Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Results of Last Months Poll is in...

Little did you all know, in anticipation of this momentous decision, we dyed his hair green and got him on video singing "banana phone". But clearly you all must hate us, as the results indicate you would like the boy to take up the drums. So NO video for you!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Yes, it's that time again...it's the annual CHRISTMAS LETTER!

Alright now…this is the second year in a row that the famous (infamous?) Claytor Family Christmas letter is on-line HERE so if you’re reading this on paper…shame on you! Your carbon footprint is showing! And I died a little inside…

Has the letter ever started with Chris? I mean…like, EVER? Work has continued to expand, and beginning next year comes: A roomier desk! A bigger warehouse! A longer commute! Oh well, his occasional bike-to-work days may be over, but his job has also let him travel to England, The Netherlands, and Washington DC. All three trips being great opportunities to learn new languages (Cockney, Dutch, and Republican.) With greater involvement at Vertical Endeavors Climbing Gym, there’s not been much opportunity to get in any real “outside” climbing this year. Something that definitely must be remedied in 2010…or else he may actually climb that clock-tower and start shooting!

So how many times this year did you update Kelly’s “work” phone number before realizing how futile it was to keep up with her? She was all over the place! Including working for H.A.R.P.S. (Hoofed Animal Rescue & Protection Society) feeding and caring for rescued horses, ponies, anything with a “hoof” etc. You get the picture. Her winter position at the local hospital has allowed her the opportunity to read up on foreign objects in body cavities, and route-setting at Vertical Endeavors has kept her busy and active. Aside from all the painting, crafting, gardening, and sewing (yes, remember the Midget/Clown/Shark?) her work at Knupper’s Nursery as a Landscape Designer renewed a long-dormant passion for plants and flowers (i.e. more holes for Chris to dig.) If you see a headstone in the yard, somebody please tell my story to the world?

Has anyone seen Caitlin anywhere? Yeah, us neither…she wins the award this year for busiest family member by a LONG shot. She finished up that last pesky year of Junior High with a role as The Duchess in “Alice in Wonderland” and played a Chorus Girl in a local community theater production of “42nd Street”. Then it was off join the Prospect Marching Knights, which meant spending all summer at band camp. Eight hours a day. That’s Eight. Hours. A Day. Then there was Show Choir camp. Eight. Hours. A Day. Her freshman year of high school has been academically challenging as a member of the gifted “Talent Development Program,” but she still finds time to hang out with friends. She rode horses for a weekend in North Carolina with Kelly and Cousin Brenley, and made her own dress for her first Homecoming Dance. Chris and Kelly are still adjusting to that last one…give them time.

Not to be outdone, The Boy also stayed busy this year attending a Vertical Endeavors Climbing Team session, and a couple rounds of Soccer. He’s eerily diligent about getting his schoolwork done as soon as he gets home, and has become as avid a reader as his big sister. The backyard has become his favorite playspace…there’s been all manner of rope swinging, hammock hanging, fort building, and we think maybe a Particle Accelerator. A weekend in Wisconsin snowboarding with Dad was safe and uneventful, but his latest adventure landed him in the ER for stitches on his finger. And since no one had “nearly slices off finger with scissors” in his ongoing injury pool, each entry is up to $10.00. The winner splits the prize with him (to help pay for the doctor visit…) DANGER BOY HAS RETURNED!

The dogs Sherpa and Otter made it to the beach with us a few times this summer, as well as tackling miles of Cook County Forest Preserve trails and the leash-free prairie at Fermilab. All that fresh air seems to have helped the middle-aged Sherpa to drop a few critical pounds, and turned Otter into a lean, mean, squirrel-chasing-machine!

Keep in touch with us on Facebook (yes, we all submitted to its charms) and follow monthly-or-more updates on our Blog. We’re just so dang tech savvy, ain’t we?

If we loved you any more, it’d be creepy…and Merry Christmas!

Chris, Kelly, Caitlin, The Boy, Sherpa, and Otter

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Midget Clown Sharks, Deceit, and a Most Unfortunate Husband

The story of the Midget Clown Shark goes like this…over a period of time Chris unwittingly confessed some of his larger fears in life. No, it wasn’t poor health, nor was it some act of terrorism. It was midgets. We here in the Claytor household fully recognize that is a very, VERY un-PC statement – to fear the little people – but we aren’t always able to control our irrational inside voices now can we? So little people, please understand and don’t form in a large (small) angry mob outside my house.

His second fear came later, understandably so – the fear of clowns. I hate clowns too. We acknowledge that they are meant to be fun happy folk, but frankly, their creepy painted faces freak me out too.

And the third fear: sea creatures, deep oceans, and specifically – Sharks. I’m not certain how Chris figures sharks will impact his life here, in the flat suburbia and cornfield ridden, ocean-less expanse of the Midwest. But we must accept at least the very possibility that a newly evolved great white, adapted to the fresh waters of the interior, will make it’s way into the Gulf of Mexico, bypass all the good eating in New Orleans, make it’s way up the Mississippi, and ultimately end up in Lake Michigan. It will then stun the world with it’s ability to leave the fresh water, and walk to our house, hide in the bushes, and eat Chris with great ferocity. It could happen, and as my theory illustrates, it’s a perfectly justifiable concern.

The family joke became the fear of Midget Clown Sharks. A compilation of all that is evil in the world, and what’s hiding in all the dark corners, shrubbery, and watery toilet bowls. Naturally, I thought it prudent to illustrate this, and developed a lovely logo, which I had made into a t-shirt and gave to Chris last Christmas. He was amused. And possibly mildly concerned at my efforts.

So a few months ago, Caitlin and I were scheming about nothing in particular. And somehow that conversation evolved into the notion that it would be a positively brilliant idea to make The Boy a Midget Clown Shark for Halloween. And not tell Chris.


Generally speaking, patterns for Midget Clown Sharks are hard to come by. So I drew up a little sketch, began measuring, and bought about 20 yards of fabric. When one is bringing fear to reality, one must build big, yes?
I informed Chris that I was working on a project, and that this project would be revealed to him at some later date, and he was not to be poking around in the dusty corners of the basement, and at times, he would be banished to the upstairs. He had no awareness of the context of the project – not what it was, when it was, or why it was, simply that there was “A Project”.

I knew I was in trouble when I first cut out the general shape of the shark and pinned it together…in the house alone, I let out a slightly possessed sounding Muwhahahaha! I began to see Seamus the shark take shape and I was positively delighted. I will tell you now that I do not have any definable sewing skills. I can sew on buttons. That’s about the extent of it. But somehow, Seamus seemed to come along so nicely.

Then one day, Chris tells me the kids weren’t going to be here for Halloween. Um. What?! I quietly panicked on the inside, and managed to make the necessary arrangements to have them at least come trick or treating here for a few hours, before going to their Halloween parties.


Work on the midget begins.

Then Chris tells me he’s flying to Brussels. On Halloween. Naturally. There are 364 other days in the year, clearly, October 31st is the best day to fly. I quietly panic on the inside, and managed to plead with him to leave the following day.

Work on the framing begins.

When Seamus was mostly sewn, the midget legs were complete, I devised a plan to have Colin get ready at our wonderfully enabling neighbors house. Up until the shark was stuffed with a giant Curious George balloon and a butt load of stuffing, he’d been relatively easy to keep hidden: under the basement stairs, or in the summer camp trunk on the top shelf, or in Caitlin’s suitcase. But once you’ve got a virtually life size shark named Seamus stuffed with a Curious George balloon, it gets a might difficult to hide. By the way, as far as Chris knew, Colin was Prince Caspian for Halloween and he would be trick-or-treating with Whitney the neighbor girl.

So that is the story. I will let the video and photos explain the rest. And will one of you come bail me out of the mental health ward Chris is checking me into next week? Thanks.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Volunteer Day at HARPS!

Chris, me and the Boy spend a day at HARPS - Hooved Animal Rescue & Protection - helping with their annual fundraiser picnic. Chris got roped into doing the pony rides, I wandered around with an old, old, OLD donkey, and Colin helped with one of the fun rides set up for kids. There were also a variety of riding demonstrations with some gorgeous horses. This is a great non-profit - find out more here:www.harpsonline.org

Caitlin turns all domestic...

...and decides that a week and a half is plenty of time to make her homecoming dress. We were skeptics, admittedly, but she did a great job! Now if only we could get her to clean her room...

The Dogs Embrace Science, and go to the Fermi Lab.

The mutts haven't had their blogger due, so here they are, gallivanting around down at Fermi Lab.

Otter races through the grass, considering the velocity of the canine species.

Sherpa ponders equations, thoughtfully respects stationary gravity, and develops theories of relative fusion.

Caitlin rides the ponies...

Caitlin and I went to North Carolina over Labor Day to fulfill last Christmas's present of a "Horse Weekend". We visited with cousin Brenley, rode horses, got sick, drank wine, and went rock climbing. Here's a little video...and yes, there's sound/music.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Results of Last Months Poll are in...

And it was a tie. It seems you fine folk either want us far, far, far away in Mongolia living in a Yurt, or living amongst our fine Canucks to the north. Make up your mind people!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Result of this months poll is in...

School was starting and a decision needed to be made. It was a tie, so Colin decided to go with a mohawk...sort of...
This months poll is VERY important, so please VOTE!

Last day of summer vacation...time for: EXTREME! CROQUET!

I don't know about you, but to me, summer just FLEW by!

Therefore, educational night with the kids has come to an end, so we decided to go out with a bang and play EXTREME! Croquet in the 17 acre field behind our house. All this really means is the wickets are set from here to next Tuesday apart from each other, and you gotta just HUCK the ball as far as possible with the mallet.

So here' s a little video of the event, for your viewing pleasure. (There's music)

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Results of Last Months Poll are IN...

And record numbers of you voted. (Ie, more than 3). It seems puppy dogs and rainbows are more to your liking. And with that in mind, our next dog will be named BUCKET! But don't worry, Sherpa and Otter aren't going anywhere...

(well, after the whole Sherpa to the Emergency Vet episode where we found out she has a little "Reverse Sneezing" problem, maybe BUCKET! isn't such a bad idea after all.)

Vote in this months poll...don't make the Boy feel left out!

Basement Bouldering

Monday night Basement Bouldering with the boys...Chris gave Colin and a boulder problem...the Boy could do it...and sadly, I could not. (He's got little fingers!)


The Boy as subject for the blog has been rather lacking, I must admit. Mostly because he hasn't yet decided to get involved in every conceivable extracurricular activity humanly possible, like his sister has. But I expect also because he's eight. Don't fret, grandparents, we have made this month, "Month of the BOY" just for you.

I coerced the poor unsuspecting young lad out into a lovely downpour to play "Splash Ball". You may wonder what Splash Ball is, and I will predict now that it will be all the rage at the next Olympics. You find the largest puddle you can, and throw a ball, preferably blue, as hard as you can, and strategically placed so as to maximize the splash output onto your opponent.

Turns out, The Boy is gifted in this sport. He consistently placed the ball precisely so as to get me drenched.

For your reading enjoyment...

So we here in the Claytor family household have an established schedule to fit in all the going's on in this madhouse. Typically during the school year we have Tuesday "Happy Fun Night", because mandated fun...is well, mandatory. But being the wretched folk that we are, we determined that in the summer time, every day is fun (for the kids) and all the while, their little brains are rotting because they're not in school. Naturally then, Tuesday becomes "Educational Night".

My personal favorite is Writing night, where we've all helped come up with a few topics consisting of a Place, Thing, and Event, and we all pick one of each out of a hat. Even the Boy participated in Writing Night this year! So following are Colin's and one of Chris's stories. I've left mine out cause, well, my stories are too damn long for a blog.

Colin made a book, illustrated and everything. His topics were:
Place - Retirement Home
Thing - Tire iron
Event - Meteor Strike"Once there was a fifteen year old boy and his father were finding a retirement home. They heard on the news there was going to be a meteor strike so the boy made a tire iron laser to destroy the meteor and it worked. The end."

The symbolism of his aging father and death from the skies is profound, wouldn't you say?


Chris had
Place - Saskatoon
Thing - A fuchsia colored rabbit fur lined sleeping bag
Event - Building the great wall of China


As Theo sped his ship through yet another gauntlet of their mines, dodging the very occasional, yet quite disconcertingly well placed salvos from his pursuers, he had a thought.

“Why again, do I do this?”

After all, this job didn’t pay all that well. And while the settlers escaping from the rising temperatures on Earth kind of “needed” a new place to call home, they certainly could have picked an easier, safer place to travel. The outer rim of the solar system, while cool, was getting increasingly well guarded by…you know…them. But he was good at it, a pretty good ratio of souls delivered vs. lost. And the way things were these days that would have to be enough.

This trip was unusual in that there was very little luggage to haggle over. Usually his modest, sturdy craft required his having to ditch many of the belongings his “passengers” expected to bring on their journey.

“I know this is a one way trip for all of you,” Theo would often say as they prepared to board. “But there is limited space aboard, and I don’t get paid for delivering luxuries…just healthy people.” There was the inevitable uproar of protest; some old lady just couldn’t go on living in the absence of some random kitsch. But he was always able to get them to see things his way. And the offending “naked-baby-holding-a-beer-mug statuette” was tossed aside.

But on this trip, there was a child. This in and of its self was strange, most people seemed to stay rooted on the dying Earth if they were successfully bred; as if a new generation would make a difference. And while little ones can certainly survive the rigors of space travel, no one; not even Theo; could bear the thought of a child’s fate if captured by them. This child clung desperately to a blank sheet of paper, an info storage disc, and a small bag inside if which was, quite possibly, the dumbest item Theo had ever seen anyone covet so. A small, fuchsia, rabbit fur lined sleeping bag. “Kid, it’s not THAT cold where we’re going” he joked to try to get this little girl to part with her treasure. “No…I need to keep it. I promised” she said. “And my name is Caitlin, not Kid.” Caitlin puffed up as best she could to seem tougher and more weathered than she obviously was. And somehow that did it, and Theo caved in. Knowing that this was likely the last days alive for this kid, he hadn’t the heart to deprive her.

One pod had been decompressed by hostile fire, it’s 50 occupants exposed to space, dead. They were luckier than those on the second pod that had been severed from the ship’s frame; it’s life support intact, the occupants captured. And while he had hoped that the 50 sacrificed to them might be enough to allow his escape with the remaining 1100, it wasn’t to be. He took more damage than he could afford to repair and lost another pair of pods making this a “break-even” trip at best. “Why again, do I do this?”

Theo’s thoughts turned to Caitlin when the next blast missed the ship’s nose by just a few yards. “Poor kid never had a chance, should have never come” and he begun to think of the wisdom of the new government in risking so many lives to populate the new settlement. But he stuck it out. Eventually as always his attackers lost heart, gave up, and let him go with his remaining, precious, human cargo. He had seen one of them once…in death, drifting in space. Probably a casualty of mutiny aboard one of their ships. “I wonder why they hate us so much,” he thought, realizing that only a few lucky chromosomes separated him from that fate. A fate of sickness and hatred; genius coupled with madness.

Upon unloading his payload for processing at the port of New Saskatoon, Theo fielded the usual complaints. Some were easy like, “why was the ride so bumpy,” “Well, that happens when one’s ship is being shot full of holes.” Others, not so much. “Why did so few of us make it?” “What happened to the rest of the passengers?” “Can’t you rescue them?” Where is my family?” “I want to go home…” And then he spotted her in the lineup. Caitlin; she had made it. He purposefully never pays attention to the faces as they settle into the 24 travel pods on the ship, lest those faces haunt him when he realizes which ones fell into their hands on the way. But he was glad to see this little girl survive the journey, seemingly fine. And with her stupid sleeping bag no less.

A few weeks passed. Repairs were proceeding on the ship. Settlers were assigned living arrangements, breeding assignments, and occupations (based on their education, skills, age, and of course the greater need of all.) Theo tried to relax and get some much-needed rest before have to face them on his return journey. And when it arrived he was not as surprised as one might think. The paper came by courier. And on it was a simple note, written in ink by hand.

Dear Theo,
Thank you for our deliverance. Thank you for letting me bring my things with me too. My Daddy is already here working on the project and he says all that stuff in my sleeping bag was really important.

Theo had heard of this project, some sort of protective barrier to shield the settlements from them. Growing concern of an organized, widespread invasion was not entirely unfounded; it had happened before. The new Great Wall it was called (most people left out the “of China” but that was the idea.) And it was all going to be possible because some sneaky kid had smuggled something past a smuggler. Theo was impressed, and wrote back to Caitlin;

Dear Caitlin,
Glad to see you and your things made it in one piece. You were pretty good at getting those things past me when we boarded. So I know I’ll regret asking this but when you’re old enough…want a job?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Caitlin in 42nd Street

(The video may be rather slow to upload.)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Regarding Polls...

It seems you fine folk, (all 3 of you that actually visit our website anyway) are not terribly inclined to vote in our humorous, enticing and informative polls. That's ok. It only makes us a little bit sad. But our propensity towards providing these little tidbits of fun (for us) polls will not waiver. NO! We will provide a poll for you all to not vote in, month after month after month.

A Day of Yard Work Gone Awry

What happens when one innocently asks for help with a bit 'o landscaping? I submit to you photographic evidence, as seen here on the left.

I am not a fan of lawns. They are contrived, tedious, and boring, providing lackluster flora for the least desirable fauna. Therefore it seemed entirely logical to remove our aforementioned weed over run lawn and put in something far more lovely than dandelions and creeping charlie, so as to remove some of the earwig habitat.

Thus, I had the brilliant idea of digging up turf on the first hot day of the summer, after a dry spell, at high noon...to put in some lovely perennials and shrubs in a teeny tiny corner of our yard. I swear, it's maybe a 10' x 10' patch. Six hours later, blistered hands, sunburned neck, and one husband gone off the deep end later...we've got ourselves some pretty flowers in a spot where pretty much nobody actually notices. FANtastic!


With the advent of summer, our wacky in house ghost Luther has kindly returned the space heater. Yes, I know you have all been on the edge of your seats waiting to hear such scintillating news. We live large here in the Claytor household.

I must say, I find it all very odd. We turned this house upside down while freezing our patookass's off all winter long. Seriously. We looked EVERYWHERE. Only to find it on a shelf in the basement.

So now we have come to learn that Luther is attending summer camp - as it turns out, he's taken all the lunch tote's.

We have yet to find the green beans though...and I think I'm ok with that.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Caitlin Graduates...now go get a job!

Not old enough to be put to work, Caitlin will become a full time band geek for the summer. Seems the over enthusiastic high school she will be attending likes to have daily marching band practice from 1pm to 9pm. Don't worry - maybe we'll see her again when football season is over...in November.

Here are a few photos from Graduation, for all you doting grandparents...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The results of last months poll are in...

And it's a tie. It seems a few of you sad folk would like to read more about "Despair", while the happy folk want to know about "The Misadventures of Silly Milliken". We'll get right on that!

Don't forget to vote in this months poll! (See the right sidebar. In fact, there's lots of stuff in the right sidebar...)

Caitlin...our favorite Band Geek

Caitlin heads off to High School in the fall and has already started with the marching band. We'll have 8th graduation photos next week and possibly even some videos of a few of her singing performances from this past year, so check back soon.

2009 Garden

Ok you local friends & family, place your orders now because the 2009 Claytor Family Vegetable Garden is IN! We are currently inundated with mint and oregano, and I expect strawberries and snap peas to be coming along shortly. If you want to know everything that's available, check the list below:

Hot peppers
Red Peppers
Green Beans
Snap Peas

Welcome to Kelly's Life, episode 20

Welcome to Kelly’s Life, episode 20

I lie to children. I feel comfortable admitting this to you all because you well know that we, as adults, sacrifice a tremendous amount for the little rugrats and it seems only fair that sometimes we can have our moments of ridiculous glory at their expense. Which means occasionally stretching the truth a wee bit.

So we have this theory at our house that the kids will eat whatever we give them. None of this chicken fingers and hot dogs every night for dinner crap. And if they don’t eat their dinner, they can have it for breakfast, right? I mean, seriously folks, didn’t your parents do that? It’s a time honored tradition to be passed down through the generations. I will say though that we’ve decided to forgo the notion that each child must clean their plate. Just because there may be starving kids in Africa doesn’t mean we need to have a bunch of roly-poly kids. Regarding the loathed green vegetables, the rule is that the quantity of green beans is in direct correlation to the age of said child. Therefore, the five year old will get five green beans, five peas, five broccoli florets…you get the idea.

Understanding the near dinner dictatorship the munchkins must endure, the following scene should come as no surprise. Colin slid into his chair at the table as we were getting ready to sit down to eat our dinner. He wrinkles up his nose and declares, “I don’t like this” before my butt had even settled into the chair. I ponder for a moment and realize that he’s not had this before, so I ask, “How do you know you don’t like it if you’ve never tried it?” He crosses his arms, in his defiant small boy way, and says, “Well… I’m not hungry.”

“Oh. Alright”, I say. I pause a moment, watching as he pushes his mashed potatoes around his plate, and ask, “Do you want cake?” His eyes light up as he says, “YES!” and then quickly sadden as I reply, “Well if you’re hungry for cake, you’re hungry enough for dinner. Eat.” And so of course, as all well seasoned parents have certainly witnessed, he puts in a forkful of potatoes, promptly starts heaving and the rest of us suddenly feel much less inclined to eat.

I could just have cake I suppose.

So after our rather abrupt and suddenly unappetizing dinner, we decide to have Happy Fun Time, and Caitlin decides that she would like to play Truth or Dare. Now here’s where I could go rambling off on some long winded tangent about how we got her to play ding-dong ditch with the neighbors, but I’ll skip that part and get to the point. Caitlin elects “Dare” and I decide to give her eggplant. Yes. That’s right. Eggplant. I think it’s a lovely vegetable actually, such a pretty color, and when doused with an appropriate amount of cheese it doesn’t taste half bad. Into the microwave goes a frozen eggplant parmesan, and I become mesmerized by the glowing numbers counting down to Caitlin’s certain dare demise. Meanwhile, she’s in the living room, getting increasingly upset about choking down this abomination the grow-ups call food. But the best part of it all is: She’s never even had eggplant. She just knows she doesn’t want it. There is no speculation that it may taste good, that it may become her all time favorite food ever. Only her increasingly certain knowledge that it will most likely cause her to die. So she had a complete and total meltdown. Tears. Snorfles. Drama. Most definitely quiet mutterings about how awful we parents are, trying to kill her with vegetables just to win a stupid game.

And then I had an idea.

We schemed. We plotted. We hatched a plan.

The following night, Chris had whipped up some nifty pork thingamabobs. Colin casually strolls into the kitchen and says, “Smells good! What’s for dinner?” And I say, with a twinkle in my eye, “Why, we’re having sea turtle!”.

“Really?” Colin asks. He’s excited. Caitlin is skeptical, but surprisingly willing….and gullible, for a tweener.

The kids get their serving of pork sea turtle and rice, and they begin to eat. And eat. And eat.

“How do you like your sea turtle Colin?”, Chris asks. And the boy nods his head in approval, bits of pork turtle sticking out of his mouth. Now, I must admit, we felt a tiny bit bad about it, but it was working so well…no drama…no tears…no vomiting. What more could we ask for really?

Chris asked Caitlin leading questions to try and clue her in to the fact that she wasn’t eating an endangered species.

“What do you think it tastes like Caitlin…do you think it tastes maybe like…Pork?” To which Caitlin replied, “No. It DEFINITELY tastes like sea turtle!”

After dinner, with not a scrap even left for the dogs, we tell Caitlin. We figured we had to tell her so she didn’t go to school the next day and tell her teacher and friends that she was eating the poster child for the World Wildlife Foundation. After the permanently scarring realization that her folks were liars, she became enthusiastic about joining in on the fun of permanently scarring her brother, and lying right along with us. What fun!
This became a dinner time ritual. Colin would ask what crazy critter we would be eating that night and then get excited about the prospect of eating hippopotamus with snot sauce (pork with apricot sauce), or maggots with a little dirt and weevils (wild rice), or the occasional rabbit that our dog Otter had caught in the back yard (chicken). Caitlin thoroughly enjoyed playing along too, and funny enough, she didn’t seem to mind what she was eating anymore. Oh, of course there would be the occasional comment of not liking her platypus tail (Japanese eggplant), but what can you do? Platypus tail is notoriously squeaky when chewed and there’s just not much you can do about that.

We realized of course that there could be repercussions to this method of getting kids to eat reasonably healthy food. Like when they tell their grandparents and teachers. Or when the Boy thinks he has special skills because of our meal time shenanigans.

Let me explain.

One night we were having pork, the delightfully versatile meat that can pass as being just about anything. It was a pork loin wrapped in bacon. Naturally, that meant that we were having kangaroo tail. Nice fat tail, meaty center, a little skin (bacon) on the outside, all rolled up in a nice tubular presentation. It was lovely. The boy gives the tail a curious poke with his fork, looks at his dad with a questioning expression, as if to say, “Really?” Naturally then, Chris explained to him the following, “If you eat your kangaroo tail, you wouldn’t BELIEVE how high you could jump!” Colin got positively giddy, and started to hoover down his food, and asked for seconds. He leaps up from the table and starts jumping up and down to see if it works. Chris quickly tells him to sit down, lest the kangaroo tail come right back out again and explains, “You have to wait until morning you see. You have to sleep on it before it can work.” He was rather hoping the Boy’s memory would be lacking and he would wake in a daze for school the next morning forgetting the whole thing.


Next day, seven o’clock in the morning, Colin RACES down the stairs, leaps from the fifth to last step and starts jumping up and down, “LOOK! Look at how high I can jump!” hopping, hopping hopping about the kitchen. Rather like a kangaroo, if you get the visual. “I can’t wait to tell my friends!” he declares with exuberance.

Oh sweet mother of god we’re going to hell.

But see…isn’t this a genius scheme we’ve concocted? These kids will eat anything now. They don’t fear unknown food anymore, they don’t complain about eating casseroles or pork loins or large mammalian boogers. They’ll grow up willing to try anything. And that’s good. Please tell me that’s good?

So the moral of the story:
1. Pork truly is the other white meat.
2. Small white lies to wee children are sometimes quite useful.
3. Bringing your tween daughter in on the lie is a bonding experience.
4. Come to our house for dinner…and you’ll never know what your eating.
5. Pork is a versatile undefinable meat product useful to all meal time preparers.
6. Kids will eat anything…if they’re hungry enough

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chris has returned from his travels to the UK, and it seems the fine damp country has won him over. Not for the scenery, not for the colorful ill-toothed polite folk that inhabit it...but for the beer. It seems the beer has made quite an impression on him. So much so, that he's plotting his escape from our rampant flat suburbia to leave for the greener hillier pastures of the UK. He's contemplating putting a for sale sign in front of the house and packing up our stuff - particularly the beer mugs, fine tuning his left side of the road driving skills, and going on his jolly good way. I must admit...I'm fine with that.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Don't forget to vote in our poll (see right sidebar)

Because it's between warm fuzzy childrens stories, hugging trees, loving bunnies, and silly ponies, or the despair of a mid-life crisis suburban man gone off the deep end. You pick!

Chicago Winters

The Boy had a sister free weekend, so we declared it Only Child Days and took him sledding. He mentioned something about it being the best days of his life...but I think he may have been exaggerating. We also took them and a friend ice skating...

And Chris helped control the chaos at Vertical Endeavors annual climbing competition:

Welcome to Kelly's Life, episode 19

Somehow I came to the very logical conclusion that if you have one dog, you should have two dogs. See now, let me explain. Sherpa was the resident mutt in our house, a Border Collie/Labrador mix selected from the local shelter. She could often be found tap dancing at your feet, staring at you, imploring you to:


She needed a friend I thought. Besides, she wasn’t really my dog so much as she was Chris’s dog, and since I wasn’t particularly fond of her and couldn’t convince Chris to return her from whence she came, I thus reached the conclusion to find her a buddy.

So we started our search of the local shelters, and found online an older model dog named Prometheus. We liked him, mostly because with a name like Prometheus, how could you not. But besides that, we had decided that we’d forgo the normal suburbanite’s quest for a puppy, and get a dog that most other typical people would pass by – give the old dogs a chance at a good life, even if for just a little while. And it theoretically meant no house training, cause poo really makes me gag, even cute puppy poo. We hopped in the car, with Sherpa by our sides and the kids in tow and headed to the city to see Prometheus, but when we got there we found that fortunately for him he had already been adopted out. But no worries, the lovely shelter lady said, we’ve got an even better dog for you. Out comes this peanut butter colored dog, a mutt of mongrels if I ever saw one, and he proceeds excitedly over to Sherpa’s shoulder, hops up, and starts humping away. Realizing that doesn’t work, he moves over to her head, and at an even more rapid rate, starts going at it. Colin pipes in as only a four-year-old might, “Oh look, they’re dancing!” We politely decline and rapidly exit, lest the humpy mutt follow.

The following weekend we go to the shelter where Sherpa came from in the hopes that they’ll have a few more options. Walking up to the front door, out walks a little girl, maybe nine years old, carrying what could only be described as a living, over-sized floppy stuffed dog. It was a Saint Bernard/Labrador puppy, about pony sized, and he would basically melt wherever she put him as if he had no bones. I considered pushing the little girl aside and snatching up this mellow future gargantuan dog, but the look on this girl’s face was far too endearing. I only hoped he had littermates! We walk into the front door, the aromas of kennel wafting through the air, with a cacophony of desperate dogs barking in the background. There were three full grown chocolate labs, barking their fool heads off, not knowing yet that only the quiet dogs get adopted. There was one little dog named Gidget who was running UP the walls literally about four feet and bouncing back down again – over and over and over in an odd vertical circle. Others were trembling in their corners. Towards the end of the aisle, I see this little dark dog looking back at me.

I felt a pang.

As we got closer to his cage, we see next to him a beagle mix, eight years old, owners moved to Italy. The dog looked up at us with big weepy eyes, and quietly lowers his head and leans against the side of the cage. Chris and I look at each other, and we think, well, it is a beagle and he’s old but who else will take him. All the while the silent little black dog looking at me.

PANG. A not so gentle tug at my heartstrings kept me drawn to that dog.

So we ask to take the beagle out, a sweet quiet dog, we walk outside and that dog hit the end of the leash and just kept pulling, throwing in an occasional beagle bellow for good measure. He was trying to make a break for it with or without us. We couldn’t even get his attention at all – he just wanted to be gone. I was partly relieved, as I was not that partial to him generally speaking. On the way back in I ask to see his adjacent cell mate. Chris was curiously quiet. Out comes this squooshy little dog and when we got him outside he turns around, plunks down on his wide butt and looks at us like, “Now what? When do we go?” I was smitten. Done. All set. Where do I sign. But the little dog had some persuading to do. Chris wanted to keep looking. We had one more shelter to go to and I rather reluctantly agreed.

The last shelter was huge. They had an entire wing just for pit bulls, and had it not been for the fact that the breed somewhat frightens me, the dog named Lucky – missing an eye and half an ear – may have come home with us. We chose another dog to take out – a huge Husky/Shepherd named Daisy. Big enough to almost look you in the eye. When she reached the light of day, she too made a break for it. Only she was so big that it took two of us holding her leash to keep her from dragging us through the muddy parking lot. Although Chris liked her a little too, we realized that she’d bull doze the Boy flat and be a wrecking ball in our little house. We agreed that this was not our dog, and I nervously hoped that little black dog would still be at the shelter the following weekend. So we went home. Dog-less. I wanted the little black dog, and Chris agreed that if he was still there in a week – we could take him home.

Otter, the little black dog, entered our household the following weekend. His life thus far as a crate living veal-puppy was about to end. Sherpa took one look at him and took off in a game of tag around the tree, clearly not knowing that this new little mutt had spent his lifetime sedentary. Consequently, Otter had a kind of a knack for having his butt run about a foot to the side shy of his front legs. Poor little dog. His first days were spent astonished at the novelty of stairs, trying to keep up with Sherpa, and developing his new found joy of…chewing.

It seems he had acquired a taste for electronics, and ate the remote control. And the replacement remote. And…the replacement to the replacement remote control. You are clearly wondering why we didn’t learn to put it out of reach, but I simply have no explanation for that. When those were finally kept safely out of harms way, I came home one day to find my new cell phone in itty bitty pieces, scattered on the kitchen floor. I had no doubt he’d be pooping those out for a week. With the electronics practically pad-locked in a safe, he tested the walls. Yea. That’s right. I said walls. He preferred corners near stairs it seemed – I’m sure there’s some dog logic in there somewhere, to which I will never be enlightened. He ate all the corners off the wood coffee tables. All three of them. I began putting hot sauce and bitter spray on areas prone to chewing, but that did not prepare me for his next unfortunate target. I came home one day and took note of a few chew marks on the bottom basement step. I, being ever the na├»ve optimist, thought little of it. Until of course, the following day when I came only to find EVERY corner of EVERY basement step now curiously rounded off.

Duct tape ‘round the snout might be in this dog’s future. But gosh I love him!

Now, we did give him toys of his own, and the chewable rawhide type toys typically lasted about 12 seconds before they were no more. A co-worker particularly fond of dogs sent home a bag of stuffed animals for Otter too. He had a favorite, a squirrel, that he would bring to bed with him and sleep with at night. Each of his stuffed animals would delicately have their eyes, noses, and ears removed by Otter too, leaving Chris and I convinced that were we to die in this house, we would have our senses oh so lovingly removed by this little pudgy dog. Funny thing about Otter and his stuffed animals though: he absolutely knew which stuffed animals were his, and which ones belonged to the kids – and those he did not touch.

It seemed that Otter had a foot fetish, an issue that began to unravel one day when we tried to trim his nails and he flailed around like a midget in a clown shark suit. (Yea. That was a shameless plug…go buy a T-shirt in the Claytor Family store.) So in an effort to solve this little problem, I began playing foot games with him. A little roughhousing and play, and I would begin to pat his feet - and he would jump back and try and bite my hands…all in good fun though, despite the permanent scarring I’m sure. This would go on until he would stick his butt and tail in the air and tuck both front feet under his chest out of reach of my silly games. But it does get better. One lazy weekend morning, Otter crawls sheepishly into bed. Which is when he discovered…

Bed monsters.

Otter was sweetly spooning in the middle of the bed, when Chris moved his hand under the covers and it touched the poor unsuspecting dog’s foot. He levitates, straight up – with a mid-air spin, Otter YELPS and takes off out of the bed, out of the room and down the hall. Chris looks at me. I look at Chris. Aha! New game! We are forever grabbing his little feet from under the covers. I don't know why he bites. Nothing clears the bed like a bed monster does. That dog seems thoroughly convinced that some deep dwelling dog eating creature is out for him.

As time wore on, Otter’s propensity for destructiveness slightly waned and the dogs began having more freedom in the house. Chris and Caitlin were out one day, and The Boy and I returned home from the grocery store. We walked in our side door, which looks directly down the basement steps. I look downstairs and I see…carnage. It was a stuffed animal massacre. There’s stuffing strewn about every which way, and every one of the kids stuffed animals has fallen victim to some offense. As I get closer to the toy debris, I begin to slowly realize. I pick up a bunny – no eyes. I pick up a teddy bear – no nose. I pick up a doll – no ears. See no evil, hear no evil…smell no evil? Otter has gone to great pains to remove any protrusion from each of those poor defenseless stuffed toys. I could Not. Stop. Laughing. I turned to Colin and said, “Sorry buddy. There’s been a stuffed animal attack. They…they…well they didn’t make it.” I carefully lined them all back up on the toy chest, our little land of misfit toys. I guess since he’d removed everything from his own toys, Otter had no choice but to remove the offending bits from the ones that remained in the house.

Gosh I love that dog!

Moral of the Story:

1. All dogs that come from shelters should come with a Best Buy gift card to replace your expensive electronics.
2. The bed monster game NEVER gets old. To us.
3. When dogs eat deodorant, they poo white, but hey – it’s powder fresh.
4. Lock up your stuffed animals.
5. Follow the pang...Otter has given up (mostly) his chewing, and is a GREAT dog!

photo: Otter with his new favorite toy - the little blue monster...before he removed it's eyes.

Too Dog Farm goes to Antartica!

Well our clothing line does (check the side bar if you're interested).

Weeks Heist, currently stationed at the South Pole models a sweatshirt from Antarctica:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Also available is my dad's coffee table book, updated and expanded!

By edited by Kelly C...

Friday, March 20, 2009


Here's a direct link to my "bookstore"

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The results of last months poll are in:

And we all expect an eye roll followed by complete silence from Caitlin. And I must say, I find this to be accurate.

The Adventures of Caitlin Francis and Dudley Dog

"The Adventures of Caitlin Francis and Dudley Dog" is now available to be purchased online at blurb.com

I decided to use it as a demo for future book publishing - to see how it works. But feel free to pick one up too!
Written & Illustrat...
By Kelly Claytor

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The results of last months POLL are in!

For those of you that participated in last months poll, you will be excited to know that 70% of you have decided that The BOY will be forever known as such. But there was a quiet contingent, probably led by the grandmothers, that were pulling for Thor.

Please participate in this months poll.

The Welcome to Kelly's Life Series is now online

For those of you unfamiliar with the Welcome to Kelly's Life series, it is a chronicle of some of my life's events that I've written about for the last several years. I had decided to start writing these when a friend of mine told me that no, these things do NOT in fact happen to everyone.

Welcome to Kelly’s Life, Episode 18

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to my leisure tour! Ahh…the delight of economic downturns, the unemployed masses, the bleary eyed folk of former usefulness. Left home to sleep in, spend until 3:37 in the afternoon in socks and pajamas and unkempt hair, hoping the FedEX guy doesn’t ring the doorbell to see me in all my unemployed glory.

There is something to be said for the freedom of it all, but when the bliss wanes and the reality creeps in, the next step of any leisure tour is to maintain productiveness! And what better way than to attack all of those old home projects and spend days in sheer domesticity, cleaning and cooking, painting and organizing, exercising and watching Oprah. Ok. Maybe not watching Oprah.

Monday – Day 1:
And so my first weekday of the leisure tour begins. I make a list. A LONG list, of errands to run and stores to visit. There are many items I will need in order to begin projects, make dinner, go to the gym and have the house in fine order before the husband comes home. He will be gleeful when he walks in and smells the aromas of a home cooked meal and a shiny clean house. If only I had an apron. I’ll add that to the list. It’s 3:36, and I’m still in my pajamas and socks, my hair is flat on one side of my head and sticking straight out on the other. Many errands…must hurry. Like a woman with a work deadline, I manage to pull myself together in eight minutes with the help of a baseball hat and a charming pashmina, and grab my keys to go. I hit the garage door opener…I look outside to see the door remain motionless. I stare at the door, then the opener, urgently willing the door to open. Places to go. Things to do. People to see, you know? I hit the button again and nothing happens. So naturally I go outside to open the door but then realize the opener will prevent the door from moving, and alas – the outside keypad still needs to be rewired. I’ll add that to the list too. A-HA! There’s the side door. I go to the side of the garage. The door won’t open. I grab that damn doorknob, give the door a swift kick, and splinter the base of the door...which remains solidly shut. I probably should not break the door down because that would have to go on the damn list too.

So it’s 3:58. Just in time. I go inside and sit down and watch Oprah.

Tuesday - DAY 2:
My dear husband has fixed the garage opener, surely in the hope that I will not break any more doors. So I will actually leave the house today, list in hand, and accomplish something useful. Later though, after the Project Runway marathon is over. I do have my priorities.

By the afternoon I have emerged from my cocoon of TV land and squinting in the bright sunshine, decide to putter around the garden and give it a good soak before heading off to the gym. There’s nothing quite like getting ones hands dirty in a garden of their own, munching on green beans, talking to the ladybugs and smelling the ripening tomatoes. I decide to make best use of the days warmth and bike to the gym. It does seem most logical to forgo a vehicle and get my warm up in on the way there, and I am pleased with my brilliant idea. I decide that I will interpret my ride as a stage of the Tour de France and peddle my heart out the many (uh – two) miles there. I arrive hot and sweaty and loathing the idea of any more exercise, so I take my time stretching, lifting weights, and rowing the imaginary boat to nowhere. I eventually head home, at a much slower pace, looking at the trees, listening to birds, and gliding my bike in lovely patterns around the bumpy parts of the street. As I pull up to my house, I hear the familiar hiss of a running hose…and it dawns on me right then and there that I left the water on in the garden this entire time. I throw my bike down, run to the back yard…er swamp…and see a lovely river of water running from the garden, around the play house, around the tree, into our neighbors yard. My garden is under three inches of water. Oh for the love of Pete. I’m an idiot. OH! Oprah’s on.

Wednesday - DAY 3:
I am a master of organization and I despise clutter. I am up and dressed well before my self-imposed 9:00 am deadline. Dressed in actual outside clothes and everything. So it will be a day of cleaning out the junk and donating our excesses to Goodwill. The kids have sorted their outgrown clothes and piles of toys, and the basement has been gutted of the miscellaneous knick-knacks and house wares. We’ve got piles of old furniture, boxes of pots and pans and clothes and left boots and train sets and the occasional random Power Puff Girl action figure. I decide the pile of items in the garage can wait, and back my unfortunately new car to the side door to load up. Now, the gift of master organization comes with the nifty gift of being a master packer as well, and I am able to cram WAY more stuff in my little Scion hatchback than should be humanly possible. So with the basement emptied and room remaining, I pull forward into the garage to get the rest of the stuff.

That is to say…I pull forward, with the hatchback gate wide open.

Swearing enough to make a sailor blush, I leap out of my car, and pull the open hatchback out from where the garage door opener has imbedded itself. There is a lovely band of white paint across the length of the tailgate, with a few deep scratches in it for good measure. I tell myself that a few scrapes I can tolerate, but the white paint I will wash right off. I go get the kitchen sponge and furiously start rubbing the painted area, but to no avail. So naturally, with nary a thought, I flip the sponge over to the scrubby side, and up the white paint comes. I’m positively giddy…until…

The water dries and I am left to see circular scratches running the length of where the white paint once was.

Seriously!? Doesn’t the karma of donating items to goodwill PREVENT things like this from happening!? Apparently not. There must be something on TV right now. Something better than this…

Thursday – Day 4:
I have yet to demonstrate my abilities to be a housewife and I am determined to make my case today. Today folks, is cleaning day. I will do the dishes, dust the furniture, clean the countertops, and vacuum every square inch. I am a master cleaner. Really. Now, admittedly, I generally wait until you all are coming over for a visit before cleaning, but nonetheless, I am not afraid of a little scrubbing. Just ask my car.

Now, I do have kind of a little house so cleaning should be a piece of cake. But I also have two dirty little kids and two hairier dirtier not so little dogs. And since you all don’t tend to visit much, I don’t tend to clean much. So this was going to be an epic cleaning event, and my poor unsuspecting husband would be so pleasantly surprised to come home to his clean home and exhausted but domestically fulfilled wife.

Dressed appropriately in spandex, flip flops and an Aunt Jemima headband and bright yellow rubber gloves, I set to clean the house from tippy top to tuppy bottom. I break out the horrifically un-environmentally friendly health-risk-with-impending-death cleaners, so I can do the job right. I wipe down every surface, with only the occasional wheezing from the toxic chemicals. With the walls and surfaces scrubbed, the only remaining task is vacuuming. I rather enjoy the new vacuum cleaner, with it’s little bagless compartment where you watch the fruits of your vacuuming labor swoosh around in the clear plastic window. I vacuum the last of the kitchen, down into the lower entryway, mesmerized by the slowly spinning dirt and copious amounts of dog hair. Suddenly it feels like I’ve been struck by a baseball bat, and fall down on the floor while holding my head.

It seems I’ve managed to drop the vacuum…on my head.

Shortly following the unprovoked vacuum attack, dear husband comes home and immediately asks, “What did you do to your forehead?” I quietly mumble something about being attacked by a small herd of squirrels, lest his belief in my domesticity waiver.

Friday – Day 5:
With my week’s attempts at housewifery failing miserably, I decide to tackle the major task of laundry. Now I must admit…I HATE doing laundry and more so than that, hate folding it and putting it away too. But I realize, in order to plead my case, completing the laundry is a right of passage for all domestic goddesses. And a goddess I will become. Even if it kills me, or gives me a small forehead flesh wound.

Up the throw rugs come, down come all the bath towels, all the bed linens, the blankets, and the piles upon piles of dirty clothes. Because not only am I out to prove my laundering skills, I’m on my last pair of skivvies. I make many trips to the basement, and dump the piles of clothes and such on the floor and begin the big sort. We’ve got the very whites, the mostly whites, the beige’s, the jeans, the non-jeans, the bright colors the medium colors and the dark colors, the light linens the dark linens, one load of only socks (lest they make a run for it and we only have errant mismatched pairs), and last but not least, the very reds that will turn even a dark pair of jeans a lovely shade of pink. Ask me how I know.

I decide that while I’m doing all that laundry, it seems only fair to catch up on some Law & Order, because there’s always one version playing on some channel some where any time, each and every day. As each load of laundry ends, I neatly fold it all up and decide that the sheer magnitude of laundry will require me to pile it on the floor.

I finally put the last of it, the redder than reds, in the washing machine and settle down to watch Sam Watterson skillfully put away yet another complex case. When I hear…a curious…splashing sound. Half of my brain perks up and says: Ah, yes. The rinse cycle and waste water in the sink basin. Everything is fine. TV is on. Watching TV now.

More splashing – only louder. And my attention to Law & Order wanes as the housewife senses rise. I leap into action, rush into the laundry room, and watch as a fountain of bright pink water splashes all over the floor. The very floor, where the last 12 loads of laundry are piled so neatly. And are completely, and thoroughly soaked. With Dirty. Pink. Water.

So. The moral of the story is:
1. I am not domestic
2. Don’t use the scrubby side of the sponge on your car’s paint finish.
3. Maybe waiting a week to begin looking for my new occupation is NOT such a good idea
4. I am really not domestic
5. I should invest in some bubble wrap and duct tape for my head and my cars bumper…I’ll add that to the list.
6. Make sure you clean out the lint trap before washing 12 loads of laundry, lest your laundry room turn into a pink wading pool
7. Have I mentioned I’m not domestic?

Welcome to Kelly’s Life, Episode 17

I fear that all remaining Welcome Series stories will end up this way, talking about the family life, the monsters, the little leeches. It seems while they’re sucking the very marrow of life out of us, as well as all the money, they take all the outside world life experiences too. You find yourself wearing wrinkled clothes, shoving your hair in a pony tail, and drinking coffee for breakfast, because you’re too damn tired to get up any earlier than the drop-dead time in the morning. I keep whittling that time down too. Soon, I’ll be dressing in the Puck on the way into the office in the mornings. Those women that put their make-up on, curl their hair, drink their breakfast, all in the car during rush hour, you know the ones, the erratic bad drivers. I know. They have children. Give them a wide berth. And beware all the old ugly green Ford Rangers. I may be in your neighborhood.

And see, the most ridiculous part about this, is the fact that I only have part-time pseudo-step children. And there are only two of them. And Caty is old enough to be reasonably independent. And even worse still, they have a great dad, who feeds them, clothes them, and takes them to school in the mornings. I don’t even have to do ANY of that. And yet still it’s hard. I simply don’t know how mere mortals do it. It’s beyond a mystery to me.

In the world of part-time parenting, with kids traveling to different households, with a plethora of involved adults, activities, lessons, and obligations…we decided that a daily schedule was required.

So while Mondays are prescribed cleaning nights, we declared that Tuesdays are Happy Fun Time. Last night we all sat down and wrote down ideas of things we can do that are fun. We have indoor fun, outdoor fun, free fun, money-required fun, and active fun. And we kicked off the evening with a rousing game of Hide’n’go-seek.

We explained the rules of the game to the kids, and asked Colin (almost 5 years old), if he could count all the way to twenty, and he said yes. So plenty of time to hide. I was the first person to be the seeker, and so we told Colin to go hide. At which point he proclaimed:

“I’m gonna go hide in my room!”

Um. Let me see if we can explain this again.

So we tell him to not tell us where he’s going to hide.

“OK!” he says excitedly. “Let’s go hide in my room!”

So it seems that some 5 year olds have a limited attention span, and maybe a wee bit of difficulty following directions. So I start counting, and Chris takes Colin to go hide with him.

“We’re gonna go hide in the bathroom!”

So I count louder.

And I hear shushing and giggling and squeaky feet on the bottom of the bathtub.

Since CLEARLY, I know where they are, I figure I’ll quick look and see if I can find Caty first, but no such luck. So I pull back the shower curtain and Colin screams and giggles. I eventually find Caty hiding under the basement stairs and we move on to round two with Chris being the seeker.

And Colin goes and hides in the bathtub. And is promptly found.

I’ve got myself wedged behind a closet door, only to be found when the lights go on. So we declare lights can be neither turned on nor off – that they remain as they are. Which makes the game WAY more fun when you’ve got two kids who are afraid of the dark. (Insert evil laugh here).

So it’s Colin’s turn to be the seeker. He starts doing the - I’ve-gotta-pee-but-I-don’t-want-to dance, and we send him to the office to take care of business. While he’s occupied, we decide that we aren’t really going to hide HIDE, but that we’ll simply be “hiding” around a corner, so he gets the idea of the game. And so that we aren’t hidden ‘til morning.

After Colin returns, and we go through the usual of: flush the toilet, wash your hands, turn the light off, keep the door open, KEEP THE DOOR OPEN! It’s his turn to count. And I am pleasantly surprised to hear him count QUITE well, with speed and precision and only forgetting the number 15. I’m stealthily hiding on the landing leading to the basement, Chris is standing in the middle of the dining room, and Caty is standing in the upstairs hallway. So when Colin yelled, “ready or not’, opened his eyes, and realized, everyone’s... GONE! I could hear him get a little worried.

“Where are you guys? I can’t hear you. Where are you guys?! I can’t see anyone! WHERE ARE YOU GUYS!?!”

But not a one of us moved or made a peep. Colin wasn’t all that willing to venture beyond the kitchen and living room thresholds. So wasn’t finding anyone too quickly. Twice he got within three feet of me, but just couldn’t quite bring himself to look around the scary corner. But I knew he would eventually. And I was prepared.

I see his little blonde head as he tentatively peers around the corner.


And so, of course, he screams. REALLY loud.

And once he realizes that I’m not the basement dwelling monster of his nightmares, he stops screaming and giggles and says, “I found you!” And I quietly whisper to him good places to go look for his father and sister. And each time he finds one, more screams. And laughing.

And so I am the seeker again. And I know where Colin is. In the bathtub. Giggling. And looking around the shower curtain. So I go find Caty first, since she hasn’t had a turn yet, and since I’m a good finder of things, we rapidly progress through to Caty’s turn.

And since she’s 10 years old, Chris and I can REALLY hide. Really well. Sort of. We really just have to hide in the dark corners. But I manage to fold myself under and behind the dining room table, and pull the chair all the way in. Knowing full well she’d actually have to venture into the darkness to find me. I didn’t earn the name “wicked step mother” for nothing. I take pride in that moniker. And I well deserve it.

So we’d told Colin that he couldn’t hide in the bathtub again. So Caty found him sitting on his bed, door closed, with the lights on. He then trailed after Caty, not wanting to sit in the living room alone. But Caty, being the big sister, wanted to go looking on her own, and so the arguing the yelling, the whining, and the crying ensued. Chris, who was in room next to where I was, and I, didn’t make a peep. Their mother stopped by to drop off Caty’s band instrument, and the dogs escaped out the back door.

Still. We hid. It was just getting good.

By this point, Caty tells Colin it’s ok to come along and help look. So Chris and I start whistling, in an effort to speed the process. She comes back towards the dining room, turns the lights on, then off, and still, doesn’t find me. I really can jam myself into tiny spaces. I’m quite bendy. (And still have a crook in my neck today). So finally she goes far enough into the room where Chris is and finds him. And goes off to find me. And, being bent in half for more then 15 minutes by now, I yell, “hurry up!” But she still doesn’t find me. And then I hear the magical words of freedom:


And I tumble out of my hiding spot, all crooked like. And declare myself brilliant.

And so Tuesday Night Happy Fun Time was a rousing success.

Moral of the story:

1.Our dogs CLEARLY will not be used for search and rescue, as even they couldn’t find us.
2.We now have deduced that Colin closes bathroom doors because he’s going through the I’m-having-too-much-fun-but-I-gotta-pee-OH-NO-I-didn’t-make-it-I-don’t-want-to-get-in-trouble-for-peeing-on-the-floor-so-I’m-not-going-to-tell-them Phase. Only we didn’t realize until this morning. Great.
3.Part-time pseudo stepparent or not, playing hide-n-go-seek with the munchkins is fun.

Welcome to Kelly’s Life, Episode 16

I’ve never been particularly fond of other people’s children. In fact, I think boarding schools are a fine idea. Keeps them all in one place, out of sight, and out of public places where they would otherwise be running and screaming down the grocery store aisle, terrorizing unsuspecting childless people, while their mothers relished in a moment of blissful short lived freedom. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So when I agreed to watch my friend’s children while on an out of town visit, Caty, age 9 and Colin, age 3 ½, I knew PRECISELY how I was going to handle them. And despite this fact, this delusional genius I thought I had in my theories and capabilities of the momentary raising of children, I was, in all honesty, completely terrified. What if they break, or runaway, or get lost, or eat something they shouldn’t. What if they scream and yell and say, “YOU’RE not my mommy and YOU can’t make me!” as they draw on the walls with their crayons. What if they throw-up or crap their pants for god sakes.

So I spent weeks thinking of how I’d devise creative ways to keep these little munchkins entertained in productive, educational, active ways. No way was I going to have them watching TV, on a nice summer day, when they can be outside. We were going to do stuff. It would be fun. We’d sing and dance and play in the yard and their Dad would come home and be gleefully amazed. It was going to be just lovely. Because, really, how hard could it possibly be? They’re just little people. No big deal.

So when their mom dropped them off, and Caty and Colin went running through the house, climbing on furniture, chasing the dog, screeching and giggling, at 9:00 in the morning, I said to their mom, “Please. Don’t go. You’re not leaving them here, with me, are you? Can’t you stay?”

“By the way, Colin is only half potty trained”, she says. And off she went, with a pleasant grin, and a carefree lilt to her step. She hopped in her car, and drove away at 90 miles per hour. I think to myself, “She knows something I don’t know.”

I had decided that the kids and I were going to make dinner that night. And since we had no car, we would bike to the store and buy some groceries. I thought it would be fun. It took about 68 minutes to get out of the house. I don’t know why. They kept scampering away. And, did you know, you really can’t rationalize with a 3-½ year old boy? They have an attention span of, MAX, maybe 7 seconds.

Colin: “We going for a bike ride?”

Me: “Yes, we’re going for a bike ride.”

Colin: “I wanna go on a bike ride!”

Me: “We’re going on a bike ride.”

Colin: “I wanna wear my helmet!”

Me: “Yes, you’ll wear you’re helmet.”

Colin: “I don’t wanna go on bike ride!”

Me: “Put your helmet on.”


Me: “You HAVE TO put your helmet on.”

Colin: “We going for a bike ride? I wanna wear my helmet!”

And he put his little bike helmet on. Over his swim goggles.

We went back and forth like this, oh, maybe, three more times, before I stuffed The Boy in his bike cart, and sealed him inside. Caty rode behind us, on her pink Barbie bike, wearing her pink Barbie helmet.

I’d decided we’d stop by Wal-Mart first, because I wanted to buy The Boy a piggy bank. (I’ll explain later.) Before we’d left the house, Caty asked me if I’d buy her a stuffed animal. I told her if she wanted a toy, she’d have to buy it with her own allowance money. I have no heart. So we mosey through Wal-Mart, to the toy section. And suddenly, I realized, you don’t take children down the toy aisle if you honestly intend to leave that place without throwing down some cash. They wanted EVERYTHING.

“No. You can’t have that.”

“Put that down.”

“No you can’t have that either.”

“Put that back.”

“Stop screaming.”

“Chainsaws are not for children”

“I said NO.”

Caty had found a toy she wanted, and I had found a piggy bank for Colin. I decided it would be unfair to buy something for The Boy and not for Caty – so I told Caty that I’d pay for half of the toy she wanted. And you know what? I took the three dollars from that nine-year-old girl, and didn’t even feel all that bad about it. Consider it coffee money. Which was CLEARLY going to be needed. Ah yes…a triple shot of espresso…that will be nice…

…and then, all of a sudden, like startled deer, the children are running and screaming down the aisles of Wal-Mart.

Oh good god.

I gave them one run. And as I nonchalantly moseyed up to the little monsters, I said, “No running. No screaming. If you run, if you scream, we put the toys down and we leave. No toys for you.” I had laid down the gauntlet, with my stern serious adult face and tone of voice. Caty settled right down. The Boy, with a glimmer in his eye, looked right at me, screamed, and went running. Caty looked at me. I looked at her. “Let’s go”, I said.

I catch up with Colin, pick him up, put him on my hip, take his toy, put it on a shelf, and start walking. At which point, this adorable little boy, with his blond hair, blue eyes, and enviable long eyelashes, starts carrying on like a demon child, flailing, kicking, hitting, screaming at the TOP of his lungs, in the middle of the store,


Colin really is a heavy little bugger, but no matter how much he squirmed, I was able to hold on and keep walking. And when he finally realized that I wasn’t going to give in, he did. Put his arms around my neck, head on my shoulder, and quietly cried. I kept walking, promptly and with clear purpose, through the store – because obviously, we’d been all the way in the back. And I was wondering, really, how long before Social Services came in and carted us off. Or would it be the police? Either or. At this point, they can have them.

Outside the store, and not yet caught, I stuff The Boy back in his wheelie, and off we go to the food store. We were able to finish our errands and make it back home with only one minor incident at the grocery store which involved shoes thrown out of the cart and onto the aisle floor, a boy climbing out of the food cart and briefly screaming and running amok, and an offer I made to the mother standing in front of me in line to take THIS boy home with her too. She declined.

So by the time we’d biked home, me pulling the hefty kid and all the groceries behind me, including a watermelon, all I really wanted to do was sit down and have a moment, until I realized, that you actually have to feed these little creatures. Like, real food, no less. You can’t just give them some salad and call it good.

Colin: “We having grilled cheese?”

Me: “Yes, we’re having grilled cheese.”

Colin: “YEA! We having grilled cheese! I want grilled cheese!”

Me: “It’ll be ready in a minute”

Colin: “I don’t want grilled cheese!”

You get the idea. I plunked it down on the dining room table, with their tomato soup and apple juice. Am I great kid watcher or what! Is that not the all-American kid watching meal?
So in the midst of all of this, every ten minutes, I was asking the boy if he needed to use the potty, because I had HUGE fears of the consequence of me not asking him every ten minutes. After lunch I sent him in to sit on the potty and told him to not come out ‘til he pooed. Nothing. I got nothing. Off goes the boy, pull-ups askew, pants twisted. It was time to play outside. We were out there, not FIVE minutes later, before I turned to Caty and said, “You think your brother smells kinda funny?” Ever the wise and seasoned older sister, she walks over to The Boy, pulls out the pull-ups, and with a scrunched up face declares, “EWWWW!

“YOU! Inside!” I say to Colin.

Good GOD what has this kid been eating!? Sweetheart that Caty is, she grabs a plastic garbage bag, holds it out, her other fingers clenching her nose shut, and quietly removes it from the house, while the two of us are gagging. The Boy is completely un-phased. I pass him a handy wipe, and tell him to wipe his butt, and hand him a clean pair of pull-ups. And off we go to draw pictures on the driveway with sidewalk chalk and play hopscotch, and play on the swing set.

It’s only 2:00.

And suddenly, like a beacon in the night, it occurs to me: The Boy hasn’t had a nap yet.

Oh joyous freedom! Peaceful tranquility! Oh happy time!

I decided that the cue for naptime was when yelling, kicking and crying transpired. So I swooped in, got yelled at, kicked at, and the crying began. I marched right on up the stairs, Boy in tow, and shut that sweet little child in his room for a nap.

I made it to 3:30 before the TV went on and I plunked the kids down in front of it so I could make dinner, in peace and quiet, by myself, little people out of my hair.

Oh. About the piggy bank. I sat Colin down at the kitchen table. I drew a picture of him, on the potty. Then I drew a picture of a piggy bank. I told him every time he pooed in the potty, I’d put a quarter in the piggy bank. And at the end of the week, daddy would take him and buy him a toy with all the money in the piggy bank. I then drew a picture of a pink piggy, and taped it to a plastic container, and declared: “THIS is your piggy bank.”

He was very excited. I left the picture of him and the potty stuck to the refrigerator door, at eye level for him, so that every time he walked by he could tell me about the potty. And you know what? It worked like a charm. At least on my watch it did. And at this point, that’s all that really mattered to me.

By 7:00, I was ready for bed. And that was only day one.

So, the moral of the story:

1. Pull-ups are your friend.
2. 3-½ year old boys cannot be reasoned with.
3. God help the parents of multiples. Particularly multiple boys.
4. As a non-parent, whatever you thought you knew, whatever you thought you could handle, whatever theories or methods you had convinced yourself of – does not apply when dealing with the little people.
5. I respect parents. All parents. How sanity is retained, how relationships manage to survive, and what on earth you find charming about babies – I will never know.
6. I now believe in daycare, grandparents, and nannies. THOSE are some special people.
7. Bribery. It’s your friend.