Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Chaperone

The Chaperone. I'm the chaperone. I like the sound of that. Sounds like a title for a badass action movie. But I'm not escorting captured terrorists or money-laundering thugs or mobsters. My chaperone duties entail corralling kids and making sure no one gets left behind. I am the field trip chaperone.

My firstborn will graduate from high school in a few short weeks. I attended every field trip he ever took until fifth grade, when there was a limit on how many chaperones could go and names were picked out of a hat. I wasn't picked. They went to Fair Oaks Farm. I was bummed. I love experiencing new places and I enjoy sitting back and watching how the kids interact with each other. Then when my son was in 8th grade, the class took a trip to Ohio to the Cedar Point Amusement Park and my son wanted my husband to go. So, I've missed out on a couple trips, but not many. I had four more sons after him and my youngest is now in 1st grade. I've been on a lot of field trips in my day.

Some have been disastrous, but most of the time, things go smoothly. I've been on outdoor trips in the pouring rain, got stuck in a two hour traffic jam on I-94 on a yellow bus, had a student hide in a museum amused by the frantic adults trying to find him, dealt with queasy kids and was on a bus that hit a merging car.

I've been to history museums, science museums, children's museums. I've been to pet stores and grocery stores. I've been on pumpkin farm and apple farm and dairy farm and historic farm field trips. I've been on a boat ride and to a bowling alley. I've been to planetariums, an aquarium, a nature center, an airport, a space center. And I've been to the zoos many, many times.

Last month I was able to attend a play with youngest son. Those are usually pleasant trips. I've done lots of those over the years. You lead them off the bus and to their seats and then you sit and watch the play. Sometimes there are a couple clowns who disrupt things, but most of the kids are excited to be out of the classroom and don't cause a bit of trouble.

Museums are often the most challenging places to go with a big group of kids. They want to touch the stuff they shouldn't touch. They want to explore the places where they are not supposed to be. They are loud where they should be quiet. They see a long, wide open hallway and they run and run and run. They want to look at EVERY SINGLE THING in the gift shop even if they only have twelve cents in their pocket.

This past week my 10-year-old was lucky enough to be able to go on three field trips. One was a trip to a Cubs game. I signed up to go on that one, but they had so many kids going that they were only able to take one adult. And then there were three staffers. And there was a big number of kids. At the last minute some parents got called since some students were absent and I was able to go. Even though it was a cold and rainy day, I always love being at Wrigley Field. The day wasn't nearly as relaxing as when I normally go. I don't think I got to sit for a full inning because kids had to go to the bathroom or wanted to go buy a souvenir or wanted to go buy nachos. But the kids had a fun and memorable day and that's what it's all about.

I can still recall many of the field trips of my youth. I don't remember a lot of the lessons that were taught in the classroom and I couldn't name a lot of my classmates, but I can remember our trip to the Jay's Potato Chip Factory and the Chicago museums and the zoo and trips to Chinatown and a Greektown and Six Flags Great America and the local grocery store for an economics lesson.

The following Monday was another field trip for my son with the enrichment classes to the Museum of Science and Industry. They had plenty of parents going, so I wasn't able to do that one. But three days later I got to go on a fun full-day trip to a historic farm in the northern suburbs. The kids got to bake biscuits from scratch, milk a cow and feed chickens. Some of these kids had never set foot on a farm or been anywhere near animals. It was great to see them excited about learning about farming a century ago.

Even outside of school, I take my kids a lot of places and expose them to a lot of experiences. I love field trips, whether it's with a class of 3rd graders or just a couple of my kids. I am the chaperone. That's me.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wake up music

I grew up thinking that people over age 40 hated rock-n-roll. I thought it was a generational thing. And I thought rock music was a kid thing. I didn't realize it was an individual thing. Classical music played daily in our home. We'd wake up to soft violins playing in a Vivaldi tune or the peaceful melody of Pachelbel Cannon in D. We'd eat lunch to waltzes by Strauss and symphonies by Beethoven. That was all we knew. We thought it was that way in every household. Except that we had older siblings. My oldest brother is 17 years older. He was listening to Deep Purple and the Doors when I was really young. In grade school, it shifted to country and Eagles-type tunes. Had it not been for my older siblings' influence, I may not have known other types of music existed. My father detested hard rock and really any kind of rock....even the softest ballads.

I used to spend the night often at my oldest brother's house when he was first married and later they moved back home for a short time, so I got a good taste of other types of music. There are some tunes that just instantly make me think of him and my sister-in-law - from oldies to classic rock to disco.

Hang on Sloopy by the McCoys
I Love a Rainy Night by Eddie Rabbit
Lookin' for Love by Johnny Lee
The Closer You Get, The Further I Fall by Alabama
Always Something There to Remind Me by Naked Eyes
I Come From a Land Down Under by Men at Work
If I Can't Have You by the Bee Gees
Don't You Want Me Baby? by Human League

And lots of others.

It was in fourth grade that I finally came to the realization that music is a matter of taste. Our music teacher, Mr, Paschke, would have record day. We were welcome to bring in a record of our own and he'd play it for the class. And this was the very early 80's. Everyone was still listening to vinyl. It was kind of in a pocket between the fading of 8-track and the introduction of cassette tapes. One girl brought in an Olivia Newton-John record and we listed to "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "Physical." Another person brought in Rick Springfield and we listened to "Jesse's Girl." And these records were bought for these kids BY THEIR PARENTS! I was beyond shocked. I felt like I'd been duped. All along I'd been under the impression that parents just did not like or listen to anything but classical - not just my parents, but any parents. Around that time, I remember my mom started playing country for us. Dad hated it. He didn't like the "twangy" voices of Loretta Lynn, the Judds, Conway Twitty and others and hated the facial expressions that Kenny Rogers would make when he sang a heartfelt love song. My brothers made fun of the country music. I was just happy to have something besides classical to listen to. Our first non-classical record that our family owned was the Oak Ridge Boys. I was so excited to bring my record in for record day to Mr. Paschke's class and I asked the teacher to play "Elvira." My classmates were less than thrilled. It was definitely a time when country was not cool -- at least not to fourth graders.

From then on I guess I rebeled in my musical tastes. I started to diss Dad's musical selections, tolerated Mom's country tunes and played all those wonderful cheesy 80's rock songs in my room and listened to them on my walkman. (Remember those -- the earliest iPods?) U2. Bon Jovi. Michael Jackson. Madonna. Def Leppard. Prince. The Police. Phil Collins. The Eurythmics. Air Supply. Genesis. John Cougar Mellencamp. Bruce Springsteen. Kenny Loggins. Journey. Chicago. Asia. Billy Joel. Hall and Oates. Huey Lewis & The News. Toto. Culture Club. Bryan Adams. Duran Duran. Lionel Richie. Pat Benetar. Stevie Nicks. The Cars. Cyndi Lauper. Rod Steward. Van Halen. Kool and The Gang. Motley Crue. Naked Eyes. Tears for Fears. Survivor. Wham!

The next few years were a battle with my dad as I wanted to watch MTV and he didn't want us to watch it. I wanted to jam to Prince. He wanted to play soothing music by Bach. My had has always been a super easy-going and calm guy. But nothing...nothing...ever fired him up as much as when we'd change the channel to MTV as soon as he left the room.

Over the years, my musical tastes have expanded. I've grown to like a large variety of music, spanning from  blues to country to soft rock to pop to reggae and more. And I've come to very much appreciate the classical stuff that dad was piping into our ears since before we could walk.

Dad, in turn, has expanded a little outside his comfort zone, as well. His preferred genre will always be classical. And you'd never find him purchasing or choosing to listen to anything else. But I can play a song without eliciting the displeasure of those MTV days. Somewhere along the line, I've gotten him to accept Elvis music and we go a couple times a year to see an Elvis tribute artist. I can even play a rock song or two in the car without complaint.

It took me many years to figure out that music was a matter of personal preference. And although it's not my first choice, I'm so glad dad introduced us to stuff like this (I still play this once in a while in the morning to get me going):

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Disapproval is such a waste of energy

I was thinking this morning. Idle time in the car does that. Gets me thinking on all kinds of random topics. Today something on the radio triggered the thoughts about what an approval-seeking child I was. I didn't want to disappoint. Didn't want to let anyone down. I wanted to please and do what was expected and do what was good. It was more my own doing, I guess. My parents didn't express disapproval too much. They weren't strict. They didn't have big expectations. But I wanted to please them and my teachers and other adults. I just didn't want to have to face disapproval. And that was behind a lot of the decisions I made as I grew up.

Had I not been that way or thought that way, I'd probably be much different now. If I didn't really care if people approved of what I did, I might have gotten in more trouble. I probably would have made more poor decisions. But, I may have been a little more me. So much of what I did was driven by what other people would think. It feels so suffocating sometimes to feel that way. So restricting. So limiting. Under the surface, you feel like there's more you want to do and be, but it's scary to think that others may not approve of it.

Sometimes I catch myself expressing disapproval to my kids. Sometimes in that moment it seems like the right thing to do and the right way to be. Later on, I think back and realize what a small deal it really is. In the overall scheme of things, does it really matter if one of the kids leaves the house in an outfit that doesn't match? Or that he decides to draw Sonic the Hedgehog in the corner of all his homework sheets? Sure, there are some things you simply can't approve of (or at least not all the time) -- like chocolate for breakfast -- but sometimes when it's something that really ISN'T a big deal, why make it a big deal?

I think about all the time I wasted disapproving of something they wore or how they wanted their hair cut. I guess it's a fine line...between expressing your opinion and making it a confrontation. Kids need guidance and need to be told what to do/how to do it in certain situations. In others, is it really worth it to show disapproval? Is it really going to change the outcome? Is it going to make a bad situation worse? Is it time to give your child the freedom to make a decision?

I guess with age and experience comes wisdom. It takes time to figure some things out. This past Easter I was reminded of one about 13 years ago where my oldest didn't want to wear his "fancy" shoes with his dress outfit. I insisted. He refused. I wouldn't budge. He didn't want to either. Once you dig your heels in as a parent, it's hard to give in. Which message is most important? The original argument? Or letting them have control? At a certain point, the original topic isn't relevant and it's all about who wins. I look back...I really wish I would have let him wear the shoes he wanted to wear. I wanted a nice family picture of us all dressed up...that was my big hang up with the shoes. We sat in the car and I wouldn't leave 'til he changed shoes. It took forever, but he finally changed them. You know what? The family picture from that Easter didn't even show his legs below the knee. The shoes weren't in the picture. And I was disapproving and making a mountain out of a molehill and making Easter a very unpleasant day. Over shoes. Now Easter reminds me of that incident and how unimportant something like shoes are in the overall scheme of things. Parents have to choose their battles and some things just aren't worth a battle. And as kids turn into teens, there are a lot of things for parents to disapprove of. But it's also a time that they need to be able to make decisions on their own.

But, it took a long time to get here and get to that way of thinking. Letting kids be themselves and make some decisions - even if you don't approve of them - is part of life. Part of parenthood.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's only hair

When my oldest was four, my husband took him to the barber shop. He left with an adorable blond bowl cut (this was 1998) and he came back with way less hair that when he'd left. He came home with this HUGE smile on his face and wearing a baseball cap. My husband said "Show mom your haircut." He pulled the hat off and revealed this little head of peach fuzz. My eyes teared up. He looked so grown up (and buzz cuts always reminded me of the commercials of orphans with these desolate looks on their faces and flies swarming about.) But, mostly it was because he looked grown up and he was growing up. And moms often have trouble with the fact that they can't do anything to slow that down. My husband told me that he went in there, looked Barber Harvey straight in the eye and said "I want a buzz cut...please" very confidently. There was no changing his mind, my husband said.

Fast forward 13 years. My oldest, who continued with buzz cuts and short hair until about 5th grade, decided then that he wanted it to "grow out." The sides got longer, the back got longer, the bangs got longer. In high school it got much longer. Like this long:

Of course, my husband and I were on his case a lot about getting it cut. I have to admit, he does have really nice hair. The kind of blond hair a lot of people pay a lot of money to achieve. Last year he decided he wanted to go for a Dennis Leary-style cut. He brought a picture with him and she actually got pretty close. So, the bangs and sides were shortened a bit.

Then, out of the blue, he says this weekend he wants my husband to cut his hair...with clippers. He asks for a flat top, but my husband says he doesn't know how. So, my son says he'll just take a buzz cut instead. I was really shocked. After about 7 years of constant resistance, he wants it cut. Really short. I wondered what prompted it. Perhaps his desire to join the military. Or maybe because he was starting a new job that day. He said it was because his hair was getting tangled in the air pack straps when he was at fire cadets. Whatever. I was kinda happy at the thought of him with shorter hair. 

And then I was sad. I had seen him with long hair for so long. It was just...him. I was nervous when my husband started cutting. Just like when he was four, the end result had him looking so grown up. Who am I kidding? He is grown up. In just over a month, he'll be 18. I'm still not ready for it. "It's only hair," my husband quipped as he saw me getting emotional. "It'll grow back." I think he told me that same thing after the barber shop incident when he was 4.

Now that it's all done, he does look pretty handsome, doesn't he?

Friday, April 13, 2012

When you grow up...

I always enjoy hearing the responses when I pose this question to my kids:

"What do you want to be when you grow-up?"

The answers don't seem to change too much. I was a fickle little girl. One day I wanted to be a movie star. The next day I wanted to be a cashier. The next day I'd tell you I'd like to be a secretary and by the end of the week, I was flip-flopping between writer, teacher or waitress. Then I wanted to be a veterinarian or a business woman or an astronaut or run a candy store. It changed on an almost daily basis.

My boys are pretty consistent...although sometimes I really wish they'd change their minds...for their preferences are ones that make moms worry. A lot.

Recently, these are the answers I got:

Child #1 - Firefighter, EMT and Marine
Child #2 - Police Officer and Army soldier
Child #3 - Army guy
Child #4 - Chef
Child #5 - Police officer

See why I'm not all that happy when I hear their answers? I mean how could you not be proud to have a child who goes into a public service profession like that? But, really....I wouldn't be sad to once hear one of them say "computer programmer," "stock analyst" or "real estate broker." You know...a desk job where the biggest threat of physical injury is maybe a paper cut or a hernia related to lifting the bottle to refill the water cooler or something like that? But, really, most boys at one point seem to really be attracted to the glory of the professions they mentioned. Child #4 has shifted from the military/police/firefighter fields to chef. That sounds good to me. It's because they run the Le Cordon Bleu cooking school commercials all the time. And now he says that's what he wants to do - go there and become a chef.

In reality, I'll be proud of whatever path they choose. Sure, it would be nice to have a doctor in the family. Or it would put my mind at ease if they wanted to pursue a low-stress, high-paying profession. What it really comes down to is what makes them happy. Even if it does cause mom to worry.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Can't we all just get along?

Well, we are on our fifth weekday of Easter break and the kids are really getting on each other's nerves. I've been trying by best to spread them out. There are enough rooms in the house that no one really has to even be in the same room...but they all seem to keep ending up on top of each other and annoying each other.

Easter morning they were getting ready to go out to hunt for eggs. It ended up being delayed a bit. They were all arguing before they even got to the door. They were knocking each other down just trying to get to the door. Then, once the hunt began the big boys had full bags before my youngest had two in his bag. He was soon in tears. The bigger boys were all fighting and blaming each other for hogging the eggs.

Hubby was working and I decided I'd take all five boys out to a buffet for lunch. I have to be feeling quite brave to take all five of them anywhere on my own. It's never peaceful. There's always some drama or a bout of bickering on seating arrangements or someone singing in the car or someone bothering someone in some way. This day was no exception.

Most of the rest of the week has been spent at home except for running some errands. All my grand plans of activities for the week have been curtailed by pressing deadlines and exhaustion. Today, I knew I had to get them all out of the house. We all set out for a nearby forest preserve. There was room to run and explore. Somehow, there were still a few moments where, although there were dozens of acres surrounding them, they had to be on each other's heels. All in all, it was a good trip...followed up with slushies. Tomorrow is the last weekday off, so we'll have to do something special. The oldest one starts a new job tomorrow, so our plans of all going downtown as a family to the Sears (I still can't call it the Willis) Tower will get bumped back probably 'til summer. Hopefully,  I can get through the next three days with my sanity intact...but I'm not betting on it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Stop whining

I'll bet when you saw that title, you thought I was referring to my children. I'm not. I'm talking about me. I realized that in many of my recent posts I'm groaning and complaining and whining about how hectic things are. It's my busiest time of the year and I know I get a little cranky when things get crazy. But, I need to stop whining and get things done and look at the good things going on and find victory in accomplishing small things. I'm lucky to be this busy. And I've set the priorities that have caused me to be this busy. Not like I can blame anyone else.

I've spent a great deal of time tonight trying to clean out my inbox. It's something that constantly nags at me. Tonight I got it down under 400. That's 400 UNREAD e-mails. You don't want to know how many 'read' emails are in there. Well...add another zero onto that 400 and you're almost there. It's frustrating because I know many of them need to be deleted, but others I know I'll refer back to at some point. Thank God there's a search bar for my e-mail so I can retrieve those I need. Tonight...I'm going to stay up just a little longer and get myself down under 300. Just a small victory, but one nonetheless. And then I'm going to leave everything else for tomorrow and go to bed -- the taxes that need to be filed, the clean dishes that need to be put away, the bills, the planning for some projects I'm working on for a service organization, the writing deadlines. And tomorrow I'm going to do something fun with the boys. We are half way through spring break and I'm feeling guilty that we haven't done much. So tomorrow's mission is a fun outing with the boys. And that will be tomorrow's victory.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A day off

Today was Easter. I traditionally do all the prep for the holidays. And I cook a big meal. And serve it on what are the best dishes we have with a tablecloth and candles. And I make dessert. And it's different than a standard every day dinner.

But, this year I didn't do that. It's been an exhausting couple of weeks. I've been super overloaded with work. For both jobs. I've been scrambling to complete cover materials due to my publisher in addition to my regular deadlines. At my part time hospital job where I usually only work about five or six days a month, someone quit and I've been working some extra days. And not light extra days. There's been a baby boom and each day has been ridiculously busy. I'm just worn out right now.

My husband also had to work the holiday, which happens more years than not. I think this is the third year in a row? Or he's worked like 3 of the last 4 Easters. It's just not the same with him gone. I don't feel like going to so much trouble when all of us aren't here to enjoy it. I figured later this week when we are all at home, we'll do a big meal. But today, I took the day off. We went out for lunch.

Our neighbors invited my 8-year-old son to go to their family's farm for the day and he was thrilled. So, we were down another person. The four remaining boys and I went out for a buffet lunch. (*Note to self: Don't take kids out for a buffet lunch after they've devoured a pound of jelly beans, chocolate eggs and Peeps.) None of them were really that hungry, but they each had a plate of real food before heading over to the dessert section.

It was nice not to have to cook or clean up. On the way home, we went to their favorite park to play outside. The boys enjoyed running around. And on the way back, we visited dad at the fire station. It wasn't the ideal holiday. But it was a day out of the ordinary - a day off for me. Sometimes days like that are the ones you remember best years down the road.

Here they are hanging out at the park:

And getting ready to race out to find some eggs.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

So I set the oven on fire...

This week I had steaks thawed in the fridge. I planned on lighting the grill and seasoning those bad boys and having a wonderful dinner with big baked potatoes and a green veggie. But, as often happens here near the Windy City, it was a windy day. Too windy to grill. The grill would never stay lit long enough to cook them. And indoor cooking was out of the question. Cooking steaks indoors is now out of the question. Why? Because last time I made steaks indoors, I set my oven on fire.

It's one of those things that's not really funny, but it is funny. You can still be funny because I didn't set the whole kitchen on fire. Like when you slip and fall on your butt, it's not funny, but it is funny. Now if you'd broken a bone, it wouldn't be funny, but since you came out unscathed, it's kind of hilarious. Does that make sense?

Anyway, here's what happened. I had stopped at Howard's Meats with my buy one steak, get one free coupon. Yeah!!! I picked out some big porterhouse and New York strip cuts for my husband and sons. Six carnivore males in the house, so a dinner like this is a big deal. And for me, I splurged and got a delicate little fillet. A $10 fillet. Normally, I spend less than that to make an entire meal for the gang. I can whip up a pot of spaghetti, a meatloaf AND a batch of taco meat and it would probably cost less than this one steak. So, yeah...I was REALLY looking forward to it.

I fired up the broiler on my oven, which I hardly ever use. I had a large foil lined cookie sheet that I was using to put the steaks on and I cooked a couple at a time. After I'd made steak for all the boys, mine went in last. On the same cookie sheet that the others had cooked on that was by then very soaked in grease. After a couple minutes, I notice that the oven door is bright orange. Hmm...I think to myself. Ok, not sure what I was thinking. But, I opened the door to investigate. And yeah, there were some flames. So, I shut it and I look at the fire extinguisher sitting on top of the stove. And rather than take time to figure out how to get it to work, I call out the door to my husband who is in the garage. I call his name. No answer. I call it again. He answers. "Come in here," I yell. I didn't say it with enough intensity to get him running in there. For some reason I ran back over to the stove. Then I opened it back up to see...I don't know...if the flames had disappeared on their own. Duh? It was a little bigger. So, I run to the back door again and this time yell frantically, "The oven's on fire."

He comes running in and by then the top of the oven door is black and smoke is seeping out. He grabs the extinguisher directs a couple puffs and it's out. My hero. Once in a while being married to a firefighter comes in really handy.

He looks at me and says "Why did you open the door?" Oh, yeah, that is a big fire rule, isn't it? You don't give the fire oxygen so that it can spread. Ooopps. And I think I actually said, "To make sure it was really on fire." Or something ridiculous.

Now that it was out, it was okay to open the door. In the middle, covered in foam was my sad little steak, burned to a crisp. The oven now had a weird error message blinking. Hubby said that we'd clean it out later and hopefully everything would reset. Either that or we'd be getting a new oven. It was over. I figured we should get dinner on the table.

I sat at the table and overlooking the fact the mishap may end up costing us hundreds for a new stove, I shook my head in disbelief. That was a $10 steak. And how does it end up that everyone else has mouthwatering steaks sitting in front of them and mine is shriveled up and covered in extinguisher foam?

The kids were all very sweet and offered me their dinner. There was still plenty to go around. It was a delicious meal.

So, this is the ordeal that kept me from cooking my steaks indoors. I fear a repeat. The next day I was working late and the weather was milder and hubby cooked them for me -- outside on the grill. And I think that's where we'll cook all the steaks from now on.

Oh, and the next day, hubby disassembled the entire oven and cleaned every piece and got it working again. My hero.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

One fades out, one comes in

Some days come and go and you just try to take care of the tasks at hand, wrapped up in your busy world without much thought about what's going on elsewhere with other people.

But, when I have sweet leisure time or am stuck somewhere with nothing to do but think, my mind wanders. Sometimes I am just struck by the wonder of human life. What a miracle it is. How we get here. How we arrive here. Where we are before then. Where we go after this life.

Often, when someone leaves this world, it will make me wonder who entered the world that day. What will they be? What will they become?

And when a new child is born, I wonder who left he world that day? Who left, making room for that new being on this earth? What mark did they leave? What did they teach people? How did they touch people? What kind of example were they? What kind of void will they be leaving?

Two of my sons were born on days when someone significant left the world.

My oldest son (he'd be the tallest one in that photo below) was born on May 19, 1994. As he was being introduced to his new world after a long day of induced labor, Jacqueline Kennedy, who will forever symbolize grace, style and dignity, passed away.

Eleven years later, on April Fool's Day in 2005, I headed to the hospital sure that I'd have an April Fool's baby. Well, he fooled me. As the clock neared midnight, I knew he was going to be stubborn and hold out a little longer. He arrived a little after 1 a.m.

Earlier in the day, all news stations were focused on the condition of Pope John Paul II, which had been worsening. As I settled into my hospital room after my son was born in the wee hours of the morning and turned on the television, coverage continued. Later that day, it was announced that Pope John Paull II had died. As his life ended, this beautiful little creature entered the world.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Showered with flowers

I love flowers. Don't all moms? Don't all women for that matter? My sisters and I had a discussion about flowers recently...and how much we love to get them...and how not all guys get that. My dad gets it. In fact, he sent flowers to his daughters when he heard that their significant others hadn't gotten them any for Valentine's Day. Then they passed it on and sent flowers to the other sisters and soon all of us had lovely bouquets -- either received from Dad or a sister.

My husband doesn't get me flowers as often as he used to. But I can't pin it all on him. The last couple times he did, I admit that I scolded him for spending way too much. I told him I'd be just as happy with a couple carnations as with a huge bunch of roses in a vase with a balloon or stuffed animal. Not that I don't love when he goes all out. It's just that flowers are short-lived and the money can usually be better spent.

My boys know how much I love flowers. They bring them to me all the time without spending a dime.

And it makes them happy and makes me happy. :)

Yesterday morning, my husband said he was going somewhere and was going to take one of the boys and he wouldn't tell me where they were going. I figured they were heading to the bakery for doughnuts. A half-hour later, he walked in the door with three of the boys and the dog. They'd gone for a walk to a field near our house that had a lilac bush. My husband had been driving by the bush frequently and said he thought of me. So, this is what they picked. It's totally the thought that counts. And the boys were so excited to give them to me. :)