Friday, June 29, 2012

VBS Adventures or How I Reconfirmed My Belief that I'm NOT Cut-out to be a Preschool Teacher

Last week, one of my best friends (I'm blessed with two absolute best friends - you know the kind of friends who have as little of a problem telling you that your fly is down or there's lettuce in your teeth as they do telling you when you've really screwed up? Yeah, I have two awesome women in my life like that!) came with her two boys (ages 5 and 8) to stay with the kids and I for a week.  It was VBS (Vacation Bible School) week at my church, so she and her boys wanted to attend the festivities.  We were a little late in registering her boys, so in order to get them into the program, we agreed to volunteer as "Crew Leaders" for the five mornings VBS took place.  Lucky for us, we were assigned together and allowed to have my BFF's 5 year old son join our rambunctious group of seven five-year-old boys.  You would think that a parent of four children - two teens and two elementary age kids - and a High School English teacher who also has two elementary aged boys would be completely capable of handling a small group of five year old boys, right? WRONG.  We realized about five minutes in on Monday morning that we were vastly outnumbered and on our way to being outwitted by a group of Kindergartners.  

Each group leader was given a bag full of all the supplies we supposedly would need for each day: a baggie with wet wipes, a folder with the boys' names and sign out sheets, a sheet of stickers, a short rope with knots to be used as a way to guide our group to/from their activities, 7 plastic sun-visors with each boy's name inscribed in black sharpie on it, name tags for ourselves and the boys, a baggie with bandaids and other basic first aid supplies, seven "work-books" for each boy (ostensibly to be worked on during any "down time" we might encounter - a feat that we never did accomplish) a baggie with a gold wristband for the one who was allergic to peanuts, seven gallon-sized ziploc bags  labeled with each child's name to be used to hold their daily "take" and taken home at the end of the week, our daily schedule and a folder in which to place any random papers/sign-in/out sheets/etc.  Given our supplies and shown to our greeting area, we were optimistically naive about what was to come our way.

Don't get me wrong, each one of "our boys" was absolutely adorable and lovable and smart in his own way, and we grew to love the little rascals before the week was over.  And taken individually, or even in a group of 3-4, I'm pretty sure we could have handled them just fine.  But before the first day was over, our group had established a reputation of being "The Wild Group" due to the combination of one boy who had a lot to say and even more energy spewing from his little body, another who was intensely independent (but an absolute cuddle-bug when he decided he liked you) and had to be cajoled into fully participating or even walking with the group; another little boy whose sparkling brown eyes and impish grin bespoke an intelligent child full of mischievous adventures who needed to be re-directed whenever he flashed that grin, along with another boy who, by himself would have been energetic but fairly easy to manage, but within the confines of our goofy group, could be led into all sorts of hi-jinx and antics.  Then there was my friend's little boy who decided to be shy that week and wouldn't leave his mama's side and two others who could be described as quieter, thinker-types but who could also surprise us with some of the hilarious things that came out of their mouths on a regular basis.

The first day we attempted to use the rope to lead the boys from our greeting area to the worship center for the group sing-along and gathering.  That lasted about 30 seconds before it became a tug of war between the leader and the caboose, with the boys in the middle being jerked along between the two.  We were given a "flag" to carry to all our activities as well; who knew that carrying a pole with a paper drawn with our group's representative animal ("Pat the Bat") would cause so much strife between our boys? Or that it would be used as a lance, a sword, a means to bat the hanging decorations on the ceiling or other kids?  After experiencing several battles between activities (making us late to just about every single one), the second day we established a flag-carrying rotation that worked somewhat.  During the first song of the day, two of the boys escaped our row and proceeded to break dance in the aisle, including doing the worm down to the front of the church. We managed to corral them for part of the program (skits and videos) and keep them within the confines of our row for the final song, but couldn't get them to not stand on their chairs or stop wiggling.  We ditched the rope after the second activity, opting instead for an unbreakable "friendship chain" where the boys held hands as we walked down the halls together.  That, however, had to be ditched after a few of the boys refused to hold hands with some of the other boys resulting in hurt feelings and a mild kicking-fest between two of the boys.  We then went to forming a sort of a conga-line, with the boys in single-file, each with his hands on the shoulders of the boy in front of him.  That worked for about two more activities, but also had to be discarded when the energetic chatterbox boy got angry that the other boys were making steam-engine sounds when he preferred the sounds made by a diesel engine (personally, I really had no idea that there was that distinct of a difference in train sounds).

By the time our final activity, "games", rolled around, my BFF and I were exhausted and ready to let the boys run rampant on the playground as we sat tiredly on a nearby bench trying to keep an eye on our charges.  After about two minutes, I noticed that brown-eyed boy had disappeared, so went on a search to find him.  I found him in the ONLY mud-slick to be found on the church-grounds, happily smooshing mud up all over his Crocs.  Finally, I got him out of the mudslick and had him wipe his shoes on the grass before we had to round up the boys for the end-of-day program in the worship center.  Like herding cats, we somehow managed to get them all the way through the church and to our row of seats, with BFF at one end and me at the other, with the boys in between, thereby locking them in and preventing any more break-dancing routines.

The VBS week coincided with my son's Driver's Ed class, which also happened to begin and end at the exact time of VBS but was a 10 minute drive from the church.  So, each day I had to leave BFF alone with our wild group to go pick up my son.  According to my BFF, as soon as I left that first day, the boys escaped the row and proceeded to run around the church while BFF vainly attempted to get them back into our row.  She said that other "Leaders" gave her the evil eye and one asked her why she couldn't get the boys to stop until finally one of the VBS leaders quietly came and told her that our boys needed to leave right away and go back to our greeting area. Our boys managed to get themselves kicked out of church!

By the time I got back to the church with my son in tow that day, BFF was more than ready to leave.  We got home and marveled at the fact of how VBS gave us a strong urge for a mid-day drink (which seemed incongruous with VBS) while marveling at the "wisdom" of putting all our boys in one group together and envying the other Leaders' groups, all of whom seemed to be mild-mannered, sweet, quiet little girls with a few generally easy-going boys sprinkled in here and there.  Filled with a strong desire to quit on our volunteering commitment, we chilled on the deck that afternoon and finally decided to persevere and finish out the week.  

Some of the more entertaining situations that occurred were: 

  • Energetic Chatterbox Boy telling the Bible story class about hiding his mom's donut and how she wasn't sad, she was MAD while his red-faced mama sat in the room trying to hide her snorts of laughter with the rest of us literally ROFLing with her.
  • The discovery that the back of the church was experiencing the Frog Plague from Egyptian times - hundreds of baby frogs were hopping all over the shaded part of the lawn, giving the kids endless amounts of amusement.
  • Losing Chatterbox Boy.  Yes, we lost our most energetic child and had to alert the VBS leaders that even though they had given us a college-aged helper which put our child-teacher ratio almost to 2:1, that we had lost one of our kids.  Fortunately and much to our relief, he was discovered with another group at our next activity area.
  • Watching as one of our boys stepped on a baby frog (by "accident") in front of the sweet snack lady who was appalled and told him, "We don't kill God's creatures!" Which made BFF crack up as she recalled the many deer, turkeys, ducks, fish and a bear she and her family hunt and kill each year.  (Her husband is even a taxidermist - immortalizing "God's Creatures" every day.)  Comments were made about "The Circle of Life," but sweet snack lady was still not amused.  (According to Sparkles, daughter #2, one of her co-VBS attendees actually stepped on a baby frog because she wanted "to see its heart." That must have really freaked the snack lady out!)
  • Playing "Butterfly Tag" and watching the kids and Crew Leaders lay on the ground, pretending to be caterpillars until the "it" child yelled "Fly, Butterflies, Fly!" at which point they'd all jump up and run around madly flapping their arms.  One of our thinker boys commandeered the "it" position (much to the chagrin of the actual "it" children) for about 3 turns by laying down until everyone was settled, then jumping up while gleefully yelling "Fly Butterflies, Fly!" before the "it" child had a chance to say the words.  
  • Having Chatterbox Boy or Mr. Independent surprise me by climbing into my lap during Bible Story time or the daily worship center time - what a blessing to be able to hold such sweetness, if even for a short time.
By the end of the week, with the help of our college student, we had the boys somewhat trained, at least between activities, and Chatterbox boy was even holding his hand up before blurting out whatever was on his mind at that moment - sometimes on topic, but often not. Daily escapes from our row in the worship center were still made, but often were thwarted by BFF, the college student, or other sympathetic adults (word had gotten around by mid-day on day #2 that we were quite out of our league), so our boys were never again excused early from the daily finale. (We were also completely exhausted and convinced that we were NOT made to be preschool teachers.)

The greatest part of the week was when our two "thinker" boys gave their hearts to Jesus for the first time.  Their sincere little prayers and thoughtful faces as they took Jesus as their personal Savior, and the happy excitement they showed when they received their own first Bibles was priceless and made all the struggles we had had that week worthwhile. 

Will I volunteer again for VBS? Probably.  However, as much as I enjoyed my funny, wild boys, I think next time I'll volunteer to help run the elementary-age games instead of the daily challenge of preschoolers.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stinky Hippie at My Door

A note to the stinky hippie wanna-be who showed up at my door last night around 6:30pm:

Dear Sir,

First of all, if you are going to be walking around my suburb in 90+ degree heat, I suggest you forgo the use of your "crystal deodorant" and use some Right Guard or Speed Stick or at the very least, spray yourself down with some Axe.  I was standing in my doorway, three feet away from you and could smell your stench quite vividly.  Gross.

Secondly, when you come to my door touting the fact that you are part of some sort of "Student Organization" against Voter ID and the Marriage Amendments that are on this Fall's ballot, and I stop you mid-spiel to tell you that I'm very much in support of Voter ID, smiling, thanking me for my time and walking away would have been a much better reaction than attempting to "sway me" to your way of thinking.  Do you not understand that when a person tells you FLAT OUT that they are in support of the Amendment that you and your "student organization" are fighting against (which, btw, made no sense whatsoever - calling Voter ID a "Poll Tax" was one of the dumbest arguments I've ever heard and demonstrated your absolute lack of understanding of what a "Poll Tax" really is), that is the time for you to WALK AWAY.  Especially when the person telling you their opinion is ME and it's 90+ degrees causing me to be quite crabby and I have't had a fun debate on Twitter or Facebook lately and your stench is causing me further irritation, not to mention your condescending and pompous attitude as you attempted to tell me what I, as a Conservative, should believe about the Voter ID amendment.

Thirdly, demonstrating your lack of understanding regarding the Wisconsin Recall by spouting off how "the Koch Bros bought that election" while not knowing how much money the unions poured into Wisconsin, nor being able to acknowledge the absolute stupidity of your statement when the stats of that election are recited to you (i.e. Walker winning by 10pts more than he did in 2010 and that 40% of union members voted for him) showed that you obviously were only parroting the talking points your comrades gave you prior to your walkabout my neighborhood.  You'd be a lot more credible if you used your own brain instead of being yet another useless idiot for the progressive cause.

Finally, after heatedly arguing with me about my views, DO NOT stand on my porch and insult me by saying "I always thought people on the other side were crazy, and now you've proven it" and expect to get anything back but "Hey honey, the feeling is mutual.  Get the hell off my porch."

The "Crazy" Conservative Lady

P.S. Btw: I don't believe you had a permit to be going door-to-door in my city.  I'm very sad that I didn't have time to report you to the police.

P.P.S.  I talked to my neighbors who also smelled, I mean, had you come to their doors and was informed about your rudeness to them as well.  One question I have for you:  Is it LEGAL to require a contribution to your cause before you "let" someone sign your petition (after having rudely interrupted their evening with your combative and stinky self)?  My neighbor thought it awful ballsy of you to want her name, address, phone number, email address and then a check with all her account information on it before she could sign the petition you were pushing - which she was only going to do to get your stinky butt off her front step (she told you she doesn't pay attention to politics in the least and only votes because her husband takes her to the polls and tells for whom to vote and still you persisted in harassing her).  How do we know that you were actually doing what you claimed to be and not just mining our neighborhood for personal information?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Adventures in Mowing

A kid's paradise. Note the hockey gear airing out on the deck - sunshine is the best deodorizer.
I have four children, two of which are old enough to mow the lawn; however, it is easier to do it myself than to spend 13 hours nagging one of them to get off the couch and mow.  Realizing that my lawn was the scruffiest of the neighborhood (ok, so that's not exactly true, there are a couple down the block that seem to be growing dandelions instead of grass...) and that tomorrow it is supposed to be in the 90s, I decided to mow instead of doing other chores, like vacuuming or cleaning whatever yellow substance is now in my front hall (youngest child just informed me of its presence).  (Have you ever noticed that mowing the lawn is satisfying because the lawn stays looking nice for at least a few days as opposed to cleaning the house, which might stay clean for 2 minutes or less if hurricane-children roar through?)  One of the reasons why I like mowing the lawn myself is because it is something I can look at and think "ah, clean" for at least a few minutes. And since I spend as much time as possible avoiding the inside of my house - I mean seriously, we have like 2 weeks of summer in Minnesota when we can be outside, so why wouldn't I spend every minute possible on my awesome, giant, albeit in need of stain, deck? - and since I consider mowing a form of exercise, I decided to do it myself.

Donning my earbuds and failing to change out of my flip-flops for sturdier shoes (which has resulted in a few hot spots on my feet now), I headed out to mow.  Mowing at my house is a major undertaking, not only because we have a large corner lot (about .25 acre, which for in the burbs, is a good-sized lot), but because there's a multitude of tasks that must be done prior to mowing, which include: picking up dog poop (something I try to get the kids to do, but usually do myself due to the same reason I end up mowing), picking up various toys, bikes, balls, sticks, pool toys, random shoes, random clothing, towels, scooters, hoses, sprinklers; unhooking the extension cord from the pool filter cord and rolling each up (woe be to anyone who forgets to do this small task - the man of the house would cork if either were run over by a lawnmower, never mind the fact that the MotH is a high-voltage lineman and perfectly capable of repairing any type of electrical cord, as he proved when I was digging a new veggie bed and sliced through the underground dog fence line.  He was a little peeved, but fixed it with some electrical tape while muttering something about women...the dog only gets out that side of the yard now and then now.) and putting them out of reach of the mower.  Once all those tasks are completed, then the mower comes out.  I'd love a rider, and know for certain that if we had one my son would be all over cutting the grass.  But just like the snowblower we keep talking about buying (it would have been great the winter of '10-'11 when we had 88" of snow), we still don't have a riding lawn mower, but a self-propelled one.  Last year, the self-propelled mower was great during the last cutting as I plowed through several inches of oak leaves (I was seriously sick of raking at that point) and only died when I nailed a large rock.  I was almost done, so even though I killed the mower, I fired it back up and kept going.  Apparently, the blade was bent quite dramatically because not only was our grass cut pretty funkily, but I also managed to take off the head of one of our sprinklers.  Oops.  (That caused a fair bit more than muttering by the MotH when he saw what I had done, but he wasn't home when the lawn needed cutting and a girl has to do what a girl has to do, right?)

TMotH is very particular about how I mow, especially after the rock incident, but since he's hardly ever home, his main directive I try to follow is not getting grass in the pool.  One would think that a 15'x48" pool would be easy to avoid and that grass wouldn't be able to scale 4 feet to jump into our pool, but if one isn't careful, a lot of grass goes right into the water and then has to be fished out or else the pool turns green. (Which is pretty gross.  We had that happen the first summer we had the pool - made the mistake of going to Wisconsin Dells for a week during which the MotH unplugged the filter but left the cover on during the hottest stretch of weather that summer.  When we arrived back home, our pool was one big algae pond. NASTY. By the time we got the algae out, the weather was no longer warm and we had to take the pool down anyway.) The plus side of trying to avoid shooting grass into the pool is the cool pattern that is made by circling the pool in one direction.  Since there's only about three feet between one side of the pool and the garden fence, I end up going over the same strip of grass about ten times, but keeping grass out of the pool (and the MotH's ire down) is worth the extra steps.

So, as I puttered along behind the mower (trying to remember that pulling it backward works better when I release the "drive" lever), I was struck by the random thoughts that flitted through my brain, such as:

  • "What the heck kind of song is this? That's what I get for downloading music off the boy's iPod. Dang it."
  • "I wonder what the hurricane girlies are up to? I hope they haven't dragged out the paints."
  • "Was that dog poop?  Did it get on my shoe? No? Whew."
  • "All the Singlelies...All the Singlelies..." (As in Beyonce's song, "All the Single Ladies", which, btw, isn't even on my iPod.  "Singlelies" comes from my bff's nieces - it is how they sing it. I don't hear this in kids' voices, but in my bff's, which makes me laugh.)
  • "I should write a book for teens about my teenage years."
  • "On second thought, I don't want my teenagers reading my story from when I was a teenager; it might give them ideas."
  • "On third thought, I don't want theMotH reading my story, either. Scratch that."
  • "Easy come easy go...."
  • "Hmmmm, I wonder what the girls are up to now? Boy, I hope they haven't decided to play with playdough."
  • "What is that smell? Where is the dog poop?" Check shoes. "Nope, not on my shoe. Where the heck is it?" Start looking all over the mower, discover poop riding along on the "mud flap" on the back of the mower (no, I don't know the technical term for that particular mower piece). "Gross." Take stick and try to flick the poop off, only to smear it. Give up.
  • "Is that screaming coming from the house? I hope they haven't got blood on the carpet." Take earbuds off. "No screams from my house. Good."
  • "I wonder what's going on on Twitter?"
  • "Criminy, being the only one for the kids is getting old. I hope the MotH gets work closer to home soon."
  • "How is it possible that I am the mom of a senior?"
  • "Ooooo, that's a cool pattern. I should try an s-curve now.  Wow. Pretty."
  • "It sure would be nice if theMotH was home to see my cool patterns."
  • "Is that screaming? That has to be screaming. Oh wait, that's on my iPod. Stupid new pop music."
  • "Oh yay, another Taylor Swift song. How many Taylor Swift songs did oldest child have on her iPod anyway?  At least I made a playlist that avoids all the Chipmunk and High School Musical songs. Thank goodness."
  • "How can Romney even be considering Pawlenty as a VP pick? Man, I really hope he doesn't pick him. I'd be embarrassed to harass the liberal neighbors with a Romney-Pawlenty sign in my yard."
  • "I wonder if I can still get a Bachmann sign or two for my yard this year even though her district has changed? I hope so. The lib neighbors just love that one. Hehheh."
  • "I'm sexy and I know it!" Do a little dance with the mower. "I bet the neighbors think I'm nuts. Oh well, they're probably right."
  • "Is it really only Tuesday?"
  • "Was that a hurricane-child grabbing another popsicle? I wonder if Michelle Obama thinks letting kids live on popsicles contributes to obesity? She ought to see my kids - not an ounce of fat on any of them. So dumb."
That, my friends, is a sample of my random musings while mowing.  The yard looks great now.  I should get out the weed-whacker and attack the clumps of grass along the flower and veggie beds, but the last time I tried that I got a little crazy and got all the way down to the dirt in some places.  The yard still hasn't recovered. Not to mention I'm kind of scared of the string.  That thing is wicked. And I don't want to put on pants. No, I'm not mowing in underwear, I have on shorts. But it is too warm out for jeans and sneakers and did I mention I'm scared of the weed-whacker? Same goes for the hedge trimmer - haven't tried it and don't want to start.  I mean, if I started doing all the "man-jobs" around here, whatever would theMotH do when he actually is home? I have to leave something for him to do otherwise he'll decide he's unnecessary to our survival, I mean other than the usual replacing the burned-out light bulbs in the kitchen or asking oldest child and I if we've checked the oil in our vehicles lately or not.  He needs something to complain about having to do, right?

Next up: cleaning the pool.  There seems to be some sort of mass suicide pact among large beetle-type bugs and they're using drowning in my pool as their preferred method of death.  I think if I were a bug in on a suicide pact I'd vote for flying directly at cars. Seems like a quicker more painless form of death, especially compared to drowning. (Oh man, now I'm listening to Justin Bieber. Definitely time to go through the ol' playlists. Ugh.)  I'll get right on cleaning the pool after I figure out what the yellow substance is on the floor of my front hall.  I hope it's just yellow popiscle residue and not something from an overly excited fat geriatric dog.