Monday, July 27, 2015

An Interview with a New-ish Four-Year-Old

I conducted this interview a few days after CJ's fourth birthday, but he has been exploring his wild side since that big day and due to THAT drama, I'm just now posting it a full month later. Learning to deal with a kid who has all of a sudden realized that bedtime is optional has taken most of my energy!

(It's not all bad, though. Since his birthday he has learned to open his own string cheese, which cuts down my workload a lot).

 Ok, CJ, are you ready for your four-year-old interview?

1.      How old are you?
Do you like being four?
Yeah,'s hard being four.
What's hard about it?
I don't know. But--but--it's 9:30. That means it's time for snack.
What's your favorite thing about being four?
Um...messages...and calendars...and Magformers. And--and--INSPIRE Magformers!
(He got a set of Magformers for his birthday and saw in the manual that there is a sets that he doesn't have yet--and has been overtly hinting that he wants the INSPIRE set added to his collection. He doesn't care one bit that they are marketed for girls, and I kind like that about him.)

2.      Where do you live?
At 206. First we were at the house 135. Then 3053. Then 206. That's our new house! Uh, mom...I like INSPIRE Magfomers. 

(Those are indeed the house numbers for our previous residences. He forgot the 1712, but to be fair to CJ we moved out of that house when he was six months old.)

3.      What is your favorite thing to do?
What? Legacy Academy and INSPIRE Magformers. Playing Play-Doh. Can you write that down?
Sure thing dude.

4.      What makes you mad?

5.      What makes you scared? (I immediately regret asking this question.)
What do you do when you feel scared?
I scream about the Ghost.
On ghost duty.

6.      What is your favorite book?
40 Short Stories. And this calendar.

 (To be clear, he is not a Willa Cather fan. This is his favorite book because 40 stories = 40 chapters, and chapter headings are his jam right now.)

7.      Who do you love?
Who else?
Pippin. What's number eight?

  He forgot to mention Ender. Even though he is a colossal grump most of the time these days, he always has a smile for "his" baby.

8.      What do you want to be when you grow up?

10. What does daddy do for work?
Uh, he eats something.

11. What does mommy do for work?
Write also.

For your further reading pleasure:

Interview with an almost three-year-old

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Postscript: There's more Humblebee on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Hope to see you there! Especially on Instagram. I love Instagram.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Shopping at Aldi (With Children)

Aldi is a grocery chain that keeps it's overhead low so it can provide food and a variety of household items at as much as 50% less than other stores. As our family has been doing about 90% of our weekly shopping at Aldi for over a decade, I can verify that 50% number. Thanks to Aldi's cost saving measures I can provide my family with a varied, healthy diet consisting mostly unprocessed foods for less than $400 a month.

I could go on and on, extolling the virtues of shopping at Aldi, but to keep this shortish I'll just say: Aldi is awesome, it can save you much money, and if you aren't already an Aldi shopper I hope you try it out some day!

Aldi operates a little differently than most American grocery stores (read their FAQs here), which can scare off some potential new shoppers. Well never fear, with me as your guide you will be shopping like an Aldi pro in no time.

Here is a look at how I manage shopping at Aldi:
(** designates advanced steps, which involve including three young children, two of whom still poop their pants)

Step #1: Prep work
a. Write a menu for the coming week.

b. Make a shopping list that you have every intention of sticking to.

c. Throw some bags or boxes in the vehicle, as you will be responsible for packing up your own groceries. I prefer boxes (specifically banana boxes from Aldi), which fit quite nicely in the cargo area of the van.

 Step #2: Arrive at Aldi; Get a cart

**a. Insert baby into Ye Olde Boba Carrier so she isn't taking up valuable real estate in the shopping cart.

**b. Hold a hand next to ya, walk to cart corral.   

c. To get a rent cart (another cost-saving measure), insert a quarter into pictured slot. This will disengage the chain that connects to it the other carts, allowing you to take it into the store. Don't worry, you'll get the quarter back once you return the cart.

**d. Get a quick workout in by lifting your 40-lb toddlers into the cart. Some stores have the double seat in the front of the carts, but not all. Remind the toddlers that if they pinch each other, eat the groceries, or act up in any way, they will not get to watch "Cars" in the van on the way home.

Step #3: Do your shopping

First stop: Wine. I do recommend the Winking Owl Pinot Grigio. Totally doesn't taste like a $2.89 bottle of wine.

Pro tip: You might want to "steal" a couple of these banana boxes for future shopping trips! Seriously, just take the bananas out of one box and pile them up on top of one of the other boxes, then take the empty one. The employees won't mind; in fact, it saves them some work!

Step #4: Check out
**a. Enlist toddlers to help unload groceries onto the conveyor belt.

b. After the clerk scans and item they are just going to place it in an empty cart at the end of the conveyor belt, which leaves you with this jumble:

But the inconvenience is worth the low, low bill.

Step #5: Pack up your groceries

There are counters in the back of the store that exist for shoppers to pack up their groceries. I don't typically use them because there isn't an adjoining toddler jail. Old ladies tend to scold if your toddlers are attempting to do back flips off the counter while you're occupied bagging up a week's worth of groceries.

Instead, after checking out I wheel the cart **(the displaced toddlers walking or riding on the back of the cart) back to the van, instruct the big kids to get in their car seats and work on the buckles, then I transfer all the groceries from the cart into the boxes that I threw into the cargo area in Step #1.
This part kinda sucks when the weather's bad, but after a decade of Aldi shopping, this is honestly the most hassle-free way (for me).

I try to sort the groceries so that one box contains items destined for the fridge or freezer, while the other contains pantry items. 

Step #6: Get your quarter back.
All the carts have a chain dangling off of the quarter-eating device on the handle. All you have to do is push your cart against the others already in the corral (just like in a regular supermarket) then insert the chain belonging to the cart directly in front of yours into the BACK of the quarter-eating device on your cart..

And out pops the quarter.

Step #7 - Unpack groceries

Once home, I get another work out in my carrying my two boxes loaded with groceries into the house. Then I again bribe the toddlers so they will keep things to a dull roar while I get everything put away.

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Postscript: There's more Humblebee on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Hope to see you there! Especially on Instagram. I love Instagram.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My 1,337th Day on SAHM Island

In a fit of nostalgia, I was recently reading over some of my first blog posts when I came across this gem, chronicling my first official day as a stay-at-home mom when CJ was four months old.

My days with Baby CJ had me at my absolute limit, and I couldn't fathom adding even a simple trip to the grocery store to the mix (Nemo did all the shopping and cooking back then).

Now, three-and-a-half years later, I am at my limit--but now I know that my limit isn't absolute! Every day that limit moves, sometimes two steps forward, sometimes one step back. Something I have over 2011 Eva is that I am much MUCH better at gauging where my true limit lies, and I know not to be scared of where my limit will or won't be in the future. Progress!

I thought it would be fun to update the snapshot of how my days go these days. My 1,337th day as a SAHM was a pretty typical day for us, although there were some brand-spanking new challenges that presented themselves.

But, whatever. I ain't afraid of no ghost.

(That's going to make sense in a little bit)

6:48am - Baby #3 is awake, and since Nemo got up with her yesterday I reluctantly take my turn. I get her up, change her, then put her in the bouncy seat.

6:55 -  I start a pot of water for tea, then get to work reheating some eggs and muffins for the big kids' breakfasts.

7:10 - Get the kids up. The hallway light is on and both kids are still sleeping, which tells me that they probably didn't sleep well last night. Yay.

7:15 - Sit the kids down to breakfast, scarf my own down, then give the hungry baby a bottle.

7:45 - Steal into the office to try to drink my cup of tea in peace, but am constantly disrupted by a war being fought over the ownership of a new toy. Finally screaming reaches the point where I send the big kids to their rooms for a time-out.

 A spontaneous game of "pile toys on the baby"

8:15 - Put Ender down for a nap.

8:20 - I go back to the office to try and watch some instructional videos for the open-source graphics software Inkspace.

8:37 - CJ comes in and tearfully confesses to me that there was a ghost in his room last night, and it ROARED at him. Comfort him and make plans to track down and smack whoever told him about ghosts.

9:15 - Get Ender up, pack the diaper bag and the toddler entertainment devices, then head off to a pediatrician appointment.

10:15 - Ender needs another nap, so we drive to the mall so the big kids can play in the play area while I bounce Ender to sleep in the Boba carrier. Noni has a random googly eye clutched in one fist the entire time so obviously she can't do any running and climbing. She sits on the benches and glares at everyone between requests to "go home now, mommy."

11:25 - Head to JCPenney's to ride the escalator up and down three times before heading home.

12:00pm - Arrive home, fix some lunch - odds and ends for the kids and a big salad with leftover roast chicken for me.

 Don't worry; I'm not starving myself. That's actually a serving bowl.

I don't get to eat yet though because the baby is awake and hungry.

12:45 - reading time

1:18 - Leave Ender, still awake, and race downstairs to put everyone in time out. Which makes everyone scream harder, so I opt to begin nap/"quiet" time early.

1:30 - Big kids are sequestered in their rooms and I check on Ender, to seems to have gone to sleep on her own. I start this blog post.

1:45 - Everyone is napping, so of course the UPS guy rings the doorbell - TWICE!!! - but it's ok because he's delivering the triple stroller that my parents recently purchased for us.

1:58 - Ender's awake! Crap. Well at least I can watch whatever I want. We settle onto the couch to make faces at each other while I watch some of my wildly inappropriate tv show.

 Don't look now, baby, but a guy just got decapitated right behind you.

3:02: Ender asleep. I start folding some laundry.

3:08 - Ender crying. Soothe back to sleep.

3:30pm - Release CJ from his room. Practice piano because his class is tomorrow and we've only practiced once in the last week.

 He likes the part where the cd tells him to play the white keys LOUD.

3:48 - We decide to read on the couch.

3:49 - After I've read 1.5 paragraphs of my book CJ decides he is done reading and requests to play with the marble tracks he got for  his birthday. I oblige.

4:15 - Get Noni up. The fun continues.

5:00 - Turn on the YouTube playlist I made for the kids so we can begin the downward slide to bedtime.

5:17 - Nemo home!

5:22 - Wake Ender up so she'll go to bed at a reasonable hour. Hand Ender off to Nemo so I can triple-task reheating dinner, writing a blog post, and do some laundry.

6:08 - Dinner.

6:30 - The big kids have turned into flying monkeys, possibly with rabies, so I announce early bedtime. And everyone looses their damn minds.

6:55 - Tucking CJ in turns into a 20 minute sobfest regarding his bad ghost dream of last night.

7:15 - Get back downstairs, retrieve sleepy baby, then put her to bed as well.

7:30 - I watch episodes of Psych and Love It or List It on Netflix while Nemo puts together the new stroller.

8:30 - My new favorite drink - Whisky Sour - magically appears on the side table. I congratulate myself on having the good sense to marry he who is clearly the best guy in the world, ever.

9:00 - I'm toast. But not toasted. I only had one drink, I promise! To bed.
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Postscript: There's more Humblebee on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Hope to see you there! Especially on Instagram. I love Instagram.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Gift of Gab #2

I was going to write something pithy to introduce this quarter's round of toddler quotes, but I can hear Ender waking up from a lovely 40-minute nap, so...

They're growing up so quickly, blahblahblah and PUBLISH. Like a boss.

CJ: Mom! Someone wrote in this book!
Me: Oh? Who do you think it was?
CJ: Um, it was a bad guy.


While getting undressed for bed...
CJ: (points, aghast) What's that?!
He has been so busy unraveling the mysteries of the universe since he was born that it had apparently escaped his notice that he owns a pair of nipples.


(CJ has recently been learning to count in different languages. To understand this story you need to know that the German word for six is "sechs".)

While I was watching the morning show, the ticker at the bottom of the screen showed a headline relating to same-sex marriage... 
CJ:  (sounding out the word "sex") Seeex. Hm, Sechs! Sieben! Acht! Neun! Zehn! Yay!


CJ: What's for dinner?
Me: Chicken Tikka Masala
CJ (Looking at me incredulously): Ummm...that's a made-up word.

Fun in the mini-mudroom.

 While working on a number puzzle together...
Noni: Ere's zero? 
CJ: Here you go
Noni: Fank you, sweetie.

While overhearing the episode of Futurama that Nemo was watching on his tablet while feeding Ender in the nursery...
CJ: Mommy!!! Ender's talking!!!


CJ: Mom, I'm taking off my shirt.
Me: Why?
CJ: Because I can.

CJ: Mommy, I'm having six communions for lunch!

CJ: What do I get for dinner?
Me: An enchilada.
CJ: What's a poop-a-lotta?


While "helping" Nemo make bread...
Nemo: First we need the yeast.
CJ: What's yeast? I haven't ever heard of that.
Nemo: It's a microorganism that makes the bread grow big.
Noni: Mmmm....Yeaster....I wike eat dem bunny.

 She also likes to eat ink, apparently.


When I explained that the reason McQueen's tires blew out was because race cars go very fast and the tires wore out...
CJ: this car very fast? (patting the trusty ole minivan that he had just exited).
Me: Nope.


CJ: Daddyyyyy! An ant!!!
Nemo: squash
CJ (bursting into tears): Noooo! I wanted him to stayyyyy!!!

 I have to keep reminding him (and myself) that being threealmostfour is hard. It gets better, kiddo. Really.

After what seemd like hours of non-stop sqabbling...
Brief stunned silence.
Noni: Hey, I not Pete, I Noni!!!


Relating his version of Ender's birth story to a rather stunned Seminarian...
CJ: I'm CJ. This is our Baby Ender. She used to be in my Mommy's tummy, but then MeMe took me to Legacy Academy and Mommy's tummy squeezed and squeezed and SQUEEZED Ender out!!!

At least he wasn't relating the sordid details of Pride & Prejudice-based romance novels.

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Postscript: There's more Humblebee on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Hope to see you there! Especially on Instagram. I love Instagram.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Answer Me This

Linking up with Kendra of Catholic All Year for this week's edition of Answer Me This.

1. Any big plans for the summer?
We are hoping to take the RV out for one more overnight trip this summer to give us a little more practice with the whole process...we have a longer trip coming up in the fall and we would really like for the kids to know how to go to sleep at a reasonable hour! There are SO MANY state parks within an hour of us, so we have a lot to choose from!

We've also got a birthday and a baptism coming up this month, so things are going to be rather busy around here.

2. What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?
When I was growing up our family car was a 1987 Ford Crown Victoria Station Wagon. She was a beaut--and when I got my driver's license it became my personal vehicle, which caused my friends to dub me "The Skipper". Because it was a boat. Har har.

Anyhoo, as young children my older sister and I sat in the back "jump seats". Have you ever sat in jump seats? It's kind of hard to explain...There are two bench seats facing each other, perpendicular to the tailgate, and at the end of each bench was a speaker. My sister and I spent many a long car trip sitting back there, rocking out to some Psalty the Singing Songbook. Because of the shape and size of the area, it MADE SENSE that there were people lying down behind the walls of the station wagon, their mouths right up next to the speakers, who existed solely for the purpose of singing praise tunes to me and my siblings.

Do you know how I rationalized this whole setup? They didn't care about being imprisoned thusly because they were dead. DEAD PEOPLE. LIVING IN MY STATION WAGON. PRAISING JESUS. Just in case you're having a hard time picturing this, here's a hastily-drawn schematic.

3. What is your favorite amusement park ride?
I've really WANTED to like riding roller coasters my whole life, especially since Nemo is a fan...but I just don't. 

4. What's on your summer reading list?
This are way too crazy right now to have an actual list that I have an actual chance of checking things off of, but I do have  couple of very incongruous memoirs on my bedside table right now.

Fun fact: A family member of mine went to high school with Bruce Campbell. She reports that he was "just a guy". Oh, and he was friends with that other guy who also went to Hollywood. You know, Sam Raimi.

5. Have you ever fallen asleep in public?
When I was in college I minored in napping. And I was awesome at it. I've probably be asleep in public in all the buildings on campus. Arrived five minutes early for a class? No problem. I would lie down in the hallway, snuggle up to my backpack full of textbooks, and catch those five Zs like a boss. As you may imagine, I was also one of those people who wore pajama pants to class.

6. What is your favorite smell?
Anything that I'm not cooking.

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Postscript: There's more Humblebee on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Hope to see you there! Especially on Instagram. I love Instagram.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Can I Ask You a Question?

I've heard tell that three is the age of questions and as CJ approaches his fourth birthday I can definitely say...yep. His favorite kinds of questions these days are 1) questions he already knows the answer to and 2) questions that have obvious answers. He's also very into temperatures and money.

This past Saturday I thought it would be fun to jot down all the questions CJ asked me over the course of the day. What was I thinking? It was a fairly "light" question day, and even so I was only able to jot down about 1/3 of them. And that's a generous estimate.

After breakfast...
Does the clock say 7:46?
I don't know, does it?

Can I write?
No, not until I'm finished doing the dishes.

Are there still more dishes to do?
Are there STILL more dishes to do?
Are there STILL MORE dishes to do?

How many degrees is it?
Is it 59 degrees?

When is my baptism day?

How many days does August have?
CJ: Hmm...31...or 30?

I finally get out paper and pens so he can write.
Here's your invitation. Can you take it?

Can you take this invitation I made you?

My invitation to the number ball.
Mom can you get my red pen?

Hey mom, can I have more rectangle paper?

What time is it?
Why don't you look at the clock?
CJ: I think it's 8:30
OMG it's only 8:30???

What is 17 degrees? Hot or cold?

Why is my underwear downside-up?
Well gosh I don't know.
Can you turn it the right way?
I guess.

I get the baby down for a nap and take the kids to the gym, where I work out (briefly) and take a long luxurious shower while no one questions me.

Leaving the gym...
Are we going to the gym?
No we just left t he gym
Did we just go to the gym?

Can you turn down the air conditioner?

I turn on the dvd of "Cars" to get a few more moments of silence.

Where's Mater going?
Can you turn it off now?

Home again...
When is Ender's baptism?

What's a three-to-four circle?
A what?
(after much questioning we discovered he meant a 3/4 circle)

What's "ohgglah"?
A what?
Again, much questioning revealed he wanted to know the origin of "O'clock"

While blowing bubbles on the deck...
Can you blow bubbles by me?
No, you're too far away.
Is this close enough?
Is THIS close enough?

He sees me writing down the previous question...
What are you doing? Are you writing? Can I write?

So I go inside briefly and return bearing the sidewalk chalk...
Do you have more sidewalk chalk?
What's a dime?
What's a dollar?
What's 10 dollars? 1000 cents???
Ummm...yes? I think? Yes.

As I'm browning some breakfast sausage for the next day's breakfast...
Can I see? Can I have some?
What are you making? Are you making rawed eggs? What's rawed eggs? Can I have some?
What's 37 + 30?

When the little girls are napping I take CJ out to run errands...
Where are we going?
What's my armpit? Is this my armpit?
Where's Target? Is it up there?
Can I sit in the cart?
Are you wearing "Flip or Flops"?
Can I have a cookie?
Can I have ANOTHER cookie?

CJ, when we get home it's going to be time for your rest.
CJ: What's "rest"?

What indeed.

And at that point I said to heck with it.

He asks a lot of questions, y'all.

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Postscript: There's more Humblebee on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Hope to see you there! Especially on Instagram. I love Instagram.