Kids Still Say the Darndest Things

Even though I’m with my children 24/7, they still have a way of taking me by surprise. Just the other day, my three-year-old proposed.

He first asked me about the plan for the day.  I said it was just a day to stay at home. He saw that as an opportunity and casually responded, “Okay.  So why don’t we just get married today, you and me?”

I have to say, I was surprised and flattered.  Nobody has proposed to me in quite a while.  I told him that sounded nice, but then he went off to ride his trike and the whole wedding never happened.  It’s probably for the best, since I already married his dad.

I love to hear the thoughts and ideas that come out of kids’ heads.

A year ago, I interviewed my three oldest kids, asking them each the same set of questions in a personal interview.  A few nights ago, those interviews popped into my head again as I sat next to my two-year-old girl’s bed, holding her hand so she could settle down to sleep.  I looked at her little self, and I realized that in a year, she progressed from a few baby babble words to commanding her siblings with the oratory skills of a tiny part-time dictator.

I wondered what she would say if I asked her that same set of questions, and then I wondered how the responses of my other kids would change as they grew and matured during a year’s time.

Part of a "perfect day": heading to the pool in St. Charles.

Part of a “perfect day”: heading to the pool in St. Charles.

This morning, I dug out those interview questions again.

Remembering interviews from last year, my kids eagerly took turns receiving 10 minutes of Mom’s undivided, fully engaged time.  Below are their responses: the sweet, the silly, and the surprisingly perceptive.  For simplicity, I listed each child by age.

What was the happiest day of your life?
7: Days when I go shopping with you.  And next year when you give me an interview, I’ll say when I got my ears pierced.
6: It’s hard to say.  Like maybe the Christmas when Santa put up the train track in our log house.
3: My happiest day is hooking things together and unhooking them, and tying knots together now.
2: Cody.  I love Cody.  (her cousin)

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
7: Make Spot not roll in sheep poop.
6: Christmas to be in the summer everywhere, on our side of the world and the other side.
3: I could be mad.  And I don’t know how to fly.
2: My brother’s bed.  (New bunk beds arrived today.)

Spot, sporting a coating of green muck, received dishonorable mention for his new hobby.

Spot, sporting a coating of green muck, received dishonorable mention for his new hobby.

When were you most afraid?
7: I was kind of afraid to move, and going to kindergarten.  The night before the first day of kindergarten, I was really afraid.
6: When a blackout happened and the TV just randomly shut off.
3: Bed and monsters…and tigers.  That’s what I’m always afraid of.
2: Tractors scare me one time.  Go home, tractor!

What do you want to do for a job?
7: I want to be an artist, and I also want to be a veterinarian because it looks like fun and every day you get to see an animal.
6: I want to be a lifeguard.  Can lifeguards be a grownup?
3: I just don’t like doing my chores.  I just like to play.  Chore time is just stupid.  I just want to play, play, play.
2: Cody.  Hold him.  Hold me also.

What’s the one thing you can’t live without?
7: My family and cousins.
6: Having a toy or a few toys.
3: I can’t live without my teddy bear.  I just can’t even live without it.
2: I need girl.  Girl, girl, girl.

Describe your perfect day.
7: I would go to the park, go to the Mississippi, go to the Hawaiian shaved ice place, maybe buy a girl puppy and get my ears pierced.  And I would eat dumplings for dinner.
6: Have ice cream for breakfast, go to the St. Charles pool, have corn dogs for lunch and go back to the pool.  Go home and have brunch for supper, and then stay up until midnight.
3: Hooking hooks onto my ropes and pulling trailers behind my trike with my hooks.
2: Cody.

Who are your friends?
7: Claire, Julia, Audrey, and Indie.
6: I have lots.  It’s hard to say just a few.
3: Katie. (his cousin) And sometimes I see my friends at Early Childhood.
2: Cody, my friend.  Nathan.

What was Mom like as a child?
7: Um, fun?  Wild!
6: I don’t know.  Can you give me a hint?
3: You liked to do the same stuff that I like to do.  Did you like to do that stuff when you were my age?
2: Like me? Slide down.  Hold me!

What does Mom do when you’re not around?
7: Types her articles and goes shopping sometimes.
6: Do the laundry or clean the dishes.
3: Usually you need me badly and you don’t know where to find me.
2: Mommy wake me up.

What’s Mom’s favorite food?
7: Dumplings!
6: Tacos.
3: Stuff that has ketchup on it like hot dogs.
2: Crackers.
(all sound suspiciously like their own favorite foods)

What’s Mom really good at doing?
7: Being a mom.  A good runner, too.
6: Taking care of the kids and making meals like Chinese.
3: Cooking and giving me anything I want for breakfast.
2: Eating.

What’s Mom really bad at doing?
7: Not being a mom.
6: I don’t know…but I think you’re not very flexible at doing stretches.
3: Getting stuff right or wrong.  Knowing which way to go in the car.
2: Making clean table. (She’s right.)

What’s Mom’s favorite place?
7: Grandma’s.
6: St. Charles pool and the ice cream shoppe.
3: Grandma’s.
2: Upstairs.

How do you know your mom loves  you?
7: Because she gives me hugs and kisses every night and gives me breakfast.
6: She kisses me and hugs me goodnight.
3: Because I love her by giving kisses and hugs.
2: Seven.

If you have kids around, please just sit down one-on-one and do this.  For me, I realize all over again how much I love seeing how my kids’ minds’ work.  The interviews are also my reminder that the simple act of truly listening makes anyone just light up.

Part of me wishes I could fast forward and interview my kids in ten years and see how much they change, and how much of their personalities remain just the same.  Will my curly-haired boy still happily ramble on indefinitely about any subject?  What will they recall as the happiest day a few years from now?  Will they still want hugs and kisses every night?  I’m not sure, but I am pretty sure that my son will no longer want to marry me.  I’m okay with that.

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A Series of Fortunate Events

Normally, milking a goat for the first time would be a pretty memorable event for me. But this past week, I almost forgot I even did that. It’s really spring and life is running at full speed at our house.

The to-do list started while driving home in the evening on the Sunday after the big May snow storm. I noticed that the final patches of snow melted in the fields. I pointed it out to my kids, reminding them how we still saw plenty of snow around at noon that day. As I contemplated feeling confident enough to finally pack snow pants and mittens for the season, my six-year-old said, “We need to get our crops planted, Mom.” That’s what he calls our garden.

Wait a minute. He’s right. What?! Snow pants…garden…I’m sorry, but I just have trouble wrapping my head around a garden when I helped my kids build a snowman two days earlier. I just haven’t allowed myself to get excited about a garden this year when every time I look at seed catalogs, we get a snowstorm. With summer vacation just a few weeks away, it’s finally sinking in that the time is now to get all of our projects in high gear.

New Kids on the Block
The goats living at our place have been quite busy themselves.

 Our kids holding the new goat kids, with their little sister impatiently waiting for a turn.

Our kids holding the new goat kids, with their little sister impatiently waiting for a turn.

Right now we’re hosting four “foster goats” at our place. They belong to my brother and his family. On Tuesday, I looked out at the goats in the pasture and wondered when my husband put our little lamb in with the goats. Then I noticed the “lamb” was the wrong color and half the size he should be. We had a new baby goat!! I wandered into the barn, and discovered Big Momma (because that’s her name, of course) had not one baby, but twins. In this age of instant communication, I snapped a picture with my phone and sent it to my brother and sister-in-law to share their new baby news.

Then I noticed that Big Momma had a big swollen udder on one side and a teat swollen like a water balloon. I’m no goat whisperer, but I am a mom, and I know from experience that that sort of thing hurts, a lot. I called my brother, Mike, and we talked about it, and I decided I’d try to milk her by hand to relieve some of the pressure.

Now, before you get the wrong impression about my animal skills, let me tell you about my previous goat experience: Once, when I was in third grade, I saw pygmy goats at a petting zoo while visiting my sister in Oklahoma. One of the goats nibbled the corner off of my paper bag from the gift store, which bothered me enough that I still remember it to this day.

I remember that many of the goats at the zoo were hugely pregnant. Somewhere, there is a picture of me from that day sitting on one of those pregnant goats. Because when I saw a big heavy pregnant momma, I thought it would be fun to take a picture riding her. Now isn’t that, um, sweet? So, that is my experience with goats. Yep, I’m a regular James Herriot.

Between my husband (who also has never milked anything) and I, along with the assistance of four kids, a billy goat who bumps you when you bend over, and a curious dog, we managed to get about a pint of milk in a bucket, and probably another cup on the floor. We fed the goat milk to our bottle-fed lamb, who at first had no interest, and then decided the milk was quite tasty, and he sucked it up.

We took the edge off for Big Momma, and Lamba Lamba Ding Dong (Lamby) had some milk that came from a live animal, not a bag of powder. It was already past bedtime for the kids, so we called that a success, or good enough, anyway.

Sand Mountains
Before the little goat kids stole the show at our house, the big attraction of Tuesday was a new mountain of sand. My husband ordered two truckloads of sand for the base of what will eventually be a concrete floor in our shop. For the short term, though, our kiddos play in sand pile heaven.

We topped the sand pile with a child-sized wooden bridge, a free find from the curb in Utica. The bridge is meant to be a landscaping feature, but temporarily on a sand pile, it makes a perfect spot where the kids can dig a tunnel. Everyone, of course, needs a little spot to dig and hide.

A New Herd of Grass Mowers
Automatic, self-guided grass mowers were another addition to our springtime projects. On Wednesday, we added ten ewes to our list of random farm animals that we are collecting. Seeing sheep in our pasture is nothing new, since last year our neighbor rented out the pasture for his sheep. This year, however, we actually bought the sheep. After the sheep arrived, I looked at my husband, Jarred, and said, “We just bought livestock for the first time.”

Next project on the list? Fencing off more land for the sheep. They want plenty of grass, and we don’t want to mow everything. Win, win.

A Herd of Kindergarteners
Friday was a big day at our house: a birthday party with a slew of kindergarten boys, and a brand new play set for the yard.

When we moved here a year ago, we left our swing set in Montana, with a promise to the kids to get a new one here in Minnesota. Our kids reminded us fairly often of that promise. A Sunday conversation led to a great solution to our play set dilemma. My brother’s kids were outgrowing theirs, and we needed one…perfect!

The play set that is now in our yard is the same one that I remember playing on with my nephew and nieces while I babysat them back in high school. The wood set is about 15 years old, but my brother’s an engineer, so that sucker still looks just as sturdy and as good as new. With a new colorful canopy in place and the slide still a bright yellow, it’s a hugely exciting addition to our backyard.

On Friday afternoon, my kindergarten boy, along with ten buddies and a few cousins, all played on it for the first time. Our kids had no idea that my husband was getting that play set, so when they hopped off of the school bus and spotted it in the back yard…well, I bet you can imagine the excitement… I have to say, I love it, too.

As if a birthday party and new play set weren’t enough, the goat named Baby also had a new baby that day. Little kids at the party got to see a brand new goat kid, play in an enormous pile of sand, climb on a new play set, and play with Lamby, who roams around the yard like a second dog. We capped off the night with a bonfire, and called it a great day.

On Saturday, I was pretty much worthless after wrangling a busy party, but my husband had the energy to make a new tree swing for the giant oak tree in our backyard. He built it big enough for an adult, so we all took plenty of turns on it. The kids declared that it was a Mother’s Day gift for me, and so, it was. I do love tree swings.

Mother’s Day Queen
On Mother’s Day, my cup runneth over with little kid presents: a paper locket necklace, a decorated picture frame, toast in bed, and a paper crown declaring me “Mother’s Day Queen.” I wore my crown, ate specially made toast, and read to my kids the Mother’s Day letter I wrote for them, the one printed last week in the paper.

Wearing new my crown and  locket, reading a special letter to my three-year-old.

Wearing my new crown and locket (and my pajamas), reading a special letter to my three-year-old.

My kitchen floor is a muddy disaster and I could give you a mile long list of imperfections around here, but all that aside, when we have four kids running around chasing a lamb, holding baby animals, playing on sand piles, and swinging from a tree swing, sometimes I feel like we are permanently on vacation out here in the country.

Seven Lessons Learned in Seven Days‏

Children possess uncanny permanent marker detection…just one of the life lessons I learned this week.

Life’s been especially busy around here lately. My husband spent a week in Montana working on a scale monitoring system project while I took care of the kids at home. In the busyness, there’s plenty of opportunity for learning. Here are some lessons I learned in the last week:

Laying down together under the warm heat lamp, the new lamb and our three-year old.

Laying down together under the warm heat lamp, the new lamb and our three-year old.

Bears Knock Down Pictures
Our youngest child recently turned two. Every day, her growing vocabulary and creative exploits tell us more and more that she definitely is no longer a baby, but a real, live two-year-old. One of her most recent “milestones” is learning to stretch the truth.

A few days ago, I didn’t pick her up out of her crib right away when she woke up. With a few minutes to kill, she filled her time by undressing herself and emptying her crib of blankets.

I also noticed the picture that normally hangs above her bed was missing, so I asked her what happened. She looked at me very seriously, shook her head, and with a disgusted look, said, “Bear knocked it down, Mom.” Oh, the teddy bear did it. Of course.

If only baby books had a spot to record “Child’s First Fib.” I can’t say my heart swelled with pride, but I was a bit impressed by her convincing delivery. I’m sure with time, she’ll improve on her technique, and stop blaming her mishaps on inanimate objects like teddy bears.

Children Possess Uncanny Permanent Marker Detection
It’s a well-known truth that a bag left unattended will receive little attention from a child, unless it contains something inside that a child shouldn’t touch. Yesterday, my husband left his laptop bag on the floor. The laptop bag is a familiar sight, one that doesn’t generally draw much attention from our kids.

However, this time it happened to contain a blue Sharpie marker deep within.

While I was in the kitchen doing dishes, my busy two-year-old walked in to tell me, “Need a bath, Mom.” I turned around to see her, bare from the waist down, legs covered in long blue streaks that reached from one foot, up her leg, across, and down to her foot on the other side. She also had a big lovely patch of blue on her lower back.

This is a girl who loves the bathtub, and I do believe the coloring episode may have been premeditated with that end result in mind. I incorrectly assumed, however, that she used our kid-friendly washable markers. After she soaked for half an hour and still had bright blue streaks, I realized the marker was a permanent one.

After a little more questioning, she showed us the marker in her super secret spot behind the couch. She of course left the cap off, drying out the marker so we can no longer use it. The blue stripes of her body art, however, look as though they will last for quite some time.

Good tires are Worth the Money
On my husband’s drive to Montana last week, he drove through a big icy section in South Dakota. In one particularly bad spot where several cars lined the I-90 ditches, he lost traction and slid into the ditch himself.

We generally give very little thought to our car because we use it so rarely, and we were both amazed when we realized how old the tires were. After the ditch episode, our car received some much needed attention in the form of four new tires.

On Jarred’s trip home, he again encountered a long icy stretch in South Dakota. This time, however, the roads were even worse. Once again he drove past ditches lined with cars, but this time, his tires gripped the road and he arrived home safely. Good tires are worth the expense.

I Can’t Do It All
In the week while my husband worked in Montana, I held down the fort at home. I fed lots of things: our four kids, the fire in the wood burner, the goats, the bottle lamb, the chickens, the cats, and the dog. I cooked, cleaned, and kept life moving on as normal. Single parenthood is tough, even when it’s temporary.

I knew the extra workload and stress took it’s toll when, at the end of the week, I got a bad cold and ached all over. Even more telling was the fact that nobody else even had a sniffle.

Boring Anniversaries are Wonderful
On Saturday we celebrated our 11th anniversary. We pondered getting a babysitter and going out to dinner, but I was wiped out, and so was my husband after his road trip. We simply stayed home. All of us enjoyed the rare sunshine and nice weather that day, and we ate an easy meal of leftover chili for supper. We didn’t even get to our low key plans of watching a movie together on the couch, thanks to a certain two-year-old who had a rare rough night falling asleep.

After the big party we had last year where we renewed our vows, our kids were a little disappointed that our anniversary just seemed like a regular day. My husband and I, in contrast, thought it was a great day. A week apart gave us both renewed appreciation for each other, and we were happy to crash at the end of the day in the same bed.

Blessings Come in Strange Packages
On Sunday morning, I shook my head in disbelief at once again seeing a world of wintry white outside. I already felt sapped of energy from being a little sick, and the snow just made me feel exhausted as I pondered getting everyone ready and out the door in time for Sunday School and church.

Blessings, though, come is strange packages. Our neighbor called and jokingly wished us “Merry Christmas” and also told us that church was cancelled because of the weather. Instead of rushing out the door in the morning, I headed upstairs and filled up the bathtub. I soaked away the congestion, aches, and all of life’s tensions for about an hour. The magic of warm steamy water and a husband downstairs acting as ring leader of a cleaning operation greatly improved life. Turns out, the snow was just what I needed that morning. It was an unexpected blessing.

Persistence Pays Off
Lamba Lamba Ding Dong is our newest little project around here. He came from our neighbors who are too busy to feed a late-arriving bottle lamb. He arrived as a scrawny little thing that didn’t do anything but lay under the heat lamp and barely drink part of his bottle. A few weeks later, his growing body is filling out his skin, and he runs and greets us at the gate at feeding time. On nice days, our kids take Lamby outside and he follows them around like a loyal puppy.

A child shall lead them: Spot and our other "dog," Lamby, following their buddy.

A child shall lead them: Spot and our other “dog,” Lamby, following their buddy.

While the bottle feedings 3-4 times a day get tiresome, I do have to say that I’m a momma that loves seeing something grow from my care. It’s one of the most gratifying parts of my job. Nurturing definitely has it’s rewards.

Lamb, kids, tires, anniversaries ..that’s some of my life’s learning for this week. I just hope next week’s lessons don’t involve any more sniffles or permanent markers.

Written April 2013.