Friday, October 24, 2014

It's That Time of Year Again

Crappy costume time! Hooray! Well, crappy if you're my kids, because they were unfortunate enough to be saddled with a non-crafty mother who doesn't care about them or holidays.

Okay, maybe just the non-crafty part. Also cheap, because I don't want to spend fifty dollars on costumes every year that are worn for two hours.

Upon inquiry, Cubby has consistently announced his intention of dressing as a carpenter for Halloween. Carpenter! I can do that! Jeans and flannel shirt in his drawer, pencil behind his ear, one of Daddy's tool belts (perhaps slightly modified to actually stay on his not-so-manly hips) filled with some of our various fake tools . . . done! (Though he has told me he wants to bring real nails and a real hammer in the tool belt. We may have a little bit of a disagreement on this.)

But then yesterday he said he wanted to be an astronaut. Oh. Well. We do still have the astronaut suit from last year. Maybe it will fit him. I guess we'll see what happens on Wednesday morning next week*.

Charlie hasn't expressed an opinion, so I dug out some overalls for him and will make something up from there. We have this explorer's helmet thing--you know the kind, like a hard hat with a light on the front--and I thought about getting him nicely blackened and calling him a coal miner. But then I'd probably be scrubbing the blacking agent from every surface in my house.

My inspiration came in the form of the gold panning, uh, pans, that A. ordered for himself and the children.

Yes, the gold rush has started at Blackrock. Not that they're going to find gold nuggets in the gully, but A. thought it would be a fun activity. Too bad he ordered them right as the water temperature started plunging in the fall.


I figure I can use the overalls and the helmet thing, plus his rubber boots, have him hold the smaller pan, and call him a forty-niner. Not exactly an obvious costume, and I'm sure I'll have to explain it to everyone who sees him, but whatever.

And that's it. That's all I got. Sorry, kids. Another year of crappy costumes courtesy of Mom.

* His preschool is going trick-or-treating at the village businesses again. This is the only trick-or-treating Cubby is aware of, since obviously no one is trekking up our dark-ass driveway in the middle of nowhere on actual Halloween. I suspect this is the last year Cubby will remain ignorant of door-to-door candy collection, however. I've put off the candy trudging as long as I can, I suppose. Next year I'll have to suck it up.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Let the Burning Begin . . . If I'm Lucky

Yesterday marked the beginning of leaf raking and, therefore, burning. We can burn the leaves in our driveway, see, because we live in an area zoned agricultural. This basically means, "Do what you want on your land and your neighbors will have to deal with it."

Luckily, we don't have close neighbors, and the ones we do have are used to our woodchuck ways.


I meant to just rake the leaves off the patio on the south side so they wouldn't turn into a slippery walking hazard during the forecasted five days of rain we have coming up. But then I had to rake the patio leaves onto the lawn, so I thought I might as well rake the leaves on the lawn into the driveway. And then, since it was relatively dry and sunny, I thought I might as well burn the two resulting piles right away. 

I am always surprised, however, by how damn hard it is to get the leaves to light. 

I KNOW. They're dead leaves! Isn't that the very definition of a fire hazard?

Not in upstate New York. It's wet here. Even if it's not actively raining or snowing, there is always a heavy dew on the ground in the morning. The leaves are always damp. They are always hard to get going with matches. In very wet falls, I have resorted to using a little old motor oil or gas to get the piles started. Yesterday it took me about six matches per pile before they got going.

At least the risk of accidental fires is low.

The children, of course, love leaf burning time*. Not only are there nice big piles of leaves to leap around in, but the lighting of the leaves means they can play firemen.

What's going on back there with Cubby and Charlie?

Cubby is helping Charlie put on his fireman's mask to keep out the smoke. Obviously.

Luckily for me, we were out of water at this particular moment, which made it pretty easy to stop a determined Fireman Cubby from bringing over the hose to put out the fire.

I say "luckily," although my pregnant back did not think I was so lucky when I was hauling the five-gallon gas can down to the beach to start the water pump. Then coming back up to get a screwdriver to fix the pump before actually starting it. With both children in tow.

But that's a story for another day.

* I'm sure someone out there is thinking it's irresponsible to burn leaves right out there in the open with small children running around. All I can say to that is that these particular children are well-schooled in the facts of fire, have been around it all their lives, and know to treat it with respect. That said, I don't leave them unsupervised outside while the leaves are burning. End disclaimer.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Woodchuck Weekends for Kids

One of the fun things about having children is sharing things with them that are special to the parents. I really loved reading the Little House books with Cubby, for instance. I'm delighted that one of Cubby and Charlie's favorite movies to watch is A Claymation Christmas Celebration, which was a cherished part of my own childhood. A. was super-excited to take both kids to the scrap yard on Saturday.

We have different interests, obviously.

A. was also excited to go the scrap yard himself, because it's been a really long time since he's gone and the man does love his scrapping. There is something fun about delivering a load of nasty, rusty old metal and getting paid actual money for it, I must admit, though I haven't missed that particular form of entertainment as much as A. has.

But now that A. bought a big utility trailer to haul behind the Subaru--in lieu of replacing Big Red with another decrepit pick-up truck--he's back in the scrapping business. And if you think that A. was going to go to the scrap yard without those two small boys who mimic every move he makes, well . . . you think wrong.

So on Saturday morning as soon as it got light*, we all headed outside in the rain to gather rusty metal. Cubby and Charlie helped, depositing smaller pieces of pipe and fencing into the trailer with all the seriousness of real workers. Their favorite part was watching A. take a sledgehammer to an old iron bathtub he had used as a sheep trough. The resulting pieces were loaded into the trailer and off we went to the scrap yard.

Cubby wanted to play among the metal at the yard, an idea which was promptly negated by both A. and I. Scrap yards are not child-safe zones, as you might imagine. Cubby and Charlie did get to go into the building to get the money, though, and to admire the display of various pieces of metal brought to the scrap yard but deemed nice enough for display by the yard's owners. Their favorite was the old hand pump that had been rigged up with a fountain and had tiny goldfish swimming around in the attached bowl.

Who needs a science museum when you can go to the scrap yard?

Then we left to spend some of our lucre at the gas station. Because all the best treats come from the gas station, obviously. Cubby's absolute favorite gas station treat is a Snicker's ice cream bar. So we all sat in the little dining area of this very rural gas station, eating Snicker's ice cream bars at 10 a.m. and watching the parade of pick-up trucks outside.

Although the children could have stayed there for an hour watching trucks, we did get back in the car in fairly short order and headed home.

And that, my lovelies, is how you entertain two small woodchucks on a rainy Saturday morning.

* Which is now after 7 a.m., so this is not so dramatic as it might be.

Friday, October 17, 2014


I totally caved and bought a bag of Reese's Pieces at the grocery store yesterday. This is pretty much my favorite candy in all of the universe and that means that I can't be trusted to eat a reasonable amount.

There's, uh, not a lot of the bag left now. But there's still some. 

Now, when I have a treat that I do not want to share with Cubby--who has unfortunately inherited his mother's love for all sweet things--I kind of hide it in this basket on the baker's rack in the breakfast room. The basket is open and all, but it's high enough up that Cubby can't see in there.

A. can, though. While foraging after dinner last night, he discovered my secret candy bag. He ate some, but it's okay (I guess), because unlike me, he has some control and didn't eat very much.

He did, however, put the bag back on the baker's rack on the shelf. Not in the basket. So it was in plain view of Cubby, whose eagle eye landed on it during lunch today. I was on the opposite side of the table, so I didn't know he could see it until he got a big smile on his face and said, "I know what we're going to have for dessert."

I told him we didn't eat dessert after lunch. He assured me that he knew that, but that he could see what would be for dessert after dinner. "Oh yeah?" says I. "Yeah," he says. "Candy. LOOK!"

Dramatic pointing to the bag of Reese's Pieces on the baker's rack.

He asked me where that candy came from. I said I bought it at the store yesterday. He asked who I bought it for. I said--truthfully--that I bought it for me. At which point he informed me very earnestly that "Best friends share. So you should share, Mommy."

So now I have to. Oh well. I can't say I haven't already eaten my share. Kept on the straight and narrow by my four-year-old.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

By Popular Demand

Wow, a whole three of you are consumed with curiosity about how Charlie did on the camping trip, huh? Okay.

In the words of A., "He was a manly infant." Though I'm sure Charlie would object to the "infant" designation.

Charlie hung right in there with the bigger boys the whole time, going on nighttime flashlight hikes and everything. They all stayed up until 10 p.m., and then they went to bed. If not to sleep, exactly.

Charlie was, of course, up and down all night long. He does this at home, too, sometimes, but I imagine it was a lot worse being in a confined space with him. He talked to A. all night, spent some time climbing on Cubby's (amazingly still sleeping) face, insisted it was time to get up at 3 a.m., and finally drove everyone out of the tent at 5 a.m.

They sat around the fire until it got light an hour and a half later, had some breakfast, and then A. hauled Charlie home while Jodi took the older kids on another hike.

Charlie was delivered to me at 7:30 a.m. dirty, cold, and completely exhausted. He demanded hot tea and then had a bath. He was in very good spirits. For awhile.

Of course, his lack of sleep and excess of stimulation did catch up to him and the rest of the day was essentially the fallout in the form of numerous fits. He wasn't quite right again until after a nice sound sleep all night on Sunday. But I'm sure he's ready to go back to the woods already.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Keeping Me Guessing

The weather for this weekend was forecast to be clear and very nice. So A. and his friend Jodi decided to take advantage of probably the last kid-appropriate weekend for camping, before it gets too cold. They were planning on just taking the older boys: Cubby, and Jodi's oldest, who is seven.

But A. couldn't leave Charlie behind. So he suggested to Jodi that they camp in the gully just about a half mile up from our house. That way, A. could bring Charlie home at bedtime, as has been his habit in the past. He also suggested that Jodi bring his younger son--who is four--with the same departure time in mind.

So yesterday around 4:30 p.m., A.--loaded down like a sherpa with Charlie in the pack and bags in either hand--headed out with Cubby and Charlie to set up camp. Jodi and his two boys arrived about an hour later and joined them. Jodi told me his younger son was going to stay up there.

At six o'clock, I did the dishes, figuring I'd better get them done before A. arrived home with Charlie in an hour or so.

At seven o'clock, it was almost totally dark and I expected A. and Charlie to show up at any minute. So I puttered around picking up random things downstairs and putting them away. (How does a hatchet end up in my dining room and a spatula in my living room? My husband and sons, respectively.)

At eight o'clock, it had been dark for some time and I was beginning to suspect that Charlie had refused to leave the party in the woods. But I waited up reading until about 8:30, by which point I was falling asleep in my chair (rough night the night before) and decided to go to bed. I fully expected that as soon as I got settled in my bed, A. would show up with a very cold and disgruntled Charlie.

He never did. It is currently 6 a.m., so it appears that Charlie has had his first overnight camping trip.

Maybe he just decided he was a winter camping kind of guy. I heard the furnace come on for the first time this year at 4:30 this morning, so you know it's not exactly tropical out in those woods. Especially down by the creek where they're camping. When I checked the weather station at 5 a.m., it read 37 degrees. Better them than me.

It's still dark, but I bet not long after first light, six very cold men--two big and four little--will be showing up at our door. And I know one of them is going to be extremely pleased with himself.

Big boy, indeed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

In Support of the Family Dinner

I'm sure you've all read about the various positive effects of sitting down to dinner as a family, right? Smarter kids! Better-behaved kids! Non-stoned kids!

Seriously. I heard a radio commercial awhile ago where they got some college student to talk about how sitting down to eat with his family when he was younger meant that he didn't drink as much as his fellow students.

Sure, kid.


I myself am a big advocate of sitting down as a family, but for one simple reason: It's the only way to keep my sons from behaving like complete beasts.

On a normal night, all three adults and the two children sit down around 6 p.m. and eat dinner. Mostly the adults talk, with many interruptions by loquacious Cubby and occasional random and semi-intelligible comments from Charlie. The adults eat. The children eat. I do my fair share of nagging, but it's much, much less than when I am forced to eat with the children by myself.

God help me.

On the nights when the MiL has a meeting or whatever and A. has night court, the children sit down with me and proceed to engage in their own form of dinner conversation. This is never very sophisticated. Tonight's conversation included the endless repetition of the "button" game, during which one child says "Daddy button" or "Mommy button" or whoever button and the other one repeats it and laughs hysterically.

I don't know either.

They bubble their milk. They menace with forks. They blow tunes into their penne pasta. In short, they behave abominably.

They do not do this when other adults are present, so obviously I am not the civilizing influence here. There must be more than one adult at the table; I suppose because then they have an example of how a rational, polite person behaves while eating and interacting with other people.

And this is why I will always, always champion the family dinner, as long as A. is around to eat with us. Otherwise, I may as well throw all the food into a trough and let the children dive in.