July 2008 Archives

Law & Order?

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Jude: What's a lawyer do?
Karenna: They help police put bad guys in jail and they fight the government.

We got Karenna's five-year-old pictures taken at the Picture People.

I love the pictures they get of the kids.  The back drops are simple, so the focus is the kids themselves.  They are patient and fun with the kids, so they get very good shots of kids being kids. Also, they listen to the parents.  I tell them white backgrounds wash out my fair complected kids, so they pick backgrounds that go with my kids skin tones, warm browns or the blues and greens that bring out their blue eyes.

I had to pause when I hung Karenna's pictures up.  They looked so beautiful, but so grown up.  "No wonder the boys are calling my house for you, Karenna,"  I said.  "Stop growing up and being beautiful!"

"No!" she told me.

"But what if you get so grown up and beautiful one day that a boy comes and takes you away? Daddy and I will be very sad."

"Okay," she told me.

I looked around for help.  "Jude, what will we do if someday a boy comes to take your sister away?"

Jude made his crinkled up serious-looking face, the one he makes when playing Indiana Jones.  "I will get the boy, and I will take him to jail!"

Me (to Chris, after a bedtime conversation with Karenna): Ask Karenna, why she like Basketball camp?
Chris: You like to learn basketball don't you?
Karenna (giggling and giddy, as she usually is at bedtime): No, Daddy, it had girls and boys in it.
Chris: So you like meeting all the kids?
Karenna (smiling, with a sly look in her eye): But the boys are my favorites!

There was a fly in the car today when we picked up Jude.  He's afraid flies can sting or bite him:

Jude: Mommy, Daddy, there's a freakin' fly (pronounced "fweakin' fwy") on my head...
Me (trying to interrupt): Jude, we don't say "freakin'"...
Jude (louder trying to get his point across): ...and he's on my arm...
Me (still louder): it's not a nice word.
Jude (louder to drown out my words): ...and he's on my leg (pronounced "weg")...
Me (louder still): Jude, do you hear me?  Do you understand?
Jude (still more upset by the fly than by what I said): ...and he's on my foot!
Chris (using the  Daddy voice, which seems to trump my best teacher voice): Jude, we know about the fly, but don't say "freakin'"!
Jude: I don't like (pronounced "wike") that stinkin' fly!

Pictures from Karenna's pirate-themed party...

The Treasure Chest Cake

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Dead Man's Fruit Salad

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Me (in a moment of pride):  I've always wanted a good little girl like you and here you are five years old.  Karenna, I'm so proud of you!
Karenna: And did you always want a bad little boy like Jude?
Me (on the spot, taking a moment to think): I was pleasantly surprised.  I never knew how much a bad little boy like Jude would grow on me.
Jude (very cranky and crying at bed time as I help him into his pajama pants): Hey! Where did my feet go?

Karenna's fifth birthday is coming up, and she's been waiting a whole year for it.  Why?  Because she wants to get her ears pierced, and we would not allow it until she was five.

A little over a year ago, as her fourth birthday approached, she began planting the seeds for the ear piercing:

Karenna: When I'm four, I can have my ears pierced.
Me: Says who?
Karenna: Says me.
Chris: You're not getting your ears pierced until you are school-aged.
Me: Yeah, I wouldn't go any younger than five on that one.
Karenna (feeling cheated): Well, my contract says when I'm four I get to have my ears pierced!


(She was watching The Little Mermaid a good bit at the time, so we assume the contract idea came from Ursula's contract with Ariel.)

Karenna loves the Internet.  She knows that it brings her the Netflix; YouTube videos of the Beatles (she's a John Lennon fan); They Might Be Giants Friday Night Family Podcast, The Wiggles Website's games; window shopping at The Children's Place, Toys 'R' Us, and Amazon; and much, much more...

She also knows the applications and their icons.  She looks for the little fox and asks if I'm running Firefox.  She knows I read mail from the Internet.  Now she is starting to recognize Mommy, Daddy, and all their friends talking to each other on Twitter.

A few weeks ago, she asked for a Twitter account.  "You're not even four yet," I told her, "You're too young for Twitter.  Let Mommy and Daddy think about email first."  She is just starting to read and she's already asking for Twitter? I thought these requests would come later.  We would have to think about setting up an account that whitelists family and excludes everything else; I don't want her getting half of the things I get as spam.

Fast forward a week and she's still asking for her own Twitter.  "You just learned to use the telephone last year," I told her.  "You need to let Mommy and Daddy come to grips here.  Give us time to think about email. Twitter is a long ways off for you.  You are too young yet."

Karenna's response was, "So when you're born it's nothing, nothing, nothing.  Then you use the phone.  And it's phone some more.  And then you get bigger and you get email, email, email.  Then you're older and you get Twitter, Twitter, Twitter, Twitter forever..."

Jude has been day and night potty trained for a while now, but today, when I picked him up from daycare, I found him in his spare change of clothes.

Me (feeling pity for the little guy, maybe he was not feeling well in the heat): Oh, Jude what happened? Did you have an accident?
Jude (mistaking the tone of my voice for disappointment): No, I didn't do it. It was Diarrhea's fault!

I've explained before How to Get a Left-Leaning Almost-Five-Year-Old Activist to Eat Her Vegetables, now it's time to explain how to get her defiant toddler brother to eat his:

Chris (dividing the vegetables on the plate and gesturing to one half): Eat your cauliflower.  You only have to eat this half.
Jude: No! I'm full.
Chris (teasing and reaching with a fork): Then I will eat it all. Here I go. I'm going to eat it first...
Jude (stuffing two pieces of cauliflower in his mouth at once and attempting to talk with his mouth full): No! That's mine. I will eat it!

The kids have been getting disks of Challenge of the Superfriends via Netflix.  Both kids enjoy watching the old cartoon series, and have started to commit to memory all things Superfriends: who is in the Hall of Justice, who is in the Legion of Doom, who is good, who is bad, who has a secret identity, etc.

Tonight, after dinner, Karenna's job was to wipe the table, which she began by wiping a large dome shape.

"Look, Daddy," she said, "I made the Legion of Doom!"

Chris quickly did some of his own doodling on the table, and in his best Challenge of the Superfriends narrator voice said, "Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice..."

"No," Karenna corrected him, "It's nicewhile."

Last week Jude attempted a sleepover with his two cousins at his grandparents' house.  I figured it was a 50-50 shot that he'd make it with odds decreasing the longer the cousin his own age stayed.  (They fight, and eventually Jude has enough and wants to go.)  He called home three times until I finally had to get him.

This week he was invited to a playdate at that same cousin's house.

"Do you want to go to your cousin's house to play?" I asked him.

"Yeah!" he said excitedly, "And when he hits me you can pick me up."

Karenna: Mom can you be allergic to a color?
Me: No.
Karenna: See!  This boy at school said he was allergic to red and purple.  I told him he was making it up because he just wanted a horse.

(I asked for and explanation.  There were three toy horses—one red, one purple, and one silver.  Guess which one the little boy wanted.)

Thanks to Stevie Rocco for creating Chris and me. I went back to the Avatar Maker to do my kids myself:

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karenna.jpg jude.jpg

I'm not an outdoor person.  I'm allergic to grasses, trees, bee stings.  Bugs creep me out.  Camping is not my thing.

I do, however, go outside and watch the kids play on the swing set.  When I'm not chuckling at the funny things they do, I'm fidgeting and jumping, swatting and swiping, anything I can to wart the creepy crawlies away from my person.

Of course, while I have become less and less tolerant of bugs with age, my little buddies have become more and more interested in them.  They catch lightening bugs, dig up worms, try to bring them into my house, and even eat them.  (I'll admit that last one was a while ago.)

While I was watching the kids on the swing set this evening from my chair, a crawling bug had made its way up my leg.  I shook him off and flicked him out of range.  It headed back for me. I kept moving.  He kept heading back for me.

When I had had enough, I took the leg of my chair and squashed him.  "Bug, I warned you not to touch me and you kept tried to get back on me; therefore I had every right to kill you."

"You don't have a right to kill that bug!" Karenna pleaded with me, "That bug could have a family.  He could have a mom and a dad, or babies somewhere."


(Note: Before you get all sentimental and think "what a sweet kid", consider her previous activities related to bugs, like in "Philosophical Question" and "What Little Girls Are Really Made Of...".)

Chris told me to come outside to see the kids play on the swing set.  They have a new game.

I walked out and heard Jude singing John Williams music as usual, Indiana Jones theme music specifically this time.  Jude was in the tree house reaching for a swing to swing down from the tree house like a monkey.  Karenna was doing equally daring stunts on the trapeze swing.

"Indiana Jones, let's go! They're after us!" Karenna yelled dramatically.

"Okay," he said, with less drama, more like an obliging little brother who was being led around in a game he invented.  Then he swung down and tackled her.

"Are you Marion?" I asked Karenna.

"No!" she said, "I'm Indiana Lucy!"

After all, why should the boys get all the fun characters?

Today I helped Karenna spell the things she was writing down for her birthday wishlist.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I will be needing some unknown rich relative to underwrite this:

  1. S-C-O-O-T-E-R
  2. D-O-L-L-S
  3. B-A-R-B-I-E D-O-L-L-S
  4. C-L-O-T-H-E-S
  5. H-Y-P-O-A-L-L-E-R-G-E-N-I-C E-A-R-R-I-N-G-S (she's getting her ears pierced)
  6. H-A-N-N-A-H M-O-N-T-A-N-A C-O-N-C-E-R-T
    D-O-C-T-O-R W-H-O C-O-N-V-E-N-T-I-O-N (I love that she is still not school-aged, and thus, open to parent-suggestion of high quality sci-fi rather than peer-pressure for low-quality entertainment.)
  7. F-R-A-N-C-E (As in either "trip to" or "move to".  She loves France.  Not sure if this is because of of she and I speaking "Franglais"—I don't remember much from my 4-plus years- or because of our mentions of the excellent health-care system.)

It's not all fun and games at the Kauffman house.

Our kids see the toys and gadgets their cousins get: PS3s, cellphones, you name it.  Our family thinks it's great that we have the tuition discount working for a university and it is.  But tuition prices go up.  They just did.  And student loans don't keep pace.

Plus we'd be able to do much better things for our kids now if we weren't paying on our loans.  Toys are great, but every year around birthday season, I end up purging my house of bags and bags of them to give away.  They break or the kids tire of them.

I'd like to think that in addition to giving my children a few hours of play, I can give them something lasting, a leg up.  A chance to break the cycle of debt.  A chance to be better off than the generation that preceded them.

Chris and I take a portion of each month's pay and us place it into UGMA accounts for the kids. Better than gadgetry and toys that give a year's pleasure at best, we're giving them choices and opportunities while teaching them the value of saving.

They can use their tuition discounts at the university where we work and use their UGMA accounts to for the rest, they could use it attend another institution (even an out-of-state one, unlike some of the limitations on a 529 plan), they could use it for grad school, they could cash it in on a down payment on a home or business loan, or roll it in to a retirement plan.

It's a new year (a fiscal one, at the university where we work).  It is a time for increases and resolutions.  Tuition rates will increase for students.  That will affect my friends with parents of college-aged children.  Pay rates will increase for staff.  That will affect my husband, myself, and our friends.

Every new year people resolve to commit their pay increases to some thing or another.  Instead of IPhones or HDTVs, my husband and I resolve to pay off a debt or increase an UGMA, because sooner than we think, the other increase, our kids' college tuition, will catch up to us, and we hope that we can catch up financially to it...

Recently Jude complained every time he sat or fell down on his bottom:  "My butt hurts (pronounced "hoits", in his toddler-speak)!"  (I thought maybe he was just trying to get extra attention.  I certainly was not about kiss this particular boo-boo.)

Later that day, he made me follow him to the potty before bath and we identified the culprit of his sore bum.  Somehow, a Spiderman sticker had fallen into his underpants!

Things parents of one child don't have to say repeatedly:

  1. Separate.
  2. I don't care who started it.
  3. Don't touch each other.
  4. Give it back.
  5. "Half" implies equal pieces; there is no bigger half.
Jude: We want cereal right now!
Me: Use your good manners and I'll get it in a minute.
Jude: Please, can we have cereal right now?
Me: Yes, but you need to wait a minute for me to finish what I'm doing.
Jude (clearly irritated that good manners did not get him exactly what he wanted): No! You wait a minute for us!
Me: Okay, I'll wait a minute for you.
The other day Chris, Karenna and I were sitting in a room.

Me (trying to be subtle): Chris, remind me to tell you something when little ears aren't around to hear it.
Karenna (overexaggerating her irritation): Okay, I'm leaving!
Jude: I'm really (pronounced "weewee") mad!
Me: Okay.
Jude: Don't even (pronounced "eben") look at me!
Karenna: Okay.
Jude: I'm running (pronounced "wunning") away to my school.
Me: You know your school is closed today.  It's locked and there's no one there.
Karenna: Yeah, and it's dark.
Jude: I will go there and I will turn on the lights!  Now let me go run away to my school!

I'm still wondering what to say to this one...

Karenna: Mommy, are your sisters young-old and you're old-old?
Jude has a Lego Star Wars T-Shirt that with the words "Never make a Wookie mad!"  Naturally, it being a Star Wars shirt, it is one of Jude's favorites.  Today, when Jude wore it and was provoked by Karenna, we discovered it had new, older-sibling-repellent powers:

Jude: Karenna (now pronounced Kawenna), you are making me angry (pronounced angwy). Never make a Wookie mad!

Every Independence Day, the kids take turns selecting which firework Chris will light next.  This is followed by oohs and ahhs until they get bored, go play, and chase lightening bugs.  Here are some highlights from this year...

Me (while watching a firework that Jude had selected and trying to maintain their attention): Wow! Look at that one, guys! Isn't it pretty?"
Jude: No! It's handsome.
Karenna: The ones I pick are pretty.  (Later, hearing the sounds of distant fireworks all around us...)  Why did they pick fireworks with a lot of noise but no one can see them?  That's stupid.

I didn't bother explaining that the fireworks are the same regardless of who picked them.  However, I did attempt to explain that the neighbors did pick fireworks they can see, but we were too far away too see them.

Chris picked Karenna Jude up from school yesterday.  Apparently Karenna was in trouble for breaking the arm of one of the new action figures that hitched a ride in Jude's cupholder.

At first I didn't know who was more upset, Jude or Chris.  Then I discovered it was Chris.  Partly because it was a new toy, partly because it was her brother's, and partly (I'm guessing) he still has a secret longing for his own Star Wars action figures from childhood.  (He enjoys reading this blog, so if I'm wrong, this post will soon be followed by a comment.  Otherwise, I know him pretty well by now and am right.)

So, long after Jude had moved on to his other action figures Chris was still lecturing Karenna, when Jude interceded on his sister's behalf, "Daddy, she said she was sorry, alright?"



Note: No action figures were harmed in the making of this blog post. In fact, I'm happy to report that the injured action figure in question has been glued and is back on duty!

Jude's preschool does show-and-tell every Friday.  That said, he still likes to bring an action figure in the car with him every morning on the way to school.  The deal is that if it is not Friday, he has to leave the toy in the car until we pick him up.  Then he places them in the cupholder of his car seat until his return.

So yesterday, Jude's Aunt Steffie stopped by to drop off a present: the Star Wars Hoth Battle action figure set.  It included Luke, Han, a Tauntaun they could ride, and six other figures.  Naturally, this was a hit.  This morning, of course, Jude wanted to bring these action figure in the car.  He had his "Pack-Pack" packed up will all of them and was ready to walk out the door.

"You can't bring all of your action figure to the car with us," Chris said.  "You can pick one guy."

"No!" said Jude, looking ready to throw a tantrum, "I want to take my new guys."

"I'll make you a deal," bargained Chris, "If you don't throw a tantrum, you can bring two guys."

"Okay."  Jude opened the "Pack-Pack" and began looking for his selections.

On the way out the door I noticed that Jude did not have two figures; he had three. Two guys and the Tauntaun.  "Chris," I said, "Jude is over his two-guy limit.  He has a guy and another guy riding a Tauntaun."

"Well, let him go," he said. "I guess he found a couple of loopholes.  The Tauntaun is technically not a Star Wars 'guy'; he's a Star Wars 'creature'. And the one guy is riding him."

Anyone who has both girls and boys knows that there really is no such thing as "boy-toys" and "girl-toys" until someone defines them as such.  Sure Jude prefers actions figures to Barbies he'll still pick up a Ken (or Barbie) and use it to re-enact action figures.  Karenna, in turn plays with Jude's action figures, though not as much as a younger brother would want an older sister to play with him.

Then there's dress-up.  What child can resist pretend play with dress up?  What child can resist the sparkles and colors?  What child who has just recently perfected dressing herself or himself could resist using these skills?  We have far more dress-up for girls than for boys for two reasons: Karenna is older (thus collecting it longer) and she has retired costumes from three years of ballet and tap recitals.  This means that Jude is often in Karenna's dress-up costumes.


Up until recently, he's been happy to put on any dress-up in Karenna's collection and parade around the house in it with his sister.  They'd play rock star and bring their toy guitars out as they sang in costume.  However, in the last few weeks Jude's become uncomfortable showing us what he's up to.  We'll go searching for Jude in one of his quiet moments and find him hiding away in dress-up.  As soon as someone spots him, he takes off the dress-up.

"Jude, why are you changing?" I asked him once.

"Boys don't wear dress-up," he answered as if ashamed of himself.

I felt so badly.  Here he was unable to do what he enjoys doing because someone told him to be ashamed, that boys don't do this.  I was angry.  I tried doing what I could to encourage him to continue playing dress-up, that it was okay, but it seemed the damage was done.  The hiding continued. Then came Monty Python.


At dinner one night, Chris and I spontaneously broke into the Spam sketch and song after being reminded of it.  The kids laughed and thought we were insane.  Realizing that the Spam sketch is a Monty Python sketch with very little objectionable content, I played a clip for the kids and light bulb went off above my head. "See that guy?" I said, pointing to Graham Chapman, "He's in dress-up.  He's having fun."

Later, I pulled up YouTube for looking at music videos with the kids.  Jude loves Guitar Hero, and, probably because of Guitar Hero, songs by Queen.  We played some Queen videos.

"Why are they dressed-up in make-up like girls?" the girls asked.

"Well," another light bulb went off above my head, "that's Glam Rock.  They do that because they are rock stars and it's fun to dress up.  See boys like to dress up and have fun."

It worked.  Jude puts his dress-up on comfortably in front of the family again.  Thank you, YouTube.  Thank you, Monty Python.  Thank you, Glam Rock.  (Or as Jude calls it "Gwam Wock"!)

Karenna got in trouble at school.  I mentioned before that she's been having problems off and on with a friend who bullies her.  A few months ago she'd come home from school and cry for several minutes about the this girl bully.


This week Karenna had had enough and fought back.  Karenna ended up in time out, and the girl was not hurt, thankfully.  It was very out of character for her to react in such a way.  When one of Karenna's teachers asked her why she did it, Karenna responded, "I just didn't know what to do."

The teacher and Karenna reasoned the following two options for the next time the girl bullies her: she could tell a teacher or she could just walk away.  I was pleased that the teacher was so understanding and worked with Karenna on coming up with solutions.  Though, I have to admit, I was a bit worried that repeatedly taking option number one cause her to be branded a tattletale and open her up to more teasing.  (Of course I wouldn't share this with her lest she worry about the situation more or be afraid to tell a teacher about more serious things.)  Still, if she opted to just walk away, her friend may never learn that her behavior was wrong.

When your child has been hurt by a bully, your first reaction is to think of all the things you could say in retaliation to cut the bully down to size.  However, teaching those things to you child would just teach her bad behavior and reinforce that bad behavior in the friend.  Instead, I thought of something that would be a better lesson for both children...


"Karenna, if your friend bullies you, your should walk away," I said, "but you should also tell her, 'I don't have to play with you.  I could play with my other friends who are nice to me.' Can you do that?"

She nodded.  I suggested we practice it a few times so she'd remember.

"I don't have to play with you.  I could play with my other friends who are nice to me," she rehearsed.

"If you use this enough times when she bullies you," I said, "maybe she will learn that you only play with people who are nice to you."

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