Tuesday, August 31, 2010

But she's only thirty-four, you're seven...

Really, I don't know how it happened.  I was hanging out with a friend.  This was the only adult beverage I consumed.  I was fiddling and all of a sudden my finger got stuck in the beer bottle.  Thank goodness my friend had the presence of mind to make me pose for a picture before I grabbed the dish soap and freed myself.  

It occurred to me that if one of my children had wedged their finger in a glass bottle for no apparent reason, my response would have been something along the lines of, "Why, why, WHY would you do that?!?" in a voice that expressed my deep conviction that they had done it just to irritate me.  When I'm the idiot, it's just funny.  So basically, I guess what I'm saying is that I naturally have grace for idiotic behavior in a 34 year old (especially one who is me), but in a 7, 5 or 3 year old, I find it incredibly immature and annoying.

Monday, August 30, 2010


A recent phone conversation between Jacob and his cousin, Bella.
Jacob:  Hi Bella.
Bella:  My dad is going to take us to a food store all by ourselves.
Jacob:  Do you know what I'm doing?
Bella:  We're going to the food store (restaurant).
Jacob:  I'm plussing.
Bella:  Isn't it going to be fun?
Jacob:  Do you know what ten plus ten equals?
Bella:  He's going to take us by ourselves.
Jacob:  (After some maternal prompting, begins to understand what Bella is saying.)  Wow.  That's awesome.  

Now Bryan comes to the phone and has a conversation with Ian about how they're going to the food store by themselves with his mom.   Meanwhile, Ian is having a conversation about Bryan's trucks.  I love the straightforward self-centeredness of a child.  The grown-up version is more subtle.  Many times, especially early in our marriage, Chris and I have gotten into an argument when the real problem is that he's having a conversation about "trucks" while I'm talking about "restaurants".  It still happens now but with time we've learned to clarify one another's positions before bringing out the heavy weaponry.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Little brothers, being the fourth, five is still little and slackers...

I love watching the big boys with Rand.  All three of them make me wish I had an older brother (not that little brothers don't rock), but each of them interacts with him in a different way.  David is always on the lookout for his safety.  Are there small toys on the floor?  Could he bang his head on anything?  If I leave Rand crying for longer than David feels is appropriate (only happens once or twice a month, I swear), he picks him up and stands beside me holding him until I can get to him.  Jacob is just hugely entertained by him.  Almost every time Rand wakes up, Jacob wants to run upstairs and climb into his crib with him.  He seeks him out more than the other two.  Bryan doesn't pound Rand when he knocks over his buildings.  Given Bryan's age and rage issues, that is pretty impressive.  According to David and Jacob, Bryan is the best angry fighter EVER.  Hopefully Rand won't have to learn that by experience any time soon.
When Rand is tired, he grabs a handful of my shirt then collapses on my chest and puts his thumb in his mouth.  What a classic youngest child move.  "If I don't grab onto her, she'll just put me down when I start sucking my thumb."  The other day I was delusionally (that's a word, right) trying to keep Rand happy with tupperware on the kitchen floor so that I could finish one last chore before putting him to bed.  I had on long baggy pants.  He kept crawling after me, grabbing a fistful of my pants, sticking his thumb in his mouth and laying down on the floor to try to sleep.  Every time I walked away he would flip out and crawl after me again.  Please don't ask me why I couldn't put him down first and then finish the chores.  Once I've decided to do things in a certain order, it generally takes A LOT more than a crying baby to change my mind.
We had a busy morning and I found this in the living room during rest time.  Because he has two younger siblings, sometimes I forget how little he still is.
We were at Target today and Jacob saw gift bows.  
Jacob:  Wow Mommy, can we get those sometime?
Me:  What?
Jacob:  Those things.  They're supposed to go on presents.
It took a few minutes to really hit me - buying the ribbon and intending to tie bows on their gifts is different than actually tying bows on their gifts.  Is this one of those things my future daughter-in-law will pity him about?

Monday, August 23, 2010

David's heart and power tools...

We had a great time with Chris' dad a few weeks ago.  He came out to do all the home improvement projects that we hate.  Even more than the home improvement, which is awesome, I loved watching the boys interact with their grandfather.  David in particular really bonded with him.  There were several power tools involved in the projects.  Ron explained how everything worked and even took David's suggestions a few times.  He also got some scrap wood and let the three big boys use his staple gun, nail gun and drill.  Really, I think it was life-changing for them.   They weren't wild.  They were serious, as men with power tools should be (except they also wanted to be video taped). 

I don't understand it.  It's not the way I work, but something about all those tools grabbed David's heart.

You've never seen cool til you've seen a baby with an "I love derivatives" shirt.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The subtle art of practical joking...

We have a child who has a hard time recognizing appropriate boundaries when he's trying to be funny.  For instance, the first time you throw yourself in front of the door to try to get Daddy to stay home from work, it's sweet and amusing.  It becomes a problem if you're still clinging to the door when the amused note in your parents' voices has been replaced by something decidedly less friendly, and you try the same thing every morning.  Sometimes we forget that he's not trying to irritate us.  He needs some help in figuring out boundaries that are naturally recognized by our other children.

A recent conversation:
Child 1:  Would a saw be a good joke?
Me:  Do you mean would it be a good joke to pretend to cut someone with a saw?
Child 1:  Yeah.
Me:  Well that depends on whether the other person thinks it's funny or is scared.
Child 1:  So if I was holding a real saw it wouldn't be a good joke, right?
Me:  Exactly.
Child 1:  And I definitely shouldn't say, 'I'm going to cut your head off,' right?
Me:  Right.
Child 2:  And you SHOULDN'T say, 'I'm going to cut off your wenis.'
Me:  Do you mean penis?
Child 2:  Yeah.
Me:  Yeah buddy.  That's exactly right.


This week someone in our house
  1. Had a meltdown when his silly band broke, someone touched something he built three hours ago, couldn't see the pictures on our book, ...
  2. Had rapidly deteriorating body parts at clean up time.  First his legs hurt, then his stomach hurt, then his neck hurt and finally he was TOO TIRED.
  3. Played Christopher Robin with his stuffed animals and played Celts vs. Huns with anachronistic weaponry.
  4. Got schooled by a much younger person at Memory.
  5. Functioned as the baseball bat in some game loosely resembling baseball.
  6. Desperately needs a new belt because he's losing his pants.
If you can match each number with the correct Brothers H household member, I'll send you an email telling you that you're very smart. 

*I wanted to include a chainsaw picture at the top.  FYI - if you google 'chainsaw images' you see some pretty disturbing stuff.  File that under things I really shouldn't have had to learn by experience.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In which the brothers h wear Rainy Day clothes...

It's a rainy day.  It's comforting.  We can stay home without feeling like we should be somewhere enjoying something.  I looked at Rand in his footy pajamas and decided that we all needed Indoor Clothes which must be worn on a Rainy Day.  Can you tell what book we're reading?  The more it RAINS, tiddely-pom...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Junior psychologist and a rowdy grammar lesson...

We read Noah's Ark by Peter Spier (which I highly recommend) this morning.  One of the illustrations shows Noah trying to pull a belligerent donkey into the ark...
David:  Why doesn't the donkey want to go into the ark? (He's particularly confused because a later picture shows animals outside the closed ark and wanting to get in.)
Me:  Donkeys are just that way.  Even if you try to get them to do something they like, they always fight it.
David:  Maybe he just wants to decide to go in for himself.
Me:  (Inner dialogue) You are your father's child.
A linking verbs lesson gone awry...
"Mommy is tooting thunderously loud."

"David's spanking was thunderously loud."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Great Falls and the C&O canal...

We visited the C&O canal on Saturday, and I was reminded of a quote from an Asian pastor touring American churches.  It was something along the lines of 
"It is amazing what the western church can do without God."
The canal is very cool.  The most interesting part is watching the operation of the lock.  They pull open the doors to the lock and water rushes in lifting the waters of the canal.  It's interesting.  It made me pause and say, "Huh, cool."  If you were looking for Great Falls, you might think, "Well, there's rushing water here.  It's close.  It kind of reminds me of a waterfall."  Though innovative and interesting, it's entirely explainable, manageable.  When you take a closer look, you notice that the water is stagnant and the banks are clearly man-made.  It did nothing for my spirit. 

Off to the side, there is a path that leads to an overview of Great Falls.  It is not in the same category as the canal.  It is Other.  There are rapids, waterfalls, boulders, ...  There are some pockets of still water but nothing stagnant.  It's scary.  The current is swift - treacherous.  It is a thing of God, not of man.  

There were kayaks putting in at Great Falls.  It looked scary but EXHILIRATING.  Other.  There was a boat ride at the canal.  It looked BORING.  

The night before this excursion, Chris and I participated in a meeting at church.  We're planning some things we'd like to do as a church - important Jesus things.  Reflecting on the canal, I want to be so careful and prayerful.  I want to kayak Great Falls and not sit on a boat in the C&O Canal.

*  Note - the C&O Canal was rendered obsolete before the project was even completed.
** This was a really great outing with the kids.  They loved the rock scrambling.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails...

It's been a testosterony week.  My father-in-law is here acting as the world's greatest handyman - the labor is free and he throws in child care and children's carpentry lessons, too.  He let David and Jacob use his staplegun, drill and nailgun.  I don't know if life will be the same for them.

They made Celtic battle axes.  David drew war paint on everyone and spiked their hair with gel (which still hasn't quite washed out).

They made a train using their riding toys, bungee cords and rope. 

Here are some games they've invented and played a lot this week:
1.  Pancake - Someone is the pancake.  Just as the other two begin to eat him, the pancake runs away screaming.  The other two catch him, tickle him and bring him back.
2.  Run tag - It's a spin off of hide and seek.  The seeker carries a ball.  The hiders run out of their spots screaming about 10 seconds into the game, and the seeker tries to hit them with the ball.
3.  Bollyball football - Here are the rules as stated by Jacob:
  • You throw the ball to nobody.
  • If you catch it, you lose 5 points.
  • If you miss it you get a point.
  • If you're older than 5, you have to go easy on the little guys.
From my observations of bollyball football, I've gathered that you should also scream a lot, and if you're three, you get to throw in a little baseball action with your battle axe.   

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Just a shot of tequila helps the medicine go down...

So we had such a great time at the Kennedy Center last week, I decided to take the boys again Monday to see
"The cast of the national tour of Mary Poppins strut their high belting, energized, tap dancing stuff in an evening of song."
What comes to mind when you read that - a couple of songs from Mary Poppins, right?  Perhaps even a song from the original Supernanny herself?  Unfortunately, the description should have read:
"The minor cast of Mary Poppins, including four Jane Banks and zero Mary Poppins, sing random Broadway tunes, plus one guy tap dances."
They falsely advertised it so effectively that we were packed in there like cattle.  Have you experienced infant claustrophobia - where you are stuck with no escape in a public setting with a child who is about to lose it?  The worst case I've heard of involved my sister-in-law and her two oldest children.  They were flying on an old-school Southwest airplane with a row of rear facing seats at the front of the plane.  This was the only available row on the plane.  The boys were little, and the 13 month old had already missed his nap.  He was horrible on this flight - screaming, throwing his sippy cup (which hit another passenger), throwing his toys,...  My very sweet, very shy sister-in-law had to sit facing her irate fellow passengers through all of these shenanigans.  She swore she'd rather make the 700 mile drive by herself than ever do that again.

Well, my plan for this concert hinged on my ability to walk, or at least stand and bounce, with Rand on my back.  I brought a bagel and a bottle merely as a DEFCON 1 option.  Ten minutes into this show (that sucked) he had just about polished off the bagel, and I looked around and realized there was no escape.  There were people crammed in all around us.  I was stuck at this stupid concert with a child who was going to implode.

Well, he made it through the concert with only a few isolated screams.  A shot of tequila to help the stress go down would have been nice, though.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Positive reinforcement and the telephone...

Do you remember that experiment from Psych 101 where mice were trained to push a button?  One group is given no reward, and one group is given a consistent reward every time they push the button.  The last group is rewarded randomly.  On occasion they will receive a reward for pressing the button, but it is unpredictable.  When the rewards are removed, the button pushing habit persists the longest in the randomly rewarded group.

This phenomenon occurs in my house almost every time I am on the phone.  Suddenly everyone has an urgent request, and despite my frantic hand motions and stern looks, they are relentless.  The other day as I was asking them, "Why are you asking me that when you can see I'm on the phone?" The obvious answer occurred to me - because sometimes it works.  If they ask for something that normally is a low probability yes but isn't too unreasonable (i.e., 'Can I have some gum?' or 'Can I get the Play Doh out?') I will say yes just so I can finish my conversation in temporary peace.  It's a crapshoot, though.  If they get too ambitious ('Can I slide down the stairs in a pillowcase?' or 'Can we go to Chuck-E-Cheese?') or if I'm irritable, then they'll end up sitting in time out until I'm off the phone.

"Mommy can I go out to the car and get a magseen rite a yes or no in thees linse      |  |"  I love the detail of the instructions.
David developed a new tactic a few weeks ago.  At the time I thought, "Great - this is much less annoying.", but I remember my mom getting irritated with us "shoving notes in her face" while she was on the phone , so my guess is that this will eventually get annoying, too.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

War and peace and theoretical mathematics...

I'm still making my way through War and Peace.  This week I came across a character named Pfuel who brought me back to my math department days.  He is a Russian military theorist who has devoted his life to developing his own brand of military theory and has no patience for barbarians who want to taint his theory with practical applications and concerns.  The Russian army is attempting to apply his theory in their defense against Napoleon and the French.

There is often underlying tension between pure and applied math departments.  As someone from the applied side of the aisle, this cracked me up:
"Pfuel was one of those theorists who love their theory so dearly they lose sight of the aim of all theory, which is to work out in practice.  He was so much in love with theory that he hated all practice and didn't want to know about it.  He positively rejoiced in failure, because failure was due to practical infringements of his theory, which went to show how right the theory was."

"Pfuel seemed uniquely capable of treating even Napoleon like a barbarian, on a par with everyone else who opposed his theory."
This is what I love about Tolstoy.  Even for a minor, fringe character, in a few words he paints a vivid and true picture of human nature.

*All of the War and Peace quotes are from the Anthony Briggs translation here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Art, music, a thunderstorm and boys...

When I decided to take the boys into D.C. today for a museum and a concert, I knew it would be an unforgettable day.  It remained to be seen why it would be unforgettable.  At the end of the day, would my inner monologue be this:
"Why, why, why do I have to learn the hard way.  Four small children in the city - what was I thinking???"
or this:
"I'm so glad I didn't stay home and catch up on laundry."

Well, the stars were perfectly aligned and it was a magical day.  After a pretty spastic search for parking, in which the cheapskate in me was relieved not to be tantalized by a metered parallel spot I had no hope of utilizing, we visited the Corcoran Gallery of Art.  One of our favorites was the pair  above, The Departure and The Return by Thomas Cole.  It shows a lord departing for battle with his knights and returning on his deathbed with a riderless horse.

The Chuck Close exhibit was the showstopper for us, though.  This is not the style of art that I naturally gravitate toward, but the boys were intrigued.  I took a closer than usual look and loved it.  His work is amazing - truly.  It's difficult to see here, but the black and white portrait is done in fingerprints.  Can you believe that level of detail using only fingerprints?  Another portrait was woven in a rug.  One was made from rolled cardboard and another from layered paper.

After the museum, we bought lunch at a hot dog stand and ate here during a thunderstorm.  We read one of our medieval tales and the boys played tag and soldiers.

Next we took the subway to the Kennedy Center.  Bryan fell asleep and was thoroughly unconscious for the entire experience, so we had to ride the subway one stop on the way back to the car because he needed to.
There is a free concert every night on the Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center.  Tonight was the Navy band's jazz ensemble.  The boys' attention spans decreased at rates inversely proportional to their ages, but for a time, they were each enthralled.  I loved it - both the music and the spirit of the Millenium Stage project.  It feels like a bit of a miracle to walk up to a free concert with people who have all decided to listen to something beautiful today.

Things That Made Today Awesome:
  • I didn't pay attention to how long it took to get to the Kennedy Center (stroller + subway + shuttle + rain + rush hour = a long time).  The boys didn't care how long it took because the subway is magical for them in the way the Millenium Stage is for me.
  • Drizzle alone would have been annoying, but an all out thunderstorm 1) was cool and 2) gave us perspective.
  • No one broke anything in the museum store even though I stayed at least ten minutes beyond the dictates of Wisdom.
  • There is no reasonable explanation for it, but Rand had only two short naps and no major meltdown.
  • I brought cameras for the boys to use at the art museum.  You are guaranteed approximately twenty minutes of intense interest in the arts when you bring cameras.  I now have about 200 blurry art photos on my phone.  This one came out well, though.  How does someone sculpt marble to look like a finely draped veil?
  • There were a handful of older women who stopped me and said something kind about my children.  In each case, they could have chosen to notice something less praiseworthy, but instead they saw what was good and encouraged me.  I want to be like that when I grow up.
Truly, one of my favorite things in life is when I do something that's at a minimum ill-advised, and often more completely delusional, and it works - like taking the boys to a cabin for a week each summer by myself.  It does bite me in the butt sometimes, though.  Taking 3 children, two of whom must be carried, on a strenuous hike an hour and a half from home SUCKS!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Daddies and dragons...

"Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed."  G.K. Chesterton
I love fairy tales and my boys are blood-thirsty little guys when it comes to stories, so we have really enjoyed the fairy tales we've read lately.

The Light Princess is one I never encountered as a child.  The illustrations in this version are fabulous (by Maurice Sendak).  George MacDonald tells the tale of a princess who is cursed as an infant with the repudiation of her gravity.  It has a detrimental effect on her personality as well.  She takes nothing seriously.  As princesses in these stories are wont to do, she gets into a predicament that requires a volunteer to freely sacrifice himself for her...
"Death alone from death can save.
Love is death, and so is brave-
Love can fill the deepest grave.
Love loves on beneath the wave."
After we read this part...
Me:  Who do you think is going to volunteer to die for the Light Princess?
David:  (with unwavering confidence) The king because he's the dad, and that's what dads do.
I love that he has no hesitation in assuming the dad will save the day.

This is another book we love right now - Favorite Medieval Tales by Mary Pope Osborne, author of the wildly popular, at least in my house, Magic Treehouse series.  Warriors fight valiantly, monsters lose their appendages, a boy defeats a pack of ravenous griffins,...  My guys can't get enough.  The stories include Beowulf, The Sword in the Stone and The Island of the Lost Children among others.  The illustrations are fantastic and the length is perfect for my second grader and kindergartner.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lines written for my family and friends (real and imaginary) on the event of my birthday in which I went to Barnes and Noble and a concert...

Chris took me to Baltimore for my birthday last weekend.  We had fancy Italian food, browsed at Barnes and Noble and went to a Willie Nelson concert.  A couple of things...

We came across this building.  The words "Sewage Pumping Station" are displayed above the windows.  It's such a beautiful building for such a purpose.  I'm not sure if I admire it or am disturbed by it.  "You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean."* or  "Yes, I am a sewage pumping station.  Laugh if you must, but at least I'm not pretending to be something I'm not."

Someone actually did a lot of work to publish these two gems.  No, it wasn't just a funny joke over cocktails.  Someone actually spent days and weeks of their life on these.  Very Bad Poetry is amusing, though.  One of the poems is entitled "Lines Written for a Friend on the Death of His Brother, Caused by a Railway Train Running over Him Whilst He Was in a State of Inebriation."  That's enough.  You really don't need to read the poem.

 I love the summer teen reading tables and either 1) find something intriguing I've missed or 2) feel smug that I've read everything interesting there (I know, it doesn't take much).  I found this monstrosity among the summer reading tables.  Really - this is what we want our teenagers to read?

Once we endured the opening act, the concert was great.  To the performers of the world:  1) Just because you can play your guitar with your face does not mean that you should.  2) If the crowd is, generally speaking, significantly older than you, they will clap for you in the way they clap for small children who do spastic cartwheels - more because they don't want to disappoint you and it is somewhat amusing than because it's a wise move, musically.

This is what we should have been watching instead of the opening act.

Willie Nelson was awesome - Whiskey River, Good-Hearted Woman, Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys, I'll Fly Away, ...

*Matthew 23:27

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