Thursday, March 31, 2011


My brain is just numb. I have an 11 month old who wouldn't sleep through the night if we induced a coma, a 4-year-old who is trying to kick the Pull Up habit by sleeping naked and a 2-year-old who is probably going to destroy our house soon.

There's been flour on the floor, water on the floor and breakfast on the floor. And today, she deposited poop on the floor for the first time in weeks and then took her underpants off and peed on a cushioned dining room chair that she had pulled over to the counter. Fiona has been the kitchen sink, in the bathroom sink, on the counter, in her brother's crib and in time out quite a bit this week. I need a straight jacket. For her. 

It's a good thing that my husband found a $25 steam cleaner at the thrift shop and managed to fix it. It's come in quite handy this week. When I called him at work to report the dining room chair incident, he told me to lock her in her room and don't let her pee on anything absorbent.

Her pee pee looks like a rabbit. My pee pee's over there. Danny was observing Fiona's pee pee puddle on the rug in his room. Jim was at the ready with the steam vacuum. Some kids cloud spot; my kids stain spot.

I've got to go change, Danny says while I was directing the evening clean up.
Did you just pee in your pajamas to get out of clean up time?
Yes, he says. Well, at least he's honest. I made him clean up in wet pajamas. I'm so mean.

Close the door. I need privacy, Fiona tells me while she's on the potty. Sure, kid, but I'm staying in here with you. No way she can be trusted in the bathroom alone after what she did to the flour.

Open your mouth when you speak, child. I'm trying to get Fiona to stop whining through practically closed lips.
AHHH, she says.

You pee your bed one more time and you're paying the water bill, Jim tells Fiona. She's been taking her clothes off and falling asleep naked.

God is good, God is great. Thank you for our pigeon. Thank you for our food. Amen. We've got a pigeon hanging out in our yard. The kids love him. Other things he's thanked God for this week? The titmouse (a type of bird in our yard) and his cousins.

Thank you bor the bood, Fiona says.

Dokey mole. Fiona's word for remote control.

Hey, I did a complete sentence. Yeah, that's right. I've been insisting lately that Danny speak in complete sentences when he asks for things. For example, he needs to say "I would like some apple juice, please" instead of us having this tooth-pulling conversation:

I want apple juice.
What do you say?
Complete sentence, please.

I'm waiting. 
Please may I have some apple juice.
Why yes, you may. That wasn't so hard, was it?
It was hard work, mom. (Wait a minute ... I think that was harder for me than him.)

Why are you in time out, Fiona? Jim asks.
I hit Owie. 
What are you going do different next time?
I bite him.
Good luck, Owie, Jim says.

Come here, you rascal, Danny says as he wrestles a sapling to the ground in our backyard.

I'm trying to move that flat rock and find your old kitty, Danny explains. The flat rock is a gravestone for Stu, my old kitty who died when I was pregnant with Danny.
Well, he's probably turned back into dirt. He decomposed, I tell him. He knows about Stu. We talk about him and he's seen photos.
Oh, he dissolved! (He's still fascinated with dissolving.)

I want to do it that way, Fiona says after watching her brother pee standing up. Oh dear.
You can't do it that way, honey. Only boys pee standing up. Girls sit down, I tell her.
Yeah, Fi, I stand up. I have a penis and a butt, Danny chimes in. A few weeks ago, he told me the difference between boys and girls is that girls just have a butt, not a penis.

HEY, why are you little? Danny asked a woman jogging by with her husband. Her husband was very tall and she was very short.
Danny, you're little, Jim reminds him.
Yeah, and she's little, too.

Meanwhile, Jim hears the woman say:
Did he just call me little?
Yeah, I think so, her partner says.

And so begins a whole new chapter of parental embarrassment.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Ah, let's see. What happened this week?

It got hot, then cold, then hot, then cold. I had a million conversations about how we have to wear long sleeves and pants instead of shorts when it's cooler outside even though we wore shorts yesterday. I remember this frustration as a child. I thought my mother was so unfair because she wouldn't let me wear shorts in April. (We lived in New York.) I get it, now, Mom.

Fiona started getting interested in going potty again, or actually, she's just interested in wearing underpants. She told her godmother this week that she doesn't like the potty. Sigh.
Triple trouble

Danny is on a remarkably even keel these days. (And now that I've said that out loud, he's going to turn into Satan.)

Owen started sleeping a little better as he should; he's almost walking. He's stringing sounds together and even saying some actual words, such as ...

Pizza, Owen said on pizza night. He was peeking over Jim's shoulder while in the backpack as Jim cut pizza. He loves pizza. (Don't worry, we're not feeding him junk food. It's homemade pizza.)

Kiss, Owen said one morning. We were chatting on my bed, our morning ritual, and he leaned in and gave me a kiss. Awwwww. (He's such a baby trap.)

That's not camiliar, Danny says. He was putting two pieces of sausage together.
What does that mean? I ask.
It's silly, strange, weird and not good. Ah, I see.

Owen bit me, Fiona says.
Did you put your hand in his mouth?
Well, don't do that. (Honestly, she and I have had this conversation about 10 times this week. Two year olds are not that bright.)

Keep your voice down, Danny. Owen is trying to fall asleep, I tell him. 
I'm trying, mom, but I just can't do it.  I knew it. This supports my theory that children have two volumes: Off and Loud.

See, tables and chairs are designed so you can sit and eat over the table so you don't make a mess, I explain to Fiona one morning to blank stares. Are you understanding any of this?
No, she says and shakes her head.

Sit down, I told the kids at dinner one night.
What's sit down? Danny asked. OH ... maybe that's the problem. They don't know what sit down means.

What will happen if you don't eat that and ask for it again tomorrow?
Nothing, he says.
That's right. Mommy's new rule: If you don't eat what you ask for, you don't get it next time you ask. Mommy thinks that is totally fair.

Where do you want to go to work when you grow up? Jim asked Danny one night before bed .
I want to make fast food. Oh, boy. My kid will one day utter the dreaded phrase: Do you want fries with that?

Oh, look, there's tufted titmouse on the screen porch, I told the kids.
Hey, Owie, it's one of your people, Jim said. For those who don't think like a 13 year old boy, he was making a joke about Owie's nursing habits. We're learning the names of birds in our yard. This one wasn't too bright. He was stuck in there for hours, flitting about in the gutters and the underdecking. The kids were just delighted.

Eat off your plate, not off the floor, Jim bellowed at Fiona one night. She had gotten out of her chair and picked up a dried up piece of rotini from under the table and proceeded to eat it. She had a full plate of fresh food in front of her. I am perilously close to just throwing the food on the floor at mealtime.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Diary of an omniturnal mom

Plan Z

Mommy woke up one recent morning and thought, "Gee, I feel somewhat well-rested for a change." The baby slept through his normal 2:00 a.m. feeding; she fed him at 4:30 and he slept again until 7:30.

Then she heard the voices again. And they were rather far away. And they seemed to be cooperating with each other. Hm.

Mommy jets down the stairs with a squishy diapered babe who's kicked off his pajama bottoms.

The scene this week?

Danny, dressed in red shorts and an orange shirt, is sitting on the floor with the bottle of children's vitamins. He's trying to open them. Fiona is kneeling next to him expectantly. She notices me and yells, "Vitamins."

Mommy is afraid to go into the kitchen, but knows she must since apparently she's in charge here. Or is she? It's hard to tell when a chair has been pushed up to the counter, the medicine basket is askew and first aid kit contents have been scattered about the kitchen floor. And there's a knife removed from the knife block. And veggie scraps from the compost pail on the floor.

Mess cleaned and breakfast made and actually eaten, Mommy decides to get the younger two and herself dressed. Danny decides that this is the perfect moment to ask for more apple juice. He has a special knack for that. I tell him to wait. He assures mommy that he can handle it.

Yeah, whatever.

Mommy is so sick of arguing with him and she knows that there's not much left in the bottle anyway. How bad could it get?

After dressing herself and two children, she returns to find water and juice all over the floor. Five minutes later, she sits down on something wet.

Mommy seems to have lost control of the older two children in the past few days.

Wait, that's not right. According to her last Diary entry, the children pulled a similar gate-crashing, self-helping escapade a few weeks ago. It apparently has been a gradual slide into chaos; so gradual that mommy has hardly noticed, alternating between pride and utter terror at their self-help skills.

She used to be able to trust them for short periods of time with little to no mischief resulting. Well, with the exception of the great pasta massacre a few months ago. Now, even going to the bathroom is risky. Putting the baby down for a nap may require her to put the other two in straight jackets.

That afternoon, her husband called, right after Time Warner Cable called and woke the baby up from his nap (assholes), and she gave him a 3 minute "there's gonne be a new sheriff in town" speech. 

Top peeves right now? Helping themselves to, well, anything they want and transporting water in cups throughout the house, pouring water from cup to cup. Mommy has had enough of stepping in, slipping on and sitting in wet spots.

They discussed a new arrangement in the kitchen. They are both stunned that the children haven't touched the steak knives that have been in a drawer within their reach for years.

"One day we're going to come down and find Fiona standing against the cabinets and Danny with a knife, saying 'Hold still, Fiona.' And Owie will be sitting there with a top hat on," her husband says.

Very funny. And very scary. And, mommy knows, very possible.

Her husband then reconfigured the kitchen, putting the medicine and knife block even higher up and twisting a pipe cleaner around the refrigerator door to add a little resistance (or buy Mommy a little time). The steak knives are in the top shelf of the china cabinet. 

If this doesn't work, we're going to have to lock the kids in their bedrooms and pray they don't find a way to gnaw a hole in the door or through the wall.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Free U: Dissolve

We've been having lunch on the back porch quite a bit lately. It's been that nice. The kids just don't want to come inside. You'd think my house would be cleaner; but it's not.

Mealtime at our house is a full sensory experience. My kids don't just eat their food; actually, they rarely eat their food. Instead they feel it, taste it, chew it, spit it out, feel that stuff, smell it, smear it, dip it, mix it and smash it.

This morning, Danny began dipping his french fries in ketchup and then in his water.

He asked, "What's dissolve?"

"Well, that's when a substance melts or disappears in the water."

He looked at the bits of ketchup in his cup, stirred it up a bit and said, "It's not dissolving."

I told him that some things dissolve quicker than other things and other things don't dissolve at all in water. He started rattling off items from the kitchen such as salt, butter and sugar. He wanted to dissolve more things in water. I failed to convince him that it was not a good time since Owen was still awake.

So I brought out some nutmeg, salt, sugar, olive oil in a Misto, butter, corn starch, oatmeal (this one was his idea) and a bunch of clear plastic containers. He kept running into the house to refill his cup with water to test the collection of items I'd brought out. I even brought out some warmer water to better dissolve the sugar and salt.

We talked about how oil and water don't mix and how salt and sugar dissolve better in warm water than cold. He noticed that the corn starch dissolved and turned the water white.

Sliding backward
Meanwhile, Fiona was sliding down the slide backward and Owen was sitting in the yard very methodically putting leaves into a container--both conducting experiments of their own.

Later this afternoon, Danny asked to do water experiments again. The lesson expanded as we talked about why some of the items float on top of the water and others sink. I told him that items sink when they are heavier than the water and float if they are lighter than the water. Each time he added something new from the spice basket I brought out, we watched what it did and I asked if it was lighter or heavier than the water. We also observed how liquids such as corn syrup, molasses and food dye behave in water. (Like a tornado, according to Danny, who observed the swirly patterns each substance made in the water. I explained diffusion to him.)

He had a blast and the activity was driven by his interest. I couldn't have planned it any better. But I still did an Internet search to gather more ideas on water experiments. My kids just can't get enough of water play and it's good to have some ideas. (You'd think my kids would be cleaner for all their interest in water, but they just aren't.)

Of course, our first water experiment on the screen porch ended when Fiona got involved and a bowl full of water, oatmeal and God knows what else spilled all over the deck and their half-eaten lunches. Ah, well.

Next lesson? How to be a janitor.

Friday, March 18, 2011


So this week has been a blur of all night nursing (yeah, I'm still a sucker for that). And I've found that Benadryl at midnight has absolutely no effect.

What I've heard and done in between is not so clear. But I do recall saying my son's and daughter's names about 100 times a day. That's why you should pick names you like: you'll be saying them a lot. They have both developed a stunning case of mother deafness. It appears to be contagious. And my 4-year-old has added dawdling to the repertoire of ways to be defiant. He also still enjoys saying things like "It's not time to do that" or "I won't," to which I find myself issuing these rather effective threats:

Does my hand need to find your bottom? or Do you need help listening?

And let me tell you, bottoms move very quickly when I say this. I haven't had to touch one bottom in weeks. In fact, one day when I issued the threat after Danny had loudly told me "I WON'T," he ran away saying "I will, I will." 

That's what I thought. COL!! (that would be cackle out loud)

As for Fiona, she has an awful case of the "I wanna do its," regardless of whether she's physically capable of doing "it." She wants to put her own diaper on, for instance. Physically impossible. (Oh yeah, she's fallen off the potty wagon and I'm not putting her back on. She sometimes asks to go. This time around, it's all up to the trainee.)

She had her 2 year doctor's visit this week and got one shot. She hates the doctor, hates the nurse, wouldn't cooperate one bit and screamed the entire time like someone was torturing her. She later told me:

Dr. Greene hurt me.

Get out of my bed, she told me one night. Yes, ma'am. And then she preceded to cry for 30 minutes when I tucked her in and said good night.

Turn on the happy birthday, she demanded one day. It took me about 10 seconds to figure out that she wanted me to light the candle we'd been using at dinnertime.

What's a hoe look like? Danny asked several times in a row at dinner one night. Meanwhile, my husband is giggling like a 13 year old. We'd just gotten a new garden hoe.

What's a hoe do? Danny continued. More snickering from the spouse.

This weekend, we'll be doing quite a bit of gardening with our hoe. It's supposed to be beautiful. Have a great weekend. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Free U: Mommy, the human dictionary

Danny asks a lot of questions these days. I don't always have the answers. Sometimes I tell him to go ask his father. Like the other day when he asked me where rocks come from and what a volcano is.

Oh dear. I haven't had enough sleep to deal with science questions. Daddy is the science guy.

Me? I'm the word girl.

"What's jewel?" he wants to know as we're reading a favorite book, "Fiona Loves the Night."

"It's a piece of rock that's shiny. My diamond is a jewel."

"What's transform?" he asks as he brings me his Transformer.
"It's when something changes from one form to another." Like the transformer, for instance.

"What's bothered?"
"It's when you don't like something someone has done." Like when your sister takes a toy from you.

"What's aggravating?" He actually asked this question way too many times.

It was rather aggravating.

After the 20th time he asked, I told him "Aggravating is when you ask the same question over and over and over again after I've already answered it. 'Kay?"

Danny hasn't asked again. This is how a kid builds a good vocabulary. He remembers what these words mean since he's doing the asking which means he's learning these words in a context that's meaningful to him.

One of the most banal and meaningless school experiences I can recall is the dreaded vocabulary homework and subsequent quizzing. Vocabulary quizzes made me sweat. Writing out vocabulary words and their definitions was torturous and deadly boring.


And I was actually good at and liked my English classes. To this day, I can't recall a single vocabulary word that I learned in school. Definitions usually roll right off my tongue when my son asks the meaning of a word, however. How did I got here then? By reading books on topics that I enjoy and figuring out the definition through the context clues. In fairness, there was an effort to put vocabulary words in the context of whatever literature we were reading. But I retained little information since I was compelled by a curriculum that someone else designed to read books didn't interest me.

And therein lies the element that I feel is crucial to a good education and a meaningful life: Freedom to choose what you learn based on your interests.

Monday, March 14, 2011

How disaster became a verb

Lately, I feel like Lucy in the chocolate factory, trying to keep up with a conveyor belt that ramps up by the minute. This would all be fine if there were chocolates involved, of course. What's actually involved here is a quick-thinking, quick-acting toddler who wants to do everything herself.

There's precious little time between her thoughts and her actions. She's very quick. It's like watching someone run a thousand experiments a day to test the properties and functions and reactions of every little thing she comes across.

She threw a cup of water from the tub onto Nana three times in quick succession. Hm. Nana gets wet, cleans it up, tells me No No. Funny!

She reached under my arm and pulled a knife out the dishwasher one morning in a millisecond. Maybe I can use this to cut my own sausage. Yeah, that's it.

She poured apple juice on her plate, licked it up and then put the plate on her head all within 10 seconds. Why can't I drink juice from a plate? And will this plate make a good hat? Nope.

She poured a bowl of Cheerios and milk onto the table and then slurped it up (despite having a perfectly good spoon and bowl at her disposal). The Cheerios seem to be floating away from me here ... maybe this was a bad idea. Nah.

She grabbed a handful of clothes from the hamper in the bathroom and stuffed them in the toilet RIGHT BEHIND MY BACK. I think these clothes need to be washed. I'll just help mom out a bit.

She ran into the TV room, flipped over the mini trampoline and tried to jump on it. It's just not as fun to jump on when it's flipped over. Next ...

She rides down the driveway backward and tries to ride down in a tiny wagon meant for Mega Blocks. Oooohhh. Backward is fun! Hey, why don't I fit in this little wagon?
She grabs toys from her brothers and hurls them over baby gates before they even know what hit them. WOW. They get red in the face and scream when I do that. I've got the power now ... 

(She's kind of a bully; but I guess she'd need to be to survive between two brothers, one of whom is going to be a very big boy.)

The three most terrifying sounds in my house are chairs and stools being dragged across the floor, a toddler happily chirping "I did it," and the sound of utter silence when the kids are awake.

The crime scenes that I've wandered into lately have been astounding. When I casually ask what happened, Danny tells me, "Fi disastered it."

Yes. Yes, she did.

And, lately, leaving the house with the three of them is like taking a herd of billy goats out in public. They just seem to sow disaster wherever they go. Yes, even the baby, but mostly Fiona.

Fiona spilled a pint of blueberries in the produce section recently. Wal-Mart has been disastered.

Danny and Fiona broke a ceramic planter in the garden section. Lowe's has been disastered.

Owen grabs books from the library shelves from his stroller. Fiona helps. The library has been disastered. (I think the librarians all shudder when they see us coming.)

She seems to be the common denominator here, doesn't she?

Fiona's bedroom? Disastered on a daily basis.

The kitchen floor? Disastered hourly.

So here's a list of the Top 5 Fiona-made disasters of late (in order of spectacularness):

5. "I want raisins," she told me after penetrating the baby proofed cabinet and hauling out the raisins and a box of Brazil nuts. She took what she wanted and left the rest ... all over the kitchen floor. Wasted about a pound of raisins, she did. The next day, I was forced to make Irish Soda Bread with cranberries instead of raisins. (Good, but just not the same.)
4. The day the closet threw up. She was just tall enough to tug on the clothes hanging in her closet. She was also just strong enough to yank the closet shelving out of the wall. Next step? Yank out all the gift wrapping supplies and have a party.
3. Flour. All over the cabinet shelves. Every mom's nightmare. Where were Jim and I? I was upstairs giving Owen a bath; Jim was RIGHT THERE. She's that quick, people. I asked her why she did it. She looked up at me, with floury upturned palms, and said, "Pizza." She and Danny "help" Daddy make pizza dough on Saturdays. Good thing she's cute.
2. The great pasta massacre of 2011. It was so spectacular that it warranted a video and a host of photos. Where was mommy? Putting the baby down for a nap. What was Danny doing? Joining in the Fiona-led fun.
1. Poop. For a few days in January, Fiona was the queen of poop smearing. Read more here. (I may never recover from that particular few days.)

Friday, March 11, 2011


This week has been a blur. (See yesterday's post for details.) I pray that someone reminds me of weeks like this one when I start thinking another baby would be nice. Actually, someone please just remind me of everything from birth to age three--from the all night newborn buffet right on up to the potty training that never ends. 'Kay?

Thanks in advance.

That said, I do love my kids. I love watching them change and grow and learn. And I love being at home to watch it all, even if it means I don't get much sleep. This week I've noticed many things about my babies that I just love.

For instance, Owen is deciding what he thinks is funny. It's things like his sister splashing in the bathtub or him throwing a plate on the floor to hear the satisfying clatter it makes or a car that he pushes across the floor himself. And dogs barking? Always funny.

Fiona is, well, changing too fast to even put my finger on what's different. She's just got so much personality and despite her vicious streak, she really tries to take care of her brother, alerting me when he's near the stairs or picking up his cup when he drops it or trying to shove food in his mouth. She and I bird watch and make cookies and do play dough while Danny is at preschool and Owen is napping. When she's not trying to wreck the joint, she's a pretty neat little girl.

Danny is learning to be conversational. He wants to talk and is learning to wait his turn. When I tell him that I can't help him right this minute, he stands there patiently and says "I can wait." Blows. My. Mind. Every time.

And his vocabulary has exploded in the past few weeks. Now his clock is beautiful, mommy's food is delicious and he asks questions like this:

Do you want a disease? No thanks, son. I already have a disease. It's called child-induced insomnia.

Yet, he still says things like this:
That sofa has an audioman. (He means "ottoman.")

Can you just leave me a lone for five minutes?
Not today! he chirps. Damn. It's just not my day.

Don't say that word, mommy. Say shoot. Shoot's a basketball word. He says this whenever I curse or say anything with even the least bit of emotion.

Do you want to help [in the garden]?
Not today! he chirps yet again.

You're not in charge here, kid, I tell him Danny after he starts bossing me around in the garden.
But I have a dump truck!
Just because you have a dump truck does not mean you are in charge.

Let's not talk about butts and poop when Uncle Paul and Aunt Rosalie are here, okay?  
Yeah, let's talk about sluts. He's been experimenting with rhyming words lately. I get kind of nervous when he starts talking about ducks and trucks.

Is everybody happy? I ask after doling out snacks in the van after our grocery run.
Not me, Danny sings. Fiona and Owen stared blankly back at me. This job is just so thankless sometimes ...

What the heck are you doing? Danny asked.
Me? You're the one wearing a cereal box, I tell him. What the heck are you doing?

Owie pulled my hair, Fiona tells me. She's getting to be quite the little tattle tale. Oh, and Owen is starting to stick up for himself.

Bob bit me, Fiona says. (I seriously doubt this.)
Did you put your hand in his mouth?

Have to play with me, Fiona whined repeatedly one morning. I finally understood her the fourth time she said it.

Waiting our turn, Fiona chanted while we waited in the McDonald's drive-through line. After all mommy's backyard turn-taking negotiations, she finally "gets it" in the McDonald's drive-through lane.

I finished off the [chocolate] robin eggs. They were going to expire in November, Jim says. Uh, thanks.

Honey, we're all out of marshmallows. You shot them all. (We got him a marshmallow gun.)
Wait a minute! We can shoot Cheerios. Yeah, because there just aren't enough Cheerios on the floor around here.

Have a great weekend! See you Monday.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Diary of an omniturnal mom


It's been four all nighters in a row for Mommy. She hasn't partied this hard since college. The baby, who turned 10 months old this week, has been getting up every two hours between midnight and 6 a.m.

(I'm not even kidding.)
The nightly dance begins with the late night feeding before mommy "goes to bed." She wonders why she even bothers going to bed anymore. Maybe she should just drink Diet Coke and spend all night doing her online editing work. At least then she'd be making some money and enjoying her favorite beverage.

Mommy says to herself every night, "This is the night that I won't feed him every time he wakes up." For crying out loud, the kid is 21 pounds and is crawling so fast that if he was a cartoon character, he'd have smoke billowing behind him. He should be utterly exhausted.

She knows that if nothing changes, nothing will change.

But by 2 a.m. most nights this week, Owen is up again. Mommy just gives in and nurses him because she believes its the quickest route back to her bed. When he refuses to go back to sleep, she banishes him to the the pack and play in the walk-in closet where, if he can't see her, he'll settle down better.

(In theory.) 

By 4 a.m., Owen is often wide awake again. Same routine ... Booby juice. Back to bed. Pray that no one else wakes. Four a.m. is a favorite wake time around here. Daddy gets up to go to work. Fiona sometimes tries to get up and Danny sometimes chooses 4 a.m. to freak out about not getting a glass of lemonade before bedtime the night before.

"You just forgot to give it to me," he wails. Then he drifts peacefully back to sleep as if nothing has happened. 


By 6 a.m., baby is usually up for the day. Danny is now fast asleep, exhausted after his early morning freak out. And Fiona is usually flipping out because she just watched from her bedroom window as Daddy pulled out of the driveway. This is when Mommy starts plotting how to synchronize naps that afternoon. After a particularly rough night, Benadryl and ear plugs or boarding school come to mind.

Mommy can't really remember much from the first two nights, but the third and fourth night and morning stand out ...

Morning number 3

Mommy banishes the baby to the closet around 4 a.m. She and the dog pass each other as he leaves his "bedroom." He doesn't want to sleep near the kid either.
She woke up at 6 a.m. to the sound of a door knob turning.

Fiona? Nope. Fast asleep.

Danny? Fast asleep, too.

Only one kid left.

Mommy goes to the closet to find the baby wide awake, standing in his pack and play and jiggling the door handle.

(Crap. He's figuring out door knobs now.)

She gets the baby up and greets the dog who is curled up at the top of the stairs.

"Come on, Bob. Want to go outside?"

She could have sworn the dog shook his head as he got up and slunk to the closet to get some rest. After all, that is his bedroom.

Morning number 4 

5 a.m. Baby hits the closet. Again. She hates that this is her only solution. She hears the jingle of the dog's tags and his soft fur brushes her leg as they, once again, pass each other.

The baby cries for about 40 minutes. Then nothing. It's 5:40 a.m.

Mommy wakes up at 7:00 a.m. to the sound of her older two kids playing together in their rooms. Miraculously, they are not fighting. They actually sound like they're having a good time. She should probably get up, but drifts off to sleep. When she wakes again, the voices are a little farther away.

"I've got the apple juice. It's heavy. I'm strong. I'm handling it," yells the 4 year old.

She leaps out of bed and throws on some clothes. Turns out, Danny is rolling a full bottle of apple juice from the hall pantry into the kitchen.

Danny comes up the stairs and hands her a children's dictionary over the closed gate that the two of them apparently climbed over. It occurs to her that nothing is safe now that the baby is trying to figure out door knobs, the other two can climb gates and the 4 year thinks he can "handle" a full bottle of apple juice.

"Here, mommy. You need your book to read the words and make me French toast."

She peers down the stairs and sees Fiona in her pajamas wandering around with a fork and a spoon in her hands.

(I just had to giggle at that one.)

The rest of the morning is a blur of burned French toast made with some hastily whipped up powdered milk, PBS Kids on the tele and half a bag of raisins and a pile of nuts strewn across the kitchen floor courtesy of the mistress of mayhem.

And the exhausted, red-eyed baby wouldn't take his morning nap. Not even on a trip to the library.

When the baby looks like he's been smoking pot and even the dog is exhausted, it's time. Commencing Operation Sleep Boot Camp post haste.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

AiS: Constructioneering the kitchen

A few weeks ago, I finally got around to explaining the name of my blog in this post. Over the five years or so that I've been blogging here, I've written many posts that exemplify this concept of self-reliance. Hence forth, all posts of this nature will bear the abbreviation AiS before the title and in the label. (Yes, I know, I'm an anal retentive freak who can't stop categorizing everything in my life. Be nice to me, it's all I've got people ... I live with three small tornadoes. I need order somewhere.)

My husband is incapable of sitting still. He also cannot look at any square inch of our house without wanting to improve it somehow. And his canvass--our house--is constantly being reworked in a process we've dubbed constructioneering. Luckily, he's very competent in this area. He's like Norm Abrams, Picasso and Tim the Toolman all in one--skilled, creative and a little scary sometimes. I once asked him if he was hyperactive as a child. He replied, "I'm not hyperactive. I'm hyperproductive."


(I'm starting to understand my eldest son a little better.)

His restlessness has its advantages. For instance, our kitchen has been a work in progress for several years now. Most women I know just want kitchen renovations done and over with in one fell swoop.

For us, renovating the kitchen slowly has allowed us to tailor the space to evolving needs. Because when you have three small children, your needs in one of the most used rooms in the house change constantly.

The other most-used room in the house is the kids' bathroom, of course. And my husband added a beautiful and very clever closet there. Clever because it uses the space between the vanity and the wall that used to be a second entry way. However, instead of closing up the entry way from Fiona's room to the bathroom (which would have made the project much more complicated), he used a bifold door from the old kitchen pantry to provide access to the closet from her bedroom. It has come in so very handy. I can reach the diaper pail and hamper and grab diapers, lotion, towels, medicine or whatever else I need. I can also spy through the crack in the bifold door during nap time to see whether she is sleeping or smearing poop on the walls. That's really the best feature. With her, it's never a good idea to barge in to check on her when she's being quiet. It's just best to not know what she's up to until you hear or smell her.

This creative and ongoing renovation is the reason that I tolerate paint-stained coffee mugs and work around drill chargers on the kitchen countertop and a husband who sometimes tries to tweak things while I'm fixing dinner. In the past seven years, he has painted the kitchen cabinets white, replaced and added drawer pulls and renovated three different spaces, adding attractive storage spaces and opening up a very poorly designed pantry. Only the floors and counter tops are left to be done.

The most recent addition is a set of benches built into the bay window which provides yet more storage space. We've been eying the area for years. Most recently, we had a set of three cushioned bench seats with drawers in the space. Hauling all of them out to clean was getting to be a pain and the drawers were not convenient in the least. We had to move the table to open the drawers.

So here it is ... It was completed over the Christmas holidays. And, bad wife that I am, I'm just now getting around to bragging about it. (Hey, our anniversary is coming up, so I thought I'd score some wife points.)

new kitchen bench

Of course, the kids love these benches and now eat all their meals like this:

Best view in the house, if you ask me.

The neatest thing about our projects around here is that when we take apart one area, we often save items like doors, framing, molding, shelving and cabinets and use them for other projects. We rarely spend a lot of money on projects, yet our renovations look like we did.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Free U: What's scaly, mom?

Yesterday morning, Fiona wanted the animals from her Little People Zoo. I got them down for her, opened the case and tried to return to emptying the dishwasher. She went into a full body hyperwhine and repeated the same incoherent phrase over and over. My head threatened to explode. Then I realized what she was saying.

"Have to play with me."

Yes, baby. Yes, of course, I do. (Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.)

So we played. And the dishes waited.

She matched the animals with the letters and pictures on the mat. She named several of the animals. And the ones she didn't know she called "Go outside." That's her go-to answer to every question lately. She's weird.

Then I began sorting the animals into groups and explained each group to Fiona. All the birds. All the animals with fur. All the animals that go in the water. All the animals with scaly or leathery skin.

Danny was in the other room watching TV. I told him TV time was over. He quietly turned the TV off. (I'm surprised he actually did this without squawking.)

He joined us and looked with interest on my little anal-retentively arranged menagerie. I explained what each pile was. He moved the penguin from the bird category to the water animal category. I began sorting them into subgroups. All the animals that live in Africa or Asia or South America. Danny has a puzzle of a world map with animals on it from every continent. He's learned the names of the continents and sometimes remembers the animals associated with each continent.

Then he asked "What's scaly, mom?" as he fingered the group which included an an alligator and an iguana, among other animals. Fiona perked up and was interested, too.

Well, let's see. How to explain this?

I whipped off my sock and let them feel my dry, hard, cracked heels. (It's been a long winter.)

"That's scaly," I said. "Want to touch it?"

They did. They thought it was hilarious. And weird.

So ... I saved $25 by not getting a pedicure and my kids spontaneously learned what scaly means.  They probably also picked up on sorting methods, animal names and where certain animals come from.

That's enough homeschool for one day, but the dishes can still wait.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Of guns and little boys

Moms of boys will tell you that no matter how much you shield the young lad, guns always become an issue. It's almost as if gun play is written into their DNA as the self-defense and rage channeling mechanism of choice.

We don't watch a lot of television here, so he's not getting it from there. The only channel they are allowed to watch is PBS. Actually, it's the only channel they can watch; we don't have cable. When he first wielded his finger as a gun, the only group play he was involved in was our church's Parents Morning Out program. It's hard to imagine that he learned it there, but it takes only one kid and one isolated instance to activate this urge, it seems.

Or no context or incident at all, as my mother found. My two brothers used to construct guns out of Construx and wooden blocks. (My sister and I used to make furniture for our baby dolls from these toys.) And you'd be hard pressed to find a more anti-gun, anti-television crusader than my own mother. The day we all took the photo at the right was the first time my brothers ever had their hands on a "real gun." My dad says he thought they were going to wet their pants.

Our conversation about how and when and why we use guns has evolved over the years. And, yes, it's been years since he started talking about or pretending with guns.

When it began, we told him that guns are only for shooting animals that you want to eat. We didn't want to introduce the notion of shooting at people or animals in self-defense. Then he told us one day that he wanted to eat our dog. We clarified. We don't shoot our friends and Bob is our friend, we told him.

When he "shot" at his sister and Jim and I, we were very clear with him that using a gun is not how to handle anger. We realized that the issue at hand wasn't about guns. It was an opportunity to teach him how best to manage his feelings.

When he has strong feelings about a movie he is watching, he often stands on his chair and yells at and "shoots" his hands at the screen. (Don't worry, he's not watching Terminator or anything like that. He gets riled up watching Peter Pan and 101 Dalmations.) This is his way of dealing with his emotions and we feel this is healthy and normal, if not loud, annoying and somewhat amusing.

A month or so ago, we had a play date with a friend whose son chased and pretended to shoot at Danny. Danny was terrified and I wound up holding a gangly 4-year-old who refused to get down for about five minutes. The little boy's mother was apologetic, but I was happy to see his reaction. It gave me the opportunity to explain that guns are scary when pointed at people. My previous attempts at explaining this to him had fallen on deaf ears. He hasn't pointed a "gun" at anyone since.

Lately, I've been explaining to him that he can learn to use a gun when he is older. This wasn't completely unprompted. He's been asking about it. It comes up at the weirdest times, too.

"You'll be six when Fiona is four," I explained to Danny one day.

"Then I can have a gun?" he asks.

Sure, just in time for kindergarten, kid.

Which brings me one of the reasons we don't want to put our children in school: The black-and-white, zero tolerance attitude about guns, real or imaginary, drawn or spoken about, that exists in today's school environment. This nonsense leads administrators to suspend or expel children for drawing guns, possessing a one-inch GI Joe machine gun replica or even talking or joking about guns. These somewhat isolated incidents become fodder for local newspapers and free-range parenting discussions. The prospect of  having our child's permanent record sullied over an innocent remark or drawing, though, is the much bigger deal here for us than the so-called infraction.

The overreaction to guns recently squelched the aspirations of a handful of local students engaging in the sport of marksmanship. These high school students were poised to compete in a statewide youth marksmanship competition. These kids had learned a valuable skill, which one state agency was trying to promote to replenish the dwindling ranks of hunters in the state. A local school administrator put the brakes on their participation citing a ban on deadly weapons on campuses that also prohibits students from carrying guns on school trips. The decision to bar the team from competition wrongly, in my opinion, extended the ban to students participating in an off-campus event sponsored by a state agency, not by any school system. The school board later amended the policy to allow participation in the event, but not in time for the students who trained and expected to compete that particular year.

This black and white thinking about violence in general is also reflected in a school policy that I've always found to be unfair and, frankly, quite lazy and cowardly on the part of administrators. Most schools don't recognize the difference between the instigator and the victim when a fight breaks out on campus. A student who is beaten up by another and tries to fight back and protect himself is often punished the same as the one who throws the first punch. No where else can you be punished for being a victim. Even here, I realize there are mitigating factors such as whether the victim used sufficient force to get away or if the force was overly retaliatory. But in my day (I sound like an old woman here, I know) such factors were not taken into account.

We don't want to send our children into an environment that teaches absolutes such as all gun use is bad or everyone who is involved in a fight is responsible. We don't want our children to be subject to the arbitrary rulings of administrators with an agenda. That teaches children right from wrong only in the context of an artificial environment--school. In real life, what's right in one situation would be wrong in another. For instance, shooting a trespasser who is not threatening you is wrong; shooting the same trespasser who has threatened you with a gun, other weapon or sufficient physical force to make you fear for your own safety is justifiable. We're teaching our children to think for themselves and apply and adjust that thinking to a variety of situations.

For us, zero tolerance about guns and even violence is a grave mistake. Our job as parents is to teach the subtle nuances of living life. We don't want to teach him to fear guns or be cut off from his survival instincts. If he's hungry in the wilderness or our society one day devolves back to a subsistence economy, we want our kids to know how to provide for and protect themselves and their families. The reality is that killing animals for food or defending yourself with guns or other weaponry is a fact of life that we are cut off from in modern society. Our base instincts for self-preservation, however, still exist and we want to be sure that our children can tap into that when necessary. (Of course, we don't believe that you need an automatic or even a semi-automatic weapon to kill a deer or a duck or stop a human predator.)

We want our kids to know that guns are used as tools: tools for self-defense, tools for policemen and tools to provide food. As with all tools, you have to know how and when to use them them safely and responsibly.

And I think that message is getting through to him. This weekend, after he received a mini marshmallow gun, he cautiously wielded it and told me with some gravity, "You have to know how to use this, mom."

Thursday, March 03, 2011


This week, I finally broke down and put ads on my blog. A friend of mine mentioned that she had ads on her blog and was making a little walking around money. Honestly, I've thought about it for years, but figured that I didn't have enough visitors or followers and that it was just too cheesy.

Then I made $30 in five days. Enough to support my Diet Coke habit for a month, actually.

So ... if you'd like to help support my Diet Coke habit, please click an ad. Or, if you'd rather not support my bad habits, do it to keep the Cheerios flowing 'round here.

Isn't the dirt just beautiful?
I do have some good habits, you know. For instance, I've had a vegetable garden for the past seven years. This past week, we started preparing the garden for this summer. I've really enjoyed sticking my bare hands in the dirt. I've decided that I prefer that to using garden gloves. The plan is to have four 4 by 8 foot raised beds which will make my vegetable garden more manageable. And with three kids, my hobbies need to be manageable.

I can't really remember what happened here this week. I've been wildly successful at synchronizing naps this week and even indulging in naps myself. So, it's been a good week. This is also the first week in a while that no one has been sick. I haven't called the advice nurse. There have been no trips to the pharmacy. We haven't been to the doctor's office once. The week before we were there three times. I think that's some sort of record for us.

Anyhow, without further ado ...

Owen's new word: PopPop. He said it the other day when he saw PopPop walk into the back yard.

I can do [fill in the blank] whenever I want to, he says with hand gestures and a very cute tilt of the head. He says this a lot lately. But, no, we don't let him do whatever he wants. No matter how cute he is. 

I can wipe my nose on my arm only at home but not at preschool, he says. Well, it's a start.

Later is canceled. There is no more later, Danny, I tell him after he asks to eat his breakfast later. For weeks now, he's been putting half-eaten meals in the fridge and ignoring them. It makes me twitch.

Does mommy's water taste better than yours? I ask Fiona.
Yeah, she says after taking a swig. Just as I suspected. That must be why they're always begging for a sip of my water.

I'm going to get big and go on the school bus and be angry at the kids. I have no idea why he says this. Maybe he just inherently knows that kids on school buses are mean?

What are you doing, mommy? 
I'm writing. Did you know that mommy is a writer? 
Yeah. And a nurse. In light of the past few weeks we've had here, I'd say he's pretty perceptive.

These are my keys for when I grow up and drive a red convertible. Danny has been carrying around an old set of keys all week.

Do you ever say yes, Fiona? Jim asks.

No. Of course not. She's two.

What are you doing with my laundry basket? I ask Danny as he hops into a laundry basket that I was about to use.
I'm going to drive it, he says without missing a beat. Of course. He even had his keys. 

Look, mom, it's a dump truck. 
Actually, honey, it's a water tanker truck.
NO, it's a dump truck. [pause] Stop arguing with me.

You forgot to put your turn signal on. You have to go back! Sigh. I hope he outgrows this before he gets a wife.  I was chastised at least a half dozen times on the same van ride about turn signals.

Come on kids, it's time to go sit in front of your dinner, Jim tells the kids. He's being generous here. They neither eat nor sit these days. 

Have a great weekend.