Monday, December 13, 2010

Fossilized treats

7-year-old Ethan and 10-year-old Zayd were in my bedroom talking Christmas gifts when 15-year-old Zach  storms in holding up a Little Debbie Oatmeal Cookie Sandwich - with two bites taken out of it.

Little Debbie Oatmeal Cookie Sandwiches are two soft oatmeal cookies (made with loads of Crisco) with a Crisco-based frosting slathered in between...

It's his favorite treat. And I purchased a big box of them to keep in his room - otherwise the box is gone in 5 minutes.

Zach: Okay. WHO took two bites out of this Little Debbie and then left it in my room?!

Zayd and Ethan's eyes grow wide... I can see the wheels turning. They are either trying to remember if they were the culprit, or trying to figure out how they will lie themselves out of this one.

Zach: Seriously? Who did it? Which one of you?!

Zayd: I didn't!

Ethan: I did not eat your Little Debbie. I swear it was not me!

Zach: Right. (he says sarcastically) I'm SURE neither of you were in my room digging around my stuff.

Zach's brothers do, indeed, go into his room and dig around for stuff. They dig because there are clearly treasures to be found in the piles - like Little Debbie boxes filled with Crisco-laden oatmeal treats. They've also found money, cologne, and underarm deodorant - which they seem to like. And they dig because it's probably fun. I mean you walk into this bedroom full of piles of stuff - who knows what you'll find next. It's the best archeological adventure ever - right in their own home.

Ethan: I did not eat it Zach!

Zach: It's not even that anyone ate it. Really. I don't even care. But one of you took TWO bites and just left it there?! Why? Why do you guys do that! What a waste! Just eat it!

Zayd: I wasn't in your room today.

Ethan: Me neither. I wasn't there today,

Zach: Oh, this clearly happened a while ago.

Zach holds up the Little Debbie and knocks on it with his knuckles...

...and it sounds like he is knocking on a door.

Zayd: Oh my gosh! (he starts giggling). It's like a rock!

Ethan: Do that again! (laughing)

pause

Zach: Stop going into my room.

He marches out.

Now watch... they'll go in again...
He's just given them another reason to dig for fossils...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dumb it down please...

We are watching The Amazing Race tonight and one of the contestants mentions she has diabetes.

Zayd: What is diabetes?

Paul: Her pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin.

pause

Zach: Oh my God dad!

Zayd starts laughing.

Paul: What?!

Zach: Her pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin? Seriously. He's 10. Let's try to dumb it down a little.

pause

Paul: Okay. Her life juice isn't being produced by her squishy thingy.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Finish your meat

I am no longer allowed to tell you how much my 15-year-old weighs (I have been given strict orders not to do that)... but let's just say that when I took him into the clinic early this week for pneumonia, the doctor asked me...
Doctor: Why is he so skinny?

Then she turns to Zach before I can answer and asks him...

Doctor: Doesn't your mom feed you?

This question wouldn't have been so bad if she had a sense of humor about it. But she was clearly serious. For the rest of our visit I was pretty sure I was about to be reported to social services for starving my 15-year-old...

He eats... but oftentimes things that aren't really good for him. He'll have several bowls of ice cream, but won't eat dinner...

Zach was feeling much better by Thursday so I made a juicy pot roast in the crockpot. As dinner is winding down, Zach gets up to take his plate to the sink...with ALL the meat left on his plate.

Me: Zach. Eat your meat.

Zach: I ate my meat.

Me: What's that on your plate then?

Zach: That's just what I didn't eat. I ate a lot!

Me: Zach. I only gave you a little bit of meat and I'm pretty sure you didn't eat any of it. Eat it. You need it.

Zach. But I don't like meat.

Me: I don't care. Eat it.

And don't tell me he doesn't like meat. This kid can swallow an entire Big Mac... he eats chili, meatballs, steak, chicken, fish...

He sits back down and I start helping Ethan with his homework. A few minutes later Zach gets up again to bring his plate to the sink...

This time the pieces of pot roast have been methodically dotted all over the plate.

Me: Zach. You didn't eat your meat.

Zach: Yes I did! Look at my plate!

pause

Me: Zach. All you did was spread your meat around the plate.

He stands there and stares at me motionless for a few moments. Then he sits down again.

Within a minute he gets up again and approaches me. Now the pieces of pot roast are neatly placed in a row... with his fork laying on top of them.

o.m.g.

Me: Zach. Seriously?

Zach: What?

Me: You didn't eat any of it?

Zach: I ate all of it!

pause

I stare at him. 

Zach But mooooommmmmmm! I don't like this meat!

Me: Okay. Just eat a few pieces, okay? Just eat like four pieces.

...because all I can think about is Dr. Lydia from the Children's Walk-In Clinic staring at my son two days ago and then looking at me like I have him chained up in some cage without food.

Zach walks to the other side of the kitchen... and stands there....He puts all the meat in his mouth and starts chewing.
...and chewing...
...and chewing..

I turn away...

Zach: I'm done!

He's done?

Again. We stand across the kitchen from each other... I look him over... and it only takes a couple seconds for me to notice his hands are behind his back.

Me: Oh my God Zach. Really. Really?

Zach: What?!

Me: Let me see your hands.

He slowly brings out one hand from behind his back.

Me: Are you kidding me?

Zach: What?!

Me: Let me see your other hand.

One hand goes back behind and then the other comes out...

Me: You have a wad of chewed meat in your hand?

pause

Zach: Mommy? Pleazzzzeeee? Don't make me eat it. Pleaazzzeeee mooooommmmmm?

He is pitiful.
And a very good actor...
And cute...

pause

Me: (sigh)... Fine.

He runs to the garbage and throws away the wad of meat...

Ethan: Hey wait a minute! Don't throw that away! I might want it!

pause

I'm pretty sure Ethan didn't know it was chewed up meat....

at least that is what I am telling myself.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bad Brain

Ethan and I are sitting on the couch together, watching home videos. He has been a handful today... quite needy and whiny...

Ethan: Mom?

Me: What?

Ethan: Uhm.. I did something that I think you are going to get mad about.

Me: Okay. What?

Ethan: Uhm... you know my bear?

He shows me his bear.

Ethan: He has this yellow rain hat? I was holding him up to the fireplace glass and his hat kinda melted on the fireplace glass.

pause

Ethan: See? See his hat? It lost its yellow.

Me: I see that.

Ethan: And see? See the fireplace? You can kinda see the yellow on it.

I look over at the fireplace and sigh.

Me: I see that too.

pause

Ethan: I'm sorry mom. My brain is making me do it.

Me: What is your brain making you do?

Ethan: My brain. My brain isn't working right today. It's making me do things I shouldn't do...

pause

Ethan: Like whine a lot...

pause

Ethan: ...and put my bear on the fireplace

pause

Ethan: ...and stuff like that.

Me: I'm sorry to hear your brain isn't working.

Ethan: (sigh)... Yeah. Thanks.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

What I learned at Evan's Halloween Party

Five things I learned at Evan's Halloween party (hosted at our house):

1. Truth or Dare can include ground rules including no kissing or hugging. (Thank God).

2. My 15-year-old and his friend are excellent monitors of 13-year-old parties - including stepping in when    party goers want to include 7-year-old Ethan in a dare.

3. Four out of five 13-year-old girls look like 19-year-old girls.

4. Five out of six 13-year-old boys look like 9-year-old boys.

5. Girls scare me.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Spelling Stings

Seven-year-old Ethan is quite the speller. For the last 4 weeks, he has been coming home with near perfect to perfect scores on his spelling tests.

Each Friday after school, he proudly has shown us his tests - adorned with stars, stickers and smiley faces. We then, of course, adorn him with praise and kisses.

Paul: That is awesome Ethan. Really proud of you.

Me: Oh! Come here and give me a big hug my super speller!!!

But one day, Paul gingerly brings up a thought.

Paul: Don't you find it odd that he gets perfect scores on his spelling tests?

Me: Why would it be odd?

Paul: Well... I don't know.

pause

Me: What are you saying Paul?

pause

Paul: I don't know. It just doesn't seem right.

Me: Oh my God Paul! How can you say such a thing! Are you saying he isn't capable of doing well on his spelling?!

pause

Paul: (takes a deep breath). Well... I'm just saying I think it is odd. I mean, when we work on his spelling, he has a hard time. And then he comes home and it's perfect.

Me: So you think he is cheating?

Paul: I'm not sure.

Oh my God. My precious little Ethan. My sweetheart. My baby. The apple of my eye. The one who always comes to sit in my lap, wrap his little arms around me and shower me with hugs, "I love yous" and kisses... is... is...


a cheater!?


I think I feel sick. 

Me: I don't believe it. I can't believe you think he is dumb and he can't do well on his spelling tests!

Paul: Najla. I don't think he is dumb. But, I also don't think he is really getting perfect scores. When he came home today, I asked him to spell one of the words and he couldn't spell it.

Me: Well... that happens! I mean, he might just cram it all in and forget it afterwards.

Paul looks at me. I don't know who he thinks is more pitiful -- Ethan or I.

Yesterday (big sigh from me here) Ethan comes home with a perfect spelling test. And as I look over the beautifully crafted  letters - written with 2nd grade love... I have a flashback. A flashback to the night before as I was tucking him into bed.

Ethan: Mom! I have a spelling test tomorrow!

Me: Did you study?

Ethan: No! Dad didn't work with me!

Me: Well, you'd better look at them in the morning....

I stare at his spelling test... and I see words like "scorn," "thorn," "smart," and the "CHALLENGE" words of "Halloween" and "mystery" -- all spelled correctly. And I had a twinge of skeptisicm...

...and so I ask...

Me: Ethan. Will you please spell "smart" for me?

pause

Ethan: (His brows furrow). Why?

Me: Just spell it for me please (I say gently).

Ethan: I got it right on the test.

Me: I know honey. I want to hear you spell it again. (I try to sound encouraging and not so accusatory).

pause

Ethan: Uhm...Ssss-mmm-aaarrrt. Sssssmmmmarrrt. (pause) S?

Me: Yes.

Ethan: M?

Me: Yes...

Ethan: aaarrrrtt. aaaaart.Uhm. (pause) aaarrrrr.... R?

Me: You forgot a letter.

Ethan: Oh. aaarrrrttt. aaarrrr. U? No. not U. Uhmmm... O?

Me: No.

Ethan: Uhm... E?

Me: Ethan? (pause). I want you to tell me how you got all these words spelled correctly on your test.

Ethan: I got them all right!

Me: Yes. I know. But please tell me how you got them all right. I won't get angry. I just want you to tell me the truth.

Ethan's eyes fill up with tears. And I mean FILL. He looks so sad and so pitiful I just want to scoop him up and tell him it's all okay. But I grit my teeth and try to stay strong.

Ethan slowly lowers his forehead to the arm rest of the chair I am sitting on and in the faintest voice whispers...

Ethan: But I don't know how to spell them and I wanted to get them all right for you.

...and begins sobbing.

I feel enormous guilt. Why? Because I should have been helping him with this spelling words. I should have recognized that he was having a hard time AND he felt all this pressure to do it right.

Me: I'm glad you told me. (I rub his back as he sobs). We'll talk about it later. It'll be okay.

Later that night, after Paul puts Ethan to bed he tells me..

Paul: I told him that he doesn't have to get all his spelling words right for us to be proud of him. All he needs to do is his best. I told him he needs to work hard at learning them... and whatever he gets on his tests... we'll be proud.

Me: You are so good at that stuff. Thanks.

Paul: And he asked me if I was going to tell his teacher.

pause

Me: What did you say?

Paul: I said that maybe he should tell his teacher.

Me: Oh. (pause). Yeah. He probably should.

pause

Paul: It's a good lesson Najla.

I look at him with pitifully.

Paul rubs my back...

Paul: We'll talk about it later. It'll be okay.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Being gay

Ethan: Mom! Evan called me gay!

Me: Then Evan doesn't know what gay means. Gay isn't a bad word. You know that don't you?

pause

Ethan: I think so...

Me: Do you know what gay means?

pause

Ethan: Uhm... it's sumpin' with two boys?

Me: Well... kinda. It's when two boys love each other so much that they want to spend the rest of their lives together and get married. They love each other so much that they love to hold hands, and hug and kiss and be together - and have kids together if they want to...

pause

Ethan: Oh.

pause

Me: Gay is another word for homosexual.

Ethan: Oh.

Me: And there is nothing wrong with the word gay, or being gay. So for Evan to think he is calling you something bad is wrong. I'll have to talk to him about that.

pause

Ethan: Mom?

Me: Yes?

Ethan: I think I am gay.

Me: Oh really? Why?

Ethan: Because I love my bruh-ders a lot.

Parents vs children

I'm in the bedroom folding laundry. Paul is outside in the backyard working.

Paul yells from below...

Paul: Naaajjj?

Me: WHAT!

Paul: Naaajjjj?!

Me: WHAT!

pause

Paul: Naaajjj? Do you have a minute?

I go to the window and look below.

Paul: Naaajj? Is there a reason why we have four boys and none of them help with the yardwork?


Does he want an answer or is he making a statement?

Me: No.

Paul: So, you don't have a problem with them working.

pause

Me: No. But they have been helping me all morning. Ethan cleaned and vaccumed the family room, Evan walked the dog and cleaned his bedroom that was full of food, Zayd picked up his room and cleaned the bathroom..

pause

Me: Zach did nothing.

Paul: So does that give them a pass or something?

Me: A pass?

Paul: Does that mean they can't help with the yardwork.

Me: No.

pause

Me: Why are you asking me this?

Paul: I just want to make sure we are on the same page.

Me: Okay. We are on the same page.

Paul: So you are okay with me forcing them out here to work?

I don't get this.

Me: Well, of course!

Paul: Okay.

Within 2 minutes of this conversation, Ethan comes into my room and sits down next to me with a book.

Ethan: I am going to read now.

Me: But your dad asked you to work outside.

Ethan: I know! But I have to read!

pause

Me: No. You need to listen to your dad. Go outside and help.

Ethan: (big groan w/ loud stomping out of the bedroom).

A minute later (and I'm not even kidding)... Evan comes in. Sits down next to me with a hand-full of Fritos. This after he spent the entire morning cleaning popcorn and food from his room -- and after I spent 10 minutes lecturing about NOT eating upstairs.

Evan: Watcha doing?

omg

Me: Why are you here? You are supposed to be outside helping dad.

Evan: I just came to say hi!

Me: Get outside.

Evan: God mom. Why do you get so mad?

Me: And WHY do you have those chips in here!

Evan: I'm going! (he stomps out)...

Okay - seriously.. and I wish I was kidding. No sooner had Evan walked out when Zach walked in.

Zach: So I have to tell you something mom.

sigh

Zach: Did you know Ethan was eating soap?

pause

Me: Yes. I know.

Soap eating is another entry.

Zach: You know the pitcher of Crystal Light downstairs? Ethan drank it. Right out of the pitcher. He put his mouth on it and drank. So now there is soap on it.

Me: Zach? What do you want? Aren't you supposed to be outside helping dad?

pause

Zach: Oh.

pause

Zach: Yeah.

He walks out.

A few minutes later Zayd walks in.

Zayd: What are you doing mom?

Me: OH MY GOD! Get outside and help your dad!

Zayd: GEEZ MOM! WHY DO YOU ALWAYS YELL!

Me: ZAYD!

Zayd: Okay! Okay! (He stomps out).

So, all four have been in... five minutes pass and Evan walks in...

Evan: Mom? I have a question for you.

Me: EVAN!

Evan: What!?

ME: GET OUTSIDE!

Evan: Why are you so mad!?

ME: BECAUSE AS SOON AS YOUR FATHER ASKS YOU TO DO SOMETHING, YOU ARE ALL IN HERE WITH ME!

pause

Lightbulb goes on for Najla.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Life Lesson Question #1

Hanging out in the kitchen after dinner, Zach asks...

Zach: Okay - Life Lesson question. So how do you know if it is okay to use something if it is a couple days past the expiration date?

Paul: It depends on what it is. Canned food is usually good for a while, but you have to be careful with meat and some dairy products.

pause

Zach turns to me.

Zach: I also got a life lesson today on how to change a car's headlight.

Me: (dryly) Good for you. Special time with your dad.

Zach: Yeah.

pause

Zach: Dad, so you know how to change a tire too?

Paul: Yup.

Zach: Do you mom?

Me: Nope. That's what OnStar is for...

Zach laughs and Paul gives me a disapproving look.

Zach: Then what happens when OnStar expires?

Me: Then dad does it.

pause

Zach: There is seriously - so much for me to learn how to do. How am I going to learn how to do all this stuff?

pause

Zach: Will I be able to just call home and ask?

Me: Oh... of course.

pause

Me: Or you could do what I did.

Zach: Marry someone who knows how to do all this stuff?

Me: Yyyyy-up.

Friday, October 1, 2010

"Dialing"

We have a new car. A Buick Enclave which is all fancied up with this bluetooth thing where you can just say out loud to some computer that lives in the space of the car, "Dial Home" and then it calls home.

I find this fascinating and fantastic.

The idea that I can talk on the phone AND drive with both hands on the steering wheel is awesome. In addition, that there is some space computer girl that is in the car with me at all times, ready to obey my commands. I'm very social. I like that I have a space computer girl to talk to anytime I feel like it.

There is only one glitch with Space girl. She can't seem to recognize the name "Paul." - which wouldn't be a problem if my husband's name wasn't Paul. I considered giving him a different name like Brett Farve... but then I thought if I said "Brett" and then Paul came on the line... that might become disappointing.

Yesterday, Paul and I spent some couple time in the car, programing Space girl to recognize my most often called peeps.

Paul: Press the button for two seconds and say "Store"

Me: (holding the button)... Store

Space girl: Store. Name please.

Me: Paul

Space girl: I'm sorry. Please repeat.

Me: "P"-aul.

Space girl: Did you say "Najla?" Please say "Yes or no"


wtf - Najla?

Paul starts laughing quietly. I hit him. How is the Space Girl ever going to get this right without complete concentration?

Me: No. (I tell Space girl)

Space girl: Okay. Please try again.

Me: "Puh" -aawwwllll.

Paul blurts out a laugh.

Space girl: Do you need help?

maybe

Paul: Cancel.

Me: What the heck?

Paul: I don't know. It doesn't like Paul.

pause

Me: Oh! I have an idea!

I hold the button for two seconds.

Space girl: Dial

Me: Store.

Space girl: Store. Name please.

Me: HuZ-band.

Space girl: "HuZ-band" is that correct? Say "yes or no"

Me: Yes!

Space girl: I'm sorry. Please say "yes or no"

Me: What the hell.

Space girl: Did you say "Home?" Please say "yes or no"

Paul starts laughing again.


I hit him again.

Me: (This time I give a more subdued "no."  Apparently Space Girl does not respond well to enthusiasm).

Space girl: Okay. Let's try again.

Yeah. Let's.

Me: HuZ-Bannnd.

Space girl: Did you say "HuZ-Bannd?" Please say "yes or no."

Me: (unenthusiastically) Yes.

Space girl: Okay. Yes. Number please.

Me: 7-0-1.

pause

Paul: You have to say it all at once.

Me: Shhhh... I got this.

Space girl: I'm sorry. I didn't get that. Number please?

Me: 7-0-1

pause

Space girl: 7-0-1.

Me: 3-7-1

Space girl: 2-0-1-5-7-8-4.

Me: Oh my God! (laughing)

Paul is laughing too.

Space girl: I'm sorry. I couldn't get that.

Paul: Cancel. (pause) Najla. You have to say the whole number at once.

Me: But when I've done the dialy thing with her before she lets me say each part separately and she repeats it to me!

Paul: That's different. When you are programming her, you need to say it all at once.

Me: (sigh). Fine. Good God! We have to do this for everyone I want to call?

Paul: How many do you want to program for God's sake?

Me:  Well! I talk to a lot of people! You don't want me to have to use my cell phone to type in numbers do you? There's Char at work, Amy, Mark, you - both cell and office, my mom, Keith, Laura, the president, probably my sister and brother.... maybe the whole cabinet at work...

Paul: I'm only going to help you with me. You're on your own with the rest.

We start the process again - and finally get Paul's cell phone number in using "husband" and his work phone using "Forum."

Me: Okay... stay with me for this one please. I want to make sure I can do it myself.

I hold the button.

Me: Store.

Space girl: Store. Name please.

Me: Nana

Space girl: I'm sorry that sounds too much like "Najla"

Paul: (Bursts out laughing) SOUNDS too much like Nana? NOW that's funny.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Weird, weirder, weirdest

I pick up Ethan and Zayd from the after-school program and Zayd is upset by a kid named...

Zayd: Armand.

Me: Armand?

Zayd: Yes. And that is really his name. ARM-AND.

So Zayd's upset by Armand because Armand apparently butted in during Zayd's turn to be the pitcher in kickball. Armand also had the gall to ram into Zayd when Armand was clearly out... leaving Zayd with a skinned knee.

Me: Did you cry?

Zayd: No!

pause

Zayd: (voice choking up) But I wanted to! It hurt!

Anyways... Not only does Armand have the nerve to be an aggressive cheating kickball player, BUT...

Zayd: He's weird.

pause

Zayd: Weirder than ME!

pause

Zayd: And THAT's pretty weird!

pause

Zayd: 'Cause I'm really weird!

At that point of the monologue, I was just trying to memorize what he said so I could blog it... 

Zayd: And I don't want him to be that weird!

long pause

Zayd: Because I want the be the weirdest.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

North Dakota

I've been meaning to post this. My 12-year-old, Evan, won 1st place at the North Dakota State Fair for his poem on North Dakota. (And $30 - which was VERY exciting)

North Dakota
by Evan Amundson

North Dakota, Oh, North Dakota
With you lush fields of emerald green,
And bone chilling winters which I know will soon pass.

North Dakota, Oh, North Dakota,
With you old towns of the West,
The future for you will always be headed for the best.

North Dakota, Oh, North Dakota,
With your monstrous floods within,
Mad, or calm, you are our home.

So, take my hand, and dance around,
Although you make not a sound,
You are our faithful home.

Morning to night,
We shall not part,
You will be our everlasting home.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Action-packs

Today I was reminded about privates...
... private parts that is.

A friend of mine posted on her FB page that her youngster had referred to their privates as "private. party. parts." This made me laugh.

And it reminded me that when the boys were much younger -  I referred to their boy parts as their "action-packs."

I have no idea where that came from. I occasionally still use the phrase and my boys ridicule me for it.

Granted - the action pack really consists of many parts...
Okay well a couple...
.. maybe three?
I guess it depends on how you choose to divide it all up.

But their choice of words to describe their penis and testicles are not (in my opinion) a step up from mine. They refer to their privates as "nuts," "gonads," and "rods"... I mean...please. Isn't action-pack much more refined?

So I can't call it their action-pack. NOR can I refer to their action-packs using their proper names...because they laugh at me when I do that too.

What to call them has become an issue because apparently as boys get older... stuff happens to their action-packs. Stuff that I don't know ANYTHING about because - as they seem to regularly forget...

I don't have one.

So when they come to talk to me about their action-pack issues...

I think to myself: "Do I LOOK like I have a penis?"

Seriously.

Paul and I have had the following conversation a couple of days ago. We have had several conversations similar to this in the past several weeks. It's an epidemic.

Paul: "insert son name here" said that "insert issue here."

pause

Me: Is that normal? I mean, is that what it does?

Paul: I don't know.

pause

Me: What do you mean you don't know. How can you not know? You have one.

Paul: Yeah.. but I don't remember.

My eyes narrow.

Me: You don't remember. How can that be? I mean.. they are kinda important aren't they?

Paul: Well... I don't think it ever happened to me.

Me: Oh my God. Well...  did you look at it?

Paul: NO!

Me: Well why the hell not!

Paul: Najla. I don't think he wants me to look at it.

Me: Who cares what he wants. If something is wrong with it... someone needs to look at it. I mean, if it isn't  you, it's going to be a doctor!

Paul: Najla. He will be fine.

I had no idea that action-packs were self-healing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nana's Big Project



I started writing this post on May 31 -  but got so overwhelmed with it, I had to stop. There was TOO many things to write about. I have come to realize that "Nana's Big Project" is a book - or at least a handful of posts....

So - as I mentioned in a previous post about the end of this project - Nana has been itching for years to paint a big bedroom and adjoining bathroom, and another small bathroom in their condo -- all covered in wallpaper.

But Papa didn't want that done.

So when Papa leaves for a 3-week trip to the middle east, Nana decides the rooms need to get done now.  I check the wallpaper to see how hard it will be -- it is obvious the wallpaper wasn't put up properly and it is going to be a pain to get it off.

Nana decides that the solution is to paint over the wallpaper.

Me: No.

Nana: Oh come on Chino. It's good! The wallpaper is smooth! No one will see it!

Me: No. No. No. You cannot paint over the wallpaper Mom. I won't let you. It will look crappy and if you ever want to fix it, it will be an even bigger pain.

Believe me - I am all about taking shortcuts. Shortcuts are good. But when it comes to home improvement projects shortcuts are bad. Very very bad. I owe this perspective of course to my sensible husband who does not take shortcuts on anything... and once convinced me that we had to scrub the old masonite siding on our home with a brush and soapy water before we could paint it.

Nana: (looking pitifully at me) Well, who is going to take the paper down? You dad is coming in a week!


I know the answer to this question. I no longer have a dissertation to write as an excuse.

Me: Mom - I don't think you know what a pain taking down this wallpaper is. It is not fun and it is going to be a huge mess. Plus, the walls will probably have to be patched or textured. I mean, I can paint everything once the paper is down, but I really REALLY don't want to take down this wallpaper.

Nana: So we can't do it?

Me: I think we should get an estimate. I don't know that I can get it all done in a week during the evenings. So let me call a few places and we'll see.

We get an estimate.$1600 to take down the wallpaper, texture and paint only two rooms.  Mom says it is too much. My sensible husband who has never hired anyone to do anything thinks it is too much...

So I am guilted into doing it for her.

Paul: I'm not tearing down wallpaper. Don't ask me to. I won't do it.

Of course he won't. Why should he? She's my mother. Plus, he has done countless home improvement projects for me... Plus...


And he knows this will be hell.

Me: I'll do it. I'll ask the kids to help. It will be good for them to work.

It took six of us two full days to get the wallpaper down from two rooms. Six people working from 7 am to 10 pm. That is what a bitch this was. And I've taken down lots of wallpaper - so I'm not an amateur or anything. But it was awful. AWFUL. The people who had put it up, put it right on the drywall. Right on it. No plaster on the drywall, no primer on the drywall... nothin'. Just drywall. So you can just about imagine the mess. We did a good job of not damaging the walls too much - but then I had to spend half a day applying plaster all over the bathroom walls (yes, with a trowel and all).... and then we had to wait a day to sand it all down. We hadn't even started on putting plaster to fix the bedroom walls...

So I tell my mother...

Me: Mom, we are just going to do this bedroom and bathroom and leave the upstairs bathroom for another time. If we need to get it done before Dad comes home, there is no way we can get it all done. Okay?

Nana: Yah yah! Of course! I didn't know it would be so hard! Oh my Gad! I am so tired!

So what happens?

I come over the next morning to find her looking like death warmed over. She comes limping to the front door, hunched over....

Nana: Oh my Gad... I am so tired! I was working all night! I think I am going to die... Oh my Gad... I am so tired...

Me: Why?! What were you doing?!

Nana: Come see. Come see!

She brings me into the upstairs bathroom.

O.M.G.

Nana: See! (She says with pride). See! I took down all the wallpaper by myself! It was so easy! They did this bathroom the right way. See how smooth the walls are!?

I stand there - speechless...

I am ready to cry.

Me: Mom! That's not the wall. That's not the drywall mom! That's is the paper backing on the wallpaper. We still have to take that off!

pause

She looks at me shocked.

Nana: Noooo! It IS the wall. I took it all down! You are WRONG Chino (she says as she feels the wall)... You are wrong. THIS is the wall... come see. COME SEE!

Me: I grab a spray bottle of water, soak a small section and then use my fingernail. The next layer peels (grudgingly) off.

Nana: Oh my GAD! Oh my GAAAD!!! I CAN'T BELIEVE it! I CANNOT believe it. Ohh... I am so tired! My GAD! My bones are aching! I worked so hard!

I am standing there trying to contain my frustration.

Me: Mom (I say in a pleading voice). Mom. Why did you start another room? I said let's try to finish the other two first and I told you I would help you do this after we finished downstairs.

Nana: I didn't know! I didn't KNOW!

And exactly what does that mean? "I didn't know."  I didn't know what you said? I didn't know if I could believe you? I didn't know that you knew what you were talking about? I didn't know it was going to be that hard to take down wallpaper from THREE rooms!

Me: Mom. Just leave this - please? Please? You look tired and you shouldn't be up all night doing this. You're going to get sick or hurt yourself. Just go lie down and let me take care of this.

Nana: And I was SO dizzy! I was standing on the toilet (which she pronounces "tw-wall-let") looking up and I was so dizzy! For HOURS I was standing on the tw-wall-et! Oh my Gad... I cannot believe this.

Me: Yes, that's why you should lie down. No more. No more working. You sit and let me finish this.

Nana: And I was so tired. This is so hard. I can't believe how hard I have worked. I have worked so hard!

Really? Really mom? YOU have worked so hard? Why do I want to scream?

After she rested for about an hour, she found me in the downstairs bathroom, covered in plaster dust working to sand the walls down smooth.

Nana: Oh! You are almost finished!

A scream would really help me right now.

Me: No mom. We are not almost finished. After we sand this, we need to prime the walls. Wait for the primer to dry, then we can paint them. THEN we can replace your vanity.

pause

Nana: Oh, so did you already finish the upstairs bathroom?

pause

Me: No mom. I haven't done that yet. I am still working on this bathroom. We still have to finish the other bedroom too.

pause

Nana: I didn't know it would be so hard.

Me: Yeah. Stuff like this is hard.

pause

Nana: Okay - let's hire someone. I don't care how much it costs... let's just do it.

Now. Now we are going to hire someone.

Me: It's going to cost a lot mom. The walls are really in bad shape. They will have to repair the walls and still remove the rest of the paper upstairs and...

Nana: Okay... I know. Whatever.

So - I make a call back to the guy who gave us the original estimate. The new one is less... but not much.

They finish the rest of the damn project in two days -- paint and all!

Nana: I should have had them do it from the beginning.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Morning glory

I am half asleep early Saturday morning lying snuggled in our bed... so peaceful... so happy...
When from the hallway I hear Zayd beckoning:

Zayd: Eeeethan.

no response

Zayd: (a little louder) Eeeeethan!

no response

Zayd: (same volume, more intense) Eeeeethan!

From further in the distance I hear the voice of Ethan, who sounds like he too was lying all snuggled comfortably in his bed half asleep...

Ethan: What.

I open my eyes and see the digital clock: 6:30 a.m.

Zayd: Eeeeethan!

Ethan: What!

Zayd: Will you get me some toilet paper please?

pause

Zayd: Ethan?

pause

Ethan: no.

Zayd: Eeeethan! Please! I need some toilet paper!

pause

Ethan: No. I'm sleeping.

Zayd: I would get you some...

pause

Ethan: No. You wouldn't.

He's right about that.

I climb out of our warm, peaceful, snuggley bed to get some toilet paper for Zayd - because women understand what an issue the absence of toilet paper is...

I walk out into the hallway, still groggy, to find Ethan -- now prancing -- outside the open bathroom door in his underwear.

Zayd: Ethan! Just get me toilet paper and stop looking at me!

And I got up for this.

Me: Ethan. Give your brother the toilet paper. (I hand him the roll).

Ethan continues to prance.

Ethan: Mom! You're awake!

Me: Ethan. Give your brother the toilet paper.

Ethan continues to prance - now prancing with the roll of toilet paper in his hands.

Ethan: Why are you up mom?

He has no clue how lucky he is that he is so damn cute...

Ethan: I was going to get Zayd toilet paper.

By prancing in blue camo undies to the toilet paper gods?

Zayd: ETHAN! Give me the toilet paper!

Me: Give it to him please.


I would give it to him, but Zayd is at that age when he doesn't particularly want his mother coming in while he is in the bathroom...

Ethan: (still prancing... but now prancing into the bathroom) I was going to give it to you!

I turn around and head back into my bedroom.

Ethan: Where are you going mom!

pause

Ethan: Are you awake now Mom!? 'Cause remember, it's a stay-at-home day!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Najla: Cold-blooded killer.

Me: I had the weirdest dream last night about us. We were staying in this shack by the coast somewhere and there was a hurricane coming and...

Paul cuts me off.

Paul: I had a dream you killed two people.

pause

Me: What!

Paul: Yeah - it was weird. We were in the car - and you were driving and we went to some farmhouse in Dilworth...

Me: Dilworth? Why Dilworth?

Paul: I don't know... so we get to this farmhouse and you say, "Stay right here," and then you get out of the car and like beat two people to death. Then you get back in the car and drive away...

pause

Me: uhhhh...

Paul: And you had no issue with it at all! You were totally sure that no one was going to catch you and that you had it all planned out. And I wasn't so sure but you kept telling me not to worry...

I cut Paul off.

Me: I am a little worried that you would dream about me doing that.

Paul: Yeah. It was weird.

Me: So... what does that say about how you think of me? I mean, do you think I'm like violent or something?

Paul: I don't know?

Me: What do you mean "you don't know?" That doesn't sound very reassuring!

Paul: Well (he starts laughing)... It WAS very weird... I can't figure out why you killed those two people... and why you were so cool about it - and in fact you were so not worried, that I was really worried about myself!

pause

Me: Okay. I don't even know what to say. I can't believe you dreamed that I would kill anyone - let alone two people.

Paul: Maybe I am scared of you (He smirks)...

pause

I roll my eyes.

Me: ANYWAYS... let me tell you about my hurricane dream... So we were in this shack with your sister's family and I had to go to Fleet Farm and buy wet suits of all of us to keep warm if we were going to get flooded.

pause

Paul: That's weird.

pause

Paul: But did you kill anyone?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cello talk

Zayd: I really want to play the cello.

Me: Why the cello?

Zayd: Because I like the sound.

Me: Oh... I do too.

pause

Me: But there are two things you need to know. I don't want World War III to start between you and your dad. So - first, you need to practice. And second, you cannot complain that it is heavy and you don't want to carry it on the bus.

Zayd: Why are you bringing up all the negative things?

Me: These aren't negative things. These are things that I know your dad will get on you about. And I don't want to be in the middle. He will get irritated if we rent a cello and you don't practice and he'll get irritated if you complain about carrying it around. If you will promise to practice and not complain about how big it is... you'll be fine. Then I'll be fine.

Zayd: Well... I feel as though you don't want me to play the cello because you keep bringing up negative things.

He feels as though? Are we having one of those "I feel, you feel" adult conversations? Wow.. and he hasn't even gone through marriage counseling yet...

Me: I want you to play the cello Zayd. I love the sound. I think it is a beautiful instrument and I'm thrilled you are interested in it. I'm trying to help you by preparing you...

pause

Zayd: But why do you seem angry?

pause

Me: I'm angry?

Zayd: You don't like the cello.

pause

Me: Uhm... I just said I like the cello.

Zayd: But you are bringing up all these negative things...

Me: I think you may be misunderstanding me. I know you. You get stubborn and your dad and I don't want to fight with you about practicing. So, I am thrilled you are interested in playing the cello - I just want you to understand that we will expect you to practice it.

pause

Zayd: I'll have to put it in my schedule.

Me: I didn't realize your schedule was so booked.

Zayd: (snort-laugh)

Me: So... You can try out the cello. We'll rent one and if you like it we'll stick with it.

Zayd: And...

Me: And what?

Zayd: Then if I like it what will happen?

pause

Me: Well... we'll buy one for you.

pause

Zayd: Wow.

pause

Zayd: Buy is a strong word.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Amundson's first professionally taken family photo

This weekend we spent an hour with Katie Lewis -- a young professional photographer in Fargo. We had never had a family photo taken by a professional before ... and I was just overjoyed with the results!

Presenting... the Amundson gang:

Katie Lewis Photography - the Amundsons

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Who's on first?

Last night as Paul was looking through 7-year-old Ethan's school papers:

Paul: Ethan? Where is the classroom contract you are supposed to get signed for your teacher?

Ethan: Oh yeah... Mom needs to sign it too.

Paul: Okay - where is it?

Ethan: Where is what?

Paul: The contract we are supposed to sign.

Ethan: I don't know.

Me: You took it from me, remember? After we got out of the car?

Ethan: Oh...

Paul: Will you go get it please?

Ethan: Get what?

Paul: The contract.

Ethan: What contract?

Paul: The contract we are talking about.

pause

Ethan: What are we talking about again?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dreams

Zayd, Ethan, Paul, Mollie and I were taking a stroll around our neighborhood when the topic of dreams...
well... nightmares came up.

Zayd: I had three nightmares last night.

Me: Three! Holy cow! What happened?

Ethan: I have nightmares too!

Me: Yes Ethan, I'm sure you do. Zayd is talking now though. K?

Zayd: So in the first dream, I was in Mrs. Foley's classroom (his 4th grade teacher) and she closed the door and said, "If you are in here now - you are in this grade for the rest of the year." And I was like "Nooooo!"

Me: Oh my. That does sound scary.

Zayd: (snorts) It was.

Me: Then what?

Zayd: Well... my second dream was that we had to bring these decorated cubes to class and talk about them and I had no idea what the teacher was talking about but everyone else had their cubes all decorated.

Me: Ah....

Zayd: Why did I have those dreams?

Me: You're anxious about school starting.

Zayd: Anxious?

pause

Zayd: Yeah. I guess I am kinda nervous about school.

Me: Actually lots of people have dreams kinda like yours - Sometimes dreams tell us that we are nervous about something... Those are sort of nightmares, I guess. They are dreams about how we aren't prepared for class, or a presentation, or something. Some people have dreams that they walk into a room without all their clothes on...

Ethan: I am naked in all of my dreams!

pause

Zayd: What?

Ethan: Yeah! I'm naked in all my dreams. I am in school and I am walking around naked but no one cares or looks at me, well except my friend Matt, but he doesn't care either, he talks to me and stuff and has lunch with me and doesn't say anything and the other people don't say anything to me either but I am naked...

Me: You are totally naked?

Ethan: Well... yeah. I am pretty much naked. But no one cares or laughs or anything. Well... I guess in some of my dreams I have my underwear on... but sometimes I don't have my underwear on.. and I just walk around and stuff...(he shrugs his shoulders)

pause

Ethan: I guess I have a lot of nightmares, huh?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The 48 inch rule



Our family spent a four-day weekend in the Cities to do the amusement park thing. Zach and I don't do rides. But the two middle children LOVE them. And this was the first year that Ethan, our 7-year-old was tall enough to ride the "big boy" rides.

However, just because he is tall enough doesn't mean I think he is old enough. 

This story is really about my epiphany...

Roller coasters scare me. I don't like the feeling of dropping a hundred or so feet at a sharp angle. I don't even like falling off the high dive. I'm not afraid of heights... I just don't like the falling feeling. My biggest fear in life is that someday I'll have to jump out of an airplane as ransom to get my children back. I'll do it, but I won't want to.

Zach likes roller coasters even less than I. He has told us that if he had to ride a roller coaster to save our lives...

He wouldn't do it. He'd rather see us dead.

Fortunately, this means I have someone to hang out with when we go to Valley Fair. 

Ethan was determined to ride the Wild Thing - a 207 foot drop at a 60 degree angle roller coaster that makes me ill just looking at it. I told Paul I didn't think he should go on it. It might be a bit too scary. Paul seemingly agreed...

SEEMINGLY.

Until, that is... I was sitting on a bench at the other end of the park waiting for the water park to open... when I got a text message from Paul saying that "they" were at the Wild Thing.

Me: "Ethan?!" I texted back.

No response.

I turned to Zach.

Me: If your father takes Ethan on that roller coaster - I am going to just lose it.

Zach: Why?

Me: Because - it is dangerous! Ethan isn't THAT big.

Zach: He's 48 inches... he's big enough.

Me: But he's too young!

Zach: But if he wants to...

If he wants to? If he WANTS to? What does that mean? He doesn't want yet... does he? I decide - right? I mean, just because he is 48 inches tall, he gets to make decisions about his life? Who made up that rule!?

I haul Zach across the park to where the Wild Thing lives.

And, by God... I found my boys... including my 7-year-old fresh off the ride. Ethan was red-faced and smiling.

My baby rode a huge roller coaster...

.... and loved it.

In fact, by weekend's end... he had ridden every ride that absolutely scares the hell out of me. 

At Nickelodean Universe he road the "Rock Bottom Plunge- Which is a 97 degree angle 67 foot plunge. O.M.G. - who is this child?

And who let him grow up?

And what's going on? And I'm going to be 43 in October...and my eldest is in 10th grade and in three years when Paul and I celebrate our 20-year wedding anniversary he'll be graduating and my second one will be in high school and the third will be just a year away...

And what the hell!

Even though I could see my boys growing taller and getting older... it still was okay - because I had Ethan. Ethan was my baby and he plays that role quite well. But all of a sudden, he didn't want to be the baby anymore. In fact when I hugged him after his ride on the "Wild Thing" he said...

Ethan: Why are you hugging me so much?

Me: Because you are my baby and I was worried about you on that big roller coaster.

He pulled away

Ethan: I am not a baby anymore, mom. I am a big boy now.

I stood there and stared at him as he walked over to his older brothers to relive the experience.  

Who decided that 48 inches makes a baby not a baby anymore. And how come he knew about that rule...

and how come no one told me? 








Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hormonal blurr

I'm an equal opportunity humorist...
I am more than willing to laugh at myself:

I was in need of some tampons of a particular size. This was an emergency, so I left the house abruptly and went to my nearby Target store to pick up what I needed.

The aisle was so... so...

so overwhelming. I don't know... there were SO many choices. I don't ever remember the sanitary accoutrements aisle being so utterly confusing.

SO many sizes, brands, and colors to choose from. Good God! What happened! All I was looking for was MY brand; MY size; MY color. It seemed as though all sanitary appliance companies had chosen to change their packaging all at once.

I finally found what I needed... and just as I was about to pick it up, I noticed the Target brand right next to it... at a considerably lower price. Apparently, my hormones had the best of me because normally I don't ever take price into consideration when purchasing anything... But for some reason - I felt frugal - frugal with the essence of my womanliness.

So I picked up the Target box - same color, different price - and headed home... right for the bathroom.

And when I got there I opened up the box...

Me: What the hell?

It was the wrong sized stuff.

HOW DARE TARGET mess with MY colored tampons! Purple boxes mean purple-sized tampons... not blue-sized tampons! Why would Target do that! Why would it give me blue-sized tampons in the form of purple tampons??

I threw the box in my bathroom closet and stomped down the stairs...

Paul: Where are you going now?

Me: To the store to buy tampons.

Paul: You just went to the store to buy tampons...

Me: I bought the wrong size.

He looks at me and holds back a laugh.

I look at him and hold off biting his head off...

I have now decided to boycott Target tampons... so I head to CVS. CVS would not try to mix with a woman's hormonal blurriness by confusing her into buying the wrong sized tampons.

I arrived at CVS and decide that this time, I will purchase my brand.

Me: Shit.

CVS doesn't carry my brand.

How the hell does that happen! My brand is like the mother ship of sanitary brands. The queen mother of tampon brands...

I stare at the aisle full of other brands... different colored packaging, different names, different sizes...

I feel dizzy...

I pick up a box... look at it carefully to make sure I have the best "not my brand" tampon and get back home...

... and back up to the bathroom...

... and open the box...

Me: Holy shit. No way.

It's the wrong size again. It's the same wrong size I bought at Target.

This is not cool. This is about as uncool as it gets.

After a few minutes of staring at the second wrong-sized box of tampons... my brain walks out of its haze to a brilliant idea.

I tend to squirrel away tampons all over the house... kitchen drawers, closets, coat pockets, purses, cars, etc. Although I can't tell you why...

So I yell at the top of my lungs...

Me: BOYS!!!! EVAN!!! ZAYD!!! ETHAN!!!!

A minute later, they all show up in my bedroom.

Me: I'll give you 50 cents for every tampon you find in the house - as long as they are purple.

Ethan: What's a tampon?

Zayd: I'll show you...

Everyone flies out of the room...

And about five minutes later... I have a dozen... purple, correct brand, correct size tampons.

pause

Boys motivated by money is a good thing.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mollie's meal

The other night as dinner was winding down, Evan -- who always finishes first -- decided to fetch Mollie (our 6 month old mini Goldendoodle) from the backyard.

Thirty seconds after Evan went outside... we hear him scream. We all look up and see him running -- more like flying -- towards the house.

Evan bolts in and slams the sliding door behind him.

Evan: Oh my God! (heavy breathing) Mollie (more heavy breathing) has a squirrel head in her mouth! (more heavy breathing for dramatic effect).

Paul: Evan! (he yells). Don't yell!

Evan: (moderate to heavy breathing) But I'm not kidding! It is really a squirrel head! I saw it!

Me: Okay Evan. That's enough. We are all eating. Let's talk about this after dinner.

The family tends to take what Evan says with grain of salt. It's not that he lies... he just tends to misinterpret situations...

At which point Mollie appears at the sliding glass door with something in her mouth -- like a golfball...

...or perhaps a small rodent's head.

With the exception of Paul - the boys and I get up from the dinner table to get a closer look at Mollie's mouth. We huddle around the sliding door and crouch down to get a better look -- through the safety of the sliding glass door, of course.

Zach: Oh my God! It IS a squirrel head!

Zayd: (starts laughing) Oh my God!!! (more laughter)

I get on all fours and lower my head to the floor to look for myself.

pause

Me: Oh. My. God. Paul! There is a squirrel head in her mouth!

Paul continues eating as if I said, "please pass the butter."  I am panicking - First of all - this is CLEARLY a squirrel head. It looks like a squirrel -- hair and all -- that just happens to be taking a nap in Mollie's mouth...

...except its body is missing.

The boys begin the obligatory "Ughs," "Oooos," and "Groooosssss"...

Paul: Boys. Sit down and finish your dinner. (he says sternly)

The boys and I obey.

We are silent for a moment (none of us eating because, frankly, it is hard to eat after you have seen a squirrel's head in your dog's mouth) - as we each turn to steal a glance of Mollie who is still sitting on the other side of the sliding glass door looking at us like, "What?"

Me: Paul? Isn't it kinda bad for her to eat a squirrel? I mean, couldn't she get sick?

Paul: I don't know. (He doesn't look up and keeps eating)

Me: Don't you think we should get it from her?

Paul: Maybe. (He doesn't look up and continues eating).

In hindsight, I think Paul's reaction was a protective mechanism. If he had acknowledged that it might be dangerous for our puppy to have a squirrel head in her mouth... that would have lead to the inevitable:
Paul would have been the designated squirrel head retriever.

We eat silently for a few more moments. Then, I make an announcement:

Me: I'll give ten bucks to the first person who gets the squirrel head out of Mollie's mouth!

Everyone (with the exception of Paul) whips their head around to look at me with a mixture of excitement, disbelief and pure greed...

Zach: (still sitting) I'll do it!

Zayd: (stands up) I'll do it!

Evan: (already moving towards the door) I'LL do it! I found her first!

Ethan: I can do it too!

Me: Well then... go out there and do it!

Zach: Should we use a paper towel?

Me: I think it would be best if you used a plastic bag to protect your hand.

The boys trip over each other to get out the door onto the patio. They surround Mollie.

Evan makes the first attempt but can't seem to get Mollie to hold still. Extracting a squirrel head from a puppy's mouth is delicate work. After a few tries, Zach goes in to show the other boys how it's done.

After 30 seconds he turns away holding his stomach saying:

Zach: Ughhhh... I can't do it. That is so gross. I feel sick...

Zayd takes his turn while Evan and Ethan hold Mollie...

After a few moments I hear cheers mixed with more ughs, oooooooos and grooossssess.

Zayd emerges from the chaos, triumphantly holding the plastic bag up high -- and laughing so hard he is crying...

Zayd: I DID IT!!! I HAVE THE SQUIRREL HEAD!!!

Everyone is laughing because Zayd has one of those contagious laughs. He laughs from his heart... and his belly... He can barely breathe he is laughing so hard.

Me: Oh my gosh Zayd! You are AWESOME! Look at you! Totally courageous. You're like the crocodile hunter or something...

Zach: I cannot believe he could do it. That was so gross. I couldn't have done it.

Zayd: (still laughing).

Me: Okay - so now... we need to find the rest of the squirrel's body.


Zayd: Why do we have to find that?


Me: Because we don't want Mollie coming back later with other part of the squirrel in her mouth... and then throwing that up...

pause

Me: Zayd? Would you look for it please?

pause

Zayd: That'll cost you another 10.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Seven Days; One Pair

Zayd and Evan returned home after a week at the YMCA's Adventure Camp at Lake Comorant, MN -- their first week away from home.

I had two fears:
1. Getting called by camp officials to pick them up and bring them home after one night.
2. Looking inside their duffle bags when they returned.

Tonight I faced my second fear.

I hauled their duffles to the basement laundry room and had decided I would throw everything into the laundry without looking or smelling anything.

All was going well until I got to a zippered side pocket on Zayd's duffle.

There I found seven pairs of underwear...

....each one them clean.

Oh. My. God.

One by one I pulled them out of the pocket and placed them on the ironing board. They were neatly folded - looking just as they had when I first packed them in...

After staring at the gleaming stack of underwear for a minute in disbelief,  I grabbed one and gave it a quick sniff...

...Hoping to God the smell would take me out and I'd come to a few minutes later comforted by the fact that I would have seven gross pairs of underwear to wash.

This of course did not happen.

The stack smelled like Downy -- Original Scent.

I threw them in the washing machine, poured twice the amount of laundry detergent necessary, set the temp on hot wash, shut the lid... and did the math:

Hmmmm... We left the house a week ago Saturday and spent the night at my in-laws lake cabin. He had enough underwear to change into a fresh pair on Sunday, and each day after that until today - seven pairs in the suitcase... 

Seven pairs still in the suitcase... all clean.

I took a deep breath and walked up the basement stairs to find him on the computer in the kitchen.

Me: Zayd. (I say in a monotone voice)

Zayd: What. (He replies while continuing to work on the computer)

Me: May I ask you if you wore the same underwear all week.

Zayd: Sure.

pause

Me: Did you.

Zayd: Yes.

pause

Me: You wore the same pair of underwear since we left the house last Saturday. (I remain calm).

Zayd: Yes. (He still does not make eye contact).

Me: You did not change your underwear once.

Zayd: No.

Me: May I ask why?

Zayd: Sure.

This is why some parents eat their young.

Me: Why did you not change your underwear, Zayd.

Zayd: (He finally looks at me - expressionless). I was too lazy.

pause

I take a deep breath.

Me: You told me they made all campers take a shower everyday.

Zayd: Yes.

Me: Did you?

Zayd: Yes.

pause

Me: And you put the same pair of underwear back on.

Zayd: Yes.

I have nothing more to say to this child.

I walk up another set of stairs to our bedroom where I find Paul, folding clean laundry.

Me: You are never going to believe what I found in Zayd's duffle bag.

pause

Paul looks up at me slowly... and braces himself.

Paul: Uhm... what.

Me: Seven pair of clean underwear.

Paul stares at me for about 10 seconds and his eyes narrow. He too is doing the math and probably trying to absorb the magnitude of this information.

Paul: Gross.

pause

Me: Really gross.

pause

Paul: So he hasn't changed his underwear since we left the house last week.

Me: That is correct.


pause

Paul: Gross.

******
Zayd has since been forced to soak in the bathtub filled liberally with Axe.

But...

I don't know where he put that 7-day-old pair of underwear.

And I'm not coming out of my bedroom until someone else finds it...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Charades

Thinking is bad when you play charades with my children. If you think, you won't know what's going on...

I find it best to let my mind go totally blank.

Then, at least, I have a fighting chance to correctly guess what they are acting out.

Actually, guessing what Ethan is acting out is pointless. Ethan acts out things that don't happen... Well... with the exception of things that happen in his imagination...

Oh, and things that could be part of a Scooby-Doo episode.

Zayd? Oh my God, Zayd. Zayd's act is 10 scenes long... So you may correctly guess at least 30 plus different actions before he gets to the one he is showcasing for charades.

Tonight - Ethan went first. He turned his back to us, squatted, and did a little butt wiggle.

This should be interesting.

Then he got down on all fours, leaped around the room with a wild look on his face... and then stopped, looked at us and said...

Ethan: Well?

Me: Well what?

Ethan: Well? What is it?

Evan: Ethan. It was nothing. You didn't do anything.

Ethan: Yes I did!

Evan: Then what was it?

Ethan: I can't tell you! Then you can't guess!

Me: You are going to have to do it again, because we didn't follow.

We all watched for another five minutes.

Me: Ethan. I have no clue what you are doing.

Ethan: Oh my gosh! I can't believe you can't guess it!

Me: I must be slow tonight. What were you doing?

Ethan: I was peeing in the toilet and then I looked behind the toilet and saw a zombie monster and then I ran screaming out of the bathroom!

Of course he was.

Me: Okay. Zayd, you are next.

Zayd began his show. After about a minute, Zach asks:

Zach: So... uhm... Zayd? Are we watching the prelude to what we need to guess, or are we watching the pre-prelude to it?

Zayd honestly had no clue what Zach was talking about. So, he kept on acting...

Here's a run down of Zayd's actions - each of which we guessed, and each which were not the actions to be guessed...

1. He is lying on the ground with his eyes closed.
2. He sits up with his eyes opened and a smile on his face.
3. He stretches his arms.
4. He gets up and walks to an unknown space where he leans towards something at eye level and looks closely.
5. He appears to be looking in a mirror.
6. He picks ups something, picks up another thing, does something with his hands... then brushes his teeth. (Yup - clearly brushing teeth - he spits and rinses too).
7. He combs his hair
8. He gets dressed - pants, shirt, socks, shoes...
9. He stops again and looks at something.
10. He opens a door and closes it.
11. He walks some more.
12. He opens another door and pulls something out.
13. He does a move that looks like he is starting a lawnmower.
14. He begins pushing the object which he started like a lawnmower...
15. He walks around pushing for a bit.
16. He stops and looks at us like we are crazy.

Zayd: Oh my God! Don't you know what I am doing yet?!

Yet? Seriously?

Evan: You're mowing the lawn.

Zayd: Yes!

Zach: You know Zayd, you don't need to do all that stuff beforehand. You could have just started with starting the lawnmower... we would have guessed it.

I flash Zach a disapproving look.

Zach: What?

Me: No Zayd. You are doing it just right. Don't listen to Zach. You do a great job at charades.

Why rush him? Pretty soon, he may not want to play charades with his mom.

I've got plenty of time to watch...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Najla vs. The Wall Anchor

You'd think when a kid like me grows up to be a 42-year-old woman, wife, and mother to four boys of her own...

Her fear of her own dad "getting mad" would subside.

Nah. It doesn't.

This little ditty is part of a much bigger story that I have been working to cut into segments for my blog for months. The big story is that my mother convinced me to tackle a huge home improvement project for her while my father was out of the country.

Home improvement projects, in and of themselves, are rarely pretty. Less so when you are trying to do it for your mother. Even less so when you are doing it for your mother while your father is out of the country because your father would FLIP OUT if he knew ANY home improvement project was occurring.

I have officially become an accomplice in a crime that will be etched into the walls of my parents condo for eternity.

So - THIS part of the story comes at the end of the home improvement project. The last little tiny finishing touch which I couldn't get finished before dad came home. I did not get the towel rack hung in the upstairs bathroom.

Everything else was finished (including the other rooms involved in this project which as a whole I lovingly refer to as "Project Hell").

In the upstairs bathroom, I had carefully chosen and hung a few pictures that my mother loved, yet complimented the decor. I placed a couple decorative pounded copper vases with leafy sprigs in a way that would draw the bathroom user in... and make them want to kick up their feet, and stay a while.

But the towel rack. I had not gotten the towel rack hung up yet. So I had to go back to my parents the day after my dad came home from his 3-week adventure overseas adventure.

When I got there, my dad was dressed as he usually does when he is lounging around the house - in his seersucker bathrobe, my mother's purple slippers with strange enormous flowers on the sides, and a towel wrapped around his head.

He gave me a kiss on both cheeks when I came in.

Me: So! How do you like the changes? (I try to act super positive and cheerful)

He shakes his head...

Papa: You know... you're mom... she shouldn't have asked you to do all this for her.

Me: No! I didn't mind. I finally have time, and she's done of a lot stuff to help me out - so it's not problem. It really wasn't that hard.

Okay - that has GOT to be the biggest lie I have ever told. For God's sake - I've named it Project Hell.

Papa: Well. It looks good. You did a nice job.

Me: Thanks!

He sees that I have a bucket of tools with me.

Papa: What are you doing now?

Me: Oh I just need to hang this towel rack in the bathroom upstairs - then I'm all done.

He peers into the bucket.

Papa: Is that a drill?

Me: Yeah?

pause

Papa: Do you know how to use that?


Now I'm irritated. If I could give him a play-by-play of the 24-hour a day, 7-day Project Hell, he would step back in awe of me and say "Drill away my fantastic, skillful, eldest daughter!"

Me: Yes dad. I know how to use it.

His eyes narrow as he looks at me skeptically. He lowers his voice and leans towards me as if we are part of some drill mafia or something.

Papa: What do you need that for?

I mimic his stance, look, and voice....

Me: I need to drill the screws in the wall to hang up the towel rack.

Actually - let me now impress you with my towel rack drilling expertise. I learned over the course of Project Hell that there are such things called "wall anchors" - which one needs to use if the screw one is putting into the wall is not going into a stud. Up to this point in the project, I needed to drill a narrow hole into the wall so I could gently tap the wall anchor into the drywall. Then I would use the drill to securely screw the screw into the anchor.

Papa: Do you need any help?

Me: No. I got it. Don't worry.

I walked into the bathroom and began pulling my tools out of the bucket and placing them onto the bathroom counter.

My dad was right next to me. Looking at everything.

Papa: Who does this belong to?

It belongs to the hardware store I just robbed.

Me: It's Paul's.

pause

Papa: And he knows you have it?

omg

Me: Yes dad. He knows I have it.

He nods his head, still looking at the tools.

Me: Dad? Why don't you just let me surprise you, okay? Let me do this. I'm going to close the door, and when I am all done, I want you to come in and see the project all complete!

Please... please go away.

Papa: Okay. I'll go and watch TV. I'll be right next door if you need me. You're sure you don't need my help?

Me: Yup! I'm sure. But thanks. And I will come and get you if I need help.

He leaves me in peace to work.

So I pull out the screws and wall anchors for this towel rack... but man o' man... the anchors are HUGE. I look 'em up and down and I can't figure out why they are so fat. I convince myself that they must be big because they need to hold the weight of bath towels...

I drill a small hole in the wall so I can tap in the anchor. I try, but the hole is WAY too small.

I get a bigger bit and drill a bigger hole.

Then I get an even bigger bit and drill an even bigger hole.

I do it one more time - one bigger bit for one bigger hole. Surely my mad skill at towel-rack hanging will not be thwarted by this last project?

"Now!" I think to myself, "This has GOT to be big enough."

I place the anchor up to the hole and ever so gently tap...

And with that - the anchor goes right through the drywall along with my hammer head leaving a hole in the wall a bit larger than the size of a half-dollar.

"Oh shit." I whisper.

All that stands between my father and me is one layer of drywall.

My mind start racing and I begin to hyperventilate.

"Okay. Okay. It's okay Najla. Just think. Think," I whisper, looking frantically around the bathroom for something to cover the hole with.

I find a picture I was going to leave off the wall, and extra nail and I hang the picture over the hole. It looks like something is very wrong. The picture obviously has no reason being hung in that spot... but at this point, I am thinking of my children. They can't grow up without a mother.

Then I compose myself and walk out of the bathroom.

Papa sees me.

Papa: Are you done?

Me: Oh...uhm... no. Not yet. Don't go in yet, okay. I just need to make a few finishing touches!

I need to find my mom. I start hurrying around the condo half yelling/half whispering "Mom! Mom!"
I find her in the living room. She sees me wild-eyed and panicked so she starts to panic.

Nana: What! What!

Me: Shhhhhhhhsssshhhhhhhh....

Nana: (whispering) What?

Me: You have GOT to get Papa away from that room he is in. He cannot go into the bathroom.

Nana: Why? What happened? (she is really panicked now)

Me: I put a hole in the wall.

Nana: Oh God, Chino!

Me: Okay - seriously mom. You have got to protect me. If he finds that hole in the wall, he is going to go ballistic and the only reason it is there is because you wanted me to do this project. You have to keep him away! Please. PLEASE don't let him go into that room!

Nana: What am I going to do? How am I going to do that?

Me: Mom. I don't know. You take care of Papa, I'll take care of the wall, and everything will be okay.

Now, let me just say my dad isn't some sort of crazy family-abuser. But... when a mother and daughter conspire to do a major home-improvement project that he would never have allowed had he been in the country... and when his daughter walks into his bathroom with tools that he is surprised her husband allows her to take with her unsupervised... he's gonna get mad about a hole in the wall.

Nana: Okay. What are you going to do?

Me: I'm calling Paul. He'll know what to do.

So my mother goes off to distract my father and I go outside to call my husband on his cell.

Cell phones, in my estimation, are for emergencies. When someone calls me on my cell, that suggests to me that they really need to talk to me right now. If they didn't need to talk to me, they'd call me at home and leave a message with one of my children which I will never get. My husband never answers his cell which drives me crazy, especially when I really need him... like when I am about to be hung out to dry by my father for putting a hole in the bathroom wall after I had told him I was completely capable of hanging the towel rack on my own.

I leave a message.

Me: "Paul. You need to call me as soon as possible. This is an emergency. Please call me now!"

I sit on the front steps of my parents condo for a few minutes. Then I walk back in toward the bathroom.

Nana: Your dad is in the bedroom now taking a nap.

Me: Oh! Thank you!

Nana: Did you talk to Paul?

Me: No, he hasn't called me back yet.

Nana: Okay - show me the hole.

We walk into the bathroom and I remove the picture.

Nana: Oh my Gaaad!

Me: MOM.

Nana: Do you think Paul can fix it?

Me: I know he'll know what to do.

My cell rings.

Me: That's Paul. (pause) Hello?

Paul: (very calmly) What's up?

Me: Oh my God Paul. You have to come over to my parents house right away and help me. My dad is going to go through the roof! I put a huge hole in the bathroom wall trying to hang up the towel rack.

There is silence for a split second and then he bursts out laughing.

Paul: How did you do that!

Me: Paul! (my voice has fear, anger and a hint of panic mixed in) Seriously! You need to come and help me!

Paul: Well, I'm not at home... I'm out at Menards right now and I need to run a few more errands.

Is he kidding me? Errands? My life is in danger and he has errands to run? 

Me: Paul - seriously. Please! I don't know how long I can keep my dad out of the bathroom!

Paul: It'll be fine. I'll come over as soon as I can.

It seemed like an hour, but he came over after about 20 minutes. I sat in the bathroom with the door locked so my dad couldn't get in... and periodically left to check the front door. I also did NOT want my dad to see Paul come in -- THAT would create great suspicion.

Paul: Show me what you did.

I grab the picture and lift it.

Paul starts laughing again.

Paul: You made it sound huge!

Me: Hello!? It IS huge!

He starts going to work to make it right...

Paul: How did you keep your dad from seeing it?

Me: My mom helped distract him and I have been locked up in here.

Paul: Oh my gosh Najla.

He keeps chuckling to himself.

Me: I just don't understand what I did wrong! Look at these anchors Paul. They are huge! I didn't want to drill too big of a hole and I really super gently tapped the anchor in and it just went right through the wall.

Paul picks up the wall anchor and looks at it.

Paul: Najla, these are screw in anchors - the other ones you have been using just needed to be tapped in.

pause

Me: Oh.

Screw in anchors. What the! Shouldn't there be something on the packaging that says, "Hey! Girlfriend! These anchors aren't like the other 10,000 you have used so far to hang up towel racks, hooks, and shelves. These are different just because we want to make life difficult for you. They are called screw in wall anchors."

Paul: This is going to be a cinch. The towel rack holder is going to cover the hole perfectly.

Me: But will it be strong enough?

Paul: Yup. It'll be fine.

Paul finished putting it up for me and quietly left the condo.

I cleaned up the bathroom, and then brought my mom and dad in to see it. My mom kept looking at me wondering what happened to the hole.

Papa: Well... you did a good job Chino! I didn't think you knew how to do it - but it looks great!

I just stood there and smiled.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Comforting mom

I didn't have the best week of my life. And it finally fell on me like a ton of bricks this morning.

With my cup of coffee in hand, I curled up on the sunroom chair and weeped with Paul trying his darndest to make me feel better. The tears running down my face and the sobs choking up my throat reminded me of when I was a kid.

I felt like a kid. I was hurt.

I don't think it is a bad thing to cry in front of your children. God knows they cry in front of me all the time.

So when my 7- and 10-year-old found me in tears... well... they did what I do when they cry.

They tried to comfort me.

Zayd, 10, was a little hesitant. He sat on a nearby couch and looked at me. But Ethan, 7,  jumped right up on the armrest of my chair and started patting my back.

Ethan: Mom... What's wrong? Why are you crying?

pause

What do I say? It's hard to explain. What do I say to my 7-year-old?

Me: Well... I guess... there are some people who have hurt my feelings.

Ethan: Oh.

pause

Ethan: Well... remember what you and dad told us at our last family meeting? You said that if you are nice to others then they will be nice to you? Maybe you need to do that.

We had a little family "talk" a couple of weeks ago because we had four boys running amuck. Telling each other to "shut up" and "you're stupid," sassing Paul and I, and generally being brats. They needed a little realtiy check. Apparenty, our "talk" actually left an impression on Ethan.

Me: Yes. Well.. I've been trying. At least I thought I was trying. I don't know. But it doesn't seem to help much. So it makes me sad.

pause

He sits for a minute.

Ethan: Okay. Well, maybe you need to tell them they are hurting your feelings.

Me: Yeah. I guess it's not that easy hon.

He leans over and touches one side of my face.

Ethan: Hmmm... I think you need to try to forget about them. Just wipe them from your mind.


He sounds like his dad.

Me: Okay. I'll try.

I decide that maybe I need to just go back to bed. I was up early and it wasn't helping my emotions...
So I left Paul and the boys and crawled into bed.

About 20 minutes later, Paul comes in to sit by me and talk.

...and a few moments later... Zayd walks in, throws something on the bed next to me, and walks out.

It's a lovely picture he has made in his summer art class.

Paul: I think that is to make you feel better.

Me: I guessed as much.

Then Ethan walks in, climbs into bed next to me and strokes my hair.

Ethan: Mom... you are still crying? You need to stop crying.

Me: I know. I will. I'm just tired.

Ethan: Remember what I told you? You need to stop thinking about it. You just need to relax today!

pause


Zayd walks in again and throws another drawing on the bed and stands there.


Me: Okay. I will.

Ethan: How about you go and find something to relax you? Why don't you go and get your nails done!

We all stop and look at him.

Zayd gives out one of his little snort laughs and Paul tries to muffle a chuckle.

I get a big smile on my face and look up at my sweet little boy who looking at me as serious as can be.

I get up in bed and give him a big hug, kiss on the cheek and I hold his head in my hands.

Me: You are absolutely right, Ethan and you are such a sweet little man!

He's only seven and he already knows that there's nothing like a good manicure to take care of a bad week. God he's going to make a great partner to someone someday.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Calls from the homefront



My children and I have discussed on numerous occasions that they should not call me while I am at work unless it is urgent.

My definition would include:
1. Broken bones
2. At least a pop can full of blood loss
3. Any injury involving a sharp object that is still embedded in the body - particularly the eye
4. The removal of an appendage 
5. Fire 

And frankly in all these cases, they either should be on their way to the hospital before they call me, or have already called 911.

Their definition of urgency:
1. A splinter
2. A scratch that would take a nuclear microscope to see
3. Inviting a friend over for a sleepover.
4. Asking what we are having for dinner
5. Asking if tonight when I get home if I will drive them to the local grocery store to rent a video game.

Zayd needs to talk to me at work today. The sitter - who DID have an important question to ask me - called - and then gave the phone to Zayd.

Zayd: Hello! Hello! (he says in a sing-songy joyful voice).

Me: Yesss?

Zayd: Uh... Hi. (pause). Mom?

How is it that he is questioning whether it is me or not on the phone, since clearly the original contact came from his end, not mine.

Me: Yes Zayd.

Zayd: So... I have a little tiny question to ask you...

pause

Zayd: Okay?

Me: Yes Zayd. 

Zayd: Uhm.. okay. So... (pause) Wow! This phone is really loud! 

pause

I take a deep breath to oxygenate my patience.

Zayd: Uhm... (his voice goes down to a whisper)... uhm... are you still there mom?

Me: I'm here Zayd. Go ahead. 

Zayd: Oh! Good! Okay then... so... uhm... I wanted to know if you talked to dad about me getting an email account?

Ah yes... let's add email to our list of urgent discussions....

Me: No honey - I haven't talked to dad yet.

Zayd: Oh. 

pause

Sensing extreme disappointment I say:

Me: But thank you for reminding me. Why don't you remind me again tonight and we'll sit down and talk it over.

Zayd: Okay! Uhm... do you think you can put it on your calendar?

Me: What?

Zayd: Will you put it on your calendar so it's scheduled?

pause

Me: You want me to put the email discussion on my calendar?

Zayd: Yes.

I consider this for a moment.

My 10-year-old son is scheduling an appointment with me to discuss the urgent matter of obtaining an email account. On the one hand - very professional. And on the same hand - he knows me too well. If it isn't on my calendar it does not exist. Part of this is my ADD (although I have never been formally diagnosed - I am certain that I would respond to medication)... part of it is the fact that I am juggling too many tasks at once.

And then... 

I am overwhelmed by guilt. 

Because my son knows he needs to schedule an appointment with me in order for me to remember to talk to his dad about the urgent matter of obtaining an email account.

Me: Zayd - yes. That is a great idea. I will put it on my calendar to remind myself to talk to dad.

Zayd: Oh! Thanks mom!

pause

Zayd: Oh and mom? I love you mom.

With all my faults? Thank goodness...

Me: I love you too.








Saturday, June 26, 2010

Drinks?

Paul and I were out looking at the new HTC Hero - which runs the droid operating system - for me for work.


Don't you love that techno language? I don't know what it all means, I'm just repeating what Paul said. 


What I do know is that I love Paul's "droid" and I want one too. Fortunately, Paul is all about the newest gadgets and apps (apps IS a word I do understand) and so shopping with him for stuff like that is quite fun. I love it that we can just go to the store, and that I don't have to worry about understanding what exactly is going on... I can just pick out whatever I like and Paul will tell me if it will work the way I need it to work or not. He'll ask me the questions I would not have thought of: (How do you like the calendar? Does it seem easy to use? Will your nails get in the way of typing on the keyboard?) No thinking on my part. Kinda like going to a car dealership and saying, "Oh! That one is pretty! I like that one!" and not learn anything practical about the damn thing.

This is how I prefer to shop.

Anyways, after our trip to the Verizon store where I got to play with all the cool phones, and Paul and John (no not the Beatles members - my husband and the Verizon guy) talked using language of which most I did not understand - Then my techno-savvy husband and I got in the car to head home to the boys.

Paul: Wanna go have a drink?

pause

Well THAT was spontaneous.

When I sit in my office and daydream about my husband, the word spontaneous does not usually enter my mind. But that's okay. That's why I married him. There are no surprises with Paul. And frankly, when it comes to marriage... I would rather pick someone who doesn't surprise me too much than someone who did. I like knowing what I am dealing with.


Me: A drink?

Paul: Yeah.

Me: Uhm... yeeeaah! Do you even need to ask? I'll call Zach and tell him.

I called.

Me: Hi Zach, it's mom. Your dad and I aren't coming straight home after all. We are going out for a drink.

pause

Zach: A what?

Me: A drink.

pause

Zach: A drink.

Me: Yes.

pause

Zach: (He slowly enunciates the word and speaks more loudly). Drrriiinnnks?

Me: (I also increase my volume). Yeeeessss. Drrriinnnks.

pause

Zach: Like alcohol?

omg

Me: Uh. Yeah. Like alcohol.

pause

Zach: Just the two of you?

Me: Uhm... yeah?

pause

Zach: Alone.

This obviously strikes him as odd. I can't figure out if it is the drinking part, the alone part, or the drinking alone part.

Me: Yes Zach. Just Dad and I. Alone. Out for drinks. Alcoholic drinks.

pause

Zach: Huh.

pause

Me: Do we have your approval?

Zach: Sure.

Me: Okay. See you later.

I turn to Paul.

Me: We have been given the green light by our offspring to go out and act like a couple who has a life outside of them.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Armpit hair and foot massages

At dinner tonight:

Me: So I think we need to give a public shout out to Evan and Zach for their great work at the Boys Ranch today.

Paul: I know!

Ethan: What. What did they do?

Zayd: Ugh. (pause). Can I have more steak?

Zayd does not like it when others are given praise for work because it draws attention to the fact that Zayd does not like work.

Me: Zach and Evan are volunteering at the thrift store everyday for a few hours.

Zayd" Ughhhh... (he gets up to get more steak).

Me: Sandy called to tell me and said you two were charming and you did a great job. She is excited to have you back. Dad and I are really proud of you. If you keep this up, then when you apply for your first job, you'll have a good recommendation from someone who has worked with you. It will help a lot.

Zach: She told you we were charming?

Me: Yup!

Zach: So what did you say?

Me: I said, "Thank you! They are good boys."

pause

Zach looks at me suspiciously.

Zach: Hmmm... I'm surprised.

Me: Why? You are good boys. I knew you would do a good job.

Actually Sandy had tried to call my cell three times today. Twice when they were working at the thrift store and once afterwards. She never left a message. I was sick to my stomach thinking, "Crap. What did they do?" So when she told me they "were charming" I thought, "Thank God," but I said, "Thank you."

Ethan: Did anyone say anything good about me?

Me: Uhm.. no. Nothing specific.

Ethan gives me a sour look, sits for a moment and then gets up from the table too.

After a minute or two of eating in silence, Ethan is back with little cups filled with water. He serves me first.

Me: Oh! Thanks Ethan! That is so considerate of you.

Zayd: (moans loudly in disgust).

Ethan runs off and zips back a couple more times with water cups for everyone.

Me: What is this all about?

Ethan gives me a proud smile and sits at the table.

Paul: I think someone needs a few kudos too.

Me: Ahhhh... Well, thank you Ethan. That is very nice of you. We appreciate it. Right guys?

I get halfhearted grunts from Evan and Zach. Zayd says nothing.

A moment later, Zayd's arm shoots straight up in the air.

Zayd: I wish I had armpit hair.

pause

Zayd often makes odd declarations at odd moments. Like when he yells out "C-D-F" during television commercial breaks -- something which started about year and a half ago.Apparently CDF is the acronym for some company that makes CDs.

pause

Don't try to find logic in this. There isn't any.

Evan also raises one arm in the air.

Evan: Well... I used to want armpit hair, and now I don't.

Zayd: Why?

Evan: Because then you would have to wash it.

pause

Zach: You don't wash your armpits?

Evan: Oh. I wash them... (Evan begins to fiddle with his non-existent armpit hair)... but I'm glad I don't have to worry about conditioning it and stuff.

pause

We all stop chewing and look at him.

Evan: What? What? (he looks around at all of us). You don't need to condition it?

Zach: No. You don't condition armpit hair.

Evan: Oh! Oh. I didn't know that.

Zayd: I would condition my moustache... (he says stroking his non-existent moustache).

Zach: You don't have one.

Zayd: I will. And then... I would pull out all the gray hairs... because I would want my moustache to look beautiful and silky.

omg

During this armpit conversation... I slowly become conscious of the fact that my feet are being rubbed under the table.

I look under the table. It is Ethan. Sitting in front of my chair rubbing my feet.

Me: Ethan? What are you doing?

Ethan: I'm giving you a foot rub!

Zach: Oh my God.

Me: Now?

He smiles at me proudly.

Me: (I look at Paul who is across the table from me). Uh... apparently our youngest really likes praise.

Paul: Ya think?

I look under the table again at my 6-year-old seriously focusing on my foot rub.

Me: Thank you Ethan. This is quite lovely. Getting a foot rub while I eat dinner.

Actually is it kind of disturbing... but whatever.

Two seconds later...

Paul: Oh! (he says totally startled) Wow. (pause). I'm getting a foot rub too.

Everyone looks under the table.

Ethan is lying on his back under the table, using his hands to rub Paul's feet and his feet to rub mine.