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Dad's Coping Mechanism - 2015

2015 begins with the boys at 6 1/2, and Ellen approaching 5 (!!).


After nearly eight years, the blog ends here. Early childhood has lots of changes and things to update, but not so much when they're older. Plus, they can read now, and therefore would be able to read what I'm writing about them. :-D Thanks for reading.


I was ordering backpacks for the kids online. Andrew had narrowed his down to two choices, which he was equally fine with either. To break the tie, he asked, "Which one costs less?" and took that one.

*sniff* That's my boy!


Ellen just finished up her second ballet class, which is cute but not exactly the Met. She likes it, though. `2

For the class, she got new ballet shoes, which had "strings" to make bows on the ends. They're made of the same kind of elastic string as those toys where a wooden paddle and rubber ball are tied together. She insisted that these needed to be tied into bows before every rehearsal. These things are short, very hard to tie, and unravel easily. And, being five, she's irrational about them. Eventually, Liss got her to agree that the strings could be tucked inside the shoe itself, so at least they don't flop around while she dances.

And in parallel, she found a doll at Goodwill that she had enough money to buy, that had a ballerina outfit, with bows. These bows also come undone easily, and are short strings. Then once when I tied them with one loop bigger than the other, she cut the longer end piece on each side, making each one even shorter. Liss ended up hot gluing the bows shut, but no guarantees that'll stay.

Five years olds, man.
There's a crosswalk right by the light rail station whose light is ridiculously long compared to the two lanes you cross. I jaywalk it almost every morning, along with everyone else, but I don't when I'm with the kids, good example and all that. Other people do it in front of my kids, though, and I've probably done the same when others are waiting with theirs.

Leaving the light rail with just Ellen, we waited at this crosswalk, with no cars coming as usual. She asked if we could cross, and I said we needed to wait for the light. To which she replied, "Why don't we just break the law?"
There's a very common thing among pre-K care - and K classes to a lesser extent - of starting after or ending before the normal school calendar. The boys' K started almost a week after the rest of the school; Ellen's pre-K this year ended four days before the school.

I guess it's a funding issue, in that our kids attend places with subsidies from elsewhere, that surely dry up. But finding full day child care outside of the routine must hurt families poorer than ours way more than it does us. Amy agreed to take Ellen to work for one day, I took a day off to keep her, a friend of ours did a day, and Liss brought her to her [fourth grade] classroom on the last day of regular school. Not everyone has those kinds of options or flexibility.
A baby's life, and by extension its family's, are defined by milestones. From smiles to rolling over, solid foods, crawling, walking, running, potty training, to reading, each change modifies the lifestyle of the whole house to suit that change, from giving away bottles to putting up baby gates and buying chapter books.

Some new ways are harder to adjust to than others. Your kid learns to snap? Nothing is needed. Crawling? Cover those plugs, hide those wires!

We in the Munger home have a child with a new milestone - one we hoped we'd never see. But here we are, and we must adjust. Parents with olders, we may solicit your advice to help us through these turbulent times.

Andrew has started using "air quotes."
Ellen has memorized some of her kids' books, and though we praise her when she "reads" them, we often note that it's not the same as reading. We say that's when you read from books you've never seen before.

Last night when I went to say good night, she held up a book's cover and said "Does this say 'Ruby Lu?'" Why yes, it did. Her reaction was "I read something I haven't seen before!" So I guess the message was there.

She usually pouts when I stop reading her to bed, to which I'll often say that when she can read, she can just keep going all by herself. She's definitely putting those pieces together.
Progress in the social realm - I took Ellen to the nearby, crowded bakery. We sat at the end of a table-for-six that already had a father and son at the other end, leaving a one-chair gap between us on each of the long sides. A family of three came by, with the mother sitting in the chair next to Ellen with her younger in her lap, but the older at a bit of a loss. Without a word, Ellen got up and changed chairs to the one on my other side, leaving hers open for the other kid next to his mom.
I had Ellen all day Friday, and she wanted to get the boys' birthday presents, so we went to the toy store near our house. The boys had specifically asked her for Pokemon cards, and she was just as specific to me about why she didn't want to get that for them. They'll be expecting that, she said, so getting them something else will be a surprise.

She ended up choosing a stuffed animal for each, which at first glance goes with the common theme of "buying what you would want, not them," but her choices (dragon for Bobby, dinosaur for Andrew) were thoughtful of them. We at first were looking at things they could share, but as she said, "but they don't share stuffies."
It turns out that while the boys' first grade teacher is still going to 2nd grade, she's not looping. She's just taking the 2nd grade classroom that someone else is leaving. So, the boys may or may not end up in her class, or maybe one will and one won't. The school has a policy of not letting the parents request specific teachers, but we can request that they be split up, at least, which I believe is what we'll be doing. As Liss puts it, they're together too much.

Edit: We've decided to split them for sure.
Ellen has agreed to get the boys Pokemon cards for their birthday, in that they're all expecting Ellen to pay for a $5 pack out of her own money. We, of course, will not make Ellen spend her own money for this purpose, and it's disappointing that the boys think she would or should. They certainly didn't spend their money for her birthday.

At least it'll be a cheap tab for us to pick up on her behalf.
I installed the kids' air conditioners this weekend. Because the breaker can't handle both at the same time, last year we all agreed that we'd have Ellen's on before bedtime, then turn it off and fire up the boys' for overnight. She didn't like the noise. Well, this year she wants it overnight, just like they do. So, we'll be alternating.

The units have thermostats, and Ellen's room was 86 at bedtime last night before I turned hers on. I checked on her at our bedtime three hours later, and her room was only down to 78. It's because the hose that connects to the outside window kit doesn't fit securly, and it had come off. So, the unit was just blowing its own hot air back into the room. I switched it to "fan" for the rest of the night, knowing she'd be much less likely to notice that than if I'd turned the thing off.

So, it looks like I'll have to enlist the lowest of the handyman fixes - duct tape.
Liss was taking the kids to Target, so Bobby gathered the boys' money so they could buy new packs of Pokemon cards. Bear in mind that this was one day after he and I had gone to a garage sale and found stacks for fairly cheap; we bought one stack of ~20 for a dollar.

They didn't bring enough for two packs, so Liss loaned them the difference. He was something a pill in paying her back once they got home, but it took a while to get to the root of the problem. He thought what they'd paid wasn't worth what they got - 22 cards for $10. Maybe part of the attitude came from the garage sale deal we'd scored.

It's an important lesson, but no one likes to feel buyer's remorse. But he's going to feel it sometime, and $10 is way cheaper than some of the times I've ended up with that feeling.
We had been planning to put the boys in different classes when they enter second grade next year, but it turns out their current teacher is looping. Looping means you teach the same kids two years in a row, then move back to your original grade with a new class. So, maybe we won't split them after all. We like her.
The boys have gotten into Pokemon cards, which we don't really "get," but we know enough to know it's not a bad thing. It's fueled by many of their [male] classmates also being into it. Much of the money they've earned recently has gone toward packs thereof.

I can't really say much, as I was a pretty obsessive collector (comics, baseball cards) in my youth. In fact, in the garage, I found dozens of plastic binder sleeves that were obstentiably to hold baseball cards back when I collected those(*), so I gave them to the boys along with a binder. The idea is to keep them organized and in good shape, but my main purpose it to keep them from scattering on the floor, dammit.

While it's a little too early to put the word out for what they want for their birthdays, it's pretty much a lock that these cards will be on the list.

(*) The "They might come in handy someday!" attitude has been officially reinforced.
The kids' piggy banks were wearing out and getting too small for their coin stashes, so I bought new ones in Star Wars themes. My guess was that Ellen would want the R2D2 one, and the boys would want the Darth Vader one, which they could share as they were already doing that. That would leave the Boba Fett one for the random coins I bring home.

Lately, we've been calling them out on being nosy, like grabbing something we're looking at, or wanting to open our packages. When the banks arrived, I partially opened the box away from them, and put it on the dining room table. My idea was to let the last person to look choose their bank first, second second, and first last.

Ellen didn't even perk up when the boys starting pawing at it, so she picked first. I was right about her wanting R2D2. Neither boy was terribly upset about this.

Bobby was next, having looked second, and to my surprise, he wanted Boba Fett. But this didn't matter, because either (a) they share and who cares, or (b) that leaves the awesome Darth Vader for Andrew, right? Nope. Andrew wanted Boba Fett as well, and only for himself. So much for my plan.

Andrew spent the next 45 minutes crying, yelling, accusing, demanding, you-name-it-ing that we let him have the Fett bank instead of Bobby. Since then, though it took a few days, he's become okay with sharing it with Bobby, and vice versa, and thank goodness.

Meanwhile, I somehow got the Darth Vader. Sweet.
We long ago identified a cognitive dissonance in both of us. Our children, compared to almost all other children their age, are lovely. They're relatively pleasant, helpful, and so on - but still enough not so to trigger a lot of pushback/correction on our parts.

A large part of this is how differently they behave at home versus anywhere else. While they're still good kids relative to others behind closed doors (we presume), they're much more snarky, snipey, and disrepectful to each other and us.

This is often driven home when the boys are around any other boy[s] their own age. It actually starts with them, with Bobby often taking the lead and Andrew trying to impress by keeping up with him. That gets magnified when they're around other boys, and more so as you keep adding boys. Ours want to impress the others, so the whole effect snowballs. That usually means bigger, faster, stronger, and especially louder.

The best recent example is Little League. We basically have issues with most of the other boys on the team, even though they're probably just normally-acting boys, as opposed to our milder ones. But when they get ours going, ours tend to fall off the same cliff.
"I want to grow up to be just like you. Except still a girl."
The boys are almost done with first grade, and have yet to lose a tooth, unlike most of their peers. This follows how Liss and I both fared as kids, but it's not yet cause for concern. However, we continually project our own experiences onto them, and dread what's likely coming - specially, multiple extractions and triple orthodontia.


Reason #135215 my son [Andrew] is crying: It was a hot day - 57 at the time, projected 74 that afternoon - and he couldn't find any clean shorts. That he had no clean shorts was, to him, my fault for not having washed his clothes. Minutes later, his mother finds four pairs of clean shorts on the floor of his room, within feet of where he'd been yelling at me instead of looking.
We took the kids to their first Mariners game of the season, and the progression continues. Our seats were split, so Ellen and Liss were maybe six rows lower than the boys and Amy and I. Ellen lasted until the sixth inning, which is an improvement in general, though she has lasted longer, perhaps because we were all together. She was more interested in the game than before, but not closely following it or anything.

The game went 11 innings, which the boys lasted all the way through. They were mostly attentive, with lulls here and there - probably about what one would expect at their age.

During and since, the boys have made waves about wanting to have good seats, not the nosebleeds. I always tell them how much more expensive that is - around $300 to take all of us, and Ellen's probably going to want to bail halfway through. Maybe I'll take them around their birthday.
As we left the baseball stadium, a random guy came over with a balloon sword, like a balloon animal but not, and handed it to Bobby. Now, if the guy had asked me first, I'd have said no, because (a) there was only one, and two boys, and (b) Bob tends to think weapons are awesome, which we don't encourage. Andrew, of course, wanted to hold it as well, which Bob didn't want.

We were walking to the light rail station, which I mostly-jokingly said that weapons weren't allowed on the train. It's a rule, and the train police (rate enforcement people) might make take it from him. Bobby thought about it for a second, handed the sword to Andrew, and said, "Okay, you can hold this 'til we get off the train."
Ellen goes through spurts of appending -ie to everything. "Can I have some milkie?" "Can you read this bookie?"

Primacy in this are stuffed animals, now "stuffies." Even the boys do it often when talking to Ellen about them, but not between themselves or us.
My previous employer "counterpoached" me, so I'm back where I was.

I took a week off in between, during which (among other things) I cleaned the kids' rooms. I was pretty relentless with finding things to throw away/recycle or donate. For the most part, they notice nothing, but this time it's already bitten us a bit, in that the boys needed the sandals I gave away, and unbeknowst to me, Ellen was still using the monster spray that I tossed. But I stand by the general principle, since they won't get rid of anything.

Since their rooms were clean, though, all three kids have actively been trying to keep them in that condition. We've had to nudge a little bit, but for the most part, they've taken on the task. It's been a very pleasant surprise.

If I'm near that thrift store without the kids, I might go in and see if I can buy those sandals back. Liss had kept my secret well; they're just "lost" as far as the boys know.
Liss read the first Harry Potter book to the boys at their bedtime, and now I'm reading the second one. I figure that's a good split, since we both want to be the ones to do it. This way, when it's Ellen's turn in a year or three, I'll read the first, and we'll alternate again, so no one reads the same one aloud twice.
Ah, T-ball. Except this year's it's "Tee and Toss," meaning the kids transition from the tee to coach pitch.

Our team has 13 kids, all boys. I've been tossing to our boys for three years or so, and man, does it show. They're two of the tinier boys on the team (natch), but two of only four who can hit at all.

Now that they're getting more into baseball in general, and better at it, I mentioned to Andrew that I thought he might have what it takes to be a pitcher when it comes time for kid pitch (at age 9). He can actually throw fairly hard and accurately for someone his age (mostly judging by the other kids in the league).

While it's in my best interests for Bobby to learn to be a catcher (so he can catch for his brother instead of me), I also told him he might be good for second base. In his mind, he's gone and run with that. When we're watching games, he cheers when the second baseman makes a play. Whenever I mention pitching to Andrew, Bob brings up how he's going to play second. He's not terribly shy about fielding, but could certainly use more reps - thousands and thousands of reps.


Liss made bacon for the first time in a while. When there was a small pile on a plate about to be served, Ellen walked up to it and said "I've missed you very, very much."

The thing is, Ellen barely eats bacon, while the boys narf it down like air. It's possible she was just trying to be funny, in which case, mission accomplished.
The carpet on our main floor and all stairs was ripped out in favor of laminate. Besides the obvious, it's been a big difference in other ways. We switched [back] the dining and living rooms, which the "new" living room has enough space to create a little kids' area behind the couch. This has been great for keeping their stuff sequestered. The decluttering that was necessary in the first place has enabled us to stay on top of keeping things [relatively] tidy since. And it's a lot easier to see and pick up random dirt.

A downside was expected - noise. Instead of absorbing into the carpet, it bounces. The kids have had to take it down a notch, and if there's one thing kids don't like doing(*), it's taking things down a notch.

(*) There are many things.
For Andrew's persistent cough (below), it cost $25 for a co-pay and $25 to renew the inhaler prescription we (with the doctor's blessing) had let lapse. Now, $50 isn't all that much to us, but there was a time when I would have balked at going back to the doctor because of that cost. Another persistent cough would have made me think long and hard about the risk of going just to hear "Well, it's not bronchitis; let me know if it contiunes." At minimum wage, after taxes, $50 is about a day's work.

When your system discourages basic care, your system is broken.
We took the kids for their dental checkups, which he was fine with how they're doing. He wasn't concerned about the molar that Andrew has coming in, which I found surprising, but he's the expert.

I'd actually expected him (the dentist) to point out brushing problems, since they've all been doing it themselves for some time (well, Ellen 80% of the time), but no. I guess they've been more thorough than I'd thought.
We took Ellen for her annual checkup, and Andrew for having a persistent cough, during both of which we asked for a quickie vision test. Both were iffy enough to take all three to an actual optometrist. While Liss chose the nearest one to our house that takes her insurance, it turns out they're also a really good place.

Bobby's vision is 20/20, Andrew's 20/25, so he's on his way to glasses. Ellen, however, is 20/40, which is glasses. So, glasses it is. I got my first pair at 4, and probably the only reason she didn't until five-and-one-month was that she hadn't had an earlier test.

I almost never see her wearing them, but reports are that she's decent about wearing them at school. At first, it's about establishing the habit, so we're not concerned.

So Andrew will probably be next, then Bobby. Despite his current 20/20, he's in the path of a genetic tidal wave of myopia.
Andrew has decided that he will be a fan of the Colorado Rockies, after the Mariners of course. We have no reason to discourage this, and since we can't watch most Mariners game due to MLB's archaic blackout rules, perhaps the Rockies will be in our house more than most teams.


The iPhone's camera now has a "burst" mode, whereby you hold down the button and it takes several pictures per second continously, until you release the button.

This technology is too powerful to be trusted to tiny hands. It's more correct to say that it works until you release the button ... or your phone runs out of space to store the pictures.
We have a new babysitter that everybody likes, but especially Ellen. After her lastest job, she said that Ellen had told her "I let everyone think I looove drawing - but I really just like it."

That's some deep, confidential stuff there.
When Ellen was three-going-on-four, we (and her pre-K teachers) made up several "four-year-olds don't do that" and "this will need to stop when you're four" kinds of things that we wanted her to stop (or start) doing. For some reason we didn't do that this year, even though it worked swimmingly.

However, she did it to herself. Before, when Liss would drop her off at pre-K to go to her own classroom, Ellen would cling and cry about it. When she didn't after her birthday, Liss asked about it. Ellen said, "I don't do that anymore; I'm five." And that was that.
Andrew has an adult molar coming in.

My baby teeth came out late, and my adult teeth came in early, but not this early - especially not the molars. We'll need to take him to the dentist to see what's up. I had 12 - count 'em, 12 - of my baby teeth pulled at various times to make room for adult teeth. Perhaps Andrew will have to have the same. Liss had similarly bad teeth as a kid, so we've warned them repeatedly that their dental futures may be rocky indeed.
The last five+ days have been pretty epic.


Ellen's birthday. For the most part, it was fine and low key. She got a few presents, which were heavy on the art supplies, so she was happy.


The school had some World Cultures event that Liss pretty much had to attend, and the boys a little less so. I was to meet them there, stay for a while and have dinner there with the kids, then take them home to bed while Liss stayed and came home later.

At 2, the title company processing our refi of the house called, asking when - not if - we could sign that day. They had someone ready. Oh, and it was the last day (the 26th) that signing would mean that everything counts for March. I said we had a thing. "Well, can you reschedule it? We really need to get this done." Or something to that effect. No, it's an event that my wife has to attend, and she's half the signing. I thought that was that.

Then the loan officer from my credit union e-mailed me, this time I quote, "Can you please let me know why you are not able to sign tonight? We have a notary set to come out. Today is the last day to sign to close this month. Please let me know ASAP."

Now, no one had yet to tell me why I should give a shit that it's the end of the month. However, I've worked in finance. So what their urgency means to me is that We should rearrange our lives to help their Q1 numbers. Yeah, no.

In talking with the title lady some more, I said we wouldn't be available until maybe 8pm. She said the loan officer could do that, and they'd find a notary. I had mostly been joking.

She called soon after to say they'd found a notary, see you at 8. Okay, fine.

I went to the event, picked up the kids from after-school care, and we moseyed (not literally) to the cafeteria/gym where the potluck-ish dinner was starting up. It was hard finding anything the kids wanted to eat - as usual - and even harder finding a gluten free dessert, also as usual. They ended up with yogurt tubes, which they weren't terribly happy about.

In the middle of the chaos of some 300 people in this space, the title lady called back. They'd double booked the notary, and couldn't find another one. Good, I thought. We were on for 2pm Saturday instead.

Each classroom had a display for the cultures theme, so I took the kids into every classroom pretty darned quickly, so we could get home in time for regular bedtime. We're sticklers for that, you see.


Early in the morning, maybe 7, Bobby told me that he'd had an accident in bed. He indeed had - some diarrhea that he hadn't properly anticipated. I changed the sheets - bottom bunk - while he cleaned himself off in the bathroom, and I put the sheets in the washer.

On the plus side, that evening the kids went outside and played without us. It was glorious.


Their former nanny, whom we won't hire anymore, asked to take the kids away for a couple of hours for Ellen's birthday. It's hard to refuse free child care, so we didn't refuse it. It was nice to just do our own thing for a couple of hours, even if our own thing is very close to nothing.

Afterwards, I took the boys to T-ball, which was a normal practice about half a mile from the house. However, while we had the field until 1:30, the coach called us done at 1:05. No big deal - except one kid's dad had dropped him off to run errands. Since my boys wanted to go to the nearby playground equipment, I told the orphaned kid to join us while we waited for his dad.

I hadn't eaten lunch, figuring I'd rather be hungry and eat at 1:40 than eat and then run around a field for 90 minutes. The boys had sandwiches before we left, though. Meanwhile, we had a 2:00 appointment for a loan officer to come to our house, so we could sign the refi of our house. Again, no big deal.

The boy's father showed up at 1:29 (well timed, sir) and took him away, and my boys played for a bit more. The loan lady called and said she was running late, and she'd be at our place around 2:30. No problem. The boys and I packed ourselves into the van.

The van didn't start.

It sounded like more than a simple battery issue to me - bad enough that I told Liss not to come to give me a jump, even though it was just half a mile away. Besides, she was baking a cake for an auction. I called USAA for roadside assistance, and told the boys to go ahead and go back to the playground if they wanted.

When the USAA computer called back, it said it would be 3:09 when their dispatched roadside assistance guy came. Now we had a problem. I called the loan lady back, and left a voice mail.

Getting back in touch with Liss, she said she was in a lull with the cake. I asked her to bring me some lunch. She and Ellen came and went, neither of the boys not wanting to leave with them, even though Bobby said his stomach hurt a little bit.

The loan lady called back and said she was stuck in traffic, and was aware of my issues, so she'd make it when she could make it, and I'd make it when I could. Cool.

The roadside company called at 3:05 and said 25 more minutes.

Then Bobby threw up. A lot. Like, breakfast and lunch in four sessions. On the wood chips of the playground. What can you do? I covered it up with more wood chips. He lay in my lap most of the rest of the time.

The loan lady parked in front of our house and called. I said I hoped it'd be 15 minutse. She said no problem, she chould do paperwork in the car, even though I said Liss was home.

The roadside guy came and ... it was just a jump after all. So we could have saved a lot of time and trouble by Liss bringing the sedan and jumper cables. And with less exersion, Bob may or may not have still thrown up.

We got home, signed lots of paperwork, the kids got obnoxious, we signed more paperwork, and regretted not plopping the brood in front of a movie or something beforehand.

That night Ellen claimed not to be hungry, so she more or less went to bed without eating dinner.


I declared some time ago that I would take Ellen to a nearby restaurant for a breakfast birthday every year (this is from our first time, turning 2), so we went this morning. She had pancakes and apple juice and danced next to our table while I finished mine.

Her party was in the afternoon. Liss finished the cake and the piñata she'd spent parts of five days making. As Ellen wanted an "Annie" themed party, I put the new movie's soundtrack (which is surprisingly not terrible) on my phone to play through a portable speaker. We gathered various snacks and such and went our way to a nearby community center, having opted to pay for a venue rather than bring 30 people in our house this time.

The party went well, with Liss herding children between a few activities. Apparently handing five-year-olds some masking tape and a bunch of straws will keep them well-occupied. Who knew!?

After we cleaned up, I escorted the kids to the van while schlepping the leftovers and Ellen's gifts (unopened, as we ran out of time, much to the chagrin of the givers). The kids asked if they could play on the little playground that was right by the parking lot, but I said no, Mom would be right out and we'd go home. Then we waited for Liss. And waited, and waited. It turned out that we were supposed to clean more than we had, to the threat of losing our deposit. I found her in there with a broom. To keep the kids from losing their minds waiting around, we went to the playground after all. It's two days after, and we still don't have our deposit back; their computers were down. Oy.

Ellen opened her presents at home, with many more books and art supplies, and ... her first Barbie. So far it hasn't been a big thing, even though it was the One Thing she hoped to get. Thank goodness.

And then dinnertime came. Bobby wanted to sit between us, so he brought Mom's plate to his left side; I was already on his right. Ellen lost it. Bold and italics do not accurately emphasize how much. In twenty minutes, I'd eaten four slices of pizza while she ate one bite, because she was too busy screaming about how unfair the seating arrangement was. During this epic tantrum, we were accused of being mean, making her so sad she couldn't eat, not loving her as much as before, and making her sad on purpose.

She also claimed this was now the Worst Day Ever, which it being the day of her birthday party, isn't the best thing to say to the people who produced it. Later I asked if that meant we shouldn't thrown her birthday parties anymore. She backtracked and said it was the worst end of a day ever. Choose your words carefully, honey.

I ended up carrying her upstairs at bedtime, still screaming, because she wasn't about to go on her own. Liss eventually calmed her down. And once again she had basically no dinner.


The next morning, Ellen was her usual lovely self.

The loan signing didn't include the promised instructions on sending closing costs to the title company, just the amount. The title lady sent me instructions, but not the amount, which I'd failed to save. I went to our credit union, and had them wire several thousand dollars for the refi to go through. Ouch. Thankfully, I verified later that I'd remembered the amount correctly.

That night Bobby complained of another stomachache. As we often do, I gave him a "puke bowl" just in case, which is just something like former produce packaging, made of hard plastic.

At 12:30, he woke me up, saying that he'd thrown up in his bed - four times again - and missed the bowl. He helped me move books and such after cleaning his face.

As the boys switch bunks on Saturday nights, this incident was on the top. Rather than climb up to change the sheets, I've found that sliding the whole mattress off and lowerinng it to the floois much easier. However, the time there was a large pile of puke to contend with. I somehow managed it despite everything.

Before putting it into the washer, I hosed off the sheet in the kids' bathtub. It turns out that it needs a de-clogging. Now it really needs one, if you catch my drift. I should have tried to put it into the toilet instead.

I then put the sheets in the washer, made sure Bob was okay. He assured me he was, so I went back to bed some thirty minutes after starting. I got to sleep, though, over an hour later.

We keep our spare toilet paper above the washer. On waking up, when going to transfer the sheets to the dryer, I'd found that a roll had fallen in before I'd done that load.

And so it goes in the Munger household.
Five years old.
After much wanting and searching and hemming and hawing, we're finally getting most of our carpets replaced with laminate wood. It's going to take the contractor six days to do it, so we scheduled it for mid-April during spring break. Since it'll be so disruptive to the house, Liss will take the kids to Oregon for a few of those days.

Since it involves moving the furniture around anyway, we're also using the opportunity to switch the living and dining rooms, which will put them back the way we had them when we moved in. We switched some five years ago so Liss could be closer to the "action" in the living room while she was in the kitchen, but I guess she's decided that action isn't so great after all. :-D
We think Ellen knows how to read a lot more than she lets on, because she likes people reading to her.
Signs of Ellen's maturing process can be directly tied to her clinginess to Big Monkey.

Recently, she traded him to Andrew for a different stuffed monkey. We warned Andrew that she'd probably want him back, and to be ready to relinquish without a fuss. She did a week or so later, and he did so. However, the voluntary separation is noteworthy.

Also, she left him downstairs and noticed at bedtime, for maybe the 500th time in her life. Instead of insisting I go search, however, she just said oh well, I'll just snuggle with this animal right next to me for tonight.

But then last night, she wanted to go find him. So it's not a complete maturation or anything.
There's a new thing that apparently hits around first grade - a wonderful concept unheard of and unkthinkable in the Munger household. It's called the drop off birthday party. Instead of having to attend said party with your own, say, twin three-year-olds, who require near constant supervision, you instead leave your twin six-year-olds to help celebrate some classmate turning seven. Then you personally find the nearest coffee shop or bookstore and sit peacefully on your ass for an hour or two. Or, you hang out with your lovely daughter, who doesn't get as much single-parent or two-parent attention as you'd like to give her.

The drop off - a magical thing. All it costs is a present you'd have bought anyway. And the price of a cuppa and a scone.

We will not be hosting one anytime soon.


My chorus sang Brahms's German Requiem, which is a far removal from the kinds of concerts they kids had already attended - two Christmas shows and an American Songwriters kind of thing. So, we were wary to bring them to a show that was entirely in a foreign language, and had no intermission to boot. Liss wanted to get a sitter and go herself, but had trouble finding one who could work at that time, so she went to plan B - bring the kids, and bribe them to be good. By bribe, I mean she bought them some books and doodle things.

They hit traffic on the way, so they ended up in the back of the vanue. Amy was there, which always helps, but just like the previous concerts they'd been to, everything was fine. They even paid a little attention to the show, which has its rousing moments.

So, I guess we can feel more confident about future shows - which is just the kind of complacency that ends up costing you.
Medicine that tastes good is a double-edged sword. It gets kids to take it when they need it, but also makes them want it when they don't need it. I recall being caught eating Flintstone's Vitamins like candy, also multiple servings of Robitussin, which only later did I realize tastes like Jagermeister. To this day, though, I still like Jagermeister, so there's that.

In our house, there's the regular kinds of liquid kids' medicine, whether for cough or allergies or pain; we had to pound it into them that we will decide when they're sick enough for it, not them, because otherwise they'd have it with every meal. It's grape! It's cherry! Yeah, it's a chemical, kid - a chemical with a specific purpose you don't need fulfilled right now.

Our latest wrangling has been over ricola cough drops. They'll eat them like candy, which they kind of are. Bobby has no compunction whatever; he'd go through two bags a day, given his druthers.

Meanwhile, Ellen had a real cough, and used a cough drop, but when I offered another at bedtime, she said no thanks. I placed it by her pillow in case she changed her mind. It finally disappeared three days later.

Girls mature faster than boys, they say. Andrew's way ahead of Bob in a lot of those kinds of things, but Ellen's also giving Bob a run for his money.
Ellen took Big Monkey to Houston, which was a risk, but stressful situations like travel require comfort, and they're not called comfort animals for nothing. We told her to keep him in her backpack or bed, and she was okay with that.

After the flight back, we took the light rail home, Ellen holding Monkey while it moved. After we'd gotten ourselves and our bags off at the station near our house, just as the train "ding"ed to warn that the doors were closing, the boys both pointing in the train and yelled "Big Monkey!" And the doors closed. Thankfully, there's a little button you can press to open the doors in just such a case, which I did before picking him up off the floor. Crisis averted!

On the walk home, Ellen wanted to stop at the park near our house, but the boys didn't. Since plane rides are coop-y, Liss stayed with Ellen to let her run around, while I continued to walk home with the boys. The girls came home a little later, and that was that.

That night I had chorus rehearsal (it was a looong day). In the middle, Liss texted me that Big Monkey was lost again, nowhere to be found in the house. This was only discovered at bedtime, with the boys already tucked in, the sky dark, and Liss more than ready to go downstairs without kids on her ankles and sip a stiff glass of wine. Instead, to Ellen's screaming sobs, she got the boys up, they found flashlights, and all went down to the park where he was presumed lost. No dice. Liss eventually had to give up, take them back, calm Ellen down, and take them all through the bedtime routine again.

Then I came home and found the monkey within five minutes, in the dining room.

We decided to tell her that I'd looked at the park as well, and found him there, to emphasize just how lucky we were not to lose him. The train thing should have plastered that damned monkey to her hip for all time, but alas.
Here's an interesting note about the long term parent/child thing. We recently visited my step-grandmother, whose own mother had declined late in life to needing care, and mentally to the point of not really recognizing her daughter. When this grown daughter, herself in her sixties, addressed her as "Mom" when trying to get her to do things, mom would resist. When she used "Miss [Firstname]" instead, she got compliance.

So kids, if it's 2051 and you're reading this, you should be calling me "Mister James."
We visited my dad in Houston, for which he prepared by buying several games, including pick-up sticks. That can be a contentious game, since people might disagree on whether sticks move or not, but the kids handled it "mostly" well, espsecially with an adult playing. They tend< to defer to us, but not without controversial moments (especially from Bobby).

After a couple of games, Andrew spent many spurts during the rest of the visit just playing by himself, or "I'm practicing." I think more than anything, he just liked the concept and challenge of the game itself, but didn't want the potential drama or the chance of losing.
Also among the games my dad got was Monopoly Junior. Like the real thing, it offers lots of opportunity to resent your fellow players, only this time with fewer options to do anything about it. We ended up having to put it in time out for the second half of our visit.
There was a period of a few days where Ellen was much more affectionate with me than normal. She's been very mom-centric her whole life, so this was a welcome change. It's tapered off, but is still more than it was.
The boys are reading at the next level, and by that I don't mean they're getting better at it, but that's true as well. What I mean is that instead of just being able to read, they're becoming "readers." They seek out books they think they'll like, and these days they're more likely to be chapter books than simple story books. Bobby has really been into Where the Sidewalk Ends, which means we should look out for more Silverstein. Andrew's been into more historical stuff, like (age- appropriate) books set in American wars. They both got Weird Fact books for Christmas that they read then swapped and continue to read, as well as a rather tough book on the presidents.

Liss has a conundrum in her classroom, in that many of her fourth-graders are reading at or near college level, but they're read everything age-appropriate, so she (and their parents) have trouble finding new things for those kids to read. It looks like we're going to have similar "problems" with the boys.

Ellen, for her part, is ahead of where the boys were at her age, but still not quite reading. She does recognize plenty of words by sight, though.
Ellen's started wiping herself, which has been more hit than miss, thankfully. But now we're not going into the bathroom to wipe her, and she hasn't gotten into some of the other routine parts. So, she'll wipe, and then leave the bathroom without flushing, washing her hands, or turning off the light.

Now that she can read a tiny bit, we're seriously considering a checklist.
The boys had a pair of inflatable balls that, against our better judgement, we've allowed them to play with in the house. Andrew's popped at some point, and I don't think Bobby's is far behind, but for now it's still a part of our daily lives. It's just been too cold in the garage or outside, though that's changing. They play soccer and other contact-ish games with it, and I'll even join in the soccer sometimes. There have been a lot of boundary-settings, which as they do, they test and test again.

We'll both be secretly happy when Bobby's pops.
From Liss:
Bobby still mixes up 'L' and 'W' sometimes. So when he asked me to buy a book called _Weatherwear For Teddy Bear_, well, I may have been a bit surprised.


The boys enjoy quizzing Ellen on things they've learned in school, especially math problems. Of course, she doesn't know the answers, which makes them feel superior. Of course, they are superior, but only in age and knowledge, the former of which lessens in impact over time, and the latter fixable. I tell them to watch themselves, because she's already beyond where they were at her age.
Liss's brother's wife is pregnant. Cousin!
We went to the birthday party for friends' two-year-old boy; at that age, the party is still more for the parents to hang out than anything else. Besides our three and the birthday boy, there were also kids of age 7, 7, 5, and 1 - all boys. So, seven boys ... and Ellen. She's used to that in general, but not at that ratio. she mostly stayed with her brothers.

And then an 18-month girl showed up, and Ellen spent the next hour playing with her like the little sister she'll never have.
To Liss from one of her co-workers:
Sat next to your boys at lunch today. They each munched a thin ring around their apples and set them aside. One of them started to unwrap a lollipop. I raised my eyebrows. "Aren't you going to finish those apples first?" I said. "They ARE finished!", the other one assured me, clearly looking out for his brother. "This is all our mom makes us eat." I reached for my phone. "Huh", I said, "Interesting. Let's take a picture so we can show her you ate all your apple then!" "NOOOOO!". Quick grab, apple hidden. I also noticed the lollipop went away mysteriously. Pretty sure they'll move tables if I sit down next to them at lunch again.

I did kind of feel bad when I heard the panic in his voice. He looked really worried that I was going to snap a pic, kind of mean of me. But funny too.
Since we refuse to use our own money to buy things we dislike, such as Barbie books on the Kindle, the kids have once again gotten it into their heads that busking outside our house would reap mounds of cash. We doubt it, but as usual, they think we're idiots.

Instead, Liss offered to pay them to help with some of the many one-off jobs that need doing around the house - not unloading the dishwasher or other chores that everyone does for free, but extra stuff. She offered them $2 each to help reorganize the linen closet. This meant taking everything out, sorting by donate or toss or keep, then putting everything back in an orderly fashion. They agreed.

Soon into it, they re-discovered the Coke that I keep in there, which they can't have, but also some orange soda, which they can. They asked if they could have some, to which Liss said they could have a can of that instead of their two dollars, and each of them could decide. Bobby and Ellen each opted for soda, which Andrew wanted the money. However, once his siblings had their sodas, he changed his mind.

So, we got about 80 minutes of work out of each of them, for the price of a can of soda. And the kicker is that we didn't even pay for it - someone left it here.
To help psyche myself up for the Super Bowl, I watched their playoff games from last year. The boys are well aware that they won the championship, but I still got this question for the game that was playing: "Who wins?" So, maybe they don't quite grasp how playoffs work yet.
Judging from their nonverbal reactions, Liss and Amy may think my chess banter against the boys to be a little ... aggressive.
We have carpet-like covers on our toilets, including the one in the kids' bathroom. Before bedtime, Bobby peed and then instead of shaking or using a sheet of toilet paper, wiped the tip on the carpet thing.

You're welcome.
Around 2:30 one morning, Ellen came into our room. I couldn't make out what she said, but she left the room, so I assumed she'd had a bad dream and wanted me to comfort her in her bed, which happens once or twice a month.

Instead, she'd been waking us up because a boy was screaming. Ellen showed me, then handed me her empty water bottle to fill before I went to help him. Oneself always comes first when you're four.

By now Liss had heard the screaming, and we both went to comfort Andrew, who rarely has nightmares, but unlike his siblings, when he does have them, he doesn't come get us. He was on the top bunk, which made it harder to help him, but he calmed down eventually. As we've done in the past, we told to come get us if he needs us, but I doubt it'll take. We also told Bobby that he should let Andrew send him to fetch us, but I doubt that'll ever happen, either. It's more likely that it'll be Ellen again if not us, woken through her wall.
There's a second grade girl who's the daughter of friends of ours, whom the boys and Ellen all adore. Recently, at the birthday party of the girl's brother, Liss overheard her asking her mom, "Can we just have Ellen over sometimes?"
Andrew, to me: "You're not that good at making us laugh."
I got a big box in the mail for some delivery or other, which the kids always want me to save such boxes. In this case, some hours later, Andrew climbed in and was to have Bobby and Ellen push him down the stairs. The idea, you see, was that he'd just slide down harmlessly, whee, what fun. I stopped them just in time.
The kids' game evolution continues.

The boys got Mancala, and ended up teaching me (with Liss). It was actually kind of impressive seeing them attempt to strategize, but it's not much of a strategy game, that I can tell. Ellen hasn't seem interested, except in the pretty rocks.

They were on a jigsaw puzzle kick for a couple of weeks, but that's tapered off. I think it'll be back.

The latest is Rummicube, a rummy-like game but with tiles, and twice as many as a deck of cards. The boys are pretty good for being so young (it says 8 and up), but I can see things they can't. I'm sure that'll change. Ellen really wants to play, but when we tried, she didn't understand what to do, so I helped her. Hopefully she'll keep allowing that. The other option is to let her play what she wants, then we play off those even if they're not valid. But then the boys have to accept that way, rather than getting annoyed with their sister, as they are wont to do.

They were on a Connect Four kick for a bit, even beating me once in a while.

The boys have started attending a chess club at their school, which they claim means they're going to be able to beat me soon. Maybe, maybe not, little men.

Maybe the most important part of the evolution is the understanding that they need to clean up the entire game when they're done, and put it away. For some reason, the instructions keep getting left behind.
At first, the boys' beds going bunk meant fewer slumber parties, but they've adapated just fine. Woo.

The agreement they come up with was to switch top/bottom every Saturday, and so far they've been doing so without fail. The funny thing, though, is that they both prefer the bottom. That's very against the kid stereotype, and also contrary to what they'd thought.
When you get to the end of a book on the Kindle, it shows an interface whereby you can rate the book and give it a short review. At some point recently, Liss had shown Bobby the process.

Each kid gets their shared Kindle one bedtime a week, for books only. Bobby had his this week, and finished a Calvin and Hobbes book, then tried to rate and review, but was having trouble. He brought it down to us, thinking it needed our passcode to work, but that wasn't the case. His review wasn't long enough for their minimum size. But, he'd already typed "Funney weird good by a first grade kid named Bobby!---yay" by himself, which impressed me enough that I didn't mention how late he was doing this.

He dicatated the rest of it to Liss, then went on his way.
Ellen's getting more savvy in general. The lady who gave me the dollhouse warned that a front window was out, but since it's in the front, and the open part for Ellen is the rear, I figured it wouldn't be a thing. Well, she mentioned it last night, along with a hallway door that's "missing." The box of spare parts has the window, but I don't know about the door. Guess I'll be her handyman.
For New Year's Eve we went to a kid friendly party, where we counted down at midnight New York time instead of Pacific. It was chaos, with some dozen kids six and under running around playing with the host kids' stuff, repeatedly asking for an extra dessert, and just generally being kids. It was definitely not the kind of scene I like in my house, but these parents just resigned themselves to it early.

When we got home - very late for them - the [illegal] fireworks had started in our neighborhood. Bob was pretty pissy that he was supposed to go to sleep instead of standing at the window watching.
I got the Kindle versions of some Calvin and Hobbes books for the kids, and the boys have been going through them for a few days. The vocabulary is way beyond them much of the time, but we gave them the gist of the setting and people, and they're into it anyway. Hopefully this doesn't mean we'll end up with two Calvins, but I'm not worried.
Liss thinks the boys are ready to have Harry Potter read to them.
It's easy to be wary of wooden bunk bed frames when you have two boys prone to wrestling, but I just remind myself that they were designed to hold two college students having sex.
You're only as "done" as your youngest child.

Our kids remain the oldest boys and oldest girl among most of our friends (there are some boys older than Ellen but younger than our boys). Whenever we get together with those who have a second or third kid, those little ones are still babies or toddlers. Those parents are changing diapers, heating bottles, going through teething, potty training, and all that other stuff we've left behind. Our youngest is almost five. So while those parents have five and six year olds, they're still not done with baby stuff.

Soon we'll be done with pre-school, and having a child who can't read on her own.