Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Jokes

My first Halloween in St. Louis was my first Halloween in my own place. I bought pounds and pounds of candy, decorated my front door, and eagerly awaited hordes of trick-or-treaters. I had two. They knocked on my door and as soon as I opened it, the first one told me a joke. I laughed politely and then tried to say "Happy Halloween" only to be interrupted by the second child. She had her own joke to tell. The next day, I brought a soup kettle filled with candy to work. I mentioned that my trick or treaters had been a little weird with the jokes. That's when I found out that all trick-or-treaters in St. Louis tell jokes.

Fourteen years later, the Halloween joke is one of my favorite traditions. I carefully research jokes and teach the kids a few before we head out. When the kids are young, they get the jokes endearingly wrong. Sometimes they make up their own. And every once in a while, a trick-or-treater at my door shows up with one that I haven't heard before. That kid gets two handfuls of candy.

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Boo who?
Don't cry! It's only Halloween!

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Orange who?
Orange you gonna give me some candy?

What does a ghost eat for breakfast?
Boo berries!

Why do witches fly on brooms?
Because the cord on the vacuum cleaner is too short!

Do zombies eat popcorn with their fingers?
No, they eat the fingers separately...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One Theft Too Many

Jacob received a Ranger Rick magazine in the mail yesterday. I tossed it to his seat at the dinner table as I sorted through the mail, knowing that he would dig into it at dinner. I have recently begun to encourage my children to read at the table as part of The Dinnertime Bickering Reduction Plan. I've not decided yet whether that makes me a sellout or a genius, but I'm leaning toward genius.

Sure enough, I heard a "Hey, what's this?" as soon as the boy hit the chair. By the time I brought his plate to the table, he'd already found something interesting to read - an article about a horse-riding boy with cerebral palsy. We had an interesting discussion at our end of the table while Nick and Claire discussed the necessary number of bites to form a complete meal. I gather there was quite a difference of opinion.

After dinner, a magical thing happened. Nick walked by the end of the table and snagged Jake's Ranger Rick right in front of our eyes. Jake protested loudly. Nick was nabbed! As for me, I jumped on that opportunity with all the vigor I could muster. "That's right, Jacob! It's not nice to steal someone else's magazine!" Later that evening, I heard Jake rescue my Time from Nick's clutches. Ah sweet, sweet victory.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What comes next? P or S?

I told Claire a few weeks ago that she could get her own library card when she can write her whole name. I thought that would dissuade her. I was 18 kinds of wrong. She works at it an hour or so a day. An hour a day for several weeks ought to mean that I have a daughter who can write, or at least spell, her own name. Unfortunately, Claire is not satisfied with merely learning to spell her own name. She wants to spell the world and everything in it. "Spell 'Mommy.' What comes first, T or D? What comes next, P or S?" Considering the spelling difficulties as well as the fact that Claire actually only knows how to write six letters, I think that she's going to take a while to work her way through this project.

I try, of course, to break the project down into more manageable pieces. I started by suggesting that she only work on her name for a while. I finally got tired of scraping her off the ceiling and gave up on that strategy. Next, I tried to write the words for her to copy. That approach resulted in a stabby pencil near my eye and a shrieked, "No! You tell me how to make it!" So I've given up. I spend an hour or so a day saying things like, "Jacob is spelled J-A-C-O-B. An a is a circle with a short line on the right. A b is a circle with a long line on the left." Amazingly enough, I can usually read about half of what she writes. I just can't figure out how to describe an e.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Saved by the Earth's Tilt

This summer, Jacob learned how to ride his two-wheeled bike. He actually had the bike the summer before, but had taken a few bad falls to heart. He pulled it out again toward the middle of the summer and finally took off. Since then, we've hardly been able to pull him off the bike. He rides between breakfast and school. He rides when we get home in the evening. He begs to ride to soccer practice. He is on that bike every spare moment of every day.

We meet friends at a local park sometimes, and Jake has started doing tricks down the big hill. He starts off from the top, pedaling hard, then when he reaches full speed he pulls up his legs and turns side-saddle. His elbows no longer have skin and his bicycle has endured a few repairs. I've found ways to get to the park without the bike for the moment. I obviously don't want him to get seriously hurt. At the same time, it's exhilarating to see a boy in his element speeding down a hill, sure of his own invincibility despite scabby knees that prove otherwise.

Jake started campaigning for more freedom a month or so ago. We allow him to ride around the corner to the alley to the east and halfway down the block to the west. He's already chafing at the end of his leash, though. He wants to go all the way around the block. Nick and I told Jacob that we'd think about it. We encouraged him to follow the rules we've set so that we know we can trust him. For a month, he has meticulously followed the rules. He goes as far as the lines we've drawn and no farther. He stays out of driveways and the alley. He carefully pulls to the side to let pedestrians pass. He is ready to go around the block.

And now, thank God, it's getting dark very early. By the time we get home, change our clothes, and catch up with each other it is twilight and too dark for Jake to be outside alone. I feel as though I've been granted a reprieve. I get to keep Jake close to home a little while longer. But I know that in the spring, he's going to be off. I'll have to sit by the front window and hold my breath until I can see him again and know that he is safe. I'm hoping for a nice, long winter.

Monday, October 13, 2008

He's training the children.

People who have known me for a while know that I have a Time magazine problem. Nick steals it from me every single week. If Nick and I ever divorce, it will be because of the magazine theft issue. I have tried writing my name on it, hiding it, rolling it up and threatening to swat Nick on the head with it. Nothing has worked. Every week, I must hunt it down with all the cunning of Hemingway on safari. The last time he renewed the subscription, Nick thought of a new tactic. The subscription is now addressed to him. So my magazine isn't even my magazine any more.

I thought that renewing the subscription in his own name was as low as Nick could go. I was wrong. It has become clear over the last several weeks that Nick is training the children to follow in his thieving footsteps. First, I noticed that Jacob was reading the magazine while using the restroom. I assumed that Nick had left it in there and Jake, bored while waiting for poo, had picked it up. Sure, it's a little odd to see an 8 year old reading about architecture in the bathroom, but Jake is a little odd sometimes.

The second clue came a few days later. I shook out Jake's blanket to tuck him in and the Time flew out. I cocked my head a bit and sucked in my breath, but bedtime is generally not the best time for criminal investigations. I tucked my magazine under my arm and went on my way. Then I promptly forgot about it.

The nail in the coffin came this morning. I sat down to breakfast and realized with a thrill that my magazine was laying on the table. "Aha!" I thought. "I can read an article while I eat!" I sipped my coffee while I scooted the magazine closer and Claire screeched at me. It was on the table because she was looking at the pictures. She made it perfectly clear that she had found the magazine in the play room and brought it to the breakfast table for her own pleasure, not mine. She even suggested that I read the grocery flyer.

I am trying to decide whether to give up or renew the battle with a new, never-before-seen strategy. I'm outnumbered and quite possibly outwitted. I am also incredibly stubborn.

Monday, October 6, 2008

90% of Parenting Consists of Pointing Out the Obvious

Friday evening, 8pm

"I'm scared, Mom."

Uh-oh. Dangerous territory. Jacob being scared at 8pm means nightmares at 2am. "Scared of what?"

Jake let out a big, teary sigh then said, "The witch in Scooby Doo. And the mummy in Scooby Doo. We watched Scooby Doo at KidKare."

I took three deep breaths. Then I took two more. "Jacob, what happens every time you watch Scooby Doo?"

"I don't know. I get scared I guess. It's a scary show! It's really scary!"

"OK. It's really scary. And every time you watch it you get scared. So maybe you should just not watch it. I saw other boys playing outside. Why didn't you go outside?"

"Because Scooby Doo was on!"

Thursday, October 2, 2008

How to (not) Knit a Hat for a Newborn

Cast on 60 stitches. Knit for 5". Decrease 6 stitches evenly, every other row. Stop after 4 decrease rows to admire your work. Notice that the hat looks like it would fit your 3 year old daughter's head. Bribe said daughter with a tootsie roll to try on the unfinished hat. Curse. Rip.

Cast on 42 stitches. Attempt to join and realize that your size 8 circular needle is too long. Dig in bag and find size 7 double points. Briefly consider getting up and hunting for size 8 double points, then decide it's not worth the effort. Transfer to size 7s. Knit for a few inches. Notice that the hat looks like it would fit a fetus. Curse. Rip.

Cast on 50 stitchs to size 7 double points. Knit two rows. Notice that it's time for bed. Curse. Sleep.