Monday, December 31, 2012

Pre-Christmas Christmas

We did our own little family Christmas on the 21st, because we headed back to Oklahoma on Friday and stayed for a full week.
The kids were ecstatic to see that we had snow. Well, "snow" I should say, because it was just a dusting. It doesn't take much, though, when you're from the plains. Had they only known that they'd be playing in six inches of the stuff at Grandma's house on Christmas day...the smiles say it all, though.
Mim put together her own little manger scene while we slower eaters finished with our breakfast. I'm fairly sure that Jesus wasn't born in something this shiny, but who am I to criticize? I wasn't there either.

Art always reads the Christmas story from Luke, in an effort to remind the children that it isn't all about presents. This is partially counteracted by the shear number of presents that come in the next week, but we're trying. At least Crimson appeared to listen intently.

Mim used the opportunity of the reading to do a little scenery adjustment. This required moving to the passage in Matthew so we could add the Magi to the story. She likes to be thorough.
The kids' main gift this year (from Mommy and Daddy and G-Gma T) was a guitar. It's a real guitar, but 3/4 size, so it's perfect for little arms and fingers. Art has been teaching himself to play, and is now helping the kids learn as well. We really want them to be familiar with music and instruments. Perhaps it's ridiculous optimism, but we shall see.
All in all, a good day. The guitar was their main gift, but there a few little toys and books as well, because I'm not that mean. Not for a moment do I assume that children understand the worth of a musical instrument. The two biggest hits were books, which makes me happy. Zaya got The Elements by Theodore Gray and Mim loved her Spyology book. I was glad to see that she wanted to use it with her brother rather than on her brother. It's the little victories.

Traveling and being with family the rest of the week was wonderful as well, and if I can break the habit of years, I may remember to blog about all or parts of it in the days to come.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Boy's Best Friends

Zaya's favorite toys are his plush microbes. They came to my attention at a time when I was at my wit's end as to what kind of toys to get him. He just didn't enjoy playing with normal toys when he was little. I tried every kind of block known to man. We tried trucks, cars, tractors and all the other toys that little boys are supposed to love. He looked at them. He pushed them around a bit, then he wondered off and started looking at anatomy books. Sigh.

And then I found ThinkGeek. It's a website that sells geeky items for adults and children. They also sell Plush Microbes. A child who loves to pretend to be a white blood cell or a cold virus, and who also loves to snuggle with stuffed animals, is a child for which the Plush Microbe was created. He started his collection at the age of three with the basics: influenza, the common cold, and Strep. Over the years the collection has expanded, gaining members every birthday and Christmas.  Here they are below.

This first group is the cells. They aren't actually microbes at all. They are the good guys, in fact. We started buying them after we found him saying things like "Mommy, I would like to sleep with Ebola tonight." I just couldn't handle that thought. Sleeping with a red blood cell is much less ominous. Below are: Fat cell, Platelet, Skin Cell, Brain cell, Neuron, White blood cell, Red blood cell, Bone cell, and Stem cell.
Then come the bacteria. From left to right, starting in the back: Salmonella, Gangrene, E. Coli, Black Death, MRSA, Shigella, Ear Infection, Strep, Flesh-eating disease, Gingivitis, and Anthrax. (The discerning eye may notice that Ear infection, Strep and Flesh-Eating Disease are all varieties of Streptococcus. In fact, MRSA is as well, but his little cloak disguises him.

Next we have the viruses. There aren't as many of these, because quite a few of the viruses available for sale are of...diseases of a certain type. I haven't allowed the kids to have these. This decision has already led to my son announcing to his Kindergarten class that his Mommy wouldn't "let him have Herpes." Yes, it's funnier now than it was then. So, on to the viruses. Left to right, Chicken Pox, Ebola, Common cold, Mono, Influenza and Rabies.
Last but not least, we have a collection of miscellaneous. Several of these are completely harmless. Mad Cow Disease is our only prion. The Fungi/Plant Life: Toxic Mold, Penicillin,Yogurt, Algae and Pollen (representing Hay Fever.) The little creatures are a Waterbear, Malaria, Louse and Bookworm.
This Christmas we added Krill, T4, Dengue Fever and Martian Life between both kids. They came a little too late to get in on the family pictures, but they've settled in nicely.

Now you've met the whole family. Don't be afraid to visit, though, they're put away in a container. It's not hermetically sealed, granted, but I still think it will be alright if you don't make them angry.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Miscellaneous Mimsy

Mim had a busy day today. First she did a little excavating. The precious gems she discovered are currently residing in a ziploc bag, all clean and shiny. It was very exciting, and she has been begging for days, so I was more than happy to oblige.

The rest of the day was full of alternately helping clean up, asking if she could drag more things out, dragging more things out, and watching The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Oh, and thrashing us at our first game of Mexican Train Dominoes. 

This evening, Mim also made up her first funny joke. She's been working on making up her own jokes for a very, very long time. She doesn't exactly have a strong grasp on what makes a one-liner funny, but I think we're finally getting closer.

Q: Why did the Mommy call her daughter "Honey"?
A: Because she was sweet.

Padum ching.

Zaya says it's a groaner, and he should know, since all, and I mean all, of his jokes are groaners. I explained that we couldn't groan at it, though, while she's still so new to the stand-up game.
Now she is getting ready to sleep in her bed/starship. It's called the Pinkelina. Yes, she really can be a girly-girl sometimes.

She told me that I was a salesperson and she wanted to buy a rocket, and engine, and some new panes of glass for her rocket ship. I told her that would cost about 3 million dollars. She assured me that wouldn't be a problem, as she had 99 million at her disposal. Were that all our family finances could be so easily augmented.

She has her new baby doll beside her in the doll bed. Last night she co-slept, but I think she has decided, like her Mama did eight-and-a-half years ago, that it's not as comfortable that way.

I'm not sure where the doll fits into the Rocket Ship plan, but I'm sure she's got it all figured out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Don't Look!

This afternoon, Zaya was being a knight, and his father was asking for details about his adventure. In the recounting of his victories, which were achieved with an axe, apparently, he said,

"I defeated all of them. I have deadly cleavage."

You know, because he was using an axe, which cleaves things in twain.

Art kept a straight face, but when he told me about it later, we decided that we should probably explain why that is not a word that ought to be used often.

 At the lunch table we discussed the various meanings of the words "cleave" and "cleavage". We've learned the hard way that it is better to have these discussions as soon as possible, than to wait until the child uses the word with other people who might not understand.

Anyway, Zaya decided that, no, he did not, in fact, have deadly cleavage, as it is commonly understood, and we all agreed that probably no one actually did.

Then he thought for a bit and said,

"I bet Medusa does!"

So there's a little thought to take with you today. You're welcome.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

If Life Gives You Random Junk, Make a Trainline

Mim likes to play down in the basement. She doesn't like to be by herself (ever, really, but especially downstairs) so she's really enjoyed the fact that Art is beginning to remodel the basement, and spends time down there patching cement and generally doing manly repair-type things.

Last week, she decided to turn his dolly into a train. Once she had this accomplished, she was able to drag her brother down to play. This is their train-line, complete with stations. (Zaya calls them planets. Just because they're playing together doesn't mean they're in the same dimension.)

Here's the train at the station.

The first stop is Quickret. Yes, we know the bag says Quikrete, but that's not what it's called. I was informed emphatically, so it must be true.

Then we have Zigomorphic. I have no idea what that means, or how it's related to a pile of 2X4s, but there we are.

This is the library. The selection appears to be limited.

Around the corner into what will one day be our guest bathroom, and we have Dollyhouse. This is a rather dirty Barbie house that is a three times over hand me down that spent most of its life as a squirrel feeder on the back deck.

And now we're back to the station. Up there is "Home".

You know, whatever keeps them busy, really, is fine with me.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Battle of the Ozarks

 We've been studying the Norman Conquest over the last few weeks, so we decided to make our own Bayeux Tapestry. I guess it will have to be called something else, but we haven't decided on a name yet.

This tapestry chronicles our journey to Branson last September. Perhaps it doesn't have quite the overwhelming significance of the Battle of Hastings, but it was memorable and involved more than just horses and thrones, so I think we can hold our own.

Our medium was fabric and paint rather than delicate, detailed embroidery. Oh, and we wrote in English instead of Latin. Otherwise it's about the same. You know, aside from the skill and time involved. Oh, and that historical significance thing.

Here is your brief tour.

Day one, we left in the afternoon and trekked across the hills and forests to our hotel. The swimming pool was extremely critical to the success of the venture, so it figures prominently.

The next day was our trip to Silver Dollar City, which has been previously documented. I'm sure I don't need to tell you that Zaya was the one who chose to draw a roller coaster, and Mim chose Marvel cave.
 On the third day we wanted to spend as little money as possible while still being on vacation. Well, I say "we", I think we know that's not entirely true. It was a wise decision, though. We went to see the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery, which had much more than four fish in it. Those are simply example fish. We also hiked a long, winding, nay, eternal trail at Table Rock Lake. I don't know who measured that trail for the map, but they can't possibly have been right in their estimate. Either that or they weren't traveling with young children.

We rounded that day out with a little mini-golf, where we learned fun lessons like "An athletic, 31-year-old man is going to be a better player than a small, 7-year-old girl." and "Hitting the ball as hard as you can is not often your best strategy for putts."
 On Sunday we found a local church to visit, which we loved. It was an Evangelical Free church, and everyone was so friendly.  We drove on to Springfield for lunch and let the kids play for a while in the Greene/Close Memorial Park. They also had a Butterfly Garden which was lots of fun. The Japanese garden is beautiful, or so we've heard. They wouldn't let us in because we didn't have any cash on us, and didn't really want to walk all the way back across the park complex to dig it out of the van. No, I'm not bitter.
So our tapestry may never be found in a museum, but it made it to the wall in the hall, which is a pretty high honor. I know the details are a bit fuzzy, for instance, the Harvest E.F. church was a large brown brick building of fairly modern design; not exactly the gray, tall-steepled country church you see pictured here, but then I'm pretty sure that Harold the Unfortunate didn't actually look like this:

Saturday, December 08, 2012

B-cells Say "Burble"

Tonight Zaya is a white blood cell.  He came to visit me in the heart (I was a cardiac muscle) and handed me an imaginary business card that said, "Zaya - B cell."

 He was being called up to "Lymph Node #26" but before he left, he gave me some antibodies to use if I should need them later. He then raced on his way with his trusty ribosome (otherwise known as Crimson, the plush dragon) and his plush white blood cell.

He is currently up in the U.S.S. Bedlam waging war on an invading micro-organism. He informed me that he is the artillery, and the T-cells and macrophages are the infantry. I'll be honest, I'm nervous for the little guy. White blood cells so often have to give their life in the struggle.

On a related note - did you know that white blood cells say "burble?" Well, plush ones do anyway; at least, they have for the last couple weeks. Dragons (and ribosomes) say "meep". I may be the only mother in the U.S. tonight who was kissed good night by two white blood cells and a ribosome, and then heard the phrase "I sure wish someone would make a plush mitochondria!"

Don't we all, sweetheart, don't we all.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

You Never Know

Bedtime on the U.S.S. Bedlam (Zaya has named his bed.)

"Mom, do you want to come snuggle with me? I'm a stem cell."


I climbed up onto his loft bed and he handed me an extra blanket.

"Here's your cell membrane. Crimson made it. He's a ribosome."

(Crimson is his stuffed dragon and best friend.)

"Do ribosomes make cell membranes?" I asked, because I frankly have no clue.

"Well, he made the amino acids."

Then followed a discussion about mitochondria that I didn't quite follow. 

Finally I said, "Fair enough. Ok, so if you're a stem cell, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

"Well, I want to be a white blood cell."

"Oh, a hero, eh?"


"You realize that you might have to give your life for the cause if you become a white blood cell."

"Yes. That's OK. Oh, or I could be an osteoblast. Then I'd also be a hero."


A litte silence, then..."POP!"

"I've traveled into the blood stream. They need me and I've been called up."

"What are you?" As I'm climbing back down from the loft bed and heading out of the room.

"I'm an osteoblast."

"Oh, so the body has broken a bone."


He came into my room a few moments later claiming he needed something that involved an acronym for something that I suppose an osteoblast uses. I'm ashamed to say that I don't even know what it was. He got a drink of water and meandered back through the room.

"Back when I was a stem cell, I divided and my other half became a white blood cell. So I got both my wishes."

Now he's lying on his bed talking animatedly to his stuffed dragon, who I can only assume is still a ribosome.

When people ask me what I'm teaching my son for science, I just have to laugh. If only I knew!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Get the Man Some Air!

Saturday morning we went to the company children's Christmas party at my husband's place of employment. They opened the large building, optimistically called the Club House, and quite a few families came together to let the littles have some fun.

The kids enjoyed Christmas cookies and Hawaiian Punch, then stood in line for a balloon animal from the clowns who made balloon animals. Because, you know, nothing says Christmas like high-fructose corn syrup, red dye #40 and...clowns.

They handed Mim a "hummingbird" that one of them was already holding. Not wanting to cause trouble, she just took it, although she really wanted something else, like the bow and arrow that Zaya requested. His did take a very long time to make. Someone was probably cursing under their breath as they tied that particular creation, but we didn't hear anything, so it's all good.

The company had purchased gifts for all the children, which was a very generous and kind thing to do. To receive these gifts, though, we had to go through the line and sit on Santa's lap. My children have never done this before. Not because I've ever consciously decided to avoid the situation, but because it's just never really come up.

We've never done the whole Santa/Reindeer/Ho Ho Ho thing at our house, so the kids were underwhelmed and a tiny bit annoyed that they had to go along with the whole stitch-up to get presents. Of course, they could've taken a principled stand against it and not opened gifts, but it appears that their feelings were not so wounded that they weren't willing to accept free toys.

Both items were big hits, by the way. I applaud whoever made the choices for the various age designations. My friend, whose five year old daughter received her very first bikini-clad Barbie, may not quite agree.

Anyway, we were all sitting to enjoy our conversations and gifts when a little buzz started being passed almost telepathically from mother to mother throughout the large open building.

"Get the kids outside! Quick! Out to the playground! Santa's down!"

We all calmly got up, pretending that we suddenly couldn't resist the warm sunshine any longer.

"Hey kids! Let's go play on the playground! Look how nice it is outside!"

We all trooped out with the little ones, the building clearing of any human under five feet tall in the blink of an eye. A line of grown-ups stood up near the tree and chairs at the back of the building, hiding the red-suited mound of Santa, who had passed out. Apparently Santa had dressed for the Arctic North, rather than Southern Missouri.

Everything was fine. Within a few minutes he was up and feeling better, and I heard quite a few men vowing that their co-worker, who had so kindly agreed to be St. Nick for the day, would never, ever hear the end of it. A bare minimum of children were scarred by seeing one of their favorite people out cold on a concrete floor, so the day was decreed a success and we scattered out to our homes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What's That Smell?

Since we were traveling through OKC, and had a little time to spare, we stopped at our favorite Asian market. It's called Super Cao Nguyen, and it is so much fun! The smell is a little overwhelming at first, but we love it now.

The kids took a big sniff as soon as we walked in the front doors and said, "Ahh! Smells like the Asian market." I think the smell is a mix of incense, large open cabinets of raw meat and fish, and the incredible variety of unfamiliar fruits and veggies. Regardless, it's wonderful and unique.

I always spend too much at Super Cao because there are so many fun, new things to try. This time we bought several different flavors of roasted seaweed snacks on our continuing quest to find our favorite. So far, this is it.

Zaya has been begging me to let him buy some form of Durian for a long time. He knows it is generally considered nasty to the western palate, but can't resist trying. It's the Y chromosome, I think. Here was his selection, I told him to make the face he thought he might make after he tasted it. So far, the closest we've gotten is sniffing it from a tiny hole in the corner of the bag.

Both kids love looking at the fish. There are a lot of them just lying out on the ice, and quite a few fish and crustaceans live in tanks as well. Mim is pointing to the bloody eyeball socket of a Buffalo Fish.

We used moderation for this trip, since all the purchases would have to fit in a van that was already overloaded from our week-and-a-half long trip to Oklahoma and some Christmas shopping. I did restock my supply of sweet soy sauce and tom yum paste. I would recommend both for anyone who would like to ease themselves into making stir fry and/or soups a little more fun.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Funtimes with Grammar

This would be why it takes Zaya forever to finish work that he can do in his sleep. We have to make the jokes.

In case you can't tell, and I certainly don't blame you for needing a translation, the article "an" is wearing a bandana, because he's in disguise as an adjective. Edible says, "He's an adjective." and An says, "No, I'm not!"

In this one, the (you) is being "understood" by the verb Make. Why? Only Zaya knows.

He hasn't quite figured out that when we make with the joke-time, school takes forever. Maybe it makes it easier to bear as well, though, so why not give him his funnies?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Light up a Twizzler

A new building has gone up in town, fairly close to our home. We've been watching to see which stores might move in, but without high hopes, since it's a small and rather boring-looking structure. Sure enough, the first sign to go up over a doorway was "Smokeshop and Liquor."

This is literally one building away from another store which is also called "Smokeshop and Liquor." Either the store is relocating, or this town has much more serious lung and liver conditions than I first suspected.

Either way, the whole idea is a bit of a mystery to the kids. They know what smoking is, sort of, but don't actually know anyone who smokes. (Haven't things changed in the last 20 years or so!) Zaya is sort of vaguely aware that liquor means the same thing as alcohol, which means the same thing as "something we don't drink because it's bad for your body and your ethics."

I hadn't realized, though, how vague Mim's idea of liquor was until yesterday when she told us, "Look! There's a truck out outside the Smoke and Licorice shop!"

That explains why she hasn't been as annoyed as we were to see the sign in the first place.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

It's Elementary...or it Ought to Be.

Every child is unique. I realize this, and feel very blessed that I have the children I do. They are great kids.

That being said, they are not without their issues. Zaya's particular difficulties were brought to mind recently when we made a trip back home to see family.

See, here's Zaya's problem. He inherited his father's unconcern with what people think of him. Within reason, neither my husband nor my son are too fussed with making a good impression, or caring whether or not they are universally loved. Fortunately for Art, he also is fairly shy and introverted, which means that people don't know about his lack of concern for their opinion, because he keeps his mouth shut. If that was all Zaya had inherited, then he would have the same charmed life that his father has.

Unfortunately, Zaya also inherited my mouth. We talk a lot, or more correctly, we talk to fill in gaps, or just to announce something to the world. The difference is that I care intensely what other people think about me (and, by extension, my children and husband), so most of what I say in a public setting is wearing the "don't offend people" filter. Even with my filter, I frequently say things that make me wince when I remember them, but at least I realize that what I said sounded stupid or rude.

Zaya, therefore, has his daddy's chill, nothing-much-bothers-me attitude, combined with his mommy's big mouth, so things like this happen:

At our homeschool co-op, Zaya raises his hand and asks the choir teacher (who is a super-sweet, funny lady, and an excellent music teacher) if she could play more accurately when giving the kids their accompaniment. Yeah. In front of the entire class of 3rd-10th graders. Of course, he gets told to play more accurately on the piano all the time, because he's a little kid in piano lessons, but he had absolutely no clue that it might hurt a grown-up's feelings. Grown-ups are invincible, right?

Which brings me to our visit back home. Zaya walks up to one of my aunts, someone he's seen at least once a year since he was born, and asks her who she is. He doesn't explain, as I would've if I'd been in on the conversation, that he always confuses her for the other aunt whose name starts with the same letter. No. He just walks up and asks her who she is, as if he's never seen her before in his life.

His sister, who has her father's sense to keep her mouth shut, and her mother's concern about what other people think, was appalled when we discussed it later in the car. She proceeded to tell him exactly who that aunt was, down to what her house looked like and the name of her dog. Really. She is his Watson. (The Martin Freeman kind, not the Nigel Bruce kind.)

Meanwhile, Zaya still can't figure out why it wasn't a good thing to say. He wanted to know who she was. He couldn't remember. Why shouldn't he just ask? I tried to tell him to ask me or Grandma Lilibeth next time he's unsure of his great-aunts, but I have no hope of his remembering that it isn't socially acceptable to let loved ones know that you are confused about their identity.

And then he told one of our best friends that her baby was "finally starting to look cute." What!? Her baby has been adorable from day one; he even has a picture of said baby on his cabinet and talks about how cute he is. Who says things like that?!? Luckily, it was someone who has known Zaya well since birth, and knows that he is just a tiny bit of a crossover between Sheldon and Sherlock. Except, you know, moral. And without the ability to notice the world around him.

Maybe I should just stop caring what people think, since he is so oblivious to it himself, but I can't do that as a mommy. I still care, even if he doesn't. All that to say, if you see Zaya in the future, and he says something that sounds a touch sociopathic, please understand that if you said the exact same thing to him, it probably wouldn't bother him in the slightest, and, as soon as they know about it, his mother and sister will be mortified. Perhaps that will make up for the shock of the moment.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Treats Take Two

Last night's treats were a bit underwhelming, and since our plans for today fell through, Mim and Zaya decided that we should give it all another go.

Our town has a little event where kids do a march around the downtown square, and the business owners sit outside their respective doorways with buckets of candy. There were literally hundreds of people. Some of the other costumes were...interesting. Yeah, let's just leave it there.

Zaya continued with his IRS auditor outfit. It was a great success last night, and he decided not to mess with a good thing. He was even more popular today. We especially liked the reactions at the banks and H. & R. Block. For some reason they were extra sensitive.

Mim's Theodora outfit had hot cocoa on it, and she decided to go with something a little more well known. Today she was Nancy Drew, one of her new favorite characters. It was much more successful if the reactions of other people is how we're measuring success. (And apparently, that is exactly how we're measuring.)

Zaya was told several times that his was certainly the scariest costume, which thrilled his heart. Mim met several ladies who gave her nostalgic smiles and told her they loved Nancy Drew, which thrilled hers, and I heard a few people tell me that we obviously put serious thought and planning into the costumes. They were actually thrown together from things we already had around the house, so I decided to take that as a compliment. In reality, it's a compliment to the training I received from my mother.

They each came home with a bag full of candy. They promptly poured it all out on the kitchen floor and began sorting.

Mim's piles were a little more specific.

They each had a few Ziploc bags full when it was all finished. Zaya's categories were "bags that contain multiple pieces, chocolate and chewy, lollipops and other."

Mim filled three bags, and then hid them in her doll bed. No, they are not going to stay there.

This evening Mim sat in front of our house with a large bowl of candy. We didn't have one single visitor, so Mim used candy to alleviate her boredom. This is what she does. She builds things and stacks things.

And now, Mommy has her own gigantic bowl full of candy. If you listen very carefully, you can hear the sound of my voice tonight chanting to myself, "moderation, moderation, moderation."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Treat or Treat

I took the kids to the "big church" here in our town. They had a Trunk or Treat night with games and free food. (The "trunk" part consisted of three cars with a little candy in the trunk.) Since the kids really wanted to wear costumes this year, but I'm not too crazy about the whole holiday, this seemed like a reasonable compromise.

They ate hot dogs, popcorn, and candy, and drank lemonade and some tongue-scalding cocoa. There were really a surprisingly small number of games/booths for the size of that church, but I'm not complaining. It was free and safe and open to the entire community.

Mim dressed up as Empress Theodora, wife of Justinian of the Byzantine Empire.

She was quite annoyed that no one commented on her costume. She hasn't learned that unless you're wearing a label or a very famous superhero costume, people don't really know who you are. I told her she should just say, "Hi. I'm Theodora." She wasn't interested in that solution. Next year I'll just make her a nametag with Byzantine decor.

Zaya wanted to be an IRS auditor.

 He's been planning this all year. Since he had a tag with his profession on it, people commented on his costume. He carried around a clipboard and asked people to write their names and incomes for last year. Oddly enough, no one was interested in writing down their actual incomes. We got a lot of "not enough" or "too little."

I dressed up too. Sort of. I'm an off-duty FBI agent. Okay, so maybe I just pulled a jacket out of the closet and got a pair of old sunglasses. It counts though, right? I'm holding the Book of Secrets, so I even had a prop.

Aaron dressed up as an introvert. That is, he stayed home and worked on his cement stuff out back. I've been married long enough that I didn't for a moment assume he would be going with us. Crowds of people and social situations are not his cup of tea. Or hot chocolate, as the case may be.