Reasons for my absence

You might have noticed that I haven't blogged much lately. I've been very preoccupied during the month of August. The kitchen remodel is nearing the final stages. The counter tops were finally installed on Monday, which now only leaves the tile for the back splash. I know, you're anxious to see pictures, but I refuse to post any until it's all finished.

Another reason that I haven't been blogging is that my house is under attack. In the last week, we've had the following: the air conditioning blower (very technical name) went out leaving us with no AC during 100 degree temperatures and is STILL NOT FIXED, the boy's toilet seat broke (don't ask me how), our shower head came loose spewing water in all directions, and our Dalmatian, Daisy, had to have a growth removed from underneath her belly and is clumsily walking around our house with a huge plastic cone around her head ("And that will be $500 Mrs. Freeman. Thank you very much!")

So, yeah, I haven't been in a very funny mood lately. Although, I did catch a glimpse of Steve Carell while he was filming a scene of "The Office" the other day near my neighborhood Coffee Bean. I so love him--he always makes me laugh. Even just seeing him made me giggle a little. ("That's what she said!")

And then, on top of all of that, we've also had all of this going on:

The first day of 2nd grade...

The first flag football practice this year...

Both grandmothers in for a visit...

In the midst of chaos, I did manage to make these cupcakes for back-to-school....

And the big guy had his first day of Pre-K...
(baggie contents: 2 pairs of clean underwear, 2 pairs of socks, 1 t-shirt, and 1 pair of short, because after all, it is Pre-K.)

Maybe by September my life will get back to normal and stuff will stop happening to me/us/the house/the pets, but I'm not holding my breath because the way my luck has been running, I'm sure I'd pass out, fall down and hit my head, only to wake up in one of those plastic cones just like my dog.

Weekly Column: Hangman and Homework

©Stephenie Freeman

When I woke up, the air smelled different. It was early, the house still quite with sleep, but I could feel the electricity of the new day starting to vibrate. It didn’t take long before a little hand was knocking on my bedroom door.

“I’m ready to go to school!"

I opened the door to find my 7-year-old, the newest and cutest second grader in town, dressed in the clothes that I had carefully laid out for him the night before. His hair was sticking up in five different directions and his socks were on the wrong feet, but it didn’t matter. He was ready to go.

“It’s only 6 am, Buddy. School’s not open and your teacher’s probably still asleep, but I appreciate your enthusiasm.”

The Cheese could hardly stand still for the customary first day of school pictures on the front porch. The ten minute walk to the school through the neighborhood took only five with the Cheese breaking into a full-on run more than once. I left him in his new classroom. He was smiling from ear to ear, sitting in between two of his best buddies. I was trying to take pictures without totally embarrassing him. I knew it was time to leave when he rolled his eyes and turned away.

They grow up so fast.

By the end of the school day I was the one who was excited. I couldn’t wait to hear about his day. As he climbed into the car, his smile was just as big as it was when I left him. I immediately asked him how his first day as a second grader was.

“We played Hangman.”

“That sounds fun. What else did you do?” I didn’t know this new teacher yet, but I was fairly certain she didn’t wake up that morning thinking, “I think we’ll play Hangman all day.”

“I have some homework for you in my backpack,” he told me.

Once home I found a packet of papers for me to fill out. Emergency forms, contact information, and cafeteria plans, but the real homework was a “Tell Me About Your Child” form. And like any good homework assignment, I felt my anxiety and stress levels start to rise.

The questions were vague, open ended, with a myriad of possible answers. I wanted to answer them without trying to sound like I was trying to impress the new teacher. Too much information would label me as a showoff. Too little information and I would look like a slacker. Second grade is going to be harder than I thought.

The final question was perhaps the hardest: “What would you like me to know about your child?” It was starting to get close to bedtime and I still hadn’t finished my homework. So I did something controversial when it comes to homework. I stopped worrying about what I thought the teacher wanted to hear and simply wrote what I wanted to tell her.

“As this new school year starts, I proudly hand over my first-born son. In his mind, second grade is one grade level shy of college, so say that he is an eager student would be an understatement. He’s a smart little boy that still has a lot to learn. Most of the time he doesn’t listen to a word I say and cannot make his bed to save his life no matter how many times I show him, but his father and I have high expectations and think that he will go far in life regardless. He’ll be a good student, learning being a top priority in our home, and will always turn in his homework on time. Guaranteed.”

Just like me.

a couple of bikers

If there's any question whether or not I write about real events that happen in our lives, here's proof.

The day after these pics were taken, there was crashing and burning, scrapes and scabs on elbows and knees, and lots of crying. There was even some naked bike riding, by the Monkey, in only a t-shirt, a crown, and his underwear. But like any crazy parents, we patched them up, got them dressed, and sent them back out. And they couldn't wait.

Weekly Column: "I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike...I want to ride it where I like."

©Stephenie Freeman

I often compare my children’s childhood to my own, saying things like, “Well when I was your age…” but it’s not very realistic. Times have changed. The world is different. Life isn’t as simple as it once was. The good ol’ days were good for a reason.

Which brings me to my latest parenting dilemma. Concerned that his hand might permanently fuse to the Wii remote, we had begged and begged all summer long for the Cheese to play outside, to get some fresh air. We wanted him to dig in the dirt and scrape up his elbows.

“But there’s nothing to do outside. It’s boring.”

I couldn’t help myself. “Well when I was your age I loved to play outside.”

I’m not sure what I expect to accomplish with this sort of comeback. I think it had something to do with being more for my benefit than his. Then one day he said something that totally took me by surprise.

“Can I go outside and ride my bike?” I couldn’t run to get his bike out fast enough. After putting on his helmet, the Cheese had one more question before taking off.

“Are you going to stay outside and watch me?”

I hesitated. Did I want to sit outside in the front yard, watching my young son ride up and down our street, back and forth, back and forth? I’ll be honest here and tell you that no, I really didn’t. There were tons of things that I needed to be doing inside of the house, which included staying on top of whatever mischief my other child was getting into.

Up until this moment, I had never considered it. Even though our quiet neighborhood is safe and traffic is at a minimum, our children were never allowed out front without a trusted adult standing nearby.

Back in the good ol’ days, this would never have been an issue, but we live in a time where fear is served up on a daily basis right alongside your drive-thru Starbucks order. The “what ifs” are too much for most parents to bear, including me. Kidnappings and head injuries and boo-boos…oh my! But standing in front of my son that afternoon, that old comparative phrase suddenly popped into my head.

When I was his age I was allowed to ride my bike all by myself all day long. As long as I never rode out onto Meadowbrook I was good to go. The Golfer had it even better than I did. He was allowed to ride his bike all over town, literally. It’s hard to believe, but we did it all without helmets and our parents watching us every single second and somehow we managed to survive.

“No, Buddy, I’m going to go inside. Just keep your eyes and ears open for cars and don’t talk to any one that you don’t know or get into any cars or...”

I stopped myself, recognizing that if I continued it was possible that my son might run back inside the house screaming, never to face daylight again. I was giving him permission to be independent and free—two concepts totally unfamiliar to him—and I needed to allow him to do so with as little fear and anxiety as possible.

I walked inside, leaving my son to his new-found freedom. Every time a scary “what if” popped into my head, I took a quick peek outside. And before long, I heard the back door slam and saw my little boy rounding the corner, smiling from ear to ear.

“Mom? When you were little, did you ride your bike really, really fast all by yourself?”

“Yeah, Buddy. When I was your age, I’m sure I did.”

miss me?

Obviously, I've been totally preoccupied with the remodel. These pics are several days late and since these were taken SOOOO much more progress has been made. Take for example the running water. When you've been using your powder bathroom sink to do all of your dishes, this is a welcomed sight.

This is a pic of what is now the bar area. This is where our oven, microwave, and little (pointless) desk used to be. The mini-fridge is now stocked with wine, beer, diet coke, and juice boxes. Feel free to help yourself when you come over.

And this is the man that is making it all possible. He has worked tirelessly for the last 2 weeks to give me a beautiful new kitchen. I married a talented man.

more pics to come...

Kitchen Remodel: Day 3, 4, 5... What day is it?

Okay, so here's what it looked like at the end of day 2. The Monkey said, "There's a big "I" on the wall." We were impressed that he knows his letters.

Day 3 was spent patching the hole in the wood floor. That's where the island used to be. Now it's going to be a free-standing island (hence the need to patch the floor.) And yes, my lovely husband actually knows how to do that. The rest of day 3 was spent paying for an electrician. Electricians are crazy expensive and my kitchen budget wasn't quite prepared for the hit.

But at least by day 4 it was kinda starting to look like a kitchen again. My range was delivered and the cabinets started going in. And yes, my amazingly talented husband is installing all of it!
So what we're saving in labor is going to pay for that crazy electrician.

The Cheese has desperately wanted to help. Of course, the most help that he could be would be to stay out of the way. But there's something about hammers and saws and building and making a big mess that draws a boy in to ask, "Can I be a part of all the fun?"

So by the end of the day, I at least had a range to cook with. The kids were thrilled that I was able to make mac 'n cheese and I was thrilled to be cooking again...sort of. That's cardboard serving as my counter tops (that won't be here for another 2 weeks, but that's another story.) I'm still washing the dishes in the powder bath sink and I have no prep space, but I'm sure that it will all be worth it in the end. It better be worth it in the end.

More pics to come...

"There's too much fruit in the house!"

Got any ideas of what to do with 4 large melons and no kitchen?

Yeah, me either.

Kitchen Remodel: Day 1 & 2

This whole week we've been under construction. I've decided that besides living without a toilet while you remodel a bathroom, trying to live without a kitchen has to be the hardest home remodeling challenge.

But the worst is over--the demolition. The kids got in on the act. After a few quick whacks with the hammer, they disappeared upstairs where it was safe.

One last look at the kitchen before it all comes tumbling down.

Cabinet doors gone (hey, I'm pretty good with a drill) and the Golfer getting ready to remove the island.

This is where the stove, microwave, and mini desk used to be. It's the future home of our bar, mini fridge included.

Every thing's out--including the kitchen sink! I did my part by hauling out all of the old to make way for the new. I wish that I had remembered to take a picture of the lovely dumpster that was parked out in our driveway. I'm sure the neighbors were impressed.

And here we are at the end of day 2. You can't see it from here, but there's a dishwasher and a microwave in my living room.

The cabinets are being delivered today, new range delivered tomorrow. More pics to come...

Weekly Column: Barf, Smelly Barf

©2009, Stephenie B. Freeman

I’m not sure who I have to thank. Probably some character on Cartoon Network. I really don’t know where the Cheese learned it, but it was probably only a matter of time before the word “barf” entered his vocabulary.

I should have known that I was in trouble when the Cheese, sporting a Cheshire cat grin the size of Texas, asked me what the word “barf” meant. After I gave him the briefest of explanations, he walked away rubbing his hands together like an evil scientist, giggling like he had just discovered the secret ingredient that would complete his wicked scheme.

His wicked scheme apparently has something to do with seeing how many times he can say the word out loud.

“Green beans make me barf.”

“Remember that time I barfed all over my bed?”

“Mom, have you ever barfed before?”

This morning, 30 miles away from home on the highway, heading to the city for a fun day out, the Cheese hit the jackpot when his little brother ended up getting carsick…yet again.

I’m not sure what made me look in the rearview mirror. Maybe it was motherly instinct. Maybe it was because there was complete silence coming from the backseat. Whatever the reason, in the mirror I could see the Monkey, pale as a ghost, holding his hand over his mouth.

“You okay, Buddy?” I asked him.

And just as he finished saying, “I don’t wanna throw up” he proceeded to puke down the front of his shirt and into his lap three times in a row.

I went into Mama Mode. Managing vomit control while doing 75 miles per hour on the highway requires a steady hand and a quick mind. Gotta head home. Need to find an exit and make a quick turn-around. Fresh air. Need lots of fresh air in the car. Reassure the puke covered preschooler that everything is okay and pray that any possible sympathy vomiting from the backseat is held at bay.

I had no towel to clean up the mess. There was no change of clothes hidden in the glove compartment box. We were all going to have to suck it up, hold our noses, and pray that the next 20 minutes were some of the fastest of our lives. The Cheese, however, seemed delighted. This meant that he was going to be able to use his new vocabulary word over and over and over again.

“The barf is so gross Mom!”

“I know, sweetie.”

“He barfed. He really did.”

“Yes, honey. I am fully aware.”

“Look! He’s barfing some more! Mom! It stinks! The barf really stinks!”

The Cheese continued. I had to tune him out, giving my full attention on how to do a 180 degree turn in the middle of the highway without getting caught, but whatever he was saying I’m sure it was something along the lines of, “Barf, barfed, barfing, barf. Barf, smelly barf!”

Seeing that motion sickness has become such a regular part of our lives (remember the road trip incident?) you would think that I would be more prepared.

I’m not one of those moms.

I’m the mom who heads to the park on a hot summer day and leaves the water bottles sitting on the kitchen counter. I’m the mom who heads to the pool and remembers to bring everything except the sunscreen. I’m the mom who never even carried around a clean change of clothes for her babies until the potty training incident of 2006. (“There’s poop everywhere!”)

But it has become quite clear that carrying around a clean set of clothes for my boys might be a good idea, especially if we ever want to travel on the highway ever again. Maybe I’ll take one of the 2 million tote bags that I have stashed in my closet and fill it full of towels, Wet Wipes, clean underwear, and fresh clothes.

We’ll call it the Barf Bag.