Thursday, October 27, 2011


It seems that I'm on a bi-weekly schedule with this column lately.

We've been busy soaking up the very last days of tolerable weather here in North Carolina. Except for one day last week when it rained all day and I had a mini panic attack as I realized that I'd soon be forced indoors with these hoodlums. I've been kicking the kids out of the house as much as possible, though. There've been long days in the yard, bike rides in the neighborhood and on the Tobacco Trail, trips to the park. And yet I'm still sweeping floors about a half dozen times a day and every night, I'm picking up toys and laundry and shoes scatter far and wide. I have no idea how this happens.

I am feeling a little like Lucy in the chocolate factory, though, in that I just can't keep up with their antics. For instance, I awoke one morning to  Danny and Fiona having a conversation about bridges in his bedroom. How nice, I thought, they're playing together; maybe they're building with the TRIO blocks. I peeked in on them and saw Fiona on the top bunk with her arms reaching across to the bookshelf and Danny marching his stuffed animals over her back. The next day, I came in on Fiona climbing up the bunk bed on the desk end, despite there being a perfectly good ladder 3 feet away. They know they're not supposed to play on the top bunk, too. Sometimes I find all three of them up there.

Hey, mom, there's three of us. 1-2-3, Danny says with a huge grin. Clearly, he's trying to distract me with cuteness and his academic skills.

Owen surprises me daily with his language skills. For instance, he tells me when he's hungry by  pointing to my chest and saying Hungry. Charming.

Fiona seems quite enamored with the fact that she's a girl.

I was a baby and now I'm a girl, she tells me about 10 times a day. And sometimes she just randomly blurts out, I'm a girl, and then giggles with glee.

And Danny and Fiona seem to fight all the time.

DANNY PUSHED ME, Fiona cried.
Hey, hey, hey, how about this? Jim said. How would you two like to live in an orphanage?

Mom, why is she wearing dance clothes? Danny asks of a woman wearing a flowy skirt and scarf at the park.

HEY, her hair is red, Danny says as he notices a woman with an obvious dye job.
She probably dyed it that way, I told him.
Or maybe it's a wig, he says. Thank God we were in the van when he saw this woman.

When I get my NASCAR, I'm going to go speedy and go bump, bump, bump over the grass to get there, Danny informs us.
And I'm going to take your keys, Jim replies. We have 12 years until he gets his license. And by then, he'll surely know how to drive. He's already a back seat driver.

Mom, you forgot to use your turn signal, he tells me every time I forget.

When I'm a daddy, you can go away and I'll take care of the kids, Danny tells us at dinner one night. Excellent.

A few minutes later ...

Hey, I can get my own house, he realizes. Even more excellent.

What's a cape, mom? Danny asks as he was putting on his Cape Cod T-shirt.
It's a piece of land that juts way out into the water. There's water on three sides of the land.
No, no, he says, it's something you wear around your neck, like my blanket.

Okay, Danny, what do we need to do to not have a meltdown over this? I ask him. He was about to go ballistic because his best buddy was having a camp out with his parents that night. I'm trying to teach him some skills to deal with his disappointments.
Have a camp out. Okay, other than have a camp out, which is just not going to happen.

Have a great weekend.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The redeeming half hour

I come here to catalog the craziness but often just privately savor the blissful days. I'd like to promise that I'll focus more on those times, but I can't even promise to clean a bathroom these days. And really, words don't often do justice to the times when things flow somewhat smoothly and when moments with the kids are filled with joy and meaning (and I just gagged a little when I wrote that. I am so not a sentimental person.) 

Today seemed like it was going to be one of those crazy days. I often just led the kids lead the activities of the day, partly because I'm too lazy to plan anything. But I'd like to think it's because I'm smart enough to know better by now. Kids tend to poop all over your plans, sometimes literally.

After breakfast, Danny and Fiona wanted to do art. Owen wanted to continue throwing whatever he could get his hands on. I pulled out some Cars posters and a small set of poster paints from my secret stash of busywork, taped newspaper to the dining room table and let them go at it. They did for at least a half hour. Owen howled his discontent at being left out of this activity, so I set him up to the table with Aquadoodle. All he wanted to do was suck the water from the water pen and the wet paint brush. I gave him crayons; he tried to eat those, too. Then he threw them. Then  he wanted to take them out and put them back into the container. Then he did some more gravity experiments.

So we took a little trip to Michael's for more art supplies because mommy needed to strap them down somewhere and regroup while she drank a Diet Coke and ate her Luna Bar.
When Owen finally went down for his nap, we got to do this:
"We're artisting, mom."

Fiona decorates the driveway.
"I need more red, mom."
He ended up painting cars, rocks and acorns.

Truth be told, the blissful "artisting" session lasted only about a half hour. That doesn't seem like a long time for an adult, especially when that time frame was once a too-short meal break at a job. But to a kid, it's a long time.

In fact, Danny kept telling me as he happily painted, "This is too slow. It's not too fast." And while this sounds like a cry of boredom, in his little mind, it means "This is taking a long time, but I'm having fun." I know this because he spent at least another 10 minutes intently painting before we went up for quiet time.

I read them one book which was frequently interrupted by the 2 year old who insisted on sitting in Danny's chair and doing other things just to annoy her brother. It's her job to be contrary these days. I took lots of deep breaths and remembered to speak quietly in short sentences.

We all napped. With the windows open. It was delicious. These are the days when I feel a little guilty that I get to be home with the kids while my husband goes to work to deal with grown up children.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


So I took another week off from my little Friday column. I can't even tell you why. The best I excuse I can come up with is that we've been adjusting to my husband's new job and new schedule. For the first time since we've had kids, I am sometimes alone with the kids during that dreaded period from after nap/quiet time to dinnertime.

That's new for me. I have a new sympathy for those who weather that daily storm. Luckily, there are a lot of kids in our neighborhood.

Sometimes Jim is home in the morning, too, which means for the first time in almost five years, I'm not the only adult in the house when the kids wake up. That's new and it totally rocks. And, for the first time in their lives, the kids get to see him leave for work. So they've been giving daddy some special instructions before he leaves for the day.

Don't bite or run at work, Fiona tells Daddy.
Yeah, and don't do anything wrong, Danny says. Danny has also told him to punch anyone.

We heard a police siren and daddy said that he was chasing you, Danny reports. Oh, really. (Daddy is so busted.) I managed to get a continuance on my speeding tickets contingent on my driving record.

Gorilla, Fiona said when she saw a photo of her cousin's hairy back.

Did you have fun with your cousins today? I ask Danny.
Yeah, I didn't say bitch or shut up this time. This is the definition of a successful outing these days.

I went to the bathroom and then I told myself to get my shoes on, Danny reports. Fascinating. I just had no idea that he was having an internal dialogue.

I can't get THIS in HERE, Danny whines while I'm driving.
What is this?
I can't see what this and here is. You'll have to use other words.
I can't get THIS in HERE. Okay, mommy's getting off this merry-go-round now.

Bunny is in time out for pushing me, Fiona says. Bunny is a 6 inch tall beanie baby.

This is interested, Danny says to his father as they are fixing up the bikes. Saturday morning, the boys had just as much fun fixing bikes as they did riding.

Well, the spinal cord is your backbone, I tell Danny. He was asking about the parts of the skeleton hanging on the front door. There is a cord that comes from your brain and sends messages to the rest of your body.
Oh, it can call everybody, he says. So maybe next time he hits his sister, I'll tell him that his brain needs to call his hand and tell it not to hit.

Oh, wait, I've got to go back [to the table], Danny says. Excuse me, can I get up now? he asks.
Where did you learn to say "Excuse me"?
From you, he says. Um, I don't even remember teaching him this.

Stuck, Owen whimpers as he stands behind a border of monkey grass he'd crawled over. And I thought he was the smart one.

I'm happy, Fiona chirps.
Oh, yeah? What makes you happy?
Baby wipes.

The happy girl is also getting a handle on what exactly is and is not sanctioned behavior around here.

Owen is making a mess and it's not OKAY, Fiona says.

FiFi, is there water on the floor, I ask when I notice her shuffling slowly in the bathroom and looking at the floor.
No, there's pee pee on the floor, she says. And that's not OKAY. No, it's most definitely not okay, but at least she cleans up after herself. And she is self-correcting at the tender age of almost 3. This is more than I can say for my son.

I jumped on Danny and that's not OKAY, Fiona says.

As for Jim and I, we've been indulging in a guilty pleasure: s'mores around our new firepit on the patio. We don't intend to tell the kids about it anytime soon.

If the kids ask why we smell like smoke, we'll just have to tell them we started smoking, Jim says.

Have a great weekend.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Diary of an Omniturnal Mom

Omniturnal mom has taken a little break since baby number three started sleeping through the night. Of course, every once in a while, her day starts literally when the new day starts. And those are always the days where there is some etched-in-stone appointment first thing in the morning. They know. They just know. Even when mommy doesn't say anything. It's like the little buggers are clairvoyant.

Monday, 12 a.m.

Mommy has been asleep for at least an hour when she hears wailing that seems to be coming from the older son's room. It's hard to tell, though, since the past few nights she's also been woken by an owl hooting in the backyard. (Asshole.)

It's Danny. He's just yelling in his sleep for no apparent reason.

2 a.m. 

Danny wails again. Mommy goes in to find him bolt upright in bed, wide awake, saying, "I'm hungry." Seriously? A bowl of chili, corn chips, two glasses of milk, an apple scone and an apple were not enough for this 40 pound pipsqueak? Mommy does a quick calculation and determines that giving the malcontent a cheese stick would be quickest route back to bed. She can't believe this is and always has been her best idea, from infancy and booby juice right up on up to shoving a cheese stick in the 4 year old's face at 2 a.m.

2:20 a.m.

Mommy is snuggled back in bed. She hears wailing again. It's the girlchild. Mommy prays that girlchild didn't hear or sense that her brother is munching on a cheese stick in his bedroom. She does not want to have to go downstairs again. Mommy goes to check on her and finds her in the hallway on the way to the bathroom, crying, "I've got to go pee pee."

Well, hallelujah. At least one child gets up to pee in the middle of the night. But there's no need to wake the hole house, okay cupcake?

6:30 a.m.

The baby, who is actually a toddler now, is up for his morning feeding. He squawks a bit when she puts him back down, but mommy manages to get in another hour of sleep, which is better than sex and chocolate combined at this point.

7:30 a.m.

All the kids are up. Mommy is dissatisfied with the state of her hair that she just washed the night before. She looks kind of like Phil Specter on what he thinks is a good day. She considers taking another shower. Two showers in 12 hours? She can't remember the last time that happened. 

But she is quickly sidetracked by the act in ring number two, a k a the kids' bathroom.

"Mommy, Owen is splashing in the toilet," Fiona says. Mommy remembers that Danny just went to the bathroom and thinks, "Well, might as well clean him up and take that shower."

She cleans up the mess and the baby and puts more clothes on him and flushes the toilet. Then she hops in the shower. Her last words were a reminder to her daughter to flush the toilet and put the seat down and close the bathroom door.

Perhaps that was too many instructions in a row for a 2 year old.

Perhaps mommy was being overly optimistic.

Perhaps mommy just desperately wanted to leave the house for a doctor's appointment that morning without feeling as though she just returned from a wilderness camping trip.

She returned from her shower to find a bathroom massacre involving baby wipes and more toilet bowl splashing. And, no, Fiona hadn't flushed the toilet. Or put the seat down. Or closed the door.

Pee-pee water all over the floor, the step stool, the toilet, the baby and his clothes, the girl and her clothes and now mommy's freshly showered feet. Baby wipes in the toilet. The baby squeezing a wad of baby wipes sopping wet from pee pee toilet water.  

It seems the past 8 hours have been a perfect reminder of why mommy does not want any more children. (And, yes, the shower was totally worth it.)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Free U: Stone Soup Day

As I was writing the menu for the next few weeks, I consulted Danny about what we should put on the menu. You see, it's fall now and in my anal retentive menu plan, we just can't have tacos on Tuesday when it's under 70 degrees outside. So when I got to Tuesday on the menu, I needed some ideas. I was hoping that Danny's recommendation would not include the words poop or the garbage can, because, you know, he's four and everything revolves around poop and the garbage can.

His answer?

Stone Soup.

We've read this story a lot over the years, though not so much lately. We even have it on CD with Pete Seeger retelling the story and singing. For those who don't know the story, it's about a stranger who convinces wary villagers to add ingredients to a pot of boiling water with a large stone in it. Each time a character adds something to the pot, the refrain is the same:

Stone Soup is what you need/When you have some friends to feed

It's a classic fable about cooperation amidst scarcity. By the end of the story, the villagers and the strangers all enjoy a hearty soup. I never knew how much he got out of it until he suggested that we make Tuesday our Stone Soup day.

So this Tuesday, on our first Stone Soup day, we were having split pea and ham soup. As we put it together in the crockpot, I tried to convince him that the ham bone was our stone. It does rhyme with bone, after all.

No deal. Our soup apparently had to have an actual stone in it, according to Danny.

He ran off to get a stone from the backyard. We chose a smooth rock from our "river bed" that has some Appalachian river rocks in it that we picked up on a trip to Boone last fall. I cleaned it up, soaking it in boiling water with some dish soap for a bit and scrubbing it for a little longer.

Then we put it in the crockpot with the rest of the ingredients. Really. (Obviously, we are not germaphobic in this household.)

It simmered all day amidst the potatoes, peas, carrots and ham bone. Later on in the afternoon, he and his buddy next door picked some sage and asked to drop it in the soup.

As we ate dinner that evening, Danny insisted on having the stone in his soup for a while.

"Look, mom, I'm buttering the stone," he said as he smeared pea soup on it with his spoon.

I know. We're weird. But at least now I have something to plug into the menu once a week.

And the soup stone is still in the kitchen, ready for next week.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Get to know me

(Please tell me you get the Jon Lovitz reference here. I always loved that SNL skit. Unfortunately, SNL is pretty tight with their content and no YouTube reference has been found yet.)

This is blatant self-promotion. And I hate promoting myself, which is why I don't have a book deal yet. At least this is what I tell myself. (Ugh. There were way too many first person pronouns in just the past two sentences.) The truth is that I do want people to notice me; I just don't want to be the one drawing attention to myself. I think that I just want to be discovered and then sit there shyly, saying, "Who me? You want to give me a $250,000 advance on a book? Oh, alright."

I get jealous when I hear of other bloggers who get book deals and get angry at women who are able to put together book proposals with an infant and several small children in the house. (You know that you hate them, too.) Yet, I do believe that I've been given a gift for humor and honesty, which most of the time are the same thing. At least they are for me. It helps me take life a lot less seriously. And since I believe gifts are God-given, I feel an obligation to share my talents whether it be with a handful of people or thousands.

I always think of that parable in the New Testament about the three slaves who were given bags of money commensurate with their abilities. The two with the most bags of money multiplied it. The third man was given one bag of money and he buried it, figuring he didn't have enough money to do anything worthwhile. The master was not pleased with number three. Sometimes I'm afraid I'm burying my talents. Other times I'm afraid that any attempt to showcase my talent will be excessively narcissistic. I either fantasize about being at the top of the heap or am busy burying myself beneath the heap.

Humility is a balancing act and I have horrible balance.

All these mental gymnastics are just to let you know that a friend and former colleague of mine recently asked if I would write a get-to-know-the-blogger type article for a local parents website. I know it ain't Oprah or anything, but I agreed. I love to write and it gave me a chance to distill just what my family and I are all about and why I write on a regular basis.

So, basically, I'm sharing with you a link on my blog to an article about ... my blog. I realize this is a little circular. Enjoy the ride.