Sunday, June 30, 2013

How to Make Quinn Happy. Or Sad. Or Angry? Honestly, It’s Hard To Tell.

After making Wednesday so traumatic for Quinn, what with the mini golf and all, I decided that we would do something on Thursday that would make him happy. That took the form of taking him to an open gym where he jumped on a trampoline pretty much for a solid hour.

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From now on I will refer to this as Quinn’s Happy Place.
We followed that up with a trip to the pet store for gerbil supplies and to visit the adoptable cats there. In a nice change of pace, Sam was the one who ended up outraged at me, this time for not adopting the cat he fell in love with.

We also went to the grocery store after that, where we ran into a friend. I have run into different friends with their kids every time I’ve been to the grocery store this year. Every time, that friend’s kids are delightful and mine are whirling dervishes. Grocery stores are the worst.

The next day I took the munchkins to drive Go Karts. I knew that Jack and Sam would like the Go Karts and I was pretty sure that Quinn would love them too. Unfortunately, Quinn has become this kid that seems determined to hate everything. Even if he is laughing joyously, he will go out of his way to tell me that he’s miserable.

I am honestly not sure if it is pathological or him just being 8 years old.

Aside: I’d really like to hear about it if some of you have kids who are as all over the place as he is. Like, I’d really like to believe that I’m a good mom and that I’m doing good things for him by taking him places, but it’s getting harder and harder to believe that what with him telling me how horrible I am whenever I make him leave the house. He would be happy all the time if I just let him stay at home and play video games, but it seems wrong to let him do that.

Aside to the aside: I know that taking him out into the world is the right thing to do. I just have to figure out how to make it easier for him. That’s the part I’m having trouble with. That and how to handle my emotions when he shouts at me for trying to give him fun experiences.

Anywho, back to more fun things. Like Go Karts. Before Friday, I had never driven a Go Kart. Have you? Because they are the most fun thing in the world. I originally paid for three laps and after we did those, I immediately went back and bought each of us three more. I really wanted to surrender my credit card and let my kids race for the rest of the afternoon, but that wasn’t financially feasible.

Suffice it to say, all three of my kids had a really wonderful time. Even Quinn had a hard time scowling when I asked him to smile for a photo after our drives.

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I do believe that is something close to a smile…or at least not exactly a frown.
Quinn was too little to drive in his own kart, so he was a passenger in mine. I took a couple of photos as we started out.

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He was working really hard to be miserable.
I couldn’t take a photo of him when he was smiling and laughing and telling me, “Faster! Faster!” because I imagine that “Don’t take photos and drive” applies to go karts as well as regular cars. I tried to Photoshop the above photo to reflect happy Quinn, but it turned out pretty gruesome, so just imagine him with eyes wide, a huge smile, and his golden hair blowing backwards in the wind. It was a sight to behold.

Likewise, I couldn’t get any photos of Sam, both because of that photography whilst driving thing and also because he was so speedy that I didn’t see him after he started out.

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Here is his before shot though. I won’t show you his after shot in which he held his victory stance and shouted about how he’d smoked all of us.
I do have one photo of our party actually driving a go kart and it is because that member of our party is what you could call an extremely cautious motorist. I fully support this.

Jack finished each set of three laps about 3/4 of a lap behind the rest of us, which worked out perfectly for my photography purposes.

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Isn’t he just the cutest little moderate speed demon you’ve ever seen?
We picked the perfect time to go because, as you can see in that photo, there was almost no one on the track. We had such a blast. I’d say that all four of us had a great time and would happily go back again. Maybe next time we’ll take Alex, who, after hearing about our outing, sadly told us that he’d never driven a go kart. I felt kinda bad for him.

No one should live without go karting. No one.

We gave Quinn an at-home day on Saturday, which made him very happy. Sunday will make Quinn miserable again as we are going to force him to play some baseball.*

I predict screaming. It’s going to be a whole thing. Sigh.

* By “play some baseball,” I mean “exist on a baseball field.” I plan to play with Quinn in the outfield while his brothers and Alex play baseball. Every week, we’ll move in a little bit. By the end of the summer, I hope to have him holding a bat. My fingers are crossed that he won’t hit me with it.

*****

In terms of other things that make Quinn both intensely angry and extremely happy, we went on a nature hike last week, which got me thinking about Team Stimey’s summer adventures. I wrote about it over at White Knuckle Parenting.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

So, About That “Adventure Golf”

Team Stimey’s outing today was probably ill-advised.

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Yep. That about sums it up.
I had a doctor’s appointment and had told my kids that we were going to mini golf afterward. That was my first mistake—never tell your kids ahead of time that you’re going to do something until you are actually in the car doing the thing.

Related: Mistake Two—never take your kids to a doctor’s appointment with you.

I should have known that things were going to go badly when, after the doctor’s appointment, on the way to the pharmacy to drop off my prescription, Quinn started insisting that mini golf was actually called “poopy golf” and that every single person in the world knew it was called poopy golf and, “I don’t give a crap that you are screaming in protest at the top of your lungs and the high pitch of your range, Jack, I will continue to insist that mini golf is commonly referred to as poopy golf until Mom drives this car into an abutment.”

Or words to that effect.

See, Quinn doesn’t love mini golf and was not excited that I found this really exciting new adventure golf course in Virginia. (Mistake Three—adding a long drive to a non-preferred activity. Honestly, it’s like someone handed me these three kids yesterday. Such rookie mistakes.) This argument was raging as we waited in the drive-through pharmacy line, leading the pharmacy tech to raise her eyebrows and mutter, “Having fun?” when she opened the window to hear the cacophony outside.

The situation was not aided by Day Two of Braces, which was going less well than Day One. Sam’s teeth were hurting him, regardless of the pain meds I’d fed him earlier in the day. We stopped at a McDonald’s for lunch where Jack refused to sit at a table with Quinn at first and then Sam took six years to eat a cheeseburger that I had to rip into 16 tiny pieces for him.

Oh, we were a motherfucking scene.

Today was also the day that Sam learned that Jolly Ranchers are off the table for the next 15 to 18 months, triggering an extended rending of garments and shouting of, “WHY? WHHHHYYYY?!?! WHY DOES EVERYTHING I LOVE TURN TO SHIT?” or, again, words to that effect.

We were off to a great start. Onward to poopy golf.

Now, here’s the thing about the mini golf: Quinn often has fun at mini golf, even if he doesn’t make it all the way through the course, which is fine with me. Jack LOVES mini golf. Sam is amenable to pleased with mini golf. That is why I suggested this outing in the first place. I figured that once Quinn saw that this golf course was far more interesting than your typical mini golf course, that he would be totally excited.

The passports the cashier gave us to trade in for golf balls and clubs were promising, and the bamboo and prop-lined path that led us there was even better. Even though it was hot, I thought that we might get through this thing with smiles on our faces.

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Jack was all in.
Sadly, right there at the golf ball pick-up station was a giant fake spider in a cage.

Quinn is mortally afraid of spiders. Even fake ones.

Cue screaming.

Follow that with more screaming. Add some flailing. Then maybe a touch of shrieking. Then a request for a green golf club, NOT a pink one, fuck you very much.

Honestly, Quinn probably could have handled any one of the following hurdles—(a) heat, (b) mini golf, or (c) giant plastic bugs—but there is no way on this planet that he was going to be able to handle all of them.

There were several things I could have worried about here. I could have thought about the $40 it had cost to get the four of us on this golf course (I did think about that a little). I could have thought about the groups on both sides of us that were staring (I didn’t think about that much at all). I could have thought about Sam and Jack and how excited they were to golf this course now that they’d seen it.

I did a lot of thinking about that.

It wouldn’t have been fair to yank them off the course and I couldn’t leave them alone, so Quinn and I tried to make the best of it. Once we got a couple of holes in, Quinn started to relax. Sam and Jack stayed ahead of us and warned me if there was anything coming up that might scare Quinn. (There were only a couple more things—some more spiders and these terrifying scarab-looking things spread all over a hissing box.)

Quinn calmed down and was even able to golf a little bit.

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And do some wading.
We never bother to take score and, unless it’s a hole-in-one, we don’t even count strokes. This is a good thing because Sam managed to hit his ball out of bounds on probably half of the holes.

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Found it! Again!
Our lack of precision made our trip through all 18 holes pretty fast, which was good. I have already promised Quinn that we never, ever, ever have to go back, but I would highly recommend this golf course to anyone who lives near Herndon and isn’t completely phobic, which I am starting to understand that Quinn is.

Sam and Jack had a blast, except for when Jack made a tomb door slide closed and shut Sam inside. Sam was less delighted about that than anything else.

Regardless, we all arrived home safe and sound—and full of ice cream that I fed them to end our trip on a high note. I find that almost all of Team Stimey’s outings are better with ice cream at the end. Thank God that ice cream is still on Sam’s orthodontist-approved list.

After all of that (plus a trip to the hardware store and the pharmacy again), I let my kids sit and play video games for the rest of the day. I can only do so much. Hell, they can only do so much. Now I’m off to think of an outing for tomorrow. I think we might go to the pet store, where the furriest thing we see will not be a giant fake spider, but rather a kitten.

That might be just the thing.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Our Version vs. Their Version, Part Deux

Sam got his braces put on today, which really should have its own blog post, but he steadfastly refused to let me take a photo and also told me that he didn’t want me to post a photo of him with braces on my blog. I’m sure that you haven’t seen your last photo of Sam (although who really knows?), but I am respecting his wishes and just stopping by to tell you that (1) Sam now has braces and (2) OMG FLASHBACKS TO MY OWN TIME WITH BRACES NIGHTMARE COLD SWEATS ICK ICK ICK.

It seemed wrong, however, to just be all, “Something momentous happened but I’m not going to tell you about it or show you photos,” so I decided instead to post a second entry in a series that began way back in 2008 (shut up; it is too a series) called “Our Version vs. the Product Guide’s Version.”
Back then it was a ceramic pig.

This time it is a set of paint-your-own nesting dolls.

First, their version:

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Awwww, cute.
Next, our version:

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Awwww, something.
I have some comments in our defense.

1. They used stickers on theirs. We are FAR too lazy to wait for paint to dry and then complete a second step. Hence, no stickers on ours.

2. The paint was weird and blotchy and not conducive to, you know, painting something. Also, it’s really hard to paint the entire surface of something without leaving big fingerprints all over it.

3. Every single color on their version was a product of mixing paint colors to create a new color. See Item One about Team Stimey’s laziness.

4. That thing in the middle is a rabbit. I know. It’s scary as hell when you can’t see the ear lines.

5. “5 animal nesting dolls” seems incorrect when then the tiniest doll is a piece of cheese.

6. Dog by Jack and Jean; cat by Sam; rabbit, mouse, and cheese by Jean. Attention spans weren’t long that day.

7. We didn’t paint their middles together rendering them impossible to open, which I consider to be a stunning success.

8. I think our version rocks.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Co-sleeping

What is it like to have one of your offspring climb into bed with you in the middle of the night? Well, if they are anything like my children, they will squirm around until (a) they find a comfortable spot, (b) they are sound asleep, and (c) you are wide damn awake. Usually their comfortable spot means that they are perpendicular to you and have a foot in your face.

Now that I think about it, it is EXACTLY LIKE WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THAT POOR FATHER GERBIL IN THIS PHOTO BELOW.

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That is Mouse on the right, with son King all over his face. If you look carefully, you can see other son Creeper between them. This is EXACTLY what it is like to sleep with Jack and Quinn.
I’ve finally found some real, solid common ground with the gerbils. Yay, us.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Holy God, It’s Still Week ONE.

Remember last week when I was all, “WILL SCHOOL NEVER END? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, LET SCHOOL FINALLY END!”?

Well, school let out finally and…well, it turns out that the days are really long.

Reeeeaalllly long.

But—and here is the great thing—they are also really awesome. I am loving hanging out with my kids. It’s just, damn, we do everything in our house and there’s still five hours until bedtime so we have to cycle through everything all over again.

I mean, I’ve been making every effort in the world to sleep in a little bit, which at least eliminates a couple hours from the day, but eventually the children need supervision. I have, however, come up with a really brilliant (if I do say so myself) way of ensuring that I get to sleep until at least 8 or 9 instead of getting up with my kids at 7.

I’m filing this under “teaching my kids independence” instead of “being a lazy mom” because I think that puts a better spin on it. I made this list of things for them to do in the morning and once they do them, they can play Minecraft.

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It’s just as if I were there, only I don’t have to yell each instruction 75 times and they do everything because they are motivated to play videogames.
So far I haven’t caught any of them in a lie, although they were all suspiciously hungry when I came downstairs this morning.

They play Minecraft for a while and then we launch into some sort of activity. This week we have mostly stuck close to home because I’ve been letting them decompress after a whole year of school. Next week we’ll start going on some adventures.

For real though, every day we have reading time, blogging time, pool time, post-pool bath time, lunch, more Minecraft time, forced outside time, more reading time, more Minecraft time, and then we still have ample hours left over for “stare angrily at each other” time.

It was Wednesday when I forced the kiddos outside where Sam found some sort of primitive tool to chip at a rock and Jack made a good effort to empty an entire bottle of sunscreen onto a drinking glass, which really didn’t need protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Quinn, meanwhile, shouted at me over and over, “No one out here is any fun!” This led me to shout back, “Then BE FUN!”

He was not amused.

He was even less amused when I accidentally locked the back door and then sat at the dining room table and watched him be not amused.

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He was outraged! OUTRAGED, I tells you.
The reason that our outdoor time was so onerous on Wednesday is because it was too cold to go into our little pool, which I had been smart enough to rope Sam into helping me set up last week. I have to tell you, it went much more smoothly than it did the first time. Although I did notice today that it seems to be canting to one side.

I imagine will be dramatic and extremely bloggable when it bursts.

Until then, the kiddos are spending a chunk of every day trying to not get hypothermia in the thing.

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This was the first day. I think it’s warmed up ever so slightly since.
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See? Much warmer! (Ha.)
At least the freezing cold pool makes for good sunning afterward.

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Jack is a champion sunner. He’d sit there forever if I’d let him.
I haven’t yet started to force my kids to do their summer homework packets, although I imagine that will rival locking them outside on their list of Reasons to Hate Mom. For now, their more studious activities include learning how to take screenshots and writing their blog, which they continue to do on almost a daily basis.

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They’re my favorite.
They’re even inspiring their friends to start their own blogs. It’s really adorable and inspiring and wonderful. They’re so creative. Also, I should let you know how much all of your comments and page views mean to them. They are not replying to all of your comments (and I’m not going to impose a requirement onto them that they do, even though the control freak part of me really, really wants to), but they are reading and ADORING each one. You guys rock.

Also, their blog currently has 528 pageviews. Do you have any idea how long it took me to get to 528 page views when I started blogging? (A LONG time.)

Eventually there comes a point in the day when I just give up and tell them to go play more Minecraft. And they do. Maybe I’ll try an experiment one day this summer and let them play and play and play until they stop. I wonder if they will. So far I haven’t found their Minecraft tolerance threshold. I’m starting to wonder if they have one.

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I see A LOT of this.
I imagine that I will not be frustrated enough to try that particular experiment until much later in the summer.

So. Week One is over. There are 66 days left until the munchkins go back to school. I have a feeling we are going to be able to do a lot of really cool stuff between now and then. I’m looking forward to discovering what it is.

Coming soon: My Week Two post wherein I start to panic about there being 59 more days of summer to fill with “really cool stuff.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Windows to Their Brains

This week for White Knuckle Parenting, I wrote about how much I love going through my kids’ backpacks at the end of the year and seeing all the work they’ve done at school. It really is one of my very favorite things. Reading through my kids’ work leaves me honestly kind of breathless and amazed at what is going on in their brains.

Those papers are like a little window into what they do all day when they’re at school and I am so grateful to be able to peek through that window. If you are so inclined, I’d love for you to peek through that window as well.

(You knew that was coming, right?)

Sadly, the window to Sam’s brain is a little smaller than Jack and Quinn’s because his work is more, “Wow, my kid wrote a really amazing essay on Shakespeare,” rather than, “Let me take a photo of this adorable essay Jack wrote about winter where the letters are having a snowball fight.”

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“My favorite time of year is winter because epic snowball fights…You can go sledding…Go build a snow fort!…Make a snow catapult! That is why I like winter.” Mental note: Beware Jack in the winter.
Sam did, however, have a few nice visual pieces of work for me to show you, including his most excellent historical children’s book that he wrote about a pioneer family moving west.

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His book was fantastic. It was full of facts and drama and humor (his gold-prospecting main character: “I wasted a week looking in small holes in the ground. Unless the price of dirt had risen, I had nothing of value.”). It also featured most excellent drawings of adorable animals.

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I really like the wolf, but the pig peeking out of his pen makes me so happy I could sing. I don’t know why.
Almost better than the book itself though, was the “about the author” blurb Sam wrote about himself: “Samuel lives in Maryland and enjoys Shakespeare, cats, science fiction, and good memories. Traveling West is his first book.”

In comparison, Quinn’s (adorably misspelled) “about the author” blurb from his pamphlet about pteranadons is less…informational: “I like pteranodons and I have no explimation about why I’m writing about them anyway.”

He created a super awesome labeled illustration though:

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Just in case you couldn’t figure out what was the head and what was a foot.
Jack didn’t write any author blurbs, but he did helpfully provide a list of things he is an expert at. (One of his accommodations is that he can have a scribe if he asks for one, which is why the handwriting in this photo is legible—not to say that his snowman letters were hard to read, but…)

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Things I am an expert at:
1. eating
2. sleeping
3. video gaming
4. playing ro-blox
5. cuddling with mom
6. drawing
7. being lazy
8. getting sick
I’m not entirely sure why there are stars next to numbers 3, 4, 6 and 7. I didn’t find any essays on “How to Be Lazy.” I looked. Also, you should know that Jack is an expert about a lot of things that aren’t on this list. He is really good at cuddling with me though.

As long as we’re learning about my kids, let’s go ahead and check out Quinn’s list of likes and dislikes:

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likes: cats, minecraft, hills, trampolines, gerballs, lettice, reeses cups, ice cream; hates: spiders, too cold/hot tepatuars, soda, cinamon peperments, normal toast, mosquitous, termites”
The great thing about Quinn is that, with a couple of exceptions, I could have written this list for him. I was a little confused by a couple of things on the likes list (case in point: he hates lettuce). For example, I have no idea why Quinn likes hills. I kept trying to think of another word instead of “hills” that word could be, but “mills” made even less sense, so I guess Quinn likes hills. Okay.

The hates list though? With the exception of termites, I can give you a story behind every single thing:

Spiders and mosquitoes: Everyone hates spiders and mosquitoes. C’mon.

Temperatures: Quinn is really sensitive to temperature. The quickest way to send him into a meltdown is to force him outside on a hot day. Also, flash back to every photo I’ve ever posted here that features Quinn wearing my coat. There are a lot of them. I give the little man a point for self-awareness.

Soda: This one time at a birthday party, there was Sprite in pitchers on the table and my kids thought it was water and they drank it and started screaming about the “sour water.” I felt extremely virtuous for having non soda-drinking kids. As far as my kids are concerned, bubbles are something you blow out of a wand, not something you drink.

Cinnamon peppermints: Quinn really likes peppermints and is always extremely grabby when they come with the check at a restaurant. Sadly, cinnamon peppermints look almost exactly like regular peppermints—even as little chewed up bits get spit out all over a table in disgust.

Normal toast: Quinn likes toast with cinnamon sugar on it. (I know. Considering the item just above it on the list, this is highly ironic.)

Let’s let Quinn and his weird little self rest for a while and head back over to Jackland and the drawings he had to create for vocabulary words. One of my favorites is the drawing he created for the word “empathy.”

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“I know you are angry.” I wonder what his first clue was.
I also like Jack’s answer to what he wants to be when he grows up: “When I grow up, I am going to be an inventor, because robots/lasers are cool. A second reason is you get to build cool stuff. The last reason is your robot could do your homework/chores for you.”

Here’s something—what if he invented an inventing robot and that robot did all of his inventing for him?

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Or he could just have his assistant do all the work.
And as long as we’re on the topic of science, let’s see how Quinn illustrated the “science” tab of his data notebook:

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If only he could have gotten Jack to draw little angry faces on the cats.
If you’re like me, you always wonder what exactly your kids are telling their teachers about you. I have to say, through Quinn’s eyes, I come off pretty well.

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Happy Home:
M is for magical mother
O is for outstanding overlord
T is talking terrific mom
H is for happy [private last name that certainly doesn’t start with an “H”]
E is for exilent writer
R is for fast runner

Damn, I love that kid.

He loves me too, which I know because when he was asked to fill in an answer to the question “My favorite guest speaker was,” he wrote “my mom.”

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He did have to erase where he had started to write “I do not know what a guest speaker is” first.
I have more. Oh, lord, I have more, but I’ll spare you. Sort of. I’m still going to post photos of some of the artwork they came home with. This way I will feel less bad about putting all of it in a plastic bin and not looking at it again for 30 years instead of framing it and putting it on a wall.

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By Jack. I think it’s probably Minecraft related.
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Also by Jack. I like this one a lot.
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By Sam. So pretty.
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By Jack. This one feels…derivative.
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By Quinn. He wrote about this, “I made it look gloomy and evil.” In case you’re wondering.

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By Jack. Those are some scary ass birds and some tall ass plants.
 
The end. I’ll meet you back here at the end of the next school year for the exact same post.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Minecraft as Summer Learning

It is Day One of summer vacation. I figured that I could give my kiddos at least one gimme day of just hanging out and doing whatever they wanted to do, which pretty much means that they got to play a lot of Minecraft.

No worries though! It turns out that Minecraft is edu-ma-ca-tion-al.

In the three days since school has let out, I have witnessed my children use their obsessions with Minecraft to build on several very important academic subject areas:

Math: Sam and Quinn spent a substantial amount of time on Saturday doing extensive math problems to figure out how many…somethings they needed to…do something having to do with Minecraft.

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Reading: Quinn loves to read—as long as what he’s reading features big cartoon drawings. He briefly began a love affair with the Magic Treehouse Books, but then he discovered Captain Underpants and his non-cartoony chapter books phase ended.

Do you want to know how to get him to read big chunks of text on a page though? Make it a wiki about Minecraft.

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Collaboration and family bonding: My kids spend a fair amount of their time acting like they want to kill each other. Yet if you put something interesting about Minecraft on the computer, they will all cram into one chair to pore over it.

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Chorus: I wandered past Quinn and Jack playing at a computer today. Quinn was playing Minecraft and Jack was humming the exact same song as was playing on the screen. He does that all the time. It is one of my favorite things about him. No worries that he doesn’t have a weekly music class anymore; Jack is keeping his vocal chords primed and ready.
Art: Every single ding dang day my kids use reams of paper making Minecraft-themed drawings. These are some of Jack’s. He actually drew them at school. I was too lazy to walk into the living room to take photos of today’s art that was on the coffee table.
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Also, these are in color and today’s are black and white, so I thought you might like these more.

Til-the-End

A couple of weeks ago, Jack said he wanted to write a blog about Minecraft and even though part of me was all, “nooooooooo,” another part of me was all, “Dayum, this is a fantastic way to (a) encourage Jack to write, (b) teach Jack to type more fluently, and (c) entertain the hell out of me.”
It will not, however, serve as a lesson in grammar unless I decide that my editing their work for proper punctuation is more important than their artistic integrity. I’m stuck on that one.
I mean, the kid capitalized “Bloggers,” for the love of God. Clearly he needs to learn a little something about bloggers and how we are most definitely a lower-case “b” group of people.

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Jack eventually let Sam take over the typing and he took on more of a “creative mastermind” role.
I figure that by the end of the summer one of two things will have happened: They will have lost interest and abandoned their blog almost immediately or they will be fluent in HTML.

They are welcoming comments over there, so if you like Minecraft, you’re welcome to hop on over. They are also looking for topics that you’d like to hear about in their future blog posts.
In the meantime, I plan on not feeling the slight bit bad about letting my children play hours and hours of Minecraft this summer because of the, you know, LEARNING. You all have fun with your summer homework packets though.

Friday, June 14, 2013

I’m Chubby But I’m Tough

Or maybe that title should read, “I’m Chubby and I’m Tough.” Chubbiness does not preclude toughness.

In case you missed the billion photos of me covered in mud that I posted all over Social Mediaville last weekend, I thought I’d let you know that last Saturday, I ran Run Amuck, which is a mud obstacle course put on by the Marine Corps Marathon people and which takes place on the Marine Corps base at Quantico. Also, in case you’re wondering—and even though I have Marine Corps blood passed down from my father—I am nowhere near badass enough to be a Marine.

Yet.

:)

So. Run Amuck. I’ll be telling you about this in detail, because I like to remember details from races like this. This race (and I use the term “race” loosely because it was untimed—and any event where you have to wait politely in lines to reach an obstacle can’t fairly be called a race) was one of the most fun things I have ever done. In case you’re wondering, read the “Obstacles” section on the Run Amuck course page for a rough idea of what we ran through.

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Or you could look here. Click to enbiggen.
For a more specific idea, read on here.

The race started with an inflatable obstacle course. In other words, a moonbounce. But this moonbounce said “semper fidelis” on it and featured the Marine Corps logo. I really enjoyed that. I did not, however, enjoy the moonbounce itself as one of its features was an inflatable wall that you had to hurl yourself over, but it was impossible to climb because it and my feet were wet. I mean, it was impossible for me—there were plenty of people who managed to get over quite well. I don’t feel too bad though because I watched a lot of really fit people not be able to get over as well.

My failure here worried me for the only other obstacle that I was worried about, which were the monkey bars. It’s funny that the only obstacles I couldn’t hack were those that are common on children’s playgrounds.

I’ll have to do some thinking about that.

After my failure right off the bat in front of gathered crowds, I hurried away to the next obstacle, the slip ‘n’ slide. Huh. Maybe this race wouldn’t be so tough after all.

Of course, immediately after that fun experience, they made us do a stair climb out of the stadium we’d just slipped and slid into and then run through a tire course, which is more awkward that I had imagined. From there, it was a fun rappel down a steep hill back into the stadium.

The “great” thing about this race is that, in addition to the obstacles, there were also stations where Marines yelled at you to do various quick exercises. The first was a set of crunches. Which I ROCKED, by the way.

Then we had another stair climb back up out of the stadium, but not up stairs this time; rather we had to climb the seating benches, meaning that each stair was 2-3 times the height of a regular stair. I think I surprised the Marine at the top of the stairs when I ran up those bad boys like a pro. I actually really love running stairs. (See also: chubby but tough.) I did stop to stare incredulously at the guy when he told me to run faster, but when I got to the top he said that I did such a good job that he wouldn’t yell at me for stopping for a second.

From there we ran under a firehose that was pouring water onto the road. It was less of an obstacle and more of a quick, intense shower with your clothes on. It was also the last section of the course that took place on pavement.

We headed off onto a muddy trail that presented us with a series of fun little obstacles, such as an A-frame wall, a hay bale jump, a flutter kick station, more tires to run through, and a pipe crawl. Piece of cake, baby.

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I like this photo. I think I look jaunty.
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I’ve taken enough unflattering race photos to learn that you always smile when there is a dude in a fluorescent vest with a camera near you—even if you are trying to run through tires that are far too wide for a normal stride.
After all of that, we arrived at a water station. They were hydrating us before they tried to kill us.

At this point, I should mention something. It had rained for, like, an entire two days prior to this race. This took a situation where the race creators had planned a route, added extra mud (seriously), then the rain made it even worse. From this point, which was about one and a half miles in, to the end of the race, we ran up and down a series of steep hills that were thick with the slipperiest mud I have ever attempted to stand on.

One highlight of this hilly section was the mud crawl, which consisted of trenches full of muddy water. To get into the water, you had to duck under a tarp, which had the result of making sure you submerged entirely in the water. Then after trudging through the sludge, you had to climb out using a cargo net.

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It was…messy.
Then hills. More hills. Lots more hills.

You know how in cartoons, characters try to run really fast and their legs run and run and run but their bodies stay in the same place? It was like that. I had to trample on the greenery on the side of the path to get traction in order to prevent myself from walking in place.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Or, rather, stumble, summit, sigh deeply when you see the next hill.

Along this stretch was a rope spiderweb to pick your way through, jumping jacks, an ammo can carry, and what they referred to as the “low crawl.” The low crawl was a long stretch with ropes crisscrossing the trail a couple of feet above the ground that you had to crawl under. It was not that big of a deal, even in the mud, but for the fact that the dirt was populated by hundreds of tiny, sharp rocks. I’m still scabbed.

At one point, I realized that the thicker the mud, the more cushion there was between me and the rocks, leading me to deliberately crawl through the deepest mud puddles. I then ran the rest of the race with a nice set of mud gloves.

Next up were the monkey bars. The monkey bars were the thing I was most worried about in the whole race. See, no matter how steep the hill, I can get up it. No matter how gross the mud, I can slog through it. No matter how many rocks on the ground, I can crawl over them. If I fall, I’ll stand back up. But monkey bars? With muddy hands? No way in hell.

Fortunately, there were three sets of monkey bars and there were hay bales under one of them that made it so I could just walk across the hay and reach the monkey bars without having to use any arm strength at all. I didn’t feel bad about it one single bit.

Well, I felt a little bad about it when the Marine standing there looked at me and said, “Cheater.”

But whatever.

It was somewhere in this stretch that I started to fall down a lot. With good reason (slippery, remember?), but still. It also started to rain. I have never been less concerned about being rained on in my life. We ran through a mud pit and had to use a cargo net to CRAWL up another hill.

There was a push-up section as well, which I mention only because the sign said, “5 push-ups,” but the Marine there was all, “We are doing 5 two-count push-ups, which is basically the same as 10 push-ups, so do 10 push-ups.” Then he told us that he wished he could make us do four-count push-ups, but “they” wouldn’t let him.

Now, I don’t know what a four-count push-up is, but I know enough not to argue with a Marine, even if what he is saying is in direct contradiction to the sign posted RIGHT THERE. Ten push-ups later, I was on my way.

The most bizarre obstacle was the one they called wrecking balls but that was really just hippity hop balls hanging from more monkey bars. The last obstacle was another low mud crawl, which was more of a mud roll to get under the ropes.

Then it was just down a few more slippery hills and recovering from a few more falls and near-falls and I was across the finish line.

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There is NOTHING more flattering than wet clothing adhered to all the contours of your body.
Run Amuck was challenging. I was for sure sore for a couple of days afterward. The thing is, I think almost any of you could have completed that course too. It was definitely hard, but if you have stamina, you could do it.

And you should. Because it was so. much. fun.

There are a lot of gimmick races out there these days. I’ve done a couple of them now and I have learned that I am far more interested in straight running races. That said, I know I will keep doing certain mud/obstacle races because they are just such a blast.

Also, I am going to start working on my monkey bar skills because next year, I am not going to cheat. I am going to be less chubby and more tough.  I am determined.

Sam Moves Onward and Upward

Sam graduated from 5th grade today, which means he’s headed out to middle school next year. (He also got a packet of homework from said middle school in the mail today, but I figured I wouldn’t tell him about that until next week.)

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Oh, I’m sorry. I mean, “He was promoted from 5th grade…”
We headed off to his graduati— promotion ceremony this morning, which I thought would be cool, but no big deal. It totally surprised me when I had to fight back tears. The ceremony was really nice. Each student had written one or two sentences thanking someone who had helped them in their education and the principal read each of them as they got their certificates.

Some kids thanked their parents or siblings. Some thanked teachers or other staff. Sam thanked his instrumental music teacher for helping him to “get the courage to play a solo and become a musician.” The whole thing was really incredibly touching—up to and including the song at the end that was all about being different and being okay. [sob]

(It would have been more touching had the jerk in front of me not held his iPad up in front of me for much of the ceremony to take video. Seriously. People who think they are more important than everyone else in the room are incredibly frustrating. This guy’s phone also rang (loudly) TWICE and then he HAD A CONVERSATION ON THE PHONE TWICE during the ceremony. It was truly obnoxious and a good lesson in why I hate most people.)

Afterward, the school had a “clap out” for the 5th graders where all the other students and the parents gathered and, well, we clapped as each student had his or her name called and they had their moment to leave the school in front of everyone.

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Some kids danced across, some twirled, some were super silly. Sam set a land speed record.
The kids in Sam’s program have been all together in the same class for two years, so the group was pretty tight. A couple of the parents were so kind as to host a party for Sam’s class at one of their houses. It was a really nice end to the day and the year.

Plus, there were chickens at the party.

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She was soft and nice. I liked her.
It was also at the party that I realized that the top of Sam’s head has reached nose height on me. I find this unacceptable.

To sum up:

1. Sam is a middle schooler.

2. I cry at everything.

3. Sam’s middle school is an overachieving jerk that assigns homework riiiight as the last year ends.

4. Fifth graders don’t graduate, they get promoted.

5. Don’t be a dick at promotion ceremonies.

6. If a group of kids ends a promotion ceremony with a song about being nice to kids who are different, I will dissolve.

7. I cry at everything.

8. Sam is too tall.

9. Chickens are awesome.