No More Wire Hangers!!!

Someone, ahem, told me I need to be more positive about my kids whilst blogging. So, don't give up on me!

Life is really getting so much easier for me. I no longer require a visual on the boys at all times. Yes, one can wander behind a wall without my fearing he will attempt to pry off outlet covers. Not the outlet plugs. Even my dog can pluck out those useless pieces of plastic. The cover plate that is screwed into the wall. How in the world? Um, that really happened. On several occasions.

Here's how easy it's getting around here. One day last week I vacuumed the entire house. The whole darn thing! I had started out during naptime just wanting to get downstairs done. It was killing me, and I'm not even psycho about clean floors. Okay, maybe the kitchen floor. But that's it! We had even had company the previous night, and I didn't even have the decency to vacuum for them. So, proof of my regular, not psycho, need for freshly vacuumed carpets.

When the kids' rest period was over, I honestly thought I was done with my beloved miracle of machines for the day. My plan for the time between nap and Keith's arrival was to do some number/counting activities with the boys. Oh, they can count: Garris to 20 and Ivan to at least 10. But they need help assigning those values to objects and digits. This plan included a special number puzzle from the playroom. When I retrieved this spectacular teaching tool...Gasp! The purple number 7 was missing!

Are you hearing horror movie music like I am? You know...the music that plays as someone's being stabbed to death behind a shower curtain.

Again, gasp! My mind flashed back to a scene a few days prior when I walked in on all 3 of the kids...even Avery...hurling various wooden puzzle pieces across the room. Oh, I lost it. You know I did. Throwing. In. My. House. This time...enormous gasp! After apparently a not-so-thorough glance that my demands had been met and all pieces were returned to their rightful homes, I hadn't thought about those puzzles. Until now. Dun dun dunnn! WHERE IS THE PURPLE NUMBER 7?!!!

Picture the scene in Mommie Dearest where Joan, in a fit over the use of wire hangers, shakes out a powdered cleaner all over the bathroom and orders Christina to wipe it up. One by one I dumped out the toy bins and ordered the kids to put back their contents. In hopes of finding the missing purple number 7, I showed the kids how to shake out each item before placing it back in the proper bin. They quickly lost interest in this charade, so I told them we would do nothing until it was found. In the end, I spotted that pesky purple number 7, which had fallen out of an overturned toy bin and rolled just under the edge of the couch, and we all rejoiced for the end of my madness. When all items were stored away, the playroom floor was evenly coated with lint, fuzz balls and tiny bits of trash. What is a gal to do?

Well, we did our number activities. I also included a Cheerio counting exercise to double duty snack time during the lesson. Once finished, I assigned each child to a very separate location downstairs with a puzzle and instructions: If you work on this puzzle until the timer goes off, you can watch a movie until Daddy gets home. Which would give them about 10 minutes of viewing time, but I kept that tidbit to myself and let them proceed with motivation. Meanwhile, I zipped up the stairs with equipment in tow. I started at the top of the stairs and worked my way back to the playroom. May as well do all the rooms while the vacuum is up there, right?

So, I'm holding fast to that claim about being normal...and not psycho...with my need to clean. As for missing puzzle pieces? Hmm...

Okay, the truth. I'm not as wretched as you are thinking. I mean, who would go that nuts over 1 little puzzle piece. There were in fact 3 missing puzzle pieces. A red triangular prism that we found right away and a yellow, pegged circle that has yet to be spotted.

What? You want to see more of my gorgeous children? Okay... Here are some more shots from the summer.

This is from BB, Before Boys. Keith and Avery had a fun Saturday morning of water color painting. Avery's picture looks a bit like Ariel, and Keith titled his masterpiece "Origins of Drag Queen." I'm not sure who was more amused by the activity.

If forcing kids to pick strawberries and blueberries in the heat is child labor, that's not what we're doing here. Avery joined us as well, although she was too deep in the bushes with her BFF for me to get a picture.

Ivan is mad because he has to put the berries into the bucket instead of his mouth.

I'm surprised there aren't more pictures with laundry baskets in the background, as they were scattered about the house the first 8 weeks. Initially, I let Ivan fold the kitchen towels, which I use instead of paper towels...the reason none of them match. But I had to revoke that decision because he was such a perfectionist about it...refolding any towel that wasn't perfectly aligned and getting upset with a stack that was off centered. Poor little guy. Who knew this is what would become of the toddler who we saw continuously snatching and hurling items across the visitor's area at the orphanage.

More examples of the goofball we somehow produced. Seriously, neither one of has a single silly bone. It looks as if she's sketched a torrential downpour...and is laughing or cursing the unfortunate soul standing just outside the safety of that nearby tree.

Ivan spends much of his day laughing...at himself of course...or trying to get others to laugh. He's bound to end up on stage one day.

Magic spell? There is no other explanation as to why all 3 of them appear to be at rest on the couch...at the same time...in the middle of the day.

I think this was the first day Avery sweetly invited the boys into her room to play dress up. Here, Ivan has applied his own make up and finally settled on a pair of green and white suede boots. Garris spent most of his time working to find just the right number of hair accessories. Obviously, the more the better, right?

At one point, both boys were wearing fur coats. I must find those pictures!

Family Dedication, a.k.a. Baby Dedication, at our amazing church Four Corners...and our pastor Alex Early on the left.


Almost a Shower a Day

In addition to an update for you since the post about all of our changes, I'll also clarify that I am totally serious when writing these. Meaning, truthful. You may be laughing, but this is my life. Yes, I really thought I was dying on our 2nd day in Ethiopia. The only reason I didn't strip my clothes off was that I saw the remainder of my life flash before my eyes, and it included my presumably dead body...naked...being carried out of our guest home. Plus, I couldn't move my limbs, so add impossibility to embarrassment.

Yes, I really wear protection when I do laundry. I have always done other household cleaning with gloves...an item I travel with in case I encounter even a soiled dish...but the contents of Ivan's laundry basket now necessitate the use of them during this duty. On more than one occasion I have found a very used, very old, very stinky pull-up near the bottom of his basket. Surprise! Disgusting. On the upside, for now the laundry flows just a few feet down the hallway but stops before entering my room. Yay! Kids are still helping with their laundry, and I'm about to add the sorting step to their end of the chore. Soon Ivan will be the one to find and dispose of the urine-soaked wad.

My belt is still residing in the van, although I have only had to use it once in the last two weeks to restrain a child. But, I have pulled it out several times as motivation to buckle up more quickly. It still hasn't been used to it's full capacity yet, i.e. for spankings. And as you might know, I never will.

I purchased 2 packs of boys' undies, and Ivan hasn't sported Dora since. Once he started wearing boys' undies consistently, he noticed the little slits in the front and informed me that his were "broken." I'm not sure I can explain to him why those holes are there though. Uh, a little help, please. Anyone?

In addition to the "chart" system, we've incorporated 3 marble jars as well. Now I find the kids sharing with a sibling at the first request, not even a request from me but from the empty-handed sibling. Opportunities to gain or lose a marble are endless. Marbles can be exchanged for treats like ice cream after dinner or special privileges like a movie and popcorn. This may not be the best parenting approach, but it works for now with our limited communication and experience.

Naptimes are bearable. The only requirement, or my goal for now, is that everyone stay in a room alone and in a bed for the most part. Right now, it's only one child I'm battling consistently. Unfortunately, he is the one who actually needs the nap. I typically smother him to capture the flailing limbs. He likes it though and buries himself into me. I just smoosh him, making sure he has a breathing hole, and wait for the signs he's fallen asleep: flinching and barely audible whimpering. One day last week it took an hour. I know this is a huge "sleep crutch," but I don't care. It's either this or walk him back to his bed every few minutes...after he's come to find me to point out some random fact or after I've found him dawdling in the hallway or bathroom. Plus, when I pick him up at any point during this rest period, he squeezes me so tightly with his arms and legs I can barely breath. What horrible mom would say no to that?

As disgusting it may sound, I really would go several days without showering, unless a dip in the pool counts. Some days there just wasn't a point in showering. And, although my dental hygiene is more important to me than my physical hygiene, often there was no way for me to get to a toothbrush until naptime, and at that point I was nearly brain dead, so who cares about clean teeth then. I couldn't let the kids out of my sight, so my options were drag all of them up to my bathroom and somehow keep them out of harm's way while I selfishly brushed my teeth or simply forgo this small, and often unnecessary, piece of my routine. Recent improvements in my hygiene: I purchased my own toothbrush and paste to keep downstairs, which means I just fall right in with the kids in their morning routine. My teeth get brushed at least twice each day. Wait! It gets better! I have been getting 5-6 showers per week! Woo hoo! That is all thanks to my gym membership with childcare, plus a new giant fantastic bag on wheels. Just ask Keith about it. He'll tell you all of it's many features.

So the black vertical bag on the bottom is my new gym bag, the reason I'm taking showers again. The yellow one on top of it is what I tote the rest of my life around in. And, that medium-sized orange rectangle is my wallet, which conveniently straps across my body so that my hands are free to keep my children from being run over when walking to and from the vehicle.

I'll take this time here at the end to post some photos from this summer. I have many more and hope to get to them soon.

Awesome Dad! Throwing Garris while Ivan is on his shoulders.

Avery striking a super cool pose at the pool.

Garris showing off that he can write his name.

Ivan loves adorning himself in stickers as much as Avery does. Um, he is practicing the skill of tracing...and below, circles.

Seriously, how did I get such a goofy daughter? And, her brothers are only exacerbating it! I have no clue why she's showing off her enormous biceps here. But, so cute!

Obviously, good at writing numbers...almost all of them.

A rare moment of cooperation. Pure bliss!


A Big Fat Muffin Mistake

The picture below is quickly becoming not only a fair representation of how our household works but also the kind of mother I have become with 3 kids. Vacuuming isn't a chore I have, in all my cruelty, assigned to a 4-year old. I mean, one day I'll gladly hand it over. But for now she needs too much assistance and still misses too much mess to make it worth the effort. My effort.

Friday I had made the kids a special breakfast of chocolate chip muffins, which the boys kept calling cookies. Yay, Mom! Ho, ho hold on! Big mistake. Huge. When I saw a layer of crumbs under each child's chair and watched Ivan tease me by waving his muffin as far away from the table as his skinny arm could reach to shake the excess onto the floor, I gave the warning that he who made the biggest mess would clean the floor. I issued this warning knowing I would ultimately be the one who gave the floor its final inspection, but I'd let them take a fair swing at it on their little hands and knees. Well, moments after I announced the consequence, Avery looked at me, smiled and dusted all crumbs from herself and her chair onto the floor. At that point, the boys could have crumbled their remaining muffins beneath them and made less of a mess than she had.

How, you ask, is this picture a good representation of what my life has become? Despite Keith's efforts to steer the boys away from young chick flicks like Tangled by forcing them to endure the movie Cars and the dark side of He-Man, their most recent favorite movie is Annie. Yep, the one with Albert Finney and Carol Burnett. And, they are quickly falling in love with The Sound of Music, too. But, back to Annie and its relation to the picture above.

The boys seem most entertained not so much by the storyline, which...thankfully...I doubt they actually understand, but by a few details: 1) The fact that "Daddy Warbucks" is bald...much like their own daddy's self-imposed baldness. 2) The orphans' constant mockery of Miss Hannigan. 3) Miss Hannigan's mistreatment of the orphans. Oh, plus they have turned the song "Tomorrow" into "Two Marbles" because of their endless bickering and bragging over who can get or has the most marbles in his "marble jar."

They particularly love scenes in which Miss Hannigan manhandles the children by taking hold of their shirts to bring them closer while giving them some arbitrary instruction or when she goes off on a rant screaming, "Kill! Kill! Kill!" Yes, my boys imitate Miss Hannigan doing such things. Our friend Andy tells me they love Miss Hannigan because she and I have so many of the same qualities. Am I really that evil? What have I become? She's only one notch above Mommie Dearest! Why didn't I punch him? Well, this is the same Andy who came and divvied out lunch to 2 of the kiddos while I dealt with the 3rd in the pit of hell. And, if it weren't for this kind act, and many others, I would have.

So, I might be okay with reminding my kids of Miss Hannigan. I feel bad for her. Surely she didn't start out as this horrible woman. No, no, no. Those kids drove her crazy. Drove her to drink. Drove her to throw herself at every man who enters the picture, including Mr. Bundles. She probably started out at least liking kids. Now look at her! One day the punishment dolled out was skipping lunch altogether while the reward was getting cold mush for lunch. Now, I know which is worse in my book.

While I don't demand that the kids clean the floors until they shine like the top of the Chrysler Building, maybe I am a little like Miss Hannigan. Besides the chores we do each morning, cleaning is a logical and natural consequence to many of the kids' infractions. In our house you will often find kids washing walls, wiping down chairs, scrubbing bathroom floors, washing out sinks, etc. Having them clean is 3 fold: It pulls them away from a fun activity. Boo! It provides a way for them to make restitution for the wrong. Fair. And, it lightens my load. Yay!

For instance, if you put dirty shoes on the back of the seat in a vehicle, you get to clean a portion of that vehicle. Did you forget to take your own dishes to the sink after a meal? Well, you can pick up after everyone and clean the table. It's not always cleaning. You purposefully tore the puzzle box? You lose the privilege of playing with puzzles for a day. My kids seem to learn quickly, which I may regret because the van was looking mighty spiffy for a while.

These consequences have come with a recent restructuring of the way we do business around here. (Thanks to 2 books I've been reading: Creative Consequences by Blair from The Facts of Life and Parenting with Love and Logic, residing in my gym bag so I can double duty it on the treadmill). For a while I conducted my days like a short-order cook, servant and maid. No wonder the kids treated me as such. Sometimes we would begin a day in the vicious cycle of rude demands countering one bad mood. Or vice versa.

I can't do everything for my kids and expect them to be grateful...or even turn out okay. Those kinds of parents raise kids who grow up with a sense of entitlement. Having taught in schools on both ends of the socio-economic scale, I have known many kids who think they are entitled...and many who are grateful...and it's pretty easy to tell who came from which class. Plus, I'd wind up bitter because gratitude just isn't going to happen when life is handed to you on a silver platter. However, I can teach them how to do it for themselves and hope they grow in confidence and in character.

And, I won't be offended at hearing, "I love you, Miss Hannigan!"