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Nine End Of Summer Must-Do's

     Since we are barreling into those final weeks of summer vacation, my kids have decided that all the things have already been done and that those things are now “boring”. Perhaps your kids are like mine and they have become bored, as well. Perhaps you are like me and you smack them upside the head. Or perhaps you have more self-control than I.

     Good for you.

     Either way, I have compiled a list of end of summer must-do's for the “bored” child and the smacking parent.

1) Homemade slip-and-slides: This has become a particular favorite in the Costa home. To say we have experimented with variations of this is an understatement. In fact, I'm pretty sure we've never done it the same way twice. Key ingredients for this to work well are water, dish soap, and some form of slippery surface. Our most popular variation has been securing a large tarp to the end of their swing set slide. I douse the slide and tarp with soap and water, do the same thing to the kids (and even lather up their swim suits), and I spray them with the hose as they whiz past me on their way down the path. They literally slide a good 5 feet past the 20-foot tarp! And the best part? Their swim suit crotches will lather up like an out of control yeast infection, making it the perfect time to take embarrassing photos and threaten to show their future boy/girlfriends.

2) Obstacle courses: My kiddos started building these one day when they had a few friends over and, I gotta say, it was genius. They heaped bowls with water balloons, filled buckets with ice water, attached the sprinkler, and created pathways across the yard that each person had to run through while people literally chucked all forms of water at them. They seriously had just as much fun building the course as they did running through it!

3) Read for an hour each day: One hour of quietness… they can choose any book they want, and it doesn't matter how much they read as it matters how long they read. Trust me. You'll thank me for this one.

4) Create a play/skit/dance/song to perform: This is where your creative and outgoing child will shine! But even if your kid is a dud (like my son), he'll still have fun if you tell him that he can charge admission for the show. BUT I refuse to pay for a show of poor quality. I will demand a refund if it is not creative, not artistic, done with a negative attitude, and if it's under 15 minutes. Props and costumes are a great way to help them think outside of the box AND keep them busy for longer than 5 minutes. THIS is called Winning, folks.

5) Make your own board game: My children are ALWAYS asking me to play board games with them. However, I don't have the time to play games like it's my job. A great way to keep the bored ones busy and the smacking ones from smacking is to have the kids build their own board games. This way they spend plenty of time working on the construction of the game while the parents get their things done, and they will enjoy it even more when you can sit down later to play something that they developed all on their own.

6) Experimental Cooking, A.K.A. “Mini Chopped”: If you've seen the show, you know where I'm going with this. Give the kids each a set number of random cooking ingredients, set the timer for however long you feel is age-appropriate, and then let them go! For my kids, the stove is out of the question. But the microwave is fair game (as long as I'm supervising… did you know that kids will attempt to put all kinds of metal objects in the microwave? Even after telling them 45 times that this will blow our house up? Forty. Five. Times.) In the end, have them taste both dishes and vote. If there needs to be a tie-breaker, you can offer up your taste buds (if you dare) and cast the final vote.

7) Crazy Races: We all remember elementary gym class, right? That's where we learned how to skip, crab walk, bear crawl, compete in three-legged competitions, and slither like a worm. Sadly, gym class these days is all about sports (blah) and our kids are growing up in a world without the crab walk. You guys, this is a travesty. My son is quite literally the most uncoordinated human alive. He NEEDS the crab walk! And, since he's older and bigger and (amazingly enough) faster than my daughter, he hears the word “race” and immediately thinks that he'll win. However, having them do “Crazy Races” evens the playing field… and allows for parents to videotape their children looking absurd. YouTube, anyone?

8) Bury them in sand: If I have to tell you why this is amazing, then you are not my kind of people. Hello. They Are IMMOBILE. And if they keep yacking too much, just place the sand bucket over their head. Prepare to love me, Guys.

9) Hose Tag: I “invented” Hose Tag this summer as a way to keep my children and their friends from melting. It was sooooo hot and they were sooooo grouchy because of it. I couldn't blame them, so I picked up the hose and told them to start running. I counted to 15 and shot the first person I saw (with the jet stream, of course). That person was then frozen and couldn't be unfrozen unless another child ran and slid under their legs. I, as the shooter, would have to count to 15 again before I could spray anyone else. It's fun because they get cooled off and release some pent-up, heat-inducing energy…. And because you can shoot cold water at them. Everybody wins!

     I hope these ideas help you and your children as you anxiously await the not-so-distant sounds of school buses rumbling toward your doorstep. Prayerfully we all make it to the end of summer without hearing the words “I'm booooored” one more time! And if all else fails, tell them to drop and give you 20.



Day Trips With Littles

            People who bring their young children on day trips must be medicated. I see no other possible answer. Because I have done the day trip thing. I have packed the coolers, stocked the diaper bags, loaded up multiple changes of clothes, the sunblock, the towels, the bug spray, the strollers… I’ve packed our van so full of all the possible things we could need that it then becomes impossible to find the children amidst the bags and bags of necessities.

            As Moms, we prepare for all things. We have to. Because if we don’t, something terrible will happen… something like…. People will have to go without an afternoon snack. Or people will have to share towels…. Or people will have to carry their own belongings instead of using the stroller as their own personal pack mule. Guys. These are NOT terrible things. But we, the Moms, know that the terrible thing is what occurs if all these small people are not given their way or are slightly inconvenienced.

            The whining. The crying. The tantrums. The perpetual question-asking about the item that is not packed. The embarrassing mooching off of strangers to make up for their lack of item that is missing (did you know that toddlers will literally walk up to other people’s coolers and take food for themselves, shoveling it into their little mouths without a second thought? Yeah. That’s awkward.). The sighs of exasperation. The ungrateful attitudes for taking them on a day trip in the first place.

            This is why we prepare for all things. This is why people who bring their young children on day trips must be medicated.

            There is a local waterpark that our family had yet to try. So, in a moment of courage (and insanity), I scheduled a day trip to the park for our family of 6 and my sister-in-law, along with her three kids. We were outnumbered, yes, but since my niece and nephews are slightly older, we knew we’d have extra hands, thankfully.

            We arrived at the park and realize we’d forgotten the worst possible thing. The diaper bag. Hello… what are we, rookies?? Luckily, I had two swim diapers for each of the little boys in my own swim bag. But no wipes, no baby snacks, no regular diapers for the way home. This last one would come back to haunt us in the end.

          With children and adults loaded up with the rest of our packed belongings, we made our way through the sea of people to the dreaded changing rooms. Husband and I decided to divide and conquer… which usually looks a lot like us dividing and screaming, without ever actually reaching the conquering stage. He took our oldest and the 2-year-old while I took our daughter and the 1-year-old.

            I could write an entire blog on changing rooms. But to sum it up, let’s just say: 1) They’re gross with wet, slippery floors that cause overloaded Mamas to fall and small children to slip and whack their little noggins on a slimy, grimy surface. 2) They smell. Enough said. 3) Children who have been exposed to not so great things in the past tend to stare uncomfortably at strangers’ naked bodies in communal dressing areas, despite zillions of talks about the inappropriateness of the situation. 4) 1-year-olds can and will crawl out of your dressing room while you are half-naked with your pants around your ankles and unable to chase them. 5) You will have exactly 2.5 seconds to wiggle yourself into a too-small one-piece and pack up all your crap before a 7-year-old will begin pestering you about taking too long. 6) Babies hate swim diapers and will attempt to thrown themselves off of changing tables at the site of them. 7) You will hear your 2-year-old screaming bloody murder from the next room. 8) So will everyone else. 9) Your 7-year-old will announce to one and all that the screamer belongs to us. 10) Everyone will stare at you with sour faces.

            By the time we emerged from the changing room, I had already regretted our decision to come to the waterpark. I was sweaty and exhausted, and we’d only just begun! Luckily, there was no gate around the pool area, so our impulsive two-year-old had free and clear access to a day full of drowning. Thankfully, the 1-year-old decided to hate water with a very high degree of passion, and he expressed that passion exuberantly when brought anywhere near the water. Good thing it was a waterpark.

Happy... as long as kept away from all sources of water.

Happy... as long as kept away from all sources of water.

            The big kids were off and running. Where to? We never really did find out. They popped back to our camp of towels and lawn chairs long enough to binge on snacks before rushing off again.

And this is why we couldn't find him!

And this is why we couldn't find him!

          The 7-year-old, still struggling to get the hang of swimming, was required to stay with a big person for the day. “But Mom,” she complains, “Watch, I can swim underwater!”

            “No, baby, that’s called sinking. Stay where you can touch and keep with us or your big cousin.”

Patiently waiting for an adult to swim with her.

Patiently waiting for an adult to swim with her.

            As a parent, you know that day outings aren’t about you. They’re obviously about the kids. That’s why you hold your pee in the entire day, so you don’t have to get everyone out of the pool and stand outside the restrooms without wandering off. And that’s why you forgo all the yummy snacks you packed, just in case one of the little ones would happen to get hungry later on. It’s why you hold your head high when the baby knocks your left boob out of its swim-suited holster as he tantrums over his missed nap and you try to one-handedly fix your suit while not dropping him on his head. Its why you wait in line with a swarm of 8-year-olds to go down the world’s slowest water slide, because your daughter is terrified of you not being at the bottom to catch her when her time arrives. And it’s why you smile as your 2-year-old pees a river in the sand pit and you have no other choice but to kick a neighboring sand castle over it and hurry him from the play area.



            How do other mothers look so relaxed, so calm on these outings? Do they not have worries? Are they not fearful of kidnappers, sun poisoning, dehydration, tantrums, slip and fall accidents? Have they NOT seen the dry-drowning article on Facebook??? I know I’m a worry-wart… it just took so long to get these kids in the first place. I can’t imagine having to start all over. Because in the words of one of society’s greatest poets, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

          But at the end of the day, no one ingested a horrible amount of water and showed signs of dry-drowning. (All those nightmares… all that panic!) Everyone was appropriately sunscreened with only a few random body parts that were missed, evident by odd streaking patterns. All were happy, all were fed, and all were sufficiently worn out. But none of them more than me. For I had been holding my breath against all that could have gone wrong all day. And some of them did, but a lot of them didn’t. Sure, the toddler walked into the house and urinated all over the floor, which then spread to the baby toys and books…. But it’s not his fault we left the diaper bag at home!

            So, when my sister-in-law suggested that we do another date to the waterpark before the kids go back to school, I offered up an enthusiastic Yes! After all, what’s the worst thing that could happen?



Life's A Circus

     Yesterday was Father's Day. And as usual, we had no idea what to give my husband. The kids and I had racked our brains the entire week trying to figure out a good gift - something that would be thoughtful, useful, handy, funny, wanted. New dress shoes? Practical, yes, but not very desirable for the man that would rather wear a ratty t-shirt and cut up firewood in his spare time. A new ax? Desirable, yes, but he probably has at least 12 other axes lying around in the garage... and I don't know the first thing about ax purchases. Is there an ax store? Do they have more than one kind or can you just walk in and ask where they keep the ax? I don't know (I don't care). 

     We decided that it would be best (even if it lacked a little creativity on our end) to let Dad pick out his own gift. So he thoughtfully bought himself a new hard drive for his computer. (Why didn't think of that? Um... because no one would.... ever.) He picked his own gift and we got to pick the activity we thought would best celebrate his special day.

     We chose the circus.

     When I broke the news to my husband, I think he thought I was kidding. He giggled and then asked, "Wait, are you serious?" I'm betting that visions of the two of us trying to keep the toddler from being eaten by a lion, the baby from chucking his cuppy at the row in front of us, and the older two from literally trying to join the circus... I'm sure these thoughts ran through his mind at least once before he agreed to the adventure. But for good measure, we invited his mom for reinforcement.

     We arrived at the circus and saw a sad looking tent surrounded by a few llamas, some skinny ponies, and an annoyed looking camel. There was one snack stand, two port-a-johns, and an even smaller tent where three tiny horses were hooked up to a metal spokes system, giving children rides. 

     Swell. The kids have never been to the circus before and I had talked it up as if we were going to see the Ringling Brothers.  It was apparent that I had spoken too soon. There would be no tigers, no rings of fire, no tight rope walkers. There would be an emaciated petting zoo and stinky toilets. 

     For this, we paid $45 and two babies missed their naps.

     Since we were already there, we tried to make the best of it. After all, it was only 300 degrees (in the shade) and all the attendees looked to be carnies, themselves. We made our way through the sea of bearded women and toothless men, over to the "petting zoo". I use this term loosely because the skinny animals did not seem to enjoy the whole "petting" part of the experience. Apparently the hungry little suckers thought that my kids’ fingers and limbs were carrots. At first, the toddler cried, stating that the horsey had bit him. Like any good mom, I assumed he was exaggerating. Surely the horse had licked him or given him a little nibble. A horsey kiss, perhaps.  

     But then, I watched (and photographed) as my youngest stood there, minding his own business while a particularly famished-looking pony attempted to eat him, starting with his fingers. My baby started to scream. I started to panic. I gave a gentle tug to see if I could get his finger loose, but no such luck. I didn’t know what else to do. So, I slapped the pony. I was just getting ready to give him a firm upper-cut when he finally released my child’s fingers.

     For the record, I will literally beat up any animal that tries to eat my children. Just in case anyone asks.


     I grabbed my children and we began to flee the petting zoo. And that’s when the camel turned and spit all over us. Apparently he was ticked off that I’d slapped his friend. Never in my life did I want to drop kick an entire lot of animals like I did in that moment. I dared the camel to take one step closer as I mentally threatened to turn him into a camel-burger. (Please don’t call PETA on me…. I’m the nice one here. These animals were jerks.)

     Next, we decided to make our way to the pony rides. (I know, right?) These guys looked less hungry and much more in control of themselves. So, we watched as our children awkwardly rode atop the slowest moving ponies that I’d ever seen. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe they’d lost their will to go on. Either way, my kids smiled and we took pictures.

     No sooner had the small people begun to pester me for money to jump in the bouncy house when it suddenly deflated. Parents ran to rescue their children from the collapsed vinyl as toddlers sobbed in fear. Yeah…. No.

     Finally, it was show time. We made our way into the Little Top tent and found seats near the front (which wasn’t hard to do, as all the seats were near the front…. It was a really, really Little Top). There we sat, huddled together on mud-covered bleachers with about a hundred other sweaty people and their equally sweaty children, not a breeze to be had beneath the shelter of the tent. We fanned the young ones with Father’s Day cards and poured water over all their heads as we awaited what would be the worst circus in circus history.

     And then, all of our dreams came true.

     The music began to thump. The ringleader began to announce. Jugglers juggled. Contortionists contorted. Acrobats acrobatted. Magicians did magic! There were stunts, clowns, incredible tricks, and death-defying acts (not kidding!). Even the camel and llamas made an appearance. But I didn’t clap for them. I was still bitter.

     For nearly two hours, four children and three adults sat enthralled with the show. At intermission, we attacked the snow-cone guy, shoveling the shaved ice into our mouths as fast as we could manage. But neither the heat nor the vexatious animals could spoil our fun.

     The circus was haphazard. It was unexpected. Unconventional. Amazing. It was just like our family. Now that I think about it, there could be no better way to spend Father’s Day. 



10 Reasons You Should Take Your Kids to an Amusement Park This Summer

          When weighing the pros and cons of yet another costly summer activity, we as adults tend to focus on the mature things.

          How much is this gonna cost? Can I get the time off work? Is it educational for the kids? Will this provide too much structure, not enough structure, build relationships, promote independence, increase physical exercise, allow for creativity, encourage teamwork, stimulate without over-stimulating, etc., etc., etc.

            But, what if we were to take a minute and allow ourselves to be immature…. Just for a moment. If we were to look deep down into the darkest crevices of our souls, we’d all come to the same conclusion.

            Amusement parks are for adults, not kids.

            Don’t believe me? Take a look at my top 10 reasons why YOU should go to an amusement park this summer and tell me this doesn’t sound like perfection?

10) Mandated weight loss-

Over this past weekend, my husband and I took our family to Kennywood, our local Pittsburgh amusement park. After realizing it would be nuts to wrangle 4 kids alone, we invited two more. And then we recruited husband’s mother and brother for help so that we returned home with the same number of kids that we left with. Not only did we sweat profusely in the 95 degree weather, but we walked a total of 9 miles each throughout the course of our 8-hour day.

We know this because 1) or clothes were drenched well before we ever hit the first water ride, and 2) my husband kept track of our steps with the handy-dandy step tracker on his iphone. Add in pushing two strollers loaded up with supplies, diaper bags, water bottles, umbrellas, towels, snacks, and two large toddlers, and I’m pretty sure we burned at least 73,000 calories each.

Pretty sure.

9) Delayed gratification-

We all want our kids to let go of the “Microwave Mentality”, don’t we? Many of the best things in life require time, energy, diligence. Very few things of worth are just granted to us with a simple push of a button on a tablet or by sending a text. What better way to teach our kids the importance of delayed gratification than having them stand in an amusement park line?

Want to buy a ticket? Get in line. Need a frozen lemonade? Take a number. Have to ride the fastest roller coaster in the park? That’ll be an hour…

at least.

Your child will walk away from this experience far more patient than they came. Either that or they will realize that some things are worth the wait while other things can be skipped without the world coming to a crashing halt. Either way, you win.

8) The Law of Natural Consequences-

Another fantastic lesson that an amusement park will teach your children for you is to listen to their mother.

How many times, Moms, do we say the same things over and over ad nauseum, only to be ignored? Let your local thrill joint take the pressure off. Say it once and let the Law of Natural Consequences take over.

Wear comfortable shoes, not pretty ones. Pee now because we won’t be hiking to another bathroom in 10 minutes for you. Carry your water bottle with you at all times. Space out the spinny rides!

Any of these sound familiar? If you’re anything like me, you’ve said these things a million times on a million different trips and your children continue to think you’re joking or something. But amusement parks are a great place to (pardon the overused phrase) let it go. Say it once and move on, Mamas. Blisters? Exploding bladders? Thirsty? Going to puke? Tell it to the Ticketmaster, kiddos, because Mama can’t hear you over the noise of the coasters, music, and the joy of natural consequences screaming “I told you so!”

7) You will feel better about your parenting-

This will happen, not because you’ve done such a remarkable job throughout those long winter months, but because of probablity. Statistically speaking, the odds of your child being the worst kid at the park are far less than when you make your usual Walmart run. In a sea of thousands of children, there’s even a decent chance that your kid will come out looking like an honorary saint, even after he races from his seat on the ride and pushes the big, red start button with his chubby little hand. Sure, the staff will scream and parents will run to save their children from impending doom….

But in 10 minutes, some other knuckleheaded child will do something even dumber, leaving you to look like an amazing parent. (Despite the 5 minute tantrum your child threw after being removed from the ride for his unsavory actions…. True story.)

6) Your children will grow closer to God-

Want your son or daughter to be more God-fearing? Let them face the possibility of death as they mount that first roller coaster hill. The “I’m gonna die!” and “Oh, dear GOD!!” phrases will pour forth like wild fire from their little lips. Prayers and promises to never lie again should all be recorded, so keep your phones handy on all rides.

5) Positive peer pressure-

Do you have a particularly wussy kid? Yeah, me too. Amusement parks allow a parent to let peer pressure work in their favor for once. Naturally there will always be those thrill-seekers that want to ride the biggest coaster- no screaming, eyes open, arms in the air. Will they poke fun at your weakling for peeing their pants a little while waiting in line? May they throw out names like “Sissy” and “Nancy Pants” to your kid? Is there a possibility that your child will ride the scariest coaster on the planet (or the Tilt-o-Whirl, whatever) and still come off hating coasters? Yep.

But there’s also the possibility that your wimpy child may face his fears and find that they actually like the ride! Even more possible is that they will enjoy telling everyone for the next 3 years about the time that they rode the biggest coaster in the world and how they lived to tell about it. War stories aren’t just for veterans, people.

4) Your kids will finally understand what your pregnancy was like-

When your precious little monster acts like a colossal brat, the first thing you want to tell them is just how long you carried them in your womb, what they did to your body, how you never ever slept again, and that you brought them into this world and have no problem taking them right back out! Mamas, let me introduce you to the world of Spinny Rides. Send your little nugget of joy on three spinnies in a row. (Just three now, no need to hospitalize the kid or anything.) And as they begin to turn green, ask them to remember this moment.

Remember the nausea, remember the dizziness, remember the need to lie down and close your eyes to stop the world from spinning. Feel like you’re going to die, sweetheart? Well, THAT is what I went through for 9 month!. Remember THAT the next time you want to throw a tantrum in the middle of Applebees, darling.

They will have a new appreciation for the sacrifice that you made for them. They may even rise up and call you blessed.

3) Teach them the value of money-

How many times do you walk through the store and get pestered incessantly about making extra purchases? You’ve heard how they neeeeeed Twinkies for their lunch boxes and how they have to have the Timberlands just like everyone else in their class. I can solve this problem for you within the first 20 minutes of being at the park. Tell your children that all of their meals and drinks have been packed for them because you are, in fact, a loving and organized mother.

And then tell them that you’ve brought their weekly allowance for them to use in the park if they feel they have to have extras. And then lay the final blow. Repeat these words verbatim to your children.

I have left my wallet and all monetary devices in the car.

There will definitely be gasps. There will probably be fainting. Some may require use of their inhalers. Do not panic. The over-priced snacks and ridiculously expensive arcades will be all your child needs to remind them that no one has ever, in fact, neeeeded a Twinky.

2) You’re allowed to laugh at your kids-

Oh, but I could never!

Yes. Yes you can. When your child is rubber-necking and taking it all in, causing him to walk straight into a large woman with bountiful cleavage, you most certainly are allowed to laugh. When your daughter death grips your arm on a KiddieLand roller coaster, you will and must laugh. When your toddler is rendered immobile as Dumbo flies from 1 foot off the ground to 2, you will giggle as tears stream down your face. Hey, you may even find yourself rocking the Ferris wheel cage a little, just to give yourself one more chuckle at your child’s expense before calling it a day.

1) They will sleep like logs-

There is literally nothing like a day of terror and over-stimulation to knock out even the biggest insomniac. After crashing from sugar rushes, coming off of coaster highs, and walking half a marathon, it is likely that your son or daughter will sleep the following morning away. You may feel the urge to check on them, just to make sure they’re fine. But trust me, Mama…. They’re good. They’re more than good. Because they got to spend an entire day with you – laughing, learning valuable lessons, and getting in some quality family time. Let this peaceful moment wash over you before they wake up and find something to complain about.

Why should you go to an amusement park this summer? Because You need to. There’s gonna be screaming and laughing and messes and lost sunglasses/hats/keys/phones. There will be junk food and incorrect head counts, chaos and missed naptimes. And it will be the best memory you have for years to come.



Listen Up

     Summer is officially halfway over. Whereas this news brings a stab of pain to my summer-loving heart, I have chosen to see the silver lining. For many of you out there, you know what that lining is. (Hint, it's NOT football games, gorgeous fall leaves, nor apple cider.) For any honest mothers out there, we can all agree that the silver lining is that the little people living in our homes will soon be OUT of our homes for a blessed 7-8 hours a day, 5 days a week! (And yes, I am calling you dishonest if this news doesn't spark at least a small amount of glee in your soul.)
     Now, don't get me wrong here.... summer hasn't been bad. In fact, it's been pretty awesome. Since I've had the amazing opportunity to be a temporary stay-at-home mom for the first time since we adopted the older two kiddos, I've been able to get to know them in ways that wouldn't have been possible had I still been working 12-hour shifts. And I really wanted this time to learn about who they are, what makes them tick.... and to help them grow in each area of their lives. So we've done devotions, sang, exercised, crafted, cooked, had play dates, swim lessons, library programs, gymnastics, and we've even done homework daily in order to keep the smarts up while on hiatus from school. So far, I've been pleasantly surprised with how well things have gone. Obviously, we've had the occasional "I need you to get AWAY FROM ME" days, and even the "Your life DEPENDS on you staying in your room" day or two. But all in all, we've had relationship success and I can honestly say that, for the first time, I actually feel close to Cameron and Taylor.
     And then there was today.
     It's not like anyone burned down the house. No one killed a neighborhood pet or even tantrumed for that matter. We (yes, WE) were all just tired.... tired of being together, tired of muggy, rainy summer days keeping us indoors, tired of trying to get along. I found their special "quirks" particularly annoying today, and they found my quiet grumbles rather frustrating. It was just a day.... if I heard a scream, I didn't care to who caused it this time, nor was I interested in doling out a consequence. When one tattled on the other one for the millionth time, I decided that it probably wasn't worth my energy to respond and simply walked away. Afterall, how many times in one day is a person expected to break up fights or repeat the same exact thing? They may be deaf, they may be dumb, but either way, this Mama was just tired of repeating herself.
     Sadly, not only were my children's memories failing to remember what I had said to them just 5 minutes prior, but their memories obviously decided that all the homework, flashcards, and learning we'd done for the past 6 weeks was just clogging up their mental freeways and that it was best to toss all that junk out to make room for more important things like thumb-twiddling and nose-picking. I realized this when we decided to do our homework lesson in the car today. I kid you not, this is how my car ride went:

Me: Remember to listen up because if you don't know the answer to your question, your sibling can try to get the point. Okay, Cam, what is the number ahead of 62? (My kids struggle with their numbers and have to start over counting from 1 whenever they're asked what comes next in a sequence... hence this learning lesson.)
Cam: Um....(wicked long pause)....63?
Me: Yes. Good. Taylor, what is one number ahead of 15?
Tay: 16?
Me: Very good. Cam, what is one number BEHIND 35?
Cam: (counting in his head)
Me: Cam, stop counting, think about what number comes before the number 5.
Cam: 8?
Me: Nope, not 8. What number comes right before number 5?
Cam: (counting again) 4?
Me: Yep, so what comes right before 35?
Cam: 72?
Me: (Wow...that's...not even kinda close.) No, Bud, if 4 comes right before 5, and we're in the 30s, the answer would be thirty-......?
Cam: 38?
Tay: I know! Is it 34?
Me: Yes, Tay, it's 34. Do you get it, Cam?
Cam: Huh?
Me: Cam, do you see how we got the answer 34?
Cam: 34 what?
Me: (Really?) Really?
Cam: Really what, Mom?
Me: (big sigh) Taylor, what number comes AFTER 99?
Tay: Hmmmm.... that's hard because I can't count to 100 yet.
Me: Tay, you just said the answer.
Tay: Is it 99??
Me: No, what comes AFTER 99?
Tay: (thinkin.....) Is it 99?
Me: Taylor, the answer isn't 99, the question is what comes AFTER 99?
Tay: (staring blankly)
Me: Remember when you count by 10s....
Tay: (excitedly interrupting) 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100!
Me: YES! Exactly, so if you are looking for the next number after 99, it would be....?
Tay: (nothing....just....nothing)
Me: Tay?
Tay: 99?
Me: (Oh. My. Gosh.) It's NOT 99, I promise. The number AFTER 99 simply CANNOT also be 99. If you were counting in the 90s, it would go 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99.....?
Tay: Well, it's not 99.....
Me: (Dear Jesus, please help me not to crash this van.... we have an innocent baby on board.) Cam! Wanna come in for the steal, Man? What comes after 99?
Cam: Huh?
Me: What. Comes. After. 99?
Tay: (whispers loudly to Cameron) It's not 99!
Cam: Duh, it's 100, Taylor!
Me: Good! Here's an easy one, Cam. If 100 comes AFTER 99, what comes BEFORE 100?
Cam: (Silence)
Me: CAM....
Cam: (Nothin')
Cam: Huh?
Me: Answer the question, Dude!
Cam: I wasn't listening.....
Me: What comes BEFORE 100?
Cam: Um.... well..... 24?
Me: Cameron, you just told me that the number that comes AFTER 99 is 100.... so the number that comes BEFORE 100 has to be....
Cam: Well, it's probably 23 then.
Me: Actually, it's probably not even close to 23. Taylor, it's all you and you GOT this one, Girl! What number comes BEFORE 100?
Tay: Well, it's NOT 99.....
Me: (turns up music loudly)
     And we're done. We've only been doing the same exercise for the last 6 weeks and all... it's not like numbers are important though. We just won't use them and that's that. Problem solved! And it won't matter if I give them the answer, because with how today has been going, they will just stare at me blankly and then proceed to tell me that they have no idea what I just said. They must be surrounded by an invisible sound-proof force field made of cotton and that weird foamy ear plug material. But because I've lost my mind, I decided that National Children Must Be Deaf Day was a good day to do a cooking project called Build Your Own Pizza. So we worked together (trying to be patient) and mixed up the dough. We then spread it out onto our own personal pizza spaces and began spreading the sauce.

Me: Now, carefully smooth the sauce around on the dough and try to keep it from getting onto the pan.
Tay: (Takes a heaping spoonful and smears it across the pan.)
Me: Yeah, great job, Tay.... way to listen.
Tay: What? You said to make sure to get it all over the pan!
Cam: Nah uh, she said to NOT get it on the pan, Taylor!
Me: HEY! Knock it off or leave the kitchen. I said to try to NOT get it on the pan, Taylor. It's just going to be burnt sauce now.
Tay: Well, I didn't hear you.
Me: You haven't heard me all day. LISTEN. Ok, guys, now sprinkle your cheese around your pizza and try to NOT get it on the pan.
Tay: OKAY. (said pointedly)
Me: Good job. Now put on your peppers and onions. Maybe even make a cool pattern with them for something fun.
Tay: Where's the cheese?
Me: (looking at her questioningly) The cheese? The stuff under your peppers and onions?
Tay: No, Mom, the cheese.
Me: Yes, Tay, the cheese is under your peppers and onions.
Me: For the love of all that his holy, what are you TALKING about, child?!?
Tay: Ugh, you never listen!
Me: (REALLY??? Hello, Kettle, meet Pot.) I hear you saying you want the cheese, Taylor, and I'm telling you the cheese is on your pizza... I'm not sure what else to say about this....
Tay: (HUGE sigh) Cameron, tell Mom I want the cheese!
Cam: Mom, she wants the cheese.
Me: (staring blankly at both of them) Someone... just please.... oh my gosh.... I just can't....
Tay: NEVERMIND. I just wanted the kind you sprinkle!
Me: Oh, the parmesan cheese?
Tay: YES!!
Me: You mean the stuff sitting directly in front of you??
Tay: yes.....
Me: Well at least we know that basically NONE of your senses are working and it's not just your ears.
     Fifty more days, folks..... Fifty. More. Days.