September 23, 2009

Keene is a hero.

Last night, I was unloading the dishwasher. Keene put a dish of butter in the microwave to melt it. Almost immediately after it started, there was a really loud bang and a spark popped out over the top of the microwave (the microwave is built into the cupboards).

Keene screamed, "Holy shit!" and ran halfway down the hall. I, who was standing right by the microwave when it happened, reached over and turned it off. I opened the microwave, inspected the contents (nothing metal in there, of course), then told Keene that I thought it was a blown fuse.

He called maintenance and, as he was explaining what happened, he said, "...there was a loud pop, so my brave girlfriend turned it off while I ran down the hallway."

September 17, 2009

This office is kind of a joke.

I just spent an hour, chatting with my coworker in her office, with the door closed, eating popcorn. At one point, Boss poked his head in, apologized for interrupting us, asked a question, then said, "I'll let you get back to popcorn hour!" and that was that.

September 15, 2009

Using distractions to stop temper tantrums

(Reposted from Arapahoe County Parenting Examiner)

There are countless articles on the Internet about how to manage temper tantrums. Mayo Clinic suggests ignoring the tantrums and/or removing your child from the situation. Other options I have encountered include time-outs and reasoning with our child.

However, if you're still at a loss, maybe it's time to think outside the box. When a child reaches the height of a tantrum, there is no reasoning with them. It is as if your kid has lost his/her mind. At this point, no amount of reasoning will snap them out of it. Well, maybe if you offered them ice cream to stop at that moment, but I just couldn't condone that.What the child needs is a diversion to re-focus their attention. Here are some tricks for using distractions to stop tantrums in their tracks.

Blowing Bubbles: thus far, this is the most effective tactic I have found. I first heard about this while listening to the podcast, "Mighty Mommy: Quick and Dirty Tips for Practical Parenting." As Mighty Mommy said, "Kids love bubbles. Floating bubbles will almost always distract a child." The surprise of seeing something so out of place suddenly appear in the room oftentimes gets the child's attention just long enough to try talking to him or her. Not only does it act as a surprise, it can also be a stress reliever for your child (and you). Mighty Mommy also recommends letting your child have a turn at blowing bubbles while you talk.

Hugging: if you're like me, you look at your adorable child screaming, kicking, and throwing things--and the last thing you want to do is get closer. However, if a child is feeling emotionally upset, showing that extra bit of love may help.

Taking Pictures: proceed with caution, for this could either stop the tantrum or get a shoe thrown your way. The point of this method is to show your child that their behavior is not upsetting you. In fact, it's amusing. Take a picture with your digital camera, then show the screen to them and say, "Oh my gosh! That was a big scream. I can see all the way to your stomach in this picture!" Use humor to play down a tense situation. This might not work if the child thinks you are just mocking him, though. Do this without condescension or sarcasm.

Silly Music or Sound Effects: along the lines of taking pictures, putting on goofy music (or even a sound effects library, like PacDV) can make your child see the humor. How could you possibly keep up screaming when there is background noise of a cheering crowd or even a person passing gas?

Abrupt Changes: my boyfriend's daughter threw a particularly bad tantrum one night, while he was driving. I had been following behind him in my own car when he pulled over. He called me and we decided I would take his daughter from his car and put her into mine. This sudden change startled her, as she clearly didn't expect me to show up outside her car door at that moment. She fussed until I put her in my car and continued driving. Within five minutes, she was perfectly calm and asked if she could call her dad to apologize. Success!

Using the same method over and over will lose its effectiveness. Switch them up. Also, don't forget to talk to your child after he/she calms down. Explain why their behavior was not appropriate. Teach your child that, rather than lashing out and using violence, he/she should practice deep breathing exercises or even hitting a pillow in the future.

Try out these methods and let me know how they worked for you and your child. If something works better, leave a comment and let us know.

Photo by hortongrou / Stock Xnchg

For more info:
Taming Temper Tantrums by Mighty Mommy's Quick and Dirty Tips for Practical Parenting
Temper tantrums: How to keep the peace by Jay L. Hoecker, M.D.
How to stop temper tantrums by Rachael Isaacson
Tips for preventing and managing temper tantrums by Jeana Lee Tahnk

September 14, 2009

Scar Cat's Evil: Captured on Film.

Saturday morning after breakfast, we were lazying around, shooting rubber bands at one another:

This game required much skill and concentration:

Keene thought it was a day like any other...and decided to play with Scar Cat:

He dangled a rubber band for Scar Cat to grab:

But no matter how hard he tried, Keene got it away from him:

Until Scar Cat was fed up... POW!

And blood was everywhere. It was a scratch, though...Keene was impaled. Blood got on my shirt, my computer, the floor, Keene's shirt, everywhere. Minutes later, the blood finally slowed...

And Scar Cat was content.

September 13, 2009

The One-Year Anniversary: Monolith the Sequel

Keene and I talked about our anniversary a while back and we decided that neither of us like the idea of giving presents. It just seems weird to us to spend a lot of money (which we shouldn't be spending) on something to celebrate that we've been together for a year. The exception is when that present is something for the both of us. Rather, we like the idea of just spending that money to do something together.

So, we went to Monolith, since that's what we did on our second date (and that is the day we both feel we couple-ized).

Here's my before shot...feeling pretty, oh so pretty:

Picking up Keene:

First up, Danielle Ate the Sandwich. This chick was so charismatic and had a beautiful voice. We really want to see her again:

Frightened Rabbit:

The Answering Machine:

"Brr...getting a little chilly...starting to rain a tad"

Ok Go, who were about three hundred kinds of awesome:

The Walkmen:

Caitlinn Rose:

Starting to get colder and rainier:

MF Doom:

And then the downpour:

You win this round, Colorado:

We picked up the kids, put them in bed, then took a HOT bath. We were both completely soaked and freezing and it felt great. So, we took a bath, drank some beers (yes, in the bath...we're klassy), and talked for a few hours.

It was, to me, the best way to spend an anniversary.

September 11, 2009

"I think Maia pooped in her pants"

That's what I said in my sleep last night.

Keene woke up and said, "Really? Did she say something? How do you know?"

I said "never mind" and quickly crawled into a hole and died.

I'm re-he-eally hoping Keene doesn't remember this conversation today.

Why shouldn't my son join Cub Scouts?

(Reposted from Arapahoe County Parenting Examiner)

As I mentioned in the first part of this article, there are many benefits to having your son join Cub Scouts. However, some hesitation is to be expected. Here are some reasons why boys may opt out of scouting.

1. Discrimination

One of the most notable aspects of Cub Scouts is the absence of girls. Being a precursor to Boy Scouts, this is to be expected. However, it doesn't make the girls feel any better. I'm sure I wasn't the only little girl who wished to be a part of the Cub Scouts, rather than the smock-wearing Girl Scouts. The discrimination which upsets the girls, though, may be why it remains so popular for the boys.

2. Differing Beliefs

One of my primary reasons for being opposed to my son joining was its church affiliation. I was wary of a religious organization which might try to push its views onto my young son. Rightfully so, I might add, as the Cub Scouts are sometimes sponsored by (and may even conduct meetings in) churches. However, a brief chat with the pack leader dispelled my worries. He relayed that the individual dens (and the parents within those dens) decide how they will handle religious differences. If your son joins a den in which religion holds a major part, request to join a more secular den.

3. Fathers Only?

Another type of old-fashioned discrimination experienced with the Scouts is the idea of "father and son bonding." The dads help the boys build cars or show them how to whittle wood with knives. But where do the moms fit in? Being a single mother, I learned they fit in just fine, actually. While I initially felt awkward being one of the few females at meetings, I met other mothers and accepted the occasional help from fathers. That being said, I still continue to experience moments of feeling like the token girl in a boys-only club.

4. Expenses

Let's see: hat, shirt, belt, kerchief, neck slide, and a book. Some of these items change annually with each new rank. That can get pricey. Now add in the cost of dues (which can vary between $50 to $200), the gas to drive your scout to the many events and meetings, the food you'll occasionally buy (if you're not one to cook, like me) for parties, and supplies for completing tasks (like blocks of wood or plant seeds). You're potentially looking at several hundred dollars per year. However, one perk is that by selling popcorn, the boys can earn money to pay off their annual dues. Moreover, some parents of older pack members will pass down their sons' old hats, kerchiefs, or books to newer members.

5. Time Crunch

This is one point I won't argue: scouting takes up a lot of time. Be prepared for at least two den meetings and one pack meeting each month, the occasional Saturdays spent in the hot sun or cold wind, and many nights at home working through the book. A parent must be as dedicated to his or her son's scouting as the boy himself. Nevertheless, this will be some of the best quality time you spend with your son.

For more information:

"Boy Scout bigotry" by Trina Hoaks
"Boy Scouts are Coming: Gay Discrimination in our Schools" by Tracy Kachtick-Anders

September 10, 2009

Shady. Mechanics are so shady.

I'm doing price-comparisons to get my timing belt replaced. I got a quote from the dealership for $400 (and I have a coupon for $100 off).

I just called Midas and they quoted $600. I said, "Oh, okay." The guy said, "Have you received any other quotes?" I replied, "Yeah, $300."

He put me on hold, came back with a quote for $330, with a coupon for 20%. Oh really, jackass? You couldn't give me that quote in the first place?

Why should my son join Cub Scouts?

(Reposted from Arapahoe County Parenting Examiner)

One day, while my son was in Kindergarten, he came home with a flyer. It featured NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon standing beside his racecar, surrounded by a group of Cub Scouts. This was during the height of my son's NASCAR obsession, and he was certain that, by joining the organization, he would meet Mr. Gordon. Despite my hesitance and his misinformation, he joined Cub Scouts as a little Tiger Cub; three years later, he is now a Bear.

However, scouting may not be for every child. In two parts, I will list reasons why your son may or may not want to join Cub Scouts.

1. New Friends

Within the Cub Scout network, your son will have both a den and a pack. The den is a small group of boys who are of the same age and rank. The den typically has between 5-10 members, though it can certainly be larger or smaller. The pack contains all the dens, from the 5-year-old Tiger Cubs to the 10-year-old Senior Webelos. Because of this infrastructure, boys not only get to know members of their den closely, they also meet boys who are younger and older than themselves. There are many social events to bring the group closer together, such as the Raingutter Regatta or Magness Camp.

2. A Special Club

Let's face it: clubs are cool. Cub Scouts have a secret handshake. They must learn oaths, salutes, and mottos. They have a special uniform to wear. They go to meetings. These things may seem trival to an adult, but are very exciting to a young boy. More importantly, the boys gain a sense of pride and recognition for this.
3. Motivation to Succeed

The main idea of scouting is that, every year, the boys work through their rank's book, completing tasks (which are held accountable to an adult) in order to progress to the next rank. They also achieve goals, do research, and complete assignments to aquire badges, belt loops, pins, and even prizes. Throughout the year, the den (and sometimes the pack) helps the boys reach these goals. By the time he reaches the next rank, a young Scout will have a stack of badges and at least one or two pieces of flair to add to his uniform.

4. Extracurricular Activities

School projects are not always known for being exciting. With Cub Scouts, the boys get to build and race cars, boats, and rockets. They learn sign language, meet police officers, visit museums, play games, and try new things. Basically, in order to achieve badges, they must explore the world in which they live.

5. Good Deeds and Family Time

While every pack is different, they all promote the same concept: do your best. Furthermore, they encourage the boys to clean up their communities, to spend time with their family, and to help others. Pack 646 of Aurora, Colorado have picked up trash along Highline Canal, cleaned the yard of Sagebrush Elementary, and raised money to send popcorn to army troops overseas.

To read the reasons why your son may not want to join Cub Scouts, click here.

Photo by waldhans/Stock Xchng

For more information:

"Bring a Girl Scout or Cub Scout troop to your school" by Lori Hampton
"Scouting and Homeschooling - A Perfect Match" by Nancy Parode

September 8, 2009

How NOT to Pick Up a Woman

Last weekend, I went to the grocery store really early one morning. I was wearing ratty, torn-up jeans, a t-shirt, no makeup, my hair in a ponytail. So, while shopping, a big black guy approached me (I point out his race because I'm going to talk about this in a moment).

He said, "Do you know where I could find the starch?" I replied, "It's probably in the next aisle over, with the laundry detergent." He thanked me and left and I thought nothing of it.

Then, in the bread aisle, he approached me again, showed me his starch, and thanked me. Then this conversation took place:

Him: Can I just say how good you look in those jeans?
Me: (probably blushing) These jeans? Really? Well, thank you.
Him: Yeah, you look real nice. I'd like to get to know you better. Can we hang out sometime?
Me: I have a boyfriend actually, but thank you for the compliment.
Him: You do? That's too bad. Can we just be buddies?
Me: You know, I don't think he would approve of that...
Him: He doesn't have to know.
Me: Um, sorry, no.
Him: Okay, well, I just wanted to tell you how beautiful you are.
Me: Okay,'s always nice to be complimented. (quickly walks away)

So, at this point, I pushed it out of my mind and finished my shopping. Then I got in line to pay. While waiting, I noticed with indifference that he was in a line to pay a couple rows over. Then I realized I had forgotten a couple things, so I got out of line and picked out the forgotten items (probably took about five more minutes).

Then I went back into a line. And noticed he was now in the line right next to me (keep in mind, he only had a couple things in his basket and should have been done by this time). I avoided eye contact, pretended not to notice. But then I hear:

Him: Are you sure you won't change your mind?
Me: Yes, I'm sure.
Him: Your boyfriend doesn't have to know. You won't regret it.
Me: No.
Him: Okay. (under his breath) Damn, your body is so fine. Those curves...mmm.
Me: (ignoring and hoping the checker will hurry)
Him: You've got the perfect body. And those jeans...

At this point, the checker started ringing my stuff up. I paid, took my cart, and hurried toward the door. But at the door, I took a quick left, rounded back into the store, and went to the in-store Starbucks. I hid behind a column (yes, I really did hide) and watched the guy leave the store. The creep hesitated at the door, looking all around as he walked out.

It left me feeling VERY skeeved out. I tried being polite and all, but I really should have chewed him out.

Anyhow, the reason I brought up his race is that this situation seems to happen a lot with a certain type of guy. It's almost always a big black guy, dressed in athletic gear (as if he just left the gym). And each time, when I politely decline their advances (which are always pretty brazen, if not bordering on harassment), they don't stop. And they almost always say stuff about my body. Really, guy? You think I'll just hop into your arms because you're talking about my body like I'm already naked?

Ugh. It bothers me. Maybe I need to grow a pair of balls and just say something sharply like, "Back off, asshole. I said I'm not interested."

(Oh, I should point out that the fact that he was black didn't bother me. I just think it's weird that I keep drawing the same guy: race, build, athletic attire, creepy approach.)

Selling Popcorn, Year Two

Unfortunately, this year he was in front of Sunflower (farmer's market store). Not only were fewer people in the mood for popcorn (than last year's Walmart), many people were outright rude to the kids!

Several people just ignored them, some snapped no, a couple said, "You already asked me on the way in!" I was pretty disappointed. I mean, I'm not a kid person, but I'm never rude to kids--especially those who have been on their feet, trying to sell popcorn for hours.

Anyhow, the boys got burned out with the whole thing, as a result:

After three hours, we called it a day. They had only sold maybe five popcorn tins and were upset. Alex's dad bought them ice cream bars to cheer them up.

A "What's up with Kelli?" post

- Last night, Maia threw a big tantrum at bedtime. Full-on screaming, kicking, etc. Keene was excellent! He was very firm with her, took away toys when she started throwing them at him, reiterated what privileges she lost and what she was doing wrong. One funny thing was when he was trying to snap her out of the screaming. When a kid is in tantrum mode, the best thing to do is to snap them out of it, because you can't reason with them at that point. So, Keene tried flicking water on her. I was in the dining room when this happened. All of sudden, Keene came skipping down the hallway. He said, "That pissed her OFF!" I suggested he blow bubbles, because I read that that is a good idea to get the kid's attention. IT WORKED! Almost instantly, she stopped screaming and started watching the bubbles. So, flicking water = No. Blowing bubbles = YES.

- Sunday is our anniversary. On Saturday, we are celebrating by going to Monolith. Woot!

- I found out my car needs all new tires and a timing belt. So, unfortunately, I've decided putting off paying my credit card debts with this paycheck, in favor of a timing belt. From what I hear, it would be deadly if that were to go out.

Unexpected Pros of Living With Keene

One thing I've noticed since moving in with Keene is how LITTLE I eat out now! Before, if I didn't want to cook (which happened maybe 1-2 nights during the week and almost all weekend), I would eat out. Also, if I didn't have any food to bring for lunch, I'd eat out then too.

Now, if I don't want to cook, he will. And I know that if I decide to eat out for dinner, I better be prepared to buy Keene and Maia some McDs too. Man, that's a deterrant if I ever had one. It gets expensive eating out with four people.

September 4, 2009

Return of Clutter-Bitch

Every time I try to get rid of something, Keene claims it. I'm pretty diligent about not keeping unused stuff around the house. For example, I was going to get rid of Kayden's tennis racket, which he hasn't used in four years. I put it in the Goodwill pile.

Keene saw and said, "Heeeeeey! Maia could use this!" I said, "When have you guys ever played tennis?" "Well, we COULD play tennis, though." I said, "I've never heard you say you want to play tennis." He said, "Only because I've never had access to a tennis court..." I replied, "My old apartment complex had a tennis court." He said, "Oh yeah...but what if we DO play tennis sometime?"

Just now, Maia found the game Perfection in Kayden's get-rid-of pile and suddenly it's the only game in the world she wants to play with. Keene said, "Well she can have it!"

Okay, she's always had the chance to play it at my place, but never wanted to until we decided to get rid of it.

So basically, all the stuff Kayden is getting rid of just gets shuffled into Maia's room and eventually finds its way back to the living room.

I'm home today, screwing around.

My plan was to do nothing but write and post junk on Craigslist.

Instead, I've played Zoo Tycoon on Kayden's computer all morning. Now I'm eating piece after piece of watermelon.

I = useless

::hurries and takes out garbage before Keene sees all the watermelon rinds in there::

September 2, 2009

I'm being a clutter-bitch.

Here is a conversation I had with Keene last night:

Him: do we have any goose-neck lamps?

Me: Kayden does.

Him: but do WE have any?

Me: No, why?

Him: I have one in my car. I brought it home from work.

Me: Why?

Him: To put by our bed or something.

Me: But why?

Him: For when we read in bed?

Me: We use book lights and flashlights for that.

Him: But we could use that instead.

Me: ::gestures around living room, where there are three lamps on the floor, not being used:: We already have enough lamps.


I think I made him grumpy. But seriously. Dude has a problem with bringing home junk, just because it's free. We don't even have a bedside table to put a lamp on. We don't *need* a lamp at all. We have two desktop lamps not being used.

I hate having to mother him. But if I don't, he just keeps bringing home more shit. Like last month when he brought home a big CD player. Um, why? We don't need it. The kids each have one and we either use the record player or our computers.

Oh. OH. He has a drill press. A huge, industrial-sized drill press that he took from his old company when they closed. Apparently it's been in his friend's garage this whole time because his friend has been borrowing it. But now the friend is getting a divorce and his wife asked Keene to come and get it.

Why does he need a drill press? His reasoning is that he wants all this shit for when he has a garage and he'll be able to "play" with it. And to buy this stuff when he DOES get a garage will cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

I said when he talks like that, it makes me never want to live in a house (with a garage) with him. It'll get out of hand, I know it.

I will cry. Seriously. I will cry if there is going to be a huge, oily machine in my living room.

Fire Dancers and Drum Circles in Downtown Denver

(Reposted from Associated Content)

As the sun goes down every Sunday night in Denver, the steps of Confluence Park begin to fill with people of all ages: the nervous children wondering why their parents have dragged them under a bridge at night; the mellow twentysomethings taking hits off a pipe (tobacco, of course!); even the elderly wondering... well, why their kids have brought them under a bridge at night. I am often among these onlookers, sitting on the corner platform or playing in the water.

Toward the back of the cement steps, drummers—both new and experienced—choose a spot and make themselves comfortable. They begin beating their drums of all sizes and shapes at different speeds, until it turns into something that sounds like a practiced melody. Some people even have cowbells and didgeridoos. Some participants sing, chant, or dance along with the music.

The fire dancing starts off slowly, maybe one or two performers at a time with a break in between. As the minutes pass and the sky darkens further, more performers arrive and appear onstage, overlapping. They keep the audience captivated and entertained and unsure of who they should pay attention. Like the drummers, the dancers come in all ages, sizes, and levels of experience, performing their own styles of fire-dancing. Young women who belly-dance ever so erotically. Guys who, if you were to bump into them on a dark street, may make you a little afraid for your safety. Teenagers just starting out with rage-style glow sticks and mellow tricks. Older participants who clearly have many years of experience at this art. But they all get up and perform a kind of magic with fire—and do so in a way to convey their own style and culture.

Summer nights in Denver are amazing for reasons like this. Sitting on the edge of the Platte River, listening to amazing percussion, while watching a spectacle like this can't be matched in any formal and regulated setting. Known by many names and having seen its share of turnover, the Confluence Park gathering has been around for years. Drawing on a shared sense of community, the performers help beginning "spinners," act as spotters in the event a performer catches on fire, and keep a wary eye on observers who sit too closely.

One way you, as a participant, can help is to observe fire safety. Don't sit anywhere on the two platforms where they perform—not even off to the side. You can either sit in the main audience area or off to the east side, at the edge of the steps. The west side of the platform is primarily reserved for practicing performers.

One or two food/drink vendors are usually set up, but don't count on it. Bring your camera to capture the experience, but—for the sake of those playing with fire—flash photography is probably not appreciated. Try to show up by 9 p.m. if you want a decent seat.

To get to this area, take the 23rd Avenue exit from I-25 and drive east past the Aquarium. Parking isn't difficult to come by, as meters stop running at 8 P.M. and there is a small parking lot. After parking, take the sidewalk path parallel to the river, pass the REI, and you'll come to the cement stairs.

September 1, 2009

How to de-clutter your child's room without a fight

(Reposted from Arapahoe County Parenting Examiner)

Parents are often accused of being too sentimental, keeping everything from the locks of a first haircut to every Kindergarten drawing. However, the real pack-rats are the children themselves. There comes a time as you must hop and lurch across the toy-littered landscape of their rooms, when you say, "We need to get rid of this clutter!"

Suddenly, every item in his or her room becomes a holy relic to the child, and how could you possibly think of throwing it away? These tips will help you (and your child) through the figurative and literal mess.

Give Them a Choice

When children feel they are in control, they are much more likely to work with you. Let them be a part of the decision-making process. Make a game of it. Pull out two toys which they do not play with regularly. Ask which one they want to keep...and which one they want to give away. This process runs smoothly most of the time. In some cases when they cannot choose between the two objects, set them aside, and try re-pairing them with different objects. At the end, if there is a toy which your child still really wants to keep, eh, let them.

Appeal to Their Emotions

Many children will never have to spend the holidays in a homeless shelter or worry about whether they will receive birthday gifts. Dramatic but true. Oftentimes, our children don't realize how lucky they are, because they have never had to worry or go without. Talk to your child about those who are less fortunate. Explain that, by getting rid of toys they no longer play with, they could make another kid happy. Not only would these toys be more appreciated in another home, it would also give your child a sense of compassion.

One way to get your child in an altruistic mood is to let him or her help you deliver these items. Some places you may think of donating to include: Gateway Battered Women's Services in Arapahoe County, Crossroads Safehouse, and Champa House. Check ahead to make sure they have a need for toys and games, as well as clothing and blankets.

Teach Them the Art of Business

In a perfect world, charity would be reason enough for a child to give up some of their goods. However, some kids may feel less encouraged by giving, than by selling. Teach them the value of money. Show them that in order to make money, they have to earn it. First, let them come up with a goal for which they should save (a new toy, usually). Funny how kids are more willing to de-clutter when it entails the possibility of something new.

List the toys (books, movies, and video games are also possibilities) they decide to sell on eBay or Craigslist. Your child can help you write the descriptions. Or you can hold a garage sale and let him or her assist. They'll feel more involved and as if they have earned their goal.

For more info:

If you are a part of an organization which accepts used toys or clothing, please leave a comment and let us know! Tell us about your organization and leave a link.