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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Thank Goodness She has No Working Knowledge of Shivs - Also, Here's a Phonics Download (Free)

Today I was supposed to go to church with my family. (I know, I'm as surprised as you are that I don't actually burst into flames when I enter a place of worship, but there it is.) Instead, I woke up with the intestinal flu (So, maybe it is ill-advised for me to attempt to enter a religious building and this was me receiving that message loud and clear. Hm.). It was Scout Sunday, so Hunny took the boys and went to church without me. They all looked very cute in their scout uniforms, but since I was dashing for the bathroom as they were exiting the premises, I did not get a picture of the adorableness. That might make me a bad mom, but my laundry thanks me.
Since I was essentially chained to the toilet all day, I decided to try my hand at being a good mom, and do some phonics lessons with Ms. Thang. She just turned 4, but she's known most of the letter sounds since she was 2, and lately has taken to reading 3 letter words. (Yes, I said 3 letter, not 4 letter. See, I'm an excellent parent.) So, I figured it was time to start actually trying to teach her something since she seems to be ready for more formal instruction. With my other 2 children, I've taught them to read using the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and while it's a bit boring, and dry, it's inexpensive and it has produced very effective readers. You can't argue a whole lot with results. I've used this a little bit with Ms. Thang, but she doesn't really like it. I've also downloaded some apps to my iPhone that she really likes, and she seems to respond to this better. She loves the starfall phonics app. (You can use the same program for free on the computer, but she can manipulate the touch screen on my phone better, so I decided it was worth the cost of the app.) She's also done really well with the Bob books reading apps. Seeing how well she responded to those, I was pretty excited when I discovered that Funnix is hosting a free giveaway of their award-winning reading program right now, through 2/16/12.
I figured that there wouldn't be a better price than free, and decided to download the program. The Funnix program is similar to Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons, but it's computer based, and I thought that my daughter might prefer it. It turns out I was correct. We've done 4 lessons with Funnix so far, and she really likes the computer based lessons. I'm still engaged with her for each lesson, as I listen to her side of the interaction and make sure that she's following through the way that she's supposed to and that she's enunciating the sounds as she's meant to. The program also comes with a teacher's guide which includes placement tests if your child is beyond the beginning lessons, and a set of worksheets to go along with each lesson. All in all, the free download includes 2 years worth of reading instruction. Now, that's a bargain!
Anyway, here's where the amusing story portion of the blog, where you're grateful that you're not me enters the picture.  Or maybe that was when I talked about the intestinal flu.  Whatever.  This morning, I thought I'd sit down with Ms. Thang and do some work with her with the Funnix program. All was going swimmingly. Ms. Thang was engaged, she was performing the exercises well for the lessons. I was impressed with how quickly she was breezing through. We made it to the worksheet portion of the lesson and that's when it happened. The phone rang. I answered it and had to pause the lesson. Ms. Thang poked me a couple of times. Then she said, “Mommy. I'm ready to do this part, now.” Then, she made loud noises. Then... Well, then she stabbed me with her pencil.
So, on the plus side, I'm glad that she likes her reading lessons that much. On the other hand, I am a little concerned that her response to me stopping is to stab me. Fortunately, she didn't have a good angle and it didn't actually hurt me, and I'm pretty sure the offense won't be repeated since she howled like she was the stabbing victim when I stopped the lesson completely and sent her to her room for a time-out. Thank goodness we didn't spend much time studying the shiv display when we toured the state penitentiary this past summer or I could be in real trouble, eh?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

This is Why We Can't Have Other Friends

Friend: “I learn a lot from watching Anthony Bourdain. For instance, did you know there was a group called “The New York Dolls” who were a precursor to “The Ramones?””
Me: “I actually did know that. Not actively, but stored somewhere in the recesses of my mind, yes.”
Friend: “Well, I didn't. I learned that from Anthony Bourdain earlier.”
Me: “I think I learned it from VH1 back when VH1 didn't suck. I think I saw it on a “Behind the Music” or something.”
Friend: “I don't watch “Behind the Music.” My husband always did, but I never really watched it.”
Me: “I used to love VH1. “Pop-Up Video” was awesome. It was my fave.”
Friend: “I love you. You're such a dork.”
Me: Don't mock “Pop-Up Video!” It was awesome! That's where I learned that Mick Jagger's wife once caught him in bed with David Bowie! That show was a fount of knowledge!”
Friend: “That actually doesn't surprise me since the other day I googled “Iggy Stardust” and popped up a picture of him wearing a leotard that showed all of his ass cheeks.”
Me: “See! “Pop-Up Video.” You can't mock me for my love of “Pop-Up Video.” I've been watching a lot of “Criminal Minds” lately and this kind of psychological trauma could turn me into a terrible serial killer.”
Friend: “We don't have the follow through to become serial killers.”
Me: “Oh, nice. I like that, 'It's not that you aren't crazy and unfeeling enough to slaughter people, sweetie, it's just that you're a lazy ass.' Thanks.”
Friend: “No, you just don't have the commitment to be a dedicated serial killer.”
Me: “Okay, fine, so I could lose it and kill people in a violent rage, but I lack the necessary follow-through and planning to be a serial killer? So, again, 'You're psychotic and all, but you're a lazy ass.' Nice.”
Friend: “Exactly. YOU'RE WELCOME. Besides, I said 'we' not just 'you.'”
Me: “It's nice to have someone put these things in perspective. This is how you find out who your friends are.”
Friend: “It's true.”

Some Days Are Like that... Even in Australia.

Do you ever have a day that just refuses to be decent no matter what? Yeah. Me too. It reminds me of one of my kids' favorite childrens' books: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Today is one of those days. I can empathize with Alexander to the nth degree and it isn't even noon.

It started with a phone call that drug me from my bed, in all my fuzzy-headed glory, to answer a help call for my volunteer work. I don't mind doing this, but because I was going from dead sleep to wide awake and “on,” I felt like I was in a play where I didn't quite know my lines and was ad-libbing everything I said. My tongue felt thick, my throat felt dry, and my thoughts felt jumbled. The correct words were coming out, but it felt like they were in the wrong sequence. It's like showing up to math class only to find that you're taking an unexpected pop quiz for which you're unprepared. Not exactly the best wake up routine.

To make matters worse, the ringing phone woke up my 4 year old. That's also not a big deal in the normal course of things, but someone woke up on the melodramatic, attention-grubbing side of the bed apparently. So, while I'm trying to do phone counseling work, my daughter is climbing on me and demanding that I pay attention to only her, and when that doesn't work, she sits as close to me as humanly possible (read: one elbow in my ribcage, and one knee under my butt) and begins singing the alphabet at the top of her lungs. I assume that I must have sounded extremely professional at this point.

While all of this is going on, Mr. H, my lovable, but somewhat needy, puppy heard us and realized that we were up, and that means it was time for him to join his pack for the day. Thus he started whimpering and crying to be let out of his room. Again, I'm sure I was looking more and more professional by the minute. I somehow muddled my way through the phone call, and the poor woman on the other end didn't seem too traumatized, so possibly she got the answers she needed in spite of my chaos and confusion. I left her with a promise to email her some further information and hung up.

Keep in mind that, because the phone call was what woke me, I had yet to have coffee. Coffee is an essential ingredient in the recipe for making me human most days. If I do not have it, I do not promise to be even remotely patient. It's not simply the caffeine, either. The caffeine is essential in order for me to avoid a nasty headache. But, it's the ritual itself that I truly enjoy. I like to sit with a cup of hot coffee and just be by myself, at least mentally, for a little while before I have to start my day. I might scroll through my facebook feed or take a phone call, but overall, for at least the first cup, I want to be left alone.

Before I could even get up to brew my coffee, the girl started with her screaming. I wasn't paying attention to her. Well, yes. That's true. I was on the phone and then I had to email the nice lady who needed my help before I get sidetracked and forget. You have 943 million toys. Go play with one of them for 5 minutes and then maybe I can pay attention to you. Sigh.

Then, I called for the oldest boy. Since my knee is all messed up, I've been having him take the dog out for me so that I don't overtax my knee or fall because the dog pulls me and I overbalance. He was still asleep because apparently he stayed up for who knows how long reading. Which means that, instead of getting up in a reasonable mood, he was a seething ball of rage and disrespect. I actually had to tell him to stop talking and go to his room before I throttled him and was arrested for child abuse. A friend called while all of this was going on and was witness to his fantastic display of hatefulness. She seemed somewhat appalled, whether by him or me, I'm not sure. And I still hadn't had my coffee. Sigh.

Then, while I tried to drink my coffee, the middle one wanted to know if he could do his online schoolwork. Sure. But, of course he had to pick language arts, which meant reading, which meant that I had to be involved to help him correct the words he was sounding out. Fantastic. And Ms. Thang was still whining that I wasn't paying attention to her. So, I figured that I would distract her by letting her play some of the educational apps I downloaded for her on my iPhone. That would have worked, too, if it hadn't been for the fact that I downloaded a new one and had to show her how to play it. Then, she wouldn't go away. I tried to tell her that her daddy was sick and really wanted her to go sit next to him and play, but she insisted that she loved me best. It's good to be loved. Sigh.

So, for 20 minutes, I had Punkinhead next to me, slowly and painfully doing his reading lesson because he has ADD and today was a bad focus day for him, and Ms. Thang on my lap, playing with the iPhone. I was trapped and I still wasn't through a cup of coffee. Then, the oldest one started asking me to play a geography board game with him. Really? REALLY? Because the other two suffocating me and insisting that I “help” them with what they were doing and keeping me from my coffee just wasn't enough, right? Double sigh.

Then, the youngest one refused to listen to me and I finally took the phone from her and told her to go play. She had a screaming fit in the floor, but I am pretty sure I won, because she did eventually go to her room and scream in there for awhile instead of right in my face. I downloaded a geography app on my phone and handed that to the oldest one. I was pretty sure that I had won that battle as well, but then he announced that the phone magically bought the full version of the app instead of the free one I originally downloaded. Um. No. But, he's doing geography and I'm not involved, so whatever, bye-bye $0.99. I consider you well spent. Punkinhead finished his reading lesson and moved on to something that did not require my attention, and I ran away to type this. I am getting ready to go guzzle down another cup of coffee. I intend to finish it while it's still hot this time, and I refuse to hear anything out of the kids until it's gone. There may not be enough coffee. Some days there aren't. Some days are like that... Even in Australia.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Dog Eats Babies...

There's been a tragedy. It turns out that our very own Mr. Harrelson eats babies. Yes. You read that right. He's developed a taste for flesh. Well, plastic. Rubber? Whatever. Meet Baby Rapunzel.
Or, you know, what's left of Baby Rapunzel.  Oops.

This is the baby doll that Ms. Thang had to have for Christmas. After I had already completed all of my shopping, as we were strolling through our local Hell-mart Wal-mart, she saw Baby Rapunzel on display and informed me that she needed one for her very own. Thus implying that if she didn't have one, Christmas would forever be ruined. Of course, I'm not big into focusing on just presents, but at 3, and with the aura of adorableness about her, I figured that I should at least try to make her dreams come true.
As luck would have it, of course, the store was out of the all-important doll by the time I got a chance to shop without her. So, I called my mother and asked if she wanted to be the hero of the piece and purchase the doll for my daughter. She hadn't completed her shopping, so she agreed, and my sister ended up finding it at their local store. Ms. Thang was beyond thrilled with her gift, and Baby Rapunzel has been a prominent feature in her playtime activities ever since. She's even made a few trips with us out of state. Alas, it appears that Baby Rapunzel will no longer be accompanying us, as she has now been affectionately dubbed “Stumpy.”
I'd feel sorry for my daughter if it weren't for 2 factors. One, I hated that doll. Her hair was the bane of my existence. I have spent more time brushing Baby Rapunzel's hair than I have my own, or my daughter's. True story. And two, this:

Me: "Put your toys away if you don't want the dog to chew on them."
Ms. Thang: "ARGH!!!!"
Me: "Put your toys away if you don't want the dog to chew on them."
Ms. Thang: "ARGH!!!"
Me: "The dog does not yet understand the difference between something you left in the floor because it's his and something you've left in the floor because you were too lazy to put it up. If you don't want your things chewed on, you might want to put them away."
Ms. Thang: "Woody won't leave my things alone."
Me: "Put your toys away if you don't want the dog to chew on them."
etc. etc. etc.
Some variation of the same conversations every day. Fast forward to today.
Me: "Watch the dog while I go shower."
***elapsed time 15 minutes***
Ms. Thang:"Wah!!!!!!!!!"
Eggy: "Woody just ate Ms. Thang's Rapunzel doll."
Me: "Sigh."

Raise your hand if you saw this coming. Yeah. Me too. So, that's the sordid tale of Rapunzel's demise. Mr. H doesn't even have the good grace to feel bad about the whole incident. He might be the perfect hit man. I personally feel like giving him a treat and seeing if I can encourage him to decrease the stuffed animal population around here. (Was that out loud? Oops.)

Mr. H: I am not misbehaving!  My only desire is to please you.  No more pesky brushing of this messy hair.  See how much I love you?
Mr H: I can totally be bought.  Did someone say Milk-Bone?  

Anyway, I'm hopeful that this is a hard won lesson in putting away your things so that the puppy doesn't eat them. But not that hopeful, because she's 4 and I'm not an idiot. I'm sure this is only the first of many, many tragedies. I'm also sure that she's going to use her birthday money to buy another Baby Rapunzel. Sigh.  

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