Sunday, June 28, 2009

Some recent quotes from the guys around here

Me: Colsen, look at the clouds this evening -- aren't they cool? Didn't God make them well?
Colsen: No, God didn't make the clouds. A monster did. No, I did. I climbed up a ladder and I was flying. Did you see me?
Me:..... No....
Colsen: Oh, you was in the house.

[Later that night he asked Pete if he could show him how to fly.]

Strider: Mom, can I have some Craisins and peanut butter? They're for my new show called, "Gross Snacks with Strider."
Me: Ok... well, did you wash your hands?
Strider: No -- that's why it's called, "Gross Snacks with Strider!"

Colsen: I need to make lunch. Can you get me a spoon for this pot?
Me: You can go get one.
Colsen: No -- I can't reach! I need a special-wa! (He meant spatula, of course. I think this might be one of those cases where Pete and I adopt the new term. Years from now we may still be using special-wa's!)

Pete: Who is coming over for the meeting tonight?
Me: Just Anne and Wendy.
[After a pause] Pete: Oh, I didn't realize it was only Beth and Awara.

[I think he needs a vacation]

[I think I do, too]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rayna's hair

(I know it's weird that this is the 2nd post I've written about HAIR lately, but oh well! That's what's been on my mind.)

The Lord surely knew I needed to learn some patience (an obvious fact to anyone who has ever met me), and so almost 7 years ago he sent me my sweet daughter, whose hair has grown slower than I would ever have imagined hair could!

She was completely bald for the first 2 years of her life, and then we started to see some feeble wisps of hope, but even at that point it was yet to be years before it looked like an actual head of hair! It was a good thing she had such a cute little face to make up for it! :)

1st birthday...

2nd birthday...
Age 2 years and 2 months...

A couple of years later -- 4th birthday...

So, years later, my delight has been great, now that the days I have waited and waited for are finally here! She has real hair. She has even worn braids lately! Never did I think I would be so excited for that day...

Her hair has gotten pretty long, by my new standards, lately and even Pete has been thrilled to see her with her "flowy" hair. But, with the feminine tresses a greater messiness has come, so she often has looked like a ragamuffin. Since I refuse to actually blow-dry and "do" my 6-year old's hair, we have decided the summer has called for a shorter cut once again.

So off we went yesterday to our neighborhood hair salon to get all this long-waited-for hair cut off...

Some "before" shots...

And the "after" shots!

It has been so good to see at last the day of fulfillment of promises. Everyone told us for years, "She'll have hair eventually"... and we're thankful now for hairstyle options, something I would have otherwise taken for granted!

And speaking of RAYNA, we're so thrilled that there is a new Rayna on the scene! We can't wait to meet the new little Hines baby, ETA October!

Cousins Camp, V 2.2

Last week Strider enjoyed his second annual Cousins Camp, sponsored by Nonna and Poppa. In keeping with tradition, I will now interview him about his experience, and write his responses verbatim.

So...Strider, in 7 words or less, describe Cousins Camp this year.
Cousins Camp was really, really fun.

That's not very descriptive. Can you tell me some more words that come to mind?
om, I don't get it. Fun at the Great Wolf Lodge.

So you went to the Great Wolf Lodge. Tell me about that.
Oh my gosh. There's a water park, an awesome hotel room, putt-putt, and a lot of other things that are fun.

What were the other highlights?
Ok. We did the slip-n-slide, we played basketball, we had a lotta laughs about the Irish blessing.

The Irish blessing??
I'll tell it to you. May the road rise to meet you, may the wind always be at your back. May the rain fall and soften up your fields. May God hold you at the palm of His hand. Isn't that funny??

I don't think I see why it's funny...
Too bad. We were laughing a lot. One dinner I had to keep getting up from my chair every 5 seconds to breathe because I was laughing so hard.

Anything else?
Oh, we stayed up until 11:30 - the latest I've ever stayed up. And we played Tripoly! I betted all my chips.

Good ol' Nonna and Poppa teaching you about betting, huh?
No, that's dumb. I already knew how to do that.

Anything final you want to say?
Great Wolf Lodge was the best place in the whole world! Thank you Nonna and Poppa!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Toilet Brush Plan

The Problem: I still cannot figure out a way to get our toilets clean without the use of a toilet brush. I've tried those flushable scrubby things, but they just don't do a good enough job long-term.

The Challenge: How to keep a toilet brush in the house without it being touched and/or used for any other purpose. The only place I have found to store such brush is behind the toilet. However, anything on any floor surface anywhere in the house appears to be "fair game" for use as a toy by children under the height of 4 feet tall.

The Players: A few children under the height of 4 feet tall, and an experienced mom.

The Plan:

Step 1: Buy a cheap toilet brush at Ikea.
Step 2: Let the children carry it around the store triumphantly, pretending whatever they want to with it, with the hope that the novelty of this new toy will wear off.
Step 3: Set the still-clean, unused toilet brush behind the toilet at home in its new spot, expecting that the children will come find it, play with it, etc., until the novelty wears off. Wait 3-4 weeks.
Step 4: After seeing diminished play activity with the brush, actually use it to clean the toilets.

And because I am an experienced mom now, I have added Step 5:
Step 5: Expect to see, on the very next day, the toilet brush being used as a wand, hairbrush, toothbrush, dog brush, or mixing spoon by one of the children. Realize the home and children will never be as clean and sanitary as one would wish.

I performed Step 4 yesterday, so I’m just waiting to see how Step 5 manifests today…

If anyone has any suggestions for the plan and/or solutions to this problem, please do let me know!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Celebrating Dads

Pete and I are both very blessed to have fantastic fathers, who love us well, and have raised their families with integrity and wisdom. And I am grateful beyond words that my children have an awesome father as well, one who is a hero to them -- and me.

Unfortunately, this hero of ours has been out of town this weekend. He's with his college friends who get together regularly - -this time, though, I'm told it's a spiritual retreat. A lot of beer was also packed. And from the look of these pictures Pete just sent, I'd say they're having a great time!*

So, while he's been gone, the kids and I went up to my parents for part of the weekend, and had a great time. We had a little ceremony for Karin, who just sold her business -- our family is never one to pass up a chance for a retirement/rewirement party. And then, of course, it was wonderful to be with my dad on Father's Day.

The patriarch!

I love living so close to a lot of my family and being able to celebrate special things with them!

Soon-to-be dad, Graham, with Miles

A lot of the fam (we were just hanging out like this -- it was not posed, of course!)

*Before they left for their weekend in the mountains, 2 of the guys, Andy (nicknamed Soup) and Bryan Stewart (nicknamed Stew), came here for the night, giving us the opportunity to have "Soup and Stew for breakfast" -- get it? Here's some shots of everyone that morning on our new trampoline...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

One reason my brain gets so mushy

There are a lot of things about being a mom that I find difficult, and even more things that I find rewarding. But one of the most frustrating aspects is how it has severely depleted my brain capacity. I find it very challenging to just think in a straight line... to finish a thought before another one interrupts it, twists it in a knot and throws it away.

Part of the reason for this, I think, is that we moms have a lot to manage. There are a lot of situations that need our attention, people who need us to hear their joys, complaints and stories, and entropy that needs to be fought.

But on top of all that, we have to answer so many questions in a day! I started thinking about this recently -- how I am called to provide answers over and over and over -- and decided I would actually count how many questions I answer in a day.

So, over a 2-day period, I did just that -- counted how many question marks were thrown my way. I did NOT count all of the rhetorical questions, demands, repeated questions, or crying squawks from the baby -- only real, actual questions. I also did NOT count all of the questions coming from people outside this family -- so nothing I got asked on the phone or through email. Just real, live, in-house questions.

And the average, for ONE DAY, was approximately 216.

In the span of the 13 hours that I and my children are awake, I get asked about 216 questions. That means, that in a week's time, I must answer someone over 1400 times. And in a year, that's... wait, let me switch over to Excel... 73,000 questions. And, starting next year when Miles may begin adding to the conversation, that number may actually go UP! This, I must say, is daunting for a brain-depleted, decision-making-challenged person such as me.

The questions in this period of analysis ranged from the mundane ("Do you want my pickle?") to the trivial-pursuit type ("Who is the mayor of Lake Park?") to the more complicated ("If we have a President, why do we need a Mayor?")... But all of them required an answer.

I did notice some patterns... here is my estimation of how the questions broke out:

And here are how my answers sorted out:

This analysis has served a couple of purposes for me.

1.) It let me use Excel and charts... something my depleted brain gets starved for sometimes.

2.) It helped me to conclude why it is that I feel like such a dingbat much of the time: When a person has to say "I don't know" over 100 times a day, it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle! I know less and less and less...

I would have some other, stellar conclusions I'm sure... if someone wasn't asking me something right now...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bedtime antic #196

Each night we send the kids to bed, and Rayna generally goes to sleep. The boys, on the other hand, have a major party every night up in their room. Pete and I have gotten to the point that we just try to ignore any noise coming out of their room (unless it involves high-pitched screaming or intense wailing), knowing that eventually they will fall asleep.

The other night, though, this was the scene when Colsen came downstairs to report, "I get baptized!" Sure enough, Strider had poured water all over him. When we asked Strider about this, he said, "The only problem was I baptized him in the name of the Father and the Son, but he ran away before I got to the Holy Spirit!"

It's hard to get mad at them when they're playing "church"-- and when they're so pleased with themselves!


Pete and I laughed at this poster from Despair, Inc., especially because it reminded us of a conversation we had with some friends lately (verifying that your professor was right, Howard!).

Nevertheless, I continue on...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cousins Camp: Year 2, Round 1

Rayna and Ava were the first batch of cousins to go through my parents' exciting fun-filled program this year, and once again they had a great time! I interviewed Rayna, so we could hear about it all in her own words (and believe me, she had plenty of words!):

So, Rayna, what was your favorite part of Cousins Camp?
The carousel.

What kinds of things did you guys do?
Well, sometimes we went to the pool. And we went to Imaginon. We don't go to Chuck E. Cheese's. Ava did her seat belt. Poppa helped me with mine.

Yes, but what else did you do?
I wore my Cousins Camp shirt.

Did you make a Cousins Camp shirt?
Yes. We used different colors. I used, let's see, I used purple and yellow and black, and let's see, and orange.... And we did marshmallows! And I had a hot dog for dinner. And beans. And begetables. And we did marshmallows, too. We got sticks and put them in the fire, and I got sticky!

And what else did we do? We went out on the porch, and more porch and more porch. We went on a picnic and we got this blanket. And we went to take a bath. And I played with the towels with Ava. And we washed our bathing suits.

Ok, but Rayna, didn't you ride on a train -- or even 2 trains -- and go to a restaurant and everything?
Yeah! My soup was really, really hot. And we got these plates.... [And it goes on like this for awhile...]

Is there anything you want to say to Nonna and Poppa?
Maybe I'll give them a call.

Well... are you thankful?
Yeah, I'm thankful! I LOVED Cousins Camp. I did! It was really awesome! And we went to bed, and we got up and had breakfast, and we had cereal, and Ava had cereal.... [I'll just edit out the rest to cut down on typing!] :)

Our little Miss Detail obviously had a great time. We missed her very much while she was gone, but are so glad she had this opportunity. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Our house, the marketplace

Summer has apparently blown in the winds of entrepreneurism here.

A few days ago, Strider begged me to have a restaurant for lunch, "with menus and everything" so he could order whatever he wanted. I flatly refused... until he said he would pay for whatever he bought. That got my attention. So, I quickly made up some menus and recruited Rayna as my waitress/server. I told her to go get a costume, and this black cape and silly black hat is what she came down with...

She did a good job taking order, serving drinks and bringing in the orders -- she was definitely in her element. It was actually fun for all of us, although next time I'm raising my prices.

And speaking of raising prices, pricing has been a major theme around here. Strider opened a new business a few days ago also - -a "massaging business." He found this wooden back-rub thing in the toy box, and announced he was ready for clients who wanted back massages. At first the price was $1 for 10 minutes. Until he did his first one and decided he needed to raise his prices dramatically because 10 minutes was "soooo long." So then the prices jumped ten-fold, and his customer demand dropped off the chart. We had a lot of good "supply and demand" economics conversations.

His response, man after my own heart, was to offer coupons! He made an official announcement that there would now be flyers and various coupons scattered around in hiding places around the house. Some were definitely better deals than others. And Wednesday was "double coupon day" which was a nice option.

Alas, despite his best pricing and promotional efforts, his customer base remained quite small, and the purchasing power of some of the constituents quite limited. So, yesterday, after giving us official warnings and announcements, he sold his business to Rayna (who then started charging "forty cents" for 10 minute massages that she wouldn't finish).

Colsen, meanwhile, took a trip with Pete to a weed-whacker repair shop, which sent him into a complete, blissful tizzy. He talked about it a-mile-a-minute for the whole day afterwards. And now he's got his own repair stations set up around the house, if anyone has anything they need to have fixed...

So there have been a few "Tips" jars around the house. There is, as we all know, always a reason to tip someone! I guess as parents who teach economics and marketing classes, we should not be too surprised by all these marketplace endeavors...

Oh -- and one last business note. I have discovered a marketing campaign (for Shredded Wheat) that I just LOVE -- in fact, I have been showing some of the webisodes in my class this week. Check it out here ( if you're interested... The "Speech on Progress" is my favorite.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How we do potty-training in the South

Big brother helping little brother in the backyard.

p.s. We also have a couch in our front yard.

p.p.s This post was written by Pete

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Because I just can't get enough of this sound...

I know I posted a video very similar to this one recently, but here is little Miles laughing again.

Pretty much daily we get to hear this wonderful noise. I wish I could capture more of those times on video, but usually the only time we can find the camera and stop doing whatever else we're doing is at night when the other kids are in bed. So that's why we have multiple versions of the "laughing at Mommy sitting on the couch" video moments.

While Strider says he is the one who has gotten Miles to laugh the hardest ("he was laughing so hard he couldn't even breathe, Mom!"), it is Rayna who is the one who gets the most laughter out of him on a daily basis. She perches in front of his bouncy seat or swing or blanket, and talks to him for very long periods of time -- and apparently he loves it.

He's been such a happy baby, earning him another nickname -- "SMiles."

Monday, June 8, 2009

So fine to be 9 in '09

We celebrated Strider's 9th birthday on Saturday. Since this was an "off" year for our every-other-year party plan, he chose to do some other activities, such as go out for breakfast (at lunch time), swim in his new blow-up pool in the backyard, and attend a Charlotte Knights baseball game with some friends that night. One of Pete's students has been interning for the Knights, so he hooked Strider up with some cool t-shirts and hats at the game, and that was definitely a highlight. Strider says he had a great birthday!

For my part, I can't believe my first baby is about half-way through with his childhood... That is a very weird thought.

Here are some scenes of his big day:
(Even Rayna and Colsen got gifts too... Water bottles for everyone!)

And here is the result of using a too-cheap plastic bag as a frosting bag when trying to decorate the top of a giant cookie... POP!
Oh well, it still tasted good.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

How slugs are affecting my life

Slug. What a disgusting word*, and what a disgusting creature -- especially when I find one in my house. Or, even worse, 2 at one time on the floor. According to the exterminator we called, everyone will be having problems with slugs "for at least another 2 weeks -- there's not much you can do about them." (This was said over a week ago, so the season's almost over - yay.) He was wrong though -- the homemade beer traps outside do actually work -- we've killed hundreds of them so far.

But still we find an occasional one inside! I can't handle it. We had that first slug-sighting in the house 11 nights ago, so every night since then I've been totally creeped out. Unfortunately, Pete has been gone for 7 of those nights, so I've had to cope on my own. It's horrible: each evening as the sun starts to set, I find myself frantically preparing to be invaded, getting more and more worked up as the moments go by and darkness begins to settle in. It's like I'm afraid a werewolf is going to show up or something! I've never in my life dreaded nighttime so much before. And I've never been so upset about rain, either.

I don't like living this way, so tonight I decided to try to change my outlook. If I serve a God who has a big overarching theme of redemption, then there must be some ways I can see Him redeeming even this yucky situation, right? So, I've given it some thought, and here are some good results I've seen come out of this slug season...
  • Reminder that I have a wonderful community around me: When I brought this up at our last Life group meeting at our house, I told them I didn't know what I would do if I saw a slug when Pete wasn't home because I certainly would not be able to kill it, but I would also feel foolish going to get a neighbor to get it for me. Several of the men in the Life group immediately said I could call them and they would drive the several miles from their home to ours to get any indoor slugs!
  • Time for Strider to shine: While Pete's been out, Strider has had to be my man of the house, walking into rooms ahead of me, and scoping out if there are any invaders. He's also had to deal with the outdoor beer traps. And he's risen to the challenge!
  • Greater self-awareness: Now I know that I still haven't grown out of the same strategy my 2-year old uses for situations he doesn't like -- denial. Every night I just pack up all my stuff and head upstairs for the evening. I figure if there are slugs somewhere downstairs, it's just much better if I don't see them. So as I type this, I am upstairs in my room, with the child-gate across the top of the stairs locked. I know this won't really keep anything out, but it works for me anyway!
  • Greater appreciation for Since I can't stay downstairs to watch tv in the evening, I have taken our laptop upstairs and become a big fan of Hulu. My new favorite show: "Trust Me." If I can't watch old episodes of "Ed" this is the next-best thing. And I might even be able to use some clips in my marketing class!
  • Better health?: I can't snack as much at night when I'm stuck upstairs, and when I'm bored watching Hulu, I can exercise... a little anyway.
  • More time for blogging stupid stuff. Case in point.
So, I guess there are a few ways that even this Slug-fest is being redeemed in my life! I'll keep telling myself this while I'm stuck behind the barricades in my room every night...

*I think slugs are named onomatopoetically, but my brother tells me I'm wrong. They don't sound sluggish... but the name sure suits how they make me feel!

Little monkey

One of Strider's birthday gifts today was a chin-up bar that Pete installed for him upstairs. As he was trying it out, Colsen, of course, had to get in on the action...

(We'll write more about the birthday celebration soon...)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hurried, harried, and.... what's the word I'm looking for?

Well, our first week of summer has quickly become a rather busy one for me. Pete has been at a conference (thankfully coming home today!) and Rayna has been at my parents' for Cousins Camp, so I've just been hanging with my 3 sons. And by hanging, I mean running around like crazy a lot. This week I'm scheduled to teach 3 sessions of 3-hour marketing classes, tutor an SAT student, and tutor a GMAT student -- so it's not the best week for Pete to be gone.

Monday night I had to teach a class, so after having wolfing down half of a dinner, cleaning the house before the sitters came over (while Colsen was simultaneoulsy emptying large cartons of items in another room), helping Strider set beer traps outside for the invading slugs we've been dealing with, barely stopping Colsen from putting the metal corkscrew in an outlet before he electrocuted himself, and having Miles spit up all over my freshly donned professional outfit.... I was finally out the door.

Unfortunately, my brain must have been leaking all day, because by the time I got to class I was only operating at about 20% of normal power, I estimate. I spent a lot of the class saying things like, "So a core competency is something that can give you... um... oh, competitive advantage.... over....well, your competition." At one point I was writing "eco-friendy" up on the board because a student had suggested it as an answer. I wanted to expound upon it, but suddenly found myself thinking, "What does "Eco" stand for again? Economics? No, wait, that's not right.... Ok, just keep calling it "eco" and don't expound. Keep it simple, Stupid."

But the low point was probably when I wanted to make the room darker so the students could read the slides on the projector better. It was still light outside, so I walked the whole perimeter of the room, trying to see if any the blinds could be closed any tighter. As I walked I tried that very difficult trick of talking while I was walking.... and by the time I got the front of the room, it was no darker since all of the blinds were as closed as they could get already. As I was expressing my resignation to this fact to the class, telling them they were going to just have to do the best they could in our still-light room, a kind and gentle voice from the back said, "Well..... you could turn out the lights!"
So now I'm fully expecting to see "This prof is a FLAKE" on my course evaluations someday.

Thankfully yesterday's tutoring session went much better -- although it did take every minute from 4 pm on to get ready for a 7 pm session. Again, just as I was about to walk out the door, Miles spit up on me. I'm beginning to think this child always, and only, wants to spit up on nice clothes.

Unlike my harried state the last few days, Strider has been quite relaxed today. He's been begging me for months now to let him have a "staycation." Even though I've insisted that everyday is a staycation for him, he's maintained that he wants just one day to whatever he wants -- no chores or even making his bed, or anything. So I finally caved and told him today could be the big staycation day.

So far, from what I've observed, his staycation has primarily consisted of not getting dressed, lying around watching tv, and making homemade lemonade. In about an hour he's having a bunch of friends over, so that should liven things up.

And in about 2 hours I need to start the long process of getting ready to teach again! Hopefully the students still think there is value in my class and actually show up...