What’s In That Bag?

This morning at breakfast Jay noticed a rolled up brown bag on the kitchen table.  I knew that it contained a take-home portion of preacher cookies from Nana’s house the night before, but Jay had no idea.  I also knew that if the little people in my house discovered the bag’s contents, they would be gone before I got any.  So when he asked about it at breakfast with everyone around, I had to get a little creative….

Jay:  What’s in that bag?
Me:  Ummm….circular…..uhh……carbohydrate goodness….of the no bake variety.

You see, Chica can read now.  And when she really wants to, she can decode fairly well.  So my normal answer that has worked for the past six years, “C-O-O-K-I-E-S,” is no longer effective.  After a second or two he caught my drift, and we both had a good laugh over it.

AND they still don’t know we have cookies.  Score.

So we decided we should start preparing our responses for other common situations where the spelling strategy just won’t work.  Here’s the list we’ve got so far….

Jay:  A package came today.  What is it?
Me:  It’s a parcel to celebrate the delivery of our eldest offspring.

Jay:  Did you hear what Nana just asked?
Me:  No. What?
Jay:  She wants to know if we want to deposit our decedents in her care for the nocturnal hours.
Me:  Of course.

Jay:  What should we do for dinner tonight?
Me:  Why don’t we just patronize our favorite local establishment that specializes in the preparation of circular Italian specialties?

Me:  They’re driving me crazy.  What can they do?
Jay:  Can they retire to the subterranean chamber and make use of the cathode ray tube for an undetermined amount of time?

And my personal favorite….

Jay:  What are you doing after the kids are in bed?
Me:  Why don’t we go recline horizontally in the slumber chamber with minimal distance between us?
Jay:  Are you suggesting we do this with a lack of garments?
Me:  Affirmative.

So how about you, friends?  Have any questions that require vocabulary rich answers?  We’ll work on a reply for you if you don’t already have one.  Please share!

P.S. Jay wants to be sure you know that the rectangular prism in our subterranean chamber is so old that it does, in fact, still have a cathode ray tube.  Ok.  Whatever.

P.P.S.  I asked Jay if our last question in the list above was maybe a bit too much for my usually family-friendly blog.  His response?  “Naaaa…..they’ve got to know it’s happened at least twice.”  Man, that guy always makes me laugh.


On Turtles: Chica Challenge #2

No rest for the weary over here.

In the past three weeks or so we have gone from dreaming about a new house to putting our house on the market. Today!  Ah!  So I went straight from packing up my school stuff to packing up things here at home to move to storage.  Thanks to the help of our moms, two great friends, and their kids, our house is looking better than it has ever looked.  Bring on the buyers.

House 01 Irvington 09

I’m exhausted….and I know that we are just getting started.  So while I should be folding laundry or straightening cabinets or clearing out that one room that just never got finished, I’m sitting here instead.  Chica is sleeping, Bubba and Jay are watching TV (aka snoozing, probably), and I’m drinking wine, eating too much chocolate, and planning to write about yesterday’s adventures.  I earned the break, right?

By 8:00 a.m. we were out the door headed to Peaks View Park.  We took a short detour to check out the baby birds at Nana’s house because she warned they weren’t fitting in their nest much longer.  You’ll be fascinated to know (maybe) that Mama Bird is still taking care of business, quite literally.  While we were there, we saw one bird take what appeared to be his first trip away from the nest.  So cool!  Nana called us later to say that all four birds had abandoned ship by lunch time.  I guess we came just in time!

After Nana refueled us with goldfish crackers and chex mix, we headed out again to the park.  Let me just say that the overabundance of construction and closed roads in the Hill City does not help a directionally challenged girl like me.  Ugh.  So we ended up parking way far away from the playground, not by choice.  This, however, did make for a nice walk to kill some time and wear out little bodies.


On our walk, a maintenance man we passed handed us a box turtle.  Of course my budding naturalist wasn’t content to just observe and then leave the turtle, so she carted him the rest of the way to the playground.  Chica had two new, instant best friends (’cause who doesn’t love a girl with a turtle?), and they crowded around to wait for their new pet to come out of his shell.  After many reminders that yelling and tapping the shell aren’t the best ways to make a turtle feel safe, he finally emerged.  Within seconds of eyeing the crazy kids waiting for him on the outside, that sucker spotted a hiding spot, the mulch under a playground stair, and he was off.  Can you blame him?

As you can imagine, the questions were flying.  So, for those of you up for day 2 of the Chica Challenge, read the following, make your best guesses, then compare your answers to the best that YouTube has to offer (summarized below).

1. How do you know if it’s a boy or girl?
2. How old is it?
3. What does it eat?
4. Can we take it home as a pet?

IMG_01411.  Chica actually had this one right because of what she had learned from the fine folks at the Nature Zone, but neither of us were 100% sure of her answer.  Turns out that box turtles are the only known turtle species to have different color eyes according to gender.  Our turtle had red eyes, so we knew it was a boy.  Female turtles have dark eyes.  There are other ways to tell, like the shape of the underside of the shell, but the eyes seem to be the most obvious clue.

2.  Much like a tree, you can approximate the age of a turtle by counting the layers on a ring of its shell.  Chica had also heard about this from the Nature Zone, but she mistakenly counted how many different yellow spots he had instead of how many rings in one yellow spot.  I’m no turtle expert like Chica, but I’d say this guy is at least 8 or 9.

IMG_01403.  Chica and her new best friends really wanted the turtle to eat grass.  But despite their persistence, he just didn’t want any.  Turns out that box turtles are pretty much carnivorous and would prefer worms over leafy greens.  The interesting thing that we learned here is that a box turtle’s diet is a common misconception among people who take them home for pets.  They can slowly learn to be more omnivorous when in captivity, but this   causes problems when they are rereleased into the wild.  More on turtles in captivity next.

IMG_01474.  So though I listed this question last, this was of course her very first question.  I don’t do animals.  I mean, I love watching them in the wild, but I am so over having to remember to feed one more mouth that can’t remind me that it needs to eat.  And don’t get me started on the cleaning up part.  So I thought of lots of reasons why it was a bad idea….we don’t know what to feed it, we don’t have anything with which to carry it in the car, and most especially, where the heck are we going to put a turtle while we try to show our house?  But then one tiny part of me remembers my mom letting us keep baby turtles that we found in our neighborhood lake and how much fun we had.  So I was noncommittal and told her I’d decide when we got back to the car.  Thankfully, she decided about halfway back that she was tired of carrying his squirmy self, and she said goodbye next to the baseball field with a tear or two.  Phew.

Turns out the turtle documentary we watched supports my anti-wild-animals-at-home stance.  Box turtles are becoming an endangered species for several reasons:  habitat loss, being hit by cars, and–get this–unprepared people taking them home to keep as pets!  When they are kept in captivity, they can lose their ability to hunt, they can’t reproduce, and they can contract diseases that transmit to other turtles if taken back into the wild.  What good news for this momma.  Not such good news for the turtle protectors in the video we watched, but at least I’m helping them get their message out.  You’re welcome.

So….how’d you do on this edition of Chica’s Challenge?  If by some chance you got them all right (or even if not), then I present to you the Bonus Question…an actual question posed by Chica on our evening walk:

Is the love of your shadow the root of all evilness?

Yeah…answer that one.

Chica Challenge

IMG_0104Today was the first real day of summer vacation.  It was quite glorious.  All day I had planned to write about our adventure to the Blackwater Creek Athletic Area and how much fun we had once I got over myself and let everyone trudge through the puddles. But this evening our get-out-of-the-house-so-daddy-can-work walk gave me a new idea.

If you spend any time at all with Chica these days, you’ll quickly learn that the questions are  never ending.  Many times I find myself serving as her walking dictionary.  Take, for example, this exchange, after a motorcycle sped past us….

Me:  Man….did you see how fast he was going?
Chica:  Why was he going so fast?
Me:  He was trying to show off.
Chica:  What does show off mean?
Me:  When you do something just to impress someone.
Chica:  What does impress mean?
Me:  When you do something just to get someone to think how special you are.

Sometimes the questions are fun like, “What does that tree look like to you?”  It was covered in kudzu.  I said a dragon tonight, but she always thinks camel.  Other times the questions are just completely random.  “What’s the difference between your heart and your spirit.”  Really!?!  I gave it my best shot, then told her to ask her Nana later.

But tonight we ended our walk with three different questions that she wanted me to look up on the Internet.  She’s never quite satisfied with, “I don’t know,” and she won’t let you forget that you didn’t know either.  So while she took her shower, I scoured Wikipedia and other semi-reliable sources to get her answers.

(Can I just digress for one tiny second and point out that I have a kid old enough to finally bathe herself with no help except turning on the water and opening the shampoo bottle?  This is fantastic.  Ok. I’m done.)

If you’ve made it this far, I’m hoping you’ll humor me and take the Chica Challenge.  Just check out the questions below, and then think of how you would have answered her BEFORE you read my answers.  I’ll give you a score at the end.

1.  Is this spit or eggs?

Spit or eggs?

2.  What’s that green stuff growing on the rock wall?


3.  What part of a honeysuckle flower can you eat?


Ok….have your answers ready?  Good!  Read on…

1. She was sure it was spit, and I was sure it was eggs.  Turns out she was closer to the right answer than me. The froghopper, also appropriately called the spittlebug, is a bug that coats itself in a foam made from “frothed-up plant sap” when it’s in the nymph stage.  This covering hides it from predators, helps regulate temperature, and keeps it moist.  Tonight we did poke one of the spit piles with a stick to see what would happen, but we weren’t expecting to find a bug inside.  Maybe we’ll go back again tomorrow to see if we can find one.  They are apparently amazing jumpers who can jump 100 times their length.  Cool!

2.  My best guess (lichen) actually turned out to be the right answer, but I had no other information to give her.  I learned that lichen is actually two organisms working symbiotically–a fungus and an alga.  The alga produces the food through photosynthesis, and the fungus feeds off of the alga.  Chica had guessed that the green stuff was algae, but it turns out the alga is actually more like bacteria than algae.

3.  On our first walk today I pointed out honeysuckle to Chica and let her smell it.  I have strong memories of being just about her age and walking by a wall of honeysuckle on my way to our neighborhood pool in the summer.  I mentioned to her that there was some part of the flower that you could taste, but I had never tried it.  We read this together tonight, so you can bet we’ll be stopping at every honeysuckle bush we pass tomorrow.

So…how many of Chica’s Challenges did you know?
Zero–You are Chica Challenged.  You should probably go watch some Wild Kratts.
One–You are a Chica Charmer.  Don’t worry, this was my score too!
Two–You are a Chica Chief.  Was it the spittlebugs that got you?
Three–You are a Chica Champion!  I’m coming to you with tomorrow’s questions.

How about you?  Did you learn anything thanks to your kids today?  I’d love to hear it….leave me a comment!

Spittlebug froth  © nordique  | Flickr Creative Commons
Lichen on rocks, Wayside, E of Prineville, OR  © Martin LaBar  | Flickr Creative Com.
Honeysuckle © Nicholas Roche | Flickr Creative Commons

A Few Moments

That moment (6:45 a.m., to be exact) when you start looking for your kid’s shoes and remember where they are.  On the porch.  In the rain.  And he only owns one pair.  Major mommy fail.

In that moment, my brain goes to two places:  1)  Who to blame and 2) How to fix it.  I can’t say for sure which came first today, but most of the time the thoughts come in that order, so let’s go with the blame first.  I could blame Bubba for them being out there in the first place.  Or I could blame Jay for not seeing them when he left the house earlier this morning.  But the truth is that I knew they were out there “drying” and had also commented that it looked like a storm was coming last night…I should have put two and two together.  So amidst my back and forth blaming and pity partying, I moved on to a solution.

Send him barefoot?  His class plays outside now.  Socks only?  Same thing.  Make him wear them wet?  They were literally dripping, so that might be considered torture.  Throw them in the dryer?  Not enough time.  Dig in the hand-me-down clothes in the attic on the off chance that there is something there that would fit now?  The probability is slim.  It seems  there was only one viable option:  get everyone to Wal-mart.  And fast.

Even while I was driving there, I was still riding that merry-go-round of blame and pity.  I actually called Jay and my mom to invite them both to my party.  But every few passes I tried to grab hold of at least the tiniest bit of thankfulness.  Maybe it was a good thing after all that we all got up at 6:00 and not 6:30 because we never would have had time for this trip.  Thank you, God, that I live less than 15 minutes from a new pair of shoes.  Thank you, Wal-mart, for having Bubba’s size in a pinch…and a belt for me because I couldn’t find mine this morning. 

I’m hoping these kinds of moments in the future (because I am sure there will be many, many more mommy fails) will be filled with more grace and thankfulness and less blame and pity.

That moment (7:15 a.m., to be exact) when you know exactly what your kid is getting ready to say, and you can’t stop it.  Your best evil eye and distraction conversation and silently willing her, “Don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it,” are all lost.  “MOM, WHY DOES THAT MAN HAVE NO LEGS?”  Too late.

So you do the only thing you know to do.  You grab her by the chin, get in real close, talk real low, and try to explain right there in the middle of the Wal-mart entrance why her innocent question (at 115 decibels) is wrong.  And you pray that he sees you.  That he doesn’t think you are that mom who lets her kid get away with it.  “When you see people that are different, you do NOT point it out.  This can hurt their feelings.  If you have to ask mommy about it, you can ask me way later, when they can’t hear you.  That was very rude.”

It seems we have lots of these chin-grabbing, low conversations these days….about calling people fat, and private parts, and telling the truth, and not giving up.  If even a few get through, I’ll be glad.

Maybe today’s got through, because when he rang up Bubba’s shoes and my belt, she kept her mouth shut.  Or maybe she just didn’t realize it was the same guy.  Either way, he made a joke with us about the belt being “for the kids,” so I assume he had forgiven us.  And I forgave her too.

And finally, that moment (7:35 p.m., to be exact) when you suck it up and just play with your kid.  All you really want to do is check the day’s Facebook posts, or sit on the porch in silence, or maybe even wash some dishes.  (Ok, never mind on the last one.)  But she’s begging you, and you have no real excuse to say no, and worse, a friend who reminded you this very same day about the very same moment.  So you do it.  And it’s not so bad.

And you find yourself dancing on the sidewalk to the music in her head, dramatically passing a bunch of fake flowers back and forth.  Or pretending to be a monster and a little girl from the Brave Human World forming a new friendship.  Then she “reads” you a book in which she makes up every single word.  And you end the night by sniffing the skunk and stinkbug she has drawn on the Magna Doodle, clarifying which one is smellier.

Thanks, friend, for the reminder that I’m not the only one who would rather do anything but the thing that will bring me the most joy.  May we both have eyes to see those things and courage to do them.

“Don’t have a great day, just grab a couple great moments.”  —Momastery.com  

The Oxpecker and the Giraffe

Tonight on our walk, Chica asked me plainly, “Mom, do you know what a symbiotic relationship is?”

I had a pretty good guess, but I wanted to see what she thought it meant.  I knew right away this is something she had picked up from Wild Kratts.  (Thank you GOD we are occasionally hearing about something other than My Little Ponies these days.)  Anyway, her definition wasn’t quite correct (“when one animal picks something else off another animal”), but her example was spot on.  She told me about the oxpecker that picks bugs off of a rhinoceros.  I had to check it out, but she’s exactly right.  Still not quite five, but already smarter than me.  Sheesh.

All day I’ve been intending to write about collapsible baby legs and the moment in which I really lost it this morning.  Now I’m thinking that symbiotic relationships are somehow related to my mini major meltdown, so let’s see if I can work my way back around there by the time I’m done.

There’s a parenting rule that I forget over and over:  Don’t ever start to think you may be early for any occasion, because this will invariably cause something to happen that will make you late.  Maybe you’ll have to send out a search party for the left shoe of the kid that only owns one pair of shoes.  Or maybe after four passes by the mirror, you’ll admit that the snot on your shoulder (not your own, of course) is, in fact visible, and you’ll have to change shirts.  Or, like today, maybe one kid will decide that the best time to have a dirty diaper of epic proportions is the moment you are putting on coats to head out the door.  Don’t ever think you’re going to be early.

So I admit I was already angry while changing his diaper.  We were going to leave after our goal of 7:30…again.  But then he just Wouldn’t. Stay. Down.  All my usual tricks (a toy, a book, a song, dirty looks, brute force) weren’t working, and as he cried more and fought harder, my frustration just grew.  I somehow managed to wrangle the clean diaper on him, and decided to go ahead and let him stand while I finished with his pants and shoes.

collapseGrowing up, my grandma had a giraffe toy with a button on the bottom.  When you pushed the button, the giraffe would collapse in a limp pile.  Right then and there, after probably three minutes of fighting to stand up, Bubba did a perfect imitation of the collapsed giraffe.  “You want me to stand up?  Nah.  I think I’ll lay down now, thankyouverymuch.”

So the next few minutes are a blur.  Chica, get your shoes on.  No, for the millionth time, you cannot take a doll in the car because you’ll forget it like the other 17 toys that are already there.  Chica, find your coat.  Where did I put my phone?  Chica, find your coat.  No, Bubba, we cannot read a book right now.  Don’t take your hat off.  Chica, PUT.  ON.  YOUR.  COAT.

All I know for sure is that I was standing at the top of the steps, holding everyone’s bags, trying to take down the baby gate, and Bubba did the giraffe imitation again.  I tried to pick him up, and he was still the giraffe.  And crying.  And I still don’t think Chica had her coat on.  (Sorry….way too many ands in a row, I know.)

Three inches from his face I yell scream, “STOP IT!”

Yeah.  So I totally know that screaming at a crying, flailing sixteen month old is only going to make him cry and flail even more.  Pretty much the only thing it did accomplish was scaring the helloutta Chica and make her get in the car quickly.  With her coat on.

But here’s the thing…  Often when I get angry at my kids, I take deep breaths, speak (mostly) calmly, and seem pretty composed on the outside.  But on the inside I’m screaming mean, ugly, curse word laden rants that I think would fix the problem fast.  And make me feel better.

Today when I let that stuff fly, it only fixed half of the problem—Chica and her coat.  I still had to carry a flailing, screaming giraffe to the car under my arm like a sack of potatoes.  But me?  I felt worse.  Way worse.  And Bubba?  He never cries when I drop him off at school.  Really never.  Today he did.  You know it’s connected.

So maybe we’re back to the oxpecker and rhino and symbiotic relationships.  I know they need me.  They need me to remind them not to run down our sloping sidewalk, or explain what adoption means, or navigate how to make friends and keep them.

But Chica’s crazy, random question has reminded me that I need them too.  Today I needed them to help point out an area in my life where I still have a wholelotta room to grow towards Christ-likeness.

Gracious.  Compassionate.  Slow to anger.  Rich in love.   I need that.

They need that from me too.

How about you?  Any oxpecking happening at your house lately?



The Weekend: Guest Post by Chica

Today Mommy told me she has a blog.  She said she writes stories to put on her blog for everyone in the Internet to read them.  She said that one time Bubba wrote a story on the blog, and this girl writes blogs, and she’s only two I think.  So if they can do it, I know I can.  I’m four.  I’m going to tell you the story of my weekend.

Saturdays are supposed to be family days, but sometimes we just end up going to boring places to do adult stuff.  This weekend we didn’t really do that.  We did family stuff.  In the morning we walked to the park.  At first there was no one there, but then all the kids must have knew we were there cause they all came.  Mommy said I was bossy to my new friend Emma, but I don’t think Mommy really knows how to play if you’re four.

I pretended the Splash Park was on and I let another kid babysit my baby while I played.  Bubba went down the slide.  Then Mommy got a phone call and we had to quick go to meet her friend.  I hate it really don’t like it when we have to leave playing.  Mommy says I can’t say that h word.  Other people say it.  It’s not the end of the world, Mom.

Oh, I forgot something.  Before we went to the park, Daddy was teasing me funny.  Me and Mommy were trying to make a dress for My Little Pony out of paper.  We keeped my door closed so Bubba won’t mess up my stuff.  Daddy and Bubba started rolling stuff under my door.  It was a marker.  We rolled it back, and he rolled it again, and then we changed the color of the marker.  Later we sent Daddy a note under the door to please give us a baggie so we could clean up some stickers.  Do you know what he did?  He gave us a bag that he cut out the bottom.  But I didn’t know it.  So I put the stickers in and they came out the other hole.  Daddy laughed real big, and I did too.  Eventually.  Then Mommy sent the tape and the bag back to Daddy under the door.  And Mommy laughed this time.

So when we got back from the park I played with my neighbor friend.  Mommy said I couldn’t write his name.  I don’t get the big deal.  It’s easy to spell.  On the way to the park I told Mommy that I am going to marry him.  Her eyes got real big, and she changed the subject.  Later we were playing in my room and she wouldn’t let me close my door.  I don’t know why.  She sighed real big.

Today I went to church.  Me and my Sunday School teacher played dress up.  He’s fun.  He told me about a girl whose daddy thought she was dead but she was just really sleeping.  She didn’t really die.  Jesus woke her up.

I went to Nana’s house like we always do after church.  I ate a lunch I didn’t really like and didn’t take a nap and I watched a movie.  Then I went with Nana to feed Casey the cat.  I didn’t really much get to play with her, but I got to give her food and water.  This was the first time she rubbed against my legs.  Casey is a girl name but Daddy says it can be both.  Here kitty, kitty!

Tonight we read another chapter in Little House on the Prairie.  We’re almost to the part with the Indians.  I like Indians.  And I think they are going to build a house, Laura and Mary and Pa and Ma.

When we were about to pray, Mommy told me that Mrs. Bulson went to heaven yesterday.  At first I was really worried that we didn’t get to show her the movie that my school made.  Mommy said she did show it to her, and she gave her a CD.  I asked, and Mommy said she didn’t take the CD with her.  I won’t get to see Mrs. Bulson again until I go there to heaven.  Heaven has lots of flowers and two fountains.  That’s what I picture with my eyes.  I told Mommy that.

I guess I have to go to bed now.  I tried to tell Mommy that I haven’t stayed up late yet while I’m four, but she said it was a school night.  I asked about tomorrow.  She said maybe Friday.  How many days is that?

Good Night.

Love, Chica

P.S.  Wanna know a secret?

Boogie Woogie Sunshine!

Exit Ticket

For my non-teacher buddies, you should know that an “exit ticket” is a name for a quick assignment you have to complete at the end of a lesson.  The purpose is to summarize what you’ve learned and help the teacher see where he or she should go next.  There are lots of different types of exit tickets, but here’s today’s….

3-Three things I’ve learned this week
2-Two moments to remember
1-Goal for the week to come

Three things I’ve learned this week….
1.  After the gas light comes on in our new van, I must drive directly to the gas station.  In my old car I could drive at least 2 more times back and forth to work.  In the van…not so much.  SO thankful I learned that the hard way on a day off and not a work day!

2.  One year olds should not play with full soda cans.  It’s quite funny to see Bubba carrying around the can, pretending to drink it, but that quiet little voice whispering that this might not be a good idea is actually right.  Man….the look on his face when we both figured that out was just priceless.

3.  When Bubba is stuck in his room by himself and mad, you can actually hear him screaming all the way from the street.  And the front door was closed.  That kid’s got some pipes!

Two moments to remember
1.  Last Friday my students and I were in the right place at the right time.  Read about it here.

2.  Girls only kickball games are the best.  I love to play kickball, but I usually don’t join in because it means less kids get to kick.  During our extra recess time today, my teaching partner made the boys sit on the curb and watch for a painstakingly long five minutes for being rowdy in the hall.  One team of girls was short a player or two, so I got drafted.  Hearing the boys’ comments over my home run kick somehow makes up for all those times I really stunk in my own fourth grade kickball games.

One goal for the week to come
1.  Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world.  Instead, be transformed by the renewing of my mind.  Repeat.  Apply.  Repeat.

So, how ’bout you?  Do you have time for your own 3-2-1?  I’d love to hear them!  Leave a comment!

© quacktaculous | Flickr Creative Commons