Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We Start 'em Young 'Round Here

Video Games. They are a completely different animal than when I was growing up. When I was growing up, playing video games was done in an arcade. Games like PacMan, Mrs. PacMan, Donkey Kong, Galaga. To see those games now, the graphics are pitiful. But we loved them. Then came Atari and we got to play Pong! Ugh! I hated pong. I didn't have the patience for it. I could never get that little bar to go where I wanted it to go as fast or as slow as I wanted it to get there. And then I remember sitting for hours watching my high school boyfriend play Zelda. That must have been the beginning of story games... puzzle games. Figure it all out. But again, you had to read the clues. They didn't speak to you.

Video Games have become part of my children's culture. It's what they talk about. It's what they LIVE to do. In our house, it's the carrot. "Get your school work done and you can play video games." "Do your chores and you can play video games." "Help Daddy in the barn, and you can play video games."
Saturdays and Sundays they each get a free hour of video time. No Chores. Just fun. When the Nutty Papa and I were kids, we enjoyed Saturday morning cartoons. So that's what this reminds us of. Just free time to do what you want. They love it! They count down the days until Saturday and Sunday.

Lately, the Baby has been wanting to join his big brothers. This has been a long standing dilemma in our house. First it was Chojuk. He wanted to play with Daddy. Then it was the Snugglebug. He wanted to play with Chojuk. Now, it's the Baby. So I've taught the boys to do with him what we did with them...

Give him a "dummy" remote and let him play along. They're happy because he's not in their way, screaming for a remote. And he's happy because as far as he's concerned, he's the one playing. Ah, peace. If only it could be attained this easily all over the world...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Problem with Watching too Many Movies

So Friday, we made a trip to the city. I took the kids to town for a little culture. We watched a ballet... Cinderella. I was the most surprised by Chojuk's interest. He sat quietly the entire 2 hours and watched. He enjoyed the sets and analyzing the difference between this ballet and the Disney version we've watched a hundred times. I think I need to read him the real version. Anyway, the Doodlebug enjoyed it too. And after the show, she enjoyed meeting the cast... especially the Prince and Cinderella. I was surprised to hear that the Prince was Russian. The Doodlebug walked right up to him and shook his hand. The Snugglebug and Chojuk followed right behind her. I was so proud of them for walking right up to that prince, shaking his hand, and introducing themselves.

After the ballet, we zipped across town to meet a new homeschool group. They are Catholic and do things on a weekly basis to support each other and their community. Sounded like a good place for us, and they just happen to be meeting the day we were in town. When we arrived, I was expecting lively songs and music. I was disappointed to learn we were there for an hour of adoration... which means quiet reflection and prayer. I was tempted to turn around and leave, but the group leader said that it was geared for children and that my kids wouldn't be any more disruptive than any of the other kids there that day... they don't know my kids... So reluctantly, I stayed. I'm glad I did. It was a very interactive experience with the Deacon asking the kids questions and teaching lots of things from church symbols to parts of the mass.

After about 30 minutes, the Snugglebug announces he has to go potty. And not wanting to miss out on an opportunity to escape, the Doodlebug says she has to go too. Luckily the bathrooms were right outside the door to the chapel. So I told Chojuk I was going to run everyone to the bathroom and that he should stay and listen. And out the door I went. Once we got to the bathroom, I realize they aren't planning on making this a quick trip... if you get my drift... so I tell the Doodlebug and the Snugglebug that I'm going to go check on Chojuk. So I leave them in the bathroom to finish their business and the Baby and I head back into the chapel to check on Chojuk.

When I walk into the chapel, Chojuk is sitting in the pew with his hand raised. Fear rushes to my brain. I get all flushed. Obviously the Deacon has asked a question. What if he doesn't get it right? What if he is just going to start talking about his favorite video game and isn't going to say anything about what's happening here? I hold my breath...

"OK.. so I'm going to do my first confession. I'm ready for that. I know what I'm going to say. I'm a little worried about telling the priest everything I've done wrong. But Mama says it'll be OK. And then I get to take my first communion.... and there's the bread... I know bread... it tastes good... I'll like that. But the wine... I'm a little worried about the wine. What is it going to taste like? I don't know if I'll like it.. and Mama says if you drink too much wine you'll get marinated."

Marinated?!? All the adults in the room stifle their laughter. Then they look for the "proud" mother of this child. There I was standing the in the back of the room red as a beat thinking, "I've never said 'marinated'!" But the Deacon handled it beautifully...

"Well, when you drink the wine, you don't take a big drink of it. You just take a little sip. So you'll be OK when you drink the wine. But your Mama is right... if you drink too much wine, you can get marinated."

At that moment, I remembered I had two children still in the bathroom. So I left the chapel to get the other two. We returned to finish the adoration and as some of the adults left, they'd quietly pat my shoulder in a knowing way with a gentle smile on their face. Everyone had been there before and knew how I felt. And I felt support. It was the right place to be.

For those of you wondering, I later learned the source of Chojuk's concern with being marinated...Aristocats! Thanks for solving the mystery, Amy .

Sunday, November 16, 2008


The Nutty Papa ran his first marathon today. And I cheered for my first marathon today. It was so much fun! I can see why people want to run them. The energy is contagious! Everyone is cheering. People are happy! It's fun!

The Nutty Papa started his day at a bus stop at 6:30am. He waited in line for a shuttle to take him to the starting line for 30 minutes in 40 degree temperatures. I'm sure the cold didn't help his nerves. But he was surrounded by folks feeling the same anxiety... so I'm sure that helped.

He joined his corral, #18, and his friend from work. They were going to motivate each other. When #18 lined up, the guy at the starting line had them cheering. They did the wave. They were ready to go. I wish I could have seen that. But I was on the road with a car full of kids, ready to spend the day with their friends. There are few friends in life who are willing to take your four kids for the day. We are so blessed to have such a friend in Ms. Michelle and Mr. Tim. The kids had a ball and I was confident that my kids were having fun and being loved so I didn't think about them at all. I could focus on my Knight.

The Nutty Papa's sister, Tricia, and I made it to mile 13 at 9:30am. According to my calculations, The Nutty Papa should have arrived at approximately 9:50. So I found a spot and started watching for him, while Tricia started passing out energy drinks. I was so thankful to have her with me on so many levels today. But at that moment, I was thankful to have someone who had it together enough to offer the runners support. I stood on the side of the road on the verge of tears for the first 30 minutes. I couldn't believe how many people where there. How many were willing to push their bodies in such a way... to strive for such a goal. It moved me.

Luckily for me, The Nutty Papa didn't make it at his designated time. Apparently they got a late start and he was 10 minutes late. I needed that extra 10 minutes to pull myself together. Thankfully I wasn't standing on the side of the road bawling my eyes out. But I certainly couldn't yell for anyone.

The Nutty Papa planned on wearing his yellow shirt. He imagined that there would be few yellow shirts on the run. And he was right. The yellow stood out in a crowd. There were yellow shirts... but only a few. So every yellow shirt caught my attention. But only for a moment. I knew his pace. I knew his stride. I'd recognize him immediately.

It was interesting to me the different approaches all the runners took. Some were very serious about it. They were weighted down with energy drinks. Some popped ibuprofen. Some carried carb filled snacks. Some stopped to stretch. Others were walking. Then there were the guys who knew what they were doing. These were the guys who took time to make it entertaining for the others. Take "Jim" here. Turkey head. He ran past me right past the 4:15 sign with a smile on his face and a turkey on his head. What a great attitude. I saw ZZ Top, Santa, beauty pageant winners, and super heroes. One guy was even in a full face mask. How he could run with that face mask over his mouth and nose, I couldn't imagine. But he did. I saw him at every stop.

Finally, my eye found a yellow shirted runner with a long stride. I knew it was him. I held up my sign and started yellin', "Go, Daddy, GO!" He saw me from quite a ways back and started smiling. He made his way over to me on the side of the road and wanted a hug and kiss. He was so happy to see me. It made it worth the wait out in the cold.
As soon as I saw him, I started yellin', "Tricia! Tricia!!" I wanted her to be ready with energy drink for him. And she was.

How cool is it to be greeted by your sister at mile 13 when your needin' a drink? She made sure to get him the energy drinks that were well mixed and full. And she stood there while he drank up 3 or 4 cups of the stuff.

He had done lots of studying about how to prepare your body for the race. He hadn't prepared his body for his big 20 mile run during training and he lost it. So he got some information from a nutritionist who gave him exact amounts of carbs to eat Thursday, Friday and Saturday before the race. Then she also gave him tips on fueling his body during the race. He was much better prepared for his marathon experience than any other run he had made. When we saw him at mile 13, he said he was feeling great. He was breathing well and looking fabulous. I knew he would be doing well. After all, I fed him his carbs on Saturday... and I have the extra pounds to prove it!

After The Nutty Papa passed us, I was ready to run to the next marker. I wanted to make it to as many as I could. I wanted to be the little push he needed, if he needed it. Tricia got called by the Drill Sergeant of the water table and was ordered to clean up the street. There was only one rake, but I tried to help by kicking the cups off the road. It was useless... the more I kicked, the more cups appeared. Tricia is such a considerate person, she would have stayed there all afternoon if I hadn't been jumping around yellin' for her to come drive me to the next stop. She was very patient with me and finally found a break in her street raking duties to come drive me to mile 15. As we were driving, we got a call from the Eye Doctor and his family. They had just seen the Nutty Papa and were excited to have yelled for him. What great friends!! I later learned that the Nutty Papa was so excited to see someone yelling for him that he kissed them all! The Nutty Papa... nothin' but love!

Mile 15 and mile 19 were right beside each other so I asked Tricia to drop me off at mile 19. The Drill Sergeant had recruited her to buy some toilet paper. So she went and got toilet paper while I waited and watched some more.

One again, I was amazed at the endurance and drive of the runners. And of course, the level of seriousness they had. One guy ran by in a big purple tutu and purple tulle cape. It was funny! And he was having a good time.

Another thing I noticed was the different running styles everyone had. Some ran really heavy on their feet. Some bounced a lot. Some were so smooth, their heads didn't bob up and down at all. Some were knock kneed and swung their legs around a lot. Others had limp hands and when they ran, their hands would flick like they were trying to get water off of them. But all of them were cussin' this hill. There was an extremely enthusiastic group of cheerers at the bottom of this hill. They were jumpin' up and down and hollerin' trying to get everyone ramped up to take the hill. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't. I'd say a good half of the folks just walked up the hill. At mile 19, I would have crawled. That's when I started wondering what was happening with the Nutty Papa. Where was he?

Wait a minute. What's that? Is it a yellow shirt? Tricia decided to wait at the bottom of that hill and run up the hill with him to offer him a little encouragement. Could that be them?

I do believe I see a yellow shirt runnin' along beside my sister-in-law. I started waving my other sign. This one said, "We Love Daddy!" I put that picture of the Nutty Papa kissin' the Doodlebug after a run on there and wrote, "I wish I were running with you Daddy!" Tricia pointed it out to him, but he didn't see it. He was focused on me, he said.

He ran up that hill. He was doing GREAT! He wasn't one of the ones that let that hill get him! I was so proud of him! I put down my sign and ran with him for a few steps. He introduced me to his friend from work. She was running for her brother in Iraq. I bet he's proud!

Then he was gone. Off to tackle more marathon. And I was back to bugging Tricia. "Can we go to another stop?" She was skeptical. I wanted to get to the stop that might be his "wall". I wanted to be there to tell him he could do it. To show him I believed in him. Turns out he didn't need it.

I managed to persuade Tricia to stop at mile 24. It was on the way to the finish line. We stopped and before long, here comes the Nutty Papa. This time he was running with another running buddy. He introduced me and said, "I gotta run! She and I are going to run the rest of the way together." He said he was doing great and feeling fine. He looked it too!

The next time I saw him, it was as he crossed the finish line.

My biggest complaint was that I couldn't see him cross the finish line. They had it so blocked off, I couldn't get in there. I couldn't yell for him. I couldn't snap that picture. But you can bet someone did. And they'll be charging me an arm and a leg for that monumental photo. And it'll be worth it!

I am so proud of him. He finished at 4 hours and 42 minutes. This time was better than he hoped for. And he never hit that wall. He was comfortable and well juiced the whole way. It couldn't have been a better first marathon!

Way to go, Nutty Papa! We're so proud of you!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

On Your Mark, Get Set...

Tomorrow's the big day. My Marathon Man is on his way. After training since April, running almost daily, the big day is here. He's doing his last minute preparation before he runs. And that means eating. He's eating carbs, and carbs, and more carbs. For lunch today, he's eating a box of rice. For dinner, a box of spaghetti and a loaf of cabatta bread.

Maybe I need to run a marathon....

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Clean Pecans

Part of harvesting the pecans is driving them to The Great Pecan Man's orchard to have our pecans cleaned. His machine is so fancy and so cool, the kids love going there. Chojuk loves to see the cogs and wheels spinning. The Snugglebug likes to help on the pickin' table. And the Doodlebug just loves the opportunity to get out of the suburban after an hour and see what kind of trouble she can find. This year, she had a partner in crime with the Baby tagging along behind her.

The kids and I drive a trailer loaded with 6 big supersacks of pecans. Each supersack holds between 600-1000 lbs of pecans depending on how full we stuffed it.

Once we arrive, the guys working there unload the bags with a forklift. If I'm really lucky, they'll start dumping them in the cleaning plant right away. The first step is emptying the bags into this big hole in the floor.

That's me. Pecans and sticks. I haven't figured out a way to market the sticks. But for all you creative folks out there with too much time on your hands, and you know who you are, I'll leave that for you. There's money to be made there. People need sticks, right?

Anyway, the pecans then begin the long voyage up out of the hole in the floor by way of conveyor belt. Chojuk loves conveyor belts. He goes into another world... thinking of how things work. Watching the pecans ride up. The only problem is, it's LOUD in there. He's got really sensitive ears. So he runs around with his fingers in his ears. I'll have to remember to pack his ear plugs next year.

Once they get to the top of one conveyor belt, they get tumbled and brushed, washed and dropped, lifted and dumped. I imagine it's an interesting experience for a pecan.

After they've been scrubbed, they sit in this cylinder for a while. There they wait to be released to the other side where there are friendly farm hands waiting to pick out the icky pecans that wouldn't release it's green shuck. Sometimes the pecan suffers from separation anxiety, Stick Tights to us professionals. They sometimes get to go on the ride again. Other times, they get tossed out for the pigs. I imagine if they knew their fate, they might just let go. Pig slop would not be my choice of ultimate demise.

After being cleaned and picked over, the pecans go to a holding bin to dry. The Great Pecan Man has great big fans that blow air up through the pecans for a few days. When pecans come off a tree, they're a little green... and I'm not just talkin' color here folks. They have too much water in them and need to have some of that water dried off. Anyway, the pecans sit here and sunbathe for a few days until the Great Pecan Man's great daughter can get in there and get a sample. She'll crack a few open and grade them. Just one more reason I am ever so thankful for the Great Pecan Man and his Great family!

Anyway, when the Great Pecan Daughter has deemed the pecans dry enough, they get one more ride on a conveyor belt. There they are blown around a lot! The winners, the ones who are heavy enough to survive being blown around, ride along one last pickin' table where they are carefully checked to make sure they are eatable and not tryin' to sprout. Sprouts are yucky. Don't wanna eat those. Blah!

If you are a pecan grown in the Nutty Forest, you get bagged up in a 50 pound bag and stacked on a pallet. Here you wait some more for some lucky guy to come along and buy you. This year, it seems the lucky guys are all lookin' to Mexico to buy their pecans, so the Great Pecan Man and I are lookin' at oodles and oodles of fresh, clean pecans. This is a first for me. They are usually gone before I even get a chance to see them clean. Now when I go visit the Great Pecan Man, I can visit my entire crop too. See there it is. Three pallets of 50 lb bags. Roughly 15,000lbs of pecans.
For those of you who think that's a lot of pecans, check out what the Great Pecan Man gets to visit everytime HE goes to his barn:

(There are mine, right there in the red bags... ) And then this....

Each of those bags holds between 1500 to 3000 lbs of pecans. Now that's a lot of nuts!

And here's the final product. Pecan anyone?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Long Over Due Halloween Post..or Maybe Just Long

Whew. After a week of fighting a nasty case of food poisoning, I am finally able to sit up at my computer and check in with you. And as I sit trying to figure out what you need to hear, I realize Halloween came and went and it seems like an eternity ago. That's what 3 days of semi consciousness will do to you.

I started thinking about Halloween in August. After all, the boys are now old enough to have an opinion about what they want to be. They are into enough things, I figured surely they'd have some ideas. And when I'd ask with baited breath, "What do you want to be for Halloween?" instead of creative and crazy ideas which blew my mind... how could I possibly make that?... I get stares. Blank stares. And then, the words which I came to dread, "I dunno." In August I thought, fine. It's early. I'll give 'em a week or two and try again. Unfortunately, I'd just get repeat performances of the same thing. I dunno.

The Doodlebug, on the other hand, was well equipped to answer. "A witch!" Great! I can handle that. But knowing my budding primadonna, she'll change her mind a hundred times first. Luckily, I came upon a used witch costume that was so cute! I bought it and she was thrilled. Doodlebug done. Check.

And the baby... well, since I get to pick that I'd had a plan for him since birth. I have a Pooh costume that all the kids have worn. It was time for him to wear it. Tradition. End of story. Baby done. Check.

But the boys kept draggin' their feet. Finally, at the beginning of October, well into harvest, the boys started talking about getting a light saber like Darth Maul. You know the guy... red horns. Gets sliced in half in Star Wars, episode 1. They have a tendency to go for the bad guys. Anyway, they started asking for these light sabers. And lucky for us, Mimi was coming for Halloween and wanted to bring treats for the boys. So she brought them build your own light saber kits. They didn't get to build a light saber just like Darth Maul. But they had cool glowing light sabers, and were dressed in black. Bad guys. Good enough. Check. Check.

Our Halloween tradition here is to go trick-or-treating at a local retirement community. The residents dress up and sit outside in the hall while the local kids run from door to door collecting candy. We love going. They are so friendly. And since our neighbors, the local squirrels who have taken up residence in the trees, weren't offering candy, we thought it'd be a great place to go.

As soon as we arrived, I grabbed my camera to take pictures. The Baby looked especially precious toddling around the halls. But when I aimed and fired... nothing happened. Wouldn't you know? I'd left the battery charging in the kitchen. So no pictures. Not one. Bummer. Oh, well. I guess I couldn't have taken a picture of my favorite part anyway. What's my favorite part, you ask? The Baby. He'd toddle up to those little ladies... watch with awe as they dropped two or three pieces of candy into his bag... and then he'd say, "Tank too!" I love toddler babble. Makes me smile.

After hitting up the ladies and gentlemen at the retirement community, we ran over to a friend's house hoping they'd be home and possibly go house to house with their kids. They, unforunately, weren't home. But we went door to door anyway. The kids got plenty of candy and were asking us if we could go home. All except for my Snugglebug. He's got the sweetest tooth of anyone I know. He'd have gone to every house in town if he thought it meant free candy. And the Baby would have followed. He thought all this was fun too.

The real excitement came when we were driving home. The Doodlebug yells out, "I gotta go tinkle!" Unfortunately, the Nutty Papa isn't trained in the art of Doodle-management, so when she said that, he looked at me for assistance. "Pull over, NOW!" And the Nutty Papa, safety first, says, "Here? Now?" "YES!! NOW!!!" So he slams on the breaks and pulls over. I holler to Mimi, who was sittin' next to the Doodlebug in the car to unbuckle her and get her out, and I jump out and get the potty that I was advised early in my daughter totin' days to always carry with me. (Thank you Andi for that sound advice!) So here we are, standin' on the side of the road, with a 3 year old pink princess (who I forgot to tell you, changed her mind about the witch costume last minute), a Mimi who can't stop from laughin' (she gets that way when it comes to tinkle... remind me to tell you about the first time... holy moley!), and a Nutty Mama yellin', "Come on Mimi! Hurry up!" I wish I'd been the guy who drove by. Well, Mimi, bless her heart, just wasn't fast enough and the Doodlebug leaked all over her pretty princess costume and then refused to wear it for the 2 minutes home. So she crawled back into her car seat buck naked, only sitting on a few napkins, because she didn't want her bare bottom on her car seat. Parenthood. What an adventure.

When we got home I said, "Freeze! I need pictures." And here's what I got:

Don't they look like they've just had the time of their lives? Chojuk is actually exhausted. And the Snugglebug is just waiting to get inside so he can dig into that candy.

The Baby has figured out what happens when the camera comes out. See? Cheese!

And then went straight for the candy. How do I get me some of that?!?

Chojuk disappeared upstairs. The Doodlebug, who is not properly clothed for this G-rated blog, is munchin' away on the floor about 2 feet from the door. And the Baby actually screamed at me NOT to take his costume off. All while the Snugglebug sits in candy nirvana. But he took the time to share with baby brother.

But don't think about trying to sneak a piece while he's not looking.