March 31, 2011

PG 13

A slightly scandalous conversation I had with my 4 yr old this morning. So glad we exposed her to the wonderful world of Loony Tunes by the way. It's so much better than the Disney Channel crap they could be watching : )

March 23, 2011

Bringing out the Crazy

Today was Crazy Hair Day at the elementary school.  Basically you come to school with a dollar for charity and some crazy hair.  It's somebody's crazy hair-brained idea to make a buck.... (HA! I kill me).  We opted for a multiple braids with ribbons braided into the hair for more craziness!  I wasn't completely happy with the bad parting I had started off with on the left side of her head so, in the morning my mild OCD hinted to me that it must be corrected.  With all that wave from being braided overnight I just had to do something with it and so we put two frizzy pony tails into the mix.  It was pretty darn crazy I tell ya.  By the time we put together a crazyish outfit for Big Girl she was doing her hip-pop pose in the full-length mirror and I noticed her little sister getting a bit crazy with jealousy.  Suddenly her outfit wasn't nearly good enough and her own hair was "ugly!"  She pouted and whined all through breakfast and eventually got sent to her room so we could give our ears a rest.

This reminded me of a time when one of my sisters had a bit of the green-eyed monster with me.  We were probably 9 and 16 at the time (me being older).  We were on vacation in Idaho at the time for a family reunion.  As we both got ready to go out to a play (Into the Woods- don't ask my why I remember this...), M looked at me with a sigh and said "No matter how hard I try, I never look as cute as you do!" and she meant it fiercely.  I didn't know if I should have been insulted or thankful for the compliment.  It was weird.  And she had nothing to worry about since she was adorable.  By the time she was sixteen she was batting of boys with sticks while at that age I was hugging the walls at stag dances waiting for anyone to notice me.

It must have been a good hair day that night in Idaho.  But it struck me at the time and made me realize something about women.  We are always sizing each other up in comparison to ourselves.  Even for my Little Girl today watching her big sister look crazy/cute in her plaid pleated skirt denim jacket and grey chucks.  Why (at 4!) does she get mad instead of just be happy that her sister looked cute?  Where is the bouquet of flowers and tiara at the end of this day?  It's not a competition!  What am I doing wrong with my girls that makes them equate looking good as being better?  How do I combat this?

Sometimes I think the better a person looks, the more society places them into a certain category of 'not that smart' or 'nothing on the inside.' And that's not fair either.  I worry that some of these types may not rise to the occasions in life because they have already being labeled as 'just something to look at.'  So I say bring on the acne some day for Big Girl so she can develop on the inside.  But then bring on the clearasil because it just doesn't look good and we can't have that right? : )
It's after school... Little Girl seems to know how to hold on to her anger

March 21, 2011

Ode to Rhino

Rhino was our dwarf hamster.  He was greyish, somewhat bitey, and he was Middle Boy's birthday gift.  He was with us for just 6 short months.  Like Forest Gump, he. Liked. Running. and he would run and run in his wheel not even stopping to pee.  His wheel often had caked on pee promoting 'better traction.' At least that is what our animal expert MP told us we should think of it as.  I never quite got used to that idea.  I would often tell Middle Boy to please clean that disgusting urine stain out of the wheel before we all threw up from looking at it.  He usually would obey in a timely matter, but it wouldn't be long before the mustard colored coating would appear again, creating stinky traction for Rhino and a gag reflex for all of us.

Rhino would join T in late night exercise.  T on his stationary bike in the hobby room, and Rhino in his well-used wheel of pee stains.  We liked watching Rhino stuff food into his cheeks for long periods of time only to expel them later and hide them in his wooden shelter.  He was a true believer in food storage.  A good example to us all.  His toys included a hamster ball to roll around in, two shelters, and of course, the pee-wheel.  Sometimes we'd have to move the wheel into the center of the cage at night so that Big Boy (who has an adjacent room), could sleep better.  The noise could get loud if it was too close to the side of his cage.   We were just contemplating a ramped up cool-looking cage for Rhino when he up and bit the dust.  He had no cool tubes to run through or crow's nest to hide out in, just a boring glass aquarium.  It made my son sensitive I think.  He had hamster cage envy.  Middle Boy and I had discussed shopping online for something better because the local pet store had limited options and the employees had opinions about dwarf hamsters sliding through the slots of the metal cages that didn't sit well with my son, (or me for a whole other set of reasons).

Rhino's passing was a surprise to us all since he had been running in his wheel just hours before he fell ill.  In fact I think that wheel may have taken part in his demise.  He seemed possessed by that wheel!  Here it was 4:30 in the afternoon on a Friday and when he should have been resting up, he was awake partying in his wheel.  Hamsters are nocturnal so 4:30 was way past his bedtime.  Or way too early for him to be up depending on how you look at it.  Still- he couldn't resist the temptation of the wheel.  He probably forgot to hydrate well after his run in the wheel.  Maybe he got low blood sugar due to not eating enough.  He had food in his cage, but perhaps he didn't think to eat due to his wheel obsession.  Don't laugh, my sister is a almost a vet and that was her suggestion, low blood sugar.

We took my almost-vet sister's advise, and we placed the cold, hardly moving Rhino on a hot water bottle. We forced fluids and encouraged ingestion of Karo syrup.  We got out our heat lamp and placed it over him.  We felt bad about the bright light in his eyes so sweet Big Girl came down with a paper party umbrella (in yellow as she thought he'd like that color best.... I didn't understand her yellow suggestion now but perhaps she meant it as a reminder of his yellow-stained wheel.  She really is my most thoughtful child).  After breaking off the sharp end (for safety!) we placed the party decoration over his eyes.  We were all shocked when he actually started breathing better and moving around a bit more.  I had thought once he started to turn cold that it was time to start singing "circle of life" from Lion King.  But now we had some hope!  I found it sweet how our family pulled together during this stressful time for Middle Boy.  My oldest texted a friend to request a prayer and got out his violin and played something soothing for our pet.  He placed a piece of food nearby in case Rhino was too tired to search for it and he even thought to move the water dispenser within an inch of the rodent.  Perhaps Big Boy is a close contender for most thoughtful child (MTC).  Alas, when Middle Boy got up with his alarm at 2:00am for another force feeding of Karo syrup, he found only the remains remained.  He was buried on a Sunday without ceremony in the backyard while I napped.  Maybe I should have been more thoughtful.  I hope this post will help reflect my true feelings.  Here are my feelings... He was a beloved pet to my son and the joy he brought will be missed, but death is a part of life and I am grateful for the lesson that his death brought.  But I won't miss seeing the poo he peppered his cage with or the yellow wheel.  And I won't be rushing right out for another hamster anytime too soon.  Word to the wise: Pets defecate and someone has to clean it up.  Maybe I will just tell the kids that the memory of Rhino is just too fresh and I can't really move on to get a new hamster.  How long will that last I wonder?  On the other hand, just look at that face!
Not Rhino, but a very close likeness 

March 19, 2011

Keeping Tabs

I don't know if you other bloggers do this, but sometimes I find the most enjoyment in reading my own posts from the past.  I hate to admit this because I know it sounds narcissistic, and as my title implies, I hate bragging.  I think the reason for this is because I like to keep tabs on myself and my family and note how much we've grown.  I also feel a kinship to these posts that I edited with care.  I sorta take pride in them.  I don't just blog to chronicle what we did that day, taking photos of every event for the audience.  I blog to vent my thoughts and feelings about a topic.  If I don't have much to say, you won't hear from me for a while.  At least this is what I think this blog has evolved into... I have even stated this with pride on occasion.  Just the other day during a church meeting when someone referred to blogging as 'a journal for the world to see' I spoke up and said "that's not how I blog."  But now I feel my opinion on the subject changing.  As I took a gander at my writing from the fall of 2008, when I was writing to record our daily events for my deployed husband, and I changed my mind.  By the way I love it when this happens- change.  I love it when a character in a book goes through a transformation and someone I loathed I suddenly understand more.  The more my opinions about things change the more I realize that I am growing.  That is what we are here on earth to do right?  Change!  Grow!  So I found my opinion on my ever important opinions changing because as I read my posts the ones I found the most interest in, were the ones that involved my children and what they were doing that day.  What I had thought was the boring stuff!  Probably it would be boring to the general public but not to me.

Now I ask my writing-self.  What do I want to write?  Who is my audience anyways?  Do I still care about followers?  There was a time when I really did and I was out there commenting a lot more than I do today.  Why?  Because I wanted a return visit.  Now I find myself not having enough time or interest.   It's change people!  And I just told you how I love change.  So maybe there is change in the future for "We Don't Mean to Brag'  Maybe it's going to be a internet journal after all... nah!  I think there will probably be opinions as well.  But in an attempt to write about what really matters to me, I am going to write an update on what's going on with my kids.  I will probably do it monthly.  For those who don't know me personally these will probably be boring but reading back for us, they will be a treat.  The reason I want to do this is because if I don't keep tabs on us who will?  Nothing is more important than my family.  And like my opinions- they are changing.

So here I go.... Keeping tabs on us:

Big Boy- This guy  is really really growing people.  I can't keep enough food in the fridge for him.  He loves cheese.  The other day for an after school snack he was having Baby Bell, Laughing Cow and I think some colby jack.  I looked at the table and told him I didn't think he was including enough dairy in his diet.  I then put a container of grapes in front of him to see if he'd take the hint.  He also has a habit of not caring where all these cheese wrappers end up.  I will walk into his room and find 3-4 string cheese wrappers scattered on the dresser bed and floor.  You'd think he had no garbage can in his room, but he does!  I swear!  Speaking of his room, we have a new deal this week.  He found something he wanted to order online and it was only $4.00.  It would probably surprise you to find out what it was... He wants the sheet music to the song 'the Devil Went Down to Georgia' so he can learn it and try out for a musical at school called Rock 'n Roll Revival which is a huge deal in this area.  I told him he could buy it if he kept his room clean for a week.  We are on day three and so far he's managed to keep it up.  So much for him telling me he has no time in the morning to make his bed anymore : )  And for that song to make it in the musical he would need an electric violin.  Those are not $4.00 unfortunately.

Middle Boy- This kid has really made me proud this week.  He faced his fears -and that is something for him.  He has wanted to try out for the lacrosse team at his high school for the entire year.  He only has one instructional two week summer camp and one spring season of playing behind him.  Most of the kids his age have played for several years already and it is intimidating to say the least.  Not to mention that everyone is about a foot taller than he is.  We can't wait for growth spurting to happen with this kid.  The week of tryouts he met several speed bumps along the way.  Forgetting to meet with the team on the first day, being behind turning in paperwork, losing expensive lacrosse gear for a day, and finally after playing with the team for one day having a melt-down at the thought of ever going back.  Thank goodness for the tender mercies of his coach who let him back for a second try after missing an early morning scrimmage.  At the end of the week he has made the JV team and he is actually not the worst!  He's getting in shape and progressing (especially mentally/emotionally).  Now we have kinks to work out with his piano teacher who isn't being as flexible as we had hoped, but oh well.  It's all working out though, and we are proud of Middle Boy!  There is a young married man in our ward who is a lacrosse pro who has agreed to invite E over to show him a few moves.  Totally an answer to our prayers!  

Little Boy- He continues to impress me.  I think it's due to having two older brothers.  All his life he has been chugging along trying to keep up with the older kids and it has turned him into a motivated hard worker.  He has really enjoyed being a part of his middle school orchestra this year.  His teacher is one tough cookie and they have a bantering-type relationship with one another that he likes to share with me.  That's another odd thing about this kid.  He actually comes home and shares stuff with me.  He tells me about a girl he has a crush on (we call her curly girly after her email address-and her hair).  It's so refreshing!  He's nearly a straight A student and it's pretty funny the classes he won't get an A in to me.  Like gym or orchestra where he is the first chair violinist.  His 'group performances' are the things that are giving him the B.  I don't quite see how that is fair and maybe I am living in a dream world here and he isn't as good as all that, but for the amount I am paying in private violin lessons, I'm thinking he deserves an A!

Big Girl- She is super sweet and sometimes not.  Just now I overheard her looking for her sister's Zhu Zhu pet so the two of them could have a 'pet playdate' when they couldn't find it Big Girl suggested a prayer.  She melts my heart that one.  Wouldn't you know it, within five minutes they have found it under a seat cushion downstairs.  The pesky noisemaker was stuffed there so that they could hear themselves think.  Yes the Zhu Zhu is right up there on my list of not favorite toys right along with Heelys.  And no, I didn't stuff it there.  Poor Big Girl has had some 2nd grade drama at school.  A three-some of friends is never fun.  She was insightful enough to make this analogy the other day.  She said "I feel like I am in a tug of war with Z and J is the rope"  I suggested she not play this game and just 'let go of the rope.'  The next day Little Girl told me that Big Girl was "breaking up with her friend today".....I asked what on earth she meant and she reminded me about 'letting go of her rope.'  I couldn't believe she was following all of that!

Little Girl- Her new nick name these days is "Kissy Face."  Not only does she have the most kissable cheeks but she is a love bug herself.  I am sad for every other parent who doesn't have a girl like her in their lives.  Wow, do I sound braggy!  Maybe it's just because she is my last that I am smothering her with my love.  She starts pre-school next year and I think it may kill me.  Or maybe I will just feel all kinds of freedom and be okay with it.  She started a little dance class this month and her first class she did great!  That was the trial class and the teacher gave out candy.  Smart teacher.  Once I paid the month's tuition the candy has disappeared and so has Little Girls good attitude.  I am just glad I didn't go out and buy multiple leotards yet.  We own two from her sister's days in gymnastics.  Kissy Face's previous nick names should probably be recorded for history.  Her alias names are also 'Biggy One' and 'Strawberry One.' With names like that in your repertoire how can one go wrong in life?
Us in 2008

March 15, 2011


I once had a childhood friend who was a bit of a stinker sometimes.  She was a year ahead of me in school but only a few months older in age. She never let me forget who was the boss though.  We lived just a few houses from each other making us friends of convenience.  She had a weird habit of warning me at the beginning of each school year about how hard the grade I was going into would be ("speaking from experience").  She'd have me shaking in my new school shoes every year only to find out that it wasn't nearly as bad as I had been told.  Soon I began to feel that Sara was just a bit of a baby.  She had to make me feel bad in order to make herself feel good.  By the time we hit middle school we parted ways.  In high school we barely said hello.

I sometimes think of this relationship though when I see how people deal with one another.  And I have had this on my mind as I sit down to write today.

The other day a friend of mine (who is in a different stage of life than I am), gave me and some other friends some flowers.  She said the reason for the unbloomed daffodils that she was handing out with her freezer meal that month, was that she admired all of us in the group so much. She claimed that when she looked at us and our smooth lives and how we are managing that she thinks of bright possibilities blooming in her future as a mother.  She is in a difficult stage with several (is it 4 or 5?) small kids of very young ages.  She is struggling and she sees things as easier for us on the 'other side.'  When she left for home, three of us sat and visited for a few moments before packing up ourselves.  The subject of troubles with our children came up as it often does and I commented that perhaps it was a good thing that our flower-giving friend wasn't there to hear how it really is with all of us. It was a thing I said in jest, but really- it's true.  Every stage has it's challenges and what my stressed-out friend doesn't realize yet is that you only exchange one set of troubles for the next ones.  I sometimes wish that I could go back to potty training and sleepless nights and give back the emotional turmoil of raising teenagers.  But you can't really burst her bubble and let her know this yet.  It would only be like rubbing salt in her wounds.  Like my friend Sara telling me how much worse 3rd grade was because of all the multiplication tables.  Yes the tables turn (pun intended) and you turn in wiping bottoms for yelling and disrespect.  But at least with one you get a built in babysitter so you can escape the madness.

I find I am often guilty of the very same thing my friend from freezer meals is guilty of.  I think "I can't wait until I am in a different stage because this one is killing me."  Then it's not too long before an older wiser person reminds me that this is the best and happiest stage of life and that I should just enjoy it.  I think they must be losing their memories and I go on thinking the same things.  But the other day I had my eyes opened.  An empty-nester friend from my ward accidentally called me.  She had hit the wrong button on her cell phone and started talking to me about some problems she was having with her son.  It was totally awkward when she realized she wasn't talking to the person she thought she was.  Her son is in his thirties.  After I hung up I had the thought that those problems she was having are ones I could possibly be going through in 15 years.  The problems don't stop once they leave the house do they?  They are always our children.  The big thing that hit me was that life is messy.  At all stages.  And just like I would trade someone's little kid problems for my teen aged ones.  I would trade the problems of a 32 yr old struggling with keeping his family together for a sassy teen.  Pretty depressing.  So what is my take away message?  I guess it's to be grateful for the stage you are in because it only gets worse.  Still depressing. How about to try and gain the wisdom it takes to get through those serious problems of the future.  Maybe that is why the Lord doesn't give us kids going through the big stuff until we are mature enough to handle it.  I hope I can keep up with everything coming my way.  I hope I can be more thankful for the problems I don't have yet and enjoy my current stage.  I am going to try and buckle seat belt for what's possibly coming.

*PS: Almost as if it were a symbol of my life lesson, my flowers were killed by my 11 yr old son when he accidentally put them in the freezer with the rest of my food.  They were not blooming yet and he didn't recognize what they were.  He is too young to know any better  .....just like my friend.... and me.

March 09, 2011

The Competition

Recently I saw the movie The Social Network.  My favorite scene is the opening one where Mark and his girlfriend break up in the bar.  He's talking about what he needs to do to be noticed and she advises him to just try and be the best person he can be.  The dialogue in that scene is outstanding.  I watched it twice.  I loved the line,"dating you is like dating a stair master."

This hit a nerve with me because we live in an area where it seems people are breeding children to be very successful robots with no flaws.  The number of 'my child is an honor student' bumper stickers on the back of people's minivans is obnoxious.  Even though I now (finally) have a son who can bring these stickers home I refuse to put them anywhere on my vehicle.  They go on the fridge.  I just think is smacks of "my kid is better than yours" and it isn't sensitive.  Maybe I am the sensitive one.  So sorry if I offend those of you with stickers on your vans...

The competition out there is not just in academics or music.  Parents start their kids in sports as soon as they can walk it seems and they don't accept failure.  The yelling from the sidelines is enough to make one want to call social services sometimes.  Okay, I know not everyone is like this and I may exaggerate a bit, but there seems to be a lot of pressure to win in Montgomery County. Those parents with only 1 or 2 kids seem to have an unfair advantage over me, with fewer places to drive and fewer children to prod along.  It would seem we are doomed for last place in many things.  I am okay with that... really.  I just want my kids to be well rounded and happy with themselves.  But they feel the pressure too, and sometimes it gets to be too much for them.  My mother's heart then gets a bit on the defensive and I feel like lashing out at this crazy system where we are taught that if you're not the best you should start digging a hole to hide your head in.  I had to hold my feelings back when a jockish teenager in my Sunday school class seemed to be poking fun at any boy who would play the violin.  I needed to remember he is just a teen, and probably tainted by the competitive environment we are raising our children in.

I am not against competition or achieving at your highest level.  I think it's even somewhat healthy and is what drives us to achieve.  I just think there is a balance there that some overlook.  And there is never room for putting others down for what they choose or for not being the best.  My friend was telling me about an article she read recently about how Chinese parents are the best because they push their kids to achieve.  I informed my friend (not Chinese btw) that she should know that teenage suicide rates are much higher amongst Asian teenagers.  When we lived in Korea we saw the poor kids who would have no play-time at all due to studying.  Many of them, from a very young age, stay up past 10:00 pm every night studying.  During the biggest exam week of the year when high school students take their big entrance to college exams, no one is allowed to honk their horns while driving through the streets.  I found that pretty funny.

So it was no surprise to me when I took my two violinist sons to the music festival this weekend that it seemed about 80% of all the musician children there were Asian.  Some of them played so beautifully I was moved to tears.  I thought they we wouldn't stand a chance because sometimes I let my kids play video games and watch TV.  So you can imagine how proud I was when Little Boy's group tied for 2nd place in his division and Big Boy's group placed 1st!  I overheard Big Boy telling one of his leaders at church "We let the hammer DOWN on those other groups with our Mozart Quintet in C Major YO!"
Yeah, he's not competitive at all.... : )

This is actually Little Boy's group playing a quartet by Telemann
Big Boy's piece is over 10 minutes and won't seem to download.

March 01, 2011

Eating My Words

Well wouldn't you know it, just as I was getting cocky, thinking I was making great strides in the parenting department, the weekend had to go and happen.  Turns out I am much more patient when they are away at school for 8 hours.  Saturday I tried to plan something that would get us out of the house and also motivate them to do some chores.  We went to see the movie Gnomeo and Juliet.  I had heard that it was surprisingly clever.  I wish I had not heard that because I'm afraid I raised the bar a bit too high.  It was worth it to see my 4 yr old laughing her head of next to me though.  I just love seeing their personalities blossom.  She has quite a sense of humor that one.  Big Boy and I had a harder day.  He was especially cranky and wanted to argue over everything.  I kept my cool but it was not easy.  Later on the way home from the movies he turned on me hard after I mentioned his taking all the hot water for his shower again today.  It must have been bad timing for me to mention such a thing because this is what he said to me "Did you know that there hasn't been a moment this entire day where I wasn't seething with anger towards you?!"  I had to smile underneath the shock of it.  Dramatics always make me a bit silly inside. "Really?"  I replied.  "Should I be afraid for my life?"  Being dramatic in return may have not been the wisest choice and a bit of a seed-planter as well.  "Don't think it hasn't crossed my mind" was his quick reply.  I wish I could have eaten those words prompting his death threat, or just have been quiet after that.  Why can't I?  I know one shouldn't take their teenagers words personally.  It's just the hormones talking right?  But what is hard for me is this... Where do you draw the line between letting things run off your back and ignoring the insult, or saying 'that's enough, you just crossed a line buddy- you cannot do that'  I went with the 'that's enough' parenting this time.  Will he learn from my punishments not to threaten his mother's life (even in jest)?  I hope so.  But more than likely he will just think I am mean.

Family night tonight was both great and awful.  There was charades (great!) and then there was a cheating accusation (awful).  There was poster decorating for T's return and at one point someone said "our family is really cool"  (great!) Then one of the boys shouted "shut-up!" and that was awful.  The worst of it was that he was telling me to shut up.  He spent the rest of the night in his room and couldn't be coaxed out even with two girl scout cookies.  But to be fair, they were the trefoils.  The dog ate them off the floor.  The most I could get out of him was that he was over-reacting to me because of something I had done earlier to make him feel/look stupid.  I can't for the life of me think of what that could have been.  And he fell asleep before we could talk it all out.  Maybe that is what he needed was sleep.  Frankly, it's what I need too.  My nights sleep was awful last night.  T will be home tomorrow so HOORAY!  We will all be more sane with him around I think/hope.

On the bright side we got our tax returns and I am secretly spending it (in my head) on furniture.  We need something to help out with limited space in our kitchen and I am thinking possibly an island from IKEA.  While I was at it, I looked into a secretary desk from Ebay to put the lap top on in our kitchen/dining area.  I am tired of using the kitchen table for my lap top and moving it around for meal times all the time.  But we are limited on space in here.  Do you like this one or this one better?  I am torn myself.  Probably we will end up with neither.  Do you think I can convince my spouse that these options are cheaper than a kitchen remodel thus making him happily skip on over to IKEA and buy me that island?  He hates the idea of cheap furniture from IKEA.  Maybe the walnut antique Ebay desk will balance things out.  Maybe not.  Because when I started talking furniture to T on the phone earlier today he quickly told me he was falling asleep.  Maybe I should do the same when he starts talking about buying a new road bike....