Friday, December 30, 2011

Victor Whistles

Victor learned to whistle this year. It's adorable.

He comes from a big family of whistlers. My dad whistles. I whistle.* My sisters whistle. I don't know if my brothers whistle.

But this week I was surprised to hear him whistling the December to Remember Lexus Sales Event jingle.

*I learned in 8th grade, embarrassed that I couldn't keep up with the rest of the family.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Mother-Son Compromise

A few years ago, my cousin Jana posted a blog entry about her internal conflict over Santa Claus. That is, to do or not to do.

At the time, I thought her concerns were unusual. Perhaps she was over-thinking this part of childhood.

But as Victor grew old enough to appreciate Christmas, I found myself similarly conflicted about promoting a belief in the jolly old elf.

I wasn't trying to make Christmas less commercial (I love presents) or more religious (we are clear about the religious nature of the holiday). But I didn't want to actively promote something that, although fun, is not true. Maybe it stems from the same part of me that hates practical jokes.

This year, Victor has asked me flat out a number of times is Santa is real. I always respond, "What do you think?" He always responds that Santa is real and gives reasons. I ask if he can think of any other explanations for his reasons. (Not to kill his Santa-love, but because it's an important thinking skill.)

A few weeks ago, Victor, in frustration, told me that I didn't believe in Santa, but he did. Because Santa is real. I told him--expressing support, not exasperation--that it was fine to believe in Santa. It was a nice compromise.

So now Victor believes in Santa, but also believes that his parents do not believe in Santa.

Jeremy thinks I'm being a little silly about all of this.

Victor, though, tested me the other day by ringing a jingle bell from Santa's sleigh that he got at school. He demanded to know if I could hear it.

I could hear it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Christmas Craft

We spent Thanksgiving with my aunt in Virginia this year.

She firmly believes in making memories, so she prepared a Christmas Craft for the women-folk to do while the men-folk went to the dump.

Here is my finished product. I am quite proud of it.





















I also made this wreath. Again, quite proud.




Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Presents for Zeke

Zeke's birthday is Christmas Eve, but he doesn't have many presents for either occasion yet because all he wants is (1) a jet pack and (2) a helicopter hat.

Both items are for flying around the house.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Victor and Zeke Express Thanks

Although I try with some frequency, I can rarely get Victor or Zeke to tell me what they are thankful for.

Fortunately, they were willing to inscribe their thanks on school projects.

Victor made a construction-paper turkey. On each colorful tail feather he wrote something he was thankful for.

In his own words and with his own spelling, he is thankful for my famlee, Zeke, mom, Daddee, me, sooh, toys, bus, and (my favorite) rf.


Zeke told his teacher what he was thankful for. Then he drew a picture.

He is thankful for Victor and for Dad's Car.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Visiting

I grew up in New Hampshire, a long way from most of my Dad's relatives.

When we traveled to Utah and Idaho, we stopped in to see ALL of my Dad's relatives. And some of my Mom's.

We didn't really do things together or attend events.

We visited.

A visit is where the adults talk for hours about people and events and ideas the kids don't know and the kids either find some toys or other kids or (more usually) are bored out of their minds. And hungry.

But I realized recently that visiting is my favorite thing to do.

I love to visit!

Thanksgiving this year was particularly good for visiting because I got to see two sets of aunt and uncles and four cousins. On Saturday, I think we visited for six hours straight! It was fantastic!

And my aunts had lots of toys, so the boys weren't bored. And there was lots of good food, so no one was hungry.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Victor's Curse

About two weeks ago, I told Victor that if he didn't do X, he would not receive Y privilege.

Pretty standard stuff.

But he got upset and yelled: I will take away all of your privileges! Even talking! AND YOUR WORK!! YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO DO ANY OF YOUR WORK!!! NO WORK!!! No talking and NO WORK!!!!!

It's adorable that the things he thinks I most value in the world are talking and housework.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Story Duel

Tonight, the boys wanted to hear stories from both of us.

Because Victor is so into his new bedspread, I told them about all the bedspreads I've ever had.

Jeremy told them about the time his dad and grandpa went deer hunting, got a deer, skinned it, hung it in a bag, drove it back to California packed in dry ice in the back of the truck where Jeremy was also sitting, ate the venison, and kept the head in the freezer where it scared young Jeremy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Stories

When I was a little girl, I remember asking my Dad every night to "Tell us a story about when you were a little boy."

Dad told us stories about Montpelier and Kevin Beesicker and getting in trouble and cutting his own willow for spankings and driving a black truck in the dark before he had his license and playing football and getting a D from his dad and all sorts of other things.

I remember how exciting his life seemed. 

So the other night, when the boys wanted a story, I said, "I'll tell you about when I was a little girl." And I told them about the wood stove that heated our house in Merrimack.

The next night, they asked, "Can you tell us about when you were a little girl?"

We've been doing it for about a week.

These are not remarkable stories, but they love them and listen carefully.

A wood stove. Thinking the wrong man was my dad in our backyard. Going to church in a high school. My friend, Katie Hackett. Blizzards and snow forts. (I do understand why they like that one.) My Dad's Chevy Nova.

Great stuff.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Product Reviews

I have started using two new products lately.

1. Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion.

I had been having eyeshadow and mascara issues until a clerk at Ulta put me on to this lovely stuff. It's much better than other primers I have used. I use both the regular, which is a matte, flesh-colored cream, and the Original Sin, which is shimmery and works on its own as an eyeshadow. Great stuff. It even keeps my mascara on.

Caveat: silly packaging causes eye rolling. "Original Sin?" Really? It's eyeshadow.

2. The Shark Steam Pocket Mop.

I have wanted one for a while, but the price tag was daunting. Enter the Woot Deal of the Day about three weeks ago and voila! I have a steam mop for a very reasonable price.

Like any mop, you have to sweep thoroughly first or you end up pushing a dirt line around the kitchen. And you have to do your baseboards by hand. However, if you do sweep thoroughly (especially into the corners), this is am amazing mop.

Things I like about the Shark:

a. It really gets dirt off the floor.

b. You just add water. I like Mr. Clean and Lysol, but water is less expensive.

c. There's no setup. Usually you have to scrub your sink or bucket, fill it with water and cleanser, empty and refill it when water is dirty or cold, etc. With this, you just fill the mop with water, put on the cloth pad, and plug it in.

d. The cloth pad rotates so you can use both sides.

e. Since I'm not up and down scrubbing on hands and knees, but upright, the work goes MUCH faster.

f. It dries faster and leaves no residue. (Swiffer's solution leaves awful residue. And smells bad. But nobody asked that. And I just put a washcloth dipped in diluted Lysol or Mr. Clean on my Swiffer head anyway because of the residue and smell and to add scrubbing power.)

g. You can wash and reuse the cloth pad.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween

Halloween was last night. I put up my four decorations and spent $27 (gag) on candy and costumes.

Victor was a cowboy (bandana: $2; rope: $5; multipurpose plaid shirt: $10).

Zeke was a Transformer (cardboard box covered in tin foil and Jeremy's old Decepticon hat: free).

The most entertaining part of the night was when Jeremy called me at home about 15 minutes after they had left to trick or treat.

Jeremy: Hi, Honey. Do you happen to have a full length picture of Zeke in his costume?

Me: No. I didn't get one before he ran off.

Jeremy: Oh. So . . . you don't know if he had shoes on when he left?

Me, looking around: Well, I see his shoes here. . . Is he out there with no shoes?!?!

Jeremy: Ah, yes. We'll just . . . Does he really need them? He seems okay.

It's funny because I'm very particular about my boys wearing their shoes when they are outside. And it was really cold last night.

I met them at the end of the street with Zeke's shoes. He seemed grateful.

Fun Mom Volunteers!

Part of being fun is volunteering at your child's school. You also have to pretend that you think the planned activities are fun.

Yesterday, I volunteered at Victor's Fall Fest. I was stationed at the apple stamping station and got to use red and purple paint. (The purple was dug out of a closet when we ran out of red.)

I can't say that I was wowed by anyone's surprisingly creative or artistic apple stamping. Or that I gained an appreciation for fruit or childhood or anything. It was just apple stamping.

But it was fun!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Syrian Protests

There is a fascinating video embedded on The Weekly Standard website by a group called Unreported World.

The video was prepared by a crew that traveled to Syria and interviewed dissident leaders, army deserters, and other people who support the protests.

It is well worth watching.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Primary Program

Today was our ward's annual Primary Program. It went very well.

Zeke's part: I can help others by not crashing into them on their bikes.

Note: this is something Zeke actually has to make an effort to do. He loves to crash into other cyclists while on his bike.

Victor's part: Heavenly Father has a plan for me. As I read the scriptures I can learn on his plan.

Note: Victor was the last in his class to speak. He had a hard time standing still while the girl in front of him was giving a scripture. He kept getting REALLY close to her and peeking around. I think he was up on the booster step with her at one point.

Victor also gave a masterly microphone-height adjustment. He then spoke very boldly into the microphone.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Motivation

Victor and I had a strange conversation about homework yesterday.

He told me that Katie and Lin (not their real names) did not do their homework, but that it was important to do homework to help Joyce (not the real name of his school). And if they did homework, they earned money.

He also told me that he can read on his own. Which he knows because his teacher patted him on the head yesterday, and not because he observes himself reading.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Zeke's Story

Zeke told the following story to my mom on the webcam last Sunday.

I was walking through the forest. Then I dropped my map on a fire truck. A bear ate my map and I didn't know which way to go.

I found Dad's compass and it told me which way to go--north!

Then I heard the bell from my car and went down the path toward the bell.

I found the bell and put it in my car, and I drove out of the forest.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Applied Information

It is enjoyable to me when the boys apply their knowledge to new situations.

For example, Victor might describe to me that he believes a car in the lane next to us is faster than our van because it is lighter.

This week, Zeke applied knowledge of a new shape, the parallelogram, to food, with the purchase of Teddy Lelograms.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Two Years!

Today, I had my two-year post-chemo oncology appointment.

My two-year CT scans were clear, and my CA 125 was 9.1.

Perfect!

Since I've been in remission for two years, I will have appointments every six months instead of every three months.

And life can proceed as normal.

Victor's Thursday

I am very impressed with the progress I see in Victor's handwriting and coloring. Today he brought home an "I Like" book he had copied/written and colored. He liked to show me the pages that were graded "4."

Victor was on green on Monday, yellow on Tuesday, and green on Wednesday. When he got off the bus, I asked him how his day was.

Victor: Um, yellowish.

Me: How did you get on yellow?

Victor, pivoting: I was making a pattern for you. Green, yellow. Green, yellow. It is a beautiful pattern.

They sang songs in music class, but Victor over-rang his wrist bells. He says he does not like to sing.

The class does math centers before lunch. This was a new bit of information.

In one center, you stretch rubber bands over nails to make shapes or make fat shapes out of play-doh. In another, you play the dog bone game.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

House Puzzle

One fun thing about our house is its efficient floor plan. Every square foot is useful, and we use every square foot. It's like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Our most recent challenge was where to store the disassembled crib.

My first thought was to re-do the attic. But that proved fruitless. Even if the available space were large enough, I wasn't sure I could maneuver the crib parts around the rafters to reach the space.

I shifted to Plan B: find space in the house that will not leave things looking or feeling more crowded.

After a morning of space-seeking, it's done!

The mattress and side rails are under my bed. The stepladder had to be moved, but it has a new home in the back bedroom. The Christmas platter also moved to the back bedroom. Bonus: I got to vacuum the baseboard under my headboard.

The headboard, footboard, slatted mattress support piece and skirt board are tucked into the space between the outside wall and tall computer cabinet in the back bedroom.

The under-crib storage drawer fits snugly under Zeke's toddler bed. Bonus: it conceals items stored under his bed. 

Everything is tucked away and out of sight. 

Mission accomplished!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When Zeke Was a Grown Up

Zeke will often ask me a question about something and then say, "When I was a grow up, I used to . . . ," and fill in the blank with whatever we just discussed.

On Friday, after we discussed that Great-Grandpa had a farm on which Grandpa use to work, he announced, "When I was a grown up, I used to be a farmer."

Me: Oh? What kind of farm did you have?

Zeke: With lots of machines.

Me: Oh--machines.

Zeke: And some animals.

Me: What kinds of animals?

Zeke, without hesitation: Sheeps, gooses, ducklings, dogs, and cows.

Me: Did you grow any food?

Zeke, with confidence: Um, oh, yes. Sour apples and tomatoes.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Victor's Monday at School

Everyone in Victor's class stayed on green today!

They have learned songs about the days of the week and the months of the year, which Victor SANG to me. He made up his own song about the seasons.

In carpet time, they identify shapes and sight words.

Today, during library time, instead of listening to a book read aloud, they watched a movie with a funny talking scarecrow. He taught them about recycling seeds: the seeds grow and then you have more seeds.

The scarecrow also taught them about weeds.

According to Victor, "Weeds have little things like penises that suck up all the water. They are bad and want to kill all the trees and other plants.To get rid of them you have to dig them up with a shovel and dig up all the roots."

Victor says he wants to eat cafeteria food some time.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Victor's Fourth Week

This week, Victor realized that at school, he works all day. But at home, he plays all day.

He also decided that he preferred his four-year-old class centers, which included blocks and a play kitchen, to his kindergarten centers, which do not.

There were some perks, though.

1. He got to put glitter on the kite he is making in art.

2. The homework became more interesting and winnowed to 1/3 the time.

3. The bus.

4. He got to wear his red raincoat twice.

5. The listening center, which involves headphones.

6. He finished the book he made about fall.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sensational Second!

You may notice an addition to my blogroll: Sensational Second, from my good friend Jenny. She has been teaching school since we graduated from college and is a literacy specialist.

Sensational Second is her blog about teaching second grade, and it has lots of great ideas I'm excited to try at home.

Besides the fun ideas, I like to see what a second grade class looks like so I can better gauge kindergarten and first grade.

I hope you enjoy it!

Zeke's Second Day and Victor's Ninth

Zeke was aglow when I picked him up yesterday.

"Miss Lynn painted my fingers red!" he said.

Other highlights:

"We played on the playground. I played on the seesaw! But no throwing mulch. No going up the slide. My teacher said you can't throw mulch into the air. You can't walk up the slide. You have to walk up the ladder."

Victor had PE today. They ran one mile, which is eight laps around the field. After each lap, Coach checked off their names. They were allowed to walk or run, but not to sit down.

He described his day as "first we do some learning and then we play [PE] until lunch and then lunch and then we do some more learning and then we ride the bus!"

Friday, September 9, 2011

Victor's Ninth and Tenth Days

Victor stayed on green all day on Wednesday and Thursday. I can tell he makes a big effort.

On Wednesday, he went to art class. They are making kites out of paper. All of the children were given the same paper. He did not get to choose his color.

On Thursday, he went to music class. It was a lot better than last week.

The really big news on Thursday was that a girl in his class got on BLUE. She was not following directions. If you get on blue, the teacher calls your mom.

Zeke's First Day

Wednesday was Zeke's first day of preschool. He had a very nice time. There are 11 boys and four girls in his class.

Me: Zeke! How was school?

Zeke: Good.

Me: What did you do?

Zeke: I just played with toys.

Me: Which toys?

Zeke: Oh. A fire truck.

Me: Which fire truck? The small, medium or big one?

Zeke: Oh. The medium and the small fire truck.

Me: That sounds fun. What else did you do?

Zeke (more excited): I shot Scott with a gun. Then with a bigger gun!

Me: Oh? What did your teacher think of that game?

Zeke: She thinked it was good.

Me: Really? What happened next?

Zeke: I shot him, then someone shot me back and forth.

Me: And what did your teacher think of this game?

Zeke: She thinked--thought it was really, really bad.

Me (observing): You don't play guns at our house.

Zeke: I know. We don't have anything to make good guns.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Victor's Eighth Day and a Milestone

Monday was a big day. Not only was Dad home ALL DAY, but Victor lost his first tooth!

It was very exciting.

He told his teacher on Tuesday, but she did not hear him.

Also on Tuesday, Victor's class did not have centers. Instead, they played a sight words game with four teams. A girl named Kelly is on Victor's team. The teacher asks each team in turn to identify a sight word.

In the cafeteria, the students must use voice levels 0 or 1. They did not have recess after lunch because they had P.E. earlier in the day. (I think this is barbaric, but never mind.)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Victor's Seventh Day

The highlight of Victor's seventh day of kindergarten was, "There's no homework today!"

He also explained the voice volume system:

0--no talking

1--whisper

2--conversation

3--outside voice

Sadly, Victor had to be on yellow because he used a 2 during centers, when only a 0 or 1 is allowed.

There are four centers. One is a set of lowercase letter stamps that you can use to stamp your name and the sight words. Another is a whiteboard and marker where you can write your name and the sight words.

While the students are in centers, the teachers test one student at a time, "to see if you know stuff." For example, the teacher shows you a word and then takes away a letter to see if you know the new word, too. For example, "you read DOG and she takes away the D and you have GO."

Victor had PE yesterday. The activity was to act like whatever animal the teacher "spotted in the bushes." He got two strikes because he did not participate. He explained that he was hot and wanted to stand in the shade.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Victor's Sixth Day

On Wednesday, Victor had music class. It was taught by a woman.

He also had to move his name from green to yellow.

He explained that there were two teams, black for the boys and pink for the girls. The boys had 13 points and the girls had 12 points. He wanted to win! So he did this to his classmate.

And he demonstrated a fist bump.

I have no idea if that's what really happened, but we practiced gentle fist bumps, just in case. I don't ever do fist bumps myself, but I saw Obama do it once, so I copied what he did.

Finally, Victor has a classmate named Pinch. Prince? No, PinCH. PINCH.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Victor's Fifth Day

Today, Victor went to Art.

It was in a different part of the building, and they had to walk outside to get there.

The art teacher is female.

Homework went significantly better today after we established a long-term objective (attend an air show next Saturday) and a short term objective (play outside).


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Victor's Fourth Day

Today, Victor's class divided into a blue team and a green team. Two tables (of six students each) were on each team. When the teacher held up a sight word, the students had to say the word. Victor was on the blue team. The green team got more points.

His class went to PE today. It was in an outdoor building. Sometimes they sat, and sometimes they stood.

Victor earned four stars today for "doing awesome things."

The bus was terrific.

Once home, Victor was distressed to learn that Zeke and I had gone swimming.*

Homework was ridiculous.

*Recalling Victor's distress at missing a swim date, Zeke added to the dinner prayer tonight: "thank thee that Zeke** went swimming with only Mom."

**This grammar is odd because Zeke has never habitually referred to himself in the third person, even when he was tiny.

Ask SwindleFun

We have a question from a new mom!

Dear SwindleFun!

So, my Aunt sent me an email about life in general, and congratulated me on the birth of Owen (the name of my nephew born less than two months before Ben).

I am not offended, but I want to cause her the least amount of embarrassment. She will likely discover the mix up at some point.  Should I let it come out if/when it does? Correct it?  And if so, when?

Thanks, manners expert!
Dear New Mom,

I believe in correcting things quickly and tactfully.

I recommend that you reply to the email, first expressing interest in and responding to her news and then stating that "Ben is such a wonderful/adorable/content baby. We are thrilled to be his parents."

The trick is to act natural, as if you hadn't even noticed her error, which you can easily do in an email.

Good luck!

Love,

SwindleFun


Victor's Third Day

Yesterday, when he woke up, Victor announced, "Today is the third day of kindergarten."

Breakfast, dressing, and the send-off went smoothly.

My school day was fine, but with only Zeke at home, I can't get anything done.

When Victor got home, he showed me a picture he had drawn (a big truck stuck in some mud, complete with driver and steering wheel) and said that he had homework.

I am extremely doubtful as to the value of kindergarten homework, but I am giving it a chance.

This first experience was not very good.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Victor's Second Day

When the bus rumbled up on Friday, Victor hopped right on. Unlike Thursday, I did not spend the entire day feeling sick. I felt fine.

When the bus rumbled back in the afternoon, Victor hopped right off.

Me: How was your day?

Victor: Awesome!

Me: What happened today?

Victor: Well, two kids had to move their names to yellow. But then they stayed on yellow.

Me: Where was your name?

Victor: I stay on green!

Me: Did you drink your water bottle? Did you have enough water today?

Victor: Yes. I think there is a tear in my ice pack.

Me: Well, that's all right.

Me: So what made today awesome?

Victor (excitedly): On the bus home I saw a roller AND a cement mixer POURING CEMENT!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Victor's First Day

Today was Victor's first day of kindergarten.

He woke up, ate Kix for breakfast and dressed. Then we had family prayer and all walked to the bus stop.



The bus was very late today, but we had a nice time chatting with our neighbors.

When the bus came, Victor got right on and went to the last seat on the right. He clearly had been hoping that the very back seat would be available.

Then he spent the rest of the day at school. That's the interesting part, but I have very little information on it. Except he sat at a table for six kids, hung his backpack on a hook, lost his lunch number, needed more water with his lunch because he was very thirsty, and played outside after lunch.

I also learned that kindergarteners get off the bus first and then walk down the hall to their wing. He has classmates named Scott and Chyna. His teacher remembered his name from the open house. And his name stayed on green all day.

Finally, "you give your lunch number to the server." But not if you bring your lunch.

He seemed very happy when he got off the bus.


Zeke and I ran some errands this morning. Target is so much calmer when school is in session. 

Then we played Cars. I had to be Doc and Sheriff. We put Luigi and Guido in jail. Doc petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus, but Finn McMissile was guarding the jail and wouldn't let them out.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

True Grit

On Saturday night, Jeremy and I watched True Grit, which was featured prominently at last year's Oscar Awards.

Good points: minimal cursing, some exciting scenes, lovely scenery, filmed in a way that I could always see what was going on.

Bad points: the stilted dialog drove me BANANAS, I could hardly understand what Jeff Bridges was saying half the time, Josh Brolin talked like his mouth was numb from Novocaine, none of the characters were that interesting (precocious, obnoxious young girls are so overdone), I had no idea why Rooster and Leboeuf couldn't just get along, I got bored in the middle, it was dumb that Maddie said she didn't have time to get married (no time? what was she doing in the 1850s that left her with no time?).

Overall, I give this movie a shrug.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Facts of Life

Victor has a collection of stuffed dogs. There's Dog (see photo, right), Mom Dog, Beagle, Beagle Puppet (who is also the dad), and Victor Dog.

This afternoon, we discussed his family of dogs.

Victor: This is a Mom Dog. She has special milk for her little dogs.

Me: Oh?

Victor, locating Dog so as to nurse on Mom Dog: Yes. It is called Radioactive Milk.

Me: Oh!

Victor: Yes. It is very powerful.

Victor also has a LOT of friends with infant siblings.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Milestone Day

Victor and Zeke share a room, and it's my favorite room in the house: sunny, symmetrical, and organized.

Unfortunately, the symmetry came at a cost: both boys were in the same size bed. Zeke in a crib and Victor in a toddler bed. That was fine when they were much younger, but Victor was actually as long as his bed and it was time for a change.

So, yesterday we broke down the crib. Zeke helped me empty and wash it and now it's in pieces in the back bedroom.

We replaced the crib with a wonderful platform bed that rests on four drawers and a cupboard.  Victor is beside himself with joy.

And Zeke is enjoying his new toddler bed.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Victor's New Skill

Victor enjoys water.

He studiously--truly, he was very persistent--learned to float in the bathtub a couple of years ago. He spent the last two summers learning to float/flop/paddle/sink around a real swimming pool.

This week, he achieved actual swimming: the dog paddle. I count it as real swimming because he can use it to move himself in a desired direction without sinking.

Admittedly, he petered out in the middle of the deep end three times on Friday and needed assistance. The first time, I helped him to the ladder where he promptly announced that he had beaten his two girl friends to the ladder. Um, no he didn't.

The second time, I gave him a friendly push and he made it to the wall before jumping back in.

The third time, I sat on the edge of the pool and maintained a cheerful stream of encouragement until he paddled over.

Swimming!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Story about a Big, Big Team, by Victor

This evening, Victor wrote a movie.


The movie is called A Story about a Big, Big Team.

There is a song in the beginning.

The characters are cars and robots from other movies, including Lightning McQueen, Wall-E, and our Chevy Express van, or "Vanny." None of them has hair. Also in the movie are Dog (see the picture on the right) and Victor. Victor is the only human.

Now for the story, as told by Victor and moved along by my questions.

First, my team gets together at my home, which is a super-duper, extra-secret hideout in a cloud. We make sure everyone's engine and Wall-E's battery are charged. (Wall-E's battery charges all night, up to52,000.)

After the batteries are checked, we leave the hideout. Then Vanny and Lightning McQueen put out their wings and fly to a secret road. Dog has a little jet pack, about his size. He turns is on and flies with the team.

There are 500 secret roads. The roads lead to different places--different cities, or jungles (with volcanoes), or Japan. We take all one road and stay with ourselves. Dog still needs his jet pack. Sometimes he just runs.

I have no idea where the road is going.

The End.

It's kind of like some of the foreign films I saw in college. Victor intends to give it to the theater man.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Loss

After chemo, some people experience the loss of a certain flavor. A friend of mine lost chocolate.

I lost peanut butter.

It was not immediate. But one day I ate a bit of peanut butter and tasted nothing but oil. I can still get a faint smell of peanuts, but that delicious nutty flavor is gone.

It's not a bad flavor to lose. What if I had lost steak? Or zucchini? Or french silk pie?

So far, there have been two main inconveniences.

1. My go-to on-the-road breakfast of a pb&j sandwich is no longer an option.


2. When we got Reese's Pieces at the movies this week, I couldn't taste them.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Moo

Last Friday was "Dress Lik Me, Git Free Chikn" day at Chick-fil-A.

I'm still fun, so I figured we could go. But not until 3:30 p.m., well after the lunch crowd.

Not only am I fun, I am enriching: the boys made their own black cow spots. Victor used scissors and Zeke tore paper. I dispensed and rolled the tape, and they affixed spots to shirts. Victor then started on a mask. He cut out the eye holes by himself!


Chick-fil-A was busy, but not too crowded. The boys had such a good time and their meals were so free, that the fun outweighed the crowds.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Grandparents

My maternal grandparents are terrific!

Victor is named for Grandpa, and my niece Laura is named for Grandma.

I have met people who knew them "way back when" in my last two wards.

Here is a great picture of them.





















I have learned a lot from my grandparents (much of it via my mother). For example:

--A place for everything, and everything in its place.

--Never force mechanical things.

--You don't need to do spring cleaning if you keep things clean during the winter.

--If you treat things nicely, they will last a long time.

--Always do what is right. There is never any other option.

--Be completely faithful to your family and to the Lord.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fun Mom to the Rescue

Today, we went to a friend's pool. It was super hot outside, and there were lots of kids there.

Because I'm fun, I was in the water with the kids with my fun friends. There was a table full of less-fun moms observing from afar.

It's a good thing I'm fun, because I noticed a little boy of about five flailing over his head in the 5-ft section of the pool. His brothers were completely oblivious and his mom hadn't noticed. I hustled over and fished him out. The poor little fellow was panicked and very upset!

I calmly carried him over to the edge of the pool and gently set him on the deck so he could go to his mom. His mom smiled and waved, but I don't think she realized what had happened. The little boy was obviously shaken and just sat with his mom looking very upset for quite a while. When he finally got back in the water, he put on a life jacket.

Moral of the story: be fun! And act immediately if you see a drowning child. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Acai

If you've been to the grocery store in the last two years, you've probably noticed the appearance of acai, the Amazonian wonder fruit.

(Please imagine a cedilla on the "c" and pronounce it ah' sigh-EE.)

Since I have first-hand knowledge of this fruit, I thought I'd weigh in.

First, it does not taste good. The only way it tastes remotely acceptable is when you mix it (in its thick liquid form, which is the only way you can get it in the Amazon) with an unbelievable amount of sugar and farinha. I thought the American food people would find a way around this obstacle, but the yogurt blend I tried some time back was gross.

Second, it is not rumored to have any health benefits among the regular population in Amazonas. As people there are pretty up on their fruits, I'm sure they would know of any wonderful effects. If you want vitamin C, eat a tasty orange. If you want weight loss, well, I'm not sure what you should do. But don't bother with this stuff.

Third, I think it is available here because nobody there really likes it. Like I said, it does not taste good.

Finally, of all the Amazonian fruits, I don't know why the importers chose this one. Probably because cupuacu (imagine another cedilla) doesn't travel well or something.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Question for the Housekeeping Division

Dear SwindleFun,

We just moved into a new house! My children's new closets have huge mirrored doors, and they are covered in a linty, filmy, streaky residue. I assume it is from old cleanser because it seems to spread every time I try to clean it off. 

Do you have any suggestions?

-le

Dear le:

What a mystery! Here's what I would do.

First, Goo Gone.

I have used it to remove price stickers from glass and ceramics and to get gum out of clothing. Liz uses it all the time.

It is a terrific product. Be SURE to follow the directions closely.

Second, the Mister Clean Magic Eraser.

This magical product removes all sorts of mystery grime. DO NOT use it on your skin. 

Third, when working on your mirrored doors, start in a small area where the residue is lightest. 

Use small, straight motions and move in one direction at a time, lifting your cloth or Eraser often to reveal a clean surface. Make sure whatever you are doing is not damaging the mirror.

For this kind of job, use a cloth with some scrubbing power instead of paper towels or newspaper. I like the big $4 packs of white wash cloths from Walmart.

Fourth, if neither of these things works, try rubbing alcohol. It's the best thing for carpets (I learned that from Grandma) and the only thing that got permanent marker off our computer screen.

If none of these ideas work, try Mr. Clean or Lysol in hot water. But I can't imagine that would work if Goo Gone failed.  

Good luck, and let us know what works!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Zeke's First Talk

Today, Zeke gave his first talk in Primary. His topic was "paragraph three of the Proclamation on the Family."

Here is his talk:


We lived with Heavenly Father before we were born. 

We loved Heavenly Father. We wanted to follow his plan.

We came to earth to get a body. 

Jesus Christ is our Savior.

We have temples so we can be with our families after we die.

This is my cousin Angelica.



We loved her very much, but she was very sick and she died.

Angelica lives in Heaven now.

But she is still my cousin. I love her!

I will see Angelica in heaven some day. 

I know we are still a family. 


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Laundry S.O.S.

Dear SwindleFun,

Does it matter if I dry ALL my clothes together?

I do my laundry at a coin operated laundromat. I wash all my clothes in separate loads, but I throw all the loads in the dryer to save quarters.

Is it okay to have my jeans, towels, undies, t-shirts, etc all together in the dryer? Am I going to ruin my clothes?

Thanks,
Liz

Answer:

Dear Liz,

Your clothes called. They want to know why you hate them. Seriously.

Garments and linens deserve to be treated with tenderness and respect. That includes drying them with like items at the recommended temperatures. Failure to do this will result in fading, shrinking, stretching, bleeding, yellowing, pills, lint, uneven drying, over drying, under drying, snags, rips, solar flares and urban warfare.

Your delicate items are suffering the most. Especially if you are drying them together with items containing zippers, hooks, or metal buttons. Would you like to tumble around with a hot zipper?


I don't think it will be much more expensive to dry your things properly. Your lighter, more delicate items will dry faster on their own. Your heavier items will dry faster as they tumble freely. Your underwear will not emerge in a wet ball from the wadded-up corner of your fitted sheet. Everything will be less wrinkly and easier to iron.

Your clothes will last longer and look nicer if you treat them with care. I'm appealing to your vanity here!

Love,
SwindleFun

P.S. Please note that this is not advice as to which items can be fully dried in a dryer and which cannot. That is another question entirely.

To le

Dear le:

SwindleFun is excited to answer your question!

But first, I need to know about the residue on your mirrors. Could you please describe it? Is it sticky? Slimy? Greasy? Linty? Smelly? Blue? Does it dissolve or pit the surface?

Also, what products and cloths have you already tried?

Yours truly,
SwindleFun

Monday, June 27, 2011

Toothpaste

Tonight, we had vanilla ice cream for our FHE treat.

About ten minutes later, Victor emerged from his bathroom and excitedly told me that if you add water to ice cream, you get tooth paste. Because it's white.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cars 2

Today, we went to see Cars 2. In 3D.

Good Points:
-The spy airplane
-The French rally car
-Having lemons be bad guys was funny
-The spy stuff
-It was not set in Radiator Springs
-The animation, especially the sets, action scenes and water.

Bad Points:
-Violent. Characters in a G movie should not kill each other.
-Victor thought it was scary. He usually loves scary, but not this time, because the scary scenes actually resulted in harm to characters.
-Tow Mater as the main character. He is my least favorite Car.
-Lame story. They should have had Lightening McQueen work with the spies to save his friends or something.


-The "just be yourself" message. Sometimes you should improve your defects, not accentuate them.
-Having all the Cars show up in London

On balance, it's one to see once. But not twice.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Company

We are big Sondheim fans, so when Jeremy heard about a limited engagement broadcast of Company at a local movie theater, we signed right up.

The production starred some very familiar actors and the NY Philharmonic, and it was terrific. I especially liked seeing Katie Finneran, from Fox's stupidly-cancelled Wonderfalls, among other things. Also, it included the song Marry Me A Little, which is not on the original cast recording, but which I think pulls the show together.

Patti LuPone blew me away as Joanne. Good gravy.

If the world is very lucky, Company will become available on Netflix and we can all see it again.

Check out the full review by Orson Scott Card!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Victor Makes a Friend

Victor is a friendly child.

Today, he saw a new girl at his friend's house. She promptly hid behind a tree.

"Don't be afraid," he told her, hand outstretched. "My name's Victor. I am a good kid."

She must have believed him, because she came out from behind the tree.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

New Vocabulary

Last week, I realized that Victor has started using the word voila!

(I think voila! should always be followed by an exclamation point.)

He uses voila! correctly, and I'm trying to think of where he learned it. Maybe Ratatouille.

Another word he has learned to use properly is "clearance," as in the distance between the bottom of a vehicle and the surface on which it is driving.

Reading two and three digit numbers is a skill we are working on. "Twenty" is a hard one. He wants to say "two-y," which is perfectly rational.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Math Book

I found a book at the library that has word problems for children.
 
It's called How High Can a Dinosaur Count?, by Valorie Fisher, and Victor enjoyed doing the problems with me.

We counted out wood beads for each problem and used them to help us add, subtract, etc. It was surprisingly fun.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Test Carrot

Last night, Victor wanted to put out food for the bunny that lives under our shed.

Jeremy suggested they hang a carrot from a nearby tree to see if the bunny would eat it.

Result: This morning, the test carrot was gone!

Zeke thinks it means that the bunny ate it. And according to Victor, "If the carrot was gone, the bunny must have made it into carrot stew."

Too much Beatrix Potter, I think.

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Dad Is Special, by Victor

My Dad Is Special

His name is Jeremy.

He is 40 years old. (I think.)*

He is as tall as . . . bigger than a tarantula.

His favorite color is black.

His favorite food is spaghetti and tacos.** Actually, all dinners are his favorite.

My dad's job is to work eight miles away.***

He really likes to play swords and cars.

What I love about my dad is he is bigger than my mom.


*Jeremy is not even close to 40.

**These are Victor's favorite meals.

***Jeremy's office is much more than eight miles away. Sadly.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Mom Is Special, by Victor

Victor also filled out questionnaires about his parents. This is what he says about me.

My Mom Is Special

Her name is Cyndie.

She is 64 years old.

She is 60 feet tall.

Her favorite color is red.

Her favorite food is: she likes lots of food.

My mom's job is: she stays home every day.

She really likes to play: she works all day and has no time to play.

What I love about me mom is: she takes me places.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I Am Special! by Victor

Victor filled out a personal questionnaire in preschool this year.

Here are some highlights:

I am five years old.

My birthday is March 15th.

My favorite color is red.

My favorite food is candy and  meat.

My favorite thing to play is hide and seek.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Another Invitation Question

This question comes from a friend expecting a baby.

Dear SwindleFun,

I am expecting a baby! It is not my first (or second), but some friends have offered to give me a shower. It sounds fun, but I'm not sure whom to invite. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: Congratulations! And I do have a suggestion. Since this is not your first (or second) baby, when showers are customarily given, I recommend a smaller guest list of close friends.

When I make a guest list, I try to include all friends of a similar intimacy or social circle. Invitations are a kind of social currency, so you want to take people's feelings into account. This is especially easy for showers, where the cost of adding another guest is a chair and chicken salad croissant.

For guests, I always recommend keeping an invitation under your hat unless you KNOW who has been invited. This caution extends to blogging or posting on Facebook about parties to which other people have not been invited.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

An Invitation Question

We have a question from a reader in New England!

Dear SwindleFun: My husband and I just moved to a new city. A nice couple invited us to dinner and we accepted.

A few days after the invitation, our hostess asked me if my husband and I played tennis, and would we like to play tennis as part of the dinner engagement. I answered that we do not play tennis.

A few days after that, our hostess wrote to me and asked whether we would like to play either tennis or soccer before or after dinner.

First of all, how weird is it to play sports at a dinner party? Second of all, we don't play tennis (lack of ability) or soccer (previous injury). Third of all, I don't want to be rude or a party pooper when these people are extending a hand of friendship, but I don't want to play soccer or tennis before or after dinner.

What should I do?

Answer: Never fear! You can safely decline to play sports before or after dinner because it was not part of the original invitation. The trick is to decline the sports with tact, but then state how excited you are for the dinner.

You might respond: "I'm afraid we won't be able to play soccer or tennis on Saturday. We're excited to see you at dinner, though. Is six still a good time? See you then!"

A few additional notes.

1. It is not weird to mix dinner and sports if that is what you like to do. I have at least one sibling who would be in paradise with this kind of invitation.

2. This is a cautionary tale for hostesses: make the terms of your invitation clear when you invite someone to do something. If your evening is based on a sports activity or a particular game or a particular show, make that part of your invitation so your prospective guest can make an educated response to your invitation.

3. Whenever possible, do not explain why you are declining an invitation. Just decline kindly and with regrets.

4. Where games of skill are involved, such as tennis, you should be honest about your skill level when asked. This is an exception to the general social rule of modesty because it is not fun to play tennis when you and your opponent are not similarly skilled. Or so I've heard.

Good Luck, New England!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Banned!

Victor is very interested in cars. How fast they go, and why. What kind of fuel they use, and why. How many exhaust pipes they have, and why. Whether other cars are faster than our car, and why.

Lately, he has been using speedometers to decide which car is the fastest. He peers into parked cars to see the maximum speed indicated by their speedometers. Then he tells me how it compares to our van (100) or my Camry (140--yeah, right).

These discussions are constant as we drive.

Today, I banned the topic of cars. Victor was stunned. I asked him if there was something else he'd like to discuss.

He suggested trucks.

I extended the ban to all vehicles.

He suggested lawnmowers.

So we discussed lawnmowers. Specifically, ride-on lawnmowers.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Wish List

Last night, Zeke told me that he wants a sister.

Specifically, he wants a "toy sister, who can walk. And with buttons and levers."

Monday, May 30, 2011

First Ever Family Hike

Today, we went on our first ever family hike.

Inspired by the fact that our cousins are always doing fun things, we went to find a waterfall at a nearby state park.

It was a short hike, but it was hot outside. The water was very refreshing.



I made two notes for future family hikes.

1. Hiking at noon on a hot day is not the best idea.


2. If your destination is entirely downhill, your car will be entirely uphill.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Farewell, Preschool

Today was Victor's last day of preschool.

I am a big fan of preschool.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Store Renovation

Our grocery store is being renovated.

I thought it was nice before. The new freezer cases are organized and clean, but also tall and ominous. Their lights only go on when you walk down the aisle, which makes the deserted aisles seem somehow threatening.

Also, I liked the old color above the freezer cases (light periwinkle) better than the new (cream).

There are also some new product sections. Hooray for fancy cheese, but I don't understand the pizza bar. Who wants a piece of reheated pizza?

Finally, aisle 6 has a new product category: New Age Drinks. I'm not sure what those are, but I'm pretty sure they're not for me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Storm Drain Fun

Yesterday, I replaced the batteries in the boys' remote control vehicles.

After exploring the limits of indoor fun, the boys took the vehicles outside. I figured it would be okay to run them on the front walk, so I instructed them to stay there and not go in the street.

Two minutes later, Victor came in to report that Zeke's truck was down the storm drain.

After consulting our neighbor, Bob, I discovered that the tool I needed to pry off the manhole cover is called a mattock. It's a curved blade, pointed on one end and flat on the other, at the end of an axe handle.

Lucky for me, my friend Michelle owns a mattock (with which she removes manhole covers on her cul-de-sac) and was happy to lend it to me.







So I pried up the manhole cover (Bob was impressed) and sent Victor down the rungs to retrieve Zeke's truck. 
He was very brave, and didn't mind the spiders at all. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jam Fun

Today, we went strawberry picking.

Because it's fun. And because we ran out of last year's freezer jam about two months ago.

An old timer named Theo showed us that the sweetest berries are those whose bottoms are gathered and just a little bit white. He also picked at least 1/4 of our berries, and the best ones, at that.

This afternoon, I made jam. Lots of jam.

I prefer the Ball instant pectin because (1) there is no cooking involved, just stirring; and (2) there is significantly less sugar but the same delicious taste.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Singing in Church

On Sunday, the Primary sang "Mother I Love You" in Sacrament Meeting.

When they announced it, Victor balked.

Zeke was thrilled. He marched up, took a spot at the front, and beamed.

Victor stood on the stairs to the side, only his eyes and forehead visible over the half-wall at the front of the stand.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Two Religious Moments with Zeke



Tonight, Zeke's personal prayers started with thanks for one of his Saturday Adventures with Dad: "Dear Heavenly Father, I thank thee for the dead possums . . . "

-----------------------------------------------

Then, we read the story of Lazarus in Luke 11.

Zeke: what does "weep" mean?

Me: It means to cry.

Zeke: To cry.

We came to verse 32. 

Me: "Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet . . . "

Zeke, alarmed: Did it hurt?

Me, confused for a moment: What? Oh. No. It did not hurt. It doesn't mean she tripped and fell down. She got down on her knees because he was Jesus. . .

Zeke: But it did not hurt?

Me: No.

Zeke: She did not hurt?

Me: No.

Things I Don't Care About

I am interested in many things.

But there are some things I do not care about.

1. Horse racing

2. Professional football, baseball, hockey, or boxing

3. Cars (but I enjoy Top Gear)

4. "Educational" video games

5. Most programming for very small children

6. Whether my boys play on a school sports team

7. Using hand sanitizer

8. "Green" living for the sake of "green" living (as opposed to green living for the sake of deliciousness or on the principle of not being wasteful)

9. Car seats for children Victor's size and larger (although he does, per state law, sit on a booster seat)

10. 99% of chick flicks

Friday, May 6, 2011

First Debate

Last night was the "first" debate of potential 2012 GOP presidential nominees. I was glad to have a smaller group of participants, most of them less-known.

I will share some impressions.

1. Rick Santorum: thumbs down. He was arrogant. He clearly thinks he is better than other people because of his positions on families, abortion, etc.

It's fine for a candidate to think his positions are better than those of another candidate. That's the whole point. But his sneering and preening was unattractive.

He was clearly trying to downplay his beliefs about working mothers. Since he clearly believes the world would be better off if more women stayed home, it was disingenuous of him to say otherwise.

Finally, his closing remarks were idiotic. He said people should vote for him because he has beaten Democratic incumbents in the past. It was not inspiring.

2. I enjoyed the cogent way in which Gov Gary Johnson (NM) explained his positions.

3. I don't think libertarianism would work on a large scale unless the society it governed had a fairly strict moral code.

4. Herman Cain's tone was more formal than the last interview I saw with him. I like polish. Points to Cain.

5. I am interested in hearing more from Gov Tim Pawlenty.