* Christmas Greetings!

How was your holiday? Ours was pretty much perfect, I must say. We did our big Christmas shebang on Thursday night with all eight kids, and that was lots of fun. It’s not often that we’re able to get everyone together all at once, so I made everyone pose for some family portraits.

Family Portrait

Don't be scared, I'm not always so bug-eyed. I really need to work on that, though. Here's another one that's more fun:

Silly Family Portrait

The Kids stayed with us until Saturday, and then they had to get home. So Christmas day itself was rather quiet for us. I kept one gift for Hercules to open on Sunday, and otherwise it just a relaxing Sunday at home and that’s my favorite kind of day:)

Interestingly, Hercules got all books for Christmas this year, including a cookbook and the entire Harry Potter box set. It was a sort of happy accident, and although he genuinely likes all of his books, he let it be known that perhaps he would have preferred to get something else besides books for Christmas. I saw that as a perfect opportunity to lecture him on appreciation. Because if I had a dime for every time that child says “I’m bored! There’s nothing to do!” and a nickel for every toy in his room, I’d be on a sailboat in the South Pacific right now. Not to mention that books are the best kind of gift! He actually agreed, albeit somewhat begrudgingly.

Here's Hercules with his cookbook. Pa will be teaching him to cook like a man:)

A Man, A Can, A Plan

Pa and I are on vacation until after the New Year, and we’re loving it already. I am so good at not working! Seriously, I’d be the best housewife ever. This is the ideal life, and it almost makes me sad to see how life could be if I were able to be a stay-home parent. Hercules has been taking naps, and we’ve been able to spend a lot of time reading and playing games together. He’s taken an interest in chess lately, which I think is wicked cool. It’s good for me to dust off my chess skills, because it’s been eons since I’ve played. Maybe I can convince Hercules that this game of strategy and skill is far more exciting than video games.

* Small miracles

It's been a rough couple of weeks at school for Hercules. Some bad habits have resurfaced and I've been getting a lot of phone calls from teachers lately. He's generally just rude, disrespectful, and disruptive. We had an appointment with his counselor on Friday, so she worked with him on these age-old issues of his. I think part of the problem was that he hadn't seen her in a month, since she had to cancel his last appointment and we weren't able to reschedule it. Plus, he's been fighting a cold lately and the drowsiness that colds bring results in a very short fuse for young Hercules.

These factors all come into play, but we've also been emphasizing the fact that no matter what, he has to learn to control his reactions to certain situations. Self-control has been a major theme with Hercules lately, and, according to previous experience, he should get the hang of it in about 2 years if we're consistent.

Just yesterday I received a call from the school librarian informing me that Hercules had given her the finger. He didn't like it when she sent him to the Safe Spot for making fart noises during reading time. She was very understanding about it when she spoke to me. Apparently, she has boys as well and she feels my pain. My favorite part was when she said, "If I had known that parenting was going to be so hard, I would have put that damned diaphragm in!"

Amen, sister!

So last night Hercules got a good talking-to (I'm a very verbose lecturer, poor kid) and several consequences were imposed. First, he did 10 push-ups. Then I took away his computer and TV privileges until Thursday night. And only if he's well-behaved at school between now and then will he regain his privileges. Finally, he'll be doing my chores for me until Wednesday. His first assignment was to scoop dog poop in the backyard, which did not thrill him. But that's the whole point and he doesn't seem to get it: punishments are supposed to be unpleasant. I explained to him that all the other punishments I've doled out previously obviously weren't unpleasant enough to deter him from misbehaving, so his punishments will become increasingly unpleasant until he figures out how to treat people, especially teachers, with proper courtesy and respect. I don't think it's too much to ask of a first-grader to refrain from flipping off the librarian.

Today my cell phone rang again and since I am now very familiar with the school's phone number, I groaned when I saw it come up on my screen. I answered it hesitantly and this time I heard a new voice on the other end. I wondered which member of the staff Hercules had cussed out this time.

Turns out it was the school nurse. Something about falling off the playground equipment and bumping his head. I wanted to ask her if he cussed anyone out when that happened, but then I realized that I was supposed to be concerned. Most parents would be when they hear a head injury report, but not me. If the skull's not cracked and there's no major blood loss, don't bother me. My kid bashes his head against walls for FUN! What's another bump or two? I'm just ecstatic that nobody got the finger today.

* Holiday Concert

Holiday Concert 3
Here's Hercules at his school's Holiday Concert last night. I bet you can't tell which one is him;)

More on flickr.

* Weekend Recap

Life with Hercules has been pretty good lately. This weekend we experienced some ups and downs, but that sort of fluctuation is the norm for our beloved Hercules. Saturday with The Kids was kinda rough, especially later on in the day. Hercules, El and I sat down to play a card game and Herc wanted to learn it with us. So we played a practice hand and explained the rules and coached him when necessary. Unfortunately, as the game progressed he became increasingly upset whenever he tried to make a play that was not allowed. As I tried to calmly explain to him why you can't do that in this game, he would proceed to yell at me, refusing to accept the rules as I stated them, even when El backed me up. I tried giving him some push-ups to do, hoping that would persuade him to turn down the volume and chill out, but it didn't make any difference. I finally got fed up with his overblown reactions and I kicked him out of the game. This totally devastated him, and his weepy promises to stop yelling and play by the rules softened me up, so I promised him one more chance. I figured this time he would take my warning seriously, since I had demonstrated my willingness to oust him from the game. Alas, it wasn't long before he resumed his argumentative bellowing, so this time I kicked him out for good. He demonstrated his displeasure by kicking the table and whatever furniture his short little legs could reach. For that, he was sent to his room.

By then he was so pissed off that he was in a near-meltdown state, but at least it never got that ugly. I made a deal with him in which he was grounded to his room until dinner time (about an hour away), and as long he remained in his room with the door shut without any fuss, he could come out at dinnertime and then watch a movie afterwards with everyone else. However, if he proceeded to spend his time in his room throwing things at the door, smashing toys, or screaming insults at me through the closed door(as is often the case), he would be sent to bed immediately after dinner. That's the sort of bargaining that motivates Hercules, because otherwise he would succumb to his darkest impulses. And it was effective, for he sat quietly looking at his books for the next hour and he was able to join us for the movie.

The movie, however, was not such a success. My husband chose March of The Penguins for our family entertainment that night. The Kids had requested The Fantastic Four, so you can imagine what their disappointment. It was funny, actually, listening to their sarcastic remarks:

"Gee, I can't wait to watch a bunch of penguins marching!"
"Wow! Have you guys ever seen marching penguins?? I bet it's real exciting how the penguins march!"

So the marching penguins did not engage our uber-hip, action-craving youngsters. They apparently cannot bring themselves to view anything that doesn't feature wisecrack humor and fast-paced action. So Pa and I enjoyed the Penguin movie on our own while the kiddies entertained themselves in the next room. But all six of them managed to do so without any quarrels! Let's just say that Hercules is not the only child prone to argumentative bellowing, so this is the sort of miracle that does not go unnoticed in our household.

Sunday was a much better day for Hercules. As usual, I spent the morning doing housework and he was left to his own devices. He managed to amuse himself very well for the whole morning and I got all of my work done. I promised him that after lunch I would read to him from his new Rugrats comic book that he got from school. So after lunch I fulfilled my obligation and he was pleased. But then I had to work on Christmas projects, so once again he had to amuse himself without the benefit of the television or the computer. Meanwhile, I was on the phone with my mom. I asked him if he wanted to talk to Papa when I was done, and he said yes. While he waited for me and mom to finish, he went into his room. I heard him talking quietly to himself in his bed, and I smiled. That's what Hercules does before he falls asleep, and sure enough, he was in dreamland in a matter of minutes.

It may seem extraordinary for a hyperactive kid like Hercules to put himself down for a nap without any prompting whatsoever, but interestingly enough it's not so rare as you might imagine. Hercules requires a lot of sleep, and afternoons have been difficult for him ever since they ceased the naptime routine in Kindergarten. That's been my primary lament since his school days began. If only Hercules had a full 2 hours to wind down after lunch and catch some Zz's, life would be better for everyone. Sunday afternoon after his nap he was the picture of courtesy and cooperation! We even took him to the Chinese buffet for dinner, and his manners were impeccable. In addition, Hercules discovered that Beef Teriyaki is his new favorite food. He became quite enamored with the whole buffet concept as well. As we were leaving the restaurant, he spotted our waitress clearing a table and called out to her "Hey, the food here is GREAT! You guys should be FAMOUS!"

Someday, maybe I'll take him out for Chinese where the food hasn't been under heat lamps for an indeterminate amount of time. But not for a while yet. I don't want to spoil his enjoyment of the Chinese buffet.


I know, you're wondering "What job?" I've been keeping quiet on this because I didn't want to jinx myself. But my supervisor resigned recently and I applied for his position, and they offered me the job on Friday. This is a significant promotion for me, so you’ll excuse me while I shout WOOHOOOOO!

But now you ask, "Friday?? Today is Monday! Why has it taken you so long to share this exciting news?"

All I can say, Internet, is that life comes before blogging. And it just so happens that we had already secured a babysitter for Friday night so Pa and I could go see The Reverend Horton Heat at The Blue Note. That made it easy for us to celebrate, and I was prepared to get wild on the dance floor. Alas, this was my first time seeing The Reverend, and I had no idea what was in store for me. Meanwhile, my mother is reading this and wondering when I started going to church on Friday nights (or at all, for that matter) and what is this Blue Note Church? Click the links, mom, and keep praying for your heathen daughter;)

So there I was on a Friday night dressed in a baseball shirt, a micro mini skirt and combat boots, ready to get wild. The dance floor was standing room only, and looking around I recognized some of my stepdaughter's friends, including one of Hercules' Adventure Club instructors. This might make some people feel old, but not me. It just affirms my youthful spirit! The energy in the room was high, and I was eager to get my groove on. While we waited, Pa asked me how I felt about moshing.

"Moshing? Do people mosh to rockabilly?"

Ah, famous last words.

Sure enough, they do mosh to rockabilly! Or rather, punkabilly. Now, I used to date guys that would wear their moshpit-blackened eyes like badges of honor, but I never did get the whole appeal of moshing. It's like a barroom brawl without the chairs and it doesn’t matter who you’re mad at, you just throw punches wildly. It's just one big, happy, angry mob of flailing fists and flinging bodies and I guess some people think that's fun. I am not one of those people.

I am, however, a good sport. While I tried my best to dance without elbowing everyone around me, the moshing kids frequently moshed in my direction. I learned to simply hold up my hands and shove them back into the moshing mayhem. They didn't seem to mind, so I kept shoving whenever a body flung itself in my direction. I had a relatively safe spot on the perimeter of the mosh pit, so aside from the occasional runaway mosher, I managed to avoid getting punched, elbowed, or trampled. Which is more than I can say for the moshers themselves. I did, however, get a lot of beer spilled on me. Which was okay, because everyone on the dance floor was inevitably baptized in yeasty brews, so our stench was just another sign of our fellowship. We came! We moshed! We stink!

Despite the adventures we were having at the edge of the moshpit, the confines of the dance floor could only contain so much activity, and it was not at all conducive to actual dancing. It was mosh or be crushed, there was no middle ground. We made our way upstairs and watched the show from the balcony for a while so we could gawk at all those crazy kids from a safe distance. Finally, the music and the moshing just seemed kind of repetitive, so we left and that was the end of our celebration. The Reverend puts on a great show, don't get me wrong. But my youthful spirit can only endure so much youthful madness. And moshing is madness, however entertaining it may be for the bystanders.