The Points Scale Is Back

Loyal readers might recall that I implemented a reward system two years ago where kids would earn one-on-one minutes with me for good behavior and lose them for bad behavior. Well, if there is one consistent hallmark of my parenting, it’s inconsistency, so I recently re-implemented this system, but forgot that it was about one-on-one minutes and instead made it about dessert. Basically, each kid starts the day with 3 points; they can earn or lose points based on their behavior, but if you end up with 0 points, no dessert for you. This doesn’t make any sense for several reasons, one being that we don’t even always have dessert, but the important thing is…points. If you’re questioning this system, you just lost a point.

After our crazy boat adventure with friends where the worst, thankfully, did not happen, we spent a day and half at Oma and Opa’s. My parents’ baking/cooking game was stronger than ever, with Oma making such good homemade whipped cream that the kids decided she should open a homemade whipped cream store, and my dad making a combination of Hazy and George’s favorite foods by making the bun from char siu bao with the filling of a wonton. They were a huge success, even if we couldn’t agree whether to call them wonbaos or baotons.

 

Oma & Opa are up to about a bajillion points by my system.

On Friday, Opa was golfing so we had “Oma eggs,” which were almost as good as Opa eggs. Then, Oma let the kids play her Math for Candy game which, as the name suggests, rewards them with candy for solving math problems. (The Lam ladies clearly need to work on their reward systems.)

 

Then it was onto the pool, where the kids did some synchronized swimming and Hazy discovered the Jedi mind trick of letting your goggles float up into your hand.

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George: “Hazy, can you show me the ways of the force?”

At one point, the kids were super cute cuddling with each other. Then they turded it up by asking if they could “get points for being cute.” Of course not! What is this, some completely cockamamie reward system?

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Between you and me, plus one hundred points.

Oma was awesome enough to bring us lunch to the pool, which was a total treat.

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You can figure out what kind of sandwiches they had from this hot mess.

After completely exhausting Oma and Opa and eating all their fruit, we headed home so we could meet Matty, back from his business trip to Chicago. On our way home, we passed my Kryptonite, TJ Maxx (or as George calls it, TJ Mask, sung to the tune of PJ Masks).

George to a TJ Maxx employee stocking the shelves: Can we help?

TJ Maxx Employee: No.

We did a quick episode of Who Wore It Best, and George won, which is totally unfair considering they were ladies’ shoes. The gruff TJ Maxx employee looked on in disapproval. I *almost* whipped out my TJ Maxx card and Pretty Woman’ed her, but I’m pretty sure they don’t work on commission and also I’m unemployed.

I think their final point tallies were 6 (Hazy) and 3 (George), but it was irrelevant because we didn’t end up having dessert. Hazy gained a bunch of points for helping me clean up and George lost a bunch for whining (whining is George’s Kryptonite/TJ Maxx).

I’ll probably redesign the points system this week. What do you think the reward should be?

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

This is my friend Lesley and I’s motto. As in, “Would it be insane for us to take our kids on a boat ride on the open ocean to a small island for a self-guided walking tour?”

“Yes. But sounds like something we would/should do.”

“I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?”

Two crazy mothers
Thank you to our long time sponsor, Bad Idea Jeans™

And so began our boat trip to Star Island.

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A three-hour tour, a three-hour tour* (*including one hour on the island)

The boat ride was lovely, interrupted only by the constant cries of, “I’m hungry!” by our poor, starving waif children. Luckily, Lesley had a hiking backpack full of cereal bars to hold them over.

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Where everyone’s a star! (Even if you refuse to pose like one, George.)
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We could only get them to run because we promised them food in that shelter.

We only had one hour shore leave and the kids spotted a playground right away, so they were as singled-minded as sailors during fleet week, except substitute playground for floozies. We told the kids we’d spend the last 10 minutes at the playground, which left us just 50 minutes to test out this antique revolving door, desecrate this graveyard, interrupt this duet, and run in and out of four little cabins without breaking various antiques.

We also felt it was worth taking the time for Lesley to make this epic lay up on the Pelicans’ practice court.

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Pelicans scout, call me.

At long last, we reached the Promised Land.

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Swings! Tires! A tire swing (slightly off camera)! 

Raise your hands if you love Star Island!

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Respect, Eliza

On the way back, we were the last ones on the boat, just like we were on the way there. But unlike on the way there, it was socially acceptable to have a beer.

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Cheers on surviving 2/3 of the trip, Lesley!

And also, something about our one-step-away-from-complete-anarchy charm won over the crew, because they let each of our small children steer the boat, even though they literally couldn’t see over the steering wheel.

Angling for Favorite People Ever, the crew guys then said yes to Hazy’s preposterous request that she get to work the cash register in the store, but sadly, no one bought anything for the rest of the trip.

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Come on, somebody buy a G-D bag of Cool Ranch!

Due to a slight snafu (cough, cough, Lesley telling me we were spending the day on the island), my car ended up blocked in by all the cars of the people on the all-day island plan. But when life hands us lemons, Lesley and I use those lemons to garnish our lobster rolls at the Beach Plum, voted the best lobster roll in New England. That’s right; we loaded up the car seats into Lesley’s car and took ourselves out for lobster rolls, mac & cheese, and ice cream.

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The lemons were just an expression, guys.
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Found our mascot for the summer. p.s. These ice cream cones are heavy.

We also killed some time at this killer beach. I’m very grateful to Lesley’s family friends, who have a beautiful home on this private beach, about two hundred yards away from the public beach, which was packed about 10 umbrellas deep. We had this one all to ourselves, and it was absolutely perfect.

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These kids went on more boat rides than a Bachelorette date.

You know when you get really tired and all you want to do is put on an avant-garde play and charge people for admission into an imaginary dance club? Yeah, me neither.

After much rosé was consumed,the imaginary nightclub got shut down due to zoning restrictions, and someone peed in the bathtub (I won’t name names), we finally got the kids to bed.

The next morning, I slept in while the kids (and Lesley) answered the siren call of Elena of Avalor.

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If you’re not familiar with Elena, it’s basically Sofia the Second (The First is its gateway show).

Then we spent a little while enjoying the adorableness that is Newfields, NH. Lesley and her husband Paul live in a Charles Wysocki puzzle where Lesley brings her mug over to the General Store next door and fills it up with coffee, while her awesome dog Ollie goes behind the counter for a treat.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a visit to Newfields without seeing our old pal, Slowpoke. Slowy was as magical and slow as ever.

After dutifully jotting down the series of highways that Lesley told me made more sense than Waze’s directions, I promptly took one in the wrong direction and ended up following Waze the rest of the way. But first, we stopped for the kids’ 12th (!) ice cream of the summer, with make your own sundaes at Friendly’s.

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This is also where George told me, “Waitresses aren’t real.”

Thank you for an action-packed day and night, Lesley. There’s no one with whom I’d rather be woefully unprepared for the worst that could happen.

Where should we go next? And relatedly, where’s the best ice cream in New England?

 

The Lost Photos of Atlantis/The Stonebridge Pool

At long last, here are the underwater photos we took at Oma and Opa’s! To be honest, I thought they’d all come out like this:

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I actually think this one is pretty artsy.

But my photographers were actually pretty awesome. Here are their portraits of each other.

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George by Hazel
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Hazel (and George’s finger) by George

We got cool mermaid and merman portraits of each other, including one of George in mid-somersault.

I sort of captured this dual somersault:

And George took this pretty skilled photo:

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Look at my mermaid smiling with her eyes open underwater!

I’d say he’s a better underwater photog than I am:

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It was a pretty cool experiment overall. Maybe we’ll do it again at the end of the summer and see how we’ve progressed. We’ll take your photo requests in the comments.

p.s. We tried (and failed at) a group selfie and Oma got cropped out of our one picture of her.

Harvard Square, Little Circle

It’s been two weeks since we packed our bags for the homeless, and believe it or not, we haven’t had a free day since when it wasn’t pouring rain. But today was the day!

But first, breakfast dessert. I woke up to the sounds of bowls clattering and raced down in a panic. I love that my kids are into making their/my own breakfast, but I still get nervous about solo oven or stove usage. Turned out Hazy had decided to make Timon and Pumbaa’s Chocolate Mud Pie, as one does on a Tuesday morning.

(Notice George got dissed on the matching BE FRI shirt again.)

We had our doubts about the pre-baked product (see below), but the finished product actually looked quite a bit like the recipe.

We had no choice but to have our mud pie with ice cream, as that was Timon and Pumbaa’s serving suggestion. (Don’t judge me, Margie!)

 Next, we went grocery shopping. Now I swear to you, we eat plenty of healthy things, including cucumbers and well, cucumbers, but the greatest moment of the grocery store trip the week the summer was finding these pudding pops. Now they’re not Jell-O, but they look exactly the same and they don’t have any Cosby baggage.

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Photo acting direction: “Look amazed.”

Hazy and George weren’t alive when Jell-O pudding pops existed and were the best thing on earth, so I’m glad they’ll get to experience their greatness.

Before the main event (which remember, is bags for the homeless), I attempted (and failed) to make George take a nap. The good news is that I wrote a blog post during that time and Hazy wrote a short story, after which we had this conversation.

“I’m finished!”

“I can’t wait to re…”

“Also, you have to buy it to read it.”

A signed copy cost me $77.24. Luckily, she accepts play credit cards.

Finally, it was time to head to Harvard Square. We packed up all 8 of our bags in the Mac Wagon and set sail for do-gooding.

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I explained to the kids that we were gonna make a big loop, down one street and up another, in order to pass all the usual locations where we see homeless people. George asked if we could go to the little circle. I explained that we were in Harvard Square. He clarified that he’d heard “big loop” and would prefer a little circle.

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George after about 100 yards: “I’m tired!”

We ended up giving out five of our bags and then running out of people, which is a good problem to have. The kids were really excited to hand them out, the recipients were exceptionally sweet, and George wished every single person a great day. We saved the remaining three bags to give to some familiar homeless people in JP. I’d call Year 3 a success.

To celebrate, we picked up “Mr. Phil,” the CEO of PJA, and went out for ice cream with him, even though we got ice cream-shamed by my friend Margie as we were walking out the door.

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I showed some rare restraint by getting an iced tea.

It was fun to see the kids through Phil’s eyes. His kids are older and no longer do things like invent new ice cream eating techniques, at least, not to my knowledge.

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The Double Spooner
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The Mega Scoop

Thank you, Phil, for treating us, and for reminding me how lucky I am to spend the summer with these “angels” (your words).

This post sponsored by VOGUE Jr. Check out the latest issues on newsstands everywhere.

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3 Days of Wine, 1 Day of Whining

One Summer At Home went black while I had a girls’ (old ladies’?) weekend with my friends from college. Nine of us went to my friend Jess’s gorgeous house in Kennebunkport and spoiled ourselves with wine, lobster, and reminiscing. I definitely missed the turds, but I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to not hear anyone whine about anything for three days straight.

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1 out of 3 ain’t bad.

I got back Sunday night, and was delighted to hear that the kids had been excellent Thursday through Saturday, and not great on Sunday, which had led to a full day of house cleaning. Win-win, am I right? So yesterday, I was back on duty, and assuming that the kids would have learned their lesson about whining/fighting from a day of hard labor. Well, I’m sorry that I made an ass out of u and me, guys.

The day started off okay. (It always does, guys; that’s how they fool you.) After breakfast, the kids were psyched that it was raining, because that meant they go to play their new Wii game, Star Wars the Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duel. I don’t know if you remember playing Wii tennis or bowling back in 2002 or whenever people actually played Wii, but I remember sweating a lot. And that was just bowling. So imagine a light saber duel against a Jedi master. They got really sweaty and angry.

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Notice their nunchucks are a blur.

When I sent Matty a video of them playing the game, he said, “looks violent.” What did you expect from a game with the word “Wars” in the title twice, Matty? Hazy realized that the closer you get to the other player, the better chance you have at hitting them with your virtual light saber. George learned the hard way that there’s also a better chance at getting hit with a real-life Wii controller. George ended up getting pissed because he was 1) sweaty, 2) losing most of the duels, and 3) repeatedly getting whacked with a Wii console. That led to a bunch of fighting/whining.

I decided we needed to get out of the house. I had them suit up in their rain jackets, with big plans to walk to the subway (1/2 mile) to go to Chinatown to get our underwater photos from a few weeks ago. We made it about three blocks of George jumping in every puddle (which, admittedly, was pretty awesome) and then both kids complaining they were cold and wet. So we turned around and walked back. They changed into dry clothes and we hopped into the car.

And by “hopped”, I mean Hazy and I waited for about 10 minutes in the car while George put on long pants. That led to George whining about how it was hard to put on pants all by himself. It’s a charmed life when your biggest challenge is putting on pants.

In Chinatown, I remembered why I didn’t want to drive, as we circled around the worst driving neighborhood in the worst driving city in America for about 15 minutes. As we were exhausted from the not-walking and the whining, we stopped for lunch before picking up the photos. Once again, my kids crushed an impressive amount of Chinese food. I think if we just ate every meal in Chinatown, they might be in the normal range of the weight percentile chart.

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Hazy ate 6 of these.
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Varsity Eating Squad

After lunch, we walked the three blocks to CVS in the pouring rain. I believe it took approximately three hours to walk those three blocks, two hours of which I spent yelling, “Come on, George! Stay with Mama!”There was definitely whining about how it was too far to walk.

At one point, George did a puddle jump right beside two innocent bystanders. We did finally make it and secured our underwater photo masterpieces. Stay tuned for that post.

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Sneak preview!

While I was gone, Matty instituted a policy where if George whines, he takes a nap. I dialed it up to 11 and decided we should all nap. Of course, what actually happened was I was the only one who napped, woken up frequently by George whining and calling out from his room, “Can I get up now?” Hazy read in her room, which is cool with me.

After “naps,” I buried my rage deep down inside my Secret Rage Place, and I whipped out the piece de resistance, this 1977 Star Wars game I bought at a flea market in Maine. You won’t be surprised to hear that I won or that George got mad that he lost. The kids fought about handing off the spinner (George wouldn’t), reaching over each other (Hazy kept doing it to get the spinner from George), and perceived injustice (“Why did you have to send my Luke and Leia home?!”), but still shockingly asked if we could play again. No, no we can’t. Secret Rage Place is running out of space.

After a quick dinner of leftovers, I read a graphic novel about Star Wars Academy to the kids and put them to bed early. But first, Hazy insisted on leading us through a guided meditation (my 8-year old is 80), which I have to admit was pretty awesome. We imagined putting our “busiest thoughts” into leaves that floated down a river.  I didn’t get any photos because I’m pretty sure snapping photos on your phone is the opposite of Buddhist meditation.

After the kids were in bed, I went to finish up some laundry before relaxing with some wine and GoT, and promptly fell down the basement stairs. It’s good to be home, guys.

I Score 100.

Today was a big pool day at Oma and Opa’s. In previous summers, George took a nap mid-afternoon, so we’d only go to the pool from about 3-5. But now, we head to the pool right after lunch and stay as long as “we” want.

We got to the pool at about 12:30 and the kids jumped right in and didn’t get out, except for bathroom breaks, for the next two and a half hours. I forgot to get a photo of their little prune toes.

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This was my view most of the day.  Just add Hazy, who was probably off cavorting in the deep end.

At one point, I drifted asleep and woke up to the sounds of Marco Polo and my mom laughing. I thought my kids had joined in on a pool-wide game of Marco Polo, but later found out that they were just the aceholes yelling, “Polo!” and hanging around Marco even though they weren’t actually playing.

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Thanks for not beating my children with a pool noodle, Marco, even though you would have been totally justified.

Don’t worry, Oma and I got into the pool some too.

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Hazy took this photo of us while we mocked the kids during Adult Swim.

While the kids were forced to get out of the pool during Adult Swim, I performed a water ballet for them, consisting of dolphin dives, somersaults, front handsprings, swimming while waving, and a few Mary Lou Retton-esque finishes where I would stand up straight with my hands in the air. I expected wild applause when I finished, but Hazy told me I needed more practice, and George gave me a score of 100 … out of 200. Thanks for not sugar coating it, guys.

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George was very proud of his self-styling.
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We forgot to take a team photo today, but I did capture this one right after Hazy told me to take a picture of my boobs. So there’s that.

I’d like to conclude with this exchange George and I had this morning:

George: I’ve been waiting for this moment to arrive.

Me: What moment?

George: Three days in a row of good manners.

Me: I’ve been waiting for that moment too.

George: Well, it’s not going to happen today. You want it to, but it’s not.

Sigh.

Back to Basics

“You don’t have to do something special with them every day.” – Oma

“If they keep whining, just make them clean the house and then send them to their rooms.” – Matty

“Can we reschedule? I’ll make you sublime nachos and so much extra rosé you may have to stay over…” – Lesley

We were planning on spending the day with my wonderful friend Lesley and her delightful girls, Nora & Eliza. You may remember the time we fed a tortoise and didn’t pick peaches with them. But unfortunately, something came up (tortoise attack – Slowpoke was framed!), so we had to reschedule. Once I’m promised nachos and rosé, you don’t have to tell me twice.

So we went back to basics: toy pit cleaning, fighting, time outs, grocery shopping, library and “arts and crafts.”

But first, breakfast. This photo is actually from the day before (shandong noodles), but on this particular day, Hazy had spaghetti with marinara sauce for breakfast. She asked for it, and who am I to deny young Kate Moss some carbs?

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Breakfast of Very Skinny Champions

After breakfast, I had them clean the toy pit, which consists of 20% actual cleaning, 50% arguing over cleaning, and 30% dance party. We got down to Pharrell’s Happy, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and New Edition’s Candy Girl.

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Believe it or not, this is the cleaning phase.

After the fighting and subsequent time outs,  we hit the library, where we got good news and bad news. The good news is Hazy got a new library card so now both kids can spend an hour playing PBS Kids games on the computers, plus Hazy got two prizes for checking off ten boxes on her summer reading library list.

The bad news is we owe over $14 in library fines, mostly due to just recently finding The Runaway Wok, which we took out for Chinese New Year.

Late fines, $14.

Having your kids know the Skippity Hoppity Ho song the magic wok sings when it Peter Pans the rich family, priceless.

After the party/library, it’s the hotel lobby/grocery store. Because I shun convenience of any kind (too easy!) and also because I read the Omnivore’s Dilemma (don’t!), we went toWhole Foods (for meat) and Wegman’s (for everything else, plus, car carts).

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George “helping” me shut the trunk.

Then it was arts & crafts time. If you know me at all, you know I’m neither artsy nor crafty (except in the Beastie Boys sense of the word), but I found these cool giant oval frames at Boomerangs, and I thought it would be cool if I let each kid draw their own self-portrait.

Hazy kept drawing hers, deciding it wasn’t good enough, and erasing it. George drew his in about a minute and a half, and declared himself finished. Then, on an impulse, he decided to color it in with red marker. This pretty much sums up their personality differences.

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Hazy, eraser in hand; George, red marker on deck
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The resemblance is uncanny.

I’ll share a photo of the final pieces after Hazy does a self-portrait she’s satisfied with and I’ve spray painted the frames.

Sorry we did pretty much the opposite of cleaning up the house, Matty.