Halloween – Puns, Heroes, Zombies and Skeletons

 

Writing this post in an OTC medication haze filled with determination to kick this head/chest cold without the use of a doctor or prescription antibiotics – I bring to you our Halloween 2013. Our 11th with kids (yes, I'm counting the first one where we were locked up I our home obsessed with intercepting the looters, uh, trick or treaters, before they rang the dreaded doorbell and woke our precious 6 week old Will. I remember saying words like “I can't believe how late these kids come to the door!” at like 7:15pm and “what makes this holiday such a great big deal, anyways.” While I get a holiday doling out door-to-door candy IS A BIG FREAKING DEAL I'm still slightly amazed at how big of a “holiday” it is for them. Genius is the school district that schedules a teacher planning day for the day after (take a note York County Schools). My youngest carried a costume catalog around with him for most of October – browsing actually became a desired way to pass time. It was not until about halfway through the month of October that we noticed the suggestive clothing many of the models in said costume catalog and promptly called in the scissor censors to G-rate this magazine. The trials of the third child, right? Had it been Will and maybe even for Stewart we would have sent letters off to the publisher and started a Neighbors for Less Sexually Suggestive Costume Catalogs (NLSSCC) campaign. Really though, do we need a provocative Pokeman mistress outfit in our world?

Digression over, back to Halloween. A proud moment for Cindy and me when our oldest looked up creative costumes on the internet (with us closely supervising after the catalog incident) and determined he wanted to be a pun. He wore a blue shirt with the iron-on letters: GO CEILINGS! on the front and BEAT FLOOR! on the back. He carried a homemade pennant to match. Super-clever, however, I think he was a bit peeved by the end of the Halloween evening – he spent a lot of time answering the question “so what are you young man? while the cute mimes he walked with were fawned over (they were pretty good mimes). Thankfully his good friend Charlie (no relation) proved a trusty sidekick with an repeated explanation of Will's outfit. No solo pictures of Will (3-child camera fail) but you can see him in the back of this group shot.

Stewart came up with her costume in August and spent most of the time up until the big day adding to it. It went from Zombie to Zombie Princess and was pretty darn authentic. True to form she disappeared with a few friends and their Moms almost immediately after she realized the pre-trick-or-treating food and sugary drinks were being policed for those wanting seconds, thirds…we saw her a few times throughout the evening with gobs of candy shoved in her mouth. So much for checking it all when we got home. Also true to form, she went to bed first with a case of the “sugar belly” – this is a common diagnosis for Stewart when she has more sugar than her tummy can handle. She's slowly realizing that there's a limit on sugar intake. She may have a sugar problem.

Charlie, as Kai, a character from a show we claim is off the air (too much fighting), tackled the “big guy” house loop carrying his own bag the entire way this year. I did notice towards the end that he'd wait on the sidewalk rather than go to the door and make his loot bag even heavier. Smart dude. Sympathetic to his cause while also considering the loot limit this was putting on candy enjoyment for me, I graciously offered to hold his heaviest candy items in my pockets (and belly). Kai is this guy in case you are wondering:

He's fierce or at least so says Charlie.
 

One of the things that set this Halloween apart was that nearly every parent dressed up as something too. The best was our neighbor Bryan who went as a caddy for his youngest daughter. Simply a great costume.

Cindy and I came in as best themed dressed up married couple and possibly the only themed dressed up couple at the pre-Halloween Spectacular. By the way, in this reference, 'Pre-Halloween Spectacular' is an event where we order double the pizza required and fill kids and adults with them plus chips, dips, beverages, cookies and brownies. God bless 'Merica.

 

Last bit on Halloween. Our neighbors up the street came up with a genius idea to pose 2-3 full-size skeletons doing cool and funny things. Everyone in the neighborhood (except maybe their immediate neighbors – traffic woes) looked forward to their next scene. Camping skeletons, football watching skeletons (with a flat screen TV tuned to a game), fire fighting skeletons, and the list goes on. We all loved it!

 

Well, back to the Sudafed, Benedryl-induced stupor for me. I'm starting to realize at the age of 40 that I a) am a big baby when I'm sick, b) don't believe in colds – sick or well, no in between, c) need a little mothering when I'm down and out and d) can't stand sitting, laying, sleeping for the time it takes to get well. I'd also like to know what to do to prevent this head, sinus, chest crap from catching me every 8-10 months. Any docs in the house? Needless to say, I'm also quite grateful for Netflix. I series-binged my way through “Orange is the New Black.”

Thought it was a comedy, but not so much. It does have some pretty darn good writing, is based on a true story and does hold a candle to the other Nextflix series that I liked a ton: “House of Cards” with Kevin Spacey. Neither is for the faint of heart or faint of foul language as, like HBO, Netflix likes to remind the competing networks that which they cannot compete with – the F-word in bulk. Still, pretty decent series.

Here's a link to the slideshow. Happy Halloween!

 

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A Lesson to Parents of Pre-teen Boys

 

 

It is Sunday morning before 5am and I hear it. The first kid's heels pounding on the hardwoods downstairs while they seek water, food or a restroom. You never hear just one. Like wild dogs, they typically travel in packs. But nonetheless, it is before 5am and nine 10-11 year old boys are now awake in my home. When I talk to them and ask them how they slept at a more civilized hour, like 6am, they will all speak of a great night's sleep somehow trying to convince themselves as they surely know that I know better. As I sip my coffee at 5:30am all I hear is “I can't believe you have 2 of that one”, “mine has reverse powers”, “all I need is three more to complete the set” and “I looked up how much I could sell these for on eBay and I could get $23 dollars for my set.” I'm sure one day I'll look back and long for the Pokemon chatter out of my boy and his friends. I also might look forward to the kids sleeping in a bit more (they will wake past 6:30am on weekends one day, right?).

Each year when our oldest asks to have a sleepover with more than a friend or two Cindy and I look at each other as if the MIB guy waved the silver wand in front of us: no recollection of how painful 6-10 kids sleeping over in your home can be. Especially boys. See boys are loud. They don't talk to each other, they talk at each other. Actually, they talk over each other. Rather than talking to be understood they talk to be heard. 5 boys talking at once is only license for the 6th to top their volume. The fact that other humans in the house (or neighbors next door for that matter) desire sleep never crosses their mind. Like bad breath from not brushing their teeth, what could it matter, right? Well, they have clearly underestimated the grumpiness of a 40 year old father of three. Here are a few tactics I found myself employing during the sleepover event (none of which I am particularly proud of mind you).

  • 6:30pm: Pizza Time – hop in the garage looking for a tool of some sort that I had no use for just to enjoy some peace and avoid thinking about how much pizza is being transferred from their hands to the floor and walls. Plus, most words are about Pokemon or Minecraft. Italian, a language I don't speak, is easier to comprehend.
  • 7:30pm: Cake Time – As official photographer (the one with the phone connected to iCloud), I take the pictures. I corral the kids to the back porch where once they candles are extinguished and the pictures are taken, I ask that they remain outside while cakes service is moved into the kitchen. Partially a tactic for momentary peace but admittedly a tactic to reduce the endless combination of cake selection and ice cream flavor requests. There are not enough prime pieces of cake and too many ice cream demands (“I don't eat ice cream with nuts”, could I get a half scoop or chocolate with a full scoop of cookies and cream?”, “why no strawberry?”, “do you have sprinkles?” – as an aside, fruit doesn't go in Sutton desserts and the idea that a cookie cake, icing and ice cream just isn't sugar enough without adding sprinkles…well-played but not happening) to have handled it within earshot of the sugar-obsessed crowd. One more aside, the person who comes up with all corner pieces in a cake could make millions…
  • 8-10pm: Anarchy Hours: so long as you don't come out of the designated party space, in our home, the bonus room, then pretty much anything goes. This roughly translates into more screaming over each other about Pokemon and Minecraft. An age appropriate film plays in the background, but animated movies to this crowd is like Musak to grocery shoppers…the parents are downstairs wondering if there's any way to plug headphones into our TV. We can't hear a thing but we look at the moving pictures all the same.
  • 10-10:30pm: Inner rebellion begins. Two factions form: 1) the group who wants to sleep vs. 2) the group who wants to rage all night. Sentinels are sent to the adult area to form a treaty. One of two approaches exist in treaty-making: tears mixed with apologies for the prior 2 hours of noise-riddled rebellion (don't they know we couldnt hear a word of “Chopped” and “Shark Tank” we had on DVR???) and an exchange for silence and immediate sleep for the small cost of authority making the “ragers” succumb to their way. The other sentinel type comes in endless “Mr./Mrs. Sutton, could you be so kind to point me in the direction of a glass for a sip of water?” requests. Under my breath I mutter back, “Why of course Mr. Haskell.” I counter their offers with something like “can you help influence some of the kids up there to start settling down? It is getting pretty late and Mrs. Sutton and I will want to be able to get up early and in time to go get donuts before the sleepover ends tomorrow.” I know, maybe too subtle for this group. They are smart enough to know my good cop will surely be followed with the bad cop and you don't want Cindy to bring out her bad cop.
  • 10:30pm: tears, screams of jumping-on-my-furniture joy, sleeping bag covered muffled yells of “be quiet or I'm going home!”, and a TV pegged on volume marker 39 emerge from the jungle, uh, playroom. ENTER BAD COP CINDY. She takes her phone with her to potentially use the I'm calling your parents move. I'm actually a little concerned the party might come to an abrupt end. I follow 5-7 steps behind to show a united front and prepare some of the “and you don't want her to take that step, do yas?” But magically, silence ensues and even more magically, it stuck!

Cindy and I return to the family room and debate whether to restart Shark Tank. We don't. Instead we make a pact to never, ever, no matter how much time passes and how harmless it sounds weeks in advance, hold 6-9 kid sleepovers again. Sorry younger kids…and you are right, the olders do have it better sometimes.

Several weeks post-party and I actually hear myself thinking, “that wasn't so bad, right?” Must. Never. Forget.

Here is a slideshow from Will's party. Looking forward to an outsourced, non-sleepover for Stewart's 9th.

 

Summer 2013 – Part 2 – Our Lives

 

This summer seemed to step up the level of activities our kids enjoyed. We are really very lucky to be able to give our kids a) choices of activities and b) multiple activities to do over the summer. By the end of June I would have placed money on the fact that the favorite camp of the summer was going to be Stewart's Little Mermaid camp where she learned and performed a big chunk of the play in the span of a week or Camp Grammy and Poppy where they all spend a week in Columbus at a place I affectionately refer as the 'spoiling machine.' The latter consists of golf, ice cream, movies, ice cream, shopping ice cream, swimming, ice cream…you get the drill… But along came the ASC Greenway camps (the Adventure Seekers camp for Will and Stewart and the Little Critters camp for Charlie) where after a week the kids all deemed these the “BEST CAMPS EVER!” We loved them because the price was right, the experiences were priceless and best of all, most of it was spent outdoors in or near the woods.

Cindy and the kids enjoyed a quick trip to The Outer Banks (OBX) with her family. With such close proximity to our beach vacation in HHI and a new role at work, I hung back at Fort Sutton. What it really was best for was total and complete boredom. They had a great time with the highlights being bunk beds, shrimp boils and ice cream anytime the words were spoken. Pretty cool seeing pictures of Cindy's Mom and Dad laughing together.

There are some other events that happened this summer but it all went by so fast – a true blur. An Adventure Guides camping trip at Knight's Stadium where after a double header we got to camp out in the outfield, cookouts with friends, movies, sleepovers, soccer camps and did I mention rain and wacky weather? Maybe the wettest summer I can remember here in the Charlotte/Fort Mill area. Easily the coolest August I've ever spent in the area. My air conditioner-less car thanks the weather gods for this.

I probably sound like a broken record and there are certainly days where my words and demeanor on the outside do not reflect what I feel on the inside, but I am so very grateful for being able to provide my kids experiences and summers like this one. I realize that so many kids and families are not this fortunate and because of this I want to work harder to continue to build great experiences for my children but also ensure I am providing them with context on how good we have it and how not everyone is as fortunate. For them to see this and want to work to share their time helping those less fortunate is a goal I want to work harder to achieve in future summers. Not sure what and how to do this just yet – any ideas?

I sit here writing this 2nd post on all the great things that happened on my kids summer vacations realizing today is their first day of school (at least it is for the olders). Here's to another year of learning and excitement for going to school. One last area where I am thankful is for the fact that my kids have genuine excitement to be going back to school. In my opinion, schools are doing something pretty good when kids are excited to return after a pretty decent summer of activities and fun. Bring on the soccer (actually already well in flight), music lessons, Faith Formation, Tae Kwon Do, Chess Club, Curriculum Nights, Field Trips, etc…We. Are. Ready.

Click here for a slideshow of Stewart's Little Mermaid Camp

Click here for a slideshow of the OBX trip

Click here for a slideshow of the DuMont's Baptism celebration

Click here for a random set of pics from July

 

June 2013: HHI Vacation (and a whole bunch of other stuff since April!)

   

Here I am to tell you about this great summer vacation we went on in June shortly after school ended and it is only days before school starts back. Where does the time go? In addition to our fun vacation activities, there were some pretty cool things that happened before heading off to our traditional vacation in Sea Pines.

Mom, Dad, Tim and I went to the Masters in Augusta – maybe the first time that I have spent time with just my Mom, Dad and brother since before college! It was a near perfect day (and not just because we were in Augusta at the Masters) and something I hope we can do more often.

Stewart celebrated her First Holy Communion. I learned I wasn’t AT ALL ready to see her walk down a church aisle in a white gown.

Stewart played in her first ever musical recital (guitar) – I was amazed at her complete lack of nervousness. So cool under pressure or a complete lack of care that she should be worried. Either way another sign of what I believe makes her so full of awesome.

Will and Stewart both had end of grade award days and came away with great awards and some near flawless report cards to boot! These kids learn so much more, so much earlier than I did growing up. Bear with me while I brag on my kids a bit more…Will is showing so many natural leadership qualities at school – he has such a passion for learning and others in his class seem to draw to him for help.

As a family we celebrated Mom’s Day over brunch at the Fish Market (highly recommend this restaurant) with Cindy and her mom (Nanny) and her dad and Earth Day at the Greenway. Both fun and cool days.

Our time in Hilton Head each year is always so much fun for us. Mom (Grammy) and Dad (Poppy) always come with us which makes vacation even easier with an extra set of eyes. We all seem to enjoy being in HHI at Sea Pines equally. This year I enjoyed watching Charlie get more confident on a two-wheel bike (he especially liked the flatness of HHI and wide sidewalks) and learning how to swim on his own (he just decided it was time to swim on his own when only weeks back he was terrified of it!), seeing my Mom on a bike (I think she enjoys HHI and Sea Pines the most which makes me happy – Mom/Dad: if you guys are reading this you should totally move there!), seeing Cindy sit, just sit in a beach chair and read her book (this woman I married does so little sitting and relaxing – for all she does for our family she should do this so much more!), watching my Dad get his cooking on when it was time for our Low Country Boil and having special 1×1 time with each of my kids (they have no idea how much I enjoy spending time with them individually). Sea Pines makes it so easy to relax. I love being able to bike everywhere and would love all of the shaded areas. We did all of the traditions, the Low Country Boil, the magician who pulls money out of a lemon in South Beach, Greg Russell in Harbortown, hot tub time in the ‘Mickey Mouse’ pool and even found a few new traditions to keep up on our next trip like eating at A Low Country Backyard (restaurant we highly recommend for their pimiento cheese and banana pudding) and homemade dessert night (this year it was blueberry cobbler). As a family we are very fortunate to be able to go to great places like HHI each year and we try hard to never take it for granted.

Below you will find links to slideshows of the various events that took place between Easter and the HHI vacation. In my next entry you will get caught up on our lives between the HHI vacation and the start of the next school year.

Click here for a slideshow of Mom, Dad, Tim and me at the Masters

Click here for a slideshow of Earth Day

Click here for a slideshow of Mom’s special day

Click here for a slideshow of Stewart’s First Holy Communion

Click here for a slideshow of some end of school activities

Click here for a slideshow of our trip to Hilton Head