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

Monday, September 27, 2010

Me, too mommies

As a parent, I've never worked so hard for so little regular, positive feedback. I'm supposed to be okay with this apparently. It's called being magnanimous or selfless or an adult. Lately, I'm just not any of those things.

When you're a mom, there's really no one to tell you that you're doing the right thing. In fact, you're more likely to be told, in so many words, that you're doing something wrong. Often, there's no one there to tell you that you're doing a good job. There's no paycheck, no performance review, very few potty breaks, showers or even lunch breaks. And some days there's just no positive feedback. If we encountered these conditions in the workplace, I'm pretty sure we'd get all Norma Rae and unionize or just pack up and find another job. We're supposed to give without expecting anything in return. We're supposed to treat poor behavior as a teachable moment and not a commentary on our parenting skills.

It's hard to admit that some days I just want someone, anyone, maybe even my kids to say or do something that indicates I may be a decent parent after all. It's why I can be tricked into clicking on articles titled "Toddlers: Are tantrums a sign of affection?" and "7 signs your child loves you." And then be quite anxious when the page returns an error and I feel like the Internet gods are cheating me out of the answer to, well, everything in my life.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, it feels like nothing changes. The boy is still peeing his pants more than a year after potty training began. The girl is still screaming bloody murder for 10 minutes or so after we tuck her in no matter how long we talk, read or cuddle with her. The boy is back talking, spitting, being utterly disrespectful and defiant; the girl screeches all day like a terradactyl with a few intelligible words thrown in here and there. The boy just won't stop messing with his sister; the girl bites in retaliation. Neither will eat. In fact, sometimes they don't even eat the food they ask for.

Clearly, if you judge your success as a parent by your children's behavior day in and day out, you'll give yourself a failing grade every time. It's hard not to, though, when we live in a society where effort usually pays off in some measurable, timely way. In parenting, that just is not the case. Progress is so gradual that it goes unnoticed sometimes. Of course, the sleep deprivation that comes with parenting very young children make all but the most remarkable milestones almost invisible.

The parenting magazines and websites won't address these feelings in the scary language of despair and desperation. It's all wrapped in upbeat language meant to support and encourage. Let's face it: a mom who's hung herself on the cross of self-flagellation over her parenting missteps does not want to be told to "Hang in there." For God's sake, people, just look where a woman is hanging before telling her to hang in there, would you please? What moms really need is to have their worst, scariest feelings affirmed; not to be told that "This too shall pass" or "You'll miss these days" or "These are the best days of your life."

All these things are true and we moms know it. But these platitudes make me feel as though I'm not being patient or grateful or present enough. I've had enough of those feelings in my four short years of parenting so far. It all began with the complete and utter culture shock after Danny's birth. I was surprised by how much I loved and resented this child at the same time. After all, I was used to sleeping, eating and showering on my own time. And I felt so guilty because here was this child we'd struggled to conceive for two years and I was not totally in love with all of him—the warm, snuggly, cooing baby and the screaming, borderline-colicky baby. (Really, who doesn't love a colicky baby, right?)

My favorite mommy friends are of the Me, too variety. The ones who tell me they're having the same issues and the same feelings about their kids. They wonder aloud just how long a person can have what seems like a one-sided relationship whereby they're invested heart and soul with a child who doesn't yet know he has a heart and soul. They wonder aloud just how much longer they can give with so little in return.

Some people call this wallowing in misery or dwelling on the negative. But I've found that pain shared is pain divided. And when the pain is divided among friends who hear and affirm rather than listen and advise, well, I feel like I can face another day with eyes peeled for the positive.

Much thanks to all the Me, too mommies out there. Love you ladies.

Friday, September 24, 2010


It's been a decidedly unfunny week around here, so this edition will be a little thin. I considered compiling the most annoying things uttered this week, but why dwell on the negative? Besides, I can barely remember the positive, let alone the utterly craptistic things that went on this week.

Baby O is having a shift in his sleeping patterns—cutting out the early evening nap and going to bed earlier. However, he is also getting up for a few hours between 10 and midnight. I just let him boogie around on the floor until he gets fussy or till he poops, whichever comes first. Fiona whines about 90 percent of the time that she's awake these days and that's not an exaggeration at all. It starts after breakfast, the only meal she actually eats. She spends the rest of the day begging for grapes, gum, apples or anything that comes from a crinkly bag.

Danny, my little man, is doing well. He's just completed his second week at preschool. It's easy to paint dragons in the dark when your only source of information about what goes on comes from a somewhat unreliable source. He's said things like "I got to run away" or "I got to push the kids away." Also, when I picked him up Tuesday, the poster outside the classroom compiled all the children's answers to a question—everyone except him. My heart sank a little. I talked to his teacher Thursday and she said he's participating and playing, but she has noticed that he's figuring out how to maneuver around the kids and that he has an aversion to loud noises (huh?? this is the loudest kid me and most of my friends know. a friend of mine wants to record his scream for a Halloween soundtrack.). Oh, and I caught him really reading the words in "Hop on Pop" the other day. Wow!

So it seems that's the way it goes 'round here. Usually I can count on at least one of the three to give me easy time. It's a good thing, since I have only two hands and a couple shreds of sanity left. Anyhow, here's what I've heard and remembered this week:

Danny, screaming at Fiona: You own nothing!!
Me: Um, neither do you, Danny.

Why is the road tipping? This is what Danny says to me when we go around a curve. We've officially entered the age of why.

Hey, look, the sun made it to church! Apparently, he doesn't yet realize that the sun is the center of the universe, not him.

You look ridiculous. But you sound much better, Jim says after I hand Fiona her pacifier. We've been de-emphasizing the paci lately. She can do without it, but sometimes mommy still needs it!

Apparently, we haven't starved them enough today, Jim says one night as our children do everything but eat at the dinner table.

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Who doesn't love a casserole?

I love to cook. I love to eat. I love to feed people. This is probably why it irks me so that my children barely eat what I prepare.

So I have this obsession. I married a chef. I meal plan most of the time ( See, I even make up verbs for my behavior). I have certain meals on certain days—pizza on Saturday, spaghetti and meatballs on Wednesday. I get excited looking at the grocery ads. I think about what we're going to have for dinner around breakfast time.  Erma Bombeck would totally mock me—she's once said "There is one thing I have never taught my body how to do and that is to figure out at 6 A.M. what it wants to eat at 6 P.M." In fact, some people actually have mocked me (you know who you are). It's a miracle that I don't have some kind of eating disorder, unless the above described behavior is one.

Dinner is always on the table between 5 and 5:30 in our house. In addition to food, I love deadlines and since dinner comes around once every 24 hours, this satiates my need to have accomplished something on time and somewhat properly every day. I spent 15 years under deadline pressure as a journalist. Old habits die hard.

I hesitate to write solely about cooking, meal planning and new recipes, though, lest the posts devolve into trivial and monotonous treatises on domestic matters. I've been a full-time, stay-at-home mom for about a year and half now. And I write that last sentence with full knowledge of every minefield that I just stepped in. Let me just say: It wasn't by choice, but I'm okay with it; it is actually a nice break from working outside the home but it also entails a lot more work than I did outside the home. It's complex, isn't it? (By the way, you will never see the abbreviation for stay-at-home mom on this blog. I despise it. Words have meaning  and abbreviations cheapen that meaning. I  pretty much think words, like food, should fill your mouth and be tasted and savored.)

Now that I've stepped on everyone's toes, let's proceed, shall we?

What I'm trying to express is that enjoying certain aspects of domestic life in my new role does not make me a pre-feminist dinosaur who enjoys vacuuming in high heels. I don't vacuum, by the way. I so hate vacuuming. I once told my husband that if we got a vacuum cleaner that didn't spit out more dust than it took in maybe I'd vacuum once in a while. (Seriously, we had a vacuum cleaner that did this. He saw no problems with this. None at all.) My husband called my bluff. We have a new vacuum cleaner and now he uses it once a week or so. So don't go getting any preconceived notions about me just because I'm about to write about casseroles, 'kay?

And who doesn't just love a casserole? With Velveeta. And cream of something soup. The problem for me is that I read labels religiously. Sometimes I can convince myself that it would be okay just this once to use Campbell's soup or Velveeta cheese because it's on sale this week only. Then I read the label and get really grossed out and kind of mad that I can't enjoy the cheesy, creamy casseroles these products promise. Then I go home and grudgingly make a creamy and/or cheesy sauce from scratch on the stove top, but it never, ever tastes as yummy and comforting as Velveeta and cream of something soup. Sigh.

So on Friday, I hadn't really planned anything for dinner. I was having one of those days. Since it was Friday, I thought we should do fish, because, you know, all good Catholics eat fish on Friday. I'm not that good a Catholic, but the fish on Friday thing simplifies my life, so I just go with it. Here's what I came up with:

1 12 oz can evaporated milk
2 6 oz cans tuna, undrained
2 cups cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups chopped broccoli
2 cups cooked rice (I used brown rice)

Mix all ingredients in a 9x12 pan. Top with cracker or bread crumbs if desired. 375 degrees for 25 minutes or so.

Wonder of wonders, it actually came out tasting like Velveeta cheese was in it. My theory is that the Parmesan cheese adds just enough salt to mimic Velveeta. I'm not saying this is healthy, just comforting and similar enough to Velveeta to quench the occasional craving. I'm going to experiment more with this no-soup, no-Velveeta, essentially no processed anything casserole idea. I'll share what I learn, but can't promise my recipes will be as easy as opening cans or even very healthy.

Danny's reaction?  "Thank you mommy. This is good." and then he ate maybe four bites, three of which I fed him. I've been noshing on the leftovers all day. The dog ate my second helping while I was nursing the baby down for a nap. It was so good not even the dog couldn't resist. He is so on poop list right now.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


A little known milestone ... flying.
It's finally showing signs of fall here—low humidity, a light breeze, cool mornings and crunchy leaves. I'm so happy about the crunchy leaves! The kids and I have been making crinkled leaf soup in the backyard. I'm trying not to hog all the leaves. Owen had his four month appointment this week. He weighed in at 17.5 pounds and is 28 inches long—off the charts for height, actually. When I carry in the front carrier his legs hit my knees as I walk. Danny is hanging in there at preschool. It's very strange that the only source of information on my son's doings for three hours twice a week comes from, well, my son. In October, we'll have parent telephone conferences, or as my husband calls it the "Yeah, we know" call. As for Fiona, she's saying a lot more, but she also still shrieks like a terradactyl most of the time. She said her first whole sentence this week. It's our first entry, in fact.

Get off of me. Fiona told Danny this two days ago. I think she can hold her own. In fact, she bit him on the cheek this morning. He went to preschool with a bite mark on his face. I'm expecting a call from DSS any day now.

No, you can't do that. That's where the Lorax pops out. Danny was genuinely alarmed at the prospect of Daddy pouring stump killer into all the unsightly tree stumps in our yard.

I'm a pain in the butt, Danny told the cashiers at Target. If I gave a crap what they thought, I would have put the comment in context for them. Of course, I care what you think so ... after the fifth or sixth time Fiona, a k a Jaws, bit him during our Target excursion, I told him to just stop being a pain in the butt and maybe she'd stop biting him. (Yes, I did scold her for biting him, but at some point the kid has got to stop putting his fingers all up in her grill, yo) 

You. Own. Nothing. What my husband frequently says to Fiona when she declares, "MINE."

Danny (while grabbing his bum): It's shrinking. Me: What's shrinking? Danny: My butt. Huh? Turns out that his underwear was stuck in his bum.

NO. Don't pour water on her head. She doesn't like that. Danny sticks up for his sister during her baptism on Saturday. I'm happy to report that she did not bite, kick or hit the priest. She did, however, pop her baby brother on the head in front of the whole church. Like I said, DSS should be here any day now.

Fiona: Daddy! Me: Um, no honey, that's Jerry Garcia. She had grabbed a book about the history of the Grateful Dead. Incidentally, in her little world, all men are Daddy, all women are Mommy, all little boys are Danny (who she calls Nini) and all little girls are Gabby (the name of my dear friend's little girl).

Butterby! Butterby!  Fiona's word for butterfly. Awww. I just love baby words, don't you?

Have a great weekend!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The skinny on Baby O

Owen is now four months old. He's 17 pounds of chunky, happy, drooly baby. His cradle cap is finally easing up and his hair is coming back in so he looks more like those babies in the Pampers ads and less like a crusty, splotchy newborn or as, Jim once called him, Sloth from the Goonies. He's pretty similar to Danny as a baby but a lot bigger and not as fussy. He's also a lot like Fiona—strong and observant.

I was beginning to worry, though, that our youngest wouldn't start distinguishing himself from the herd. Most of the time, he's just happily along for the ride. Most of the time, too, his mommy is too tired to notice much of anything. But, lo and behold, he has found his niche, that one thing that we will always remember about baby Owen. With Danny, it was the projectile vomiting. With Fiona, it was her freakish strength.

Our little Owen is capable of going from calm and happy to totally pissed off with little to no warning. The first few times it happened we thought that something (or someone, ahem, Fiona) had pinched or poked him. It was that sudden. Sometimes this outburst precedes a rather large, um, diaper download. But we're starting to realize that, most of the time, it's just that he's done. With whatever he's doing. Please come pick him up, like, NOW.

Other things that I've managed to notice? He has better manual dexterity than the other two did at this age. The kid can actually put his own pacifier in and take it out. My other two never did that this early.  Looks like he'll have that fine motor control I never had. Also, sometimes all it takes to calm him down is to stand him on your lap facing you. He just wants to see my face and talk to me, usually while I'm eating (which makes it almost impossible to eat). Somehow I've not lost that much weight. 

He also is not all that interested in food, nor does he seem overly hungry. He's had three "meals" in the past week—bananas twice and some butternut squash today. I'm not in much of a hurry this time around, mostly because I'm just not looking forward to preparing food for yet one more kid who may or may not eat. Frankly, I could feed a small army with the food that ends up on my kitchen floor and my kids' clothes. And, honestly, with this three ring circus I'm running here, he's more likely to be fed routinely if the feeding apparatus is attached to my body. He's also pretty well settled into morning, afternoon and early evening naps. At night, he sleeps a few hours in his crib and usually comes into bed with us later. I'm barely awake when he nurses the rest of the night and thus am actually lying down "asleep" for about seven hours or so. Somehow this does not make me any less exhausted. 

He is less afraid of and more amused by Fiona. She loves to pat his back and kiss his head, though sometimes it's hard to tell if she's about to bite or kiss him. She's kind of sneaky like that. He watches Danny with little brother adoration and Danny's new job is to go chat with Owen while I put Fiona down for a nap.

He is, though, a four month old in the body of a much older baby. In fact, Danny was a year old and 18 pounds when he began walking. Lately, it's been hard to make him bend at the waist. All he wants to do is stand up on our laps.

Um, let's see. What else is he up to? He rolls over, which makes diaper changing a battle. He can almost sit up. He can get up on his hands and lift his chest off the ground. He also gets up on his knees but, thankfully, not at the same time as he's on his hands. I figure we have about six weeks before he takes off crawling. At this point, I'm writing all this down so my poor third child will have some record of his early months.

And this past weekend, he was baptized along with his sister. I never realized before but during the baptism ceremony, the priest says a prayer of exorcism. We now fully expect the sudden screaming fits to subside.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sept. 11

Last year, I was finally able to gather my thoughts about what happened to me and others around me that day nine years ago. I can't say any more than that.  I will never forget. I will never not see the images of that day in my mind. I will never not feel like crying when I see those images in my head or in front of my eyes. I will not engage in any kind of political discussion about this day. Ever.

It's been eight years since a woman I worked with ran into my office, screaming hysterically, telling me to turn on the television. It was just before 9 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001. She was the last person I spoke to before the world as I knew it and saw it changed forever.

More people rushed into my office. We screamed in unison as the second plane hit the World Trade Center live on television. I remember saying, slowly, out loud, "There must be 25,000 people in there." I started to vomit, but managed to keep my breakfast down.

I later watched in horror as a plane hit the Pentagon less than 2 miles from where I sat. It occurred to me that I had just witnessed the last moments of countless lives in real time - on television and out my office window. In the streets below, I saw people filing out of buildings, pouring over bridges, trying to get out of the city. There were DoD offices in our building. We were evacuated around 10:30.

There are thoughts and feelings, articles I read and photos and images I saw, that are burned in my memory. I will forever remember the people I was with that day - Janet, my boss, who quickly left to go pick up her kids; Tina, who ran into my office that day; Randy, whose birthday it was, running down the hall to get a better view of the plane that rammed into the Pentagon; Len, an older gentleman and lifelong Washingtonian, who stood in his office stunned at the site of Pentagon burning; Sarah, who ferried me out of the city that day, inching along MacArthur Boulevard to College Park where Jim picked me up.
Jim and I lived in a condo in Crofton, MD, right in the flight path of BWI airport. In the days after Sept. 11, the absence of the familiar sound of air traffic was eerie.

That fall in DC was tense, uncertain, full of anger and fear for me, and unspeakable sadness. When I was afraid, a dear friend, an older woman who had become a mentor to me, reminded me that when the victims called their families that day, they didn't tell them how afraid they were. They talked about love.

A few weeks after the attacks, a pencil drawing showed up on the bulletin board at work of the towers burning, smoke billowing out and up into the arms of Jesus. I needed to see that every day as I left work and stepped into the DC Metro. Every time the train stopped short of a station, huddled inside the tunnel, lights flickering, instead of the usual grumbling about Metro, there was nervous silence until the train moved again. I needed the image of Jesus, arms outstretched around me and my fellow passengers in order to step on that train day after day.

As personal stories unfolded in news articles and on television, I found myself overwhelmed by the tragedy but unable to look away. An article in the Washington Post profiled a woman who was badly burned in the Pentagon attack; she had lost both of her hands. Her husband said he missed holding his wife's hands. Another story of a young woman on a business trip who got stuck in the WTC was particularly poignant for me. She called her husband of only a year and left a message on the machine telling him she loved him. Then she called her dad. He calmly talked to her, trying to help her find a way out. She didn't make it. Her name was Melissa Harrington Hughes. It's important to remembe their names.

That morning, around 9:30, as it was beginning to dawn on all of us what was going on, my father and I began chatting online. I saved the chat. Here are some excerpts:

joseed629 (9:51:03 AM): please call mom and tell her i am okay. all circuits busy

PJDaoust (9:51:14 AM): already did

joseed629 (9:51:30 AM): i'm terrified.

joseed629 (9:51:38 AM): i'm watching it all out of my window

joseed629 (9:52:07 AM): i called jim and he may come get me.

PJDaoust (9:52:09 AM): can you see the pentagon from your office ?

joseed629 (9:52:29 AM): i can see smoke

PJDaoust (9:52:32 AM): don't panic

joseed629 (9:52:33 AM): lots of smoke

joseed629 (9:52:36 AM): trying not to

joseed629 (10:23:27 AM): someone is going to drive me to New CArrolton metro

joseed629 (10:23:47 AM): it's pandemonium. i tried to hithc a ride with someone and they already had 6 people in their car.

joseed629 (10:24:02 AM): traffic is picking up and i'm afraid i won't get out of the city tonight.

PJDaoust (10:24:12 AM): k

joseed629 (10:24:19 AM): the pentagon hit was a commercial American Airlines plane

joseed629 (10:24:25 AM): i think i am going to be sick

PJDaoust (10:24:42 AM): maybe you should stay put for now

PJDaoust (10:24:58 AM): you may be safer where you are

joseed629 (10:27:41 AM): they just closed the metro down

joseed629 (10:27:51 AM): my boss may drive me to the metro station./

PJDaoust (10:27:56 AM): well then , stay put

joseed629 (10:28:19 AM): for now

joseed629 (10:28:40 AM): the oiffice is closing. i have to go now

Friday, September 10, 2010


It's been a big week here. Danny started preschool! And he came out at noon wearing the same clothes he wore in and he learned the name of at least one other kid, just like Daddy asked of him. I was thrilled! His favorite activity of the day was playing with rocks on the slide. He was delighted that he got to sit on the red letter S on the rug during circle time because, you know, he is red (This kid is wearing red socks today with a yellow shirt and army green shorts with orange trim. I said nothing at all to him about this.). Owen had his first mouthful or so of bananas this week and seemed to really like it. Fiona may be ready to potty train. I pulled the little potty and some training pants out yesterday and let her practice pulling pants up and down and sitting on the potty in the backyard. She had a blast. I'm trying hard to convince her that girls don't pee on trees.

Oh, and this weekend, the two younger ones will be baptized. Please pray that Danny doesn't run screaming from the sanctuary (he doesn't like loud noises, you see), Fiona doesn't punch the priest and Owen doesn't pee or poop on him (they do naked baptism of babies at our church).

And without further ado, here are the week's most interesting and funny quotes or just what I can remember.  

Me: Did you like [preschool]? Danny: No. Me: Did you have fun? Danny: Yes! Well, I'm confused, how 'bout you?

Hey, he has no shirt on. HEY, YOU HAVE NO SHIRT ON. Danny says this very loudly as a shirtless man jogs by. (Maybe my son can put a stop to this unfortunate trend by shaming the men who jog by our house, hm? Let's hope.)

I'm gonna take my shirt off like a man! See above. Thanks, hairy shirtless dude!

Mommy, I hurt. I need a graham cracker. [pause] And some marshmallows. Ah, the old graham cracker and marshmallow cure.

My head is hard. [pause] My poop is hard. Danny explains this to me after an attempt at his daily poop. Boy, does this explain a whole lot about the last year of my life with this kid.

Me: Is that a baby crying? Hubby: No, it's just Dave Matthews. Eh, same thing.

And my personal favorite ...

Let's pray with our eyes open.  I think he's on to something here. Yes, let's do pray with our eyes open, honey. That way we can see all that God has done for us. 

Have a blessed weekend.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Out of the coccoon

If his teacher only knew ...
For the past 3 years and 9 months, our little family has lived a sheltered little life. We've laughed, learned, cried, eaten, slept and loved together as a family with very little outside influence. (Okay, that sleeping thing may not be exactly true. There really is no togetherness about the way we sleep 'round here.) 

Thursday that all changes. For the first time, a whole lot of somebody elses will be influencing him, caring for him, loving him, playing with him, teaching him. This is all strange and new and exciting and scary.

As a family who will probably homeschool, we weren't sure how preschool would fit in with our plans. We decided late last year, after finding out that Owen was on his way, that preschool would be a good choice for our entire family. It would give Danny, our big boy, his own experience away from the babies to learn how to get along with others. Really, that's a hard thing to learn when your "peer" is a 20-month-old whose favorite word is mine and whose go-to defense mechanism is biting. It would give Fiona some mommy time when the baby is napping. I don't get to spend as much one-on-one time with her; and she let me know today with a little bite to the chest while I was snuggling with her and by swatting and screaming at anyone else I paid attention to.

The best part about this particular preschool is that they stress learning through play. That's probably why many families who plan on homeschooling have sent their kids here. It's not as unusual a combination as I thought.

Hard as it is to admit this, though, I'm nervous. About a lot of things. What if he poops his pants? What if he does that on his very first day? What if he hits another kid? What if he hits the teacher? What if he won't sit still? What if he starts spilling family "secrets"? What is this new woman in his life going to learn about our family? What is she going to think? Will she think I've indulged my kid too much because he insists that he sit on the red patch of carpet during circle time? It is his favorite color, after all ("I red," he informs me at least once a day.). I mean, our family is unique and different and special and no one else would ever understand.

Deep breath. Sometimes I have to remind myself that we're really not the Addams family. We're pretty normal and Danny is basically a good kid (who poops his pants from time to time and lately insists that he is Curious George, his sister is Gnocchi, his mother is Netty and his father is Chef Pisghetti.).

Last week, the preschool had an open house. The parents all brought their kids into the classroom for a short program that included play time, a craft, circle time and a prayer. My goal that morning was to let him be himself and interact with his new environment without being his liaison to the world. I didn't realize how tough that would be.

When he picked out the little blue duck with his name on it, I held my breath and hoped he wouldn't notice that another kid's duck was red. Because I just might have to explain to the teacher that, you see, he is red, always.

When he started interrupting the teacher during circle time, I bit my tongue and let the teacher handle it. But I thought, "Oh great, my kid is like Gerald from Sid the Science Kid."

When the teacher told the kids about the clean up song, Danny sang his own version. He performed the rock and roll clean up song. For his teacher. At the Christian preschool. Even if I wanted to, I wasn't sure just how to explain that he's been listening to the Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin and Johnny Cash and Phish since he was a baby.

When the music started, Danny covered one ear because it was too loud and kept cleaning up with the other hand (and his momma was just so proud). I wanted to rush in and tell the teacher that Danny is very sensitive to loud noises unless, of course, he's making them. Turns out, I didn't have to; the teacher noticed his dilemma and asked him if the music was too loud. (Bless her!)

When it was craft time, Danny got silly and informed the group that the stamp pad felt like poop. I stole a glance at the teacher who didn't bat an eye. Okay, I'll let that one go.  

When the teacher asked them to close their eyes and repeat each line of the prayer after her, Danny dutifully closed his eyes. As the teacher began the prayer, Danny cried loudly, "I can't see. I can't see. It's dark."

I froze. Then I laughed. Then the other mommies laughed. The teacher comforted him and explained that he didn't have to close his eyes. I guarantee that Danny probably is the first kid she's ever seen react that way during prayer time.

And all I could think was this: "There go the first two family secrets: we like rock and roll and we don't routinely pray at our house."

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Learning to talk

Over the years, I've read and reread one parenting book in particular while waiting for the chance to practice its principles on my first born. That book is "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen (and Listen so Kids Will Talk)." The title says it all. I want our kids to listen AND I want them to talk to us. I also want to avoid the needless conflict that often arises when people just don't listen to each other and respond appropriately.

As I've mentioned, empathy is not my strong suit and this book challenges parents to develop it in droves. The biggest mistake that the book points out is that parents often deny a child's feelings in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Or try to distract them from their feelings. Or tell them how to solve their problems.

My sister turned me on to this book. And whenever I gripe about the latest conflict with Danny, she asks if I've read "the book." It is full of sample conversations between parents and kids, illustrating both the correct and incorrect approach. The kids always respond beautifully to the "correct" approach; you know, in complete sentences and corny language. Much like a sit-com, the situation is resolved with complete ease that you are certain would never happen in your own house. 

 I usually sigh and tell my sister, "Yeah, but he doesn't know his lines, Jax."

More recently, she gently told me "You know, he's not too young to try some of those suggestions." I had this in mind today as an all-too-familiar scene began to play out with Danny.

Danny was getting dressed in his room and decided he wanted to wear his beloved orange drum shirt with the matching orange shorts with the white stripes. He picked out this outfit on a shopping trip with Nana once. It's really that special. (I don't know why he has any other clothes. This is all he wants to wear.) I had just dumped the shorts into the wash, but the all-important drum shirt was laid out on the floor.

He began to whine. I could feel my whole body tense for battle.

"I have to wear my orange shorts."

"They're in the wash, Danny."

"No, they're clean. They're not dirty."

"Danny, they were dirty."

This could go on all day. Really. I decided to change tactics.

"I hear that you wish your favorite shorts were not dirty."


"Let's find a sports shirt to go with my other shorts," he says.

Shock. and. Awe. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, we set about to find a suitable sports shirt.

Sounds like he finally learned his lines, Jax.

Thursday, September 02, 2010


It's been a rough week. I say that pretty often, don't I? It's been a while since we've had any illness around here, but this week, the baby got his first cold and shared it with the rest of us. I've been puked, peed, snotted, pooped and drooled on this week a lot. A friend told me Wednesday that I'm looking quite beautiful these days and later suggested that perhaps my new "beauty cream" had something to do with it. Perhaps. If so, it's the cheapest beauty regimen ever.

Anyway ... I want to start some kind of Friday tradition that I may possibly be able to stick with and would offer something unique and funny to my followers (all 12 of you ... which is the exact number of Jesus' disciples. Hm.). A week or so ago, I started to write down funny things uttered around here. It's entirely possible that these things are funny to me because I'm so very sleep deprived. Somehow, though, I've had the presence of mind to keep a notebook and pen handy in the kitchen and have actually written a few things down. Here's our first list:

Don't drink from your shoe. My daughter decided to help herself to some liquid refreshment by dipping her sandal in the water
table I'd set up.

Don't throw grapes at the baby's head. I honestly don't remember who was doing this.

Don't climb the fridge. Fiona, of course.

Get out of the kitchen sink. You guessed it. Fiona.

JIM, SHE'S GOT A KNIFE. Okay, so that one was only funny in retrospect. Fiona had grabbed a bread knife that we'd forgotten to put behind the faucet. That's the only place in the kitchen that is out of her reach. For now.

No, we're not going to play basketball with potatoes. They don't bounce, dear. An actual answer to this question from my 3 year old who was holding two potatoes: "It's okay to play basketball with these?"

Let's sing the rock n' roll clean up song. Danny made this up all on his own. I swear. It involves head banging and a few rock 'n roll-like grunts interspersed with "Clean up." He even sang this song to his preschool teacher on Wednesday during clean-up time.

Don't eat that. I don't remember the last time we had Cheez-its. My husband said this to Fiona while cleaning out the minivan, or, as I like to call it, the trash can on wheels. 

Put your shirt down, Danny. We don't say hello with our belly buttons.  'Nuff said.

I can't see. I can't see. It's dark. Danny began to cry and scream this after his preschool teacher asked the kids to close their eyes for a prayer.

Monkey see, monkey pee.
So there you have it—a smattering of words overheard around here that you never thought would be in the same sentence. Feel free to add your own. Comment or e-mail me (address is on my profile to the left). I could always use a good laugh (and I'm pretty easy to amuse these days).

Oh, and does anyone want to guess what's going on in this photo? Potty training is going to be quite interesting this time around.

Have a great Labor Day weekend.