Sunday, July 31, 2011

I'm a Super Hero Without a Secret Identity

We're obsessed with super heroes around our house. Probably this has something to do with having 3 boys who love to run around the house in capes! (Although, Abi was SuperGirl one year for Halloween!)

Superman, Ninja Turtle, and Mr. Incredible all made an appearance a couple Halloween's ago.
Abi was a witch... "a NICE witch"... who didn't need super powers cuz she had magic. ha ha!
I think there is something about being a 4 year old boy that makes you LOVE super heroes.

Matthew was obsessed with Spiderman when he was 4 and saw the first Tobey Maguire Spiderman movie. We actually had a turtle named "Peter Parker" for a while. Jack likes Superman the best. Because we're Mythbusters super fans, the kid applied laws of physics to explain why Superman's hair is never wind blown and he doesn't get bugs in his teeth. (Hint: it has to do with a fixed vortex created when he holds that one arm out in front of him while he flies.) Joshua loves The Green Lantern. He actually calls him "The Gleen Lantorn" and became his number one fan after he got a Justice League DVD for his 4th birthday.

 That being said, I'm kinda annoyed with the PG-13 rated versions of super hero movies that have been coming out lately. I'm not taking my 5 yr old to a PG-13 movie sight unseen. Don't the people making those movies know that little kids LOVE those characters and want to see them movies? I realize that we adult dorks with an undying love for comic book heroes have some clout money-wise but, I'm irritated that my kids will get excited about seeing a super hero movie only to have it quashed because of the rating. What's with stocking all the toy aisles in Target and WallyWorld full of dress up stuff and action figures from movies that clearly weren't made with kids in mind? That bugs me.

Side note: I have my own favorite super heroes too. The first Iron Man was great but the sequel was crap. Tony Stark was completely unlikeable in part 2. All of the forward progress in unselfishness that he made in the first movie was nowhere to be found in part 2. He had no redeeming qualities and we won't let our kids watch that movie for that reason. The story was crap.
I found the same thing to be true about The Green Hornet. I was totally stoked to see that movie... the Green Hornet is my favorite comic book hero. The movie didn't do his character justice. At. All. In fact, he lacked character completely. Sure he fought the bad guys... but Britt Reid II was a total tool in his regular life even after he found purpose as The Green Hornet. The movie had a lot of moments that are totally inappropriate for kids... which was also annoying because my kids got excited to see it after The Mythbusters did a special about stunts from the movie. Once again, crap story + lack of moral compass = Mama and Daddy RiceCake don't let the little RiceCakes watch.

All that aside, I think that being a Mom definitely puts me in a league with super heroes. Never mind that I have dual identities as Mom and Wife... and really a third, some people actually call me "Sarah." I know... shocking.

I came up with my own list of things I think qualify me as having super powers!

1. Utility belt... Mom-size purse... I don't see a difference. In fact, I'm pretty sure my purse hold more stuff than Batman's belt. I'd like to see him try to occupy 4 kids under 10 in a doctor's waiting room with a grappling hook.

2. Super Mom Speed. I'm pretty sure I run upstairs "faster than a speeding bullet" when I hear a kid puking.

3. Stains are evil and I fight them daily.

4. I can be more than one identity at the same time. Example: Helping with homework (teacher), making dinner while talking on the phone to Dave (wife), giving a sick kid Tylenol (Mom), and commenting on blogs (Sarah), and tweeting to Carri (@MamaRiceCake) all at the same time.

5. I'm certain that MacGyver could use all the random stuff in my Suburban to break out of a POW camp. And I've taken enough physics and watched enough retro TV to be that guy too. (I know, you're gonna say that Mac wasn't a super hero... but he WAS a creative genius. Don't even try to tell me that motherhood doesn't involve being a creative genius. I will cut you.) 

6. Small children hush within seconds of receiving my "Mom Look"... even if it's bounced off the rear view mirror.

7. Give me a pound of ground beef, an onion, a pound of pasta, and some tomatoes and I'll give you dinner for 6... in under 30 minutes.

8. Super Mom Hearing. I hear my kids rolling over in their beds upstairs in the middle of the night, with their doors shut. I can also hear sneaky, conniving behind bedroom doors and kids who fell off their bike and are now crying when they're still a block away.

9. Mom Memory. I'm a living, breathing medical record book for all 6 people who live in my house but, I can't remember why I walked into this room.

10. Mom Frugality. I can occupy small children all day at home, all summer for under $100... and they LIKE it!

So sound off... what are your parenting super powers?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Taylor Swift, "Clean", and Ungrudging Hospitality

Taylor Swift songs get sung around my house a LOT. Abi really likes her and the people at Picker's Paradise (where she takes mandolin lessons) gave her a Taylor guitar poster of Taylor Swift that she's got hanging in her room. Matthew has a few of her songs loaded on his Shuffle and I'll find him drawing and singing them to himself. Dave has a tendency to sing her songs really loudly in the shower... usually just to drive me crazy.

Even if you don't necessarily LIKE her music, I think we can all say that the girl has a crazy ability to write catchy tunes that get stuck in your head. That takes some talent. No one walks around singing any songs that I've written... then again, I've never written a song... until now.

OK, technically, I didn't write a song. I just changed the words to Taylor Swift's song "Mean" but, I think it still counts. The tune got stuck in my head and it wouldn't leave. So, one day... while feeling irritated with the song in my head AND feeling frustrated by the knack my children have for UNdoing every clean up chore JUST as I get it finished... I changed the words and this is how it came out:

You, with your toys and your books and your crayons that you play with all day
I wanna put my feet up but if I sit down the mess will grow bigger
You keep me on my toes all day long, askin' never-ending questions
Tryin' to push Mama's buttons

But you don't know just what I know

Some day, I'll be retired and you won't live with me
And my house will finally be real clean.
Some day, peace and quiet will rule in my house,
But I'll miss the mess that's really quite obscene.

Who cares about spit-shined clean?

Yeah, sometimes my little Mess Makers drive me crazy but I know that one day, when they're not here anymore, I'll miss their messes. So, instead of getting stabby about the perpetual cleaning up that is called "Motherhood", I sing this song in my head and it changes my attitude about it. The season of perpetual messes is really pretty darn short in the larger picture of my life. The kids will only be living with me for a little while. It's my job to make their home a place that's clean and safe. (NOT that they don't have any chores to do and it's all on me. We've talked about their jobs before and how it's an issue of discipline at our house.) Because God's entrusted these little people to me, and it's really for a small portion of my life, I should do my job WELL and with a good attitude. Attitude is everything right? Who cares if you're doing your job well if you do it with a sucky attitude? It's not gonna win me any awards but, I'd rather do my job with a happy heart than with a irritable one. The condition of my heart affects the people I live with even if no one outside my house notices it. I don't want my kids to grow up thinking that I just thought they were a messy pain in the rear the whole time they lived with me because they AREN'T just a messy pain in the rear!

Also, when I'm not a jerk about my clean up chores... the kids aren't jerky about their clean up chores. Lead by example right?

"Extend ungrudging hospitality towards one another."
1 Peter 4:9 (Weymouth New Testament)

What do your kids do that drives you bonkers and do you think you'll miss it when they grow up and move away?

Let's BEE Friends

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lucy, Dave, and Non-Dutch

My sanity was saved, once again, during deployment by my completely awesome cousin Lucy. She's come to visit for about 2 weeks for the past 4 summers and she is, by FAR, the most helpful person to have hang out with us. She's 16 and after 4 summers of Camp RiceCake, she's got our routine down pat! I love it when she's here. Having her here is like having another ME.
What Mom doesn't need that?!

I cook dinner... she makes brownies AND cleans the kitchen when we're done eating.
I swap laundry... she folds it.
I mention something about wanting to mop the floors later today... she mops while I'm reading bedtime stories.
I cut the grass... she gives the dog a bath.
I give the kids haircuts... she keeps them all entertained so that I don't have to.

She shortens the time it takes for me to do EVERYTHING. I freaking LOVE her!

We need to make T-shirts with this picture on 'em for when she's here!

We also have the same taste in guilty pleasure TV... Hoarders makes us gag so, we tend to watch Cake Boss (She's always here around Matthew's birthday so, she's usually involved in making some kind of dessert with me), Chelsea Handler (one Christmas she actually sent me a bracelet with white letter beads that spelled "Suck It") and a lot of crime shows. We eat popcorn, drink slushies, and figure out "who dunnit" before the people on TV do. We play Wii Fit and laugh our butts off.

The girl is freakin' awesome with the kids and we're always sad when she goes home. The kids literally want to keep her. She colors with them, reads them books, plays boards games, snuggles with them when they watch cartoons, and builds cool stuff out of Legos. This year we bought a tie dye kit and dyed ANYTHING the kids could think of. They looked like a bunch of DeadHeads... only cuter! She also taught Abi how to make those friendship bracelets out of floss. The girls made a million of them! Abi loved it! Lucy is the coolest person that they know. She is the RiceCake version of a rock star!

Yup! They even dyed their SOCKS!

Lucy going home usually means that Dave is almost back!

This time we only had about 48 more hours left of Dave's time away when she went back home. That was a really good thing because the kids were seriously sad (read that as: there was LOTS of crying involved) that Lucy had to go home. Every year they ask why we have to give her back! I keep telling them that I want to keep her too! But the first place the police would look for her, when she didn't show up in New Jersey is our house!

Dave got back yesterday. EVERYONE breathed a collective sigh of relief. Dave was in Suriname (that's in South America, near Brazil, for those of you too lazy to Google it!) helping to build a medical clinic for the people there. It was a pretty cool project and will benefit the people for a long time. That, I think, is worth loaning him out for!

The kids were SO stoked to have Daddy back home. He always finds cool stuff to bring them when he's away and this time was no exception. He brought them the Surinaamese version of Monopoly!

He and the RiceCakes cracked that sucker open and started playing within 20 minutes of him walking in the door! We own the English version of Monopoly but, the kids had never played it. They've been kinda little... and tend to play other games. They LOVE card games... mostly, Uno! So, I thought it was really funny that the FIRST TIME they ever played Monopoly, they were playing it in DUTCH! Literally, the entire game was in Dutch. It's a good thing that Dave and I had played the English version a bazillion times... we were able to figure out what all the cards were saying. Decoding the language actually made it a whole other level of fun. Playing in English is boring... bring on the cards that look like this:

Dave was cracking me up because ALL of the cards had names of places in Suriname (duh!) and some of the names were almost impossible to pronounce for us NON-Dutch readers. So, he kept calling his cards by what their names would've been, had they been on the American Monopoly board. Gomperstraat Maretraite is totally Marvin Gardens!

So yeah... Lucy was so helpful, Dave is back home, and we're all learning Dutch (insomuch as it helps us play board games!) My world was askew and now it's all upright again! YAY!

**** I could have put photos of Lucy but, she's not MY kid. Since I like her and I need to keep her parents happy so they'll continue to send her to our house every summer.... ;) I'm not being papparazzish about it! Capice?!

Let's BEE Friends

Friday, July 15, 2011

It's Entirely Possible to Pinstripe a Teddy Graham

Ever since I posted the photos of Jack's jungle cake with the Teddy Graham hula dancers, I've had a bunch of traffic from people looking for Teddy Graham baseball players and stadium cake photos. I mentioned that last year, I made a baseball field cake for his birthday in the post. Since that's apparently "what The People want"... I'll give The People what they're asking for! ha ha!

I have a bazillion different kinds of decorative icings. Yes, that's IS an actual number. I buy different colors after holidays when they go on sale at WallyWorld and Target (green and red AFTER Christmas, black and orange AFTER Halloween, pink and white AFTER Valentine's Day, etc) and they stay fresh for a pretty long time. I keep them all in a big gallon Ziploc bag. I also get some of the more "fancy" versions from Michael's. ALL of the sprinkle-type decorations I get from stores like TJ Maxx  and Ross. Seriously, they'll sell a big shaker with 5 or 6 different kinds of sprinkles that I see at Target for $5 or $6 for under $2. Can't beat that! I'm all about cool looking cakes... but I'm NOT all about spending a ton of money!

Baking the french vanilla cake took hardly any time at all. Pinstriping Teddy Grahams takes a LONG TIME. Constructing the cake took a total of about 4 hours mostly because I had to wait for the bears' shirts to dry before I could put the stripes on! The frosting is a Betty Crocker cream cheese flavor with a little powdered sugar added to it to help it hold it's shape better and make it a little more sticky. (It gets a little melty and will ooze off the vertical pieces of the cake if you don't add it.) It LOOKS crazy because of the colors but, all the frosting tastes the same. I like making cool cakes that actually taste good. I don't think there's any point in making rad decorations that taste nasty so... I don't. The bleachers are just vanilla-flavored wafer cookies held together in stacks with cream cheese icing. The baseball field "dirt" is crushed graham crackers. The bat (held by the batter) is a caramel candy rolled out into a bat shape.

The pinstriping was tricky... not gonna lie. it was the most time-consuming part of the construction. Teddy Grahams are really LITTLE! I tried several different tips on my icing bag to get it right and they were all too thick and almost completely covered the shirts. So, I used a toothpick. I watered down the frosting just a little and dipped the toothpick in it and painted it on the bears. I think it turned out really cute! I made WAY MORE bears than would fit on the cake... so that I had a LOT of wiggle room for errors. The kids dig that... they get to eat the messed up ones which taste just as yummy as the ones that turn out RIGHT!

It was a fun cake to build. Jack LOVED it (he played T-ball that year and was ALL about anything baseball-related!) And that sucker tasted so yummy that we were all bummed when it was gone!

So there ya go People! The Teddy Graham baseball field cake in all it's glory.

Let's BEE Friends

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Once Upon A Time...

Once upon a time, this girl

fell in love with this guy
and they ran off to Vegas and got married!
It was scandalous!

362 days later they had a Matthew!

13 months after that they had a Abigail!

She got really sick and that was scary.
But she got better and life was good.

They moved to Alabama and it got even better
 ...but, someone was missing.
Then Jack was born!
... and they built a house.
And their family looked like this!
...except for when it looked like this.
... and someone was STILL missing!
Yep. Someone was definitely missing!

Then Joshua was born!
And no one was missing anymore.
Sometimes life got rough... like when people got sick
or during deployment.

But mostly, they had a LOT of reasons to laugh!
They took time to work together.
They took time to play together.

And she never wondered if he loved her...
And he never wondered if she loved him...
Because they loved each other with their lives.

There's not a minute of the last 11 years that I'd trade.
I would do it all again.
I love you David Rice.
Happy anniversary!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I Am The Mother of a 10 Year Old?!

10 years ago my life changed radically when Dave and I brought Matthew David home from the hospital. Our twosome became a family of 3. Having Matthew changed how we thought about the world... and our place in it. Suddenly, we had someone tiny to look after and care for. We changed routines that we'd gotten into before he was born... what time we'd go shopping (had to think about naps and food for the little guy!), how much stuff we packed when we went away for the weekend (the trunk was stuffed with baby gear!), and how we spent a bunch of our "free time" (babies are more entertaining than going to the movies!)

Matthew... the day we brought him home.

Matthew means "gift from God" in Hebrew.  Did you know there's a difference between a "gift" and a "present"? A present is something you receive from someone else... but it's merely something that you WANT. A gift is something you receive that meets a need. Did you catch the difference? It's subtle but, it's there. We use the words interchangeably but, they really don't mean exactly the same thing. Our Matthew has lived up to his name in every sense of the word. He has met a need, in my own heart and life, that I'm not even sure I realized was there before he filled it. I don't mean that whole Jerry Maguire "you complete me" nonsense. I'm talking about opening my heart to a space I didn't know existed... and teaching me that life is more about others and less about ME than I was thinking it was. Matthew made me realize that Real Love is bigger and goes further than I thought it could. He broke the glass ceiling on my heart.

Matthew on his 1st birthday.
This little face opened my heart to just how big love can grow.
Matthew is a unique kid. He sees things as being very black and white. There aren't many grey areas with him. Things are right... or they aren't. The end. It's a handy trait to have in a toddler because you pretty much tell him something is wrong only once. Literally, this boy was so EASY as a preschooler because when you told him "No"... he'd remember... FOREVER. He's still that way to a large extent. He LIKES knowing where the lines are and he likes staying INSIDE the lines!

Matthew likes black and white a lot... that's probably why he loved our goat Jerry so much
That's right... we had a goat name Jerry Rice.

He's also really gifted when it comes to music. He started taking guitar lessons a few months before his 7th birthday... he learned to read music more quickly than he learned to read words. He's been able to carry a tune since he was tiny. It was wild to hear him singing along with music in the car from his car seat with perfect pitch. He loves it when my cousin Donna goes to Rwanda and he gets to Skype with her and the kids at New Hope Homes. He plays his guitar for them and they all sing together. It's amazing to think about kids from totally opposite corners of the world singing "Jesus Loves Me" and "Jingle Bells" together via the Internet. It's WILD!

Matthew got his first guitar from Dave's Dad.
He LOVES to play!

Matthew's good with numbers. He likes patterns. He draws all the time. Seriously... we go through more drawing paper in this house than I thought was even possible. He's won art contests and had pictures hung in local hospitals. Matthew's drawings have so much detail... it's amazing. You can stare at them for a long time and still not see everything he's put in the picture.

I've called him the "Child of Order". He LIKES things to be organized and lined up. He likes knowing where all his things are. As a preschooler, he'd lay on the floor near his nightlight at bedtime and line all his Hot Wheels up in a certain order. He LOVED playing with his train set because the cars would all stay in order! He always preferred "picking things up" to "leaving it until tomorrow". Sharing a room with his messy little brothers was HARD! He LOVES having his own room... and I NEVER have to tell him to clean it up. Dust... maybe. But there's never anything left on the floor.

Matthew (7 yrs old) with our dog Julia
Matthew loves science. He loves learning how things work... and thinking about how to make things better. He wants to fly jets and travel to space. He like animals and learning about really weird species. The kid asks a million questions a day. Sometimes I wonder if he's building his own encyclopedia in his brain! But I also know that curiosity will fuel bigger things one day. People that ask perpetual questions about things are usually the people who make the world a better place when they invent something that makes our lives better.

Matthew (8 yrs) putting together a model airplane for his birthday
This one makes me laugh since they're tilting their heads in opposite directions.

People always say that "time flies" but I never really realized how quickly the years go by until I had Matthew. It's been TEN YEARS since we first became parents. Ten years since I became a Mom. And I realize that we're likely past the halfway mark with Matthew. We probably have fewer years with us all together ahead of us than we have behind us. That's remarkable. I feel like I blinked and poof he's big. Don't get me wrong... he still likes to play with action figures and loves his BMX bike! He's just so NOT a little kid anymore.

Time moves SO fast!

"I know what I am planning for you," says the Lord. "I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will search for me. And when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me!"  Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NCV)

Matthew thinks his birthday cupcakes are #winning!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Even Batman Takes Naps

I don't usually post for Wordless Wednesday... but this just cracked me up. Joshua had spent the day pretending he was Batman and swooping around the house. When it got really quiet... I knew something was up. I found him on the chaise recliner... zonked OUT!

Maybe you can show your non-nap takers.... even BATMAN takes snoozes!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Heavier Things After July 4th

We're down to single digit number of days until deployment starts again for our family.

I hate that.

SERVICE-- I love.


The thing about being a Reservist's family is that we're seriously pretty alone in our experience of all things military. We don't live on base with a community of other families that are experiencing the same kinds of things. We're out here in the civilian world where, despite the BEST of intentions, people just don't "get it."

Not only do they NOT understand our acronyms or our schedules, they also don't get why we're always unavailable to hang out or have company the first weekend of the month. They don't see how the "part-time job" has such an affect on full-time plans. They look at deployment and A.T. (Annual Training) as if they're "business trips"... and they're just not. They think we should be more flexible than we are and are "used to him being away." We're never gonna get used to it. It doesn't matter how many times we do deployment, I'm gonna lose my shit EVERY time. That doesn't make me a wimp. That means I've got a heart... and that it's working.

I hate it when people say I'm a "single parent" when Dave's away. I'm not a single parent. I think that's insulting to ACTUAL single parents (whose job is WAY more difficult than people give them credit for) and it's insulting to my husband (who is not "away" by choice but, by SERVICE!) I usually say that "I'm flying solo" when Dave's away. It's more accurate. (YES, accuracy matters.)

I get defensive about our time as a family. I want LOTS of buffer space between times when Daddy's away and when he gets back. People just don't get that. I don't want to be away from the house before he leaves... and I don't want company at the house when he gets back. The kids just can't handle it. Routine is the ONLY thing we have to fall back on when things get hard. It's a LOT for a small person to understand... adding chaotic company (and even people we love a lot, disrupt regular life when they stay WITH us) seriously jacks up their ability to sleep... and that only makes the emotional hardships worse. The person who has to deal with small children coming unglued is ME. So, my vote is the only one that counts. I'm way beyond the point where I worry if that makes me seem bitchy.

I read an article about military families a few years ago. It said that after Pearl Harbor was bombed something like 1 out of every 3 houses on EVERY street in America experienced having a family member deployed. It said that (as of 2007) that number was closer to 1 out of every 250 homes. That's a HUGE difference. Mind blowing if you really think about it. It explains so much about our civilian lack of understanding how/why the military does the things that it does. It also explains how my family knows exactly ZERO other local military families.

I'm not kidding. My kids go to school with NO other kids whose parent is in the military. Dave's monthly drill site is out-of-state (albeit just about 100 miles away) and we don't know ANY of the people he works with OR their families. When we're contending with the challenges of missing Dave and juggling all of the things that need juggling while he's away, we don't know anyone else who's doing the same thing.

That's so weird.

That doesn't mean that we're all alone. We have some great family friends, who've been a great help when Dave's been away. I have several cousins who are service members and I keep up with their families and vent/share the military stuff and know that they KNOW what I'm talking about. Blogging has been awesome for finding a community of military wives, who are some amazing women, that can commiserate and offer support when I'm coming unglued. But it's bizarre to think that something that is such a HUGE part of our life as a family, is something that isolates us so much from the very people that we're serving by "loaning out our Daddy."

So, that's what I've got running through my brain as the countdown number gets smaller. We're not loaning him out to any place awful OR for a very long time... but the separation still hurts. If you run into me, and I'm totally crabby or an absolute space cadet... maybe you'll grasp "why" a little better. And next time you see your local military family (if you're not one of the 1 in 250 who IS a military family), you can keep their hearts a little more toward the front of your mind when you ask 'em how they're doing.

The night before Dave deployed to Iraq in 2007.
Matthew was 5, Abi was 4, and Jack turned 3 two months later. (Joshua had just turned 1 but, was sleeping in his his crib.)

Friday, July 1, 2011

How The Best Made Plans (of Mice and MOM) Oft Run Awry...

The goal was just get a photo of all four RiceCakes in one shot!
Abi refused to NOT wear her Cinderella dress. Whatever! Mom will take the photo anyway!

Jack gets distracted by mosquito bite... while Abi and Matthew are grinning it up like the shoeless farm children they are!

The meeting of the minds... they're opting to stage a coup!

Phase 1: blinking

Phase 2 : Lean out of the frame

Mommy usurps kid attempt to take over by suggesting fun "artsy" over head shot!

Jack is not a fan... he's going to usurp the usurper! Abi's got more immediate issues on her mind/finger.

Jack... losin' it after 3 whole minutes of picture taking. Matthew still smiling the same smile... the "Why won't they all just look and smile like me!" smile .The teeth are gritted.

Man down!

And everyone else is pretending they're not there.

And my MIL wants to know why I didn't take them in to have their portraits made "by professionals.... "