Working Hard for the iPod


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The Goal

Following the Newt Gingrich child labor plan, we have put Sissy to work as a janitor.  Being fairly poor, we felt that it was time for her to abandon her studies and actually start contributing something to the family that would be of use.  COLD HARD CASH.

Shit…I mean…Sissy has started earning an allowance. (NOT child labor.  Really.  Just forget what I said before…*Blink*…*Blink*)

Wifey has picked up a small job cleaning my parent’s office building once a week and Sissy helps her.  For her efforts she receives cash money in the amount of $5 per week.  And by receives I mean that we earmark her money in our bank account so that she doesn’t blow it on useless garbage like candy or cheap toys.  Or annoying dolls/stuffed animals (I’m still pissed at that damn bear.)  So for the last several weeks Sissy has been racking her brain trying to come up with the big-ticket item that she can spend her hard-earned dough on.

Her choice?  An iPhone.

Riiiight.  Like she has people to call.  I think my former students and my children’s grandparents would quickly tire of getting daily calls from a 7-year-old.  That idea received a definitive “NO!”

So we compromised (teaching life lessons, see?  Rock star parenting.) She could purchase an iPod touch with her money if she saved up enough of her earnings.  Sissy got online and researched the costs.  She might be able to find one for as low as $189, depending on sales, and with tax she needs to save around $210.  With the amount she’s already earned she figured that she has to save for about 8 months in order to make her purchase.

Earned so far: $35.  Left to earn: $175.  Weeks until iPod touch purchase: 35.

The countdown has begun.

Puff Puff, the Bear from Hell

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Me Strangling Puff Puff

Last Saturday we bought Sissy a “Build Your Own Build-a-Bear” at Big Lots. It was a bear skin in a box that your child (or you) can sew up and stuff. A fun project for our aspiring seamstress and lover of “stuffies” (her term, not ours). She pestered us all evening on Saturday to make the bear but it wasn’t the time. We should have known then to just throw the damn thing in the trash, especially after the epic meltdown that followed when we told her she would have to wait until Sunday to start. But we didn’t, and Sunday came and Sissy sewed and stuffed the bear. And when it was done she was proud of her accomplishment, poured out all of her love on her new baby bear, and christened it “Puff Puff.”

I HATE Puff Puff.

It has become Sissy’s obsession. She carries it everywhere, talks to it, calls Wifey and I its grandparents, brings it to the table for dinner, puts it down for naps, and sleeps with it. She insists that we snuggle with it, kiss it, hug it, say that we love it. Sometimes kids with imagination can be so annoying.

Just to clarify the timeline:

Saturday: Puff Puff is purchased.

Sunday: Puff Puff is made and christened.

Monday: Puff Puff loses an eye.

Oh happy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust and let me die! Wailing. Gnashing of teeth. Oh the tragedy! Jesus wept for Puff Puff’s eye!!!

For fear of accidentally ripping through Puff Puff’s entire head, Sissy carefully placed her beloved bear on Wifey’s sewing table to be mended. And there it lay forgotten. Until 9:00 that night when Sissy walked into our bedroom.

Sissy(wailing): “I ca-an’t sleep without Pu-u-uff Pu-u-uff!”

Me (having missed the eye incident): “Then take it to bed with you.”

Sissy(sobbing): “She lo-ost her eye and I don’t wa-ant to rip her head in my slee-ee-eep!”

Me: “Well then, you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow after Mommy has fixed it.”

Sissy(gnashing teeth): “BUT I ALWAYS SLEEP WITH HER! I CAN’T SLEEP WITHOUT HER!”

Me (to Wifey, whispering): “Didn’t she get that yesterday?”

Wifey: slight nod while rolling eyes

Me: “Sweetie, I don’t think she’ll rip if you sleep with her. Just go ahead and take her and ask Mommy to fix her tomorrow BEFORE bedtime.”

Sissy: “O-oka-ay.”

But of course she didn’t ask Mommy to fix her. Until 9:00 the next evening when the whole scene replayed itself again. More wailing, more drama, more eye rolling (by me, not her).

Fast-forward to Friday. I am home from work because Wifey has been struck with the flu and can’t get out of bed, let alone tend to our horde. While playing in the floor with The Baby, Sissy hands me a piece of paper. It is an invite to Puff Puff’s Baby Party. She has spent the last hour “decorating” (aka trashing) her room and requests my presence at what is sure to be the shin-dig of the century. And, because I’m a sucker, I accept the invitation. At the appointed time I walk back to her room to join in the festivities, which include a variation of hot-potato designed to make me lose (she hands me the dinosaur so she can turn off the music), some sort of “game” where I have to be Squidward trying to get SpongeBob (her) and Patrick (Bubba) to stop singing so loudly by shouting over them, and ending with Freeze Dance, which involves dancing until the music stops and then freezing in whatever position you are in (that one was actually kind of fun). Apparently, this is all for the benefit of Puff Puff, who is overseeing the festivities from atop Sissy’s cabinet. Wait a sec…she is overseeing with…TWO EYES! The eyes are sewn into the fabric, not buttons like I assumed they were. And they were both very much still present on the damn bear’s stupid head. I grab the bear and shove it in Sissy’s face:

Me: “What part of these eyes is broken? It seems pretty whole to me.”

Sissy: “Look…the dot in the middle of the eye has come off.”

You have got to be kidding me. A small dot of tan thread in middle of the right eye unraveled and came out. There wasn’t even a hole where the thread had once been. And I had to put up with a week’s worth of drama for THAT! I couldn’t even tell that anything was missing! I wanted to rip the bear’s head off and throw it at her while shouting “NOW THIS IS SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT!”

But I didn’t. I sat down in the floor and proceeded to play a game in which we passed the bear back and forth having to answer any question that Sissy asked while holding her. And while passing Puff Puff back and forth telling Sissy about my favorite colors, places, books, and dreams, I started to soften. This little bear, for all of its BS, was creating a wonderful memory with my daughter, so I guess I should be thankful.

Wait, no…scratch that. I still hate that stupid bear and will continue to pray for her to fall victim to some sort of horrible accident. But I love my daughter, so I’ll put up with Puff Puff…

For now.

The Big Decision

As you may or may not know, Sissy has had a pretty rough year in kindergarten.  She has always been academically gifted, hitting her milestones early, learning to read proficiently by the age of 4, and a pretty solid understanding of numbers and addition before the age of 5.  She is also incredibly imaginative and artistic.  The downside to giftedness is that it is often accompanied by extreme anxiety, and she has unfortunately also developed this as well.  I posted a few weeks ago that she was experiencing panic attacks in school and had begun vomiting at times when she was feeling overwhelmed and that she had even started to vomit at times of relative calm.  Her pediatrician expressed concern that this type of reaction could lead to an eating disorder at a young age as a way to exert control over her life and emotions and she suggested that we have her evaluated by the school psychologist.  We followed this suggestion and for the past few weeks Sissy has been observed in various settings, has had a SST review (an analysis of the need for special services), weekly meetings with the school counselor, and finally a sit down with the psychologist.  Earlier this week I sat down with the school principals, the counselor, the psychologist, and Sissy’s teacher to go over their observations and recommendations.  And the overall findings are:

Sissy is too academically advanced to function properly in her class.

Her teacher has been wonderful this year in creating a truly differentiated curriculum for her, but she can only do so much with 18 other kindergarteners to contend with.  In addition, part of Sissy’s anxiety comes from a self-imposed need for perfection and a desire to please those in authority, so she has actually digressed in many areas because she tries to mimic the work of her “peers” when the teacher compliments their work.  She doesn’t understand that “great” for them at a kindergarten level isn’t the same as “great” for her at a more advanced level.  So she gets worked up and overwhelmed and…vomits.  In her mouth.  And then doesn’t tell anyone about it until she gets into the car to go home where she will erupt into a sobbing mess, often for several hours.  She is making social connections in class, but is having trouble relating to her “peers” because they are not yet in the same place as she is intellectually.  She does much better with older children and adults who can relate to her in a more mature way.

All this to say that public school just doesn’t seem to be the place for Sissy.  She has qualified for the GT program, but it only for one hour each week and there is only one other kindergartener that qualified.  And we could try to skip her ahead a grade level, but even that would not really put her into the right academic group in several areas.  She is a self-motivated learner and the public school system is built on a mass-feed mentality where it is difficult to allow for students to pursue learning in their own unique ways.  So we are about 99.8% sure that for at least the remainder of elementary school that Sissy will be attending school in our own home.  That way we can create a curriculum that is suited especially to her and allow her to learn in the ways that are best for her unique gifts and temperament.  She will socialize through group activities, some local non-religious home school leagues, and through our church community.  We will utilize the amazing educational resources that technology provides (and that the public schools are unwilling and/or unable to commit to) to help her expand her learning in meaningful ways and also to make connections with other students and experts.  We will begin with an independent academic evaluation to assess her grade-level proficiency in the various academic areas and will then build our curriculum from there, using a mix of rote and project-based learning (PBL) as dictated by her learning style.  We will document and portfolio her work and will have her assessed annually to measure her progress.

I say we are 99.8% sure because this is a huge decision and commitment and we are taking the rest of this school year and summer to pull together resources, network, and evaluate ALL the pros and cons, and until we finish that we are not going to make the final decision.  But based on several months of discussion and research, this seems like the best option for her.  So, keep us in your thoughts as we start on this journey, and we would appreciate any help or feedback that you would like to share!

Bubba Lays an OVO

On Friday my parents took me and the family (minus Peanut) to see Cirque du Soleil‘s show OVO, which is currently playing in town (watch the preview above for an overview).  The show is presented in true circus style, under a the big top, and was one of the most amazing performance experiences that I have ever…experienced.  The acts, the costumes, the music, and the performers were all mesmerizing and top-notch.  We all walked away in awe.

Bubba and Sissy at OVO

But the most wonderful part of the evening wasn’t the performance.  It was watching Bubba watch the performance.  He was enthralled with every single aspect.  As each new character emerged, he would point wildly and jump up and down in his seat.  Several times I looked over to see him standing in front of his chair, as if to get just a few inches closer to the stage.  While Sissy had a hard time figuring out what bugs the various performers were supposed to represent, Bubba never even had to think about it.  He knew what each of them were based on their often abstract costumes and stylized movements, sometimes even before Wifey and I had figured them out!  During intermission he ran around just outside the tent, so excited to go back in and see some more.  For a full two hours after the show was over, he just kept going on about it, reliving every last moment.

As an artist, the fact that Bubba was so moved by this performance touched me in a way I can’t describe.  Several times my eyes filled with tears as I watched him immerse himself in the experience.  We try, as parents, to let our children find their own passions.  While we certainly are very involved in the arts, we try not to be overbearing with a push that they be invested in them as well.  We allow them to explore a variety of interests and encourage them to try their best in everything that they attempt.  Because of this, it is even more special for me that Bubba was so impacted by this performance.

If you have the chance to see OVO, I highly encourage you to DO IT!  And if you have the chance to take a child, don’t miss out on the opportunity.  You won’t regret it, and it may even be one of the most memorable moments of your life.

My Mouth Can’t Resist Those Beautiful Globes

As I draw you close your aroma makes me dizzy with desire.  I feel your warmth as my lips brush against your flesh.  My tongue travels over you, exploring your hidden recesses and folds and experiencing your taste, sometimes bitter, sometimes smooth and rich.  I savor your sweet juices as they spread throughout my mouth, making me crave you more.  I slowly bring my teeth together and feel you give yourself up to the experience.  Though many will never understand my passion, I can not bring myself to let you go.  And so I write this letter to you my tantalizing friend, my taboo love…

  My dearest Brussels Sprout

Brussels sprouts before roasting

Image by johnsu01 via Flickr

It’s true.  I can not hide it anymore.  I LOVE BRUSSELS SPROUTS!  Ah, it feels so good to finally speak aloud what I’ve been feeling for these many years.  I love their slightly bitter yet buttery taste, that they are perfectly bite-sized, their soft yet firm texture, and their pleasing color.  Plus, they look like tiny cabbages which is super cute.

Growing up I only ever heard horror stories about brussels sprouts.  My grandmother tells a yarn about how my grandfather always begged to have brussels sprouts, a vegetable that she despised.  After years of whining she finally gave in and made them, but instead of eating them he hid them behind some of the other food on his plate.  On both the big and small screens, children (and adults) bemoan the horrible torture of being served the dreaded sprouts.  The very mention of brussels sprouts is enough to send dinner guest fleeing for the hills.  So, naturally, I HATED brussels sprouts for many a year, despite never having eaten one.

But a few years ago, the wise and beautiful Wifey made them and insisted that I try them.  As I eyed the plate I could feel my stomach turn at the very thought of the supposed taste.  Why would she have prepared these little balls of evil?  Didn’t she know that they were the WORST food in the entire world?  Everyone despises them.  E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E.  I didn’t want to offend her after she worked hard preparing a meal for our family but I was also terrified that the result of putting that stinky green ball into my mouth would be immediate projectile vomiting.

I decided I had to risk it.  I speared the brussels sprout on my fork, brought it to my mouth, forced my jaws apart, and popped it in.

It was love at first taste.  I ate another.  And another.  I may have stuck my face into the serving bowl to lick the remains.  And from that time on, they have become a staple on our dinner table.

Bubba Can't Resist the Tempting Sprout

Peanut LOVES Her Brussels Sprouts!

What may be even more unbelievable than my love for these little bulbous miracles is the fact that my CHILDREN love them.  They actually cheer when we have them and we end up fighting for seconds.  Peanut will completely ignore any other food on her plate, demanding more and more and more.  The kids are silly for sprouts!

 
So, judge if you must.  But my passion for brussels sprouts will not be contained.

What Am I Thinking?

"That other bald one looks like she’s plotting my demise. I need a good defense strategy"

Since we haven’t invested in that Your Baby Can Read program, I think you can safely assume that The Baby has yet to develop the skill to articulate her thoughts. So, here is your chance to weigh-in. What is the thought running through The Baby’s head in this photo? The best response wins a shout-out and the photo’s caption!

Update: Congrats Jill on the best (and only) caption suggestion!!!!

Who Needs the Toys When You’ve Got the Packaging!

Sissy, Bubba and Peanut playing with The Box

Last week, my wife brought home a large TV box from church.  You see, we realized about a year ago that our kids really didn’t like playing with conventional toys all that much.  Sissy enjoys playing with Barbies, and Bubba is amassing quite a collection of Legos, but other than that their toys sit largely unused.  What our children really enjoy doing is being creative and imaginative.  They are constantly drawing pictures on blank paper, they beg us to paint with watercolors, they dress up in costumes and old clothes, they write screenplays (seriously), make cards, pen letters…the list could go on and on.  For Christmas this year, they received construction paper, sewing supplies, a weaving kit, a terrarium, a paint-your-own-mug set, and cooking utensils.  The few regular toys that they received are now collecting dust with the Zhu Zhu Pets, Spider-man action figures, and Go Diego Go playsets.

Honestly, what could be better than having basic supplies on-hand that allow them to create any toys that they could want to play with?  For the most part, these items are cheap, easy to clean-up, and take up very little space.  Plus, they have the added benefit of inspiring imagination and creative thinking.

As parents, we need to scale back on buying our kids so much stuff.  Simple objects like shoe boxes and empty spools can entertain for hours.  A book I once read said that a Millenium Falcon toy will only ever be a Millenium Falcon, but a block can be a spaceship, a house, a car, a person, and anything else a child cares to dream up.  While it may seem awesome to buy our kids the lastest and “greatest” gadgets and fads, we are actually doing them a disservice by limiting their opportunities to imagine and create.  If we went back to the basics (blocks, craft supplies, basic household castoffs) we might find that our kids could find a lot more to do besides sitting in front of the TV or playing video games.

So, needless to say, when the box entered our home, it was like Christmas all over again.  Thus far the box had been used as:

  • a television (they get inside and act out little stories)
  • a coloring book
  • a car
  • a fort
  • a house
  • a monster

I’m sure it will continue to be used until it loses all shape, at which point it will be ripped and shredded into the most fun toy of all: a mess.  But until that time comes, it is great fun and a source of pride to watch my children transform such a simple piece of trash into so many wonderful and amazing things.