Saturday, August 22, 2009

WANTED: New bed must sleep 6

I never thought I would hear myself say that a California King bed just isn't big enough but it's starting to feel that way. Although the boys have their own beds, I sometimes find myself waking up in the mornings, clinging to one side of the bed in a position that cannot possibly be good for my back. As I look around the bed, I see that all of the boys have joined us during the night and take some comfort in seeing that my husband is clinging to the other side of the bed in his own contorted mess.

It is amazing to me that the boys are able to get a good night sleep as they ultimately pile together like puppies, rolling around and shifting for comfort and always providing Jax with enough space so that he is able to stretch out with a good 6 inch perimeter around him at all times.

This event doesn't happen every night and there is actually something quite comforting about waking up with the 5 most important parts of your heart all within your grasp. It tugs at your heartstrings until of course you hear Myles saying "Thomas moooove off of my head" followed by adjustments all around and a quick "thank you" from Myles who can now breathe again.

This nocturnal gathering of siblings is not without its hazards. Each of the boys has suffered the consequences of laying perpendicular to mom and dad and found themselves rudely awakened by the hardwood floor that does little to cradle their fall. But in the Tan house it truly is every man for himself and so far no one has landed on their head - knock wood!

As the boys get older these moments are going to disappear and I can't help but treasure them more and more. But I sure would appreciate it if someone could make a large enough bed that allowed me to enjoy these moments without the need of chiropractic services the following day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Therapy Jars

On the top shelf of my pantry I have 4 mason jars. There is one jar for each child and currently each jar does contain some money. You might think that these jars are where allowances are kept but that would not be a correct assumption. I lovingly refer to these jars as therapy jars.

The premise is quite simple. Each boy has his own jar. On the days when my parenting skills have been lacking and not quite up to snuff, a contribution is made to the appropriate jar. On the days when I know I've rocked as a mom, I've removed money from the appropriate jar (not all money, just a little). My theory is that when the boys grow up and are looking for someone to blame for all of their troubles, my husband and I will be the likely targets. I will calmly go to the pantry and pull down the appropriate jar and give it to my son, letting him know that I had anticipated this day long long ago. Based on my goal to self monitor my parenting skills, if there is quite a bit of money in the jar, I obviously had a few more bad days than good. If there are minimal dollars in the jar, I hit the mark more days than not.

Before giving my child his jar, I will hug him and look him in the eye as I remind him how much I love him. Once the jar is in his hands, he is the individual responsible for his happiness and peace of mind. Hopefully my contribution to his enlightenment will be appreciated - or at the very least will pay for an In & Out Double Double w/ shake & fries.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Reasoning with Myles

Myles - Mommy, I want a baby sister.

Mommy - I want a little boy who picks up his room and doesn't make a mess.

Myles - So you're saying no to the baby sister?

Friday, August 14, 2009

What Happened to the TP roller?

While cleaning up the downstairs bathroom my husband noticed that the TP roller was missing from the TP holder. The call went out..."who has been playing with the TP roller?" (Seriously, is this a question you ever consider having to hear yourself utter in life?)

The responses came swiftly...

John Thomas "It wasn't me but I think Hunter had it."
Hunter "Nooooo, uh uh, Moles, Moles, Moles"
Myles (having been implicated by his little brother and feeling it was time to face the music) "Oh yeah, I was playing with it and forgot to put it back."

Where do you begin with that? It's not like the boys don't have tons of toys - everything from Legos to Bakugan & Transformers and yet Myles feels the need to take a TP roller and transform it into some sort of weapon? It's like having a pint sized MacGyver.

Although I anticipated the typical response, I asked the question anyway..."Myles, what were you thinking?" to which he responded with a straight face, "I thought the spring action on the TP roller would help put more spin on my marbles." I explained that moving forward he would need to find a different way to add spin to his marbles to which he responded "Not a problem Mom, Thomas took the handle off the mop and I think that will be a lot more better."

I should know by now that no response from Myles is typical.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Can you do me a favor?

Manners are extremely important to me. Not just the please and thank yous but the "Yes M'am" and "No Sir" to a child's elders or holding the door open for someone, especially a lady and especially an elderly person.

Now I can't be responsible for everyone else's children but I am going to be responsible for mine and I will be eternally grateful if on my tombstone it reads...

Traci Dalke
Beloved wife and mother.
She loved us lots and taught her boys manners.

That might sound a little warped and perhaps it's a discussion for a post for another day but back to the business at hand.

While I can appreciate the gesture, one of my largest challenges in teaching manners in a real world environment is the response of other adults. If I see one of the boys do something (i.e. cut in front of someone at a buffet) I make it a point to tell them that they need to apologize to the person and step back. 9 times out of 10, when they go to apologize, the adult responds "That's ok." But it's not ok. It's not ok for my kids to think that they can cut in front of someone or that they can reach over you to grab the bread from the bread basket. It's not ok for kids to be so focused on themselves that they don't recognize and acknowledge what is going on around them. They turn into adults who do the same thing and once this happens, we've just added another "self absorbed, all about me" individual to the human race and really, don't we have enough of them already?

I can appreciate that the adult's intentions are well meaning, but if by chance one of my kids missteps and comes back to apologize, can you do me a favor and simply say "Thank you for apologizing, I appreciate that you realized your error". I know I would certainly appreciate it and you would be doing a mother a big favor.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sometimes I love you Mommy is really just an I love you Mommy

I've always had pretty good radar when it comes to B.S. Having boys has helped develop my radar to top of the line detection. I'm always a little skeptical when one of the boys, especially the older two, come along with an "I love you Mommy". I immediately ask questions...."what have you done?", "where are your brothers?", "did something break?" get the picture.

John Thomas has never been an overly affectionate child so when he comes towards me with his arms open wide, my defenses immediately go up. Myles on the other hand has always been very affectionate and he can look at you with the sweetest, most adorable face as he basically lies through his teeth. Myles also thinks that as long as he says he's sorry, then the deed should be forgiven automatically - no questions asked, no punishment necessary.

Hunter, while still innocent, has a look that he takes on when he knows he's crossed a line and done something he shouldn't. He's now at the stage where he doesn't need help climbing the cabinets to get to the play-dough. But unlike Myles who is smart enough to close all the drawers and remove evidence of his sins, Hunter leaves everything out so even Barney Fife wouldn't have trouble gathering evidence to convict.

At 10 1/2 months, Jax is my little observer. He watches and waits for his brothers to get into trouble. It's as though he has worked it out with his older siblings. I can only imagine the conversation....

John Thomas - Ok Jax, if for some reason she starts yelling and you see us run or start to cry, thats your cue.

Jax - Got it. Mom gets mad. I look cute and anger is diverted. She picks me up to hug and forgets that you just spilled the juice on the floor that was just mopped. I can do that.

But every once in awhile I'll have one of them come up to me and put their arms around me and hug me tightly with a big I love you. When I ask what was that for, I'll get a just because and I'm ok with that.

I make it a habit to tell each of the boys how much I love them on a daily basis and the usual response is either "yeah, I know" or "ok". The one exception to this is Myles...

Mommy - Do you know how much I love you?
Myles - More than ice cream?

Mommy - More than ice cream and cake!

Myles - That's alot of love cause you really like ice cream and cake.

Myles has always been my little communicator and sometimes the stuff that comes out of his mouth makes him sound like a 70 year old man instead of a 5 year old little boy and this little exchange has become "our thing." I love "our thing."

I have only just begun this journey known as motherhood and while I know that there will be many twists and turns along the way, I also know that by making sure the boys know that they are well loved, it will be easier for all of us to overcome those future obstacles. It also helps to forgive the latest work of art added to my wall courtesy of a 2 year old with a purple crayon.

Back to School Shopping with the Boys

A few weeks ago I must have had a psychotic break because I willingly took John Thomas & Myles with me to go shopping for back to school clothes. In theory the plan was simple: get in and hit 2 key department stores having solid sales, grab a few things and be out within an hour, 2 max. Reality, unlike theory, tends to throw a few unplanned variables into the equation.

The first store I focused on John Thomas and allowed input and suggestions as I pointed out prices and talked about how there really isn't a need for any human being to have 10 shirts of the same color. And for the most part John Thomas was pretty easy going. Myles, who I must acknowledge has his own sense of style, was jonesing for me to focus my attention on him. After a couple of "criss cross applesauce" announcements in which Myles actually listened and plopped on the floor to wait for me, I could tell that we were headed in the direction of meltdown and I needed to act quick.

I gathered my items and went to stand in line, instructing both boys to sit in the chair. The chair of course, which was placed right next to a huge gumball machine. Can I just take a moment to ask who the genius in the store is that thought "hey, lets put a big gumball machine in the children's clothing section of the store....I bet parents will really appreciate it." WRONG.

So now, in addition to having to consistently say, "sit down, I'll be done in a moment" I also had to add into the mix, "No, I don't have any change for a gumball" or "No you're going to ruin your dinner."

I now have fidgeting boys, an unattainable item within arms length that they must look at but not touch and then to top it all off and complete the trifecta, the saleslady who was just a bit too personable as she turned into Chatty Cathy while slowly scanning my items. I smiled and attempted to show my appreciation to her detail but I really didn't need to be sold on why I was getting a good deal on Billabong swim trunks at 60% off. Somehow God must have taken pity on me because just when I thought all hope was lost, she handed me my receipt and the boys quietly walked over to help with the bags. Myles looked up at me and said, "Now it's my turn, right Mommy?" and off we went.

Shopping with Myles is more challenging than John Thomas. John Thomas' philosophy about clothing is basically, less is more but I'll wear what you put out. Myles however has an opinion about his clothes. He knows what he likes and doesn't like and he has no problem sharing his opinion with you. Where as I only really needed John Thomas to try on one or two items for sizing, Myles asked to try on stuff. And more than once I heard from him, "I look good". The look on John Thomas' face was priceless. He rolled his eyes and shook his head at his brother's obvious state of self admiration.

Finally nearly 4 hours later I was able to get out of the store with my sanity barely in tact, having come to the conclusion that unless I'm shopping for shoes for the boys, I'm going it alone.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bathtime with Boys

Bathtime with kids in general can be challenging. Bathtime with the Tan boys can be like preparing for war, literally. I'm a big believer in tossing them in the shower and hosing them down all at once. It's not pretty, but it's quick and it gets the job done. Every now and then however the boys pull out the "big guns" as they take part in what is referred to in our house as "pee pee wars".

I personally find this activity gross and the first time I witnessed it I thought I was going to blow a gasket until my husband explained that they were just being boys. Having no brothers or any point of reference at all for this act, I chose to walk away and let my husband "referee".

The battle doesn't last long - physically it's not possible. And how they manage to always "be armed" is beyond me. If you haven't figured out how this battle works by now, then let me spell it out for you.....the boys hold on to their "goods" as they like to call them, while aiming them at one another as they pee on each other. The only rule is that they can't aim above the hip and they can't battle if a little brother is sitting on the floor of the shower. I suppose that I should be happy that they came up with those 2 rules, but somehow it's little comfort. From what I've gathered, the winner is the soldier who can battle the longest.

Hunter was recently initiated into the pee pee wars and he was thrilled that his brothers thought enough of him to allow him to join. I simply rolled my eyes and walked away as I heard Myles explaining how to hold your gun.

My reaction to this little activity was tame compared to my mother, who was completely horrified. Of course, my father laughed and preceded to tell me a story from his youth that involved his brother and cousins peeing on an electric fence. I actually felt much better after hearing that tale, thanking God that we live at the beach and far far away from any electric fences. I've just taken this as a sign that the boys come by this behavior honestly.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Scuze butt just burped

John & I work hard to raise the boys to be polite, respectful and courteous to others. Of course, 9 times out of 10 we don't personally get to witness this behavior. I lost count of the times I have had to personally prompt a "thank you" or a "you're welcome" at home only to overhear the boys use their manners out in public and have someone come up to me and say "you have such polite young men" as I gawk, barely able to utter a thank you myself.

Ironically, the only time I'm guaranteed to get a "Pardon me" or "Excuse me" is when it comes to passing gas or as Myles so eloquently christened it at the age of 2 "butt burps".

One moment that clearly stands out in my mind where there was a meeting of the polite and flatulence was Jackson's christening.

8 families baptized children that day and as we walked down the aisle, towards the front of the church where we would sit I looked at my handsome young men walking with their heads up, not touching one another or fidgeting; seemingly so mature I thought what a wonderful ceremony this will be. As John and I stepped into the pew towards the very front of the church the boys began their usual "I want to sit next to mommy." For the record, they're only passionate about sitting next to mommy if the other one shows interest in sitting next to mommy.

John and I gave our bests "you better sit down right now or I'm going to ring your necks" look that we could muster in front of the congregation and priest and as Myles not so gently pushed his way in front of me I heard a sound that made me want to disappear. It wasn't a quiet, delicate queef. Oh no, the sound coming from Myles had legs and as he moved by me and slid along the pew, the echo effect seemed to reverberate around me, much to my dismay.

I looked up to see Myles looking at me with his big brown eyes and a smile from ear to ear as he said "Scuze me Mom, my butt burped." I responded with a terse "Shhh" and looked to his father for help, but that was a lost cause as John could barely contain his giggles. The giggling seemed infectious as within seconds John Thomas and Hunter were also laughing, as were the men and boys sitting behind us and in front of us. The women surrounding me of course had one of two looks on their faces: that of sympathy (as in we are part of a sisterhood of women who will never understand the humor of that act) or that of utter contempt (as in what on earth is wrong with your child that he does that in public).

As I told the boys to settle down and asked Myles to knock it off, he calmly leaned over and said "Mom, grandma always says there's more room on the outside then there is on the inside and now my insides are empty."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Overheard in the house

Without naming names...

"Prepare for your mission."
Followed by the sound of the dryer door being opened.

"I don't think his arm is supposed to bend that far back." Myles

"It's ok. He hasn't started crying yet." John Thomas

"If you jump from the 4th step it won't hurt...if you jump from the 8th step you're taking a chance." Myles

"I didn't mean to push your face in the sand...I was helping you look for sand crabs." John Thomas

"You're a good looking baby Jax, but not as good looking as me." Myles

BETWEEN JOHN THOMAS & MYLES a couple of months after Jax was born....

Myles - Do you think Mommy will have more babies?
JT - Maybe, but not for awhile.
Myles - Why not?
JT - She just had a baby Myles and she needs to shrink.

BETWEEN JOHN THOMAS, MYLES & DADDY while daddy was swimming with the boys.

Myles laughing hysterically.
John - What's so funny?
Myles - Your boobies shake when you swim.
John - Trying to focus the attention elsewhere - Yeah, well mommy's boobies shake too.
John Thomas - Yeah, but hers are supposed to shake, yours aren't.

"It's ok if Thomas has a girlfriend. I have a Love Lady too." Myles

While at a restaurant, the waitress forgot Myles' cheese quesadilla.

Myles - (Insert loud sigh and whine but with manners to waitress) Excuse me, but you forgot my cheese quesadilla and now I'm going to starve to death.
John Thomas - Here Myles, have some of my rice and beans.
Myles - I don't want your rice and beans Thomas.
John Thomas - Fine....starve to death. You're not my only brother - I've got spares.

Mommy - Stop hitting your brother.

Could be any child - I was doing it gently.

Mommy - I don't care if you're gentle or not, don't hit your brother.


John Thomas - I'm an alien. Take me to your leader.

Myles - She's in the kitchen making dinner.

Myles to Mommy - Daddy thinks you're hot.

John Thomas - Of course he does, they're married. He has to think that.

Having been caught cuddling (and for married people with children, you know that cuddling means cuddling, for people without children, get your minds out of the gutter)....

John Thomas - Are you two going to wrestle?

Mommy (calling to check on the boys) What are you doing?

John Thomas - Well, I was watering my tomatoes but Myles grabbed the hose and watered the house.

Mommy - What do you mean, watered the house?

John Thomas - Well, the drapes are wet and the floor is slippery.

Mommy - Where's your father?

John Thomas - He's trying to clean up the mess before you come home.

Monday, August 3, 2009

THUMP! CRASH! "It's ok mom, no need to come up here"

Like things that go bump in the night there are sounds in my home that visitors and non-immediate members of Traci's Frat House find extremely frightening and yet I have come to anticipate, understand and at times ignore.

Not a day goes by that I don't hear a crash, a thud or the sound of bodies bouncing against one another. Of course when you walk around the house with a sand pail on your head, you're going to run into a wall or brother or two - don't ask; it's a phase.

My mother and others who are uninitiated have a tendency to jump and run towards the sounds of bodies falling upstairs, where as I wait and listen for the audio that accompanies these actions. Only rarely is there a real need for me to run out of concern and to offer comfort. More often than not when the perpetrator comes looking for sympathy (and taking into account there is no blood, bruising or missing teeth) my response is "whose fault is it?" or "shake it off."

On those rare occasions when I hear the 2nd floor about to collapse, followed by a cry and the sound of an older brother saying "'s ok, you're ok, don't's ok mommy, it's just a boo boo and (insert child's name here) is fine" I take a deep breath and wait. Because if it's really dire, the injured victim will slowly make his way down to me, tears pouring from his eyes, holding the affected appendage and asking for a band aid for the boo boo. As a mommy of 4 boys, I make sure to always have a full supply of bandaids and kisses for boo boos. It's in the job description.

I gave up asking "why did you do that?" long ago. You ask the question and the response is a vacant stare as you see their minds working backwards to try and remember what prompted them to see if they could hang from the door frame and swing their bodies down the hallway without touching the floor. Or there is the inevitable "I don't know" that absolutely drives me insane. Not because it's their excuse but because they really don't know. They are not yet able to articulate what prompted their actions and I just have to shake my head.

Typical dialogue:


Mommy - What was that?

Name a kid - Nothing. It's ok.

Mommy - Knock it off.

All kids at same time - Ok

A few minutes later, CRASH! followed by whimpers and cries which results in mommy heading upstairs.

Mommy - What on earth is going on up here? It sounds like the roof is going to implode.

Name a kid - It wasn't me it was (fingers are pointed and accusations fly) Thomas, Myles, Hunter. Jax is just on the cusp of being brought into the fold of the blame game.

I must admit that as a mother, I find it actually quite touching when Hunter, a 2 year old that barely walks straight is pointed out to be ringleader for said activity. On the one hand it's sad that JT & Myles actually think I'm going to believe this and it's also warms my heart because the older boys have initiated the 2 year old into their fraternity and where 1 goes, all follow.

I have no basis of comparison as I've only been raising boys and I, myself, was an only child. I do not recall having a need to throw my body around the house, jumping from the top of the stairs or seeing if I could go from one point in the house to another without actually touching the floor. But something tells me that 4 little girls don't spend their time trying to figure out if they can catch a 2 year old jumping off the bed. Even poor Jax, who is just beginning to walk has been told by Myles and Hunter to "shake it off" when he's landed on his bottom while trying to grasp the finer concepts of walking.

Initiation into Phi Gamma Tan isn't easy but it is filled with lots of love, support and bandaids. And noise, don't forget the noise.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bathroom Doors & Privacy

Living with 5 boys, privacy is a rare commodity. 2 year olds think that if the water is running in the shower, then they should automatically be included in the activity. A closed bathroom door does not yet translate to "knock, do not enter until given permission" for a 5 year old. Instead a closed bathroom door is usually opened, accompanied by "What are you doing?" As if there are tons of options for bathroom activity......

But the one that gets me is the open bathroom door when the boys are peeing. No matter how many times I have yelled, encouraged or cajoled to get that door closed, it stays open. Whether it's my imagination or reality, the sound ricochets throughout the house, making it sound like a cow pissin on a rock, as my mother would say.

Whenever I protest this action, I get the same response..."but mom, we're just peeing. it's not that big of a deal" or "we close the door when we poop, isn't that good enough?" Going to John for assistance with this is futile as I have come to realize that the open door while peeing is genetic, permanently mutated into the XY chromosome.

Luckily the open door policy only seems to apply to home. Raising boys I must learn to pick my battles and I've discovered that this battle is more challenging than others so I will retreat for now...but the war is not over.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cutting finger nails

How is it that John Thomas & Myles, who prepare for battle each day, begin to whimper and whine when the nail clippers come out? Hunter and even Jax, stick their little hands out while dad does the deed without flinching or tears.

Of course, I make John cut the nails since I'm terrified I'll cut too close. :)