Friday, July 28, 2006

Emma's Take

My father-in-law took Emma to the DuPage County Fair last night. It's become a bit of a tradition with him to take my kids, one at a time, to the fair and do all the fun fair things with them. He started with Ian a few years ago, and added Emma to the mix last year. He promised Zoe that he'd take her next year. That would make three nights at the county fair for their Grandpa. That's a nice Grandpa!

Before they went to the fair, my father-in-law took Emma to see his mom, Emma's Great Grandma, who is rehabbing after knee replacement surgery. I prepped Emma for this, but knew she'd do fine. She has always had an affinity for older people, comfortable talking to them and seemingly unaware of any frailties they may have.

True to form, Emma delighted in talking to her Great Grandma and enjoyed joining her, her Great Aunt Kathy, and her Grandpa in the dining room while Great Grandma had dinner.

Today, while heading to the community center to take Ian to gymnastics and the girls to the library, we discussed her visit with Great Grandma. Emma told Ian that Grandma was getting better after getting a new knee. We then discussed what that means. After clearing up a misconception about the knee being sick and what product goes into a new knee (metal and plastic), Emma summed up Great Grandma's situation quite plainly.

"Even though she's got a new knee, she's still old."

So true.

Contractor Nightmare

About a half hour ago I chewed out the contractor we hired to fix a myriad of problems on our house before the new owners move in. Or, as my husband refers to him, our ass-tractor.

OK, I didn't chew him out face to face, or over the phone, but I did leave a nasty message for him on his voicemail.

As anyone who really knows me well, this is pretty shocking. I am very non-confrontational. Two other times in my life have I truly confronted someone. The first was in my first year of teaching at a Catholic school and I got in a nun's face who was causing some problems for my and my partner teacher's first grade classes. The second was a little incident with my sister-in-law. Other than that, I don't take well to being rude or confronting uncomfortable situations. It doesn't always work well, but it's worked for me most of the time.

Well, today I laid out a verbal ass-kicking on this guy's voicemail. My guess is in other people's view, it wasn't quite an ass-kicking. But to me, it's the most heated I've been in a situation like this, ever.

We hired Al a month ago after getting three estimates for what is essentially two days of work. It is now three days before our closing, and not only is half of the work not done, but they left my sliding glass door in the kitchen in non-working condition. It doesn't completely close, and now my house is in worse shape than it was when I hired this guy.

My realtor is trying to schedule a walk through for the buyers of this house, but keeps having to put it off because we can't get the work done.

This is truly been a nightmare for me. I guarantee I will never hire a contractor again. People say the big stores (like Lowe's, Home Depot, etc.) are killing our small hometown workers. Well, I would rather go with Home Depot or Lowe's and know that my work will get done when they say it will. They may not offer huge variety or individualized things, but they come and install what they say they will when they say they will. It's why I call Sears for a lot of work in the home. They do it and do it well.

I don't know where to go from here. Hopefully we'll get what we need to get done, or the buyers will be understanding and take our money in lieu of everything being done. No matter what, I plan on moving out of here on Monday, and hope to leave this nightmare behind on Spicebush Lane.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Happy Birthday Ian!

Seven years ago today I became a mom for the first time. It was on this day in 1999, at 10:01 PM, that I gave birth to the most beautiful and handsome baby boy on the planet. After three hours of pushing, out came my little guy. It was the most amazing experience of my life, bringing a new life into this world.

From that day on, my life changed forever. I now had a crying little creature that relied solely on me and his Dad to take care of his every need. It's been an amazing seven years. He is a funny, interesting and imaginative kid with a smile that lights up a room.

I have learned an incredible amount from Ian, but what I learned most is that I could love another human being so completely that there is absolutely nothing I wouldn't do for him.

Happy Birthday Ian! I love you!

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Melee at the Ballet

Okay, there wasn't really a melee, but it was all I could think of as I snapped this picture of Emma and her classmates during class watch day. Emma was in her last session of Tutu Toddlers, a class just for three year olds. If she decides to continue with ballet, she will be a Budding Ballerina for four and five year olds.

Class watch day is the day when parents, siblings, grandparents, and any other special people can come and watch their kid take ballet class. It is a lot of fun and today my mother-in-law and her husband were able to come and watch Emma dance and move in her pretty pink ballet outfit.

Emma did a great job doing what Miss Ashley, her teacher, told her to do. While most of the kids did the stretches and moves how they wanted, Emma really did the moves just like the teacher. It is what I have come to expect from her, as she is very serious in her classes. Her one break was to stop and wave at either myself, her brother, or Nana. She did this quite often, but still managed to follow directions and do what she was supposed to.

Emma was the tallest kid in the class, again, par for the course with my giant children. She wore a new pink ballet outfit today, which was a size 8-10! It fit a little loose, but fine. She has been wearing a blue outfit, but told me through teary eyes today that she didn't want to be the only blue princess at ballet. I luckily had recently purchased a pink, larger sized outfit on clearance in anticipation of her taking another dance class. I pulled the tags out and presented it to her. She was thrilled and as you can see, (she is second from the left) she was pink just like all the other ballerinas.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Reasons Why I Didn't Grow Up To Be The President Of The United States

Yet another entry of my juvenile writing, from around 1984 as far as I can tell.

The assignment was this: You have the power to change the world! Tell five changes you'd make, and why they're important.

Here are my choices, in exactly the order they appeared on my worksheet.
1. I would make people only wear very little heels if you wear them because I don't like people wearing them.

2. I wouldn't let anyone smoke because it can ruin your lungs and pollute the air and start a fire.

3. In the school classroom I would only want coloring and a little bit of writing and no homework because then school would be fun.

4. I wish people wouldn't throw trash in the water because it kills animals.

5. I wish the poor people had clean water because then they wouldn't die of diseases and there would [be more] people in the world.

I had really big changes in store for the world!

#1 - I can tell you I am only just starting to like heels in the last few years (but I am 5'11", and I was ALWAYS tall, so I think that had something to do with it. I wore Keds tennis shoes on my wedding day.)

#2 - Little did I know that my smoking wish would come true. Here in Chicago there is almost no place a smoker can light up. I have never smoked, although I tried a cigarette when I was in about eighth grade and in Norway for a month on an exchange program.

#4 and #5 - I can only guess that it was Earth Day shortly before this assignment was written, and we were inundated with pictures of filthy rivers and ducks covered in oil.

Here's to making the world a better place!

Friday, July 21, 2006

I'm Lucky Santa Even Thinks About Visiting My House

I can only assume this was an assignment from about the sixth grade. I know I would have never insulted such an important person with this kind of writing. Thank goodness Santa is so forgiving and understands I had to write it, it was for a grade! (Please excuse the poor grammar, I am transcribing it exactly as written in my sixth grade cursive.)

My letter to Santa (circa 1984)

Dear Santa Claus,

How are you, my fine fat friend? I know the reason you're fat, because you eat all the food that everybody leaves out. I saw a picture of Mrs. Claus, and boy is she getting fat. Why doesn't she go on a diet? Don't your reindeer get tired of pulling such a heavy person like you? How do you slide down the chimney when your so fat? Do you put grease around your belly? You should join the men's aerobics club so you can wear away some of that fat?

I've always wondered about your cheeks, do you wear make-up like Boy George does? I think you should dye your hair a different color like brown or black because then you won't look so old. Do you get your beard curled by Vidal Sassoon? What do you put in your pipe to keep you so jolly?

You should tell your elves to start planning before hand and not wait till the last month. Kids don't like cheap products rushed through an assembly line. Why do you think kids toys break so easily sometimes? It's because the elves put them together so clumsily. They should take more care in their work.

I hope you aren't offended by this it's just a little bit of constructive criticism. Tell everyone "hi" for me and I'll be waiting for you. Have a Merry Christmas!

Heather Stang

Truly blasphemous, isn't it! Can you imagine the teacher's glee as they thought up this assignment. My kids are lucky Santa is still willing to visit after a letter like that!

I have to note that I lived in England at the time I wrote this, so I am using that as my excuse for the Boy George reference. He was really popular there in the mid 80's.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Son Hits Baseball

Ian played his last T-ball game of the season yesterday on his community center league team and it was great. My mom, sister, and three nieces were all here to witness the final game and cheer Ian and his teammates on to a fun game. (They don't keep score in this league, so no victories or defeats.)

After several games of hitting off the tee (T?), this week Ian had the opportunity to hit the ball from the coach pitching it. On Monday, his team only got up to bat once, and in Ian's one opportunity to hit it, he couldn't connect. The tee was brought in and he hit off the tee.

But yesterday was a different story. He missed the first pitch, but connected solidly with the second pitch and sent the ball soaring through the air to a little past the middle of the infield. I was so excited for him that I found myself shouting, "Run, Ian, run!" along with my mom, sister, nieces and daughters. When he got to first base he had a smile plastered across his face that lit the whole field up. So did I.

Each team only played one inning, and after every kid hit they called the game. The kids then lined up and received a medal for their T-ball season and gathered for one last team picture. I have no picture of this occasion because had I brought my camera I would have lost my "Bad mom of the Month" award. My sister, however, captured the moments on her camera and after I receive them I will share them with the world.

We celebrated with lunch at McDonald's and Ian positively beamed the whole time. When we got home Ian called his Dad to share with him the momentous achievement (getting the medal, not the hit!) and had fun playing with all of his cousins.

It was a great end to Ian's first T-ball season.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Kids Say The Darndest Things - Again

My first baby, Ian, who is almost now seven years old, is growing amazingly fast. Despite his fiery temper, he has one of the most tender hearts I have ever witnessed in a person. Tonight, he shared with me one of the sweetest things I've ever heard him say.

While getting ready for bed, I was laying next to Ian on his bed and he says to me, "Mom, I just made myself cry a little."

"Why did you make yourself cry?" I ask him.

"Because I just thought that even though I'm big on the outside, in my heart I'm still your little boy."

There just aren't enough hugs and kisses a son can receive for saying something like that to his mom. But I'll try.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Another Great Use For Mr. Clean

I am almost embarrassed to write about this, but I can't help the ecstatic feeling I have every time I look at my bathtub and see it's beautiful white interior. It is as clean as the day it was installed, and it hasn't been that way for YEARS.

Even though I have already plugged this product once before on my blog, I have to gush about it one more time. The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is truly a wonderful cleaning product.

I have tried many techniques to try to rid our tub of ground in dirt around the drain and other parts of the bottom of the tub. I especially stepped up my cleaning efforts around the time we put our house up for sale. I didn't want prospective buyers to look into our one bathtub and see grime.

But all of my efforts were less than satisfactory. I used scrubber bubbles, applied twice, and with extra tough rubbing and scrubbing, but that only cleared up a little of the problem. I added Soft Scrub with bleach, and let it sit for several minutes. That helped, but I envisioned having to coat my entire tub floor with a bottle of the stuff, and I'm way too cheap to use a whole bottle on one cleaning effort I wasn't sure would work anyway.

Then last week, I had an epiphany. Maybe, just maybe, the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser could do the job. So, after cleaning the whole tub with my usual scrubber bubbles regimen, I waited for the tub to be relatively dry, soaked my Magic Eraser, squeezed it out, and gave it a try.

To my delight, with several gentle rubs over the offending areas, my tub was becoming clean, really clean. I was so thrilled I told Brendan as soon as he walked in the door from the train that he "just had to look at the tub because he would be amazed."

I'm thrilled because now when we leave this house to the new buyers, I won't be embarrassed by my bathtub. But I'm even more happy about the prospect that even if the sellers of our new house don't know this great secret, I can fix the tubs if they have ground in dirt in them. Me and Mr. Clean.

Monday, July 10, 2006

David Hasselhoff's Video

You have to see it to believe it.

The End Of Fussiness

No parent should be without this book that I found at the library last month. It is called "Fussbusters On The Go" by Carol Baicker-McKee and is an excellent resource for weary parents, new parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and any caretaker of small children. This book saved my dinner tonight, and has turned my kids hands into magnets with mine when crossing the street. I kid you not!

I actually haven't finished the book, although it is an easy read. (I've actually renewed it once, and I'm hoping to get through it before the next due date!) Each chapter goes over situations where various forms of fussing are common and offers a multitude of common sense or easy ideas to implement when faced with the situation. The best part of the book is it is geared towards the pre-school set, with ideas designed specifically for two, three and four year olds. However, most of the ideas can be adapted for older children easily.

After reading a few chapters I was ready to try one of the suggestions: Turning things kids don't want to do into a game, like Simon Says. So, in the Community Center parking lot, where the kids and I can be seen frequenting regularly these days, I gave it a try. Instead of saying the usual, everyone hold a hand, I said, "Simon says find a hand to hold." Emma's eyes lit up at the words "Simon Says" and quickly gave me one of her hands. Zoe, not wanting to miss out on the fun, grabbed my other hand and for the first time in weeks, I had no arguments with my kids holding my hands in the parking lot.

Hmmm. Maybe this just might work! My kids are traditionally pokey when walking from one end of the community center to the other, or they do the complete opposite, and run the length of the hallway from dance rooms to library. I have been frustrated on more than one occasion by this behavior, and decided to use a little Follow The Leader to see if the kids would keep up with me, and also not run into all the other patrons at the center. I'm pleased to say it worked like a charm, although I had to swallow a little pride and just go for it when I walked down the hall flapping my arms like a chicken.

Then, to my horror, the book was due, and I wasn't even half way through yet. It had given me some of my sanity back, and I decided I needed to read more. Sure enough, tonight the stuff I read last night (after renewal) came into play.

Emma, who will eat peas, green beans, and tortilla encrusted Tilapia, is very difficult to feed at most meals. Brendan and I are always cajoling her to eat three bites of this and two bites of that, and just try the damn shells and cheese, they're good! We have in the past let her eat nothing, then put her to bed with no snacks or anything, thinking she would learn to eat dinner this way. But, after a few nights when she has done this, and each time throwing up in the middle of the night or morning, we are convinced she must eat a minimum amount of food at dinner. So, we've been reduced to counting bites.

But not tonight. Not exactly, anyways. Emma was sitting refusing to eat pan fried chicken breast, canned peaches, and shells in white cheddar sauce. She turned her head to the side, said she didn't like what I made for dinner, and wasn't going to eat it. To make matters worse, she didn't take a nap today, and was literally falling asleep in her chair. She did not appreciate us waking her up, and especially wasn't happy with our requests to eat her dinner. She sat with tears filling her eyes and an incredibly pouty lip sticking out from below her nose.

I could feel the tension at the table rising, and decided to give my Fussbuster's knowledge another try. I looked straight at Emma and asked her if she had a Grouchy Snake inside of her. She looked at me, smiled, and nodded her head. I asked her if she wanted me to take it out. She smiled and nodded her head again. So, I got up from my seat and proceeded to remove a very long, albeit imaginary, Grouchy Snake out of Emma's ear and threw it into the garbage can.

By this time Emma was all out giggling and ready to eat a little of her dinner. We still counted her bites, but there was no struggle and she actually ate one extra bite of chicken.

This is one of those books that can help you immediately. Every parent truly needs this.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


We were introduced to my sister-in-law's and brother-in-law's new puppy, Dempsey, on the Fourth of July at my father-in-law's house. He enchanted my kids, my husband, my husband's aunts and pretty much anyone else in a 100 foot radius of his cuteness.

I have to admit, even I fell in love with the little guy. Not that it's hard for me to do. I pretty much love all cute and fuzzy animals, and sweet little baby animals are hard to resist.

But, and here is where I was surprised, I started actually considering the remote possibility of getting a dog someday. Don't tell Brendan.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Fourth of July from the McKillip's!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Great Aspirations

While cleaning out the crawl space to ready ourselves for our big move at the end of the month, I found several papers I wrote while in elementary school. While my handwriting is not too bad, the content of the writing is pretty funny. I can't believe some of the things I wrote!

Here is a sample from what appears to be fourth or fifth grade. The assignment was: "Pretend you just became a parent." To help me focus my thoughts I was given these further helpful ideas: What are your hopes and dreams for your child? Think about the parents you know. How will you be the same? How will you be different?
I hope to have two boys and two girls. I want them to be born in Findlay Ohio and I want them to grow up in Findlay Ohio. I want them to visit Disneyland and Disneyworld and lots of other amusement parks when they are little. I want one of my boys to be a dentist and one of them to work at Marathon. I want my two girls to be house wives. The girls are the same like my mother because they are house wives. The boy thats going to be a dentist is different than my Dad because my Dad isn't a dentist. The one that is going to work at Marathon is the same as my Dad because my Dad works at Marathon.
Brendan says I lived in a time warp and am "so Leave It To Beaver." I can only imagine my early 80's teacher's response to my lofty goals. I prefer to call it a Smurfy upbringing with flatulent, beer swilling giants.

Update: I have achieved a few of these goals now that I'm a parent. I am a housewife (preferred title: Stay-at-home nosewiper) with only three kids - one boy and two girls. None were born in Findlay, but one was born in Ohio. We have not visited any major theme parks yet, and my son has plans of being a bounty hunter/ author when he grows up, so no dice there. I guess I'll have to step up the pressure to visit Disney to make most of my childhood dreams come true.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Stang Clan

My father-in-law, Brian, came over today to help Brendan and I clean out our crawl space and basement for the radon reduction people to come on Thursday and put in their expensive expulsion system so that the buyers of our home don't get lung cancer. We have lived here for six years, and in that time increased the size of our family from three to five. Just as the size of our family has grown, so has the amount of stuff we've accumulated.

After a lot of hard work, done mostly by Brendan and his Dad, the basement looked ready for the radon guys to come. Much of the stuff came upstairs to our living and dining room. Here among the many boxes, I found one of my old boxes that my mom kept for me as a kid. In it were numerous pieces of art and several writing "samples" of mine from elementary school and junior high. It also contained a few books, my girl scout sash complete with sewn on patches, a miniature porcelain tea set that I'm going to save for the girls to play with at the new house, some old shirts I wore on various sports teams, and a big bag of clothes I dressed my various baby dolls up in.

It was great fun taking a trip down memory lane, especially seeing some of the pictures I'd drawn or made in art class and remembering them vividly after seeing them. In the box was my T-ball shirt, which I showed to Ian since he is playing his first year of T-ball. As much fun as it was looking at all my old valentines from one year (all but two were homemade, what a change from nowadays!), I knew I had to start getting rid of stuff. I made a pile to go out to the trash, and a much smaller pile of papers I just can't part with yet. (I plan on sharing some of my "gems" here soon - keep checking!)

After dinner I went back to the box and decided to share some of my worse writing attempts with Brendan. I read a horrible haiku about Autumn as well as an ode to the color yellow. Before I read the yellow poem, I introduced it as written by Heather, when she was a Stang (my maiden name).

Ian asked what a "Stang" was. Brendan replied that they were a clan of giants that hail from central Ohio with special skills in flatulance and beer drinking.

A pretty accurate description. Though he left out our true specialties: loud talking and the making of many babies.