Thursday, April 24, 2014

Being 4 is hard y'all

I would have to say that so far, age 4 is my absolutely favorite age, hands-down. Still small enough to want lots of cuddles but big enough to play independently (Yay!) And Noah in particular has been awesome; from seeing him take on challenges and finishing them to long conversations in the car about movie plot points and word definitions, I have been loving this stage. However, with big jumps in skills also come big emotions.

That's not quite right; it's more along the lines of Giant Emotional Swings Of Enormous Magnitude And Holy Crap Child Are You Sure You're Not A Teenager? And anything can set it off. ANYTHING. In fact, Tuesday's one-way trip down the Wormhole of Despair was caused by him being 'drinky' (thirsty). (Do not correct him. I love it.) and me not having any beverage available for the ride home. (Full disclaimer: it was his first day back at school after being off for 4 days; the transition has always been difficult for him. This is also why I didn't keep him home from school the entirety of spring break last week - I'm no masochist. Though I do tremble in fear when I think about him being in kindergarten next year....) So he was tired and had his schedule a bit messed up after being allowed to sleep until 8 for the long weekend. (This is also the BESTEST thing to come out of age 4 - sleeping past 7. I kind of want to take it behind the shed and do naughty things with it.) I did have an apple with me left over from lunch that I offered to him.

'NO! I DRINKY!!!!'

'But the apple has juice in it....' Me, stupidly trying to reason with an overtired preschooler.


'I'm sorry honey, I don't have anything for you to drink. You're just going to have to wait until we get home.'

 'NO! I WANT...' And here we went completely off the rails. I was a bad mommy, the worst mommy, I needed to get out of the car and leave him alone. He didn't want to talk to me. He didn't want the radio playing. (I turned it up. Passive aggressive for the win!) Everything was met with wails and kicking and shouting.

'Okay honey, I understand. I'm sorry but you'll have to wait.'

I even amazed myself at how calm I was because I knew he was tired and that yelling or being mean back wouldn't solve anything. I knew he didn't mean anything he was saying so I kept my tone calm and soothing. I checked my words. (Mostly) About 10 minutes away from home it happened; the wails broke down into sobs (how I know he's calming down).

'What's the matter, Boo? How can I help you?'

Sobbing 'I was so mad Mommy. I said bad things. You mad at me.'

'No sweetheart, I'm not mad. I love you very very much. You were upset and that's okay. You can be upset all you want. How can I help you calm down?'

'I don't know how to calm down. I was so mad. I sorry. I love you Mommy.'

'I love you too buds. Do you know how much?'

'More den all the stars in sky.'

'That's right baby, more than all the stars in the sky.'

By the time we got home, he was fine. We made a plan that we'd bring his water bottle from then on to fill before we left his school. (I also saved my apple again. Lo and behold, he ate it. Huh. Maybe it's also a case of low blood sugar. I'm a freakin' genius I am.)

So big, can do so much but still so hard to keep control when your emotions are even bigger than you are. But for all the meltdowns and ridiculous tantrums, I wouldn't trade this age for anything. To see him struggle and ultimately master his emotions made me so proud. When he realized that he had said mean things and apologized, my heart practically burst. And the hug I got after getting him out of the car, well, that is what being a parent is all about - seeing them come through the other side.

You're such an incredible little boy Noah and I love you so much. More than all the stars in the sky.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Things that confuzzle me

You know, it's been a while since my last good rant. Not that this is good but I can't shake loose anything else in my head. Onward Ferb!

Self checkout at the grocery store. It's not rocket science: You pick up the item. You scan the item. You place the item on the belt. Repeat. Pay for the items. Pack the items. Leave. And yet I always seem to choose the line where the person at the front has a full cart and 5 items in manages to lock the system at a time where no help is around but you're committed to the line as the others are so much longer so you don't move but now the customers rocket like juggernauts through the flanking lines until finally, 15 minutes later, you finally scan your 3 items and go, half of your break time gone. *Poof* People, this is not the time to be brave. If it scares you, don't do it.

The Coworker's Wife. One of my coworkers received a new iPhone for Christmas from his wife in response to his son wanting one so she got them all one to use on a family plan because of course. Now his wife calls every day to...check in on him? Ask him to pick up the dry cleaning? Tell him they're out of meth? I'm not sure. At any rate, she always sounds pissed off. How do I know this? Because even after getting everyone and the dog an iPhone, she still calls the lab phone. Or the sensory phone. Sometimes both searching for him but never, EVER, the cell phone. In his pocket. That she gave him.

The local school system. Like pretty much everywhere else in the country, we got a crap-ton of snow this past winter. So much so that Noelle's school system used all 7 of their allotted snow days plus 2 more. (That's 9 for those playing along at home.) They made up one day by converting a professional/teacher development day into a regular instruction day. (8) The scheduled last day of school is June 17; this has been on the calendar since the beginning of the school year. Our district applied for - and received - a waiver for FOUR DAYS and an adjusted end of school year date of June 16. So: the total days allotted was 7. They went one over (see above advanced math). So obviously, you need to waive 4 extra days to end school one day early as clearly the kids need more time off.

The house. We are the second owners of our townhouse. A townhouse, by definition, is a small house attached to other small houses by common exterior walls. Our set was built at the same time (see: shared exterior walls) so it's quite befuddling the number of issues that we and we alone seem to have. It's almost like the builder played 'Eeny Meeny Miny Moe' to decide which unit would be the problem child. Woo Hoo! Lucky Sevens here. From the front door frame fairly rotting away to the the decorative door framing pulling away from the house to the shutters falling off the upstairs windows, this has been a long 10 years. (Then our tree just up and died last spring; don't even get me started on that.) But moving is not an option as that would require fixing these things which we can't do because, you know, money 'n shit, so we have to wait to fix these things all the while getting really nice notes from the HOA because PROPERTY VALUES (psst. It's a townhouse) so basically we're going to die in here unless I can figure out a way to steal my sister's house.

The cat. I love Jinx. Really, I do. What I don't love is getting the kids off to school late as it's the day coming back from Spring Break and finding not one, not two, but FOUR piles of cat puke on the 'new' carpet when we're already running late  to lose another 15 minutes to blotting and spritzing and scrubbing to return home and find that the pet cleaner did absolute jack shit and now we have four puke pink areas on the carpet that I have treat AGAIN. On the bright side though, at least they match the walls.

Next time on 'Things that confuzzle me': Kids and plates - why they have such an antagonistic relationship.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Comic Books: Enriching Lives, Encouraging Creativity

When my sister was teaching second grade, she always said that it didn't matter what her kids were reading, as long as they were reading and to this end, Dyl supplied her with a nice stash of kiddie comic books. They dove into the books, gleefully turning the pages, thinking they were getting away with something not realizing all the time they were reading. The length of the book was immaterial, the fact that it had pictures was besides the point; the kids were learning how to love reading and that is a special gift that can never be taken from them.

Dyl created his own comic stories when he was young which molded the way he approaches story-telling. The storyline, the art, everything was his creation to control. These days, Noelle loves hearing about daddy's comic books and thus inspired, went to work on her very first comic book: The Adventures of Eden and Elsa. (Note: this is still a working title). We are so proud of her drive that I wanted to share some of what she's been working on. Without further ado, here's a little taste of the next generation of comic book writers.

First let's meet the cast of characters. We have Elsa (Noelle) age 7, Noah (age 9) and Eden (age 5). Sadly, these siblings have no parents but they do have a pet cat and they live in a museum (I think; I'm still a bit unclear about that part).

One day, they wandered into an off-limits room filled with machines and went inside.

Gasp! The machines gave them super powers! But will they use it for good or evil?

Not content to just be kids, they decide to protect the planet as the Super Heroes Weather Guy, Fast Woman and Eden. Always on the lookout for trouble, they remain ready for action.

Thanks to Weather Guy's super long legs, they are able to spot trouble. With Fast Woman's speed, they get to the bad guy in no time at all.

Watch out bad guys, Weather Guy, Fast Woman and Eden are coming to the rescue!

Will our heroes vanquish the evil Goo Monster and it's Minions of Mayhem? You'll have to come back next month to find out!

Clearly, comic books* are wonderful, beautiful things that encourage reading and foster creativity and if anyone says differently, I'll sic the Goo Monster on them.

*Age-appropriate, of course.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Product Review: Crystal Light with CAFFEINE! Grape Flavor

Note: I'm not being compensated in any way for this review; I just felt like doing it. 

In my quest for better fitting clothes, I've been trying to up my water intake. I've got water bottles that I rotate through but found that water is, well, plain (no kidding), and I couldn't get excited about drinking it all day long. And while I love coffee, I haven't weaned to straight black so in goes the creamer and sugar which completely subverts the whole notion of not gorging on stuff to wake me up in the afternoon. (Ain't no way I'm getting rid of my morning coffee delight. My pants will just have to deal with it.) So when I came across the pretty little boxes of Crystal Light drink mixes, I was intrigued. Flavor with only 5 calories per serving! (Though let's be real, that's 5 calories per HALF of the little pouch so man up Crystal Light and tell it like it is: 10 calories per packet,) I bought a pink lemonade that was half decent and away we went. But I can't always find it or the raspberry lemonade on the shelves which gives me a sad. But! This past week I found two new-ish flavors: Iced Tea with Lemon flavor and Grape with CAFFEINE! And lo, the clouds parted and a voice from on high intoned 'This is the answer for the afternoon pick-me-up you've been looking for.' Eagerly, I awaited my chance to try it and the opportunity presented itself this afternoon.

The verdict is in and drum roll please....Meh.

The good: Well, it's grape and the flavor isn't as watered down as the Iced Tea with lemon flavor. In fact it's rather in your face. And the CAFFEINE! delivers as promised. I haven't felt drowsy at all this afternoon and that's a miracle on a Friday. It's also a pretty spring purple color.

Totally natural of course*
The bad:  Maybe it's because I work in the food and flavor industry but I can taste the artificial sweetener in the back of my throat and I generally can't in most of these types products. Or it could be the CAFFEINE! that's amplifying it to my bitter/burn threshold**. It's also a bit heavy on the citric acid giving it a tartness that's more suited to citrus flavors (though sadly often found in grape).

Overall, it isn't bad and since it does the job promised, well, I won't kick it out of bed for eating crackers. So if you're looking for a pick-me-up and don't want to go the soda/coffee route, this is worth it. And at around $2.50 for a box of 10 packets, it's more cost effective than a soda from a machine. Go forth and be awake because CAFFEINE!

*No it isn't.
**I'm very sensitive to bitter and the bitter of caffeine in particular so your mileage may vary.

Friday, April 11, 2014

When doing the 'right' thing has multiple meanings

I have spent months (years) complaining that I don't really like my job and that I'm stuck here doing this, smelling funny for the rest of my life. That there's no going back; that I've been away from the product development side of things for too long, the equivalent of several generations of industry have passed me by, when lo and behold a potential job listing came up for the very department I left 10 years ago. It's written as an entry level position, which I'm not, but I meet the qualifications. Could this be my ticket out? An answer to my prayers to be delivered from irrelevance and blasting air conditioning in the dead of winter?

Maybe. Like most things this is a double-edged sword. This magically available position is one that used to be occupied by a very good friend of mine who appears to have been completely set up once back from a devastating illness. But it's back on the front end of things, getting to create, being treated as a professional person, not some lowly plant scum. To not smell like hot garbage after a heavy dairy day. Being able to work in a clean, new area with actual good lighting AND windows! To collaborate and problem solve as a group rather than be the one who ends up with the dribs and drabs of information. To not be so very much alone all of the time. And it's all right there, within my reach.

On the other hand (and there's always the other hand), the comfortable culture I left a decade ago has changed. How could it not? I hear stories of having to account for every minute of your work day in the on-line tracking system and woe to you if you report less than 40 hours total. (I wonder how much time people allocate for entering their time data in the system.) It would be a grade lower than I currently am and although pay ranges overlap a lot, any step back grade-wise means an automatic salary reduction and I don't know that we could afford it. Then there's the freedom, the flexibility of my current position which with young children is a god-send. I can get to appointments and classes without having to chip away at my vacation time in tiny amount. Having a round-the-clock operation affords me the chance to be able to get my work done at night when there are even fewer distractions. Functioning as pretty much a department of one, I can set my work goals the way I want to with little interference from anyone else. But most importantly, this would be the job my very good friend was forced out of and I don't know if I want to live with that guilt, to have that sort of strain on our friendship. She means more to me than smelling good ever will.

It appears that my only remaining course of action is to target someone retiring soon and stalk them ask for mentoring to be able to move into their job. Good thing that I have the perfect person already in mind. Ladies and gentlemen, Operation: Get The Hell Out Of Dodge is now in effect.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How multitasking almost killed me

In this day and age it seems that to get anything done, you need to be doing several other things besides the one thing that you need to get done otherwise you'll fall farther behind in life. Okay, fine, it's status quo but guess what? There are limits. Real, terrible limits. For your sake and the sake of all mankind I will share these.

I recently started exercising again and while I'm doing this for health, longevity, able to put off buying new clothes, etc., I hate it. I hate it specifically because it's an elliptical machine in the basement that I cleverly put directly underneath a light. It's isolated and boring, just run-gliding around and around so I distract myself to not think about the TV watching and jelly bean eating that was going on upstairs. First I just listened to music and scrolled through twitter. That helped some but I still knew what I was doing. So this go round I added in some reading of this month's book club book and lo! I had found the perfect set up: get the exercise, feel virtuous and non-hatey AND keep up on my reading! Three things. Totally manageable. I AM A GOLDEN GOD.

Then last night happened. I should have not even attempted this but go big or go home, right? I was participating in a really interesting facebook discussion over direction of another website I contribute content for. A really cool opportunity with a lot of ideas flying back and forth which was incredibly energizing. Off I headed downstairs with kindle, phone and water bottle in hand to do battle with my nemesis. Got set up on the elliptical with the screen completely covered, punched in the gradual climb program and off we went. Music blaring in my ears, one eye on the facebook conversation and another on the Kindle, I noticed that suddenly the difficulty of the program went up. Huh. That's weird. May have just hit the 'increase resistance' button while adjusting the diversions. Huh, now it's getting easier. Oh well, no biggie, we've just gone on to science advancements and alternate character plot points and holy hell this is getting hard again. What the hell...?

Oh. Crap. I'm on the interval program. I don't like the interval program but we're 10 minutes into the workout now, no going back, let's power through, good god almighty, 16?! Aw hell no. Oh, here's another message: no, I'm not caught up with Uncanny X-Men, what's happening? God, I hate this song but my brain is melting so I can't skip it and no a giant rat did NOT just chew on that kid's face. Yay, Dyl's come to save me...wait, why is he carrying the phone? So now I'm reading on my kindle, listening to music I've come to regret downloading and catching up on X-Men while trying to not fall off the elliptical...18???! Gasps. 'Hi Mom, what's up?' 

"Why don't you just call me back?"

"Good idea.....should be minutes.....Gasp. Wheeze."

Now I've got a water bottle, my kindle, my phone and the house phone all in front of me with no place to hang onto because shit just went to 20 and dear flying spaghetti monster, make it stop.

The lesson here boys and girls? Exercise will try to kill you. The end.

Monday, April 7, 2014

T Double-E Double-R Double-R Double-I Double-F Double-I Double-CCCC

This being our first go-round with elementary school, we had no idea what to expect with regards to accolades that can be earned. I mean, they don't even get grades until they get to third grade so it's all check marks and smiley faces up in here. There's field day with races and Lego club that you can only get into if you can move two matchsticks to make 10 squares but other than that? Nada. Though let's be real: to solve the problem you need to use matchsticks and aren't we supposed to be telling the kids NOT to play with matches? Y U undermine us, Lego club? Anyway, we monitor Noelle's homework and classwork, adding explanations or corrections where necessary la la la, content in our own little world of first grade.

Until one day a couple of weeks ago where a sealed envelope came home in her folder addressed to the 'Parents of Noelle Lange'. Immediately my heart sank as letters home mean TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD THINGS. Then I checked my phone log to see if I had missed a call from the school (I hadn't) and grilled cheezus, what fresh hell was this? It was...good. Great even. She had been selected as the Terrific Kid of the month by her class and teacher for demonstrating the value of Perseverance. Overreaction FTMFW! 

The letter went on to explain that this is a pretty darn prestigious thing for the school (here's where I confess that I must have dozed off during this portion of the back to school night presentation because I had never heard of this program before) and that she would be honored in an awards ceremony with the other Terrific Kids of the month where they would make a short speech about the value of the month for which they were selected and receive a highly coveted bumper sticker, certificate and coupon for a free ice cream treat from the cafeteria! (Guess which one got the biggest response?) Proud doesn't even begin to describe what I felt; she has always been a reserved child and if something didn't work the right way the first time, she would get extremely frustrated and walk away, even quit. For her classmates to see her work hard and continue to try, even when it didn't come easy, well, that was the best reinforcement she could have ever received.


This is about the furthest thing from what we've seen from her. This is not Noelle and yet it is. So much confidence and self-assurance at school, less so at home. And so we wrote her speech, discussing what she wanted to say and finally her dictating and me writing.

She was the second speaker and she nailed it. (You might have to turn up the speakers to really hear her.)

No matter what Noelle, you're always a terrific kid in our eyes. (And now you have the bumper sticker to prove it.)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

SparkleBritches Fumblefingers

Yesterday Noelle lost her fifth tooth. Well, more accurately spun that bad boy around until it popped out with a hella lot of blood but yay! It was out and the danger of Snaggle Tooth Picture Day was sidestepped...this time. Dyl cleaned her up and I got her special tooth pillow out of the closet so we were ready. As the resident Tooth Fairy around these parts, I've got it covered; the only risk being that she'll wake up when I make the exchange. Other than that, we're good.

When she lost her first tooth last summer, I wanted to do something a little bit more than just money but not over the top (thanks Pinkalicious for setting THAT ridiculous bar) and so settled on sprinkling glitter from the window to the tooth pillow then up to her pillow before heading back to the window so it would seem like the tooth fairy was giving her a kiss or something. (Wow, typing that out makes it really creepy. Well done me.) I deliberately stayed away from any tooth fairy Pinterest boards because ain't nobody got time for that.

She LOVES it. She loves the glitter the 'tooth fairy' leaves even more than the coin (gold-plated $1 coins - special but not too grandiose.) Glitter, however, gets EVERYWHERE so I clearly didn't think this plan through enough. No turning back now; onward Ferb! This is also how our tooth fairy got her name, SparkleBritches Glitterpants because GLITTER. She usually sleeps without a nightlight so I got really good at navigating her room in the pitch black, dodging beanbag chairs and piles of books to get to the window side of her bed. I apparently like a challenge. Anyway, I've got a system and get in and out in under a minute. Until last night.

Recently she's begun sleeping with a nightlight so when Operation SparkleBritches Glitterpants was deemed a 'go', I smugly smugged that with a light, this would be easy. I'd break my record for swapping moolah for enamel and then could get into bed before the cat claimed my spot. Haaa. Ha. Oh, hubris.

I prepped for the mission by turning out all the lights before slowly opening the door. I froze for a moment to see if she stirred and briefly considered army crawling but wisely discarded that as I'm more klutzy crawling than walking. No movement so I moved confidently into the room and that's when I made my first mistake - I was on the wrong side of the bed (consistency is important y'all and it's only weird if it doesn't work.) (Spoiler alert: it didn't work.) I reached for the flap to the tooth pocket...and couldn't get it open. So I raised it a few more times before discovering that it was NOT the flap I was moving, it was the pocket itself. Once I figured that out, I got the flap open, deposited the loot...and couldn't find the tooth. I rummaged in the tiny pocket for what felt like forever, even going so far as to pick the whole pillow up which is when she started shifting. There I was, trapped in the blue glow of the nightlight, caught red-handed. Fortunately, the tooth fairy gods smiled on me (after enjoying a good chuckle at my expense no doubt) and she settled back to sleep. At this point it was clear that the tooth was not in the pocket and my fumbling around had managed to to knock it out somewhere on her bed.

Basically at that point I said 'fuck it, we'll distract her in the morning', dispensed the glitter and got the hell out of Dodge. Only thing left to do was concoct an elaborate tale of 'Mommy must have come up to bed just when the tooth fairy arrived and scared her so she forgot to take the tooth but no worries, we'll just mail it to her' in the event she noticed the tooth on her bed in the morning. Then Dyl found the tooth in her pile of stuffed animals this morning so really, this whole post that I almost killed the tooth fairy is kind of pointless.

The end.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Let's see your run at a title, Mr. Armchair Point Guard Quarterback

The big news around these parts (well, to me at least), is that the University of Maryland women's basketball team won their Regional final last night against #3 Louisville to earn their first trip to the Final Four since they won it all in 2006. Pretty impressive, no? Seeded at #4, they knocked off #1 Tennessee in the semis to advance to the final. From all accounts, it was a good game: evenly matched opponents, lots of lead changes and it all coming down to fundamentals in the end. So I've been feeling pretty pumped; I played ball in high school and Noelle wants to play too. In fact, I almost panicked over when the Final Four games start so I can make sure she gets to watch it.

The point is, these kids are good. They are so much better than I could ever dream of being (let's just say that talent-wise, basketball was a distant third for me. Swimming, holla!). They are better than probably 90% of the population; they got to where they are now by hard work, dedication and a heaping dose of talent. It's a beautiful thing to watch; women's basketball. It's the game at it's finest. Yes, strength and endurance play heavily into the mix but the nuances of the game are captured more perfectly by women's ball than any other form. No, they can't (for the most part) go toe to toe with their male counterparts for a long period as size, in this case, does if not matter then certainly affects the outcome. So they play smarter. They play the game the way it's meant to be played: not with monster dunks but with patience and cunning, exploiting weaknesses and chinks in the defense like a battle-hardened general. I love it.

So when I was pulling samples earlier today with sports talk radio playing in the background, the Lady Terps' victory naturally came up. It was a huge win, it should be celebrated and discussed. (Note that the men's team failed to make even the NIT - the consolation playoff.) But what happens? The first caller in immediately cheapens their accomplishment by trotting out the age-old line of 'but it's really not all that impressive since they're girls and any good high school team could beat them.' Um, probably not. See the above paragraph for reference if needed. Is it worth mentioning that Alyssa Thomas, the Two-Time All American forward now owns the University of Maryland all-time scoring record for both men AND women? To put it bluntly (as subtlety is lost on you) THAT'S REALLY REALLY FUCKING IMPRESSIVE.

That drives me crazy: well, against a men's team they wouldn't win so it's not as impressive and not really basketball and you should just get back to home ec where you belong. Yes, 40 years ago girls were only allowed to play half-court ball and with six players because, and this is important, NO ONE EVER THOUGHT TO LET THEM TRY IT FULL-COURT. Not that they couldn't, they weren't allowed. Weren't encouraged. Weren't challenged. Fast forward 40 years and these girls, these women will knock your ass all over the court. They are strong, they are fearless and they own their game. There is nothing left at the buzzer; they've left it all out on the floor. Their elation and dejection is the same as the men's. If that's not the point of athletics, male or female, I don't know what is.

Therefore Mr. Armchair Point Guard Quarterback, I challenge you to find a women's game and go against them with a team of your own. You can recreate the Billie Jean King/Bobby Riggs throw-down but with basketballs. And you will learn to your chagrin that these 'girls' have skills. They have moves. And they will chew you up and spit you out.

Enjoy your comfy seat Mr. Armchair Point Guard Quarterback; obsolescence is calling.