Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hungry for Hunger Games

Time kind of stopped over here at our house on March 22nd in anticipation of the movie release of "The Hunger Games" on March 23rd.

I have done what I set out to do:  create a house of readers.

When I taught middle school English, I kept seeing this black book in the hands of some very reluctant readers.

So of course, I was curious.  Those reluctant readers always have it right.  It was gripping.  I ripped through it.  Then I started the next one, "Catching Fire".  Then I had to order the hardback of "Mockingjay" because it wasn't even out yet in paperback.  I became a die hard fan of Suzanne Collins.

I wasn't sure my boys, in 4th and 6th grades then, were ready for the book.  But they thought they were.  But it's not for the faint of heart.  It tackles some serious issues.  There is death.  Evil.  But there's also Love. And Good.  But I hesitated.  Instead, I looked in to what else Suzanne Collins had written and found the "Gregor the Overlander" series.

These, her first books, are geared towards a younger audience and have a boy and his baby sister as the main characters.  I bought the first few in the series from Half Price Books (one of my favorite places in the world) and the twins started reading them.

I held out on "The Hunger Games" until this school year, when they were in 5th and 7th grades.  A bit older.  And I knew the movie would be coming out.  We started reading "The Hunger Games" aloud - a few chapters every night.  They were hooked, just as I had been.  While Husband was away at sea, he listened to "Catching Fire" on his computer while we read it aloud at home.  And when he returned, we began "Mockingjay".

As the movie release date approached, we looked at all of the things we had going on and realized that we didn't have time to see the movie on Friday after school because of a baseball tournament.  Saturday morning was out.  Sunday afternoon was their end-of-season basketball party and confirmation class.  I began eyeing the midnight showings on Thursday night (technically March23rd).  Husband and I thought it would be fun, if not crazy, to keep them up that late on a school night, and the boys seemed somewhat excited.  They really wanted to see it and be able to talk about it at school the next day with friends.

They went to bed like normal - but in their clothes - and Husband went and bought the tickets at about 9:00 - the theater was already packed and people were claiming seats.  We started to wonder if we'd made a mistake.  We couldn't hang with a bunch of teenagers.  But we stuck it out.  We woke the boys and got up there about 45 minutes early and luckily found seats all together, but then had to wait because, well, we were 45 minutes early.  I think Reid fell back asleep sitting up.  Hayden and I ate a bunch of popcorn.  To stay awake, of course.

During the movie, Hayden remarked on each thing that was changed in the transition from the book to the screen.

"That's not how she got the Mockingjay pin!"

"Why are they making that sign?  They're not supposed to do that until Rue's district."

"Where's the sleeping syrup?"

"The mutts aren't supposed to look like that!"

Despite all of that chatter, he loved it.  We gave our kids the experience of opening night at a movie theater with a movie they'd been anticipating.  A movie that was first in their minds and on the pages of a book.

Husband managed to get them up the next morning with the lure of pancakes and bacon and they went off to school with minimal grumpiness - so it was a success, in my opinion.  And the boys were able to talk about it at school.  One of Reid's teachers had actually seen us there and was impressed that we were such fans.

"Tired today, Reid?" she asked him.  He smiled but was puzzled, wondering how she knew.
"I saw you last night at the theater.  I was there, too!"  She climbed right up to favorite teacher status.

And that was the point, after all.  To make them feel what it's like to read a book and be able to share that experience with other people.  It connects you.  And you have to work at it a little.  It's not without effort.  But it's worth it.  It's really worth it.        

Okay, maybe it's worth it.  This picture shows how grumpy Reid was because it was 2:00 in the morning.  The glare of the porch light is really bright at 2:00 in the morning. . .But the rest of us look pretty happy, don't we?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tired puppies

Camping is exhausting.

Spring Break tired all of us out - Bailey included.  Hayden & Bailey slept a lot when we got back.

We ventured only an hour north to Eisenhower State Park on Lake Texoma.  Because we went midweek, our camping spot wasn't too crowded and we had a view of the lake.  The boys went straight down to the water with Hawkins's kayak while Husband and I set up camp.  Our tent looked like this:

You can see the lake from inside the tent through the trees.  

I must say my favorite thing about camping is this:

Husband had the foresight 20 years ago (!) when we were mere pups dating to convince me we needed to invest in sleeping bags from The North Face.  This is a great company and they make quality products.  But that's not my favorite part.  This is:

They zip together to form one warm, cozy, enormous sleeping bag.  And that, my friends, is genius.  I got all nostalgic when I rolled them out and zipped them together this time.  They really are 20 years old.  A little worn.  The zippers protest and stick a bit.  But they're still great.  Best of all, they allow me to share in the heater that is Husband so that I do not get chilled when sleeping with only a thin tarp-like tent bottom between me and the ground.

New pup Bailey did great camping - only venturing off to the neighboring campsite once or twice to lick their campfire grill clean.  We did a lot of geocaching - if you have boy children you probably already know what this is and how much fun it can be.  For those of you who haven't been introduced to this outdoor treasure hunting, read about it here.  We even attended the Texas Challenge 2012 at Ray Roberts State Park last weekend where Reid bid on and won this in the silent auction:

Yes, those are empty tins of Altoids.  Why, you might ask, would anyone need a pyramid of empty Altoid tins?  To use as geocache boxes, of course.  Fill them with treasures for others to find.  Husband gets all the credit for introducing the family to this a few years ago when the boys found a cache in the Community Park in Port Aransas and had no idea what it was.  We've come a long way.

We hiked a lot and cooked food over an open fire pit and the boys fought over who got to lay in the hammock (that is also almost 20 years old).  The only bad thing was the tick I found on me after returning home.  All those boys and the dog and it picked me.  Of course.  I plucked it off when I realized the reflection in the bathroom mirror revealed an extra freckle -- wait a minute -- that's not a freckle!  Unfortunately, in my haste to remove the nasty thing with tweezers, the head detached from the body and is still imbedded.  In me.  Yuck.  But the CDC website assures me that Lyme Disease is rarer than one might think, that it's best to get the tick off of you quickly (even if they are beheaded) and that you should keep it clean and it will heal.  My efforts to dig out the head with a needle, even with assistance from first one boy, then Husband, were unsuccessful.  I'm only slightly paranoid and checking myself about 20 times a day for a bull's eye rash and flu-like symptoms.  Good times.      


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lucky number 13

Our oldest boy turned 13 yesterday.  A milestone of a birthday.

How did this happen?  Thirteen years.  Gone.  And he started out so small...

We of course told him the story of his birth while we camped out this past week.  Every year he picks up on something different, though the story stays the same.

He came early, this redhead.  Since it was, after all, our first rodeo, we had no idea what to expect.  I had read no further than the horror story that is labor in all of my pregnancy books.  Because I was 38 weeks pregnant, we thought we had two more weeks to prepare.  Husband was still reading his "The Expectant Father" book (the absolute best book for daddies-to-be).  We were practicing our Lamaze breathing.  We were going for all out natural childbirth.  I was unbending in this regard.  I would have no drugs.  And no formula or bottles for my baby.  I think this is what saved me:  my closed-mindedness that there could be any alternative.  Because it was so hard.  And so incredibly painful.

Our natural childbirth plans were threatened by our doctor when she informed me that I had pre-eclampsia and she would really rather we fly to Anchorage to have the baby, instead of staying in Cordova.  "Noooo!" I wailed.  Husband asked, in all seriousness, "What happens if we don't go?  If we just stay here even though you want us to leave?"  And the kind doctor, in all seriousness, replied, "That's fine.  She can have the baby here.  But you know there's a blizzard coming and that means great difficulty in life-flighting her out if we need to.  And there's no anesthesiologist here.  And I can cut her open if I have to.  But it's gonna hurt.  And there will be lots of blood."  Pause.  "Guess we better book that flight!" Husband replied.

Then we packed and prepared and were stopped on Main Street by people who wished us well and knew details of my nether regions like how much I was effaced and dilated.  And we tried to sleep.  But about 1:00 a.m. I rolled over in bed and my water broke.  Like someone had turned on a faucet, right there on the mattress.  Game on.

So we drove the few blocks to the tiny hospital in the middle of the night and all my plans to walk around the halls and even get into the bathtub and listen to soothing music during labor went right out the window as the contractions gripped me.  I wanted to curl into a ball and die.  We went through our Lamaze breathing techniques quickly, finally settling on the most complicated one of all involving counting and holding up fingers and graduated pants and blows.  It worked.  But only if Husband was the one to hold up his fingers right in my face and make me focus.  If he went to the bathroom and a contraction gripped me, the nurses were helpless to get me through it without him.  So he stopped drinking any fluid at all so he wouldn't have to leave my side.  For twelve hours.

Labor.  Is it ever.

When they finally told me I could push, I thought it would be over in a matter of minutes.  I had made it this far without drugs.  I was almost done.  Wrong.  TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATER, that baby finally emerged.  Two and a half hours of me screaming and crying, "I can't do it!" and the doctor and Husband screaming back, "You're doing it!"  I was so surprised it was a boy.  A 9 pound, 11 ounce boy.  He was the biggest baby born in that hospital that the nurses could recall.

And the adventure began.  We returned home where I could be found looking like this:

Sitting on the couch nursing.  There I remained.  For the next 14 months.  Or so it seemed.

And now we're buying him size 11 men's shoes. And xBox accessories.  

He still wanted a homemade cake this year, and I'd come across this one on Pinterest from this cute blog.  Here's my version.

Dinner was Hawkins's request:  lasagna (I made the regular and spinach versions from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook).  Neighbors from up and down the street stopped by, Big Papaw showed up all the way from Tulsa, and we sat outside and visited while the kids swung each other dangerously high from the tire swing and played hide and seek tag in the dark.  And we felt lucky.           

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring (Heart)Break

I did it.  I took away the xBox.  I am the worst the world.

It is a tower of evil.  Or at least it starts a whole lot of fights in our house and I'm sick of it.

The last straw came last night when one boy called Husband while we were out with friends for a few drinks (out at a bar sounds so unresponsible and bad parent-like) to report that another boy had thrown his iPod against a wall.  Hmm.  "That's not good," Husband told boy on phone.  "We're almost home.  We'll talk about this when we get there."

But we didn't.  Cause I just marched in the house, asked iPod thrower why he threw iPod and he replied, "Because he threw the xBox controls and ripped the cords out."  I shoulda known.  It always comes back to the xBox.  Tower of evil, remember?

So I ripped the cords out of that box and now it rests in my room.  Where it will remain for a loooooong time. Or maybe just all of Spring Break.

I've taken it away once before - for a week.  It was a delightful week in our house.  Once the boys accepted that, indeed, I meant to keep it for a whole week due to their abhorrent behavior in church - they actually (gasp!) FOUND OTHER THINGS TO DO.  Less violent things.  Things that didn't cause them to fight.  Things that did not make their tween testosterone boil.  Oldest boy - my sweet redhead - actually picked wildflowers for me and made a collage out of them with cardboard and tape and - get this - hung it above the living room doorway.  It spelled out "Thanks Mom" in tiny little blue and white flowers.  I was speechless.  "What possessed you?" I asked.  "I had to find something to do since we couldn't play the xBox," he said.  Clearly he did not know how damning that statement was to his future video game enjoyment.

Memories of that blissful week swam around in my head when I heard them bickering this weekend while shooting one another on "Modern Warfare 3".  They cannot simply commit murder and mayhem quietly.  They have to call each other "dumbass" and "retard" while they do it and scream, "You're cheating!"  This behavior prompted the "No Xbox on Sundays" edict that has been in place for about 6 months now.  It gave me one day of peace and was intended to give them one day when they had to do something other than kill zombies.  Typically, they'd ask to go to the neighbor's house because they didn't have the "No Xbox on Sundays" rule.  Or the library, where there are rows upon rows of computers that they can kill each other on -- but they do have to be quiet about it.  So they were getting around a loophole in the law, but I still had one day of peace in the house.  So I didn't really care.

But because it was Spring Break, I relaxed this rule yesterday.  And then somehow the thought of facing an entire week with these boys, off from school for Spring Break, fighting over whose turn it was or what game to play or who was the bigger idiot for shooting someone was just too much for me.

So it's gone.  For the week.  It is sunny out today, and I am going to make them ride bikes with me downtown.  We will stop by the library and I will make them each check out a book that must be read during this week.  We have plans to go camping in a few days and oldest boy turns 13 on Friday.  This will be Spring Break Unplugged.  I'll let you know how it goes.    

Monday, March 5, 2012

Home stinky home...

There isn't a made bed in the house.  There are wet towels thrown over the unmade beds, discarded hastily by my boys as they raced to catch the school bus this morning.  There are no groceries in the house, so the boys ate Little Debbie Cream Pies for breakfast and will eat lunch in the cafeteria.  I managed to cut their fingernails and toenails (the two out of three that needed it) because I just couldn't imagine sending them to school with those dirt caked talons.  Even after a shower, there was still some embedded dirt.

But they are now all at school and I can survey the damage.

This is what it's like when we return home after a weekend away.  We were greeted by dirty dishes in the sink and something stank-y in the garbage can.  The back storm door was unlocked, as was the regular door.  What in the world?  We actually left for a weekend with the back door unlocked?

But it was all fine.  Another reason we're glad we live on a quiet and relatively safe street.  We are so absentminded as to leave a door unlocked when we leave town.  That's what bothers me.  What else did I forget?  Might I forget?  I could drive myself crazy asking questions like that.

So I'll set to work this morning getting everything in order:  turning on the heat, starting the dishwasher and washing machine, unpacking bags, going to the grocery store, even getting some writing done.

Something still stinks.  I think it might be the compost container, not the garbage.  

It's good to be home.