Saturday, February 28, 2009

The basement

What is it going to take to get the kids to spend time in the room downstairs I've set up for them? Granted there is no ceiling so you can see the wood beams and wood from the underside of the floor above (of our sturdy circa 1890 house). There used to be cobwebs (which I cleaned out), but now it's just a few wires snaking tidily across the beams, and a network of cable that is not so tidy. There's heat down there. Games, puzzles, plenty of seating, a rug, a coffee table, and a big TV with X-Box attached. Still, they don't like to go down there. I was hoping that at least on Pasta Night, they'd hang out there, but it seems they'd rather entertain their friends in their room and trash it or hang out in the living room, which is sometimes a little too close for comfort for some of us adults (Pasta Night has maxed out at 24 people; most recently we had 20).

I am at the point where I think I'll move the cable box downstairs. I wonder if that would do it. I have considered it in the past and my mom suggested not because what would we do about Family Movie Night? But, that is usually a video, so I could just keep the DVD player upstairs (you can play DVDs in the X-Box that is already in the basement.) My oldest insists he wants privacy, and his own room. So, I offered him the basement and he said no. I just don't know why. I imagine when he is 12 or so maybe it would be cool. (I have no intention of giving up my office, like Mr. Brady did.) It's not like I am trying to banish them. I just want them to have their own space, rather than taking up so much space in the midst of the common areas. (And maybe one day my oldest will figure out why it doesn't make sense to practice his recorder in the middle of the living room when his brother is trying to do homework and I am packing lunches.)


My kids will argue about anything. Example: a friend of ours at church gave the boys some baseball trading cards. They laid them all out to take stock of them and shortly thereafter their negotiation over who got this one or who got three of those if I get that one or who gets an extra turn on the DS if I get that one turned into an argument.

I told them the only fair way would be to take turns choosing to see who gets what. And the only fair way to do that was to flip a coin to see who goes first because out of the hundred or so random and cool cards from years gone by they both wanted the same random, cool one.

I asked my middle son if he was okay with that because he is convinced he "always" loses (as I used to be as a kid). I told him that was impossible, it was a 50-50 chance (as my mom told me). He said okay. He lost. And started kicking and stomping.

I said, "Well, how about best out of three?"

His brother was a sport and went for it.

This time my middle son prevailed and his older brother was resentful, and the negotiating started anew.

Then they began arguing over whether one of them should get both of the card sleeves (there were two thrown into the batch of cards).

They argued and bickered and threatened each other until I told them that I would take all the cards away if they didn't stop.

Ultimately, they walked away with their favorite ones and left the rest laid out on the floor to finish later. They had exhausted even themselves.

Before I would let them back at the cards, I insisted they write our friend a thank-you note.

They argued over who would write it. They argued over whose mechanical pencil it was that I had handed them quickly in order to prevent usage of the blue permanent marker that they had chosen. They argued over what it should say. They began kickboxing. Finally I ordered my oldest to walk away, just walk away. His younger brother had been more willing to write the note and was actually in possession of the pencil. Additionally he has better handwriting. I convinced my oldest that he could take a turn and write whatever he wanted (even though he thought that was a dumb idea, but I convinced him that every time we celebrated someone's birthday at Pasta Night that was how it was done) when his brother was finished.

When it was his turn, he didn't have anything to add, he just wanted to sign his name. He started to tell his brother about whatever additional "correction" he'd made, and I snatched the card out of his hand and said, "Thank you very much. We don't need any further discussion about this."

As I stuffed the card into the envelope, I saw that he had erased his brother's name and put his own in the top position. I wondered if the one upmanship would ever end. I doubt it. I know grown up brothers who still bicker and argue and negotiate. They just don't kickbox (in public, anyway).

Friday, February 27, 2009


My youngest took an extended nap on the couch. I knew I'd pay for it that night when it was time for him to go to bed, but I needed a break. Actually, I needed a nap, too, but that wasn't remotely possible because the older two were bored and when they are bored they will be nudgy and whiny and bicker relentlessly. I sent them up to their room to play laser tag (which is really an outdoor game, but they hounded me until I got it out, and because it was snowing, their time outside was shortlived). Then they wanted to play X-Box, but for some Godforsaken reason, none of the four controllers are working. Then they wanted to watch idiotic shows on TV. Interspersed with these activities were their requests for food. "I'm hungry" could mean, "I'm hungry," "I'm bored," or "I'm tired." The living room was littered with food debris, and soon strewn with toys, games, and trading cards.

My youngest eventually woke up and toddled off to the bathroom where soon I heard, "Mah-ahm! I need help wiping!"

Since it was late, nearly six o'clock, I suggested, since he was naked from the waist down (he usually takes the bottom half of his clothes off when using the potty), that he take a bath. He agreed.

While he was in the tub I started straightening out the living room, which I had been reluctant to do when he was sleeping. I noticed a big, wet spot on the slipcover.

"Oh, no -- God help me!" I thought he had peed on the couch. I stripped off the slip cover, and took the two blankets and the cushion cover off (while trying not to touch anything wet), and thought, "Well, all right, I guess I'll do another load of laundry." I went into the bathroom to retrieve my son's clothes to add to the load. Funny, they weren't wet.

I stuffed everything in the washer and went back upstairs. I realized that my oldest's abandoned cup of grape juice had spilled when his drowsy brother got up off the couch and staggered into the TV table. (I should just make the rule that any cups in the living room have to have covers on them.)

I was annoyed by the mess, but at least it wasn't tinkle, and at least I have a washing machine and dryer in my basement and don't have to go to the laundromat. (I discovered a forgotten load in the dryer when I moved everything over). It never ends.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Miracle Ear

I turned the volume of the TV down to 18, which is my limit for just about any show, including my own (as if -- the only time I watch TV is after the kids are in bed, and then it's in my room, and I usually nod off and wake up later with the TV watching me!).

"How'd the volume get up this high, anyway?" It was on 26.

My oldest and youngest sons feigned innocence.

My middle son grumbled, "Now I can't hear it at all!" I told him, "Well, I can hear it just fine and I'm sitting here with you!" (Bonding over old Popeye and Looney Toons cartoons). Grumble grumble grumble. I refrained from telling him to take the proverbial cotton out of his ears and stuff it in his mouth.

His older brother said, "I know -- I have an idea!"

"What's that, honey?"

"We could get those hearing aids they have on TV..."

"Oh, really...?" (I giggled inwardly, thinking "He said, 'up two streets and take a left!' " and "She said, 'she doesn't want to leave him, but...' ")

He was encouraged. "Yeah! In fact, they're on sale right now. Buy one get one free. So, for $19.95, we could both have one and you wouldn't have to hear our shows!"

Maybe a good idea. Almost as good as my idea for a treadmill that they have to run on in order to generate the electricity to power the television.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Off the fence

So. One of the dads at Boy Scouts and I had a thought-provoking conversation last week about social media. I was talking to him about self-syndicating, wondering if I could create a group on Facebook and have fans. He said, "why don't you write a blog." (He highly recommends blogs. And Twitter.) I was at the point where I thought that blogs are nothing more than verbal diarrhea. Blaaaaaaagggggghhhhhhhhhhs. I am still not 100% convinced. But I am at a crossroads. Writing a book, and writing two columns. Wanting to find a new name for one of my columns. Wanting to find multiple venues for both of them. Many avenues are crossing. Bottom line, want to keep writing. The Boy Scout dad told me an analogy that reminded me of my mom's "Buffet Table of Life" philosophy. Life is so full of so many wonderful things to choose from. That was my mom's meaning. The dad told me that sometimes you sit down to a full course meal and sometimes you have a snack. The blog is a snack. Columns are full course meals. So. Looks like I'll be snacking in between meals.

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...