Monday, January 31, 2011

The Giving Fi

Fiona is my little giver. She's in love with the concept of giving. She notices when someone needs something—a fork, a spoon, a drink, a toy, a hug that resembles a python's squeeze, a light kiss.

We just call her Fi.
I first noticed it this fall when she would see Owen's empty cereal bowl and said, "More cereal for Owen?" And it's continued. She wants to help feed him. She gives him toys and then takes them away and then gives them back, presumably for the smiles to tears to smiles reaction. This evening, after getting her own smoothie, she insisted that I make a smoothie for Danny. Then she proudly walked down into the TV room to hand it to him (after taking a sample sip for herself, of course). I prayed that my son would accept it graciously. Nothing makes her madder than someone who won't take what she's offering. (It's kind of the way I feel when some people won't eat what I cook.) She appears to be obsessed with feeding people. I can't imagine where she gets that.

Fiona also has an excellent grasp on what belongs to whom. The rest she claims for herself with a loud and whiny, "Mine." Today is her official 2nd birthday. So we begin the year of "Mine." Nevertheless, my hope is that she remains a cheerful giver who doesn't keep score. It helps that she's actually incapable of keeping score for the time being. I imagine life is less stressful that way. But given her gender, that's not a realistic expectation. As a mother, I give until it feels like my eyeballs are bleeding and my head might explode and then chastise myself for feeling put upon when the kids ask me for yet another glass of icy water (despite the fact that they can get it for themselves, dammit).

I don't really consider myself much of a giver. In fact, I've spent much of my life confused and frightened by the act of giving—as if it were some kind of open exchange with a running tally. I often don't let people help me because I'm afraid that I'll never be able to reciprocate. I sometimes try too hard to keep up with who has given me what and whether I've done enough for them. I've had so much assistance come my way in the past four years—babysitting, clothes, food, prayers—sometimes from people who probably need more help than I do. (Ugh. That paragraph has way too many first person pronouns, don't you think?)

But when I do manage to help those around me, it usually takes the form of a meal. Cooking is something I do daily. Even with three kids. People think I'm some sort of super mom for this, but I think that you always find a way to do what you love to do. For instance, my sister always managed to sew with little kids in the house. I can barely do that. My kids are way too jumpy and curious to be anywhere near sharp objects and heavy machinery. (But I did manage to make a lovely bathrobe for Fiona's birthday.) Anyhow ...

Whenever someone I know has a baby or is sick or having a rough time, this is the meal I usually fix. A friend once remarked to me after she had a baby that she'd had enough lasagna for one lifetime. It's a nice twist on the traditional Italian casserole dish and it's not laden with ricotta cheese (which is not a favorite of mine for some reason despite my obsession with melty cheese. weird.).

Turkey and Spinach Stuffed Shells

1 box jumbo shells
1.25 pounds ground turkey (ground turkey is usually sold in this amount)
1 teaspoon or so of olive oil 
1 10-ounce package chopped spinach
3/4 cup parmesan cheese (I used to really think this cheese was called Farmer John when I was a kid)
1/2 cup mozarella cheese plus a handful to sprinkle atop the assembled shells
1/2 cup chopped onions (I buy frozen chopped onions because chopping onions, or anything, while children whine at me is rather dangerous. For me, people, not the kids.)
1 large clove garlic minced or 1 teaspoon minced garlic from jar (again, chopping=dangerous)
1 egg
1 teaspoon basil
1 28 to 32 ounce jar spaghetti sauce

Cook pasta shells al dente. Brown onion and garlic in oil. Add turkey and basil and cook through. Add spinach, heat and then remove from heat to add cheeses and egg. Stir until well blended and the mozarella begins to melt. 

Prep a 13x9 pan by putting a thin layer of spaghetti sauce in the bottom. Stuff the shells and arrange them in the pan. Pour remaining spaghetti sauce over it, top with mozarella cheese and cook covered at 350 for about 30 minutes. (This recipe will also fill two smaller pans. I use an 11x9 and an 8x8. Or sometimes, I stuff all the shells, fill a smaller pan for dinner, then freeze the others on a cookie sheet and transfer them later to a freezer bag. This way I can throw one pan together for a friend or us later.)

You'll have more shells than filling. I just stick the extras in the freezer for next time. I always have extra shells in my freezer. It's a time consuming project, but it's worth it in a zen-like way. I once did a variation with ground chicken, feta cheese and chard (from my garden!!). That was totally worth it.


Thursday, January 27, 2011


Today was a red-letter day. I got puked on for the very first time. Then got puked on two more times. Now, puke is very different than just plain old baby spit up. My sons set the bar for baby spit up. Danny was a projectile spitter. Owen's spit up was just copious.

My daughter never spit up. She was the one who bathed me in puke three times today. By the third time, I finally figured out the pattern: hiccups-"hold me"-hurl. Hopefully, she's better by her birthday party on Saturday morning.

Oh, and the baby is getting two teeth. At the same time. And he's practically standing on his own. And, no, he's still not sleeping much better. He still gets up several times a night, refuses to go back down quietly and, for a few days in a row this week, got up for the day before 6 a.m.  He's the world's biggest asshole.  Good thing he's cute and snuggly. 

Danny is, well, himself. Since he's not napping these days, we've been spending a lot more time together. He's learning to read. He's very upset that he can't read. One night last week, we heard a ruckus upstairs and went to check on him. He was flailing around in his bed, screaming:

I can't read the words.  Classic first born behavior.

We play with a set of magnetic letter tiles that fit together like puzzle pieces. He's been spelling out words: Pam (his preschool teacher), ham, bam and, of course, dam.

See, mom, it's a dam word, he told me. Aw, shit.
You be sure to tell people that a dam holds back water, okay, kid?

Don't say that word, he tells us when we curse. I swear, I'll stop cursing so much when the baby starts sleeping better. 
I'm putting this play dough away since no one is playing with it, I yell to the kids who have moved on to the playroom. Hey. Wait a minute. Hey, get your butts in here and clean this up.

Story time's over. Now it's scream time, Jim says to Fiona. Every night she screams her head off at bed time no matter how much attention and stories she has.

PopPop. Toothpick, Fiona says out of the blue one night. I love the associations my kids make with the people in their life.

No poop on the floor, Fiona says to us.
Yeah, you just put everything else on the floor, Jim says. She keeps a very messy room these days. Sometimes I can barely walk on the floor.

Thank you for food. Baby Jesus. Skin-a-ma-rink. Amen.  Danny's dinner prayer one night. Skin-a-ma-rink is from a song they sing at preschool.

Sitting, but not at the actual table
Dear Lord, Please help our children sit down to eat. Mommy's dinner prayer one night. They were particularly antsy that night.

SHE GOT IN MY WAY, Danny bellows after mowing down his sister from behind.
Danny, 'your way' is not where other people are standing. You have to find a clear path, I explain to the apparent center of the universe.

YEAH, you're going to leave, Danny exclaims when he finds out that he's staying overnight at Nana and PopPop's. And don't let the door hit you on the way out, Daddy.

How 'bout this? I clean up the playroom and you take a bath. 
I don't want to take a bath. 
Well, I don't want to clean up this mess. 
Ah, the double misery strategy.

Oh, no, Owie, you eat at the table like the rest of us, Jim says as Owie books it toward the remains of dinner that Jim was sweeping up.

What are you doing? Jim asks Danny who is sitting on the edge of his bed one night with a finger up his nose.
Just getting some boogers out, he says.

I don't have any underwear, Danny bellows.
Get some out of Fiona's drawer. She has plenty, I tell him. He quite literally pees his pants twice as often as she does. On laundry day, (which is almost every day, now that I think of it) I fold eight pairs of underwear for three pairs of hers. And he actually was not upset about donning her underwear.

Till next week or sooner ... I've got a lot on my mind these days.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Holding the middle

It's hard to plan a birthday party when you don't really like the birthday girl's behavior at the moment. Actually, it's a miracle I was even able to type that last sentence. The birthday girl routinely pops keys off my keyboard. For a while, I couldn't find the letter 'M'. And when the 'L' went missing, we just had to replace the entire keyboard.

Last year on her birthday we were snowed in and we had a low-key family party. My husband and I discussed what to do for her party this year. We couldn't even think of what to serve since she barely eats and throws most of her food on the floor.

What does this child even like?

Screaming. Crying. Throwing toys and food. Pooping and peeing on the floor. Jumping on the sofa. Hitting people. Breaking things.

Sounds like a college frat party. Maybe we should get a keg of apple juice and invite some kids over for a morning of sofa jumping and toy hurling. Then we can set up a boxing ring and have a food fight.

That's paint on her face
My 2 year old to be is a disaster. Who is potty trained despite the floor pooping incidents. I was afraid that she was pooping on the floor in retaliation for, oh, everything: being a middle child, having to go to bed, being told no. I suspect that miscommunication was part of the problem. She was probably trying to tell us that she had to go, yet we didn't get it.  Probably the lack of actual words coming out of her mouth. (Why haven't mothers evolved into mind readers yet?) She seems to understand what we want, though.

"No poop on the floor," she tells us. And she hasn't since last Saturday afternoon.

She's using language but doesn't understand the full implications of what she says.

"Is there poop on the floor, Fiona?"

"Yeah," she says excitedly. But there isn't it. Unless she's thinking of last weekend which was a perfect shit storm. Ah, well, at least she's saying "yes" instead of "no" all the time. Danny didn't start saying that until well into his third year.

She's giving up her afternoon nap already. Or I should say that we are giving up on her naps. I'm just tired of fighting her. Getting her down is a battle, one in which she trashes her room and sometimes poops on her bedroom floor. If she does sleep, bedtime is another major battle. One night last week, she cried hysterically on and off for over an hour. (I have little sympathy in this situation. My thinking? If she can turn it on and off, she can turn it off permanently.) Every time I left her bedroom, she cried. When she doesn't nap, she falls asleep within minutes.
She's struggling to be heard and noticed and to participate. She likes clothes, which is the only indication we have that she is indeed a girl. (I'm not a girly girl and certainly don't want my daughter to be Barbie and princess obsessed. I am a little excited, though, that she likes to try on clothes.) She hits her dolls and fights with Danny over cars. She almost never cries when she falls; she cries hysterically if you tell her no or discipline her in any way. She wants to be included in everything. She intentionally agitates her big brother. She wants me to hold her, then she tries to shove her fingers up my nose or in my eye or bites my chest.

A year ago this weekend was my due date for Fiona. We were snowed in and about to attempt our first homebirth. I got pregnant with Owen about six months later. It's almost as if she became a middle child right then. My attention was already split three ways. So much has happened in two short years that I feel like I hardly even know my daughter sometimes.

My current theory is that she needs more of my attention. I'm sure this is why she mercilessly abuses her brothers. Danny gets clobbered with toys; she's a bit gentler with Owen, just using her hand. I've instituted girl time. The past two Saturday mornings, we have gone to the library for story time and to Starbuck's. She asks for coffee; I buy her chocolate milk and we sit, or I sit and she flits about. I'm not really imagining what it will be like years from now or whether we'll even continue our girl time. All that projecting takes too much energy. I'm just trying to watch her and figure out who she is and let her do most of the talking.

She seems tentative about the whole thing. It's almost like she's trying to figure out what I'm doing. She's not lapping up the attention during girl time, but just in the past week she's been a bit more affectionate and engaging with me. It feels like we are trying to figure each other out. Some days it's us ladies against the guys, other days she plays the daddy's girl role after we've butted heads too many times, and yet other days it's just Fiona against the world. We have plenty of time, though; after all, a daughter's a daughter all her life.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


This morning, it occurred to me that my older two children are acquiring self-help skills at an alarming rate. This has it's advantages. However, the downside to having kids with mad self-help skills is that they often just help themselves to whatever they want to eat or do.

Sometimes, they let themselves outside. All our doors now have chain locks.

Danny and Fiona both can get water and ice from the fridge door dispenser. They help themselves to fruit in the fridge. Danny even poured his own milk the other day. Our kitchen floor in front of the fridge may soon cave in from water damage.

I'm relieved that my son can now dress himself to the shoes and get his own jacket on. He's even getting very good at matching his clothes. For a while all I heard from him was "It's tricky. I can't do it." I tried to motivate him to put on his own shoes by telling him that when he turned 4 he would have to do it himself. The day after his birthday, I told him to get his shoes on and he told me:

"I can't. It's not my birthday." 

(I totally didn't see that one coming.)

My daughter can now get her own jacket on and is working on getting dressed. She often gets two legs in one hole, but that's to be expected at her age. And when she figures something out, she shouts loudly, "I did it."

I can't tell you how terrifying that phrase is when I hear it from the other room. Especially if that room is the bathroom and the toilet just flushed.

As of this morning, both of them wipe their own bums. I am so holding them to this. We are not going back.

And Owen is chiming in now:

Bob, he said this week. All of our kids have said the dog's name first. At least they know who's important around here.

Daddy said no. OH. You've got to talk to him, mom. He's trying to play us against each other lately. After i I stopped laughing, I gently let him know that Daddy and I are on the same team.

It's steamy. Why did you put fire in [the bath water]? Because i'm just so sadistic ...

I'm going to throw water. Do you want to catch it, mommy? Um, not really, even though it may be the only shower I get.

The moon is cracked, Danny informs us. He then shows us how he sees the moon through the tree branches.

Carry you, Fiona tells me whenever she wants a lift down the stairs. When I was her age, my father used to say to me, "Do you want me to carry you?" And I'd reply, "Carry you."

Hey, Danny, it smells like your room, Jim says as we approach the farm yard at the Museum of Life and Science.

MEAN, Fiona shouts. Danny is apparently still being mean.

Zippers and penises are mortal enemies, buddy, Jim tells Danny after a little mishap with his footed jammies.

When are we going to mask? Danny asks. I know the priest wears a cape, but he doesn't wear a mask, dear. It's called mass.

And what may be the quote of the year, according to my husband:

You put the wrong shirt in my drawer. This one is Owen's shirt, Danny bellows at his father.
Which one? Jim asks.
You know, the little one, Danny says, referring to his brother.
Clearly, we have too many kids here.

Friday, January 14, 2011


It's been a long, icy, napless week, full of late nights and all nighters and poop on the floor. I yelled a lot. And ate a lot of candy. And drank some Diet Coke. And treated myself to a McRib sandwich.

I thought that Monday was bad when Owie was up for 14 hours straight. No nap, morning or afternoon, and Captain No Nap went down an hour later than usual for the night. He's been declining naps all week. Right now, he looks like he's been smoking pot.

Then came an obscenely sleepless Wednesday night.

And Thursday night was the icing on the cake. Or should I say the poop on the floor. I like icing better and after what we found in Fiona's room, I felt like eating the rest of a canister of that vanilla icing in the fridge with a spoon. (I didn't, though.) After a few days of poop on the floor over the weekend, I convinced her to use the potty instead. She was doing great and so proud of herself. But Princess Poopy struck again. It's never good when you hear your husband upstairs running the washing machine and the bath tub simultaneously. I came up and he said, "I wouldn't go in there if I were you." We're renting a carpet cleaner this weekend.

As for Danny, the unrelenting question of the week from General Pester has been this:

Can we go to Marbles? Marbles is the most awesome kid museum I've ever been to. We only go on nights when the admission price is subsidized by Target or Chick-Fil-A. We're going on Jan. 25. I even let him put a sticker on the cool new calendar that my mom got me for Christmas.

I can't find it, mommy.
Did you look?
Well, there's your problem, son.

It's not TV time, honey.
Yeah, it's time to go to Marbles. 

I'm all out [of poop], he explains after a failed attempt at pooping.

OH. We just got to go to Marbles. Dude, you have just got to stop asking.

MEAN, Fiona shouts at Danny repeatedly after I ask her if Danny was being mean to her.

Look, the big hand is on the eight. It's time to go to Marbles. A clever, new tactic. Cute.

Get your head out of the toilet, child. It seems with every new trainee comes new restrictions I didn't even know needed to voiced.

It's after bath time. It's time to go to Marbles. Um, no. It's time to go to bed. 

She's vicious, I tell Jim, after seeing the latest bite mark Fiona has left on her big brother.
She's coming at me with a piece of raw spaghetti and she's gonna eat the evidence, Jim cries and runs away as Fiona darts up to him with her weapon of the hour. Fiona thinks this is hilarious.

We're going to see PopPop today.
And then we're going to Marbles? It is going to be so anti-climatic when we finally go.

I aimed my power picture at them, Danny says. He doesn't shoot guns; he just points a picture from a book or the DVD case at whatever is bothering him. Brilliant.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Diary of an omniturnal mom

An occasional feature

I have a need to document things. I'm okay with it. Really. As the title suggest, I don't sleep. I'm not nocturnal, I'm not diurnal, I'm just up. All the time. Physically and mentally. I'm omniturnal. I'm not really okay with that, but it'll pass soon enough. And then I'll be giddy at the thought of four hours of sleep in a row.

Maybe one day, when my children are grown, they'll look back on my writings and laugh. Or maybe I'm providing a road map to my children's psyches for their future therapists. Or maybe I'll publish a book that Planned Parenthood can provide to its young clients along with birth control pills. I try to be helpful ...

11:30 p.m. Wednesday: Mommy goes to bed after spending one hour completely alone. It's the only time she's had to herself all day. Even the shower she got to take was shared with a hesitant but curious tot who wandered in and out of the shower.

Midnight: Danny, the oldest, starts squawking in his sleep. Mommy waits it out. He goes back to sleep.

12:30 a.m., Thursday: Mommy is finally tired enough to go to sleep. Her mind stops racing. The baby wakes up. She figures that she better feed him even though it's after last call--which is midnight. She decided about a week ago that it was time to cut him off between midnight and 7 a.m.

12:45 a.m.: Back to bed.

1:30 a.m.: Fiona, the middle child, begins crying from her room. Mommy goes to her, calms her down, lays down in bed with her for a few minutes.

1:40 a.m.: Back to bed.

2:30 a.m.: Fiona cries again. This time, Mommy goes in and rummages through a basket on Fiona's dresser to find the pacifier that she's trying to wean her off of. She pops it in her mouth and gives her a kiss.

2:32 a.m.: Back to bed.

3:00 a.m.: The baby wakes up. To feed or not to feed? A quick calculation: He didn't take his bedtime nursing and was asleep before I returned home last night. But he did eat his macaroni plus the remains of his siblings macaroni for dinner last night. Oh, what the hell ... he'll probably just go back to sleep.

3:30 a.m.: He doesn't. Instead, he sits bolt up in his crib after Mommy puts him down. So it's off to the closet to sleep the rest of the night in the Pack and Play. (It's a walk-in closet, with a window and plenty of room. But I'm sure the sight of women's clothing on hangers will haunt him for the rest of his life.)

4:00 a.m.: The baby is still complaining and crying and whining in the closet. Mommy comes back from trying to comfort and settle him down and shouts about the activity of the past few hours and how she's had about an hour of sleep so far. Her husband gets up for the day--a half hour earlier than normal--probably to get away from the crazy lady who's yelling in their bedroom.

4:10 a.m.: Mommy checks on the baby again, brings him to bed to nurse and detects a familiar aroma. Off to change a poopy, red bottom. She feels pretty guilty that she didn't think to check the diaper.

4:33 a.m.: The baby's crying is tapering off. He seems to be giving up. Mommy drifts off to sleep finally.

7:43 a.m.: Mommy wakes up in a slight panic. All is quiet. Too quiet. It's a preschool morning and all her kids are fast asleep an hour before they need to head out the door. She chuckles bitterly. They sleep in like this only when they need to be somewhere. What a bunch of assholes, she thinks.

Shall I continue? Yes, yes, I should. 

9:30 a.m.: Mommy returns from preschool drop off with the baby and Fiona. Time for baby's nap? Yes, no, maybe ... who the hell knows? One day this week, the baby stayed up all day long, that is, 14 hours straight. One failed attempt and ...

9:43 a.m.: Fiona and Owen are playing happily in her bedroom with the occasional skirmish. Mommy curls up on Fiona's bed, pulls the covers over her head and hopes the kids don't notice her for a few minutes. They don't. Then they do. So ...

10:00 a.m.: Time for a change of scenery. Downstairs we go.

11:45 a.m.: The baby, who has been up all morning alternately eating and crying, falls asleep while nursing.

What time does Mommy have to pick up Danny from preschool?

12:15 p.m.

Right now, they're all asleep upstairs. Mommy didn't even need Benadryl this time. And Danny and the banana-and-dirt-crusted baby are still in their pajamas. (Danny got to wear pajamas to preschool today. There goes that threat .... now he'll want to go to preschool in his pajamas every day. Thanks, Ms. Pam.)

To be continued ...  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Refereeing in romper room

Cabin fever has set in here.

Monday morning I took the kids to the library when Owen decided against his morning nap. He also opted out of his afternoon nap. And didn't go to bed until 8 p.m. I had 14 hours straight of quality time with Owen on Monday.

And Tuesday looked like this: 
yuck. ice.

Wednesday I had to get out of the house with the kids despite the icy path to the ice-caked van. My main dilemma was how to get myself and the baby to the van. Since I couldn't very well carry him while walking unsteadily on ice, I sat him down on the ice and gave him a little nudge. He slid down slowly to the bare pavement quite nicely and seemed to enjoy the ride. Next dilemma? Getting a freaked-out Danny to the van. He was not getting the hang of traversing the ice like his sister who was very nonchalantly shuffling along. Next up? Getting a half-inch of ice off the van windshield. A metal from the kitchen worked well.

Once on our way, it felt quite nice to have them strapped in and physically unable to reach me or each other. The only thing better would be a divider (think taxi cabs or limousines) between the front and back of the van. Why is this not standard equipment on every minivan? Then I wouldn't be questioned endlessly about the snack I was trying to sneak.

Several ice-bound days in a house playing referee among three warring parties is mind-numbingly exhausting. 

Nobody likes the referee, I'm finding. And it's not that I want my kids to like me. I'm not that mom. I would, however, like not to be "on duty" all the time. Even real referees are only on the job for up to an hour of play. At least their game ends.

My game? It starts two minutes after Danny and Fiona greet each other in the morning and doesn't end until after they go to bed. And even then, we get the occasional skirmish. One night this week I heard a scuffle upstairs and looked up to find Fiona lying on her stomach with Danny on her back. She was a little upset. Understandably so.

"She got out [of her room]," he said. Thanks, Sheriff Dan. 

Even the baby has figured out that if he screams like he's being stabbed when one of them takes his toy, he'll get my attention. And someone will get in trouble. Smart kid. He even smirks when I'm berating.

A truce, for now.
This afternoon I overheard a battle that broke out after about 10 minutes of quiet.

"Back off."


The problem? Danny had "traded" leap pads with Fiona.

"Danny, did you just take hers and give her yours?"

"Uh huh."

"That's not trading, that's taking. Give it back."

"OH!" And off he stomps. Fiona plays with the leap pad for two more seconds and then leaves.

Fiona the doll slayer
Speaking of Fiona, she's got an aggressive streak these days. When she's not throwing toys at Danny, she's hitting or biting him. Whenever Owen screams and she's nearby, I fear the worst. She's very good at making sure I don't see whatever she's done. And her dolls ... she hits them in the face and tonight started biting them when I tucked her in. I'm a bit worried.

Some days I'm tempted to let the two of them work it out, even if it comes to blows occasionally. And I've heard that some moms do that. Is 2 and 4 years old too early to start this policy? I'm tired already. As I listen in on their "solutions," it's clear that the 2 year old is getting the short end of the stick because a.) Danny does not rule with fairness. and b.) she can't talk well or rationally enough to defend herself.

So I intervene. About a thousand times a day, it seems. By the end of the day, I feel like I've had not one positive interaction with them. And I'm often hoarse from yelling. I spend the day sorting out property rights, breaking up romper room brawls and explaining the nuances of interpersonal relationships. For instance, it needs to be explained that rushing to grab a toy your sister is going for is the same as taking that toy from her. Or a toy trade needs to be a mutual decision. Or taking the bigger piece because you are "bigger" is not necessarily fair. Or you can't make decisions for your sister; she'll decide what she wants to eat or play with herself (he's a bossy first born). Or people don't respond well to a demanding tone and loud voice, even if you say please. Or coughing on someone in retaliation is rather aggressive, especially if you have a cold.

I'm a big fan of natural consequences up to a point. If a kid is going to behave a certain way, he's going to learn better from his peers what is acceptable and what is not than from the authorities. And there's a good chance he'll respect that verdict more than he will an authority imposing an arbitrary sentence.

Sometimes when Danny is provoking Fiona and she retaliates, I don't feel like punishing her too severely. I feel like telling Danny to just stop bugging her. But, really, a bite or swat or shove is only a natural consequence when dealing with people who are mentally off or anyone under the age of three apparently. The challenge is getting them to understand and remember in the heat of their little battles that biting, swatting and shoving are considered a bit anti-social by most of us.

Some days, though, I wish that I had a whistle.

Friday, January 07, 2011


So we're back into a routine here and that's what I like. That's what the kids like. My husband has been home all week and finishing some projects around the house. We're working on getting the baby to sleep more soundly. One night this week, as I lay fast asleep, Owen was climbing all over Jim in our bed. Clearly, co-sleeping has become too dangerous.

And bath time has become rather treacherous lately, too. I was arranging Owen's towel while Jim was corralling Fiona and exhorting Owen to sit down. Before I could get to him, he hurled himself from the tub like Shamu and landed on the rug. Jim commented later that it was a good thing no one had pooped on the rug that particular day or it would not have been there to break his fall.

And I am still utterly exhausted. The little bit of extra sleep I've gotten since Jim has been home and Owen has been sleeping slightly better only reminds my body of how tired I really am. Although, Owen did sleep seven whole hours last night and they were the right ones: Midnight to 7 a.m. Progress!!!

So here is a smattering of what's been overheard around here these past few weeks:

It's not that he looks like Sloth [from The Goonies]. It's that Sloth looks like a baby, Jim says of Owen. Oh, well then, go right ahead and continue to call our son Sloth.

Are you sure you'll be okay alone with all of them? I ask my best friend before my husband and I leave for a dinner out.
You do this every day, she says.
Yeah, but they locked me in a bedroom this week
I would advise anyone who takes care of my children from here on out to always carry a cell phone and thin, rigid object with which to pop door locks.

What could possibly be wrong? You're eating a donut. Jim says to a whiny Fiona. Oh, you'll see, dear, you'll see. Have I mentioned she goes nuts on sugar?

Danny, you can't wear footed pajamas all afternoon.
But I have to. They're a present from Nana, he says with a quivering lip. How can I say no to that?

Danny needs a picture of a nocturnal animal for a preschool project next week, Jim informs me.
I pointed to Owen. The kid actually laughed. Babies have a sick sense of humor.

Do you need a hug, Danny? I ask as he's in post-nap hysterics because, near as I can figure, he's upset about wearing clothes at naptime.
NO, he screams. Well, file that parenting magazine gem under "FAIL."

Because I said so, I say, exasperated after running out of answers.
Ohhh, don't say so, he cries.

Cup? Fiona asks as she goes for the cup drawer.
No, I say loudly, just use the cup on the floor. There's a good chance it's actually clean. By 9 a.m. on most days, my kids have managed to scatter just about every cup in the drawer. We have at least 15 in there.

Utto, we lost two of them, Jim proclaims as he looks in the rear view mirror on our way home from the museum and lunch. Owen and Fiona had fallen asleep. Van naps don't count.

You're not cleaning up. You're just making a mess somewhere else, I told. Danny was helping to clean up by putting blankets and toys on a chair. I have a feeling this will be the kid who "cleans" his room by putting everything under the bed.

You don't like [the bacon]? I ask as I notice Danny has chewed and spit out a few bites.
It's too good, he replies. Yes, that is so true, dear.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

More dumb things I say way too often

Do you ever worry that you and your husband won't have a thing left to say to each other when the kids finally move out? I used to. But now I'm convinced that this happens not because you haven't maintained your relationship but because, after 20-some years of raising children, you just are tired of hearing yourself talk. You just want peace and quiet.

But maybe if I just save my breath and stop uttering these useless phrases at the children, my husband and I won't be completely mute by the time our nest is empty.

Get your shoes on. I say this way too often to the boy child. He does know how to get at least two pairs of his own shoes on.  But inevitably by the time we have to leave, he's wandering around aimlessly after at least five exhortations to get his shoes on. Jim suggested that I just stop saying this altogether.

Did you look? This is my most common response to Danny's lament "I can't find it, mom." And, of course, like most men in training, he hasn't really looked. Whatever item he's searching for is usually hiding in plain sight and I utter this next senseless phrase: 

Do I have to come up there? Yes. Yes, I do. After 50 trips up and down the stairs daily, usually toting a 20-pound infant, you'd think I'd have lost some weight by now.

Do you have to go pee? The answer is always no. Always. And he always pees a river when he's finally been corralled into the bathroom. Now Fiona is saying no to this question, but she almost always pees when she gets there.

Eat your food. I find that I have to be specific here. I still have kids who frequently stuff mulch and leaves in their mouths. Oddly, lately before nap time we have pretend lunch whereby the children fix invisible food from the kitchen set and sit at the little table in Fiona's room "eating." I also have to emphasize the "your" part as  Fiona seems to eat only when she thinks that she's eating someone else's food.

Sit down. They do everything but sit on chairs. Sitting in chairs is such a rare event that I actually go find the camera and take a picture of it when it happens. They configure chairs to make a bus, they stand on them, they sit backwards on them, one kid uses chairs as a garage for his cars. They push them over to the counter to see what I'm making. They walk around the backyard carrying kid-sized chairs that we bought them. We thought that maybe they'd be more interested in sitting on kid chairs. We were wrong. They flip the little picnic table over and sit inside it. And when they fall off of chairs during all this activity, we have very little sympathy for them. Actually, we try not to laugh, once we're sure they haven't broken any bones, of course.

Don't make a mess. Apparently, this is in the job description for kids. I can always tell where they've been and what they've been doing by what they leave behind. Play dough under the kitchen table and a mound of soft soap in the bathroom sink tells a story.  So does water streaming from the refrigerator across the kitchen floor and that trail of toilet paper in the hallway.
Use a napkin. I dread having to dress them or myself up for anything because they will smear something, usually snot, on my or their clothes within two seconds of getting dressed. They are both obsessed with napkins, ask for them frequently yet never, ever use them. In fact, in Danny's first-ever school picture, he's wearing part of his breakfast. Maybe I shouldn't have laughed at the three-year-old I saw at Danny's preschool wearing a bib. I bet his school picture is flawless. This is why I was hesitant to try a formal family portrait this year. I'd have to dress all of us at the studio.

Leave your sister/brother alone. I think it's in the unwritten sibling constitution that they have to agitate the living crap out of each other, which, of course, agitates me.

Because I said so. To which my son says, "Ooohhhh, don't say so."  I swore I'd never say this to my kids. They deserve answers. Real answers. After the fifth "Why?" though, I've run out of answers and feel that mommy deserves a brownie for the four somewhat coherent answers already provided.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Happy January

So it's January 4th. The holidays are finally over. Today, Jim watched sadly as the garbage truck crushed up our Christmas tree. Good thing I didn't see it or I'd have cackled with glee. We put it out on New Year's Eve. I'm still sweeping up needles and will be until our wedding anniversary. We were married on the first day of spring.

Not taken on Christmas Eve ... 
We did have a nice, low-key holiday, mostly because we were all so sick that we could have recorded a coughing version of Jingle Bells. I was in the doctor's office with a wheezing baby two days before Christmas and by Christmas Eve, my husband had a fever of 102.6 (I just love using the decimal. It makes it so much more dramatic, don't you think?) We didn't go to Mass with the little boys dressed in their matching outfits and Fiona in her finery and we didn't even have that nice Christmas Eve lasagna (from Stoeffer's. ever heard of 'em?). On Christmas Eve, I took the older two out to Wal-Greens before dinner because mommy really needed some Diet Coke bad. I popped a Digiorno pizza in the oven. It was the extra fancy kind; it came with breadsticks. And we ate in the dining room to make it even fancier. I broke down in tears before trying to chat up my sister in Japan on Facebook that night because one more holiday without the other half of my heart here felt impossible. I put the kids to bed alone, which involved quite a bit of yelling. I put the presents out alone. And I cursed my stupid luck that I hadn't gotten sick myself just so I could get some rest. It was not an idyllic Christmas Eve by any stretch of the bounds of optimism.

But Christmas Day was a better. The kids liked their gifts. They played more with the gifts we got from the thrift shop and the low-cost gifts than anything else we got. We spent the afternoon at mom and dad's house and my brother and his wife were there. I wrestled the kids into their Christmas outfits just to be sure we got plenty of bang for our buck. The boys wore theirs all day; my daughter told Nana to "take it off" almost as soon as we arrived. She's just like her mother, that one.

Christmas night was awesome. The snow started falling just before the kids went to bed. Danny stayed up watching it out his bedroom window and then fell asleep on the floor in his new sleeping bag from Nana Meehan. And we all woke up to this sight:

We had a fantastic couple of days sledding down our hill which Jim enhanced with a curve and a ramp built up with snow. All the kids went sledding, even the baby, and we actually caught some air going over the ramp. Sweet! The kids also really dug the hot cocoa, although Danny doesn't like his hot.

Come this time of year, though, I don't really make resolutions. Especially ones involving food or beverage. Here's why:

Saturday, January 1: I tell my husband that I really want to stop drinking so much Diet Coke. It may be keeping the baby up at night. But the dilemma? Saturday is always pizza night. And you can't have pizza without Diet Coke, now can you? We ordered from Randy's instead of making it at home. The baby and I went to pick it up. I theorized that I could not likely carry an 18" pizza, a 20 pound baby and a Diet Coke from the fountain. I was wrong.

Sunday, January 2:  I told my husband about how I learned that aspartame had addictive properties. This does not surprise me in the least. I still manage to down a diet drink, but at least it's just ginger ale.

Monday, January 3: I was good. Instead of Diet Coke, I downed about a quart of seltzer water from my new seltzer bottle that was a gift from my brother. I tell my husband that I think I just crave carbonated beverages.

Tuesday, January 4: I am forced by poor planning (due to extreme exhaustion) to stop by Wal-Greens on the way to preschool this morning to buy some candy for Danny's class. Long story short, I buy the candy (75 percent off!!) and wind up with a 20 oz. Diet Coke AND a bag of Cheetos.

To my husband's credit, he rarely ever calls me on any of this.

And to complicate matters, I found a book before Christmas at Barnes & Noble, bought it on Amazon and it arrived before Christmas. The title? Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. Merry Christmas to me. If there's one thing I love more than Diet Coke, it's bread. Hot, fresh, crispy crusted bread. With butter. Real butter. Since Sunday, I've made three loaves from this ingeniously evil, pound-packing method of providing fresh bread on a daily basis. Actually, on Sunday, I made a second loaf after realizing that the first loaf may not make it to dinner.

I suck at self-denial, which is why I try not to make resolutions based on abstinence. I seem to do better with resolves at any time of the year to do more in some areas. Last year, I made a promise to myself to be more honest about what goes on under my roof and how exactly I feel about it. Judging by some of the comments and emails I've received this year, I'd call my resolve a success.

This year? I'm trying to be more careful (see? more!!) with the grocery budget ... details to follow. It's not as exciting as it sounds, but to me, it kind of is. It combines my love of food and my insane need to categorize and control, I mean, quantify things. I so desperately need order in some area of my life right now.