How To Get Your Kids To Do What You Want

14 Feb

Step One: “Hey, who wants to vacuum?”

“Not me!”

“Not me!”

“Not me!”

“Who wants to help me shovel the driveway and dig out the chicken coop?”

“I’ll vacuum!”

“No, I’ll vacuum!”

“I want to vacuum!”

Step Two: After some enthusiastic, albeit shitty vacuuming, take away devices since they are now back to playing and you’ve barely made a dent in the snow. “Everybody put on their snow clothes and come outside. You can either help me shovel or play in the snow.”

Step Three: Do not be surprised when nobody chooses shoveling. Or when they write the word POOP in your front yard.

The Great iPod Saga

8 Jan

Owen started asking for an iPod touch when he was nine, so for his birthday we bought him an old, inexpensive one on eBay because we had no intention of spending a huge amount of money on something that might very likely get destroyed before he was nine-and-a-half.

But he didn’t destroy it. He used it for a year, all while saving up enough money to buy a newer version himself. He gave the old one to his brothers when his refurbished 4th generation iPod arrived. Now two years later, he has decided to upgrade again. He had a little over $100 saved and figured he could sell his current one for the rest of the money since it was still in good condition. He had done his research and we ordered the iPod for him.

Even as we tracked the refurbished 5th generation iPod across China, he managed to do what he hadn’t done for two years: drop and break the iPod. And just like that, the iPod which may have sold for close to $100 on Craigslist was worthless, an expensive and painful lesson. He could pay someone $80 to fix it, he could sell it for parts, but he now did not have enough money for the iPod FedEx would be delivering today.

Looking at your brand new toy still in the box, but being unable to use it, is a powerful motivator. Though he will not be allowed to use it until it is paid for, we are going to help him fix the old one so that he can sell it and have him do extra work around the house to make some money.

This morning he was up two hours earlier than normal, in a good mood (a huge feat for Owen). He unloaded the dishwasher and started a fire in the wood stove without being asked. I think we’re going to get a lot done around here in the next couple of weeks.

The Second Strangest Thanksgiving

5 Dec

I know everyone’s holiday was thrown off a bit due to the storm and power outages. Ours was too, but it still can’t claim strangest Thanksgiving ever. That title goes to the year we spent wandering around Amsterdam late at night searching for an elusive Indonesian rice table restaurant and finally having pizza and beer at midnight. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am remembering this year’s holiday as a list of things I am thankful for.

I am thankful that my holiday shift in the storm was not too bad.

I am thankful that The Red Arrow Diner in Milford was open on Thanksgiving and had power and veggie burgers.

I am thankful that when we lose power, my cell phone still works, even if it only makes calls.

I am thankful that despite the fact we forgot to buy a power cord for our generator and weren’t able to use it, we have a generator.

I am thankful that we appear to be on the same power grid as the Elementary school and therefore only lost power for about 12 hours.

I am thankful for a family Thanksgiving dinner two days late and with flickering power that was still perfect.

I am thankful to live in the kind of town where people posted on Facebook to match up people who had generators or power with those who still didn’t.

I am thankful for an odd Thanksgiving night dinner with new friends and old friends by lantern light.

I am thankful for short breaks in the frenzied pace of constantly having access to everything. I think it is good for us.

I am thankful for Thanksgiving, a holiday purely about food, family, friends, and being thankful for what we have. I kind of wish we had Thanksgiving every month.

I Would Rather…

12 Nov

My kids have become fans of the game, “would you rather?” It seems innocent enough, but when played with little boys, it is made up of questions like, “would you rather eat dog poop or chicken poop?”

Here is my game of “Would you rather?”

I would rather poke my eyes out with a pencil than do long division with any of my children.

I would rather have dental work than listen to one more explanation of anything in Minecraft.

I would rather listen to country music for hours than hear one more, “Do you wanna know what…”

I would rather sit for 12 hours in triage with no break than yell, “get dressed!” or “just eat!” even one more time.

I would rather run barefoot through the snow than have to tell my kids, yet again, what is inappropriate to do with their penises.

I would rather watch an entire season of any terrible reality TV show than go shopping with my kids.

Mom Vs. Dad – Vacation

7 Nov

Generally, the division of labor in our house is pretty fair, at least when it comes to my husband and me (the kids are total freeloaders). When it comes to going on vacation, or more specifically, preparing to go on vacation, I do way more work than him, though I’m sure he will disagree with me.

Ali –

A few weeks ahead of time – Make sure I have friends lined up to take care of the dog, chickens, and rabbits.

A week ahead of time – Make a giant food list and then go grocery shopping so that we aren’t stuck in a different town buying ketchup and butter and things we already own.

A few days ahead of time – Make a second giant list of things we will need to bring with us (clothing, toiletries, etc). Start getting caught up on laundry so that everyone has the stuff they want.

The day before – Fill up the chicken’s food and water. Make sure we have plenty of chicken food, dog food, rabbit food. Make one last trip to the grocery store for anything I’ve forgotten. Email kids’ teachers to let them know the kids will be missing a day of school. Have kids bring me specific numbers of specific items of clothing and okay it before it is put into their backpacks (when you forget this step, you find yourself shopping for underwear at Kmart in New York with a pissy 6-year-old). Help them pack their backpacks. Have them go find their hiking boots and raincoats. Find and organize that giant food list; put non-perishables in bags and fridge and freezer foods in one spot so that it’s easy to throw it all in a cooler in the morning. Make a nalgene full of margaritas. Help oldest child get bunnies cleaned and ready for other people to care for them. Finally pack my own stuff and everyone except Oliver’s toothbrushes, toothpaste, hairbrushes, deodorant, medicine, etc. Locate my own raincoat and hiking boots and the camel backs.

The day we leave – Recheck that all the animals have everything they need. Pack all of the cold food into the cooler. Have last minute negotiations with kids over just how many stuffed animals they really need to go away for three days. Do not bother to actually put anything into the car since I have learned by now that Oliver will just take it all out and repack it.

Oliver –

A few weeks ahead of time – Make sure he has his vacation days squared away.

The day of – Ask Ali what she’s bringing and then throw a bunch of stuff into a bag. Pack the car.


3 Nov

My kids have each gone through a spelling phase. I don’t know if this is normal kid development, but while mine have all done it, I don’t know any others that have.

Owen’s spelling phase has come and gone, but there was a time that he would spell out, letter-by-letter, whatever he wanted to say to me. At the time, it was fun because neither of the other kids knew what we were saying, kind of like a secret language.

Duncan has recently taken it to a new level and spells out complete sentences, as in, “M-o-m-m-y, c-a-n I p-l-e-a-s-e h-a-v-e s-o-m-e-t-h-i-n-g f-o-r d-e-s-s-e-r-t w-h-e-n I a-m d-o-n-e m-y d-i-n-n-e-r?” I am not even exaggerating here. Sometimes I will spell back to him, not wanting to discourage him, but I tend to stick to, “y-e-s” or “n-o.” There are times, though, that he spells so fast, and runs all of his words together, so that I can’t even keep up with what he’s saying.

What I want to say: “F-O-R F-U-C-K S-A-K-E, D-U-N-C-A-N, S-T-O-P S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G!”

What I really say: “Duncan, I have no idea what you just said to me.”

Calum has recently jumped onto the spelling bandwagon, but his is much cuter. “M-o-m-e-e-y, I love you.” Owen and Duncan want to correct his spelling. “Don’t you dare!” I tell them.

Babysitters, Referees, and Handlers

21 Oct

My kids (well, at least one of my kids) are getting to the age where they don’t really need a babysitter any more. But while I am totally comfortable leaving Owen at home alone for a good chunk of the day (it’s actually the reason homeschooling can work for us when I’m working full time), the three of them together can be a different story.

When your kids are younger, you look longingly to that day in the future when you can leave your children home while you run out to the grocery store for few minutes. You envy those that can have a date night with their spouse that doesn’t involve factoring an extra $50 in for a babysitter. The weird thing is, that day doesn’t happen all at once.

We’ve been doing the 15 minutes here and there for years (since they were old enough to understand why not to open the door for people and could competently call a neighbor or 911 if needed). Several months ago, we left them for a few hours to have dinner with friends. They were fine. The biggest test has come since school started back up again on the one day every two weeks that both my husband and I work at the same time. Owen can stay home alone with a list of school work and chores to do. My biggest worry is that he won’t get his work done, not that he will be kidnapped or burn the house down, and if I’m being totally honest, that’s a possibility every day, whether I am there or not.

At 3:00, he walks up to the school to “pick up” his younger brothers and they walk home together and hang out until Oliver gets home. Last week, they walked home in a torrential downpour from which their sneakers are still recovering. While I felt minimally sorry for them, I learned the next day that the other kids were jealous and wanted to walk home in the rain, too.

If we are going to be gone for a long time, more than a few hours, or out very late, we will still hire a babysitter, though they don’t so much need the supervision as they need a voice of reason or a referee.  I actually believe that they are better behaved, meaning they make their own smart choices rather than pushing the limits with a babysitter to see what they can get away with, when they are home alone. They like the idea of being old enough to stay home alone and they won’t do anything to jeopardize that.

Isn’t the whole goal parenthood to turn these loud, messy, irrational critters into independent, responsible people, a bit at a time? If you ascribe to the theory that “anything could happen” and don’t give them a little independence, your kids will be unemployed, living in your basement when they’re 30. So, while my kids are pretty good alone, they are still three boys who are prone to nudity and questionable taste in cartoons and youtube videos. I wouldn’t be trusting them with other peoples’ kids any time soon.


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