Our Resident Poltergeist

Having kids is often like running a long term psychological experiment.  Whenever I have the opportunity to take a step back from the coal face of parenting, I find it fascinating to study these wee creatures I share living space and DNA with.

My kids have amazing imaginations and have the ability to conjure up games to play out of nothing more than sticks and pebbles and sometimes just out of nothing.  Of course, they also have the ability to claim, with annoying regularity, that they have “nothing to play with” despite having a basement playroom stocked substantially with toys. As I said: psychology.

But I digress.

Sometimes those imaginative games cause a bit of havoc.  For example, some years ago, in a village churchyard in England, my boys decided to entertain themselves while I wandered around the graves.  Inspired by a war memorial, they decided to reenact trench warfare using daisies versus buttercups in the long grass.  It was all fun and games until one of them bellowed, “Die, Germans, die!” – at the exact moment that a bus full of German tourist disembarked into the church yard.

On a more domestic level, one of my children once delayed leaving the house because he was packing his invisible backpack full of invisible items he might need for the trip.  I  became increasingly frustrated as I watched him scuttle up and down stairs several times having forgotten his invisible sword and invisible helmet.  “Can’t you just imagine that you didn’t forget?” I pleaded.  In vain.  Then there was the time they had a ferocious argument over the unfair distribution of invisible sweeties.

It was, therefore, bound to go a bit crazy when the younger three decided to make up a resident poltergeist for our house.  Alas, it may have been me who inspired them.  I am one of those mothers who ask (or yell) rhetorical questions in a futile  attempt at making my kids realise they have done something annoying.  Then there are the interrogations where nobody confesses and I have inadequate evidence to press charges.  I like to snark, at no one in particular, “Well if none of you did it then I guess the ghost is to blame!”  Obviously, therefore, they needed a ghost to blame.

That is how Joey appeared.

At first it was quite amusing.  The boys created this whole tragicomic backstory for Joey to explain why he was haunting our house.  Any mischief was, of course, down to Joey but the  kids accepted that wraiths cannot be directed by furious mothers to put things right so they would have to help Joey out.  Joey trashed the bedroom.  Oh well, you kids will just have to tidy it all back up again.  Joey doesn’t want us to eat this dinner because it looks gross.  Oh well, Joey will just have to watch you go hungry then.

Then the night time nonsense started.

They couldn’t get to sleep at night because Joey was keeping them awake.  They were too scared of Joey haunting them to be able to sleep with the light off or without sharing a bed.  That got old really quickly.  There are child-generated nonsenses I can cope with and manage during the day that I just cannot tolerate when I am frazzled at the end of the day and especially if I am both frazzled and sleep deprived.

“You do understand that Joey doesn’t exist, right?  So he cannot possibly be haunting you?  So you have nothing to be scared of?”

Agreement would be nodded.

“But I am scared.” Throw in some puppy dog eyes and a lip quiver for maximum effect.

“You do remember that you all made Joey up, right?  He doesn’t exist except in your imagination?  Because you made it all up? So there is no ghost.  Go to bed.  Stay there. Go to sleep.”

Finally their imaginations moved on to new things and Joey was forgotten.  It was as if an Exorcist had been around.  Thank goodness.  No more nocturnal whimperings about being haunted by a ghostly boy.  No more being haunted at night time by our own kids.

Then, just last week, Joey was back.  A sequel to the ghost story.

Snuggled up on the sofa with the kids watching a movie one evening, my 9 year old looked stricken towards the window, raised a finger to point, and said, “Joey’s face is at the window”.  And it all started again.  Sigh.  Joey, who had been forgotten, was firing up their imaginations again.

Powerful imaginations are great.  I just wish I could switch them off and power them down every evening.

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A Sense of Wonder

This week’s Colour Me Positive theme was all about Wonder.  The supporting quotation was one Plato attributed to Socrates: “Wisdom beings in Wonder”.  I really engage with that idea, that knowledge and wisdom emerges from the exploration, diligent learning, and experience that is driven by wonder, inquisitiveness and curiosity, the need to search for answers.  As a bookish nerd, that really speaks to me.  An additional prompt suggested adding bubbles to the page somewhere.

I was at my monthly art journalling meet up group on Sunday and decided to work on my prompt page.  I have no idea why the idea popped into my head but I do know I was feeling in an illustrative mood so I sketched out this little figure of a child floating in space, awed and amazed and in wonderment at the universe.  I hope the facial expression suggests wonder.  The helmet can be a nod to the bubble prompt.  As I was in a coffee shop and had my limited travel art supplies with me, this was drawn with micron pens and watercolour pencils which I activated with water once I was home.

Dare I say it myself but I think this is a pretty charming little illustration and I am really rather pleased with how it turned out.

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Self-Portrait: Dreams and Affirmations

The second Life Book lesson of the week turned out to be a bit of a labour of love.  The lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte and the idea was to create a self-portrait as the focal image of a piece all about dreams and affirmations.

As I explained recently, I am not averse to creating self-portraits as they are very good practice.  However, I don’t like to work on them too frequently so I decided to make a little twist on the theme and paint a portrait of me as a child.  I used a photograph of myself when I was three.  That is a time for limitless dreams after all.  I also borrowed ideas from my own art journal page as the inspiration for elements of this painting.  There were lots of layers and processes going on in this piece.  Because I work in fits and starts, it felt like it was taking me ages to get it anywhere.

I am not sure how I feel about this piece.  I think it probably needs more work to pull it completely out of the “ugly stage” but I was in danger of turning areas into mud or pilling the paper by over-working the layers so I had to step away from it and leave it be.  Frankly, I also ran out of time to devote to it.  I can see that it does very much look like little me so that is a plus.  I have also learned a lot from the things that went right and the things that went awry.  Ultimately, I think this piece is probably too personal for me to be able to have any objectivity.

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The Littlest Pict is Six

Our youngest son turned six on Tuesday.  The gifts were an explosion of Minions.  He’s fanatical about those crazy wee yellow guys so present after present was minion themed.  Even the cards that his brothers made for him featured minions.  There were minion sets to build, minion bubble bath, a minion shaped pillow, a minion blanket an minion googles.  The three gifts he received that strayed from that theme were a jumper covered in bugs and creepy crawlies, the Paddington movie on DVD and a dancing baby Groot Pop.

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After a day at school, during which time he distributed candy treats to his classmates, he was allowed to choose the birthday meal.  He chose McDonalds.  Ugh.  My older kids have always chosen a home-cooked meal, curry being a particular favourite, but no, this kid wanted to eat junk for his birthday dinner.  As we trekked to McDonalds and munched our greasy food, I felt like a failed parent.  We maybe need to look again at our birthday dinner rule.  Then it was home for a cake with frosting so sweet it made my teeth curl.  But the Littlest Pict had a terrific day and that was the important thing.

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A Very Bacon Birthday

Yesterday our oldest son turned 12.  It is astonishing to us as his parents how a dozen years could have passed already but they have and we now have a mere year in which to brace ourselves for becoming the parents of a teenager.  His presents included some Funko Pop figures to add to his collection, an ‘Adventure Time’ version of monopoly, a pop-up book of Poe stories, some video recording software and a whole bunch of bacon themed items because he has recently become fanatical about bacon.

Unfortunately he not only had to attend school on his birthday but had state tests to take.  Exams are not an ideal way to celebrate a birthday but we tried to make up for it by letting him choose what we would eat for dinner.  He asked if we could go to Wawa to order hoagies.  Wawa is like a roadside convenience store, a rival of 7/11, and they have these little touchscreens where you can select the ingredients of a hoagie – or order other food – and then it is made up for you.  My kids are definitely small town, rural kids because they still get excited by lifts (elevators) and escalators – you would think they were fairground rides – and the technology involved in getting to construct a sandwich seems to be entertainment for them too.  They have only been allowed to do it twice before so we went with it as a birthday treat.  This meal of hoagies was then followed by a celebratory ice cream cake.  The ice cream cake did not contain bacon.

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From 7 to 8 with Oreo Cake

My third oldest son had his birthday on Wednesday, going from 7 to 8.  Back home in Scotland, his birthday always fell during the Easter break from school.  Two American birthdays in and he is still entirely miffed that he has to go to school on his birthday.  We all got up before the larks in order to all be together while he opened his presents before everyone headed out to school and work.  I have never seen my kids get out of bed so quickly on a cold, dark morning.  They practically bounded.

Just as with his father, there was plenty of geekiness in evidence with regards to the birthday gifts.  He collects ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ figures so he got a couple more of those and a Funko Pop vinyl figure of Stitch, an Islamic Art colouring book and a set of horse tattoos, cuddly raccoon and a cuddly armadillo added to his massive collection of cuddly animals.  We had to get an educational gift in there so he got a circuit building kit.  He got Spiderman and Nova Marvel Infinity figures for the video game the kids have.  He almost exploded with excitement when he unwrapped the Lego Gorilla Grod set.  His major present was a subscription to Marvel Collector Corps.  Every second month, for six months, he will get a parcel in the post that contains lots of Marvel themed goodies.  Now he gets to plague me every day asking when his first box will arrive.

He chose pizza for dinner and then it was time for the birthday cake.  This time it was an oreo cake.  It was rich and very indulgent and the kids devoured their slices.

I would say that was a massively successful birthday – despite having to go to school.

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A Birthday of Firsts

Yesterday my six year old became seven, the first of our children to have a birthday in America.  It was actually a birthday of other firsts too since it was also his first ever birthday on a school day (as spring break is a fortnight long in Scotland) and it was also his first ever birthday celebrated without his Daddy since Mr Pict is in San Francisco for work this week.  Sucky timing.  We did, however, have takeaway pizza on Sunday before he left since pizza is the birthday boy’s favourite dinner.

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Since it was a school day birthday, we were up with the larks in order to ensure that all gifts and cards were opened before it was time to trail out the door to school.  Despite being bleary-eyed everyone bounced out of bed to watch their brother unwrap his gifts and read his cards.  The gifts were a Batman Lego set, two Iron Man figures, horse and shark modelling kits, a cuddly King Kong, a glow pet unicorn and a voucher to go for a horse riding lesson.

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Ultimately he didn’t mind going to school on his birthday for the first time as the class had a little celebration (a classmate was sharing his birthday) and the janitor gave him a bounce balloon as a gift.

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Birthday dinner was quesadillas followed by the Richest Cake In The Universe.  This was a sticky confection of chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, chocolate frosting, Kit Kats and M&Ms.

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