Thursday, December 23, 2010

Open letter to overwrought parents

Bringing your perfectly healthy child to the doctor's office this morning was absolutely the right thing to do. What a great example of proactive parenting to believe that a "preventative" visit to the doctor will assure you a healthy holiday. I know this is what you did because the nurse shared with me your conscientious plan. Because she knows me so well after four years and three children, she felt comfortable sharing this with harried exasperation.

Maybe if I had thought of that brilliant plan, I wouldn't be waiting for 40 minutes past my appointment time with a croupy, wheezing, squirmy infant. I wouldn't dare put him down to explore the germ-laden waiting room that your perfectly healthy child wandered around.

Maybe if I had been bringing my child, sick or not, to the doctor once a month, the front desk staff would have known who I was and rushed me back. Instead, I languished in the waiting room for nearly an hour and witnessed the arrival of a sick child whose symptoms were so alarming that she was rushed back to be seen right away. Hopefully, the very air she breathed was not contagious.

Maybe if you had just stayed home with your healthy kid, my doctor's office wouldn't be solidly booked two days before Christmas and they could actually treat sick children in a timely manner. When kids are sick, time is of the essence, as you probably know. I'm sure when your kids actually are sick you do everything short of call an ambulance, right?

I'm sure you left feeling good about yourself and your child. After all, the doctor must have allayed your fears about the miniscule risk of illness that you surely increased tenfold by bringing your perfectly healthy child in at the height of cold and flu season.

I, on the other hand, left the doctor's office an hour and a half after arriving with the knowledge that my son had a 101 degree fever and a virus and that we would be spending the holidays with a nebulizer and a humidifer and even less sleep than normal. But that's okay. At least, we'll know what's important this year--our health. And we'll slow down, enjoy ourselves and each other as much as possible and do only what our sick child can bear and nothing more.

(Oh, and by the way, I may have let your child play with a used boogie wipe from my purse.)

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Just do the opposite

Life with small children is full of paradoxes.

I'm finding that, in some cases, doing the opposite of what I want to do or think I should do is actually working out quite well. When I can remember to do this, things are a little easier around here.

Faced with a defiant kid? Don't try to be firm, stand your ground or teach them a lesson. Tickle them. (This has just defused so many situations lately.)

The kids won't eat? Don't become a short-order cook, offer lots of little snacks or insist that they eat just two more bites. Starve them. (My kids eat more dinner when they haven't been snacking all day or been forced to eat when they're not hungry.)

One of them won't stop arguing with you? Don't try to get the last word, just realize that it takes two to argue and walk away. He doesn't really think that he's right if he gets the last word. Really.

The kid who knows better becomes demanding? Don't remind him to use manners, just ignore him until he does.

And the biggest paradox of all stems from the most frequent comment I get from other moms when they find out how many and how old our kids number: "Oh, I'd never leave the house."

I quickly found that not leaving the house is the worst thing you can do with three kids under the age of four. Even if it means dressing and shoeing three kids, packing three bags, buckling three kids in the car. (I love the buckling part. It means they can't reach me to wipe their little noses on me.) 

Yesterday morning, the kids were bonkers. Danny woke up mad at the world. Fiona was actually fine until Danny woke up and started agitating everyone, though I was not pleased to find her sitting on the floor scooping ice cream out of the box with her fingers at 8:30. I thought that I had Owen settled down for a morning nap and did a craft with the kids only to learn that he was hollering in his crib, possibly for a while, probably plotting his 3 a.m. revenge on me. I did have a plan to wrap up some errands this morning on a multi-stop tour with three kids in tow. That was a bad idea that I promptly abandoned given the circumstances.

A better idea, however, was to just take all of themthe cranky, the agitated and the naplessto Sam's Club for shopping and a hot dog.

And therein lies the paradox.

My kids are actually better behaved in public than at home. Unless we're in the library. They're always utter heathens in the library. But my assumption was that kids would try to get away with murder in public. Maybe they felt safer in their mischief since mom knew others were watching her every move. Apparently, only mom cares or imagines that others seem to be watching and judging.

That said, our trip to Sam's Club was a rousing success despite one rude shopper who berated me for holding up foot traffic while my son put coins in the Salvation Army kettle. Bravo, lady. Coal for you or better yet, flaming dog poop.

The kids happily ate their hot dogs, shared a bottle of water and took great delight, as usual, in walking over to the trash can to deposit their trash. They never wander off while eating, unlike at home where they are completely incapable of sitting down to eat. (You'd think the seats were lined with hot coals or something.)

Owie watched us from his perch in the cart as he chewed on a plastic straw (don't worry, it was a completely sanitary, individually wrapped straw and he's smart enough not to gag himself). He's never this calm at home while we're eating.

The kids even got a little lesson in using a plastic knife. The kids took turns using it to cut hot dog bun. Danny cut up pieces of the bun and divvied them out. He never shares like this at home.

He even stuck with us, helped put stuff in the cart and didn't ask for too many things. Though, I had to laugh at his response when I said we couldn't buy the kids' playhouse he wanted because it wouldn't fit in the van.

"Wait a second," he says, finger in the air and eyes wide, "We can put it on top of the van."

I love the way he thinks.  He took it pretty well when I gently refused. He also never takes rejection of his ideas that well at home.

So if I ever need some proof that my kids are not monsters, I just take them out in public. Seems like a bad idea, but it's actually makes me feel somewhat successful and gives them a chance to behave well for a change. And I really need that from time to time.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


"I am Fiona ... hear me roar."
It's the week before Christmas, but I guess you all know that. I just find it so hard to believe. The Christmas hype, which I try so hard not to participate in, seems to be seeping into my children's subconscious. They've been cranky and rather bonkers the past two weeks, which is why I skipped last week's edition of "Overheard." I just know you all noticed and your lives were incomplete.

So let's see. What's new? Owen is crawling, full speed on hands and knees. And he's pulling up and cruising. He's 7.5 months old. My mother keeps asking what the heck I'm breeding over here. I told her that I must have steroids in my breast milk. At least he started waking only once after midnight instead of twice recently. I feel like a new woman.

Not really.

Though it has given me just enough energy to do some holiday baking, which is good because I would totally resent this child if I didn't get to make my old favorites—cocoa candy crinkles and sausage bread—and indulge in some new recipes—sugared almonds and white chocolate cranberry fudge.

Fiona is well on her way to being mostly potty trained before she turns 2 at the end of January. I know that I'm a fool for even putting this in writing. One night this week as I explained to her that poop belongs in the potty, not on the floor or the fridge (yes, she actually smeared poop on my fridge), I looked at my husband and said, "Do you get the feeling that she's actually comprehending this?" And he said, incredulously, "Yes, I do."  This morning, I found her at the potty trying to take her diaper off to put her poop in the potty. She's smart, this one. I fully expect that to bite us in the ass. Soon.

And last week, Danny had his four year old check up with our beloved Dr. Greene. He aced the eye exam (knew all his letters and complied with Nurse Wanda's requests, too) and his hearing exam and got a few shots. Danny had quite a bit to say about the shots:

She can't do that. That's not capprofriate. Um, that would be "appropriate." We've been getting a lot of that lately. Apparently, we live in a very inappropriate house these days.

And this ...

That's not a nice, good idea, Danny says to Nurse Wanda, who graciously tried to keep a straight face.

You know, you can go poop at preschool, Danny. 
I can't. The potty is little. [The poop] will stick out.

I can't wait till you go to bed, kid, I say to a fussy Owie at dinnertime.
Why? He does the same thing at night, Jim points out.
Oh, yeah, I forgot. There is no escape.

Danny, your nose is runny. You need to rest, I tell him one morning.
No, no, I can do this, he says as he wipes his nose on his arm. Yuck.

Don't say that, mommy, unless you're in the car, Danny tells me after he hears me say "Son of a bitch."

Sharing: It's the use of one product by two people without screaming, kicking or biting. Jim's definition of sharing. This never happens here.

Use a word, Fiona. I'm trying to cut down on the full body hyper-whine she's got going on. 
Word, she says.

No, me cup, don't, she tells me one morning after I take a sip of her juice. See? She knows words.

Can you say yes? we ask her.
No, she says. Sigh. At least she's not screaming "No" a hundred times a day anymore.

Danny, use the hamper for it's intended purpose, Jim says.
Yes, for my head, Danny replies and runs off naked with a mesh hamper over his head. I wonder if he knows that he's being a smart ass.

Have a great weekend, all.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Screaming uncle

If my life had a theme song these days, it would be that one from the Benny Hill show. (I had wanted to somehow embed that song to go with this post, but, well, I don't have that much time on my hands.)

I envy my husband. At least he knows when his "day" starts by when the alarm clock goes off. I don't even know where one day starts and another ends around here. Is it when the baby wakes up wet and hungry at 2 a.m. or when he wakes up at 6:30 and I throw some toys in his crib so I can try to catch a half hour more sleep? I just don't know.

By 9:30 this morning, I was on my knees in my kitchen, banging my head against the floor and crying, "I can't do this, I can't do this, I can't do this." I reached for the phone to call my best friend who was on her way over to drop something off. I saw that she had called, hit redial and walked toward the dining room to find her at the front door. Never before have I been so glad to see another adult.

Just minutes earlier, I had released myself and two children from my son's bedroom. Have I ever mentioned that I'm claustrophobic and my worst fear is being stuck in an elevator with kids? Well, this was actually worse. I was upstairs changing sheets and trying to locate a pair of pants my son had pooped in when Fiona sprinted into the room and closed the door.

It's locked.

Utter. Panic.

Last I saw the baby, he was standing by the (empty) tub. Did I remember to close the gate at the top of the stairs? Yes, yes. Okay. Next thought: Where is that plastic fork I used to release myself the last time this happened? (Yes, there was a "last time." Don't judge.) Oh, dear God, I couldn't find it. I scoured the room, trying to conceal my panic as Fiona and Danny followed me around the room saying something. Really, all I could hear was screaming inside my head. I glanced out the window at the Hispanic workers on my neighbor's roof and wondered if a woman screaming from an upstairs window would transcend the language barrier. You know, a kind of universal S.O.S.? Would they get it? Would they call 911? I tried to open the window and found that it had been SCREWED SHUT to keep Danny from opening the window.

(My husband later laughed at me and asked how I thought that someone from the outside could get us out any better than I could. Shut. Up.)

Double, triple panic. I could feel myself beginning to hyperventilate. Breath, you can do this. Think. What would MacGyver do? You need something thin and rigid to pop the lock. Meanwhile, I heard a small thud followed by Owen crying in the bathroom. The boy can pull up, but he's not so graceful about getting down just yet.

I finally found a wire coat hanger, straightened it out and popped the lock. I'm free after the longest three minutes of my life.

And that, dear friends, is how I wound up completely unglued by 9:30 this morning. Actually, that was the last straw.

After my 6:30 a.m. ritual of throwing toys in Owie's crib, I heard Fiona stirring and remembered that she was wearing only a diaper and pajama shirt which made the odds of a diaper removal rather high. I also calculated the odds of that diaper having poop in it and those odds, too, are rather high. Unfortunately, I was right on both counts. And she put the, um, package behind her door.

Okay, next adventure ... while I was cleaning up that mess, I lost track of Owen. (It's a wonder this kid is still alive.) Then I heard running water. He's learned how to turn the bathtub faucet on in our bedroom. By the time I arrived, there was an inch of water in the tub, a mile-wide grin on his face and a wicked twinkle in his little Irish eyes. And he's poopy, of course.

Next, Danny is up. I hear this charming diatribe from his room, "You get out. No, Fi Fi. ARGH." And he's sick. He'd been coughing all night long. Then, shortly after coming downstairs, he decided to do a little Christmas decorating—I found him in the dining room plugging in electric candles and setting them up on the window sill. After breakfast, he coughed so hard that he threw up on the floor. It's 8 a.m. and I've already dealt with two poops and one pile of vomit. So what's one more poop incident, right? By around 9:30, I noticed that Danny has changed his pants. Which means he's had an "accident." And it is while I am hunting down the poopy pants and anything else that he may have soiled that I was trapped in the room.

Honestly, some days it's a miracle that the kids are alive by the end of the day. A few weeks ago, when my best friend and her family were over for dinner, they witnessed no less than three incidents in the space of two hours that could have lead to semi-serious injury. We'd like to thank them now for not reporting us to social services.

Oh, and to make matters worse, the baby refused to take a nap this morning. This put a serious crimp in my plans for synchronizing naps. By 11 a.m., I started making lunch, knowing that Owie would last until about noon and if I fed the older two and got them upstairs, I might still be able to pull off plan A. I did (and managed to get some rest for myself) with a little help from Benadryl, which is a slightly more humane coping mechanism than that of the old woman who lived in a shoe. If you recall, she whipped her children soundly and put them to bed. Let the record show that I did not do that, okay?

I write this all down so I can embarrass my children later with tales of their early exploits. Hopefully, I'm not providing evidence for my involuntary commitment hearing. I'm also hoping that if I can make you laugh, maybe I will soon start laughing. Which I do when and only when these incidents run through my head to the tune of the Benny Hill show theme song. It's a start.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Breath of heaven

One morning this week, as our infant son wailed in his "room" (our walk-in closet) from his "bed" (a pack and play), I nudged my husband and asked "Are you awake?" He grunted. I took it as a maybe.

He later told me that he heard a small voice asking him if he was awake, and while he was indeed awake, he couldn't muster the strength to form any words.

That's how I've felt lately about, well, everything. I'm awake, but I can't really speak or think too clearly. It's been about 10 days since I've posted anything in this place. It's December. We've celebrated Danny's birthday. We've decorated for Christmas, mostly outside because our children would destroy whatever we put up. We've gotten a tree which will stay outdoors until a day or so before Christmas. It's even snowed, a lovely, soft snow.

But life goes on. We're in survival mode. I have seven-month-old who is doing this:

I have a little girl who is almost two and trying to potty train herself. (It's not as serendipitous as it sounds. So far this weekend she's peed on the floor and wiped poop on the fridge but at least gone potty a few times on her own.)

I have a four year old who is, well, now that I think of it, actually quite pleasant and fun right now despite the fits of willfulness.

The laundry is backed up. I literally cried when Fiona knocked over my pile of folded laundry. After that, I stopped folding and just stuffed all my clothes in my drawers. (This hurts, people. I used to fold and organize my shirts by color.)

I have three parties this week, one involves a cookie exchange (yeah!!) and the others involve bringing some type of food. And I've scheduled our first attempt at family portrait session, or, as I will likely refer to it for years to come, the holiday suicide mission.

My first attempt at a Christmas calendar was so badly botched by the drug store that I abandoned the entire project and started over with a different store. So much for quick, easy and convenient. On my way home from the store, feeling defeated and stressed, I heard a Christmas song with this charming line, "There's something about Christmas time, makes you wish it was Christmas every day."

Um, really?

I wanted to punch the radio. Better yet, I'd like to hunt down that Bryan Adams and punch his silly Canadian face. (No offense to my French Canadian relatives, of course.)

Christmas is hard enough for me without all this going on. Every year I am dismayed by the excess and the lack of authenticity surrounding celebrations and depictions of Christmas. Every year I struggle with how to connect the dots for myself and my children from the gift giving we do for each other to the gift of the baby Jesus, because, really, a new cell phone or a remote control car or even a real car pales in comparison to that gift. Let's face it, I'm not going to out-give Jesus.

Every year I struggle to explain to a child and myself why we put plastic wreaths and garland and lights up in our house and decorate a live Christmas tree. I mean, it can't just be that we like all the extra vacuuming that comes with these things. I awkwardly explained to Danny the other night that we'd celebrate Jesus' birth soon by bringing our tree in the house. Jim then summed up my confusion nicely, surmising what Jesus may actually think of our charade down here.

"You cut down a live tree and wrapped it with electric lights and put what under it to celebrate my birthday?"

Yeah, what he said. But I would add, "And you spent how much time and energy and money on this?"

Every year I spend at least the first two weeks of December stressed about what to buy for whom and how what I buy will compare to what I receive and whether any of it will be good enough or thoughtful enough. I even feel slightly stressed that while I'm thinking of all these things, the true story of Christmas is not weighing sufficiently enough on my heart. See, guilt is so second nature to me; I was just born to be Catholic.

And, speaking of Catholic, someone showed me to this the other day:
Mary. Doing to Jesus what every mother on earth does to her baby. Hold them close and kiss them. A lot. And I imagine, too, that she's feeling the breath of her son, that breath of heaven, soft and ticklish on her cheek. (I suspect that she's also whispering in his ear that he really should sleep more and let her get some rest.)

My grandmother was Catholic. Much of my father's family is Catholic. I was not raised Catholic, though I chose Catholicism as an adult. Growing up, I never understood my grandmother's love for Mary. It seemed like an obsession, beyond understanding. The year that I played Mary in our church's live nativity scene was a proud year for her. Photos of me dressed as Mary adorned her apartment for years. She once, to my mother's great distress and horror, put a string of rosary beads around my neck when I was a toddler. I'm not sure if it was the Catholic-ness of the beads or the strangulation risk that upset her.

Friday morning, I worked at my Parents Morning Out program at our church. Around 9:30 or so, I sat in the darkened back portion of the church to nurse Owen before his nap. A group was up front saying the rosary. I sat silently and listened.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art though amongst women and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

And I finally felt a little peace about the season. I felt that breath of heaven as I sat with my son, who was breathing steadily in my arms.

Now that I'm a mother, I understand Mary, perhaps better than I understand Jesus, and I understand his love for me. I understand selfless, imperfect love, the kind that would lay down its life for the same child that you want to strangle when they smear poop on the refrigerator door. I understand being afraid of the task I've been charged with. I understand feeling blessed yet unprepared to raise these children. I understand doubt, I understand fear because never before has so much been at stake.

I believe there's a little bit of Mary in all mothers. Esteemed, shown a divine mercy, uncertain but hopeful. The image of Mary and her son is the picture of Christmas to me, not the lights or the decorations or the gifts or the songs or even the food that I love to cook. It's the familiar feeling I get at the sight of her nuzzling that baby in her arms. Because I know what that kind of love feels like. I get to feel it whenever I choose to, not just in December or during the entire Advent season.

And I get to remember that I, too, am loved that way.

Friday, December 03, 2010


Some weeks, it's like Animal House around here.

One morning this week, I woke to a half-naked Fiona peering into Owen's crib, saying, "Owen. Owen. Owen" and Owen clapping his hands and laughing. My morning prayer was, "Please God, don't let there be poop on the floor." That's a good prayer for every morning, you know?

One day this week, I looked around and saw three shoes with their match nowhere in sight, several pairs of socks, a pile of discarded and soiled clothes and several utensils on the kitchen and living room floors. My prayer was for the laundry fairy to come to at least collect it all in one place so I wouldn't find dirty underwear under the steps when company is over.

Most days this week, I've had to wipe my feet on the back door mat after walking through my kitchen. My prayer was "Please God don't let my 7 month old eat anything off the floor." I had already spotted a piece of a paper wrapper and an apple seed in his diaper this week.

Another day this week, I very carefully plucked a half-naked Fiona from the recliner with a piece of poop hanging from her bum. Bum over head, I carried her to the bathroom, plunked her on the pot and shook her a bit to loosen the, ahem, dingleberry. Technically, it was her first poop in the potty. So hooray for that. A few hours later, however, I was scooping stray pieces of poop of our bedroom floor. My prayer was "I guess that's a 'Not today' on the poop on the floor request?"

Yet another day this week, I returned to the kitchen after putting Owie down for a nap to find two kids throwing potatoes. There were milk-soaked Cheerios all over the floor. Danny's response as he's about to hurl a potato across the kitchen?

I'm cleaning up. Oh, you will be, my child, you will be.

Later that day ...
Ouch. I just stubbed my toe on a Cheerios.  As it turns out, when wet Cheerios dry up, they stick to the floor (and the cabinets and the wall.) And, daggone, it actually hurt!

And speaking of daggone ...

My daddy says daggone it, Danny informed the mother of one of his classmates as we were walking into preschool the other day. Boy, did we luck out. He could have told her what mommy says.

Damn, Danny says.
Danny, that's not a word we should say. 
I'm talking about a beaver dam. That's right, he says.

You can open one present on your birthday, Danny.
What is it?
It's a surprise.
Is it gum?

You'll be okay, Owie. There's a whole in [the Cheerios], Jim says. Owie was coughing up a Cheerios. Poor third child ... next we'll teach him how to heimlech himself.

No, Owie, stop that, Fiona tells him after he pulls her hair from behind in the bathtub.

Owie's pulling up on things now, I tell my sister.

 I reject your reality and substitute my own, my incredulous sister replies.
Oh, can we really do that? In that case, my new reality is the one where I get plenty of sleep and a pedicure once a week. Instead, my reality is a 7 month old who is trying to climb stairs. Crap.

I pretty much think any singer who's had panties thrown on stage at them should not be singing Christmas songs, I tell Jim, who had just described hearing Neil Diamond singing Away in a Manger. 
 Not songs about baby Jesus anyway, he said.

Danny, Santa is the only person in the world who it's okay to ask for something when you first meet them, Jim tells Danny. We had just talked to Santa Claus on our Santa Train ride. 

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Mother's and father's day

Each child's birthday is special to us, no doubt. But today is not just our son's fourth birthday. It's the day my husband and I became parents for the very first time. I now understand my mother's annual threat to call me on my birthday at the exact time I was born, which was 4:29 a.m. It's an anniversary for us, too. It's our own personal mother's and father's day.
Every mom I know has a shot like this ...

Four years ago, after our third trip to the birth center in 40 hours of labor, Daniel James was born. I arrived in nothing but a bathrobe and some slip on shoes on an unseasonably warm night and birthed our son, who promptly pooped on my leg, at 9:01 p.m. His labor was one wild  ride and so it has been ever since.

Birthdays give me the chance to look at the whole of my son instead of the daily, often exasperating snapshots of the willful child he's become.

A lot has happened in four short years.

He's learned to walk and talk, feed and dress himself, and use the bathroom (most of the time).

He's become a big brother. Twice.

He's made friends quickly and easily. He's collected and lost more Matchbox cars than I can count. He's driven his dump truck about a hundred miles through yard. He's eaten an orchard full of apples, his favorite food, most likely because it is his favorite color, red. He's gone off to preschool and learned how to negotiate his new world without his mommy. He has a large family of stuffed animals that he cares for with the gentleness and consideration that I wish he would show his little sister.

I'm starting to see his personality emerge. He's actually quite a bit like his father. He notices right away when something is broken or not level or is just not quite right and insists that it be fixed. He questions everything, has his own ideas about how to do things and is persistent. All qualities that will serve him well in life but drive his parents crazy.

The weather yesterday and today is strikingly similar to that day and night and day and night four years ago when I was in labor with him. Our neighbors in the cul-de-sac across the street have their kitschy, plastic lighted manger outthe same one we passed on our walks while I was in labor. That day four years ago, I remember sitting on a  hammock, feet on the ground, rocking through the early contractions which my brother Timmy helped time. Yesterday afternoon, Danny and I hung out in that hammock, in that same position, rocking back and forth and flipping ourselves into the leaves. He dissolved into hysterical giggles as he sunk beneath the leaves.

Happy Birthday, Danny boy.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


We had a wonderful Thanksgiving day here. There was a fire in the fireplace all day long. There were pumpkin spice lattes in the crock pot.  And I somehow managed to cook a 14 pounds turkey, mashed potatoes, rosemary roasted squash, apple sausage stuffing (in the crock pot!!) and green beans and chocolate cream and pumpkin pies. Jim made some awesome dinner rolls. However, there were mishaps. I managed to burn the green beans, which I was steaming. Which means that I essentially burned water (Jim asked if I smoked the green beans. How cute.). And the cavity search of the turkey failed to turn up the giblet bag. I found it after cooking the bird and was fishing out little bits of paper from my gravy. All in all, though, not bad for a woman with three kids who hasn't had a good night's sleep in four years.

My parents took the two older kids overnight on Wednesday, which is how I got all the prep work done Wednesday afternoon and evening. Jim went to pick them up Thanksgiving morning which allowed me to get started on the cooking.  I'm always amazed at how inefficient holiday cooking is. I spent probably no less than six hours preparing and cooking the meal. We sat down to eat at around 1:15. My dad and I were in the kitchen cleaning up by 1:45. And this year, Danny said the blessing:

Thank you for food. Amen. Short, sweet and to the point.

I can't believe she's still dry, I say of Fiona who was wearing underpants for hours one day without a single accident.
Well, that's what happens when you spill your drinks all day long, Jim says.

Fiona, the potty is for everyone. Geesh, she pees in it one time and she thinks that she owns the potty.

Stop that! I was rather surprised to hear Fiona shouting at me in the kitchen one afternoon. She came downstairs on her own after her nap. Which means she can open doors now. I'm considering putting chain locks on several doors inside the house.

He's trying to put a round peg in a square hole, Jim says of Danny who is getting frustrated trying to put a toy on the shelf.
I think you mean putting a square peg in a round hole; that's harder, I point out.
Yeah, but [what Danny was trying to do] is easy, Jim counters.

Would you stop making a mess? I have to clean it up now. I don't like that, Danny tells me sternly as he sweeps the kitchen floor. Ditto, kid, ditto.

How did you get a tomato in your hair? Really, child, how?

No, Owie, you can't have my coffee, Jim says as Owie reaches for his cup. You stay up all night all on your own.

I just peed my pants. Ooooooohhhhh. This has to stop, Danny says. Um, I've been saying that for a year now, kid.

Gumbop, Fiona says. That would be "gumdrop."

Do you want a fig newton and a gumdrop? Jim asks.
NO, not two of them, Danny cries. (This is what happens when the kid has no nap.)
Daddy's so mean, Jim mutters.

What happened? What the heck. Danny exclaims upon seeing Nana and PopPop's gutted kitchen.

Why is the step stool in the sink? Jim asks Danny. Indeed. Seems young Daniel has a temper. I can't imagine where he gets that.

I want cereal, Fiona tells me, clear as can be. Who the heck taught this girl to speak in complete sentences?

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

One day

One day I will wake up, stretch, yawn and leisurely get out of bed instead of hitting the floor at the sound of a fussy infant or an obliviously happy toddler exhorting her big brother to wake up.

One day I will put on clothes and wear them all day long without someone using them as their personal handkerchief.

One day I will walk down the hall upstairs and not be assaulted by the smell of urine-soaked diapers. (soon I hope?)

One day I will make breakfast for one person—myself—and none of what's prepared will wind up on the floor, the window, the ceiling or in someone's hair.

One day I will put deodorant on and brush my teeth shortly after getting out of bed instead of rushing back in from the van to do this after strapping the kids in their car seats. Maybe one day I'll even take a shower upon awakening.

One day I will grab my purse, my keys and my coat and get in my car (anything but a minivan) and buckle in only myself. I will drive in utter silence and will not have to explain the rules of the road or have them dictated by a precocious 4 year old.

One day I will not have to put up a baby gate, close the kitchen doors and secure the baby (or even take him with me) just to ensure the children's safety while I go to the bathroom. In fact, one day I'll go potty, I mean, to the bathroom all alone. 

One day I will walk into the TV room and the ottomans won't be overturned and there will not be a perfectly straight line of cars on the sofa. (The irony of this never escapes me.)

One day I will set a cup of hot tea on an end table and eat a cookie in the living room instead of putting the tea on the highest shelf and eating cookies in the hall closet.

One day my conversations with my husband will not revolve around poop, pee pee accidents, time outs, pacifiers, the status of the laundry or the location of Dennis the monkey, Professor Gilbert (the cat) or Princess Piggy.

One day, at dinnertime, I will feed and cut food for only myself and I will not get up to fulfill one more request for icy water.

One day my husband and I will go out to eat and the dinner conversation will not turn to the plots of such books as Owl Babies and Little One Step.

One day my exercise routine will not include bending, squatting, lifting or sweeping the floor.

One night I will slip into bed, flip on a lamp and read a book that has nothing to do with how to get children to sleep, obey or eat.

One night I will drift off to sleep without freezing every time a child rolls over or coughs or whimpers.

One day, maybe a beautiful fall day like today, I will cook a pumpkin pie and prep Thanksgiving dinner without maneuvering around a sleeping infant in a sling. Maybe on that day I will be preparing for the arrival of my grown children—because they will not be living at home. I'll probably be looking forward to a house filled with noise and chaos. And I may even cut someone's meat at our holiday meal just for old time's sake.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A quick update

Judging by which rooms I find myself in most often, it seems that I spend most of my time monitoring what goes into and what comes out of my children. I'd forgotten what it was like to spend most of my day shuttling between the kitchen, the bathroom and the diaper changing station. I've been spoiled. I've spent most of this week shoveling food into two kids who are eating like there's no tomorrow, chaperoning one in the bathroom and changing the stinky diapers of a 6 month old who is eating solid foods.

After Fiona's dismal potty statistics over the weekend (potty 1, pants, um, a lot), we decided to ditch the effort and try again later. After all, she's only 22 months old. However, Fiona has forced us to continue. During the week of Thanksgiving. With multiple outings and overnights planned starting tomorrow. Our timing around here, and especially with her, sucks. Last year at this time, we had just begun helping her sleep more soundly through the night. She was nine months old and 10 days into the operation we took a Thanksgiving trip to Maryland. So here we go again.

I tried to to deter her by putting her in a diaper Monday morning, but within 15 minutes of being downstairs, she was trying to take it off in favor of the potty. Fiona is obsessed with the bathroom. In fact, she thinks that she owns the toilet. She screams "MINE" when anyone else goes near it. She goes in and sits on it several times an hour. She flushes the toilet a dozen times a day whether she does anything in it or not. (I'm expecting a very high water bill.) And while I'm not trying to incentivize (is that even a word?) potty going with her yet, I am trying to disincentivize the toilet flushing by making it's use a reward for actually delivering something into it. 

About an hour after breakfast on Monday morning, I had a bare bum rebellion on my hands. Danny saw Fiona running around half naked (I can't keep undies on her either) and decided to join the party. There's been a lot of that since. This evening, we had naked time before bath. And somehow a potato landed in my chocolate cake amidst the shenanigans of two naked, giggling kiddos. In an effort to be super efficient and a super cool mom who lets her kid help in the kitchen, Danny and I made the Hershey's chocolate cake recipe this afternoon in many different configurations—mini cupcakes for us, regular cupcakes for his preschool class (next week is his birthday) and the rest poured into a round pan. It's not like I really had plans for the cake—I was just going to slowly and secretly devour it in the hall closet over the next few days. I'm not sure what became of the potato.

I have, however, enjoyed the slowed pace that comes along with potty training. We haven't had anywhere to go. There was no preschool this week. No play dates planned. We've been outside a lot jumping in the leaves—nature's answer to the plastic ball pit. The kids have been jumping off the picnic table and careening down the slide head first into huge leaf piles. Heck, even I have been laying around in the leaves. And Owen, of course, has been shoving as many of them in his mouth as he possibly can.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I've gone completely off the deep end here. I'm actually considering a potty training attempt this weekend with Fiona. She's almost two, she's interested and she can pull her own pants up and down. So one day this week, I started putting her in underpants for a few hours after her nap, from which she woke up dry.

The first afternoon Danny, a k a Admiral Pee Pee Pants, showed her the ropes.

"See, Fi Fi, you pull your pants down and sit on the potty, then you pee," he says as I try hard not to laugh bitterly at the irony of all this. 

By this afternoon, my daughter was wearing underpants and hasn't had a single accident and my son was wearing pajamas, no underpants and some Spiderman boots because he had peed in all of the pants he owns. And he has a lot of pants for this very reason. Sigh.

And without further ado ...

We got to hack down the trees and change the leaves, Danny proclaimed a few weeks ago. He had been frustrated that the leaves weren't changing colors yet. I remembered his comment a few days ago as the leaves finally began to change. And it is quite spectacular to behold.

Do I really need a how-to [on putting Owen's pajamas on]? Nana asks as I'm describing how best to wrestle him into pajamas. Imagine trying to dress yourself on a navigational buoy in a hurricane. Yeah, it's that difficult.

Eat what's already on top on the trash can, Fi. She decided to put her snack on top of the trash can. Honestly, after finding 1-year-old Danny toddling around the back yard with a piece of petrified dog poop in his mouth, I am utterly unflappable.

Getting a snack ready? Jim asks as I'm sweeping the kitchen floor. That night's haul included a fork, two baby food jar lids, several dried apples, a dried orange rind and a pile of cracker crumbs.

Ugh. Don't put your carrots in the play dough. Ok, so maybe I shouldn't have let her take the play dough out while lunch was still on the table.

It's play time, then bed time, then clean up time, Danny says as he ticks off each event on his fingers.
So it's clean up time after going to bed?
Yes, that's a good idea. 
How convenient for you, dear.

Fi disastered it, Danny says. Yep, that's what our girl does around here. (I don't even remember what she "disastered.")

What are we doing tonight? Jim asks.
Giving the kids Benadryl and putting them to bed, I reply. What? They're all full of snot (among other things).

Have a great weekend. Enjoy the colors.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The one about Owen

Owen is six and a half months old. And he doesn't like sleeping. I asked a good friend to please remind me of this when I start thinking that I want another baby.

All the old wives' tales are just that: old tales. My kids never slept better when they started eating or when they hit 13 pounds or when they had lavender baths or went to bed earlier or later or didn't nap or did nap or even were dosed with Benadryl (which I would never do, of course).
My children simply don't sleep for the first nine months of their life. Coincidentally, that is when my children experience the most rapid physical and mental development. I'm convinced that they're just too busy and eager to learn to sleep with any regularity. They have all been great nappers but crappy night-time sleepers. (And since I don't sleep too well when I'm pregnant, it's been about two and a half years since I've had a good night's sleep.)

Lately, Owen has been bucking the bedtime routine.One night this week he was up until 9:30. We had tried several times to get him to sleep, but he kept popping back up, wide eyed and laughing. He spent at least two hours playing quietly on the floor and then finally fell asleep in the chair with Jim.

The next night, after two failed attempts at bedtime, he began clapping his hands for the first time in his life and then tried and almost succeeded in pulling up on the baker's rack. Clearly, I have steroids in my breast milk if my six month old can do that.

Other than that, we like him pretty well. He's growing and learning and laughing at his brother and sister. At his six month appointment last week, Owen weighed in at 18 lbs 14 oz. and is 29 inches tall. He's happy most of the time, even when he's up at night. When he wakes, he usually wants to nurse but doesn't want to go back to sleep. The only reason he cries at night is because we won't play with him. (I know, we're so mean. Who wouldn't want to play with a baby at 3 a.m., right?)

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Danny, Owen and I have been recovering from a cold this week. It's been kind of nice.

Wait, that didn't sound right.

What I mean is that pulling back from our regularly scheduled activities has been a breath of fresh air despite all the coughing and boogers. Monday, we took it easy. Tuesday, Danny stayed home from preschool and we played inside, watched videos and eventually went outside to play. By  Wednesday morning, Danny had gotten himself up and dressed, ate breakfast then bundled himself up to go outside by 8:00 a.m. No hounding to get moving, no threats over breakfast, no rushing out the door for preschool, no errands to run.  It was just nice. And Danny and Fiona played together as if they might actually like each other. (Next week, I'm expecting World War III.)

And without further ado ...
Mom, come see, there's a mess. Um, I'd rather not. But thanks for the update.

What's wrong, Mom?
I'm sick.
You need to sleep, he says, nodding his head.
Oh, if only you all would let me.

I went to sleep and woke up and it's still not my birthday. Ooooohhhhh. It's going to be a long month here. His birthday is December 1.

It's not coming off, Danny says of the bite mark that Fiona left on his hand.

Something's sticking in my butt. It's a pine cone, Danny says. Oh joy. The 4-year-old potty talker has arrived.

Here, Fi, put this in your purse, I say when Fiona brings me her purse. We ladies put lots of junk we don't need in there. At that moment, four scrunchies, a baby sock, a medical receipt, a cell phone, one Sea Band, one pen, my midwife's business card, an expired driver's license, a birthday party invitation, about 10 grocery receipts and some cracker crumbs were floating around my purse.

Owie, you're going to try a little something tonight that we like to call sleeping. It's fun, it's easy and it makes people like you better, 'kay? Good thing babies don't get sarcasm. Or maybe they do. He laughed at me when I said this.

I think my prayers were answered, Jim tells me.  ... I got home today and Danny had no voice. Danny, who is incapable of speaking in a normal, non-whiny voice, has been sick with a cold this week. We're so sad for him.

Danny, don't wipe your nose with your spoon. This kid has also managed to wipe his nose on the waistband of his underpants.

Oh, and I just must share this little incident:

I heard Owen laughing hysterically in our bedroom while I was in the laundry closet. I came in to find Owen on his back and Fiona straddling him. He thought it was hilarious. I was terrified. Those two have a little thing going on.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One from the kitchen ...

Do you know what this is?

If you answered, "a dried apple," then give yourself a gold star.

Do you know where I found this? If you said, "Trader Joe's", then guess again. I found it ...


(And yes, I did take a little bite out of it. I know, that was very unhygienic of me. But it was also pretty tasty, just like dried apples from Trader Joe's.) 

It occurred to me that in addition to my kitchen floor being a giant trough, it is also a food dehydrator. Go figure.

So ... if a sliver of apple left on the floor for, oh, I don't know, maybe 48 hours turns into a dried apple a la Trader Joe's, then, maybe using just the air in my kitchen and my habit of forgetting about various projects that I've started, I can make dried apples. Chances are by the time I remember the slivers of apple sitting atop my refrigerator, they'll be dried.

And this is what I got ...

Not bad. They're quite tasty, but not as sweet as the floor-dried version. I should have left them longer than 24 hours, but I'm impatient. I like to think of it as Danny's first homeschool science and economics lesson. Using free air in the kitchen instead of a $60 food dehydrator, decomposition and dehydration occurred, creating a tasty little snack or addition to our oatmeal or whatever. And it's a whole lot more hygienic than eating two-day old dried apples from the kitchen trough, er, floor.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Cosmic dot to dot

I made a decision Wednesday afternoon not to attend a childbirth educator workshop as scheduled. It was made an hour before we were set to leave. With the car packed. And my mom there to take care of the older kids. And it was the third time I had changed my mind that day.

The organization I was about to involve my family in is embroiled in a dispute among its members. One camp started its own certifying body in response to years of dissatisfaction with the current management. Lawyers are involved. And very strong, passionate personalities. And a whole lot of contention and uncertainty.

I didn't make this decision with my head, though. It's a little foggy up there from four years of intense sleep deprivation. My gut and my ailing, exhausted body had to convince my brain.

This organizational uprising came to a head Friday, October 29. I was supposed to leave Wednesday, November 3. And now I and countless others are in limbo. Some people I know have switched to the new organization. Others are on the fence. Still others are firmly entrenched with the original group. Clearly, I can't make this decision based on what others are doing.

I'd like to say that 11 years of learning to live a certain way of life helped me let go of the issue and focus on recuperating and spending time with my family this weekend. I spent way too much time monitoring the situation online, which is where much of it played out over the past week. And along with my head exploding
from a vicious cold, it was also bursting with the question of what this all means. Because I want to know right now what the next step is and why this happened when it happened. (Seriously, the timing of this could not have been worse for me. And it's all about me, right?) I really believe things happen for a reason and I'm always intrigued by the timing of such things. I like to connect events and timing in a sort of cosmic dot to dot. It really helps me see the big picture. Unfortunately, completing the dot to dot can takes months, if not years.

One of my earliest school memories was of doing a dot-to-dot picture at my desk while the school principal stood behind me telling a visitor that I was one of the school's star students. Then he leaned in to instruct me not go from number 5 to number 27, but to instead go in numeric order. Even at a young age, I would get ahead of myself in a rush to see the big picture. (Come to think of it, this incident may also have shaped my pathological fear of messing up when others are watching. A shrink would have a very expensive field day with this one.)

Over the weekend, the short-term big picture began to emerge. I could have spent four days at a training workshop with a mind poisoned and distracted by the dirty laundry that had been aired about this group. I would have been sick (by Friday, I had a fever). Owen would have been miserable. Jim would have been frustrated trying to keep him happy. My other kids would have missed us. My parents would have been exhausted. And I would have felt guilty for putting everyone through this and too distracted to concentrate on the training. Our money, time and energy invested in this group would have factored into a looming decision about whether to stay or jump to the new group.

In a way, I'm fortunate. I don't have to make a decision right now. I'm at the beginning of a new career. Actually, I'm at the pre-beginning. I didn't even start. I didn't take the first step, which is what this workshop would have been. Sure, I'd invested some time in the academic requirements. It actually didn't feel like work. I love reading about pregnancy and childbirth. I love being around pregnant and nursing moms who help each other feel empowered through birthing and mothering their babies.

As for the long-term big picture, that one is not so clear. I'd like to go from 5 to 27 in this cosmic dot-to-dot, but the resulting picture just wouldn't make sense. I'd like to just take my "lesson" from this, apply it and move on, but the lesson isn't even clear. I do know, however, that the choice is really about when not who I certify with. Because, ultimately, my loyalty is to my family—the four people who allowed me to personally experience the joy of natural childbirth.

Friday, November 05, 2010


I'm sick. I'm exhausted. I am supposed to be out of town right now. But I'm not. I'm in my kitchen at midnight, gulping ice cold water to soothe my sore throat. I made a decision Wednesday, a very, very last minute decision that I'm still processing. The only thing I know for sure right now is that it is never, ever, ever too late to change your mind about anything if your heart and your gut tell you not to proceed. No matter how much money is at stake, no matter how much time you've invested, no matter who else is affected by your decision, regardless of what others may think.

That is all.

Enjoy this week's offerings and maybe sometime soon I'll be able to process and tell you the what and why and how of this past week (as if you're all waiting with baited breath! Right?).

This is my space. Go find a place where I am not, I tell the kids. Seriously, they were crawling all over and under me while I was trying to type. How dare they.

When are you going to have another baby, mom? Danny asks. Um, how 'bout never? Is never good for you? It occurred to me later that for as long as Danny can remember I have been either pregnant or nursing.

Eggy, Fiona says as she points to the donut holes that Jim brought home. Considering that she doesn't like eggs, I think I'll just let her believe that one.

What did they talk about at church today, Danny? I ask

Goslings, he replies. Then he goes into a long diatribe about goose poop.

A few minutes later ...

Jim, Danny says they talked about goslings at church today. 
Oh, yeah, the holy gosling according to professor Gilbert. (PG is his stuffed, blind kitty.)
Darn, he's pretty good at translating!

It's sticking out, Danny says of his, um, member which is sticking out of his underwear.
Um, let me straighten out the waistband, I say, hoping this solves things. (It doesn't.)
It's still sticking out, he shrieks.
Um, just grab it and shift it over, I say. I am so not prepared to deal with boy issues. Who knew there needed to be a lesson on "shifting"? Jim, you want to take this one?

You know your kitchen floor is dirty is when you're sweeping up utensils, I remarked to Jim as he was making dinner.
He countered, You know your kitchen floor is dirty when you're sweeping up before dinner.

Good night.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Spiritually disheveled and that's okay

Shortly after Fiona's and Owen's baptism, we began going back to mass. Partly out of guilt. After their baptism, the priest asked if we were new in the parish as he hadn't seen us around. I told him that we've come on and off for years (mostly off) and that it was hard to get here with the children.

Since September we've managed to make it about every other week. This past weekend was the first time we'd made it for the second weekend in a row. And I'm using the term "made it" pretty loosely. This past Sunday, there was not much difference between night and morning thanks to Owen. Jim had taken Owen out to the 24-hour Wal-Mart so I could sleep in and brought back donut holes. I managed to get the two older kids dressed and fed and myself showered. But Owen wound up losing the getting dressed lottery and went in his pajamas. Turns out he wasn't the only disheveled one in our bunch. As I unbuckled Fiona in the church parking lot, I discovered that she had only one shoe on.

Unlike previous Sundays, the kids were restless and not able to be quiet. Fiona ran around the halls while Jim policed her (maybe giving her a donut hole was not such a good idea); I tried to console cranky Owen while trying to listen to the homily from the hallway. Danny did go into the children's Mass eventually and later told us they talked about goslings (that would be the Holy Gospel). We left before hitting the host. All in all, it was the worst attempt at Mass we've had since we started going back.

When we returned home, Jim finished repairing the kids' wagon (that mommy broke about a year ago when she hurled it over the fence after breaking up one too many fights between the kids). We took a walk down the cul-de-sac, then a hike in the woods across the street. I'm pretty sure God is in the woods on beautiful fall days.

I have a pretty good grasp on how to teach our kids many, many things—reading and match concepts, most manners, getting dressed, hygiene and so on. For some reason, though, teaching and talking about Jesus have been more difficult for us. We're not deeply religious people. We don't pray much around the kids, although Jim used to do bedtime prayers with Danny. We don't talk about Jesus too often, although Danny did excitedly proclaim recently that God made gum. We hadn't gone to church regularly because our specific denomination offers little in the way of child care or even age-appropriate programs. Yet we are deeply spiritual people. We rely on God's wisdom and God's grace every minute of every day, sometimes even without consciously knowing it. And that is difficult to explain to young children.

At Danny's preschool, they emphasize prayer as a habit, part of their daily routine. They pray when they begin their morning, when the eat snack and when they close for the day. That's good. At home, Danny now sets up the snack, getting out cups and napkins and exhorting us to pray. "Let's pray for food," he says. And he folds his little hands and says, "God is great. Thank you for food. Amen." He doesn't close his eyes, though. His first introduction to prayer was at school was a bit traumatic. The teacher told the kids to close their eyes. He did. And then he freaked out, crying "It's dark. It's dark. I can't see."

Many churches introduce children to Jesus through Bible stories. I've read Danny a few Bible stories, but his eyes glaze over. He can probably sense that I'm not too interested myself. As a child, I knew all the stories. My understanding of them was a little odd, though. For instance, I really believed that Jesus was born every Christmas and somehow four months later he was a man who hung on the cross, was buried and then rose again.  I had a very vivid picture of these things in my head. I remember being sad and anxious around Easter time because, in Jerusalem, people were getting ready to crucify Jesus. And when you think about the imagery surrounding such stories, it's hard to explain without giving kids nightmares. Daniel was put in a lion's den and prayed that he wouldn't get eaten. Three men whose names I won't dare try to spell were put in a furnace for not bowing down to an idol. God told Abraham to sacrifice his own son on the altar and he almost did. And the man who saved all these men was hung on a cross to die for our sins. There must be better ways to teach faith, loyalty and sacrifice than through Old Testament horror stories and the crucifixion.

I certainly didn't learn those things from the stories of Jesus' life and those who followed him in the early years. Relating my life to Biblical principles came only after, well, living my life. My life experience, some of it rather rough and dark, was what brought me into the fold. The church of my youth actually caused me to flee from the fold.

Would I have known Jesus was even there without the Biblical foundation offered in church? Maybe not. But my point here is that my road back to a relationship with God was a hard one, seemingly made more difficult by church and the ideas that were put in my head at a very young age.

My son may be on to something with his aversion to closed-eye prayer. I tend to pray with my eyes open. It's then that I see what's before me. And when I see what's before me, I am grateful and when I'm grateful, I pray. Even when what's before me does not appear to be ideal. Even when life is stormy. Even when the next right thing to do is not clear.

I wrote the preceding paragraph about two months ago and really needed to be reminded of that this morning as I struggle with what to do next in a certain situation. If Owen hadn't gotten up this morning at 4:30 a.m. (and gone back to sleep), I wouldn't be sitting at my kitchen table rereading these words, taking them to heart and praying a prayer of gratitude for the wisdom God surely gave me, for the grace He bestows and the spiritual discipline that He has imposed and I have accepted over the years. 

Spiritual discipline is a hard thing to teach to a child. But it's the only thing that makes sense in my world. We'll stumble along with the Lord as our guide, though, and hopefully, our children will see faith in all its messy action.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Up until this week we got a different answer every time we asked Danny what he wanted to be for Halloween. Now we're on the hook for a helicopter pilot costume. Dear God, help us.

My husband is, at this very hour, trying to outfit our double stroller as a helicopter for Danny, who insists on being a helicopter pilot for Halloween. We're slowly working out the details of the rest of the costume. (Have I ever mentioned how much I despise Halloween? Well, except for the big bag of candy that we buy two weeks before Halloween that almost never makes it to the trick or treaters.)

Halloween 2009
Fiona is easier. She doesn't have a preference and the biggest challenge will be getting her to keep on the hat that I sewed a yarn wig into. She'll be in a raggedy ann costume made up of an outfit I already had. Owen will be a skunk (thanks to my neighbor Justine for handing this one down to me). Jim thinks I should be the cat that Pepe Le Pew pined after. How appropriate ... lately dear Owen can't get enough of mommy. He actually tries to crawl after me as I leave the room and whines every time he sees me. (It's just so charming.) And Jim, of course, will don the now-infamous mullet wig (and I'll pretend I don't know who he is).

And without further ado, here are this week's top overheard remarks ...

Noooooo, Fiona yells. And it's not the sweet, soft "No" with a cute head tilt that we used to get.

Why are you doing that to the stump, Daddy?
I'm cutting it down, Danny. It's in the way of progress here and that darn Lorax keeps popping out of it, Jim replies.

NOOOOOOOO. Dear Lord child, you just woke up. What could possibly be wrong?

Why are you doing that, Daddy? Danny asks (again) as Jim hacks away at the tree stump with an axe.
We need more sneeds, he says.
We love The Lorax around here. If you've never read it, you really must. The book pretty much sums up our attitude about our consumerist society and its effect on the environment. (Hint: We most often come down on the side of the Lorax even though we're hacking up tree stumps.)

Jim, you spend more time on grooming than I do.
Hey, I work with people.
So do I.
Yeah, but they don't care how you smell 'cause they smell worse. 
Is this supposed to make feel better about smelling like sour milk and sweat? It doesn't.

No. Noooo. No. Noooo. Did I mention Fiona says this A LOT?

I need a nap, Daddy says as he's driving the kids.
Take a nap while you're driving. That's a good idea, Danny says.


Jim, just stop talking to her, I say, after realizing that Fiona says "No" every time you speak to her.

Noooooo. No. NOOOOOOOOOOO. (My ears are bleeding.)

I can't do it. I don't pee on wheels, Danny explains to Nana, who tried to get him to pee beside the car while waiting for the fireworks to start last weekend.

Sorry, Fiona says about 50 times a day whether she's done anything worth apologizing for or not. Oddly, she never says this after screaming "No" in my poor bleeding ears.

My penis is a squirt bottle, Danny says. Oh dear. At least he's not running around "shooting" with it anymore.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. (I think my head just exploded.)

Look, mom, it's the po-po, Danny says whenever he sees a police car lately. (Thanks, Jim. Now our kid talks like a gangster.)

Have a fun weekend. Try not to eat all the Halloween candy before Sunday.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Back when I had fewer kids, I seemed to be able to form coherent thoughts on topics other than poop, sleep and toddlers who don't eat. My number one source of outside news these days is my husband who often asks me, "Did you hear about ... " And I say, "Um, no." And just as he begins relating the news of the day, someone starts screaming or someone needs to be changed or wiped or fed. I just nod and try to comprehend what he says. I often just keep my mouth shut because I fear sleep deprivation has rendered me incoherent and totally confused. (This is a sad state of affairs for someone who used to work for a newspaper.)

This morning, though, I was listening to some yippity yappers on a morning talk show and I heard this:

"This should be a lesson to the banks that they can't run their front office so fast. If some people get back into their houses free and clear, then so be it."

And this:

"If there are people out there who just signed every piece of paper put in front of them [at the closing table], then there are going to be some indictments."

They were talking about the foreclosure crisis. Now, I know the perils of taking quotes "out of context," but let me assure you, they were talking about this as a moral issue and actually sticking up for the defaulting homeowner. I don't know, though ... keeping something, like, say, a house, that you didn't pay for seems like stealing to me. And stealing is against the law under most, if not all, circumstances. Right?

I would comment further but I'm just tired and kind of sad that my children are growing up in a world where figuring out right from wrong is so very confusing. Sigh. 

The nonsense my children utter under our (mortgaged) roof  seems to make more sense. 

This is a little corner, Danny cries as he's shown the corner at Nana's house.
That's okay, Dan, you have a little nose, Daddy replies.

Owie, you're my best friend, Danny says. [Sniff] Actually, I had to fight the tears pretty hard. I get weepy when I haven't had much sleep.

I have had it with the dumping of the hamster, I tell my husband over the phone one morning. Owie was up every two hours the night before. This seriously hampers (the word I meant to use, actually) my ability to communicate intelligibly.

Put that [kitchen set] back upright, I tell Danny.
No thanks, he replies.
Oh, really? A quick smack on the bum changed his mind.

I did it all by myself like a man, Danny tells me after helping himself to the lemonade. I had just moved the lemonade dispenser to the bottom shelf in the fridge where the kids can reach it. I'm sure that I'll come to regret this very soon. Though I do love that he can help himself and his sister to snacks and drinks now.

Have a good weekend. (And don't forget to pay your mortgage. It's still the right thing to do.)

Friday, October 15, 2010


See? He's sitting up now!!
I'm living three inches from my face these days. Not my words, but those of a man I know who said this once and it just made so much sense. Remembering his words helps me laugh at myself when I feel like crying. It's weeks like this past one where I forget that there's a reason for everything and it will all become clear in a few days or months or years. I forget that sleeplessness in young children usually precedes milestones big and sometimes small. At least in this instance the pay off is sooner rather than later.

The baby, who otherwise sleeps pretty well, decided to throw himself a one-man party between 2 and 4 a.m. a few nights this week. Yesterday, he began sitting up without losing his balance. He's quite pleased with himself. And he's at the Swiffer stage; he's scooting across my filthy floors. At least he's making himself useful. In other news, Fiona is getting quite verbal, even asking without whining the other night for a napkin at dinner. She still whine much of the time, or, as I like to call it, mining. She walks around the house whining "Mine" almost constantly. It's so unpleasant.

I assisted in Danny's classroom this week which was a fun break from the work at home. Danny got to be student of the week. He was "interviewed" during circle time. He told the teacher he wanted to be a rock and roll singer. And he even got to bring in his little stuffed kitty, whose name is Professor Gilbert. I'm not even kidding. He came up with this one on his own. His father was goading him into calling it Bo Derek, but it didn't stick, thank goodness.

What I can recall from this week pretty much sums up the kind of week we've had here:

Fiona: Here.
Me: Thank you. 
Fiona: No, MINE.
And this could go on all day. She likes the act but not he concept of giving.

Bad girl, Fiona says after doing something she thinks might be wrong. I think Danny has been calling her this lately. I may be able to fool people into thinking she's talking about boogers. 

Dammit, Fiona says. Awww. Fiona's first curse word. (Shit. I mean, shoot. I mean, sugar.)

What the hell? Danny says quietly as he sets up his cars in a traffic jam. Dear God, It's me. Please don't let my son say anything like this at preschool, 'kay?

What's wrong? Danny asks a little boy who is having a tantrum because he doesn't want to leave the park. When he gets no response, he explains: There's no crying at this park.

I'm going to go run errands, Dan. See you later, I say, kissing his forehead.
Don't do it, he yells.
Why not?
You could get lost.
I've told him not to run off alone because he could get lost. Sigh. Now he won't let me out of his site. In fact, this is the reason he tells me to stay with him at preschool.

No, Danny, you can't stir [the boiling macaroni water]. That's a job for an adult. 
Hey, I'm an adult, he bellows. 
Um, no, honey, you're a kid. 

Two minutes later, he returns to the kitchen ...

I'm a little kid adult, he informs me with hands on hips. He is persistent; I'll give him that.

Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mysteries of the mom-iverse

I knew about three year olds. I'd heard that they like to ask questions. Danny started out shortly after his third birthday with the questions. The progression has been interesting. He started with What's that? and moved on to What's that thing do?

Now that he's established what everything is and what it does, he digs a little deeper. He wants to to know why. We get this question a couple dozen times a day. I'd been bracing for this so hard that I remember the first why question he asked. He was 3 years and 9 months old and the question was about gum. Why is it stretchy, he wanted to know. And I thought, "Great. The first why and I have no answer."

Two months later, I'm still stumped on a daily basis. Today's stumper? Why do I have to be respectful, he asks. Is "Because I said so, you little snot" an acceptable answer? (I didn't say that ... I just sent him to his room for a nap AFTER I made him pick up all the toys he angrily threw on the floor. And, no dear family, I don't wonder at all where he gets his temper, kay?)

Why should he have all the fun?  I have a few questions of my own and most seem to have no good answer. But feel free to take a stab at any of these.

If my kids barely eat, why is my grocery bill nearly $500 a month?

If I barely eat (really, who has time for that with three kids), why am I not losing that much weight? And, again, why is my grocery bill so high?

Where do my children get all their energy if all they eat are apples?

Why does the child who is unfazed by pee pee pants scream like crazy when a drop of water or juice spills on his shorts?

Why do my kids take one sip of water from their water bottles then abandon them, but fall all over themselves to take a sip from my water bottle?

Why can my husband spend a morning with the kids and report that the girl child "didn't whine a bit" but when I spend the day with the kids there's more whine than a Napa Valley vineyard?

Why can my husband ignore the children and get work done around the house while I can't fold a basket of laundry without a dozen interruptions? (Not that I'm complaining, but, seriously, why does he get to look like Super Dad while I can barely fold a basket of laundry or mop the floor or clean out a closet?)

Why do the children only cry and whine at me in the  kitchen but not my husband? We tested this theory the other day. Fiona began crying the second I walked in the kitchen. My husband had been in there for a few minutes already.

Why is that I can get three kids (and myself) dressed, fed and strapped into car seats and the diaper bag packed and ready for church in less than an hour but be waiting in the van for my husband? I mean, it's not like he's up there putting on make up or anything. (Actually, this man spends more time on grooming than I do.)

When I've had such a rough day with the kids that I do a little happy dance after they go to bed, why do I suddenly feel the urge to check on them when they're sleeping? Oh, wait, maybe I know the answer to this one: Because it's easier to conjure up positive thoughts about a silent, sleeping child.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


It's been quite relaxing around here lately despite Fiona's nearly nonstop hyper-whining and Owen's inability to go back to sleep between 10 and midnight. There's been lots of play dough sessions on the back porch, free play in the backyard and even a trip to the Museum of Life and Science. I also started approaching Danny's defiance and disobedience a little differently this week. I've managed to take some of the emotion out of it and it's made a big difference. Case in point ...

One day this week, Danny pooped his pants a little while doing computer games. Don't you just love stories that start out with poop? I told him to go upstairs to get cleaned up. I mentioned that computer games were more important than going potty so there would be no more computer games that day (Thanks to sister Jax for a tip on how best to convey consequences). I figured this would be a good time to give him some choices as my brother suggested this past weekend (when in doubt, ask a shrink with no kids, right?). Upstairs, I gave him two choices: take a nap or poop in the potty. He balked, he cried, he whined. I repeated the choices.

He told me, through tears: "I don't want to do choices."

I laughed. (Is that allowed?) Then he laughed.

He took a nap.

And in other news ...

You need to say "Yes, ma'am," and move on with your life. This is my new line when Danny begins to argue with me. So far, it's been working. He quiets down and moves on with his life.

You need to come this minute or mommy will think of something dreadful to do to you. I didn't think it would actually work, but he came and we left the museum quite peacefully.

I'm going to put my nose in the corner. [pause] That's a good idea, Danny tells me on his way to the new timeout spot. Time out is no longer in the cushy chair that we found on the curb years ago and reupholstered. He just sits there and taunts us. The time out spot is now a corner that he faces and puts his nose in. He's been there only twice this week.

And the aftermath ... 

Your sister's head is not a baseball, I tell him. His response? "Oh." (it's as if he thought his sister's head was a baseball all along.)

Danny: I don't like public. (talking about preschool, as I had just told him that when he burps in public he should say "Excuse me.")
Me: Oh? Why not?
Danny: It's loud and scary. 
(You know, sometimes I feel the same way.)

Danny, giggling and pointing to a picture of a man with no hair: That's silly.
Daddy: Um, that's normal for some people, Danny. 

Sit still. We only have 30 more snaps to go, Jim says as he's putting Fiona's pajamas on. We hate snaps in this household.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Finally fall ...

We spent the first real weekend of fall in the North Carolina mountains visiting family. It was our first road trip and vacation with three kids.

It went much, much better than expected. It was nearly serendipitous.

We actually went hiking. With three kids. Really. There was a babbling brook and a bridge and a pine forest and trees that Danny could actually climb and an apple tree. An apple tree!! We all picked and ate ugly, green apples right from the tree. Without even washing them. We went to a really cool general store with "penny" candy and a bluegrass band playing on the back porch. Fiona clapped and danced. We went to a huge park surrounded by mountains with a playground and a babbling brook and kid-size playhouses and a large grassy field that Owen just loved rolling around in (yeah, that's right, I let my baby roll around in actual grass) and a flower bush buzzing with honey bees.

The kids were just delighted. So were the adults. I wish that I'd brought my camera, but, alas, this weekend will exist only in the mind's eye. In fact, the only memento from the weekend is an ugly, beautiful green apple we brought home. I've been reluctant to eat it, so I took a picture of it to help me remember our weekend.

And it was fall. Actually fall. Cool weather, not a cloud in the sky. Today was the same, except we were home, just taking it easy, ambling through the day.

Today was a jeans and jacket day (the title of a favorite Elmo book around here), as Danny called it. It was also a day for comfort food. I get even more domesticy than usual when fall finally arrives. I relish pulling out my favorite recipes along with the winter clothes. This morning, I decided to make a favorite, easy, comforting dinner. I thought I'd share it because everyone needs easy comfort food, don't you think?
Tuscan Chicken With White Beans

2 t. olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (yes, I know, thighs are fatty. i never bought into the whole low fat diet thing. sue me.)
2 can white beans (great northern, cannellini ... i think they're the same thing, maybe)
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 small onion, diced (I usually just use whatever bit of onion I have. Onions aren't my favorite.)
1 T chopped fresh garlic
1 t. salt
1 t. sage
1 t. thyme
a handful of baby carrots, cut into bite-size chunks

Heat oil in large skillet or dutch oven and saute garlic and onion for 3 to 5 minutes. Add all other ingredients and lay the thighs on top. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn thighs over and simmer for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

And that's it. Done. We eat it with crusty bread to sop up the broth. No, I don't make the bread. We buy a dozen wheat sub rolls from Sam's Club (for less than $4).

It occurred to me as I left the kids playing in the backyard to go "stir occasionally" that this recipe could probably be done in the crockpot. Next time I'll try that and let you know what, if any, changes need to be made. I'm guessing more broth so it doesn't dry out.

I've been making this for years. It's from the Women's Day Cookbook that Jim swears did not belong to him (but it wasn't mine). This dish truly makes me feel warm all over and the leftovers make a fantastic soup base (just reheat with extra broth) for a Saturday lunch with a grilled cheese.


Thursday, September 30, 2010


I've been taking lots of deep breaths this week. And yelling. Maybe the deep breaths aren't working so well. We've been hearing a lot of  "No" and "Why?" and whining and hyperventilating from our most talkative and defiant kid. Much of the week has been a blur. But I have heard some funny things, like ...

We need to park at the sign. My legs can't work, Danny says. I just laughed and laughed. Danny has noticed the handicapped signs in front of parking spaces. Naturally, he wants to know why we can't park there. I tell him those spaces are for people whose legs don't work.

Get a wheelchair, Nana, Danny says when Nana tells him her legs are tired as she tries to keep up with him. Or maybe he was just pointing out the wheelchair on the handicapped sign. Who knows?

Get a clue, Danny often tells me whenever we're looking for something. I'm sure we'll hear this a lot when he's a teenager.

It squirts out like a bum bum, Danny says of his play dough extruder. There's at least one other person in this house who would think this is just the most hilarious thing. (Hint: It's not me.)

I need an audioman for a tray, Danny says. Oh, you mean, ottoman? Got it. He uses the ottoman as a tray for his drink.

OH MY GOD, where's the Benadryl? Seriously, I can't find it. I think we're out and when I uttered this it had been one those days, I mean, weeks. Oh, hell, I mean, months. (In my defense, the kids are all crunked up this week.)

Let's pray for food. Thank you for food. God is great. Thank you for food, Danny says. I just love hearing him pray. There may be hope for that boy yet.

We're going to the mountains this weekend. It's our first vacation with children. Do pray that God will be great. Or just that my children sleep.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Our little paradise

One thing I will always remember about my childhood is that my parents took us places. And that was no small task. We outnumbered them two to one. Somehow, this did not scare them one bit.

I am lucky enough to have married a man who has the same attitude. We take the kids with us everywhere. You name it, they've been there. Places that most parents of young children wouldn't dream of taking their kids along to, we've gone, sometimes three on one. We routinely grocery shop with three kids, actually. And just yesterday I took Fiona and Owen into the bank with me to wire some money. Some days it's just easier than sticking around the house.

We've been going to the lake once a week or so in the warmer months for more than four years. It's a lovely little spot out in Chatham County on Jordan Lake with a swimming beach, a bathhouse and a playground. When we started going, I was pregnant with Danny. Jim and I would get sandwiches from Harris Teeter, eat with our toes in the sand and later float around on rafts in the placid, quiet lake. Because of our work schedules, we could go at odd times, like Monday evenings when no one was around. It was, and still is, like our own private, redneck country club. As each child came along, I was sure this tradition would die out. I mean, how on earth does one manage one, two and then three small children during such an outing?

Somehow, we've managed.

These days, the ride is just as nice as being there. The kids are strapped in and can't bug us, sometimes they even sleep on the way. I get to talk to my husband, take in the scenery, check out the progress on everyone's vegetable garden on the way. I won't lie to you, though. It's a little extra work for us, getting dinner packed, getting three kids out the door, setting up and breaking down our spot, watching two kids in water wings while one of us is holding a baby. And someone is always crying on the 20 mile ride home. But as my husband pointed out recently, it's better right now to work a little harder once a week or so for a mini-vacation than try to take a real, week-long vacation with three children. Vacations are a lot of work and expense and, really, there's only so much fun and novelty that the little ones will tolerate. And we've got lake-going down to a science by now.

My folks came with us once this summer to see our little paradise for themselves since we've never once taken a photo of this place. This week, however, the need arose for photographic proof of our family's quality time. Danny had "homework" for preschool. Actually, it was homework for mommy. His class is making their family pages for the class book. He is supposed to bring in a note from mommy and a photo of something his family likes to do together. So yesterday we packed up and went to the lake for one last summer fling. And this time, we took the camera. We didn't get in the water, but the kids were just as happy playing in the sand and on the playground and running down hills and climbing up steps and checking out the bathhouse and the payphone.

Here are some photos of our lovely spot:

The Lake