Monday, October 08, 2012

Political Surveys

Tonight I read the kids a funny story as a bedtime story. The kids got into a huge debate over whether it was funny or not (are all siblings like this?)

Anyway, they were a little riled up when Adam came up to say good night to them. Almost as soon as he made it upstairs, the phone rang and he ran back downstairs to answer it. In no time at all, he was back upstairs.

"Who was it?" I asked, thinking it was his parents, returning his call.

"Oh, it was just one of those political surveys," he replied.

"Aw, man, you should have let them talk to me!" Xavier said. Then assuming a foreign accent, he said, "Hel-lo. You have reached the butt-wax factory, and we'd like to give you a free moonshine?"

(This is a commonly heard joke around our house that Xavier picked up at school. Public school has a lot of virtues, but nothing is perfect.)

But then Gwen continued, "If you are interested in taking us up on our offer, please call our toll-free number: 1-800-865-8900."

Adam replied, "You're going to redirect political telepollsters to WVTF's toll-free pledge line?"

I bet that's more than our local NPR station had bargained for.

I went to Xavier's Parent-Teacher conference today. He's doing fine -- As and Bs -- but the first thing his math teacher said was, "We really love Xavier. He is so funny.

"Here we are, what, 30 days into the school year? And yet, every day, like clockwork, 'Ms. Oster, do we need to do the back of the page?' I don't even answer anymore.

"But today, Xavier said, matter-of-factedly, 'What do you think? What is the answer to that question EVERY DAY?!? Of COURSE we have to the back of the page. Why do you think she puts something on the back of the page if we don't have to DO the back the page?'"

Well, someone had to say it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Paging Prince Charming

Today we were teasing Gwen a little at dinner about boys and marriage (thinking, as clueless parents often do, that neither were in her immediate future.) Gwen suddenly said, "If I ever get married, the man I marry needs to be really smart ... but not as smart as me. He has to always agree with everything I say, and he has to do what I say ... And he has to take my last name." Like I said, I don't see either in her immediate future. As if to drive the point home, she added, "I'm going to be a bachelor ... a bachelorine? A bachelorina?" "A bachelorette." "Yeah. My friend Gloria (name changed to protect the innocent) and I are never going to get married -- we're going to be the bridesmaids!" Now, how often do you hear a woman say that as if it were a good thing?

Monday, April 23, 2012


Happy New Year! Yes, I know it is April. Wanna make something of it?

So, hopefully I am not letting any cats out any bags, but my brother is expecting a son in June. He has decided to name him James. Now, don't get me wrong, James is a perfectly nice name (not to mention a Splendid Red Engine), but it is a rather common name, and our last name is relatively common. When I asked my brother why they chose 'James', he named a number of reasons, one of which was, "It's Biblical." When I relayed this to Adam, he said, "There are lots of Biblical names. Why couldn't he have picked something a little more unusual ... like 'Zebulon'?"

At night, I say prayers with the kids, and one night shortly after this, when we were saying prayers, I finished with, "... and please watch over Zebulon ..." as a little joke. Gwen and Xavier perked up their ears. "Zebulon?"

"Oh, Dad is kidding that Uncle Ez is going to name his son Zebulon. They want to give their son a good Biblical name."

Xavier volunteered, "He wants a Biblical name? I know some great Biblical names."

"Oh, really? Like what?"

"If he were my son," Xavier announced happily, "I would name him 'Kings!'"

Xavier was doing some homework for Social Studies tonight; for a set list of famous people, he was supposed to draw a picture of each person, then write a short caption describing what that person had done. Unfortunately, I cannot post the pictures here, but his captions should illustrate the level of commitment he brought to this exercise:

George Washington: Father of our Country.

Thomas Jefferson: Wrote the Declaration of Independence.

Abraham Lincoln: Freed the slaves.

Cesar Chavez: Boycotted grapes.

Sometimes brevity really is the soul of wit. I'm not sure his teacher will agree with this assessment, however.

Friday, December 30, 2011


Hi All! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! It was my dream to get Christmas letters out this year, but the kids have been keeping me busy. In some ways, I think it was easier to blog when the kids were younger; weird to think that when they required constant supervision I actually had more free time.

Anyway, the State of Virginia has mandated that this week be a vacation week (not a "free" vacation -- more like a furlough where I can offset the loss of income by using banked vacation time), but Adam's employer has not been similarly generous, so I have been spending the time trying to keep the kids occupied. This can be a challenge, as you can well imagine. Things we have been doing:

o Playing Scalliwags. If you are not familiar with this game, you can check it out here. The gist of it is that you use different body part cards to create pirates, and when you have enough pirates, you can "set sail"; the only problem is that the other players use event cards to make sure that doesn't happen.

After the second game, the kids got tired of losing, so they cast the game framework aside and just started using the body parts to make funny pirates. The natural extension of this was to start plotting adventures for their funny pirates. This was a good use of time (allowed me to clean up after lunch, to fix dinner, clean up the mess the cat made, etc.), although it has led to rather stilted conversations at dinner ...

Adam: So I got my bonus check today, and --

Xavier: Hey, remember that time when she hit him with the oar, and he fell in and almost drowned?

Gwen: Ha! Ha! And remember how she ended up with a green head after that and how none of them want to go out with her?

Adam: What, was this from Tintin?

Gwen (dismissively): No, Dad, this was from playing Scalliwags today. (Back to Xavier) And remember the time ...

I guess you had to be there.

o Working on the Pinewood Derby cars ... except this was an aborted project when we realized that we won't be able to attend the actual pinewood derby. After massive disappointment, Xavier announced to me today, "Since we can't do the Pinewood Derby, I've decided to use that block of wood to make a sculpture."

Me: Um, okay.

Xavier: Since I've never done this before, I decided to do either Emperor C. C. Caesar or the Korean Empire.

I'll let you know how that goes.

o Going hiking ... except Xavier caught a cold over Christmas and his asthma has been an issue. We did try walking through the neighborhood yesterday, and everything was going fine until a dog behind an invisible fence stalked, lunged for, and growled at Xavier, making him cry, and exacerbating his asthma even more ...

Luckily, we went to Tintin in the afternoon, and Xavier was reassured that while most dogs might go to hell, a few fictional ones might go to heaven.

As with most vacations, I'm sure this one will end with me being happy to get back to work so I can take a break (KIDDING! But software is less likely to fall down the stairs while clowning around.) I hope you all have a wonderful 2012, that it is better than 2011, and that I have more time to blog next year. In the meantime, there are bedrooms to clean (sigh).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Uh-oh, it looks like this is about to turn into a Holiday-only blog -- I guess I'll have to work on that.

We just got back from Thanksgiving with my parents in Reedville. In addition to getting to see my parents, we also got to see my niece, Chloe, which was nice. My parents have a little house, though, and having three kids in it can get pretty rough, so we spent a lot of time keeping them occupied. Among the things we did:

1. Play Croquet. I have never played croquet (in my memory), but my mother has a set and Xavier seems pretty keen, so one of the first things he did when we got there on Wednesday was to set up the wickets. Every morning after breakfast, Adam would go out with Gwen and Xavier (Chloe was less than keen) and play a game.

One day, Adam came in after a vigorous game and gave us the highlights. "... and it was really close, and Gwen lost, but she is coping really well." This was stated with his back to the window; meanwhile, my mom and I are looking past him to where Gwen is sitting on the ground, venting her fury on the grass.

My mother said drily, "Not anymore."

2. Go to the Playground. This activity was also pursued every day, although sometimes the scent of burning leaves or the "Smell of Money" (as odors from the Menhadden plant are euphimistically called) kept active play to a minimum. The kids like to play a game called "Evil Zorg", where the supervising grownup chases them around the playground and, after catching them, puts them on a swing to "catapult them into Outer Space."

One of the complications of this game is that Chloe and Xavier tend to get jealous of each other during play (perhaps because they are the same age), so when I am Evil Zorg, if I try to catch Gwen or Chloe, Xavier keeps placing himself in my way, saying, "Here I am!" (and usually ends up switching sides, becoming "Evil Mini Zorg.") If Adam is Evil Zorg, then Chloe is the one who keeps getting in his way. Given that the playground is built for kids (read: low hanging bars), the combination of equipment and children throwing themselves in your path makes for quite an obstacle course.

On Wednesday, after we played for awhile, Chloe asked if we could return to the house, because she was pretty cold. "Okay," I replied, "although I was thinking of walking to the end of Main Street to see if the ice cream store is open."

"All right, let's do that," she replied.

3. Going to the Movies. We saw "The Muppets", and aside from a tussle over popcorn and our disappointment that Pepe did not play a larger role, a good time was had by all. Evidently its failure to satisfy our "Pepe" craving was a bigger deal than I thought, because Xavier (and, to a lesser extent, Chloe) spent the rest of the weekend trying to imitate him ("I'm going to the bathroom now, okay?" in a very poor imitation of a Spanish accent.)

4. Teaching the Kids to Play Spades. The kids had a lot of fun with this, but the nuances of some of the strategies escaped them. "Chloe, you can't go nil with the Ace of Spades."

5. Riding Scooters. Actually, only Gwen and Chloe had scooters, so Xavier and I were often left WAY behind. One time when we were on our way home and the girls were out of sight, I suddenly heard a distant, "Mandy! Mandy!" Chloe zipped into view. "Mandy! Come quick! Gwen fell and hurt herself!" Message delivered, she whipped around and started zipping off, Xavier racing behind her, and me (carrying all the coats and not the fastest runner in the best of times) running a distant third. We ran a little less than half a mile to where Gwen waited crying on the side of the road ... in front of the house next door to my parents house.

"You know, Chloe, you could have gotten Gwen's dad in less time than it took you to come get me," I pointed out.

"Well, I asked her what she wanted me to do," Chloe conceded, "and she told me to come get you."

Despite the risk of boredom, we actually did not allow the kids to play video games very much -- we tried to keep them occupied in other ways. Still, no matter what the day was, even on Friday, when we went to the playground AND the movies AND the model trains exhibit at the museum, when Chloe's mom would call and ask what Chloe had been doing that day, her response was always, "Playing on my Nintendo DS." I shudder when I think of what a great impression we must have made on her mom.

Last but not least ... I got Gwen and Chloe matching Christmas outfits at Target. Chloe thought this "twinning" was pretty cool. As I was braiding her hair the day they wore the outfits, Chloe remarked, "Mandy, just think, if Xavier were a girl, and we were all wearing the same outfit, you would have to braid Gwen's hair into three braids, mine into two, and Xavier's into one just so you could tell us apart!" Never mind that they are different heights, have different hair colors, etc. ... sometimes I shudder when I think of what a great impression I must have made on Chloe.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and safe trips!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Sigh ... it doesn't feel like Halloween this year. I didn't throw a party because my contract didn't get renewed until the last minute (October 24th), and it is hard to get in the mood to party when you are wondering if you need to be in the mood to work on your resume ... but it looks like my job is safe until next October!

Also, the kids opted to go to their weekly drama class instead of Trick or Treating. I know -- I KNOW! They must be sick! (Or, in the case of Xavier, putting his future career ahead of transitory pleasure ... no, no, must be illness.)

All the same, we have had some good times ... just last night, Xavier was talking about comic books he wants to write, including the "Wonder Willie and the Barnyard Catastrophe!" (Hopefully with maturity he will rethink the wisdom of that name.)

(Sorry, I was just held up at gunpoint for my Halloween candy. It might have been kind of cute, but there is something threatening about a trick or treater with a gun who is taller than I am.)

Today Xavier was looking at a picture of Gwen when she was younger and remarked, "Wow, she used to be so blond!"

"She's still blond!" I replied before Gwen could get upset.

"Yeah, but she used to be the Blondest of the Blond! Now she's getting Cherry!"

"Cherry? Don't you mean 'Strawberry Blond?'"

"Nah. I like cherries better."

For Halloween, Gwen was a Redcoat from the Revolutionary War. Needless to say, not many people got it right off. At the party they attended yesterday, Gwen was barraged with questions on what she was: Pirate? Marching Band Member?

Finally, Gwen told them, "British soldier from the Revolutionary War." Under her breath, she added, "I guess no one ELSE here is in the fifth grade!"

Well, I better wrap this up; more treats to hand out, got to go get the kids (now that will make for scary driving -- through our dark neighborhood with children running hither and thither). But you'll hear me explain as I drive out of sight: "Happy Halloween to all, and to all a Good -- HEY! Get away from my bushes with that toilet paper!" Gotta go.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday School Facts

Xavier's Sunday School teacher approached me today. "Wow," he said, "Xavier is just bursting with facts."

"Really," I replied. "Any of them accurate?"

He gave a careless shrug. "Most of them. He raises his hand, but he ends up blurting stuff out anyway because he is just so excited. Which is great, because it means he is interested!"

Poor guy. He has been teaching the third and fourth graders for years and I have never seen him quite like this about a student. Sure, he liked Gwen and commented on how she liked to read, but he also found her shy and hard to bring out. I guess he deserves an enthusiastic student after all this time.

He continued, "And Xavier always asks to be the one to read -- that's really unusual for a third grader, especially a boy."

"Well, Xavier is a pretty good reader for his age. And he wants to be an actor."

"I can tell! Just from the way he reads!"

OK, I am a Christian, but a third grader reading the Bible enthusiatically? I'd love to be a fly on the wall in that classroom.

Instead, I simply asked him, "So, have you covered the lesson on the High Priests yet?"

"No, why?"

I think he'll figure it out.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Religious Wrong

Hopefully I won't get into too much trouble for this; after all, I am a Sunday School teacher. Of course, if I get fired, I won't be missing much, because the pay is lousy.

Anyway, I was reviewing my Sunday School lesson for tomorrow, which is about the high priests quizzing Jesus. As soon as I saw the title, I said jokingly, "I wonder if I should play the High Priests' song from Jesus Christ Superstar to put the kids in the mood." (The song is technically called "This Jesus Must Die" for the sticklers out there.)

Adam said, "Why not?"

Of course, I happened to say this in front of the kids. My show-tune loving young man yelled, "Why don't we listen to it now?!?"

So, for the next half hour, the kids and I boogied around and sang that song (and the song after, "Hosanna") over and over and over again. Then it was time to take Xavier to a birthday party, and THAT'S when the trouble started.

Xav: I can't get that song out of my head. "Must die! Must die! That Jesus must die!"

Gwen: Me either!

Me: Well, you better not sing it at the birthday party -- someone is liable to be offended.

Xav: But it is so hard!

Me: Let's sing something else, then.

Xav: Doe, a deer -- no, wait! Who can take a rainbow ...

Gwen (thoroughly sick of the Willy Wonka play): No!

Me: Who can take a rainbow ...

Finally, in self defense, Gwen joined in. I figured by the end of the trip that Xavier was safe.

No such luck. When I picked Xav up from the party, he told me, "Darn! I had to sing 'Hosanna' at the party, and I thought I was by myself, so I sang, 'Jesus, I am on your side, Kiss me, kiss me Jesus!' And suddenly Ian was there, and he was like. 'What?!?'"

"Oh well," I replied. "It could have been worse ..."

"Yeah," Xav replied. "I tried to explain to him about Jesus Christ Superstar, but he didn't really understand it. I expect he'll tell everyone about it, and by the time Monday rolls around, who KNOWS what they'll be saying about it? But I really don't care."

A good attitude to have, I guess, but I don't look forward to the phone calls ...

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Budding Novelists

I was combing Gwen's hair this morning while she and Xavier were eating breakfast. Out of the blue, she said, "My relationship with Bethany is ... interesting."

Given the abruptness of the comment, Xavier and I laughed. Then I said, "You know, that sounds like the first sentence in the first chapter of a novel ..."

Gwen said, "Yeah, a novel called My Relationship With Bethany."

"No, that would be too obvious ... it would need to be more complicated than that ..."

"Yeah," commented Xavier. "It should be something like How to Kill a Blue Jay."

(I should note that Gwen does not have a bad relationship with Bethany, just, evidently, an interesting one.)

Friday, September 02, 2011

School Daze

I was looking at one of Xavier's school notebooks. The teacher had put a form on the inside to identify the student, and Xav filled it out as follows ...

NAME: Xavier Barnes


WHAT SHOULD I DO TO DO WELL IN THIS CLASS? Pay attention to my posture, listen and learn.

Now, for some subjects this might be appropriate. Science? Not so much. "So, Xavier, how would you conduct this experiment?" "Well, first I better check my posture ..."

While Xav was doing his homework the other day, he commented, "You know what, Mom? It's easy to spell 'pieces' because it has 'pie' in it. Get it? A 'piece' of 'pie.'"

I agreed that it was clever, until I took a look at his math homework. At the top, I read, "Name: Pieces". What could I do? I added, "(aka Xavier)."

The kids are having sleepovers at our house tonight. I peeked in at Gwen and her friend. "Good night, girls!"

Almost without looking up from their books: "Good night, Mom." "Good night, Gwen's Mom."

Looking in at the boys, who were sitting huddled on the bed looking at Xav's Nintendo DS, I stepped in and put my hand on Xav's shoulder, playing it cool. "Good night, boys."

Xav's friend: "Good night, Xavier's Mom."

Xav: "Aa-aa-aa!"

Looking back, I saw his gesturing with his hand in a "get back over here" kind of way. "You don't think you can get away without a hug?"

I went back and hugged him. "I didn't want to embarrass you in front of your friend."

"Yeah, well, I've seen Dan here 'embarrassed' a few times. It's okay."

Sigh ... better enjoy it while I can.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Timely Message

When I arrived to pick up the kids yesterday, there was a storm sweeping up. Thunder rumbled ominously in the distance. Lightning split the horizon. Wind whipped up the raindrops that were spitting at me and turned my hair into a tangled mess (even more so than usual.)

Once inside the school, the safety patrol were donning their school-issued yellow panchos. Emboldened by the excitement of the pending storm, they were running up and down the halls at each other, yelling, "I can fly!" and "I'm Batman!" Needless to say, this undercut their air of authority somewhat.

By the time my kids had been released from their classrooms, the rain was coming down in curtains, spun into dervishes by the driving wind. In light of the fact that I had forgotten my umbrella (not that it looked like it would have done me much good even if I hadn't forgotten it), the kids and I decided to exit the school by the door that was closest to our car (which was still some distance away.) Once outside, we raced for the car, but even so, were thoroughly soaked by the time we got there.

As I started the car, Xavier shouted brightly, "WOW! They weren't kidding when they said that Irene was going to be INCREDIBLE!"

The problem? We aren't on Irene's projected path. For that matter, at the time of this event, Irene hadn't even made it to the US yet. "Um, Xav, this isn't Irene."

"It's not?"

"No, it's just a garden variety thunderstorm, kicked up by a cold front moving in."

Clearly disappointed, Xavier sighed. "What's a cold front?"

Gwen, our budding young meteorologist, was happy to tell Xavier all about cold fronts, and how thunderstorms can form when they move into warmer areas. Xavier was not, perhaps, the most attentive of listeners, because when Adam got home, Xavier greeted him with, "Hi Dad! Did you see that INCREDIBLE cold front that went through today?"

On that note, if you are in Irene's path, stay safe! And Gwen and Xav both say hi.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

When Play Becomes a Chore

Gwen is going through an age where some of the activities that entertained her even a few months ago are now "boring". For example, a little while ago Adam suggested that they go to the playground "now" (9:00am) so they could avoid being lathered in Sunblock (something they HATE.) The only way we could get Gwen to go was to promise her that I would call them in half an hour, when I would go with her on a walk.

Fifteen minutes later, I saw them returning to the house. I went out on the deck to see what was up.

Xavier: Gwen was afraid it would storm.

Me: But the sun is shining!

But the best part was when they came in, and Gwen said, "Xavier? Legos?" This amazed me, because Gwen NEVER asks to play Legos -- Xavier is the one always begging HER to play. But before I could ask, she followed it up with, "We might as well get it over with."

The funny thing is, at the same time Gwen is pursuing more mature pasttimes (like playing on the Wii), she is in a deep depression because she is starting to show signs of growing up. We were going through her fall clothes to see how much of her wardrobe we were going to have to replace (quite a lot, as it turns out.) To her great disappointment, one of her favorite sweaters is a bit too small.

Gwen: But I still love it!

Me: But it doesn't fit!

Gwen: It feels comfortable to me.

(Adam and I confer.)

Me: All right, Gwen, you may keep the sweater, but only if you wear it with a training bra.

The sweater is now sitting in the Good Will pile.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Babies and the Cinema

We were looking at the pictures my friends Vicky and Ryan had posted of their brand-new baby boy.

Gwen: "Awwwwww ..."

Adam: "So little!"

Me: "He looks like Ryan in this picture ..."

Xavier: "My precious ... gives us the ring, my precious!"

Congratulations, Vicky and Ryan! And, no, your son does not look like Golom ...

In another esoteric cinematic reference, we were watching the Star Trek "Naked Time" episode. Sulu was running around with his shirt off and his sword drawn (a REAL sword, no sexual allusions -- this is a family blog). Suddenly he hears someone coming down the hall, so he ducks around the corner and waits ... waits ...

Suddenly, Xavier pipes up in an exaggerated French accent, "Ka-a-ato ... !?!"

Someone has been spending WAY too much time watching old Pink Panther movies.

By the way, congratulations are also in order for my friends Joel and Lorree, who ALSO just had a baby boy (evidently Xavier was wrong about the gender -- see earlier blog on that.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Beanbag Chair

The kids like to sit in the beanbag chair and play video games with Adam before bedtime sometimes. Caliban likes sleeping on the beanbag chair all the time. The past few times the kids have played with Adam, the cat has refused to be uprooted from the spot, so the three of them have shared the chair, with Gwen and Xavier jumping and thumping and working the joystick while Caliban dozes (since no one has offered him a joystick.)

All the same, the kids are getting bigger, so that chair is really getting small to hold all three of them. The kids won't take it out on the cat or make him move (although Adam thinks they should), but they do snap at each other. Last night after playing games, Xavier was sullen afterwards. "Gwen mashed my foot -- it was under the bean bag chair and she pressed down on it with all her weight."

"Xavier, will you give it a rest?" Adam groaned. "It was an accident!"

"No, it wasn't," Gwen replied coolly.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Sigh. You know you've been an inactive blogger when you log into blogger and find that your profile picture is gone. That is just sad.

A bunch of my friends are having babies (and soon you, too, can flood the Information Superhighway with funny stories -- well, once you start sleeping again.) I noticed on Facebook that my friend Joel is expecting his first with his wife Lorree who has a five-year-old son named Ian from a previous marriage. Ian has made a lot of funny observations about the pregnancy, such as "I plan to be a daddy someday, so I think I should get presents now," and "I'm glad I'm not a girl so I can't catch pregnancy." Yep, Joel, there's a lot of bloggable material right there!

I read these posts to Adam the other morning and had a good chortle while Xavier was choking down an early breakfast before going to Cub Scout Daycamp. The Daycamp is over half an hour from town, so we have a car-pooling arrangement with the parents of three of the other boys from the pack -- Ben, Nick, and Ian.

The morning in question was our turn to drive, so after finally getting Xavier into the car, we arrived at the rendevous point a couple minutes early. Ian was there even earlier because his mother needed to take his teenaged brother somewhere and she was in a hurry. Ian, clearly drowsy, plopped down in the seat next to Xavier.

Xavier turned to Ian, and said casually, "So ... I hear your mom is having a girl."

Ian (not Lorree's Ian) started bolt upright and cried, "WHAAAAAAT?!?" Fear of another sibling is clearly more invigorating than a double expresso.

I wonder if hinting at the arrival of another child would help wake my husband up in the morning.

PS Joel, I have no idea where Xavier got the idea that you guys are having a girl (of course, he has a 50% chance of being right.) Still, I wanted to make that observation before rumors get started ...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Xavier seems very mature for an eight-year-old sometimes ... then again, sometimes not so much.

He has taken to reading Adam's cast-off "Funny Times" magazines (against his mother's somewhat Victorian better judgment -- nothing like having your son ask you to explain a cartoon about a woman who ends up causing all her lovers to have heart attacks), and it turns out that this has proven educational in ways I hadn't expected.

"Those Gawps are hysterical!" he laughed one night. "How stupid do they think we are?"

"Who?" we asked.

"The Gawps!"


Impatiently now. "The GAWPS!"

"How do you spell it?"


We explained that G.O.P. stood for the Republican party. He pondered this for a minute. "Then why are the cartoonists all Democrats?"

Today I took him to the endocrinologist (everyone there gushed about how cute he was. I told them that was why we were there.) Afterwards, rather than take him to the babysitter's, which was a little out of our way, I took him with me back to the office. While we were there, one of my coworkers, Brad, stopped in to answer some questions I'd emailed him.

When we picked Gwen up today, we were talking about scheduling because both kids have camp but at different times. "Do you want to go to the babysitter's, Gwen, or would you rather come to work with me while you aren't in camp?"

"I don't know," she replied.

"Aw, Gwen, you should go to work with Mom!" Xavier said. "You get to drink all the soda you want, you can draw on the white board, and talk on the phone to Dad. Also, this guy came while I was there, his name was Brad, and he has a nose earring that was so little that at first I thought it was a little silver pimple ..." Yeah, silver pimple -- just the look Brad was going for, I'm sure.

And -- for the record -- I only bought him one can of soda.

Thursday, April 07, 2011


Since the House and Senate can't come to an agreement on a budget, this blog will be shutdown as of 12:01 Saturday morning. Just kidding! Although, now that I think about it, given my level of inactivity, you may have already thought it was shut down.

On the flip side, upon hearing that national parks will close on Saturday morning, Gwen started to panic. "Does that mean the Cascades will close?"


"The Blue Ridge Parkway?!?"

"Well, it seems to be closed a lot of the time anyway, but yes."


"Uh, no, Surf and Sound is a commercial entity."

Gwen visibly relaxed. Our trip to the beach is safe.

Sibling rivalry takes many forms. Gwen is approaching the ripe old age of ten, and, as a result of things that are mostly happening to other people (her friends), we've had to spend a lot of time doing "Girl Talk." You know what I mean -- discussing various facets of growing up.

The other day, I went to the health food store; Gwen stayed home, but Xav tagged along. As we were buckling up, Xavier asked, "Mommy, since Gwen isn't here, can we do some 'Boy Talk'?"

Since I'm technically a female, at least last I checked, I felt a little awkward in the role of 'adult educator' for my eight-year-old son. "Well, um, wouldn't you rather talk to Daddy about 'Boy Talk'?"

Wounded look. "No, I want to talk 'Boy Talk' with you. Now."

"Ummm, okay. So, uh, did you want to talk about puberty?"

"Naah, I'm not as anxious about that as Gwen is. How 'bout we talk about soccer? Or maybe about making cupcakes?"

Whew! What a relief ... as long as we are not playing soccer with cupcakes.

Monday, February 28, 2011

My Job Is So Hard ...

While I was researching Gene Prediction for my Journal Club meeting tomorrow, Xavier plopped down next to me to see what I was reading (I think he was hoping for YouTubes.

After a second, Xavier gave a long sigh. "Poor Mommy, your job must be really hard. Heck, this isn't even written in English!"

The sad part is -- it was written in English. And I'm still not sure I understand it any better than he did.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Minimalistic Conversation

Gwen and Xavier's teachers say that they have advanced vocabularies. What I wonder is, how can they tell?

Xavier: Gwen? Soccer?

Gwen: Homework.

Xavier: Mom, play?

Me: What play?

Xavier: Legos?

Xavier: Mom? Milk?

Me: In a minute, Xav.

Xavier (ten seconds later): Mom? Milk? Remember?

Me: Gwen, how was school today?

Gwen: Good.

Me: What did you do?

Gwen: Work.

Gwen: I'm worried.

Me: Why?

Gwen: Because.

Me: Because why?

Gwen: Dunno.

Xavier (reading the blog): Mommy? Down?

Me: Do you mean you want me to scroll down, or put you down?

Xavier: Scroll down.

Gwen: What?

Advanced vocubularies, eh? Just sayin' ...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Sins of the Parents

I hope everyone is well! Xavier is mostly recovered from the flu, and the rest of us are holding our breaths, hoping we don't catch it. But so far, so good!

We're going over the finer points of language at our house these days, as well as keeping promises, and being aware of other people's feelings. We have this conversation almost every day:

Xavier: Gwen, when?

Me: When what?

Xavier: When is she going to play Legos with me?

Me: Xav, your sister does not want to play Legos all the time -- you need to learn to like playing Legos on your own.

Xavier: But she said she would do it after she finished (insert whatever activity here).

Me: Gwen, did you say that?

Gwen: Well, yes, but ...

Me: Well, then, you should have told him you didn't want to play with him in the first place -- go play Legos with him.

Gwen: Grrr! (Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!)

And a good time is not had by all. Sometimes I wonder, "When the heck will Gwen learn to say 'no' instead of putting her brother off? Why do we do this again and again?"

But then I remember THIS conversation that Adam and I have over and over again (this week, in fact) ...

Xavier: Cough! Cough! Cough!

Me: (Sniff! Sniff!) Are you cooking (insert aromatic food like onions or bacon)?

Adam: Yes.

Me: Adam, you can't cook that when Xavier is sick -- you know it sets off his asthma!

Adam: Grrr! (Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!) Well, I guess I should just forget about cooking entirely when Xavier is sick!

... so evidently the kids come by it naturally.

The indoor soccer season is winding down. The indoor soccer program did not include practices, but Xavier's "regular season" coach offered to coach practices on Fridays, and I think Xav enjoyed the practices more than the games.

Gwen was also allowed to participate in the practices. She was always really psyched about going, but the practices also always ended in tears because almost all the other players were aggressive little boys, and Gwen is not aggressive. Since she wasn't willing to break into the fray and steal the ball, and eight-year-old boys aren't big on passing the ball at all, let alone to girls, she got very little "ball" time and she'd take it personally.

At one of the recent practices, Xavier noticed that Gwen was upset. He tried to pass her the ball a couple of times, but she usually didn't notice in time and someone else would get the ball. Finally Xavier screamed (so loudly that EVERYONE in the soccer gym could hear it), "PASS GWEN THE BALL! WHAT THE HECK IS THE MATTER WITH YOU GUYS?!?!"

Xavier may be small, but he has presence. After that, the other kids ALL passed the ball to Gwen, and one of the boys even gave her a high-five after she made a goal.

He's such a good little brother -- even if he is always bugging her to play Legos.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Well, I'm sorry to have to report some very sad news this holiday season: the kids are no longer funny.

Kidding! But it sounded better than the usual: too busy, too tired, blahblahblah, so I thought I would spare you. It is after all the Holidays!

No, the kids and I have been plenty busy. Our New Year's Resolution (well, mine, anyway) is not to sign up for as much next semester. One exciting thing the kids did this semester was to participate in a weekly drama group for kids which culminated in a production of the Christmas Carol last weekend. The kids had a great time, although one of the high points was the night they got their parts.

Gwen, with a level of excitement that can only be achieved by a child (or a grown man who has discovered that his junky old car is really a spaceship in disguise), announced, "I have one of the best parts, Mom! I get to play SCROOGE'S MAID!"

"Scrooge's maid?" I replied, searching my memory trying to remember if Scrooge even had a maid. It seemed like an expenditure Scrooge would have bypassed if he could.

"Yes! And guess what? I get to SELL HIS BED CURTAINS WHEN HE DIES!" she chuckled sinisterly.

"Wow," I said appreciatively, realizing what character she was talking about. "Pretty creepy! The maid took the curtains off his bed while his dead body was still lying in it." (I remember the creepy parts.)

"She did?" Gwen asked, surprised. Then, "They didn't mention that. Ick."

"And guess who I get to play?" Xavier chimed in. "I have TWO parts."


"I get to play FEZZIWIG!" (Scrooge's boss from the Past, in case you don't have the Christmas Carol memorized, as I certainly didn't.)

"Okay, cool. And who else?"

"MYSELF!" It turns out that in the production they were in, the Christmas Carol was a play within the a play, and in an outer "shell" play, a group of kids were walking home from school and discussing the book.

Anyway, the director stressed over and over that the kids (all of them, not just mine) needed to be LOUD and exuberant on stage, because there was a tendency to be quiet and a little wooden onstage. Apparently, no one took this to heart like Xavier did. In the beginning shell play, the dialogue went something like this (note punctuation -- it is accurate):

One girl: What are you talking about.

Another girl: We're talking about the Christmas Carol.

Xavier (set volume to 10): I LOVE CHRISTMAS CAROLS!!!!!! (entire audience, as well as the kids onstage, flinch) CHESTNUTS ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE!!!!!!

Evidently Xavier got the impression that he went overboard on the loud, because the first thing he asked when we met him after the play was, "Was I good loud, or TOO loud?"

Two nights later, we went to the post-production Cast Party, which was about as you would imagine a post-production Cast Party to be, except with more children's games and no alcohol (so, really, not much like an authentic cast party at all.) One game the kids played was called Bus Stop, where the kids took turns sitting at the bus stop in pairs and each kid picked a character from a story to play (ie, Cinderella, Austin Powers, etc.)

When it was Xavier's turn, the dialogue went something like this:

Cinderella: Hi, my name is Cinderella. What is your name?


Cinderella: I like going to balls and dancing. What do you like to do?


I hope the director is more careful what she wishes for in the future -- Xavier signed up to be in Dramatic Mondays again NEXT semester.