Took kids to school
Worked out
Did 3 loads of laundry
Cleaned inside of refrigerator
Finished 2 mittens
Helped one kid with math
Helped other kid with writing
Taught 2 children to knit
Made quesadillas
Put dishes away from dishwasher (yes, again)
Got lunch stuff ready for kids

I think it's time for bed.



My grandmother on my mom's side was an artist. She was actually much more than this, but for the sake of introduction, I'll just say she painted a lot. As a life long painter, she had her style, her preferences, and definitely some phases (or periods as the artsy types call them) which are kind of cool to look back on.

To say she was a driving force in the family would be an understatement. Whether intentional or not, she knew how to build a legacy. When she died, she left a room full of paintings, volumes of poetry, two generations of singers and musicians, and multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren named after her (I can name 4, but there's probably more.) I've always been glad that my wife got to meet her, and saddened that my kids will only know of her through her impact on me, and will never meet her in person. I suspect they would have gotten along very well and would have had a lot to talk about.

I remember that after she died, everyone in the extended family got at least one piece of her artwork. There was a lot to choose from and if I remember right, the rules were pretty simple. Since she did a lot of portraits, if you were in it, you got it. Then her children picked their favorite(s.) Then the grandchildren could squabble over whatever was left from oldest to youngest. After all was said and done, my uncle kept the rest and made something of a showroom in his basement. A couple months ago we were at that uncle's condo and I actually got to peruse the 'gallery of leftovers.' There was all kinds of stuff that either I had never seen, or had completely forgotten about. Half way across the room I spotted a painting and said, "Looks like grandma knew something before the rest of us." Yo was kind enough to pose and prove my point.

Suspicions confirmed, they would have gotten along famously.
I don't know anything about this painting or when or why my grandmother decided to put it on canvas. I just know that if you're in it, you get it. I also know that I would have stiff armed my uncle and ran out of there with that painting if I thought I could fit it in the car.


And you were expecting what exactly for Christmas?

Back story: Two days prior to this conversation with my darling daughter, I had actually promised to take the kids out for ice cream 'soon' so I'm sure that somehow what follows is my fault.

Yo: Dad. You are GOING to take us to McDonalds for ice cream now.
Me: I am, am I?
Yo: Yes, and if you don't, I'm going to punch you in the face.
Me: Oh really?
Yo: Yes, I'm going to punch you in the face and drive us there myself.
Me: Well then I guess I better take you to McDonalds.
Yo: Yes and when the policeman pulls me over and asks why I'm driving, I'll just tell him you are drunked.
Me: Really.
Yo: Yep, and if he says you look like you got beat up, then I will tell him it happened when you got kicked out of one of the bar places. I had to drag you to the car to bring you home.
Me: Did you see this in a movie?
Yo: No.
Me: You've been thinking about this for a while haven't you?
Yo: Nope, Just made it up right here.

(Note that we were both laughing after she said 'punch' so it was all in good fun. Kind of disturbing, but funny nonetheless. I think she gets it from me.)

And lest anyone think that my son would be above such immaturity, the other night in the car he was trying to negotiate with me that I should leave his mother at "one of those bar things or a tattoo store" because "I'm sure there's nice mans there who would treat her very good" just so he could sit in the front seat. It is a heated seat, so I could see his point. I personally didn't think it was 'dump your mother at a brothel' cold, but then I wasn't sitting in the back. In shorts. And sandals. In December. But yeah, that would be a quick ticket to the hot seat alright.


Lie to me next time.

Do not read this post if it is near a meal time.  You may feel the need to shower after this story.  You have been warned.

Names changed to Child 1 and Child A to protect the (not so) innocent.

So, while I was cleaning last week, I happened upon the door at the top of the stairs. It appeared to have crusty little flecks of, well, it looked like boogers to me.  I cleaned them off, and convinced myself that it wasn't what I thought it was. 

Later, I was talking with the kids over dinner.  (I forget where Lee was, but it was just me and the kids.)  The conversation turned to what I had done that day. 

Me: (in a joking, jovial mood)  Well, I cleaned upstairs.  Oh, and by the way, who left boogers on the door at the top of the stairs?

Child 1: Ew.  It wasn't me.
Child A: Ew.  It wasn't me.

Me: (still laughing) Oh, come on... who was it?

Child 1: Not me... that's gross!
Child A:  (looking shifty)  Wait.  Which door are you talking about?

Me and Child 1: Gross!

Me: The door at the top of the stairs.  For what possible reason would you have put boogers there?

Child A: Um... I forget.

Child 1: That is so disgusting!

Me to Child 1: Oh, come on, you know you do it too.  Where do you put yours?

Child 1: Well... I put some on the side of my bed.

The main problem with this as a teachable moment, is that I used to do the same thing when I was a kid.  I'll bet I'm not alone.  And, if I'm not, please don't tell me.


Yeah, I'm a beast...

That spot on my back that can't be reached itched the other day, so instead of asking for someone with cold hands to scratch it I backed into a door frame and rubbed against it.
Habtamu walked by looking at me oddly.
"My back itches," I said, as if I needed to explain myself.
He smiled, "When did you become a buffalo, Dad?"

Not Me.

If he hadn't caught me so offguard, I would have asked him where he learned that. I still don't know.


Great vocabulary, no plot.

In the Gardner household, there is often reading material sitting in the bathroom. These days a 900 page Michener novel mysteriously appeared across from the toilet and hasn't moved in a while. Yoyo brought it to me in my bedroom figuring it would make a good conversation starter.

Yo: Dad, this book is 800 pages.
Me: Yep.
Yo: It's huge.
Me: Yep.
Yo: I can't believe mom can read a book this big. Can you believe it?
Me: Nope.
Yo: Well actually... *flip-flip-flip* it's 879 pages.
Sensing a teachable moment and a real-life opportunity to use those estimation skills she's been honing in math I say: So 879 pages is almost...
Yo: ...a dictionary. I'll put it back in the bathroom now.


Third Degree from Little Mamma

So Saturday morning Yordanos is in my grill sometime before 8am while I'm still in bed.

Yo: Good morning Dad.
Me: What? UGH. Morning. Zzzzz
Yo: Were you with Marty last night?
Me: Yes.
Yo: Did you play guitar?
Me: Yes.
Yo: How late were you out?
Me: What?
Yo: How. Late. Were. You. Out?
Me: Uuuuugh... Umm... after midnight.
Yo: That's late.
Me: Yes.
Yo: Did you go to one of those bar places?
Me: Yes.
Yo: Was it big?
Me: No. It was small.
Yo: Did you have adult drinks?
Me: Yes.
Yo: Did you hokey pokey?
Me: What?
Yo: Did you hokey pokey?
Me: What?
Yo: Did. You. Ho. Key. Po. Key?
Me: WHAT? No. No, I did not hokey pokey.
Yo: Then why were you out so late at a bar?
Me: Wait a minute... do you mean karaoke?
Yo: Yeah. Hokey Pokey, karaoke, whatever. You should have come home sooner.


Math and Me: A Love Story without the Love

When I was in 1st grade and saw a minus sign for the first time, I immediately changed it to a plus sign, because, REALLY, I already knew math.  Some kid in my class "told" on me, and I blushed so hard when I realized this was "new" (ie: other than addition) math, that the shameful feelings continued on through the rest of school. 

 My "It's time for math" face.

 Math and I were never close from that day forward.  I think maybe I blamed math on making me feel stupid... which it continued to do over the years simply because I could never see the point to it.

My father-in-law (math teacher) and husband (physics major) would say you learn it so you can do even MORE math.  Or Physics!  Whoopee!

Fast forward 20 years... I picked up an algebra book at our local library book sale.  Why?  I don't know, other than I was looking for a challenge, and dog-gone if I didn't work myself through the whole book.  I made sense now... maybe it needed 20 years to percolate, maybe the shame I had felt about it was gone, and being relaxed about it, and not being graded for it... maybe all those things led to the perfect storm for me.

Fast forward another 3 years, and I find myself teaching math to my children.  (And reading, but that's a different story.) For some reason, Perimeter and Area are the bane of my children's existence.  If someone can teach it to them in a way they can remember it for more than 3 seconds, I won't even be jealous.  Even Grandpa tried to teach them.  He walked away thinking he'd got it in their heads... not so, not so.  I've had them on their hands and knees measuring carpets, up on the table measuring the table top, and measuring the windows for curtains.  I've drawn examples on graph paper about 50,000,000 times. (See how comfortable I am with math now?)

The impetus for this post was the argument I had TWICE today with Habtamu about Area. I admit that I get hot under the collar when I am unable to explain something that is so clear to me to someone who SEEMS to be not understanding ON PURPOSE.  Yeah, I know it's not on purpose, but A=b x h is really about as straight forward as you can get.  A kinder, gentler math, if you will.  Habtamu's math teacher told me today that soon they will be dealing with 3 dimensions instead of 2. Oy.

All that is to say is that 'Ignorance IS Bliss' because if I were still ignorant of the ways of math, I could shrug and say "Huh.  I dunno.  Ask your father."   Just like I do with Science...


(Liberal) Arts Education

So the other day, I'm in the car with Yordanos and "Don't bring me down" by ELO comes on the radio. After a lengthy discussion about how a "snake in the grass" is an idiom and not to be taken literally, the song ends and the DJ says, "That song came out in 1979!"
So of course I mumble something about how I was 7 years old at the time. Yo looks at me and says, "It's hard to believe you were ever a kid," to which I respond, "Yeah, sometimes I can hardly remember it myself."

Half a mile later I look over at her and say, "You do know that I did used to be a kid. You've seen pictures, right?" She looks back and says, "Yes dad. You looked like the party rockin' guy."

Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with the Party Rockin Anthem by LMFAO, being compared to that is kind of a compliment wrapped in an insult and then smothered in another compliment. It's flattering because who wouldn't want to be the Party Rockin' Guy, right? If you haven't seen the video, it's amusing. Youtube it. Only seen through the blissfully naive eyes of an adoring daughter could I ever be construed as the Party Rockin' Guy, especially back in the 80's. Of those three words, 'guy' is probably the only one that might have been used to describe me. And since I was in middle school, even that is iffy.

So the bad news is that the party rockin' guy looks like this:Aaaand the good news is that this look is somehow cool again. So it is sort of a twisted compliment.
For the record, this is me in '85

And this is Katy Perry NOW trying to be as awesome as I was 25 years ago.

Here's a pro tip from someone who was there, Katy... kids with braces didn't smile openly in pictures. Ever. See my picture above. That's me with braces, I think. We went years without showing our teeth. Headgear or otherwise, you kept your lips clamped shut. And if your lenses weren't thick enough to warp the size of your face by about a factor of 6, then clearly your vision is fine and you would have squinted through high school with the rest of the jocks.

So after doing the mental loop-the-loop about my daughter's not-so-backhanded compliment, I looked over and said, "You know... looking like that wasn't 'cool' back then."

"Really? Huh." she replied genuinely.

Being cool before its cool isn't nearly as cool as I thought it would be.


Arts Education

So when you talk to my daughter and find that she prefers Freddie Mercury to Ke$ha, you'll know why.

It's no accident.

Cool Dad Raising Daughter On Media That Will Put Her Entirely Out Of Touch With Her Generation (CLICK HERE)


Equal Face Time

Looking through the recent posts... realized they've been all texty or Yo-centric.  So, let's talk about the boy.  Er... man?   Young man-person.  Habtamu got back from his week away and is a) taller, b) taller, c) taller, and d) more confident/mature/man-ish.  I'm so confused.

I mean really.  It's only been 3 years.

How does that happen?  Shaking head in wonder.

Anyway, I'm so proud of him.  He is working very hard in school, and becoming a person of character.  (Also, he's quite a character.)

I'm more than a little disconcerted to have to look up to talk to him.


Wait! What time is it ?!?!?!

I usually go to meet Yordanos part way home after school each day.  I carry her bag and lunch box and we talk about her day.  A friend of hers had just called the house, so I told Yo about it.  We got home and the phone rang, and...

Yordanos picked up the phone, and without breaking stride, took the phone into a different room and closed the door. 

And I stood in the hall, mouth open in astonishment.  And wonder.  And fear.  And deja vu.  And I continued to stand there, looking foolish, just not believing that it's here already... that thing we girls do (or did, anyway).

The conversation sounded like this, "Hee hee hee.  Yes.  No WAY!  Ok."  And ended with, "Hey Mom, can I go to a dance?" 

Lord.  Have.  Mercy.


Don't get any ideas, princess...

We went to a wedding as a family this past weekend and that may have been an expensive decision on our part.  Judging by this picture, I believe someone's expectations are soaring. 
No, we didn't get to ride in it, which was good because I don't think we would have gotten her out.


Flown the coop

This morning we all got up and out at 6am to see Habtamu off for Outdoor Ed. He'll be gone for a week in Missouri with the rest of his 8th grade class, which will mark the longest period the children have been separated since we've known them. Yo says longest time ever because, "they never took trips in Africa." Chris and I both got hand shakes before he got in the van. Apparently, the seasoned parents who got hugs from their children told us the trick is to threaten them beforehand that you will find ways to be far more embarrassing if you don't get a hug. Now we know. It'll be interesting to see if we're met with open arms when he comes home.
I suspect H will be just fine although I don't expect we won't hear much, if anything, from him until they get back. I think the only thing that would "send him over" would be being alone, and I doubt that's going to be an issue with a cabin full of boys and solid adult supervision.

Yordanos has been prancing around and singing all day. She's enjoying the attention of being the only child, though when asked directly, she says she misses her brother already. We'll see how long she appreciates being the center of attention. Knowing her though, she'll eat it up all week.


Sleeping Arrangements

The week before school started, Habtamu asked to rotate his bed so that his window and fan were at the head of his bed. On the surface this isn't much of an adjustment, but what's interesting is that H no longer has direct line of site of his sister's bed. For 3 years the kids have slept with their doors open and their beds situated so that they could see each other. Neither of them like to sleep upstairs alone when the other one is out at a slumber party or whatever. But I guess we've finally hit the point where they don't need to see each other to fall asleep.

I know this doesn't sound like a big deal, but I thought it was noteworthy.


The System welcomes you

So something that we haven't discussed on the blog yet is the fact that the kids started school outside the home this fall. It's true. Thank the stars that the kids can now get socialized! (If you've been following my writings you'll know that's sarcasm.) Anyway, it was pretty much a unanimous family decision and everyone was ready for a change of pace.
We enrolled Habtamu in 8th grade at a local private Christian school with the hopes that the small class and steady routine (the whole class stays together for every subject) would help him adapt quickly. Yordanos is now a 5th grader at the public school across the street from Habtamu's.
Chris is looking forward to having time to work on house projects that have been forgone for 3 years and is trying to figure out where all the time goes even with the kids out of the house.
We're 5 days in and almost every afternoon H comes home frustrated and worried. He's never had to write down his assignments, or remember homework sheets, or remember to bring home the right books so he can do his homework. All that used to literally be arms length away. So there's been a learning curve, but he's catching on quickly. He wants to succeed. He wants to be at the level of the other kids. He wants to have it all figured out already. That's a lot of pressure.
Yordanos is reading and writing like a champ, and is certainly enjoying the social aspect of school. Math will be her struggling point, but that's no surprise.

So the adventure begins!


I am right, amn't I?

This week on "English is just stupid" I would like to make the motion that "Ratio" and "Patio" should rhyme. I don't care if it's RAH-tee-Oh or Pay-shEE-Oh, one of them has to change.

Over, Cover, Clover, Hover. Yeah, I'm coming for you next.

On a separate topic, Chris noticed the kids using "amn't I?" instead of "aren't I?" and reluctantly corrected them. Not because they're are wrong, but because English is just stupid. If one of you educated types has a better answer, we'd love to know what goofball verb disagreement rule causes that one.

Of course, maybe I are wrong.


Photo Challenge Vacation

Chris brought a '30 Day photo challenge' that I decided to complete during our stay at Cedar Campus, Michigan. You're supposed to take one topic/technique picture a day for a month, but since we only had 6 days, I fast tracked it. I'm posting the results [here]at my other blog. There's also a link in the right-hand sidebar.

It's not the usual assortment of pictures you usually see of other peoples vacations. And although there aren't any posed pictures of children giving each other bunny ears in front of beautiful landscapes (I have a bunch of those too,) I think you'll still be able to get an impression of what our week was like. It was fun to have an excuse to take close up shots of peoples feet, or chase after chipmunks, or throw frisbees at myself, or whatever was required in the name of art for that day.


Summer 2011 highlights

Well, you may have noticed that we've been pretty quiet on the blog front this summer. It's not because we haven't done anything noteworthy, it's mostly because we're too exhausted to retell anything that's been going on.

The summer started with the kids both coming in first in their divisions at a soccer tournament. Complete with trophies, rain, soccer drama and everything. I'd like to know where my “Wait 6 hours for a rain delay... I mean rain cancellation” -trophy is, but hey, I'm not bitter.

This has been an action-packed, cinematic season for Habtamu. Through luck, general resourcefulness, and charity, he has found his way into Thor 3D, X-Men, Green Lantern 3D, Transformers 3D, Harry Potter 3D and possibly Kung Fu Panda2 but that was so many movies ago I can't remember. Captain America and Cowboys vs. Aliens would get him through July. I keep telling him that “this isn't normal” and that he shouldn't expect to spend every summer in the theater. He keeps looking at me like the hero waiting for a monologing villian to shut up.

H's other big event this summer is that he really wanted an iTouch before we left for camp in late July. He wanted it for the 10 hour car ride, and was willing to mow a lot of lawns to get it. Well, he beat his own expectations and picked up a glorious 8Gb iTouch in June which gave him plenty of time to pine for a NintendoDS before we actually left for vacation. More on the reason for that stint of jealousy is in the next paragraph. The learning curve of such “intuitive technology” for a boy who reads at a 3rd grade level and his father who would much rather be blowing out Atari cartridges, has been steep but suffice it to say that not tying my credit card to his Apple account was my best financial decision this year. (You can set everything up with just gift cards but it's tricky. Apple reeeeally wants your cc.) The 'Buy' button is easy enough for him to avoid when it's not popping up mid-game, however 'Confirm Purchase' is just a little too long to bother reading and it's much easier just to push it and see what happens. Fortunately since he doesn't keep much more than 10 dollars in his account, the damages have been contained to one mispurchased Coby Calaye (?) album. Considering the boy pounds on that 'entertainment device' like crazed monkey, I'm calling that a win.

Yordanos generally isn't as gadget-driven as Habtamu, but she did lay down the cash for a NintendoDS a week ago. She then learned the hard way that the DS does not come with any games, which stinks under normal circumstances, but is a really tough lesson to learn when you've drain your savings account just to get the DS in the first place. Not surprisingly though, Yo socially engineered (ie charmed) a fistfull of games from a friend. That makes a lot more sense to me than spending 99 cents a pop, but I'm old school that way.

Yoyo also bought herself a BIKE at the beginning of June. Chris and I both approved of that purchase and she has shared her joy with the rest of the neighborhood, smiling and making housecalls to everyone she finds.


Honesty is not always the best policy

Scene: Son leaps out of parked car and runs out to Dad without checking for traffic

Mom: What are you doing! You need to look both ways before you get killed!

Son: (immediately goes into guilty, self-flagellation mode) I KNOW! I'm just DUMB!

What Dad *should* have said: You're not dumb, you just need to keep your head on straight and be careful even when you're excited.

What Father-of-the-Year actually said: You're not dumb, you're just stupid. (Pause) Sometimes. (Awkward Pause) Like when you don't... think. ( More awkward pause) But I still love you!


I feel safer already

Boring summer day?  Have no fear, SuperYo to the rescue!  TowelCape optional.


A league of his own

Of course its amusing to me that he's more embarrassed and irritated that I pulled him over for a picture than he is about the color of his new uniform.
Shouldn't have any problem spotting him on the field... or from an airplane for that matter.


Getting comfy

We went to a plant nursery today that had a couple Adorondak chairs of various sizes.  I believe Habtamu's eyes are bigger than his butt.


Your guess is as good as mine

So I came home from work at lunchtime and pulled into the driveway to see this.  Anyone want to take a stab at what I missed this morning?   I'm guessing it wasn't left up there from someone sweeping the garage roof.


Quick get that in the wash before mom gets home!

Oh was YOUR practice cancelled because the field was a little wet?  Must be nice, snowflake.  Some of us have a tournament this weekend.


Is that all you got?

I know that we've brought this up before, but for whatever reason, the "socialization" buzzword tripped my trigger again. I was talking with a friend about the real possibility of the kids going to a formal school next fall and the response was, "Good, then they'll get socialized."


I tried not to be a jerk, but despite my efforts I responded with something like, "I know! Because we go to this tiny church with no children and the kids play on an adult soccer team, and that's only when we let them out of the basement. I'm really looking forward to them finally being morally guided by children just as confused as they are instead of bugging me all the time."
Was that too snotty?

Seriously, is that all our educational system has going for it? The presence of other children? 12 years of education and all we have to offer the next generation about our experiences is that there were other kids there? That's the kind of thing I tell my children when they start whining about being dragged to some dinner party. Hey, at least there will be other kids there! And I bet there will be ice cream and corn dogs and Legos... but hopefully not together.

Only once in recent history did the topic of school come up and the response was, "Oh, you should try to get your kids enrolled in that new magnet school. The curriculum is going to be tech focused and your son would love it." See the difference? That was actual advice. I already know there's going to be children there so telling me that my kids will get socialized wouldn't help me make any kind of informed choice at all.

I know I'm just going to have to get over this. The "At least they'll get socialized" response is as ingrained into the American psyche as asking "How about that weather?" It's just what people noncommittally fill the verbal void with and everyone falls for it, including a whole lot of teachers. Because, hey, who doesn't want their kid socialized? That's something we can all agree on, right? It's like the lowest common denominator of our educational system. You may not learn anything, but by golly after 10 years of mandated education, you'll be socialized! At this point I'd like to note that gangs and the military also have very rigid social structures. If that's really all I expected my child to learn through adolescence, I suspect either of those routes would be more effective.

So here's what scares me... what if as a society that's really all we get from our years of schooling and this is just our way of collectively admitting it? I'm a firm believer in the old, "It's not what you know, it's who you know" adage. It's been proven over and over to me during my life thus far, so in that sense, yes, knowing the right people at the right time has been far more important to my career path than knowledge. Book smarts can't pitch an idea, or open a door, or point you toward that golden opportunity. Other people do that, and I think as a society we are trying to come to grips with that. How long do you have to be in an educational institution to meet the right people?

I'm not trying to devalue friendships or contacts or whatever we call all the people we communicate with now. I just hope that when my kids look back on their days at school (wherever that may be) they think about how some teacher got them on track for a career they love, or how they overcame their fear of public speaking, or how math or music or English finally 'clicked.' Anything but, "Well son, at least you'll get socialized just like me."


Breakin' It... Old School

The kids have discovered they can check out music CDs from our library.


Things that drive parents crazy...

... and responses from parents already on the edge.

Ok, so we're in church and a man walks up to the microphone with music in his hand.  The pianist starts playing, and Habtamu leans over and asks, "Is that man going to sing?"  You're a better person than I if you haven't just thought of a dozen smart-mouth responses to that.

I ended up whispering back to him, "No.  He's going to yell at you in front of the whole church."  That got a snort from my son.


Ok, so we're driving along and see some men with a post hole digger, digging a hole.  Yordanos says, "I wonder what they're digging for... you don't see that everyday."  I said, "I'm surprised that dirt isn't frozen."  And she says, "What dirt?"


"Habtamu (or Yordanos), would you please x, y, or z?" 
"Is your name _________? Then, yes, YOU."

"No, your Aunt Tilly!  Yes, YOU..."


"Have you brushed your teeth?"
[silence while child trying to work around it without lying, because child has gotten in trouble for lying about this subject.]
"Ok, then make sure you do it right now."


Ok, so, bedtime.  Children are in bed, hugs and kisses received and given.  Question floats down, "Mom?  Which car are you taking tomorrow?"

I suppress the urge to say, "Why, why, WHY?" at increasing volumes.  Instead I say, "The green one."

Child says, "Oh, ok.  Good night, Mom. I love you."


Ok, so, soccer practice is over and Habtamu runs out and says, "I have to go to the bathroom."  Ok, fine.  Lee and Yordanos wait in the car.  And wait, and wait, and wait, and wait.  And finally, Yordanos asks, "When is he going to come out?"  Lee answers, "When he's done, and hopefully not before."


So an Ethiopian boy walks into a bar...

Habtamu, bless his heart, has the impulse control one typically comes to expect from teenagers, and generally no shortage of poor planning and bad ideas. However, tonight, I got a glimpse that maybe, just maybe, his sense of self-preservation will help him survive long enough to become an adult.

The kids and I were in the car coming home from soccer practice when Yoyo told this "heartwarming" story about a local junior high kid who got expelled for drinking a beer on the way to school. This brought up a lively discussion about why that was such a bad idea, and how his parents must feel, and (the best conversation starter ever) where a child would get such a drink anyway. I should clarify that it's my favorite part because neither child answered, "The back of the fridge after you've gone to bed, duh."

Habtamu knew of a place near the local ice cream shop that he figured had adult drinks in it. And he was absolutely right. The little "store" with the neon signs and two story Pabst Blue Ribbon mural does indeed serve alcohol. So I had to ask, "Do you think they would give you an adult drink if you went in there?" Yoyo said if you kinda covered your face and did something to make yourself taller you could probably get away with it, but Habti would have none of that. He knew there was more to it because there are plenty of short, old people. Eventually the kids came around to how 'your license' must work into the equation.

At which point my son, of his own volition, say to me, "Dad, even if you said it was totally ok and let me do whatever I want like eat candy for breakfast and dinner, I would never take your license plate and use it to get an adult drink."

"Really?" I said, suppressing the image of my son handing a bartender a nice shiny license plate, "I think you mean drivers license. Why would that be a bad idea?"

"Yes the little card. I would never take your drivers license to get adult drinks because I'd get grounded."

"Yes. Yes you would. For how long do you think?" I said deadpan. Again, trying to ride out the conversation knowing that I'll have plenty of time later to enjoy the mental picture of my son trying to pass himself off as a middle aged, white guy, with a vision restriction.

"Umm... Until I'm like... 25 or don't live in the house anymore."

I had to agree, "That sounds about right, but I suggest you don't find out."


You Make the Call!

Time to vote!  Which of these two sounds is the most annoying?


Digging Out

Snowzilla, Snowmaggedon, Blizzard-o-mania... whatever you call it... passed through the other night.  We woke to this Winter Wonderland.

This here is our deck and backyard.  Snow as high as the railing.  Usually, when the weather people say 12-18", they're wrong.  But, huh.

And this is Lee's car. It took a couple of hours to dig out.  It got harder after the snow piles were higher than our heads.  Seemed like you couldn't reach the bottom of the snow.


A Penny Saved is 7 Cents Earned.

How many quarters in a dollar?

12?   [inches in a foot]
5,280?  [feet in a mile]
2,000?  [pounds in a ton]

There are 4 quarters in a dollar.
How much is a quarter worth?

30 cents?

How much is a penny worth?


Change comes in 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, and 25 cents.
How much is a dime worth?


[I think until a certain child thinks money is important, I will keep getting randomly generated answers.]


Antsy Pantsy Dance

There's a couple interesting things about this video. One is Yordi's ability to play soccer without losing the rhythm. The other is the way she takes her brother (in orange) to school while doing so.
Apologies in advance for the video quality. My phone lens was smudged and shoots in SuprCrap on good days anyway... What's not audible is the iPod pumping out vintage Michael Jackson in the background, but you'll get the idea.


Whiny the Clown

After reading about Junie B. Jones dressing up like "Screamy the Clown", Yordanos was inspired to do this:

She called herself "Whiny the Clown" and ran around the house trying to scare us.  Sometimes you just have to shake your head, don't you? 


Out of Phase

I can only assume, by these photos, that my niece is out of phase with the rest of us.  Is she partly in our world, but partly in sub-space?  Is she a baby Nosferatu?  I only notice this phenomenon in pictures... well, that's not strictly true... one minute she'll be there, and you blink, and she's GONE. 

Thriller Christmas

 I'm so glad nobody over-reacted this Christmas.  Oh. Um. Er.  Maybe one of us did.

In case you didn't know, the Michael Jackson Wii dance game comes with a sparkly glove... in case you didn't get yours back in the 80's.


Daily Snippet...

Yordanos is down to her last 4 baby teeth, and 3 of them are currently loose.  She showed me one of them that was hurting, and got more and more frustrated about it.

"It is hurting my law... my... law... my... JAW... my mouth... MY PIE-HOLE.  WhatEVER."

Still has me laughing.

We got back to school today, and for a Monday (not only a Monday, but a Monday after a 12 day break), I have to say it went very well. They didn't forget too much... we did some math review, but everything else was fine.  In fact, I've noticed that after taking vacations, Habtamu's reading seems to get better.   Don't tell him, because we can't be taking breaks all the time, but it's good to know that with the reading he does on his own is bearing fruit.  Yordanos and I concentrated on some gaps in mathematical understanding that I've noticed.  We played with manipulatives until she saw the pattern I was trying to teach.  We'll have to go over it some more tomorrow, but she catches on quickly. 

After school, the children seemed to not be able (willing?) to stop bothering, annoying, poking, touching, etc. each other.  I heard Habtamu say "Stop-uh!" for the 87th time to Yordanos, and I said, "Oh, did she pick your nose for you?"  He snorted, then quickly remembered he was trying to be angry.  I kept right on saying, with a straight face, how I can understand the frustration of somebody else picking your nose without your permission, and how HORRIBLE it must have been.  Meanwhile, Yordanos is laughing so hard she's crying, and I walked out of the room before I broke character.

Ah, a day in the life.