Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Halloween Hero 2014

Every year, my children's school celebrates Halloween in a creative and educational way. Each child in the elementary program selects a person from history that they consider a hero. They gather research materials and write down facts about their famous person throughout the month of October. They then use that work to create a report, hand-bound in a book with an illustrated picture of their hero that they present to the class on or near Halloween. The kids also have the option of dressing up as their hero.

Since Cara is now in Junior High, she didn't get to participate. In previous years, her heroes included the following: Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Anne Sullivan, Susan B Anthony, Marie Curie, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Cara as Elizabeth Cady Stanton (2013)
Last year, Connor went as Dr. Seuss. When I asked about his selection, he later revealed "He's the only famous person I know."
Connor as Dr Seuss (2013)

This year, the conversation about his Halloween Hero went like this:

Me: "Why do you want to be Benjamin Franklin?"
Connor: "Because he's funny."
Me: "Why do you think he's funny?"
Connor: "Because he's like, 'Oh so thaaaats what it's like to be shocked.....Ow!'"

Connor as a "young Benjamin Franklin"

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Post Excitement Sadness Disorder

When I was a child, my mother would plan an event or outing for me close to the day after Christmas or Easter or my birthday. This was because when any of those events was over, I would launch into a sadness that having something else to look forward to helped to ease. 

It sounds silly, crying because Christmas was over, but I remember this sadness vividly. Possibly because I still experience it, though I'm not prone to tears when these events are over. Now, it's not just holidays. It's vacations or a visit from a friend or anything major that I've had an opportunity to look forward and anticipate. Craig has often fielded the "can't we stay just one more day" request from me more than once. I am usually good for very little a day or two after we get home from a trip.  

Unfortunately, this trait has been passed on to my children. Cara has literally cried over spilled milk the day after a party. Their sadness and inevitable meltdown comes like clockwork. It's often not a matter of IF it's going to happen; it's just a matter of what is going to be the catalyst.

As with many of my posts, I tell this backstory in order to recount something that just happened.

We had just come off of a week-and-a-half, activity-filled vacation in Colorado, followed by a week of having the kids' cousins stay with us. Then, on a Tuesday, I took Cara to the airport to spend a week with her grandparents and came back to the house in time for Connor and I to say goodbye to his cousins and grandpa, who were returning to Colorado. A mass exodus leaving a once-bustling house feeling quite empty.

The Tuesday this all happened was fine. Wednesday was another story.

It started when Connor asked if he could download a game for his tablet. The game had "war" in the title and I deemed it inappropriate for him. This was the spilled milk, though today, it was more of a time-release capsule.

An hour later, Connor remembered that he was upset about my answer about the game and launched into a full-on crying festival, complete with hiding under the table and hitting a pillow. When Connor is angry or sad, he does NOT want to talk about it. In fact, trying to get him to talk prolongs the episode. So, I let him go, reminding him now and again that it was fine to be upset with me.

When he had finally calmed down enough to be able to use words, he asked for markers, paper, and tape. 

Contemplating his anger.
I could not wait to see what he was going to draw. I was pretty sure I was going to have to search deep for the strength to not laugh.
The masterpiece: A broken heart with the words "I'm leving"
He taped his note to his body and demonstrated how his heart was ripped. I held it together and took the pictures in complete secrecy, so as not to diminish the seriousness. I read the note aloud and asked where he was going to go. I don't believe he had thought this plan through because he paused for a moment before he turned and left.

And with that, he was gone....

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Chess Lessons

Connor recently learned how to play chess and loves it. Because of this, he requests to play it quite a bit. I've always gotten out of playing the game with him because I didn't know how. Now, the reason that I don't know how to play chess is not because no one has offered to show me. It's also not that I couldn't figure it out myself either. What it boils down to is the fact that I generally do not like games of strategy. It took me only a couple of games of checkers with Craig to realize that, any game where I can win if I just think ten steps ahead, I am just no good at and, frankly, I prefer to win now and then.

But because I love my boy that much, I put aside my hangups and let him give me a chess lesson one day while we were at the library. I listened to him introduce me to each chess piece (the one with the T on the top is the king, the little guys are the rooks) and what it's particular moves are while we start a game. Because I'm getting a lesson from a first grader, some of the moves sound a little suspect. 

I go to take one of his pieces after I move a rook forward and he tells me you can only capture a piece with a rook when you move diagonally. But he just said that rooks only move forward. Hmm. Sounds like you're making these rules up as you go, little boy. With a wifi connection at the library, a search on chess piece moves, and a smug "See, I told you" from my son later, the game continued. And continued. And continued. 

I finally realized that this game was going to involve a whole lot of moving the same pieces over and over just to use a turn with no one really winning. I asked Connor what it took for someone to win. After he explained, I looked at my pieces to see if I could take the steps needed to make that happen. Once I saw that wasn't possible, I began aggressively sacrificing pieces. There goes my knight. Oops, you got my queen. My rooks are being captured left and right, though one mysteriously makes it to the other side.Wait. Now I get my queen back because of that? Grrr. I can't even win losing.

Finally, I hear Connor declare "Checkmate" and I know from watching "Searching for Bobby Fisher" that meant the game was over. He was happy both from having won and also from having taught me how to play. 

I think I liked playing chess better when he was three.

(If the video doesn't appear, click here.)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Daddy's Super Hero

Connor and Craig have been watching super hero cartoons together lately. Right now, they're on a Spiderman kick, but prior to that, it was Justice League. A few months ago, Craig started teasing his son by saying that Connor's favorite hero was Green Lantern. (It's not. I mean, whose favorite is actually Green Lantern? C'mon.) It's an exchange that's really funny to be in the audience for and usually results in the boy charging at his father, fists first. And Connor is like a little terrier that doesn't realize that he's not as big as the German shepherd that he's constantly barking at. And like a terrier, his energy level for this type of play is extremely high and he just WILL NOT STOP.

I took my little super hero-loving brawler to Target on a day where I had enough patience to be a competent participant in the "We're Not Buying Anything" game*. Most of the time, I deal with purchase requests by offering to put those items on his wish list and then refer to the closest date where he might be given said item (Easter, Christmas, birthday). So when Connor asked to go to the toy aisle, I happily complied. We had a blast when we got to the super hero section.
He faked extreme excitement and said "Send Dad this picture".

Connor loved looking at all of the toys in this section and playing pretend. And then he came across these Incredible Hulk Smash Fists and was mesmerized. He eagerly read the back of the box (in my mind, he was checking to see if there's a "don't hit your sister" warning). After reading, he said, "Daddy would NOT like it if I got these." He flipped the box around to look at the fists a little closer and added, "Put these on my list."

* For those that haven't played, this is a game where the parental participant has to repeat the phrase "We're not buying anything" over and over to every single request from their child. Each time, the parent must keep their voice at the same volume as when they began the game, regardless of their child's volume, changes in the child's tone (ranging from calm to complete whine-fest), type of request (usually starts out with purchases that require lottery money and then tapers off to gumball machine change requests), or state of movement (the sky's the limit for the kids in this area, as is the floor and the shelves and underneath the clothes racks). Whoever elicits an eye-roll from a passer-by loses.

CDO (Because It Should Be In Alphabetical Order)

The kids and I were heading to a friend's house over the weekend. While getting ready, I voiced my concern to Cara that I was going to forget the can of water chestnuts that I wanted to bring. She suggested that I set it out and I explained that, sometimes, that isn't always a guarantee that I would remember.

And then my darling, brilliant daughter, who knows me so very well, set the can on the counter like this:
I totally remembered to bring the water chestnuts.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Child Labor

Cara is now at an age where, when she requests to participate in certain things or wants to buy something that isn't particularly on the "need" list, she is told that she will need to use her own money. The list of things she has to dip into her own funds for is growing as she gets closer and closer to her teen years.

Now that her cash reserve is dwindling, Cara has been doing research on ways in which she could make money that she might actually enjoy. In her research, she came across a book called "Better Than A Lemonade Stand", which gave her a host of options along with advice on how to run her own small business.

One of the options mentioned in the book was babysitting. And not just having your own group of people you babysit for. Oh no. This was a whole babysitter/pimp suggestion where Cara would start out as the primary babysitter, develop a client list, and then enlist the help of additional babysitters, which she would organize and get a cut from.

I don't know that Cara will get to that point (and if we do, we are open for suggestions on where to buy pimp hats).In the meantime, she's starting into this endeavor much more prepared than I ever was when I babysat. Besides the research she has done, Cara is also taking a class with the Red Cross specifically designed for kids her age who want to babysit.

It's so great to watch her so interested in what she is learning and I'm sure the coursework provides some insight that I might not have thought to give her myself. But it's hard to not take it personal when my daughter suggests that I "should really read some of this. It talks about how to deal with kids without yelling."

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Who's There?

Cara has been asking for a while for a cell phone. I know that for some, 12 years old might seem too young. However, if you went by Cara's estimate, she was the only one her age without one. I have to admit, she really never whined about this. Rather, she would present her case calmly every so often and was usually met with unconvinced parent faces.

It's always fun to keep your child's expectations low only to surprise them by granting their wish. Or rather, the Easter Bunny did.

We didn't go all out. It's just a simple "grandma phone" as she lovingly refers to it. But that grandma phone has unlimited talk and text, so she is super happy.

One of the negatives about a simple phone like this is that there's not a lot of options for fun phone cases. In typical Cara fashion, she didn't let that stop her. She made her own case. She designed it and cut out all of the pieces. I then sewed them together and now am seriously considering trading phones with her just so I can use this case.