Monday, August 24, 2009

First Day of School

It's the most wonderful time of the year! That's right, school starting! And the angels all sang the Hallelujah Chorus, and the world was happy. At least this mom was happy. The boys started back to school today, and they were both excited and nervous. They were going to a magnet school this year - last year was a pretty rough year what with a 6 year old bringing a gun to school in Sam's class, Levi being bullied and abandoned by his one friend, and Sam going through three different teachers. And that was all at our neighborhood school. So we decided to send them to a magnet school in the bad part of town - sounds reasonable, right? But we visited the school, and we were very impressed. The kids all seemed happy, and they do so many neat things like produce a television show for their morning announcements, and learn how to do all sorts of technology things, and there was also a lot of positive incentives that was sorely lacking at our old school. But anyway, I'm not sure who was more nervous today - Levi or me? Bless his heart, if I could've gone in there and made friends for him, I sure would have. I've been praying for weeks now, "Please, God, please - just one good friend, that's all I ask. Just one good friend." I mean, who wouldn't want to be friends with this kid?

He exudes coolness. I mean, peace and Tech, what else could you ask for?

Thankfully, he got into the car this afternoon and announced that he had 2 1/2 friends. That is 1 1/2 more than he ever had last year. And there was a good part of the year where he had none. He did some complaining about the teachers being mean, but I have heard that the teachers are really good, so I tried to encourage him that all teachers are mean on the first day. He said he was also confused a lot. This is the first year for him to switch classes, and so he's got to get used to that. He just likes to know exactly what's coming and what to expect, so that will come with time. This is the child who wakes up every morning and wants to know exactly what is planned for each minute of the day. And he's asking me...the person who would rather not have a plan at all. When we went to Meet the Teacher, they were talking about a math game that they needed to play at home on the computer every week, and he started to freak out! What is this Math Mania? What if you won't let me on the computer? I swear I could see his heart rate rise, and his pulse start to race. Chill out, dude. We'll figure it all out. No worries. To which he replied, no comprende.

Then, on the other hand, we've got this dude:

Who was absolutely fired up to be the new kid in school, who revelled in any extra attention that might come his way, who when school was over, he wasn't sure exactly where I was supposed to pick him up, so he just started walking in the neighborhood (luckily I found him before he got too far!) while his responsible older brother was stressed out and worried that he couldn't find him, asking all the teachers where Sam was. Not a care in the world. He struggled with reading last year, but told me his new teacher told him he was a perfect reader. His teacher is cousins with London from Suite Life with Zach & Cody (if you have never seen it, count yourself lucky!) and London always says, "Yay me!" in the show. So when Sam had to write a paper about his first day at school, he wrote at the end, "Yay, Miss Xiong!" "Do you think she got it?" he asked me. He was so proud of himself for thinking of it.

So, in closing, I think this was a pretty successful day. I won't stop praying, but I feel much better. There is a lot of guilt that goes with moving your child around and taking him away from the only friends he's ever known, especially when last year was so bad. My main prayer is that someday he will be able to look back and say that the moving around helped him to become a more well-adjusted person and not a crazy old recluse who lives in a shack by himself and yells at kids to stay off his lawn.

Here is one more picture of both of them:
And, yes, they wear uniforms at their new school, which I am very excited about! And after supper tonight we went on a bike ride, and just watching them ride their bikes in the khaki pants and polos and bike helmets, I said, "Look! They look like miniature Mormons!"

Monday, August 17, 2009

Who's the Psycho?

One day when we were in Ruidoso, we had spent most of the day at the condo, and we were all getting a little cabin fever. So we set out to find a hiking trail. We had been hiking the day before on a trail we had been on before that was really pretty and ran into a little waterfall.

It was a nice easy trail, and Levi and Sam hiked a little further up the river while we stayed behind with the little ones.

Which left us plenty of time to throw sticks and rocks in the water, which for a 3 year old, is pretty much the greatest activity in the world.

And also plenty of time to pose for pictures, which for certain little girls is pretty much the greatest activity in the world.

And we even had time at the end for happy group shots.

So, since that hike had been such a success, we decided to try a different one. We went by the Ranger Station and picked up a map of all the hiking trails, and found one labeled "Moderate" but it was only a mile long, so we figured that would be no problem.
It took us a while to find it - plenty of winding up deserted roads, and when we finally found it, it was pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but right beside a tent campground, and one guy was camping there. I was pretty sure I saw him cringe when we all unloaded and the kids started running around. I'm sure he was happy to hear us disappear into the woods.

So, since it took us longer than we thought to find the trail, it was a little later than we had anticipated when we started, about 6:30. But we start out happily, taking time to snap a few pictures on the way.
Cool trees:

It's important to always flash your gang signs in every picture. Levi belongs to the little-known Mork & Mindy Gang, they are small in numbers, but very fierce.

Anyway, we are hiking along, and Steve decides to use this as a learning opportunity. "What would you guys do if Mom & I were both knocked out?"

Thankfully, Lily-Grace was up ahead out of earshot or that one comment might have given her nightmares for a month. So we discuss different options, and here is where I realize I may be watching too many of those real-life crime stories, because my main thought is, "What would you do if that guy back at the campground turns out to be a psycho, and he starts to shoot us all?" Thankfully, I did not actually voice that because that would guarantee nightmares for everybody, including me!
Well, it is not too long before the trail starts to get really steep, but it doesn't last long, and pretty soon we start the descent. Did you know that the descent is actually much harder than the ascent? Well, at least it is with 4 kids. Mercy! I didn't know if we were all going to get through that without starting a major collision that would carry us all down the hill in one giant snowball. Joey was still walking on his own at one point, with him & Steve bringing up the rear, when Steve cries out in an alarmed voice, "Honey! Catch him!" And Joey is barrelling uncontrollably down the hill right toward me. Luckily, I caught him and we escaped with no broken limbs. However, in the next 30 seconds, Levi comes barrelling down the hill at me, hollering, "Catch me!" There is a huge difference between a 30 pound child coming at you, and a 100 pound child! I didn't know what to do! At the last second I let go of Lily-Grace's hand and braced my feet and put up my hands like I was playing football! It worked and we didn't all go tumbling down the hill together! I did decide after that, that I didn't want to be in the "catching" position anymore! I also began to be thankful that we had had that conversation about both of us being knocked out as it was starting to look more likely!

It finally levelled out, and I realize we have already been at least a mile, and we really don't know much about this trail. On the map it looked like it could either loop around and bring you back to where you started or join on with another trail that went on for 7 miles. It was getting darker, and I think Steve was getting delirious because he started saying things like, "Wouldn't it be cool if we saw a bear?"

"Um, sure! Better a bear than a psycho with a gun, I always say."

We really didn't know what to do. Should we keep going and hope the trail looped back around or turn back and climb back up that awful incline that we had just come down? Steve thought we should just keep walking for 15 more minutes, so that's what we did, but ultimately we had to turn around and come back the way we came.

Can I just say this girl is a hoss?

She may look like a scrawny primadonna, and that would be true, but she did not complain one bit! She sat down one time, saying she was too tired, and we just said, "Okay, you just sit down and rest, and catch up to us when you can!" And she just hopped right back up and never complained again! (We would have been fine with waiting, but it really was getting dark, plus the whole psycho guy thing was weighing heavily on my mind!)

Let me just say, that was hard! And I was so thankful she was a hoss, because that meant that I didn't have to carry anyone on my back in a baby backpack. Steve carried Joey for a lot of the hike, and I know that was just a leetle difficult.

We finally made it back to the car right before it was completely dark, and I am happy to say we saw neither a bear nor a crazy psycho with a gun. He was peacefully sitting in front of a campfire when we left, probably relieved to see us go so he didn't have to worry about sending out a search party for the psychos who went hiking on a trail when it was almost dark with 4 kids!

We took a picture when we got back so we can remember exactly which trail it was, so we can make sure to never go back again!

Friday, August 14, 2009

See the Resemblance?

We're home now.'s good to be home. You know, except for the 4,592 loads of laundry I have to do. Yeah, except for that. So, instead of doing that because really, clean clothes are overrated - just ask my boys. I thought I'd leave you with a little gem from the dad of the kids that my kids befriended at the condos.

You know Joey lost one of his front teeth? I don't think I ever told that story, but it is a story to tell for sure. But for now, just know that he lost one of his front teeth, and the child likes to smile - a lot. And the husband of the food-whiner noticed it, and said, "Aww...he lost a tooth! He looks so cute! He looks just like the joker."

"Wow. How....sweet."

Yes, I definitely see the resemblance.

"No," Steve said, "I think he meant the Jack Nicholson Joker."
Ooh! Well, why didn't you say so? Yes, that's so much better.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why Y Chromosome, why?

What is it that comes with the Y chromosome that renders them completely and totally unable to search and find something? What? I need to know. I do not understand this. This is a scenario that is not infrequent at our house:

"Mom! Where is my ________?"
"It's in your dresser, middle drawer."
At this point I assume that the child will go into his room and open the drawer to search, but I am not so sure. I'm beginning to wonder if he just goes to his room, stands in the doorway and expects said item to magically appear in his hand as a reward for walking into his room. Since that has not happened, he is now forced to yell back at me that it is not there.
"Yes it is. You have to look for it. Perhaps even move some stuff around. I know that sounds tough, but I feel sure you can do it."
The same thing goes for food items in the fridge. They want to open the fridge, have the item they are looking for right there in front of them, preferably with a flashing neon sign that says, "Here I am!"
While these things happen regularly in my house, I have become accustomed to them, but something happened this week that I may never understand.
As I mentioned, we are staying in a small condo, with 2 bedrooms. So, I unpacked the 3 younger kids clothes into dresser drawers so we wouldn't have to have 3 suitcases taking up the precious floor space. The second day Joey was in there, and I looked in on him, and saw that he was moving the clothes around. I don't know why, but I didn't really care. It was keeping him busy, he seemed to be happy, and it didn't involve markers, lotion, or water, so I felt like it was a safe activity.

When Sam goes in there the next day to get some clothes he opens the drawer where his clothes used to be, and finds it empty. What would you expect someone to do at this point? I don't know, but I would figure that my clothes had not all magically vanished into thin air and look in another drawer. At the very least I would ask my mom where my clothes were. But, apparently Sam just seems to accept that his clothes are gone and gets some clothes out of Levi's suitcase that is on the floor (I didn't unpack his.) He wore the same shorts he had been wearing because Levi's shorts wouldn't fit him, but wore Levi's shirt, socks and underwear.

I didn't notice it was Levi's shirt because I have recently moved a bunch of Levi's shirts to Sam's side of the closet, and I'm not really sure whose is who's anyway - I just look at the sizes when I put them away. And I didn't notice Sam was wearing the same shorts because they were his denim shorts and he has several pairs that are just alike. So this goes on for 2 or 3 days until one day Levi comes out saying he doesn't have anymore socks or underwear.
"What? I packed you plenty."
"Well, Sam has been wearing mine."
"What? Why?"
Sam answered, "Well, my clothes are gone."
I go in there and find them in the drawer right below where his were. Why? Why don't you look? Why would you choose to wear underwear and socks that are too big for you rather than go to the effort of opening a few more drawers to find your own clothes?
And so now, Levi is in a pickle. While Sam can wear Levi's clothes, the opposite is not necessarily true. Thankfully, he is a boy who has no problem wearing dirty clothes, because Lord knows I do not want to spend my vacation doing laundry.

P.S. Okay, all you people who are sending me messages about writing more blog posts, did you notice two days in a row? Pretty impressive, huh? Now, show me some love by leaving me a comment. It is pretty hard to get motivated to write something when I think 2 people are reading it. You don't have to sign in - just sign in as anonymous and sign your name at the end of your wonderful and uplifting message. Love you!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We are in Ruidoso enjoying the coolness of the mountains for a little vacation before school starts, and we are staying at these little condos. Well, the kids met some other kids on the playground the first night, and it has been wonderful! It is amazing to me the camaraderie that kids instantly have. They were all on the playground, and I was sitting on a picnic table nearby to keep an eye on them, and their dad was watching to. At first, everybody was swinging or doing other things, and then Sam says, "Okay! Who wants to do an obstacle course?"
Nobody answers him, but this does not deter him. He just asks each person individually, "Do YOU want to play? Do YOU want to play?" etc.
This was a little surprising to me because I really don't see Sam as a leader, but clearly he was comfortable in this roll. He got everyone rounded up and then set out the course for everyone to follow. That was all it took, and now they are all fast friends.
Scott & Ashley show up at our condo first thing in the morning and ask if they are ready to go swimming, or they come over and watch a movie, or they play in the playground together, or play each other's video games, etc. It really has been nice because the pressure is off us to entertain them every minute of the day - they can always go check on Scott & Ashley.

You know that camaraderie I mentioned with kids? Well, it doesn't always happen with adults so easily. Last night Scott came down and asked if we wanted to go out to eat with them. We decided it would be a good idea since our kids have been hanging out together so much. So we all went to a mexican restaurant to eat.

Well, we got seated quickly and the mom immediately asks them to bring out some of the hottest salsa they have. "Bring out 3 or 4 bowls of it!" she says.
The waiter does that, and they taste them, and proclaim loudly, "This isn't hot! And it is too salty! It isn't even fit to eat! Tell your chefs to make us something HOT! Throw some fresh green chiles in there."

The waiter is a sweet young guy with a nice smile, and he says that everything is prepped ahead of time, "We've got 4 Mexican cooks in there - no chefs! And they barely understand English - I think this is the best you're gonna get."
"This is a mexican food place that doesn't know how to make salsa?"
"I guess you're going to want me to take that off your check?"
"WHAT? You charged us for this?"
"Yes m'am. I have to charge everything that I bring out. But I'm pretty sure I can get my manager to take it off."
"Well, you do that! This isn't fit to eat!"
At this point I pretty much wanted to crawl under the table. I kept trying to smile at the waiter to let him know we weren't all like that without letting her see me smiling at him and risk setting her off in my direction.
Then, bless his heart, he had to come and tell us that they were out of the chicken strips that all the kids had ordered. He looked like he wanted to crawl out of there rather than have to come tell us that.
She flipped! "What? And you're just now telling us!" (It had been about 10 minutes since he had taken our order) I quickly get all my kids to choose something else while she is insisting that he bring her the manager.
When the manager comes, she explains that the salsa is not fit to eat, we don't have any silverware, and now they are out of chicken strips and it has been 30 minutes since we ordered, and he is just now telling us that!
I will have to admit the manager was not very nice, and it got pretty ugly, but I really couldn't tell you details because I got very busy trying to clean Joey's mouth or something like that. At one point her husband was telling her, "Down, girl!"
Finally, thanks be to God, our food came. Joey was sitting between her & Steve, and for some reason, she fixated on Joey and wanting him to take a bite of his hamburger. She kept holding his hamburger up to his mouth, and saying, "Hold this with 2 hands, take a big bite." And, I swear, Joey kept stuffing one fry after another into his mouth to avoid her and looking at me out of the corner of his eye like, "Who IS this woman?" I feel your pain, Joey, I really do.
The poor waiter came by as little as he could get by with, and we ate as quickly as we could, got to-go boxes for the kids to finish up at home, left the waiter a $10 tip and got the heck out of there!
I used to pride myself with my ability to get along with anybody, but I think I may have met my match.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tooth Fairy

This is Sam. He just turned 7. This was him at Christmas - I don't mind saying that I thought he was absolutely adorable and able to sing "All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth."

Also? I look at this picture and can not believe how much he's grown in the last 6 months! Stop it! Stop it, I say! He lost another tooth this past June on the way to our family reunion, and it got lost in the car. Sam is usually not one to get too worked up about things, and this was was no exception. I thought about suggesting he write a note to the Tooth Fairy explaining what had happened, but then I thought, why bother? If it doesn't matter to him, it certainly doesn't matter to me!

Plus, have I ever told you that I had a real fear of the Tooth Fairy when I was little? It's true. Scared to death of that innocent little fairy. It totally creeped me out to think of some strange person flying into my room and getting under my pillow. But, the thought of getting a dollar was still pretty good, so I finally compromised by putting the tooth on my bedside table. But then I would lay awake at night with my back to the bedside table and worry and fret about whether the tooth fairy had come or not. And I would try SO hard to get up the courage to peek over and look at the table and just see if that dollar was laying there, knowing that if I could just see it, I could relax and go to sleep. But I couldn't look! What if the moment I turned I would look and see her? The horror! I'm not sure what I thought a little fairy was going to do to me, but I knew that you shouldn't see the tooth fairy - it just wasn't done. I had never heard of anyone actually seeing the tooth fairy, so if someone had, they must not have survived to tell about it!

The last time I ever put out a tooth, I was laying there imagining every sound to be the tooth fairy, and I finally got up enough courage to call my mom, never looking at the bedside table. She came in, and I confessed that I was scared to death of the wretched tooth fairy, and she convinced me to roll over and look, and thankfully there was the dollar. I went to sleep and after that decided all that worry just wasn't worth a dollar anymore. I know, I had issues.

So, anyway, I thought maybe Sam had those same issues too and didn't want to admit it, so I didn't say anything. Well, two nights ago, out of the blue, almost 6 weeks after he lost the tooth to begin with, he casually mentioned that he had put a note under his pillow for the tooth fairy. This is what it said:

Dir tuf fare I lost it. Can you tek tis not giv me mune. Sam Brooks

He doesn't mince words, does he? Let's not bother with little niceties, just give me the money! Well, the tooth fairy didn't respond so I said it was probably because he was so rude and didn't ask nicely. So, the next night, he tried again:

Dir touth Feree can you Pleese giv me munee Sam

Then he drew a heart for good measure and a picture of him holding a tooth with the tooth marked out. Apparently it is just too hard to try to explain everything in writing, and they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

It must have worked for Sam because there was a dollar the next morning, and she left the note. Sam thought probably because it was so big it might mess up her flight patterns. He said I could keep it when I asked for it, and it would save him time anyway because he was sure to lose another tooth, and it would save him all the trouble of having to write such a long, drawn-out note again.