Friday, May 29, 2009

Hot Wheels Trick Tracks: A Lesson from the Piggy Bank

Some boys lug around their tub of cars. Others carry their blankets everywhere they go. Some have a favorite superhero. Although my son has had all these moments of favoritism, for now his loyalty involves three boxes.

These aren’t your ordinary brown boxes. These are Hot Wheels Trick Track boxes. These boxes represent all his wishes and desire, his dreams and his fantasies. Yes, he plays with the contents of these boxes, but I actually think he has logged more hours just gazing and studying the pictures on these predominately blue boxes.

The backs are his favorite. There on the back are pictures of boys raising their fists in awe as they watch Hot Wheels Cars careen through the connected Trick Tracks. He knows which Trick Tracks he has and which ones he needs to buy.

Sometime this past winter he became aware of Hot Wheels. Whenever we were in the store, he always convinced me to let him and his younger brother wander through the toy department. While the 2-year-old was fascinated by all the toys that had sounds and lights, he sat quietly on the floor, as if before a throne, and one-by-one studied each Hot Wheel’s Box. The inevitable mantra was, “We need to buy one of these.”

My response was just as predictable, “We’re just looking.”

Three months passed. He still seemed interested. His cousin got one. He seemed to enjoy it. I hate buying my kids toys. Their interest quickly fades and they only clutter the floors of our house, but this Hot Wheels fascination didn’t seem to not be fading, so I was quite excited to see him open his birthday presents, two boxes of Hot Wheels Tracks.

He was elated, ecstatic. It was worth the wait. I was as happy as he was. He played for hours each day with his new gift.

But the next time we were in the store it was the same, “We need to buy one of these.”

My response was a bit different, “You already have some. You don’t need anymore.”

“But maybe after Christmas.”

I paused, “Maybe you could save up your money and buy another one. But you will need a lot of money and it will take a long time to earn it.”

For the next couple of weeks he was focused on his goal. He’d find random coins in our house and race to his money jar. He’d ask his grandparents if he could do chores for money. He’d go to the store and say, “Maybe, now I can buy these.”

I kept putting it off.

Finally, I gave in. We took his jar of effort, bought a new box, and irritated everyone at the U-scan as we placed each penny, nickel, dime, and quarter into the coin slot. Our total was 7.99. After 3 dollars and 45 cents and way too many times buzzing for a cashier (the machine kept miscounting the amount of money we were putting in) I swiped my debit card. I figured this 4-year-old mind had learned the lessons of delayed gratification and working and saving.

Now he has three boxes to lug around. Each night he sleeps with them. When I creep back up in his room to make sure the covers are keeping him warm, I find three boxes lying on top of his comforter.

Now he randomly announces, while inspecting the demo pictures on the back of his boxes, “This one takes a lot of money. But we don’t have a lot of money. But I’m going to get a lot of money, and then we can buy one of these.”

Parenting is a strange thing. You think you’re teaching your child one thing, but they learn a completely different one, and I guess that is ok. It all seems to work out in the end. Or at least that is what I tell myself when I announce that the brownies are all gone and in response I get, “We need to buy more.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Looking for a Summer Read?

I have been rating books beginning in 2005. 10 is the ultimate read, something that sticks with me, causes me to think and rethink. 10's are books that I consider classics and timeless. The themes in these books resonate with me.

Growing up I only read historical fiction, and like to think I've gotten better in exploring genres. However, I do love a true story. I, like my father, love stories that tell of triumph against impossible odds. This means the stories I like are often not happy, and sometimes even end sadly, but in them is always a thread of hope.

Books I do not like are what I consider flicks. Stories that over time, I can't remember characters or plots.

So, if you're looking for a summer read, you may find my list helpful. If you want a specific review, let me know.

Stolen Lives, 9
Jane Eyre, 8
Mere Christianity 8
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, 6
East of Eden, 10
Under the Tuscan Sun, 6
Gap Creek, 9
My Name is Asher Lev, 10
Secret Life with Bees, 6
Don't Let's Go Out To The Dogs Tonight, 8
A River Runs Through It: didn't finish the movie though
Anna Karenina, 10
The Namesake, 6
Sometimes A Great Notion, 9
Blue Like Jazz, 3
Undaunted Courage, 7
Gilead, 7
In Cold Blood, 9
Flyboys, 9
Wild Swans, 10
A Fine Balance, 9
Devil Wears Prada, 4
The Magic Garden, 5
The Glass Castle, 9
Boomerang, 1
Queen's Fool, 7
For One More Day, 4
Women of the Silk, 7.5
My Antonia, 9
The Hawk and the Dove, 5
Suite Francaise, 10
To A God Unknown, 7.5
Mango Season, 4
Kite Runner, 10
Hidden Life of Otto Frank, 6
The House on the Lagoon, 6
Dreams from My Father, 5
The Other Boleyn Sister, 8
Wicked, 2
East of Eden (I read it again.) 10
Three Cups of Tea, 2
Thousand Splendid Suns, 7
Then She Found Me, 6
32 Bunnies and One 3rd Grade Teacher, 9
The Red Tent, 7.5
Adventures of a Half-Time Indian, 9
Flight, 9
Plain Truth, 5
House at Riverton, 5
The Reader, 10

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It Was In The Cheese

For a good two decades the mystery has endured. What was I allergic to? Was it penicillin or sulfur? I was in 3rd grade; I woke up; my mouth, lips, tongue, and throat were all swollen. It was a bit difficult to breathe. I was having a reaction, an allergic reaction, and staying true the habit of my family....we did not go to the hospital. (I now realize we were "uninsured" so that was why going to the doctor never made the top ten list when we were sick etc.)

I stopped taking the nasty liquid. My mouth, lips, tongue, and throat returned to their proper proportional sizes. All was well. Well, not really. My mother forgot to write down the medication I reacted too. From age 8 on, whenever I did go to the doctor I just told them, "I'm allergic to either penicillin or sulfur, not sure which one."

The doctors always looked at me hoping they could still write the standard prescription, "Well, what exactly happens when you take medication with either penicillin or sulfur in it?"

"Oh, you know, my airways constrict, and I can't breathe. I almost die."

They promptly found alternative medicine choices. Don't want to chance that reaction.

This allergic mystery only became really frustrating when I started having my baby boys. Being allergic to both penicillin and sulfur wipes out some major groups of antibiotics. Whenever I checked in to the hospital to have my babies, I got to wear special wrist bands warning all health care professionals to tread softly and cautiously. The bands were florecent pink and yellow.

I always scolded my mother for not writing down this very vital and useful information.
It was a glorious Memorial Day. The sun was doing what it does best. All the Oregon green was out in full force. Color spots of spring flowers were showing off. We were with our good friends, and both of us had arranged childcare. The day was ours!

Our friends packed crackers and cheeses and off we went to investigate King's Estate, a vineyard south of Eugene. It was a perfect setting for a day such as this.

We sat out on the patio and basked in the glory. I must try some of this fabulous cheese. Ok. It was pretty fabulous. Could I have some more? It was all gone. It was that good. Some fancy white cheese with caramelized almonds mixed in. The bit I got was about the size of a quarter.

Our kidless afternoon was coming to a close. We headed back, refreshed.

On our drive back to reality, I was feeling like I had a lazy tongue. I kept wondering how my glass of water could have caused this. I kept trying to form various vocabulary words, and nothing was coming out correctly. No one really noticed, just myself.

After we picked up our kids and were headed back north on I-5 I realized that my tongue was littered with sores, my throat was feeling a bit constricted, and the inside wall of my mouth was irritated and swollen.

"Honey, I am reacting to something," I described it all to my husband.

"Well, what did you eat today that you don't normally."

"Nothing," I paused, "The cheese! And you know what, I had similar cheese at a book group about six months ago and had the same sort of reaction! I think I am allergic to the molds they used to make fancy cheeses."

"Possibly. Let me know if you need me to turn the van around and head to the hospital."

My face beamed. I was actually excited. "I know what I'm allergic to! Penicillin, right?"

I went home and took some benadryl. By 11 that night my symptoms had subsided; I was very relieved, relieved that I didn't have to go to the hospital, but also relieved that I had solved my childhood allergy mystery...bummed, that fine cheeses would not become a part of my diet, but also happy to not have to be tempted to eat such fattening fare.

However, I'm not totally confidant in my detective skills. I think I will still tell health care professionals that I'm allergic to either penicillin or sulfur, but that I'm leaning toward penicillin due to a little mishap with cheese.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Warmer Days, Dirty Boys

I love summer; I love the change it brings. It seems like everyone walks around with a permanent glow, smiles fixed. I feel the sunshine, see the various hues of green and beautiful blue sky, and hear the songs of happy birds. I keep thinking, "This is just a glimpse into how great God is, and how great his plan for creation was before we did the whole apple thing."

But sin has entered the world, and so the bummer to all this sun is that my boys are sooooooo dirty. They bound out of bed and out into our little piece of paradise, straight to the dirt, sand box, garden, barefoot in the grass, mowing the lawn with Grandpa, wrestling with our large, yellow lab Oscar, helping me weed, playing in the rocks, eating in the play fort, and then running back through my white carpeted house with sunny exuberance and very dirty toes.

I really do love it, but it hardly keeps my house cleaner having them play outside. It just expands their reign of destruction. Now, they bring all these little particles of dirt into my house. I can't force them to wear their shoes outside, it is too fun, too easy to run out the backdoor without this time consuming process. So, in the house they run, with blackened feet. I try and grab them at the backdoor and give their toes a sink bath, but sometimes I can't keep up with all the in and out traffic. So, slowly my white carpet is becoming something other than white. I think my best bet is to just start saving for my September carpet cleaning event.

I hope you all know I love this. I do. I even love the evening baths and the rotting floor in our bathroom. How could I not? Amongst all this dirt and nightly splish-splash are two boys experiencing God's goodness and God's plan for creation, pure joy.

It reminds me what God must have felt as he saw what he created and saw that it was good, and even now, with all the dirt around, I think he still looks down on his creation and still sees that it is good. For this GRACE I am thankful.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Jesus Loves The Little Children.....

"Jesus loves the little children, poopy diapers!" For almost two years, the best joke in our house has been shouting the phrase, "Poopy diapers," at random. I'm tired of it.

I've tried various methods to eradicate this from our son's vocabulary. Nothing seems to stick. There used to be just one little boy prancing around the house shouting potty talk, but now we have two. Soon, three.

And unfortunately, I have joined them. When I was trying to teach my oldest syllables, I resorted to such humorous words as, "Stinky, nasty, underwear, and bottom." I received peals of laughter and two little boys falling off their seats, but also a captivated audience learning the difference between one and two syllable words.

On a long road trip, the sons were restless. Tears of frustration filled the empty space of our mini-van. I resorted to potty talk. It worked. Soon they were laughing and having the best ride of their lives.

It was time for JCPenny pictures. Our oldest had turned four, our youngest two months old. They were the focus, but I also wanted some shots of all three boys together. Our middle was to have nothing to do with it. Out in the waiting area he was smiling and laughing, but as soon as the camera was within view he melted into a pile of fear, tears, and red eyes. The photographer even worked out a way for him to sit on my lap, but for me to not be visible in the shot. Nope. No luck.

Finally, I swallowed a lot of parenting pride. I knew what the repercussions would be. The staff would later share their disgust over my potty mouth. They'd criticize. They would never do what I did, when they became parents. They would do such a better job. But I wanted the shot, so I did it. I spoke the word, "Bottom." His quivering lip slowed.

A few more of these words and we'd have a beautiful, wide smile, but the photographer cut me off, "Well, I think that is all we're going to be able to get."

Wow, I had humiliated myself and she wasn't even going to work with it. Dejected.

We got one shot of the three, but the middle has very red eyes and a large protruding lower lip.

Not only has this stage of photo anxiety been forever documented, but also this phase of potty talk. Someday when my sons bring home their brides-to-be, they'll smile and laugh, "Remember when he would not smile for a picture?"

And I'll smile and think to myself, "Remember when all of you would run around the house shouting, 'Poopy diapers....and I joined right in'?"

Maybe I'll be the only one who will remember the latter. I hope so.

(First published in The Newberg Graphic, May 2009)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Coffee at 2:30 PM, Not a Good Sign

I'm not sure where my day went, but I was not in control or in charge. Usually I stay snuggled down in my covers, with my infant sleeping soundly beside me. I wait. A little head arrives, perfectly eye-level with mine. It is my second. He's ready to get up. "Get up mommy, cheesy eggs." It is a nice way to start the day. Soon, his older brother joins us in the kitchen for breakfast. But not this morning. This morning I was greeted with, "I poppy mommy. Change my diaper."

This was a completely liquefied, poopy diaper. Not a good sign, especially with all this Swine Flu media attention. I cleaned him up and realized the plans I had for the day were going to be altered.

Then he discovered that one of his Pixar Cars, Wingo, was broken. The spoiler had ripped off the back end. Devastation. Tears. Sorrow.

While trying to comfort my middle son, my oldest awoke angry, and began kicking both of us. I'm not sure the source of his anger, maybe because he likes routine and his routine was not happening, but neither was mine. Who could I kick?

My plans for the day included a playdate for the boys while I went monthly grocery shopping.

The playdate was cancelled. Not only did I have a sick kid, but the mommy who volunteered to watch the boys was also sick.

I convinced my parents they wanted to cover childcare duties for me. I couldn't wait another day to get my groceries. We only go once a month and my cupboards were very bare. We live a good 3o mins. from a good grocery store. I could go to the local market, but then I'd end up spending over 100 dollars and only receive two bags in exchange. Not an option.

To top off the morning, we woke up to an Oregon spring rainstorm. The kids were going to be cooped up all day. This greatly effects my oldest, who gets restless and always starts acting out when he's stuck indoors.

I drove to Winco with my infant. Shopped as efficiently as possible. By the time we reached the cashier you could barely make out my infant carseat and infant who was surrounded by 12 loaves of bread, two bags of hamburger buns, some hot dog buns, and an assortment of bagels.

I literally crashed when I got home. Monthly grocery shopping is worth it, but exhausting. My oldest two boys were not as exhausted as me, bummer. They wanted me to read books. Book reading in the afternoon is an eyelid drooper, but not for my kids. They never seem to nod off like I do.

That is when I realized I could not do this on my own. I would need Joe. I staggered my way toward the coffee pot, made a cup, and drank. Maybe it was all mental, but it made me feel so much better.

Unfortunately my cup of coffee came at 2:30 pm and not 7 in the morning. Never a good sign.