Friday, April 30, 2010

Broken piano results from too high a love of cacophony

About four years ago we bought an electric piano, one of the those fancy, weighted like a real piano but with volume control and earphone options pianos.  For several years I'd been yearning for something to play.  I'm not an excellent pianist, but with (a lot) of practice I can learn basic songs like hymns or children's Primary songs.  It was love at first plunk.

We put the kids over eight in lessons and enjoyed hearing them practice and learn.  (Also, we enjoyed the volume control).  

The house we're in now has a pretty open floor plan.  I think it has something to do with making sure there are views of the ocean from every room?  Normally, I'm not a huge fan of completely open floor plans, but, seriously, I can't fault the logic.  (By the way, that logic also explains why I'm willing to lease this house even though the front door opens into the kitchen.)

The piano sits along a major thoroughfare in the house.  It is there by default, as we are lacking in a lot of open wall space. (See above logic)

We have six children.

Piano sits in major walkway.

It was only a matter of time, really,  before someone decided it was fun to pound my beloved piano with a lightsaber and enjoy the cacophonous results.

Which is why last week I crawled under my piano, unscrewed the main keyboard, took it to a repair shop, and payed $380 to have 8 keys replaced.  I was just thrilled to be a part of.such a lovely experience

Our new rule?  No one, NO ONE, who is not an adult or has not taken lessons is allowed to touch the piano.  And I see food or drink by it, the offender might not be allowed to eat or drink again.  (Part of the high cost was due to the fact that he had to scrub all the keys and internal workings; note the state of the broken keys).

Don't worry about the kids, they have many other options for their addiction to cacophony.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Seriously, what are they thinking? -or- A humiliating store design

Sometimes I wonder what companies must be thinking when they design their stores.  There are the stores that like to rearrange their product every other week so I am stuck wondering where they've put the toilet paper this time.  Then there are stores who think the candy aisle should be tucked several rows back, right next to cosmetics (so  I can be reminded what all chocolate does to my skin and waistline before I buy it).

But the other day I saw the strangest, cruelest, most bizarre store design ever conceived.   In the midst of cluelessness or madness, maybe both, a department store placed the preteen boys' clothes section directly across from woman's lingerie.  Nothing like a young man, just realizing cooties is a disease worth catching, already uncomfortable to be out shopping with his mommy, to arrive in the area of the store set aside for his clothes and be faced with row after row of over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders, mysteriously silky, lacy, multicolored underpants, and blank faced mannequins showing off various designs of sexiness.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy embarrassing my tweenage boys as well as the next mom, but making their face blush so deep blood vessels burst while trying to simultaneously avert their eyes and stare just seems a little too cruel.  Here they're expecting to spend the afternoon bored out of their mind, trying to find clothes comfortable to wear 638 days in a row without washing, and instead they are forced to think about the curves of the opposite sex and all the ways girls go about covering, altering, showing off those curves.  With their moms standing next to them!  Boys shouldn't be reminded their moms are female until well after puberty, if ever.

Not to mention the distraction element.  Poor mothers trying to buy their sons some clothes.  "Do you want boxers or briefs?"  "Honey, are you listening to me?"  "If you keep looking at your feet while you walk you're going to run into that ... Ouch!  Did you bump your head?"

I truly felt bad for those boys.  Who thought this was a good idea?  Anyone?  But that isn't the worst part!  Imagine being the adult woman, at the store trying to decide how much support is just right, looking up to see her sons' friend shopping a few steps away.  "Why hello! Yes, I am Junior's mother standing here holding up two bras and debating their usefulness.  I'm sure we'll both appreciate the mental picture you'll have of me every time you come over to play with my son."  I will NEVER be buying my underthings there!  Ever. 

I'm still in shock over that store design.  Why not put the prophylactics next to video game controllers (one could argue they serve the same purpose for some men)?  Or maybe feminine hygiene should be stocked across from action figures?  Seriously, what are they thinking?
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Friday, April 23, 2010

Changing focus, learning to relax

You know those pairs of young men, wearing suits and name tags while knocking on doors?  Well, those are my brothers, my father, my husband, and (hopefully) someday my sons.  My husband went on a mission for our church in Norway.  Therefore, his memories of walking the streets sharing our beliefs have a unique quality of COLD.  Frigid, below zero, near frostbite COLD.  Funny thing, though, is that most cold no longer bothers him.  For years after getting home he didn't even wear a heavy coat.  One day, as I shivered uncontrollably in the middle of winter, burrowing into my coat as deeply as possible, he stood in his light winter jacket, not a shiver to be seen.  Slightly amused as I bounced in a failing battle to stay warm, he told me the secret he learned from those two years in Norway: if you want to feel less cold, relax.  Focusing on the cold makes it that much worse.  

I tried to relax myself and found he was right.

Giving birth was the same way.  I think the reason I was able to give birth without an epidural five times, never screaming or losing control, was an innate ability to relax and calm myself during contractions, allowing my body to do its work.  Focusing on the pain makes it that much worse.

This is a lesson we must learn as parents, if we want to ever go in public or keep our sanity. 

Imagine a scenario from the not so far past.  Broken glasses with an outdated prescription led to an unexpected trip to the optometrist and optical store. The tight scheduling left me with four children, who lingered in a dinky waiting room for over and hour only to be forced to spend time looking through frames and waiting again for adjustments.  The three year-old's whining was growing louder, his 5 year-old brother's energy level was growing exponentially, the 11 year-old obviously bored and unable to control the feeling without excess movement, and the 7 year-old swirling with anticipation for her new glasses.  Not only were they loud and obnoxious, they were using me as a jungle gym, complaint line, and source of entertainment.

In my losing battle to keep them quiet and within reach, while hoping to leave the store without paying for lots of broken frames, I could feel the stress eating me up.  Hissed threats (have you mastered the whispered yell?), ineffective time outs, dirty looks- they weren't helping and I was nearing a breaking point.  Seconds before I exploded in a tantrum of my own, I suddenly remembered my lesson and relaxed.  Focusing on the stress makes it that much worse.

Once I stopped focusing on the stress, I was able to look for solutions.  I borrowed a pad of paper and pen from an employee for my 5 year-old to color, gave my 11 year-old the task of counting the number of displays, played I Spy with the 3 year-old, and handed my iPhone, with its wonderful apps, to the 7 year-old.  The noise went from yelled exclamations and bickering to quiet whispers and giggles.  Their activity focused enough to confine movement to around the chairs where we were sitting. 

In 10 seconds we went from out of control to astonishingly well behaved.  The kids hadn't changed, my perspective had.  They were calm, I was calm, we enjoyed the last few minutes before we could leave.

Want to know how I survive life with six kids?  I've learned to just relax, focus on solutions instead of stress.

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Have you ever found relaxing and stop focusing on the negative makes things better?  Do you have to learn a lesson in parenting over and over like I do?  Does your husband enjoy the cold too much, causing you frozen toes at night?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Sock Monster and the ONE child it DOESN'T visit

The lack of matching socks irritated me.  As I rummaged the house for 2 (near) matching socks my 3 year-old could wear (preferably not pink), my irritation finally surpassed my cheapness and I decided new socks needed a place on my shopping list.

Somehow I ended up shopping in the morning, dragging my afternoon kindergartner and preschooler with me.  Normally I would rather sit through 6 episodes of Caillou than grocery shop before the afternoon bus comes, but the decided lack of food and corresponding growling tummies convinced me otherwise.  Plus, I had lunch plans in the afternoon.  (My cheapness does not extend to going out to lunch with friends, my waistline feels gypped).

Once arriving at the sock department, I remembered my oldest boys were also suffering from lack of enough socks, the Sock Eating Monster obviously seeing boys' socks as the ultimate treat.  Unlike my younger two boys, though, the prepubescent ones have ultra smelly feet and are not above reusing socks if none are immediately available.  So I added a package of their size to the cart (one gets the gray heals, the other the black- only one package per size needed*.  I'm not kidding about my love of being cheap).

Then I remembered my oldest daughter had a propensity for borrowing my socks when hers run out.  So I added some of her socks to the cart. I'm not great at sharing.  Ten minutes in the sock department is every child's dream; my boys were in heaven.  Not. So. Much.  Pent up boredom was nearing "Can you believe that mother can't control her kids" level, so we hurried through the rest of the grocery list and left

 {Yes, I shop at a grocery store that has a sock department.  Yes, it is the store you immediately think of that my kids like to call tram-laW.  Remember how I mentioned once or twice my fondness for not spending money?}

When the kids arrived home that afternoon, it was a mini-Christmas.  Please don't note how pathetic it is that my kids are thrilled to get enough socks to last the week.  As I handed out the packages, threatening them to not feed the Sock Monster, my 7 year old daughter waited.  Finally she asked, "Where are my new socks?"

"... Um..."


"You have tons of socks.  You don't really need anymore. I didn't buy you any."

I didn't mean to buy socks for only 5/6th of my children.  Until she said something, I hadn't even realized I'd done it.  The sock Monster must not have a taste for her socks, she has a TON.  That is the reason, in fact, her brothers often sported pink lined socks.

The look on her face, though.  I might as well as stamped "unfavored" on her forehead.  "But she doesn't need socks!" my cheapness begged.  "But she feels left out!"  my mom sense retorted.

Turns out I forgot to pick up a new flash drive my son needed for a project the next day (the Sock Monster also has a strong appetite for school supplies), and so I found myself back at the store that night.

While there I picked up a package of socks for my 7 year-old.

I'm a sucker.

Epilogue: This happened about a month ago.  Since that time the Sock Monster has managed to eat most of the boys' socks.  Again.  They are now borrowing from their sister at least once a week.  Again.  Good thing I bought her those extra socks.

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* I may buy them their own sock color, but that is in no way a promise that they wear their socks that way.  I can't even get them to not share underwear.  I just use bleach and pray it is enough.

So how about you, have you ever accidentally left a child out?  Doe the Sock Monster visit you, too?  Do you turn a blind eye to siblings sharing underwear and socks?  Have a teenage daughter with your shoe size who likes to share your socks and shoes?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How to have a successful day at the zoo.

1st, choose a good navigator.  One who wants to see nothing but giraffes.  Asks all day when we'll get to the giraffes.  Beg.  Plead.  Repeat himself.  Only to hit the exhibit halfway through the day and ask, "What are THOSE?"  and then ask to see the zebras.

2nd, Don't confuse the 6 monkeys with your 6 kids.  You can tell the difference because the monkeys are quieter and fight less.  I'm still not 100% sure I brought home the right bunch.

3rd, make sure you all dress alike.  For instance, let everyone wear dark blue, except the one wearing pink (see above).

4th, take pictures of a baby animal for your friend Steph. (Sorry they were sleeping!)

5th, Take pictures of that animal that is just plain weird looking. The same animal you shot last year and already posted.

6th, Tell the kids you don't have time for the bug carousel only to see it comes free with your yearly family membership.  Then suddenly have the time.

7th, take a picture at the exhibit that caused the chrysalis/cocoon controversy.

And lastly, wonder why neighbors run and hide, waitresses get a look of panic, and the mouths of passerbies drop when they see this coming toward them:

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

My love, my passion, my iPhone

This is a story of true love. Where two soulmates meet and find everlasting happiness.  And like all true loves stories (I'm sure the movies would never misrepresent this), the girl initially spurned her eventual love.  He was too flashy and too trendy.  He was everything she wasn't looking for.  In fact, it was her husband that introduced them and forced them into a relationship.

In other words, when my husband went to pick up my phone with our new provider, I left explicit instructions for a phone with long battery, good antenna, and NOTHING ELSE.  He brought me home the iPhone.  I was mad ... and then I turned it on.  I've been in love ever since.

{Note- For his work he had a pretty fancy blackberry and felt bad that his tech heavy phone was better than his tech savvy wife's phone.  He knew I would love it if I could get over my distaste for spending money and so he bought it.   He was, of course, right.}

Let me give you a glimpse into our relationship.  Last Tuesday we went to the zoo.  In that day we used my phone to google (another tender love of mine) the following:

  • Difference between Highway and Freeway
(Highway is any road connecting towns and states, Freeway is a highway without stop signals and crossing traffic and with limited access points on and off)

  • Oligarchy
(A type of government where the power to rule is held be a limited, elite group.  Peter was right when he made that guess.)

  • Why are some flamingos not pink?
(The pink color is due to chemicals in the food they eat.  Zoo flamingos are sometimes fed coloring agents to help mimic wild flamingos color, but are usually a paler pink)

  • Difference between cocoon and chrysalis
(cocoon = moth, chrysalis= butterfly.  My 2nd grader schooled us all with that tidbit.  Google proved her brother wrong!)

  • Where did the symbol for female come from?
(Most people think it is a contraction of the Greek symbols for Venus)

In addition to using google on the internet...

  • we looked up price houses of a town we were driving through ( app). Houses outside of NYC are as expensive as we thought.

  • I beat a couple sudoku puzzles (sudoku daily app)

  • We found and rented a movie to pick up on the way home (redbox app).

  • We found out why the actress playing the mother in Where the Wild Things Are looked familiar (iDbM app).  She is also the mom in the Lightening Thief.
  • I found out my sister came within 100 points of beating my Tetris Friends score on Facebook. (facebook app and email function)

  • We found out the etymology of the words male, female, man, and woman (browsing Wikipedia while searching the female sign thing).  I will hereafter refer to men as werman and women as wyfman, or maybe not.

How can you not love a phone like that?

Also, how can you not love a road trip with so many random and curious questions?

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Abdicating as Cool Mom, or Am I?

I've been the mother of a teenager for all of one month and I've already abdicated my position as Cool Mom.  I would like to say I did so willingly, but my husband forced my hand with his good example.

Good examples sure can stink sometimes.

It went down like this...

Elise recounted a conversation she was having with her friend.  In response to Elise mentioning she wasn't going to a party that weekend, her friend asked, "Why not?  It's your mom again, isn't it."  Apparently the fact that she has a bedtime, she can't go to dances until she's fourteen, does not yet own a cell phone, and has to check with her parents before RSVPing a party makes us, well, less than cool.

(We also make her do chores and share a room with her sister. Oh, and there is the small matter of my dressing abilities, but her friend couldn't have known that.)

But wait!  I was sure the decade between me and the other moms' age allows me to be Cool Mom for at least another few years.  I mean I twitter, I text, my hairdo didn't come from the 1980's.  I felt sucker punched.

The worst part was Elise had assumed I wasn't letting her go to the party when all I'd said was that I needed to know more information about parental supervision.  I was misquoted.  I should still be Cool Mom!!!

Anyway, that night I was teasing Elise about stealing my Cool Mom status, when my husband piped in with his opinion:

"I'll tell you what my mom told me, you can always use me as the excuse for anything you don't feel comfortable doing."

Shoot!  He was, of course, right.  I should play the scapegoat happily.  (Don't worry, he was only right for about 5 minutes and then the keys he was sure I'd misplaced were found in his pocket.)

Anyway, have you heard?  Strict is the new cool.  I am Cool Mom after all, her friends just won't realize it for another 15 years.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Paragon of Put Togetherness. NOT!

Sometimes I personify the put together woman.  Take last Friday for instance.  I not only realized I forgot to buy pizza sauce for the homemade pizza on the menu, but after stopping at the store to pick it up, I forgot to start the dough.

The chicken pot pie we had for dinner was delicious.  Just ask the kids ... okay don't ask the kids, they complained as though I was feeding them 3 week old leftovers.  Hello?  Chicken and pie crust!  How can you go wrong with that?  YOU CAN'T.  Unless you'd promised them all day they could make their own little pizzas and then didn't do it.

Instead of asking the kids, ask Peter, who enjoyed his dinner despite filling up on the lady fingers we made out of the leftover crust.  The best part was we managed to make the lady fingers without getting caught by the kids and I only burned one of my fingers in the process. 


By the way, my children will grow to be excellent sharers, they have such wonderful examples in their parents.  The day they find out pie crust ALWAYS equals lady fingers will be worse than when they learned the truth about Santa Claus.

     "Hey Mom, why is there this cinnamon sugar on the cupboard?"

      "You can use it for toast."


(I am good at getting the kids side tracked to cover my sneakiness.)


I not only botched my planned dinner, but I was so busy stuffing lady fingers in my mouth that we were running late for a meeting at the church.  My sweats were not going to cut it so I ran upstairs, grabbed a skirt, tights, and boots, and ran out the door.

In the middle of the meeting I looked down and realized I was truly a paragon of put togetherness.  After all, why else would it take me an entire hour of looking at my shoes before I realize this:

I need to attend remedial dressing class.  This beats the time I went to the post office in my slippers or wore my shirt backwards (not inside out, backwards), but doesn't quite realize the time I lost my skirt in the church foyer or accidentally pulled a stray pair of underwear out of my sweats in the middle of co-ed high school gym class.

Did I mention that before reaching the meeting I had picked up my daughter from a party and stood there in front of her friends and some mothers?  At least they've now met Elise's real mom, in all my oblivious glory.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday Cleaning is Brutal

I love cleaning. No, really, my house is spotless all the time. Of course, by "love" I mean "try to avoid at all costs" and by "all the time" I mean "5 minutes before we move in and 5 minutes before we walk out for the last time". I have 6 kids, for crying out loud; most days I'm lucky if I can even see the bare floor!

Now I have a confession to make. The whole "day of rest on the Sabbath" thing you find in the 10 commandments? I take that seriously. (Serious enough to try to incorporate it into EVERY day). Yeah, that is my semi-religious argument for why I don't usually clean on Sunday, even to clear the dinner dishes. Housework and rest are incompatible, after all. As for not cleaning on Saturday, I really don't have a reason. Maybe I should get dual citizenship (religiousnessship? No, no the word must be membership) with Judaism or something.

So most Mondays begin with a teeny, could hide an elephant in there, bit of a mess. Now take that mess and add to it 8 hours of watching a conference for my church and letting the kids do whatever keeps them quiet enough that I can listen. Then add Easter and its accompanying candy wrappers. Are you getting a picture in your head?

So . . . I had a lot of work to do today. (I have yet to find a religion that recommends Monday as a day of rest. But I'm open for suggestions.) Purely for your entertainment, I even took photos. Some notes about the video below...
  • Six pregnancies in 10 years taught me to clean using the least amount of energy possible. I make piles, they grow and grow and grow, and then I put them away all at once.
  • Since I'm confessing my dirty (literally) sins: I usually Photoshop my pictures to get rid of the pieces of junk on the floor that haven't been swept. Okay, fine, I also Photoshop dirt off the kids' faces.
  • Like 70 year old women, I still use a vacuum that not only uses a bag, but is a canister. And I do it on purpose.
  • Outside of those overexposed windows is the ocean, so don't feel too bad for me.

This video is dangerous for the clean freak or germophobic.
Watch at your own risk.

If you're too busy to watch the 1 minute video, here is a before/after shot:

Want to place bets on how long it takes to reach that level again?

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter candy makes me a little unfocused.

My 3 year old thinks we killed eggs for Easter.  After all, we "died" them.  And so we kicked off our Easter festivities with murdered, I mean dyed, fingers and 48 boiled eggs.  (I used the method The Damsel in Dis Dress recommended to boil them, I hope it works!)

This Easter happens to fall on the same weekend as our church's semi-annual world wide conference (which I blessedly can watch from my television).  In case you don't know, General Conference has four 2 hour sessions (2 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday).  Want to know a great idea for keeping little ones still for two hours while watching people speak?  It's a solution only a genius such as myself can come up with:  have your Easter egg hunt in between the two Saturday sessions so they are hopped up on sugar for the last 2 hours.  Oh yes I did.  I, know, you are in awe of my great idea making abilities.

But seriously, I do have a great idea.  When we hide eggs we give each child their own color.  A bag comes with (lucky for me) 6 colors of plastic eggs.  I fill the eggs evenly (each color gets 1 jelly bean egg, 1 peep egg, etc) and then the eggs can be hidden by skill and age level.  Little kids can find theirs easily while the older kids scour the yard for theirs.  No older kids hogging the eggs or someone "accidentally" ending up with all the malted robin eggs.

We invited friends over for the hunt, it was a lot of fun.  Also, the neighbor kids were bursting with excitement and eventually came over to help find the eggs.  I wondered if they celebrate Easter (I've never seen kids so excited to find other people's eggs).  I'm 95% sure I saw a Christmas tree up last year, so hopefully we didn't cross some sort of religious holiday line by letting them help.

Ryan couldn't find his last egg, and when I finally made him recount ("I've already counted it three times, it is short by one!"), it was in his basket all along.  We looked an extra 1/2 hour for that "missing" egg.  It was our friend's boy who ended up with the traditional unfindable egg.  I'm sure it will turn up sometime in the next year.  (It is due to that tradition that we hide plastic eggs and not the real ones, by the way.)

So the dyeing eggs and hunting plastic eggs is finished and, due to it being conference weekend, the need for dressing in new church clothes won't be around until next Sunday, we can focus tomorrow on the real reason for Easter.  Surprisingly it isn't all the spring sales or spring break.  It is the atonement and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  This holiday is immensely personal to me, and I love it.

I would write more, but my brain is a little dysfunctional tonight.  My kids aren't the only ones overdosed on chocolate.  I happen to know where the extra malted robin eggs are hidden.  Right next to the extra Snickers eggs, Reeses eggs, and Hershey's Kisses.  Wow.  I'm surprised I can even focus for longer than 3 sec ... Was I saying something? ...  I need more chocolate ... Did I post about us almost getting flooded out of our neighborhood last week? ... Oops.  That will be my next post ... if I can remember that long ...

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