Sunday, November 29, 2009


Today as I was cleaning the kitchen, the television was on a football game. Ethan was sitting eating his lunch. A commentator began yelling his opinion into the mic.

Me: Oh my God! Why is that guy yelling!

Ethan: So people can hear him mom.


Ethan: Old people, like Nana and Papa.

Me: Oh really? Nana and Papa huh?

Ethan: Yesss, because old people can't hear good. So the men have to yell so they can hear them.


(he goes on with his explanation, without prompting from me)

Ethan: Mom - you know yesterday I was at Nana and Papa's house when you tooked me there? Well. Nana was in the laundry room and Papa was in the kitchen and Nana had to yell really loud so Papa can hear her.


Ethan: Papa can't hear. So Nana had to yell a lot.

Me: So why didn't Nana just walk over to Papa so she didn't have to yell?

Ethan: Mom! She was doing her work! She couldn't go and find Papa!

Me: Oh. What was she working on?

Ethan: Her e-bay

(My mother has a thriving business selling linens on e-bay. She's a "power seller" which she is exceedingly proud of... )

Me: Oh.

Ethan: So that's why the man is yelling on TV. So old people like Papa can hear what he's talking about.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Funny quotes for the day after Thanksgiving

Zayd: If I am going to be a plumber - I'll need to start dressing like one.

(he then turns around and shows me his falling jeans complete with butt crack. What's with people showing me their butts lately btw?)

Zayd, after eating a turkey sandwich:

Zayd: Okay - now I am going to start my diet.

After eating another sandwich

Zayd: Okay - now I really am going to start my diet.

Zachary, while listening to his brothers arguing loudly.

Zach: See mom? This is why I play video games. It's my Advil.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Just across nid-might

Tonight Paul and I took Evan, Zayd and Ethan to the Holiday Lights Parade in downtown Fargo. It was a balmy 38 degrees - many years we are bundled up in snowsuits watching the parade. This year the kids didn't even need gloves - so they were able to scoop up lots of candy.

As Zayd noted, "It's like Halloween all over again!"

After we got home and dressed in our pajamas... Ethan crawled into bed with me.

Ethan: Is it okay if I ate 10 candies?

Me: Don't eat 10 candies... you'll get a stomach ache.

Ethan: How about 9 candies?

Me: That's too much too.

Ethan: How many candies can I eat?

Me: How about five candies.

Ethan: If I eat six will I puke?

Me: What?

Ethan: Will I throw up?

Me: I don't think so - it's just not good to eat too much candy before bedtime.

Ethan: Okay.


Ethan: Will you warm my feet?

He plops both his feet in my lap. And I warm them up with my hands.

Ethan: I know what will warm them up too!

He gets under the covers and snuggles right up against me.

Ethan: Mom? Can I sleep here tonight?

Me: No. You can stay here for a while and then I'll put you to bed.

Ethan: But I want to sleep here... in your cozy bed... with your cozy pillows... and your cozy covers.

Me: Wow. Is my bed THAT cozy?

Ethan: Yeth.

Me: Ohhhh... I'm glad you think so, but I'm sorry. No. You can't sleep here tonight. You need to rest in your own bed.

Ethan: Between you and dad...?

Me: Hmmm...

Ethan: He won't feel me.

Me: He won't?

Ethan: No.


Ethan: Can I stay until nid-might?

Me: Nid-might?

Ethan: I mean mid-night. Can I stay until midnight?

Me: That's a long time.

Ethan: Okay how about just across from midnight?

Me: Hmmm... just across huh?

Ethan: Yeth.

Me: How long is just across midnight?

Ethan: It's just a little long. Not a lot long.

Me: Well... maybe you can stay a little long.

Ethan: Can you hide me? Cause if dad sees me, he'll make me go to my bed.

Me: Where should I hide you?

Ethan: Right here next to you.

Me: Okay. If you lie really still... maybe he won't notice you.

Ethan: But what about my head! He'll see my head sticking out of the covers!

Me: I'll hide your head.

Ethan: If he gets here quick, can you hide me under the covers?

Me: Sure.

Ethan: What if he finds out I'm under the bed?

Me: You're going to be under the bed?

Ethan: I mean, what if he finds out I'm under the covers?

Me: Well... he might find out.

Ethan: Will you tell him that I am sleeping here with you tonight?

Me: I'll tell him.

Ethan: Good.

It took him about 2 minutes to fall asleep. He looks so sweet and peaceful.

Maybe Paul wouldn't notice if he stayed?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Da Dahhhhh!

The following pictures represent what happens when:

a. You dress in the dark
b. You can put on your jeans without unbuttoning or zipping
c. It is early in the morning
d. Your name is Zayd
e. All of the above.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Learning to win; learning to lose

Tonight was the Boy Scout "Space Race" - a space-take on the pinewood derby concept. The boys get a pinewood block to create a rocket ship. It's a kit; fairly simple to do. Zayd worked on his on his own. Paul had to help Ethan sand his block.

The boys have been talking about the space race for four weeks they have been SO excited. When I picked them up from their after-school program tonight, here is what we talked about in the car:

Zayd: I am soooo nervous about the space race.

Me: Why are you nervous? It's going to be a lot of fun!

Ethan: Yeah! I'm not nervous. I'm excited for the space race.

Zayd: Well... what if I don't win?

Me: Are you doing this just to win?


Zayd: Yes. Why else would I do it?


Me: Well... not everyone is going to win. Sure it would be fun to win... but you might not. You worked on your rocket - you did your best. Just go and have fun. They'll be pizza and pop and all your friends will be there.

Ethan: I don't care if I win! I don't care! I'm going to have fun!

Me: See Zayd? See? (Then I do a little cheer) Whoooo hooooo! The Amundson's are going to the space race to have funnnnn!

Ethan joined me.

Zayd did not.

Zayd: (heavy sigh). I will not have fun if I don't win.

Hooray for me. This should be a blast.


Did you know the Boy Scouts take their races very seriously? Uhhh... yea. They do. Very seriously.

We arrive at the school gym a little before 6 pm to find this contraption. Two wooden things on either side of the gym with four long strands of fishing wire tied between them. The rockets hang from the fishing line. They shoot out of this starting gate and the rocket that makes it the farthest wins. The rockets are really like little planes - they have a propellor on one end that is hooked to rubber bands. You  are allowed to rotate the propellor 100 times and then when you let go.. the rocket goes down the fishing line...  It's really simple - but hard to describe.

There were 16 kids with rockets. So how do you figure out which kids race against whom in the "four lanes" rocket contraption?

You use a computer program. A computer program that not only calculates who needs to race against who based on how well the rocket performs... but on what lane they've raced in (just in case there is more drag in one lane versus another). And guess how many races it takes to make sure you've given all rockets an equal opportunity?


Thank God I had pizza, pop, and Paul with me.  I might have died of hunger, thirst, or just gone mad.

Zayd's rocket was out of contention early on. He didn't cry, but honestly? He might has well have. He looked like a crushed little soul. Pitiful. Sulking in his chair. Ethan was still in the race, and way trying to console Zayd and not get too excited about his chances at a trophy.

So...sixty races and 2 and a half HOURS later... we came to what they called the "final round."

Thank God, I thought.

The scout leaders announce that "final round" is made up of 18 heats.

I frantically turn to Paul:

Me: What does that mean?

Paul: It means 18 more races.


Me: Are you kidding me? (I may have added an expletive)

Paul: Nope.

Shoot me now.


Ethan's rocket ended up racing in like 20 heats over course of the evening. We snapped 10 rubber bands and finally had to resort to borrowing ones from others who were out of the race. By the way, being in 20 heats meant rotating that damn propellor 100 times each for 20 races... Paul's finger was bleeding at the end of the night.

Oh - and did you know you are supposed to "lube" the rubber bands?

Did I mention the Boy Scouts are serious about their races?

In the end, Ethan won first place for the tiger cubs (the den I lead) and our other two tiger cubs also got second and third place trophies. Ethan also came in second overall.

Zayd did not get a trophy. He was fine until he got in the car. Then he lost it.

Zayd: (bawling - and he cries VERY loud)

Ethan: Zayd.. Zayd... ZAYD! Just CALM down. CALM down. Just calm down Zayd. (He is admiring his large trophy, of course).

Zayd: (bawls louder)

Ethan: Zayd. You don't need to cry. It's JUST a space race.

Zayd: (continues sobbing).

Ethan: Zayd. Don't you remember what we said in the car before? It doesn't matter if you win or lose. We are just having fun.

Zayd (sobbing)

Ethan: I didn't care if I won or lost. I don't care. I had fun.

Zayd: (louder).

Me: Yeah! It doesn't matter if you win or lose! We are ALL WINNERS! Right guys! WHOOOO HOOOOO! (I cheer).


Ethan: Except for Zayd. He is a loser.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Three squeezes

The boys and I have a little communication code that started because my now 11-year-old was getting too shy to say "I love you" in public.

Together we decided that three squeezes of the hand meant "I love you" - and four in return meant "I love you too."

It's a sweet little ritual that all the boys do with me... Sometimes I've got Zayd in one hand and Ethan in the other hand and we are walking through a parking lot... and I am getting and giving hand squeezes left and right (so to speak).

Even Paul and I do the "I love you" hand squeeze when we are out in public. Sometimes when we are taking a walk around our neighborhood, sometimes when we are out to dinner... sometimes even just when we are snuggled up watching television. I'll squeeze his hand three times, and he squeezes it back four.

It's never planned... it just happens. It's our family's silent but special way of reminding each other that we love each other.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dressing in the Dark

Zayd was walking out the door this morning... Like - right out the door - coat on, backpack on, on his way to school... when Zachary noticed something strange.

Zach: Uhm... excuse me. Did anyone notice Zayd has his jeans on backwards?

Everyone looks

Indeed. Zayd had his jeans on backwards.

So - Paul takes a picture - It will probably be revealed again at Zayd's high school graduation reception which will inevitability be held in our garage in keeping with North Dakota tradition...

But I digress...

So Zach asks the obvious question:

Zach: Zayd! How did you manage to do that?

Zayd: It was dark!


Zach: But the zipper... AND the button - didn't you wonder why you had to zipper and button up in the back?


Zayd: I didn't have to button or zipper! I just went into my closet - and pulled up my pants. I didn't need to do anything!

Zach: Oh my God. What would you have done if you got to school like that!

Zayd: Well... if I noticed... I would have gone to the bathroom and switched it around.

IF he had noticed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Couple of Random Conversations

Some random conversations from today:

Driving Zayd and Ethan home from their after-school program.

Zayd: Why do people in hospitals get the special treatment?

Me: What do you mean the special treatment?

Zayd: They get to lie down in bed. Watch television and play with a PS-2.

Me: That's the special treatment?

Zayd: Welll. Yeah! That's what Evan got to do when he was in the hospital.

Me: Zayd. The kids in the hospital feel really terrible. They hurt. Hospitals have things for them to do that doesn't require them to get up and move around too much when they are sick. They also have some things for them to do so they don't think about how sick they feel.


Zayd: I want to be hurt so I can get special treatment in the hospital.

Me: Zayd! Don't say that! You don't want to be in the hospital.

longer pause

Zayd: No. I kinda do.

Me: Zayd!

Zayd: Well! Don't I have to have my tonsils out? Like Evan?

Me: No. You do not need your tonsils out.

Zayd: Dang!


Zach: I kinda have an odd question for you.

Me: Okay.

Zach: So - when do women stop getting "that time of the month"

Me: Uhm... it depends. Some women can start as early as 40... some quite a bit later. But it doesn't just stop. It takes a long time. Why are you asking?

Zach: Well... I don't know if I should tell you.

Me: Why?

Zach: You might get mad at me.

Me: Why would I get mad?

Zach: Okay... well... I think my math teacher is having her time. 'Cause she gets really (and then he snarls like a cat attacking something -- and does a little cat claw gesture action to accompany his feline vocals).

Me: Okayyy... wow Zach. Wow. Well... it doesn't sound like she is going through menopause.

Zach: Yeah! I know! I'm wondering when she WILL go through it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Back Scratch to Basics

My good friends Anna Kudak and Carol Bruess published a book called, "What Happy Couples Do" - based on research Anna did during her master's program at NDSU on rituals.

My parents were interviewed for Anna's thesis and are featured in the book under the heading "Back Scratch to Basics" using pseudonyms.

Quote from the book (using my parents real names):

For the past twenty years or so, Hassan has been scratching Mayla's back as she falls asleep at night:
"It's the best thing to go to sleep and relax with someone scratching my back. Each night around nine o'clock, I climb into bed and turn to Hassan. 'Okay, now it's your time to scratch my back.'"

Well, about 3 years ago, my dad almost lost his arm to a rare infection. Well... we almost lost him. He was in the hospital for six weeks. Six surgeries and 11 large incisions to his arm later... he was back home.

One of the things my mom told Anna was that she had thought - "Hassan won't be able to scratch my back anymore." And how much she would miss that.

So the first night my dad was back from the hospital... guess what happened?

My mom says as she was falling asleep she opened her eyes to find him standing on her side of the bed, scratching her back with his good arm.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Zayd's repetoire of songs

I've mentioned before that Zayd, our 9 year old, likes singing. A lot.

Today I woke up to:

Zayd: Oh it's ladies night and the feelings right, oh it's ladies night - oh what a' night.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Zach was helping Ethan pack today to spend the night at Nana and Papa's house.

Zach: Did you put your underwear in the suitcase?

Ethan: No.

Zach: Well where is it?

Ethan: In my pants.

The phone call

Last night we went out for dinner with some good friends of ours. Zach was in charge of the herd of men.

About an hour into dinner, Paul got "the phone call" -- here is what I heard of the conversation:

Paul: Hello?

(short pause)

Paul: Yeah.

(10 second pause)

They are asking for permission to do something I bet.

Paul: What happened?

Crap. Something happened. Do we have to go home now? Zayd and Evan are probably fighting and Zach can't control them.

Paul: On his finger?

Ooooo. Not a fight - a finger...  

Paul: Is he crying?

Dang kids - it's a burn! Are they cooking? They are SO going to get it from me.

Paul: Is it blue?

Whew - not a burn. Must have slammed a finger in the door.

Paul: Yes. Put it under some cold water. That should help soothe it.

Cold water? For a finger in the door? What the?

Paul: So, where did he find thread?

Thread? Wait. What? Thread? 

Paul: How did you get it off?

Najla. Inventory time: thread, finger, blue, off... hmmm... 

Paul: What was he DOING?

Ethan. I should have known. 

Paul: Okay. Call back if it doesn't look better.

He hangs up.

Me: What happened?

Paul: Oh, Ethan wrapped a piece of thread around the tip of his finger and it swelled up pretty bad, turned blue and he couldn't get it off...

Me: Oh geez...

Paul: It's okay now. They got it off and he stopped crying...

Me: Yeah, but what about his finger?

Laurie (my friend): Aaaaa... finger shminger... It's just a fingertip. He doesn't even need it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ethan cleans

A while back, Ethan was totally focused on getting the "Special Red Plate" for dinner each night. It is a red plate that says "You are Special" on it. It has become a tradition to serve dinner on the Special Red Plate for the person who has done something special.

Ethan's quest for the red plate became a daily goal and he found the best way to earn it was to clean.

For about two weeks, Paul and I would randomly stumble upon rooms that had been cleaned up -- rather well actually.

One day the kitchen was cleaned up spotless.
The next day it was the dining room.
Another day it was the bathroom.
Then his bedroom.
His closet.

So each time it happened, Ethan got to eat off the Special Red Plate.

It was pretty impressive. Until one day... I opened the front hall coat closet.

And I found a couple of dirty pans.
And a dishrag.
And a pile of papers.
And an apple pie.
All lying on the floor among the scarves and mittens and fallen snowpants...

I stood frozen staring inside the closet... trying to comprehend what I was seeing. For a second I thought, "Maybe I am actually staring into the fridge," which of course wouldn't explain the pans, dishrag, papers, scarves, mittens and snowpants...

Me: (loudly, but matter of factly - I was still in shock). Uhmm... does anyone know why there is an apple pie in our coat closet?

pause - silence

Me: (louder) Hello! Anyone? Is anyone here?

pause - silence

I walk around the house looking for Paul who I find in the laundry room.

Me: Hey. There is an apple pie in the front closet.

Paul: What?

Me: There is an apple pie in the closet - oh. There are also some dirty pans, papers and toys in there too.


We stared at each other for what seemed like a long time - but I think it really only took Paul about 15 seconds to figure out what was going on...

Paul: Oh my God.

Me: What.

Paul: It's Ethan.

Me: What?

Paul: That's how he has been cleaning the rooms.


Me: Holy shit.

Which led us both immediately to the next logical thought: Where the hell has Ethan hidden the other messes he cleaned up?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Reading Rainbow

Paul and I are in the kitchen talking, and we can hear singing.

Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high
take a look, it's in a book, it's reading rainbowwwwww!!!!

Me: Who is singing the Reading Rainbow theme song?

Paul:  That would be Zayd.

I can do anything
friends to know, and ways to grow
reading rainbowwwww!

Me: Uhm... where is he?

Paul: In the bathroom.

Zayd has this thing with singing while he is in the bathroom. Zach tells me that it is a bad idea to try to talk to Zayd while he is in the bathroom (if he is quiet), or he will break into song.

He's not just singing Reading Rainbow - he's singing it with a lounge-kinda feel. Like Wayne Newton might sing it. 

He comes out of the bathroom.

Zayd: How do I look?

He is wearing one of those hair clips that stylists use at the salon to hold sections of your hair back while they cut other sections.

He is wearing it on the top of his head. He looks like a Who from Whoville.

Me: Why are you wearing a hair clip?

Zayd: Isn't it for wearing in your hair?

Me: Well... 


Me: Yeah. 

Zayd: Then why wouldn't I wear it in my hair?

Me: Okay.

He walks away, and strikes up another round of Reading Rainbow.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The finger and the tongue.

As I was just walking out the door this morning, headed to a doctor's appointment, Ethan bounded after me for a hug and a kiss.

And then he gave me the finger.

In a split second, I weighed my options. 1. Talk to him about it, telling him that it is impolite to give people the finger and run the risk of him doing it all day in school or 2. Ignore it and run the risk of him doing it all day in school.

I went with option 1.

Me: Ethan. (I bend over and gently push his finger down from its erect position). Ethan. We shouldn't point our middle finger at people. It is impolite.

Ethan: Why?

Me: It's just very naughty. It means something very naughty.

Ethan: What?

Me: It is a super duper bad word for penis.


He slowly looks down at his middle finger, which is making its way back up again... and he is probably thinking, "Whoa. I have two penises? This is seriously awesome."

He looks up at me and I am staring back at him.

Ethan: What?

Now, going with option 1 was a risk in more than one way. Here is a 6-year-old who thinks it is a better idea to jump out of a two-story window with a pillow than use a ladder. (Please see entry entitled "Fire Drill" for more on that).

Me: I said, it is a really naughty word for penis and it would be naughty to put up your middle finger in front of people.

Evan shows up from nowhere.

Evan: It doesn't mean penis!

My hand darts up to say "Stop."

Evan likes to speak before he thinks (please see entry entitled "Monopoly" for details).

Me: Evvvannnn. He doesn't understand that stuff yet.

Evan: Oh. Yeah. Right. Sorry.

Me: Okay Ethan. I understand that you are very curious about holding up your middle finger. And that's fine if you do it. Just don't do it in front of people. Okay?

Ethan: (Still staring at his hand). Okay.

I kiss him goodbye and leave...

But I only make it out of the driveway... because I forget something and have to head back in the house.

I find Ethan standing where I left him looking sheepish.

Evan pops out of nowhere again.

Evan: I caught him doing it again.

Ethan: What?!

Me: Evan. Just leave him alone.

I walk into the kitchen and Zayd is at the counter eating oatmeal. He is looking down at his shirt and I swear to God... I can't believe what I see... but he does it.

He LICKS the oatmeal off the iron on, on the front of his shirt. I'm not talking about a little lick. I am talking a "full tongue, wipe-off a good 2-inch square area of shirt" lick. Which come to think of it, should not be called a lick. What's the next step up from lick?

I stop in my tracks.

Me: You did NOT just do what I thought I saw you do.

Zayd: What?

Holy. - is "what?" all these kids say?

Me: You do NOT LICK your shirt for any reason.

I grab a paper towel, wet it down and wipe off his shirt.

Me: That is seriously gross.


I finally leave. I have done what I can for the moment.

I must leave them to face the world on their own. I can only hope we make it through the day without a phone call from school.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mad Men

I played Monopoly City with the three older boys last night.

As a result I learned a lot about them -- and I encouraged all of them to stay OUT of business school.

First, we have Evan who is a bit too "fly by the seat of my pants" and "talk before you think" to be allowed to get into any business negotiation.

Let me illustrate my Evan for you. In the game, if you land on a property, and you don't want to buy it - it goes up for auction:

Zach: Okay, this piece of property is valued at $1.2 million. So, let's start the auction... now.

Zayd: $500-thousand...

Evan: (shouting) 6 MILLION!


We all turn to look at Evan in disbelief.

Evan: I really want it.

So... that was that. (and it happened several times over.)

Then there is Zayd who I have come to realize is a bitter, bitter little man.

He lands on a property he doesn't even want. Then he notices that his brother Evan has one of the properties in the "district."

Zayd: I'm going to buy this property because I know it will make Evan mad.

Evan: I'll pay you 6 MILLION for it!


Zayd considers the proposition for about a half-second.

Zayd: No. I would rather make you mad.

Zach came upon the opportunity to buy a industrial dump facility. According to the rules of "Monopoly City" once you put the dump on a piece of property, you can't put up and homes... and thus can't make money on your property. However, you can put your dump on any property that you'd like.

Zach: I think I'm going to put my dump on Zayd's property.

Zayd: WHAT! WHY does everyone hate me!!! WHY WHY WHY!... (He drops his head against the kitchen table - his forehead stays there for the remainder of the game. Seriously).

I was lucky enough to purchase the "primo property" in the game. Apparently Zayd wanted it and got mad at me for buying it. So he took it out on me later... by putting an industrial dump facility on my prime real estate.

Me: Okayyyy... Zayd. Why are you doing that?

Zayd: Because I am mad at you. I want that property.

And he wonders why everyone hates him.

It went on and on and on like this. Each one of them doing something to hurt the other -- rather than just - oh I don't know - maybe focus on GROWING their own business? Wow. What a concept.

After an hour and a half - Yes. I actually sat through and hour and a half of this... I finally said:

Me: Okay. I've had enough. This is ridiculous. You are all totally grumpy. You aren't talking to one another and Zayd has been playing with his head on the table for the last 40 minutes. I'm tired and I'm going to bed.

They all look up at me

Zach: What! You're leaving! We were just starting to have fun!


Halloween night I answered the door for all the trick-or-treaters dressed as a witch. Among the many kids who came to the door was a 7-year-old girl dressed as a "good witch." She was accompanied by five kids.

Me: (in my best crackly witchy voice) Welcome... welcome!

The kids: Trick-or-treat!

Me: Thank you for coming... I don't get many visitors...

The 7 year old girl: You look like a real witch.

Me: I am a real witch.


To which her eyes grew open like saucers and she took an ever-so-slight step back. It was obvious she believed me. I could just see the nightmare I was going to contribute to that night.

Me: (in my normal voice) I'm kidding sweetie. I'm not a witch.

She finally exhaled and a big smile came across her face.

Whew. That was a close one.