Sunday, February 27, 2011

Free U: The yard birds

An occasional feature
So much of what goes on around here is "educational" without being planned. I'm finding that I subscribe more to the unschooling philosophy of education. Or what I like to call just living. A few years ago, my sister, who homeschools her three children, would write blog posts about what her kids were doing and what they were learning while engaged in these activities. The activities were often not school-like activities and would grow out of the kids' interests rather than her planning. Danny is now so curious and engaged. Every day there seems to be an episode of spontaneous learning prompted by his questions about his world or just what his father and I are doing. I want to share these bits with you to show just how effortless learning can be.

Last weekend, we were homebound with three out of five us ailing from a nasty chest cold. My husband was a bit restless, as usual, and just itching to get out the hot glue gun. The kids had just finished off a pack of gum that comes in a several inch tall round container with a flip-top lid. This gave him an idea. And we wound up with this thing stuck to our window:

Yes, that is a piece of a child-safety cabinet lock acting as a bird perch.

It took about a week for a bird to actually show up at our windowsill. They were probably a little terrified of the jumpy, loud children with their faces and hands pressed against window. The entire week, though, I had two children eagerly watching birds out the window, noticing their colors, where they flew to, when they were eating seed off the ground, listening to the sounds they made (we could actually hear them through the window. Cool!!). Danny can now identify two types of birds: a cardinal (It's my bird, he says. It's red.) and a robin.

Just by chance, Danny's preschool class did a unit on birds this week, too. He didn't talk much about it at home and I found out only after the fact in the weekly email from his sweet teacher. One day he came home with a pair of "binoculars" -- two toilet paper tubes stapled together with a piece of yarn to hang around his neck. Another coincidence ... this weekend, Danny found an old Highlights magazine. He turned to an article about birds and saw a project he wanted to do: a bird feeder from an old milk carton.

The whole family is now interested in what kinds of birds we have hanging out in our side yard. This week, we will go to the library to find a bird identification guide, mostly for me. I'm curious myself and I know from experience that my curiosity usually sparks theirs.

I'm mentally filing this under science, but it's so much more. It's about observation. It's about reusing materials. It's about using your imagination. The kids saw Jim make a bird feeder out of something that you wouldn't normally see and think, "Hm, that would make a good bird feeder."

What was neat about this past week was that none of this was planned as part of a unit study. It just happened. And, aside from the bird seed that we bought, it was free.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A few of my least favorite things

Sometimes I wonder if the people who dream up toys, clothes, books and gear for children have ever actually spent time with a child. Or a parent. Or maybe even other humans.

These products are meant to make my life more convenient or be fun for the kids. Really, they just become part of the daily irritants that send me to the candy closet to hide with a cold Diet Coke. Whenever my husband and I see a fancy kid product in a store, we consider it for a second and then come to one of the following conclusions: destroyed in a day or pieces lost or scattered so far we wouldn't find them until the kids move out. We come into quite a bit of our baby and kid products second hand. But we're also unwittingly convinced that we need many of these products before we wise up and realize how completely unnecessary and annoying they are.

Here are a few of my least favorite "kid- or parent-friendly" products:
Outfits with snap up legs. (or, as we call them around here, stripper pants) Whoever thought this one up never had to wrestle a very strong baby hellbent on rolling over and wiggling. It takes me at least five minutes to snap the baby back up. It's just easier to pull pants on and off.

Zip up pajamas in any size beyond 2T. Are you nuts? I'm trying to potty train my kid. Why would I make it more difficult to go to the bathroom? Although, I must say, we got a bunch of these for Christmas and Danny loves them and does well getting them on and off. He, much like his father, is a fan of the creature comforts and would wear these jammies all day if I let him, which I don't. I still don't like them. There's always the risk of them dangling into a toilet bowl full of pee or worse. And, besides, they look like babies in those things.

Onesie-style tops (that is, tops that snap in the crotch) in any size beyond 2T. See above. And besides, they just look ridiculous on big kids.

Books that make noise. Books should not make noise. Ever. When my parents wanted us to stop yammering at them or bickering at each other, they told us to go read a book. I get it. They wanted quiet. One day, for a fun, educational clean-up activity, I told the kids to pick up all the books off of the floor and sort them into two piles: Books that mommy likes and books that mommy hates. They did an excellent job as you can see. And now they don't bring me any of these books to read them. In fact, I haven't heard any of these books in a while. How's that for retention of a lesson? Maybe I'll make a good homeschool mom after all.

Pop up books and books with flaps. These really don't last long in our house. My kids are about as gentle as billy goats. I regularly throw these things out. The kids don't really care if the pages are torn, but it really makes mommy twitch. And lately, I find the baby chewing on the loose and dangling pieces of these books; much like a billy goat would, actually. (You know, it really does feel like I am the shepherdess of a herd of small goats some days.)

Sippy cups. I hate sippy cups. I hate cleaning them. I hate keeping up with all their pieces and parts. I hate tracking them down. I hate breaking up fights over them. I hate that they leak when I'm promised that they won't. Recently, I banned sippy cups. Now my kids drink from cups at the kitchen table. Fiona does surprisingly well. We do have a lot of spillage, but I only ever give the kids water. I had surmised that this would make our floors cleaner, but it hasn't. It just gets my socks wet and makes the floor slippery. I kept a handful of straw cups for smoothies and water bottles for traveling but have even considered bringing a thermos and cups to the park. My hatred right now is that deep. I'll probably start Owie on a cup at 11 months or so.

Friday, February 25, 2011

AIS explained

For the past year or so, I've toyed with the idea of changing the name of my blog. Adventures in Self-Reliance was something I came up with pretty quickly and without much deep thought. At the time, I was reading Atlas Shrugged and about libertarian economic and political philosophy. Over the years, though, I've written more about kids and less about societal and cultural issues or even our home improvement projects. I've often thought that the name and the explanation may not still fit as I write more about kids than anything else. 

It turns out, though, that the name still fits our philosophy quite well. It's just that the idea of self-reliance tends to get a bad rap in our society. It conjures up images of militiamen living on compounds or the "heaven helps those who help themselves" crowd. That's not us. 

Self-reliance does not mean we don't rely on others. We do. We rely on those we trust and love. But ultimately, we display a trust in ourselves and our abilities that we rarely see these days. Around here, we feel that, with the help of Google and a little elbow grease, there's virtually no limit to what we can accomplish. 

Take our back yard drainage issue, for instance. About a year ago, my husband researched solutions to our problems and then dug a bad-ass ditch (by hand ... think human Ditch Witch) to install a French drain in our side and back yard. According to him, it has saved us hundreds of dollars.

How? Obviously, doing the labor himself, buying some supplies with our credit card rewards and having some donated was a huge savings. We got some rocks from a family who took an old refrigerator off our hands. It was a fair trade; we were both looking to unload something we no longer wanted. There are other cost savings that he pointed out. He told me that he could have just hired someone to do the work and then gone to play golf or to the gym to get some exercise. Instead, he stayed home, dug a ditch and got a good workout.

This is pretty characteristic of how we do things around here, hence the name of our blog "Adventures in Self-Reliance." Some would say we cheated the middle man (the gym or the golf course) or robbed a workman of a job. Not so. We saved money that we can now spend on something else, hence giving business to someone else, or nothing else, hence fortifying our own safety net.

And that brings me back to the kids. Always. The safety net. The hard work they see us doing. The learning as we go. Our little adventures in self-reliance lead us to ...

... consult but not rely solely and blindly on the experts and trained professionals. 

... do projects ourselves not just to save money, but to learn how to do it. 

... not subscribe to the idea that a good education begins with preschool and ends with college.

... have the confidence to tackle projects ourselves and the good sense to know when to call in the professionals.

... unlock the mystery of our kids by observing our kids and not blindly following the advice of experts. 

... know when our children are ready to sleep through the night, give up pacifiers or potty train not by watching their peers but by watching them. 

... believe that ignorance of how to do something isn't an obstacle but an opportunity.

... understand that the best way to save money is to not spend it. 

... not have a five-year plan, or even a one-year plan, but a 24 hour plan. Living moment by moment, doing the next right thing and trusting that the details will fall into place. 

... take the road less traveled with confidence. After all, if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.

For us, it's about using the good sense that God gave us, plain and simple.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A totally free education

I don't like to pay for things that are actually free. Education should be free. And, make no mistake, "free education" is not really free. As we're finding with Danny's preschool experience, school is an investment of time for the entire family that we foresee becoming more intrusive if our children move forward in this system. School tends to follow kids home and often leaves little private time for them to fashion a whole self. And when just one kid goes to school, the whole family's time and energy gets sucked into school and school-related activities.

I haven't written much about education lately. I used to write about it more when our decisions about education were not staring us in the face. Actually, my opinions seemed stronger and more certain when the issue didn't effect us so directly. Danny is 4 and we will have to decide soon what to do about school for him. And, of course, that decision will factor into what we do for the other children. We're opting out of preschool next year because of cost and the time investment. Four half days are too much for him and for us to commit to an institution that we don't feel will have much bearing on his future happiness and productivity as a citizen of the world. Practically speaking, hauling three young kids in and out of the van and into the preschool twice a day, the van ride, the getting ready, the "homework" and the volunteer hours were all too much for us. These things may not have become the burdens they did if I felt preschool was critically important.

The only thing I do know for sure is that, for me, educational philosophy is as personal as spirituality and should be treated as such. Every individual experiences spirituality and education in their own unique way. That is why I feel so strongly that the one-size-fits-all K through 12 schooling -- the predominant model in this country -- is a grave disservice to children and families. I know many will disagree with me on this point. That's okay. I actually would be fine with the K through 12 system in place if it were just one of many educational options available for families and children that is supported by public funds. Here it seems diversity extends only as far as skin color and culture and is not applied to the vast variety of learning styles.

Homeschooling is something we are interested in but, as for most people, will have to be balanced with the financial needs of our family. I've been reading a bit about unit studies and curriculum that pull multi-disciplinary lessons from literature. It sounds easy enough but seems like a lot of work if you actually commit to following through on it. Spontaneity seems to work well here so far. A few instances recalled from just one day prove this point, if only to me.

We read "If You Give a Moose a Muffin" at story time one night. The next day, Danny pulled out the book. A few minutes later, he came in and said, "We've got to make sock puppets. We've got to do a puppet show with a moose and a mouse."  He ran around closing curtains and asking to make sock puppets for a few minutes.

For those who don't know the story, a moose is given a muffin which makes him think of something else he wants which, in turn, leads to another train of thought. Actually, he's kind of like Danny, scrambling to put on a sock puppet show, now that I think of it. Very cute book, as are its companions, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,"  "If You Give a Cat a Cupcake" and "If You Give a Pig a Pancake."

The puppets are one of this creature's fantastic ideas. I gave it a few seconds thought. I got out some holy socks, the glue gun, some googly eyes, some red puff balls and a brown pipe cleaner and came up with these crude looking things.

We played with them for about 15 minutes. He wanted me to chase him around the house with them. His sister tried one on. His poor teething brother thought they were hilarious and then tried to bite it off mommy's hand.

Here Danny displayed reading comprehension, reading recall, imagination, initiative. If this were a classroom, it would be a unit study on this book, all kids doing the same thing planned by the teacher, all projects looking nearly the same. Whatever it would look like in a classroom, I doubt my son would be quite as interested.

Later that same day, we were outside playing in the back yard. He went over to his trapeze and asked me if it was made of plastic. I felt no need to quiz him or ask him what he thought. I just told him, "No, honey, it's metal."

"Oh, it's magnetic," he said excitedly. That gave me an idea. We have a magnetic learning lab that Nana bought for Christmas with magnetic wands, ball, chips, etc. They both love it and it is a late afternoon go-to activity when neither have napped. I went in and got magnetic wands for him and his sister, red for him, pink for her, of course. He ran around the back yard for 15 minutes trying to find magnetic objects. He felt the pull in a few rocks, some of our deck furniture, door hinges and screws, the trapeze and even the chains on his swing. Trees, the ground, the dog's bowl and matchbox cars? All not magnetic. Now I'm curious as to why the dog's metal bowl and matchbox cars aren't magnetic and plan to look it up. What I loved about this was its spontaneous nature. And if I were to have to classify this by subject for some bureaucrat somewhere (as it appears I may have to in a few years) I could file it under science and physical education. But, really, learning can't and shouldn't be classified and quantified.
I like your sweater, Danny told his father later that night.
It's wool, Jim replied. Do you know where wool comes from?
Sheep, he said, without skipping a beat.

Where did he learn this? One book that he likes, "Ice Cream Cows and Mitten Sheep." One question, one answer. No unit study, no quizzes or drilling, no field trip to see farm animals. Did he retain it? Of course. But the real question is do I want him to spit back random facts learned in a sterile environment or do I want him to learn about his world in a context that is meaningful to him and in a place that is safe and familiar? The latter, of course.  

The lesson being if you give a kid books and access to nearly everything in his world, answer his questions to the best of your knowledge and look it up when you can't, he's going to learn, he's going to ask questions, he's going to get his own ideas and feel free to act upon them within reason.

This takes all the time in the world, of course, but very little effort. This is my kind of learning. And it's free.

Friday, February 18, 2011


This is the best week we've had here in a while. The weather is getting better. And the brain fog has finally lifted for me. The kids aren't any less irritating and the baby isn't sleeping much better but I'm just not as annoyed.

Anyhow, there's not much to report this week. Everyone is healthy. In fact, Owen went in for his 9 month appointment. His stats stand at 21 pounds and 30 inches tall. He's definitely the biggest baby we've ever had. He's quite a lump to be lugging around. It's a good thing he'll probably be walking within a few weeks. He cruises around the room quite quickly now and we've even noticed him "thinking" about taking a step. God help me. And he's starting to have little tantrums when he doesn't get his way. He cries and gets red in the face when we close the dishwasher or refrigerator before he can get there.

And without further ado ...

Help me, mommy.
Honey, I can't help you eat cereal with a fork. Yet she insisted.

What do you want for Christmas? Danny asks.
Happy Birthday to you, Fi says.

Get out of my damn way, Danny says to Owen.
Oh, no, Danny, we don't talk that way, Nana tells him.
It's okay to talk to Owen that way. I pray, fervently, that he NEVER says anything like this at preschool.

Angel food cake! There's angels in here? Yes, of course. Digestive angels, anti-diarrhea angels.

What are you doing? Jim asks as Danny flits about his bed.
I'm stuffing my guys. His guys are his stuffed animals. He was stuffing them down under his covers. He arranges them just so every night.

What are you guys talking about? I asked Danny. The two of them were sitting under the dining room table chattering away.
Diarrhea, Danny says. What's diarrhea made of? Wood?

I like your eyeballs, Fi. They're round. Danny is experimenting with conversations with his sister.

I broke it. Uh. Ooohh. I'm weird. This is so much more hilarious coming out of Fiona's mouth. I crack up every time I hear it! I need to get a video of this one.

Say yes. 
Say yes. 
This really could go on all day between the two of them.

Well, Daddy and I are heavy because we're bigger and older. You and Fiona are light, I explain to Danny. We were reading a book about opposites and the heavy example was an elephant.
Oh. You're like an elephant, he says.

Have a great weekend.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Signs that you're on a date with the mother of your children

She has showered, washed her hair and brushed her teeth for the first time in three days and she lets you know it. This would be considered too much information on a real date.

She calls home at least once to make sure the kids haven't tied up the baby sitter and that the baby isn't crying uncontrollably.

She eats too fast and gets heartburn immediately because she can't shake the feeling that someone will start crying or need something at any second.

She rifles through her purse to find the "coupon" for dinner and a diaper, a baby sock and 15 receipts spill out onto the table.

She asks you if you recall whether one of the children pooped that day. You then engage in a 5 minute conversation about the consistency and frequency of the children's waste products and, based upon this knowledge, which foods you should start restricting.

She excuses herself from the table to "go potty." She takes her time. It's not every day she gets to go potty alone or without someone banging on the door.

She is wearing maternity pants because they are the nicest pair of pants she owns that actually fit her.

She yawns. A lot.

You sit side by side in utter silence sipping coffee and reading magazines at a bookstore because you relish the quiet and the abundance of magazines that haven't been mauled by children.

And ...

Even though you both need a break from the kids, most of your sentences start with "Do you know what she did the other day ... " Because, really, when it comes right down to it, the kids are the most interesting and rewarding part of your life.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Ah, the smell of Lysol in the morning. And the afternoon. And the evening. Second only to the  permanent stench of poop clinging to my nostrils, the smell of Lysol will forever remind me of my children's early years.

Poo-pocolyspe 2011 continued into February. If the past few weeks are any indication of how this year is going to be, then it's going to be quite crappy indeed. And we're going to need a lot of Lysol. A pox called the stomach virus has been on our house. And it just wouldn't leave. By Tuesday, we had to put the kids on a liquid diet, or as I clearly see it now, a junk food diet.

Honestly, what kind of nurse tells a mom to give her 2 and 4 year old nothing but water, Gatorade, Jell-O and Popsicles for 24 hours? We didn't even have any of this stuff in the house. Except, of course, the water.

We didn't make it 24 hours. By 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, I had a mini-Chernobyl on my hands and a 4 year old writhing on the kitchen floor screaming for crackers. I'll be speaking to my doctor next week when we see him about his nurse's advice.

And for those who may not have seen this video on Facebook, here's a snapshot of what my kids did one morning while I put the baby down for a nap ...
The great pasta massacre of 2011
To be fair, my trust was not necessarily misplaced. Just the day before, while putting the baby down, Danny had set up the rice trays without any help and hardly any spills. (Rice trays are a favorite activity 'round here. Sushi rice on a sheet pan and some cars and kitchen utensils such as funnels, pastry brushes and measuring cups will entertain them for quite some time ... and keep me busy sweeping.)

And Owie, dear sweet Owie. Teething. Clinging. Crying. We're trying to get him to sleep through the night. And I feel supremely guilty that my poor third child hardly has any dedicated blog posts with which to build his baby book. Sigh.

Are you gonna give up crying for Lent, Owie? Jim asks. Well, he's already given up sleep and it's not even Lent yet.

How 'bout you, Fiona? Wanna give up diapers for Lent? She fell off the potty wagon when the stomach virus struck.

More pasta on the floor, Fiona says. We keep finding the remnants from last week's pasta massacre.

Do you have a brain? Danny asks me. 
Um, yes. At least I think so. I'm not so sure anymore. 
It's next to your ears?
Between my ears.
You use it to think about stuff. Like Marbles. Yes, like marbles and how I'm losing mine.

Ugh! More pasta on the floor, I told Jim.
That's okay. It'll absorb all the water they spill on the floor.

Can you talk about something else? I ask after listening to the Moe's and Marbles conversation for a half hour straight. 
Hey Fiona, you want to talk about rockets? Of course, she does, dear. All women love talking about rockets.

Hey, look, I found more pasta on the floor, mom, Danny squeals. I know, son, I know.

Hey mom, can I mop the floor? Why not? He's responsible for most of what's on it. I set him up with the mop and he went to town.

Five minutes later ...

Here, you can finish up. It's your turn. Gee, thanks.

Where are you going?
To the doctor's. 
To get checked out. 
Oh, you're sick. [pause] You're old.
And you made me that way, kid.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Diary of an omniturnal mom

The fog

It's Day 13 of Poo-pocolypse 2011. We have a good 24 hours and then more, um, undesirable bodily fluids.

And the baby won't stay asleep for more than 3 or 4 hours at a time. And he's still teething. And mommy is pretty sure that she's been feeding him after last-call (midnight), though she doesn't actually remember feeding him.

A fog has settled on her brain. But she at least has the clarity of mind to call the advice nurse. Nurse Know-it-all very conveniently calls back just as mommy sits down to nurse the baby for his nap.

Mommy has a conversation with the advice nurse that goes something like this:

Nurse: You need to put the kids on a diet of clear liquids. Jell-O, Gatorade, Popsicles.

Mommy: OK. (Do these items come un-colored? Or does she mean clear as in "not chunky?")

Nurse: You may want to stay away from sugar. That can make the diarrhea worse.

Mommy: OK (But Jell-O, Gatorade and Popsicles have sugar in them. And the sugar-free versions are full of aspartame and lack calories. Mommy is so confused.)

Nurse: Sometimes you parents put them back on cheeseburgers and cake as soon as they start feeling better.

(Because that's exactly what we did first thing Sunday morning after he puked the night before. Cheeseburgers and cake for breakfast.)

Mommy particularly appreciates being referred to as "you parents" but lacks the mental capacity to come back with any stinging remark. Still, hours later, she's got nothing. Instead she just says ...


Nurse: Then start them on the B.R.A.T diet after 24 hours of this.

Mom: Uh-huh. OK. (Won't my kids be starving and weaker that they already are after all this?)

It's naptime. She doesn't care that putting the older two down for naps will ensure that they stay up later. Mommy takes her sister's suggestion and locks the kids in their rooms for quiet time and takes a short nap. The telephone wakes her and it's the receptionist from her doctor's office.

"Honey, you just missed your kids' appointments."

Mommy's brain doesn't work anymore. She thought the appointments were for the next day. In fact, she was so sure of this that she didn't check the message or the e-mail reminder from her doctor's office.

Mommy doesn't even know what day it is anymore. She's convinced that it's actually Thursday and the next day is Parents Morning Out. This is the second time in a week that she has missed something in her schedule. And today, she forget to bring a shoebox for Danny to decorate at preschool. Luckily, his teacher had an extra one.

Her husband comes home and finds her sprawled on the coach in a stupor.

"I'm hanging on by a very thin thread here," she says. He later tells her to just keep the kids fed and from hurting themselves and ignore the rest. Sounds easy enough, she thinks. And, hey, he didn't say anything about keeping them from hurting each other, so she can just hang up the referee whistle, right?

Mommy then starts to cry when she tells her husband how the 4 year old no longer wants or needs her help in the bathroom. He told her to go away this afternoon when she asked if he needed any help wiping his bottom. That's right, mommy is actually sad that her son doesn't want her to wipe his bottom. She thinks, "I pick the strangest things to get verklempt over."

Clearly, the fog is quite thick.

She mindlessly goes to the store and buys Gatorade, Jell-O and Popsicles. And a candy bar for herself which she inhales on the way home despite it being almost dinner time.

The kids have two Popiscles and some Jell-O for dinner. Then some Gatorade. Then some more Jell-O before bed. They're thrilled. All mommy can think about is red dye and chemicals and the tantrums when they find out that Popsicles and Jell-O will not be a regular dinner. She realizes, though, that the potassium broth recipe in her health food cookbook would not go over quite so well.

And besides, with a mental fog this deep, handling anything sharp or hot would be a dangerous proposition indeed. Even making Jell-O with boiling water was risky.

Thursday, February 03, 2011


So we're on day seven of the stomach bug from hell. This morning, I thought it was over. No symptoms for the past 24 hours. I was exhorting Danny to get up (I hate the thought of having to do this for the next 15 years). He told me he was sick.

Oh, you're sick. What's wrong? 
I can't walk. 
Now that's just silly, I said, teasing him.

He laughed and got up.

He came down for breakfast and puked all over the bench. Sigh. No preschool. Plans for coffee with a friend at a kid-friendly coffee house canceled. Poor Danny back on the couch.

Everyone but the baby has had this. Actually, the baby almost had a literal stomach bug. He picked up a small bug in the bathroom and put it in his mouth the other day.


If I could see the bug's facial expression, I'm sure it would have looked something like Owen's look of utter shock and horror.

It's also Week 1 of Fiona's terrible twos. On Day 1, she had her first crying No fit. Up until now, she'd only say or scream no. Now we have tears and repetition and hand gestures.


Ten minutes later, she was dancing like Elaine Benes in our kitchen while we listened to my Atomic Dog station on Pandora. It's going to be a long, schizophrenic year here with little miss ...

Nona. This is how Fiona says her name. It's beyond adorable.

No, I don't like it, Fiona says, mostly about clothes, food, books and toys. Well, at least she's direct.

I like it, Fiona tells me, waving a cleaning brush at me.
You like what?
CLEANING! Excellent!

Hate the book, she now says every chance she gets. She brought me a book one night that I was so sick of. I muttered, "Oh, I hate that book."

I hate him, she says after her brother Owen visited her patch of the playroom. You know, I always suspected.

I don't hear you, mom, Danny tells me as I'm surfing Amazon one afternoon.
I'm not talking, dear. Actually, I'm taking a vow of silence.

Let's have a conversation, Fi. 

We're going to Moe's and to Marbles, he tells her.
YEAH, she says, clearly thrilled to be having a conversation with her brother.
But not today.
Yeah. Not today.
They have this same exact conversation about ten times a day now. My head hurts. Bad.

Say thank you to me, Fi, Danny tells her after he's given her something.
Thank you to me.
No, say thank you to me.
Thank you to me.
Thank you to me.
Not now son, I'm busy laughing ass off.

What are you doing? I ask Danny who is at the top of the stairs brushing his teeth 10 minutes after bedtime.
I've got to brush all of them. They're all going to fall out. 
I sat on the stairs and laughed hysterically for at least 2 minutes. It had been a really long day.

Your baby popped out of your belly button? Danny asks one day over lunch.
Um, sure. 
Oh, that would really hurt. Wait till he finds out how babies really come out. I'll get a band aid to fix it, he decides. Now, why didn't I think of that?

Someone. Help. Danny called from his room several times Saturday night. The stomach virus had spread.

I feel the need to warn you that this one is just gross ...

It's all water. I've got to put it in a pan and stir it back up till it turns into poop. 

And a few days later, when Daddy got the stomach virus ...

When I feel sick in the middle of the night and yell, 'Someone. Help.' Will you come help me? Jim asks Danny.
You can have my bucket, he offers. I don't need it anymore.  How sweet.

Here's hoping we won't need any buckets next week.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Diary of an omniturnal mom

The perfect shit storm

I realized recently that my first "diary" posting, as I've decided to call these occasional entries, was written using third person pronouns. Which is not how a diary is normally written. I chalked it up to extreme sleep deprivation. But then it occurred to me that I do refer to myself in the third person quite often. Mommy is going potty. Mommy is fixing a snack. Mommy is driving; she can't reach your toy right now. Mommy will stop this van if you don't stop screaming. And on and on and on. I'm like Bob Dole, only a lot prettier. And younger.

And I also don't like to overuse first-person pronouns. Sometimes sentences will be awkwardly rewritten so as to avoid too many first-person pronouns in one paragraph. See how I did that? I never want to come off as narcissistic, which, of course, is why I have a blog and talk incessantly about my kids and my life. Anyhow, for now, a diary written in the third-person it is ... what can I say? I'm a trendsetter, who reserves the right to change back to a first-person diary at any time. The following is continued from the last entry because it really just kept getting better ... (I'm a little behind. Sue me. ... actually, don't, I have no money.)

Thursday evening

Mommy hears the familiar sound of the washing machine and the bathtub running. And it's after 9 p.m. That's never good. Curiosity gets the better of her and she heads upstairs. Fiona's bedroom light is on.

Her husband says, "I wouldn't go in there if I were you."

Fiona had pooped in her diaper and smeared it on the floor, her kitchen set, her chair and table, some of the plastic food from her kitchen.

Emergency bathtime, room sanitizing and laundromat at 9 p.m.

Friday evening

The Rug Doctor is in the house. A rather good-looking shirtless guy is shampooing all the carpets in the house, sucking probably a decade worth of dirt, dog hair, urine, poop, baby spit up and God knows what else out of the rugs.

Everything looks and smells clean. Mommy now feels much better about the baby crawling around in Fiona's room.

Saturday morning

Mommy finds a stray piece of poop in a laundry basket that the kids are playing in. It's as if poop just materializes out of thin air. She does a quick bottom check and determines that it's probably an older specimen. She imagines that she'll be finding petrified bits of poop around the house for the next 10 years.

As for Fiona, Mommy is on her like mosquitoes at dusk to be sure that all future deposits are made in the approved receptacle.

Saturday afternoon

Mommy puts on her poop coach hat and coaxes a poop out of Princess Poopy before nap time. 

She then draws herself a bath since Fiona seems to be settled. Her sense of relief is short lived.

A few minutes of indignant screaming followed by silence deserves a peek. Mommy was too optimistic. Fiona, sans bottoms, looks up innocently as she smears poop on her little table.

"Poop," she says.

It's all over the floor, her shirt, the table, a chair, a plastic burger, a tea cup.

Mommy puts the chair, the toys and the girl in the tub. Meanwhile her bath is getting cold and the baby won't go down for his nap. So she decides to bathe him, too, after taking care of Princess Poopy. He poops in the tub.


Okay, nap time for baby. Time for a breather and a bath. She and her husband have a party to go for his company that evening. She's not really looking forward to it; she just wants to get out of the house and be clean for a while.

After the baby's nap, he's poopy again. Mommy wonders what the hell these kids have been eating to be pooping so much. Baby changed, diaper sprayed off, toilet flushed.

Toilet overflows.

(I'm not even kidding.)

She moves the baby to the hallway and shuts the door, which prompts hysterical screams either because he loves Mommy so much or he wants to crawl around in the poopy water that is now spreading across the floor.

Mommy yells at the ceiling, because that's where God lives, "Please, can you make this any worse? I don't think you've quite outdone yourself."

She's now padding around in bare feet in poopy water with large beach towels trying to stem the flow.
So, yes, indeed, God decided to make it worse.

She rinses off her feet in the shower and just starts yelling and mumbling randomly about poop and children and how tired she is shoveling poop. It's beginning to feel like a barnyard here. In fact, she no longer wants to live out in the country and raise chickens for eggs and have a cow for milk. Too much poop. She doesn't care if  it is good fertilizer. Why can't kids' poop be good fertilizer, she thinks. At least it would be useful.

Her husband is called in for plunging because she apparently cannot plunge a toilet properly. Her best solution to toilet overflow is to turn the water off, clean the floor, lock the bathroom and wait till the calvary arrives. (I also do a variation of this when large, scary bugs are involved.)

Her mother and father arrive at the tail end of this shit storm. Her mother tries not to laugh.

Saturday evening

That party they were supposed to go to? Forget about it.  Her husband walks into their closet, which doubles as a "bedroom" for the baby when he won't go back to sleep, and says "I have nothing to wear. I don't really want to go."

She says, "I don't want to go either. Let's go to a movie." They're not really party people. Back when they were, they usually couldn't remember how they got home.

Guess what? They're not movie people either. Nothing looked interesting, and, really, if they're going to spend two hours in the dark these days, they'd prefer to be sleeping. At least she would. He'd be on his deathbed and want to ... oh, nevermind.

They got some coffee, drove around for a while and tried to remember what they used to like doing. Driving in the van with a cup of hot coffee and no kids was good enough that night.