Monday, May 30, 2011

AiS: The Most Expensive Sprinkler in Town

Seven years ago when moved into our house, we had the water supply line to the house replaced. For seven years, we've had about 50 feet of excess PEX pipe from that project sitting in our crawlspace. It's probably $35 worth of pipe.

Can you guess what my husband did with it?

Hint: It involved a drill. And a few inexpensive connector pieces from Lowe's.

There really is nothing my husband loves more than using his drill and scrap material around the house to create something. And it's a big bonus for him if there's a trip to Lowe's involved. It's like living with the male version of Heloise, actually.  (Incidentally, my grandmother, who loved Heloise, was closing chip bags with clothes pins 50 years ago and they all laughed at her. Don't know why I felt like throwing that in there, but there it is. RIP Wacky Jeanne. Love you, lady!) 

The "sprinkler" is about 50 feet long and can be dragged around the yard and placed in any configuration. It can be positioned in standing loops or laid flat on the ground or hung from a tree branch or a hook in a tree. It's also lightweight, so even the kids can drag it around. Of course, it totally ticks off my bossy first born when anyone other than him moves it. Whatever, dude. WHAT.EV.UH.

So, anyhow, enjoy the photos and don't laugh at my husband. Fifty years from now, everyone will be doing this.

Owen approves ...

... but he's hanging on to that golf club, just in case.
A drink from the sprinkler.

The boss man is moving the sprinkler.

Owen shakes a stick at it. Fiona tests the stream.

An alternate configuration.
Now, over the years, we've wasted money on various sprinklers and backyard pools. The sprinklers never lasted the season, worked properly or provided good coverage and, to boot, scared the hell out of the kids. And every year we'd get a pool that would just have a hole in it by the end of the summer. So this year, we've got a PEX sprinkler and we turned the Clifford sandbox that we found on the side of the road a few years ago into the kids' pool. (They just toss the sand out anyway. I was getting REALLY tired of saying  "Sand stays in the box.")

Cost: less than $10 for hose connectors at Lowe's. (I don't count the cost of the pex piping because it was  "found" materials.)

Benefits: Lawn, garden AND kid watering.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Things I say too often

I find myself saying and asking the same things over and over again lately. I'm stuck in an endless loop of ...
I'm driving. Mommy can't get your cracker/monkey/sunglasses/piece of crap Happy Meal toy right now.

I'm driving. Mommy can't watch you lick your toe/pick your nose/tap your right ear right now. No matter how many times I say these two things, they still insist that I look or that I retrieve. And lately, Danny insists that I stop the car. Which prompts this response:

Mommy is not going to stop this car. Kind of the opposite of my mother's "I will stop this car right now." No blood, no stopping. That's the rule.

Who's in the bathroom? Dear God, please don't let it be the baby again. And can he please not be eating toilet paper like it was cotton candy and splashing the scrubby thing in the toilet (I use it so infrequently that I don't even know what it is called, people.) I miss the days when it was just my husband and I using the bathroom. Yes, I just said I liked it better when all of them were in diapers. At least then all the bodily waste was contained and my bathrooms were cleaner. 

What's in your mouth? This is the equivalent of saying "On your mark, get set, GO" to Owen who then sprints in the opposite direction and laughs.

Shut the door. We now have a colony of flies in our house and I'm sure that the electricity bill is going to be, oh, I don't know, maybe a thousand dollars this month.

Don't slam the door. Maybe I should have been more specific about the shutting of the door.

For the love of God, just don't touch the effing door anymore, okay?? At this point, I'm just pissed that I have to get up and slog through the cloud of flies now invading the house to shut the door and corral the kids.

Your shirt/pants/underwear is on backward. They don't care. At all. In fact, Danny insists that he likes it that way or Fiona truly believes that it's supposed to be that way. 

Are you freaking kidding me? On a bad day, I say this at least a dozen times in response to Fiona's latest pantry massacre or Owen's inability to exist without some part of his body touching mine.

Get your hand out of my shirt. Okay, my baby, who is still nursing, likes to suck his thumb and fondle my boob at the same time. And I'm not the only one he does it, too. So far, he's fondled my husband, my mother and our neighbor.

Go to sleep. What I'm really saying is, "Where the hell is your off button?"

I smell poop. Who pooped? Lately, everything smells like poop. Even apples, for some reason.

Stop touching your penis. Now I have two boys to say this to. Sigh.

I am not your personal handkerchief. They literally go out of their way to wipe their noses on me. The baby once faked me out as I approached with a tissue and wiped his nose on my shoulder.

I'm apparently in a rut.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


The baby loses his mind whenever I put him down or leave the room. And he's kicked it up a notch physically. I expressed surprise a few weeks ago that he's not been much of a climber. This week he began furniture surfing and climbing up the ladder and going down the slide on his own.

The girl child shrieks like a pterodactyl. Even though she can talk as well as most 3 year olds I know.

The boy child runs around whooping like an Indian and agitating his sister. I'm about to just put them in a room together and let them fight to the death.

I have a perpetual headache. And a backache. And a recurring panic attack about what I'm going to do with these children all summer or, actually, for the foreseeable future since we're not going to preschool in the fall.

But at least it's been nice enough out to be outside most of the day. They're always better behaved when they're outside.

Anyhow, enjoy ...

Mom, where are you?
I'm upstairs with Fiona. 
Come down. 
I can't. I'm helping Fiona put a band-aid on her freckle. She's convinced that it is a cut. I'd do anything to keep her from uttering that awful pterodactyl sound.

MAMA WILL BE RIGHT BACK, OWIE, Fiona screams. I'm sure he felted super comforted.

Mom, look at me. 
I see. She was hiking up her skirt.
Look at me again. More skirt hiking. I just had a flashback to my teen years.

Get Owie away from me, Danny says.
I can't. He lives here.

I don't want any kids down here. 
Well, you're in the wrong house, Danny.

See, Fiona, I'm right here. You're not alone. You can talk to me, Danny tells his sister. We were trying to see if they could sleep in the same room. Ten minutes later, she hit him a few times.

I don't want Daddy to go to work today. 
Why not?
He can't go. 
Why not?
Oh, STOP saying why not?
STOP SAYING WHY. Payback is a bitch, ain't it kid? I swear that I wasn't doing it on purpose. Really.

Don't water me, Fiona tells her dad every time he gets the hose out.

It's a brinkler! Fiona declares. Actually, it's a sprinkler.

Mom, Fiona made a mess with the cookies. She'd pulled out the ginger snaps and when I found her sitting in the cabinet she smiled and said, 

Helloooooo! What a little b ... rat.

Ten minutes later ...

Mom, Fiona made a mess in the kitchen again.

Four pounds of corn flour all over the floor. I'm not even kidding. See?

And the aftermath ...

Don't sweep my arm, Fiona says. Oh, honey, on the list of things I'd like to do to you, sweeping the corn flour off your arms is not even close to the top.  

How are the kids? I ask my mother over the phone. She had them for a sleepover this week.
Your son just ate a tube of chapstick and your daughter has brushed her teeth with five different toothbrushes. And it was almost 9:00 p.m. Yep, that sounds about right.

And the funniest thing I heard all week ...

Crying and screaming kills unicorns, Jim told Fiona, who was starting the launch sequence for meltdown at dinner Thursday.
What's a unicorn? Danny asked.
You'd know if you stopped screaming and crying. They'd be running up and down the street. 

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wednesday quick hits

Last night, Jim and I went on a bedtime strike. By accident. Jim had started a project in Fiona's room that lasted a little too long. I wanted to watch American Idol. Yeah, I know. Don't judge. It's my guilty pleasure. And, by God, I was going to watch it live last night if I had to tie the little boogers to their beds. Monday night's bedtime experiment was not pleasant at all. We tried letting them sleep in the same room and Fiona started hitting Danny. So instead of trying to get the kids to bed last night, I decided to just ignore them.

And it actually worked. Danny came down and watched Idol with me, while Fiona hung out with Jim. Jim came down and watched the rest of Idol with us. Fiona threw a shoe down the stairs but stayed upstairs. We sent Danny to bed at 9 and he went. For the next half hour, we heard some noises as they played in Fiona's room. By the time Jim went to bed, Danny was asleep on the floor in Fiona's room. Fiona was next to him reading a book. It seems that the frustrating factor in the bedtime routine is ... us. Who knew?
If most of my one-year-old's food winds up on the floor, why is this kid pooping four times a day? Just another mystery that I may never solve. (It occurred to me the other day that I likely have two more years of diapers. Deep breath ... one day at a time.)
I'm pretty sarcastic around my kids. I often wonder whether my children will misunderstand the meaning of such words as "fantastic" or "genius." For instance, will they believe that geniuses put their jackets on upside down or that spilling a pot of coffee whilst scaling the kitchen counter really is fantastic?
The baby can now climb up on the sofa. He actually runs back and forth on the cushions. Clearly, I am now going to have to get rid of ALL the furniture. There is really no other way to keep him safe.
Speaking of the baby, I used to call him "snuggle-up-a-gus" and think it was super cute and endearing when he would nestle against my chest and suck his thumb. Now he follows me around, arms outstretched like a zombie and moaning, until I pick him up. His new nicknames are "barnacle" and "zombie boy." Of course, he still nestles in and sucks his thumb, but only after wiping his nose one some part of my body. It's not quite as charming, but still quite nice.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Did you ever have one of those weeks that goes downhill fast and you have no idea why? Yeah, last week was that week. Last Monday evening, I wrote this charming e-mail to my mother:

Are you working tomorrow night? If not, I was wondering if you'd like to come up around dinner time ... and "see the kids" while we run away and never come back. Does this sound like an offer you can't refuse?

So naturally, blogging sort of took a backseat as I went into survival mode. Which usually involves Diet Coke and Luna Bars and gas-guzzling van rides just to get some relief from snotty nosed, whiny children who use me as their personal napkin and complaint box. Seriously, the baby cannot resist wiping his nose on me. It's almost like he's marking me as a dog marks his territory.

No one said anything funny last week. At all. Well, maybe a few things. This week was much better. Even though we had one false ear-infection alarm visit to the doctor and the baby followed me around arms outstretched and moaning like a zombie all week. I pretty much spent the week carrying him or running away from him.

Perspective is a funny thing. When things are so bad you can't even remember what happened, anything is a step up, I guess.

Anyway. Enjoy ...

While mommy made this ...

When do you have time to sew, dear? my mother asks when I show her Fiona's new pajamas.
When Fiona is busy spilling coffee on the counter. Here's a video that I'm putting in her permanent record.

Mom, look. Go that way. I want to see the darnkeys. Huh? All mommy sees that way are geese.
Darnkeys, he says again, even more emphatically.
What are darnkeys? I ask. Then I get it. Darn Geese. I laughed so hard I cried. (We don't like those darn geese that poop in our yard and saunter in the middle of the street.)
... Fiona was doing this.

My dad is fixing the Volvo. It has a leak in the bottom, Danny reports to PopPop.

Want some, Fiona tells Jim who had a bag of black licorice bites.
You don't even know what this is. For all you know, it could be crap pieces. He gives her one.
Crap pieces, she giddily declares as she shows me her loot.

Goodnight, mommy. 
Goodnight, Fiona.
Get out. This mother-daughter thing is off to a fantastic start.

Nana, nana. Is it time to get up yet? Danny asks at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday.
No, it's still very early. 
But the birds are singing. I think she told him that the birds were crazy. Yes they are, Nana.  

When you fill your bank up, we can take it to the real bank and open an account. 
Yeah, and I can be a work guy, Danny replies.
You'll need a uniform for that. 
And a car. Oh boy. He's four and already wants a car.

Just one cup of apple juice, Danny. It's time for water now.
No, no, boys get two apple juices, Danny informs me. The gender superiority complex starts early apparently.

Let's go in the pool now, Danny says at his friend's birthday party this weekend. I was not looking forward to corralling two kids in a freezing cold pool without having a bathing suit for myself.
Look, Danny, your sister's playing basketball.
Oh, I've got to go play with her. And off he trotted.
Thank God for short attention spans!

See, there's this nice little dividing line built right into the sofa, kids, I tell them one night. They'd were wrestling on the couch. Again.

You are not qualified to operate a door, Jim tells Fiona. She enjoys slamming doors. She is such a girl already. It's a wonder no one has gotten hurt yet.

How can you all be so bad at eating? You've done it three times a day for years now, I tell the kids who have managed to spill applesauce all over the table. Again.

I want to sit on my lap, Fiona says. She wanted to sit on my lap. What's mine is hers, apparently.

I shared marshmallows with my sister, Danny informs me this morning as he and Fiona bound into my bedroom. The two of them stole downstairs before I got up.Why do they only share when they're getting into trouble together??

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Diary of an omniturnal mom

Foudini the Magician

Monday night

The kids are in bed. The adults have kicked back. Mommy in front of the computer for a little editing and writing, Daddy catching up on DVR'd shows.

Her husband warns her that the 2 year old might soon reappear. He says Fiona somehow opened the locked door of her room while he was up there.

Sure enough, Foudini bounds triumphantly into the TV room and chirps, "I came downstairs." And she throws herself onto the sofa, giggling.

"I got out," she says gleefully and laughs maniacally. She knows she's outwitted her parents.

Mommy and daddy look at each other. They really had no backup plan for this one. Their plan was just to keep her locked up at night until she was old enough to understand and obey the command "Stay in your bed." When she's not locked down, she climbs into her brother's crib. This is really the safest arrangement for everyone.

And mommy really has been too sleep deprived to do the Super Nanny procedure -- returning the scofflaw to bed repeatedly and without emotion until she stays. The baby is now sleeping through the night so it might be time for some actual consistent discipline.

Their only other option is to keep her up all day long so that the child passes out from exhaustion before they leave her room. Some days the poor kid hasn't made it to bedtime and falls asleep at the dinner table.

Mommy and daddy escort her back upstairs and ask her to show them how she got out.

"I got a key," she says, clearly delighted with all the attention. She presented them with a plastic fork and Mr. Potato Head's arm, neither of which fit in the keyhole.

They tucked and locked Foudini in and didn't hear from her for the rest of the night.

Tuesday morning

Within two minutes of Fiona's arrival in the kitchen, she pulled the marshmallows out along with the basket of rices and beans. Mommy was in the kitchen when this happened, yet she has no idea when or how this happened. In fact, she's so convinced that it didn't just happen while she was standing right there that she called her husband at work to ask if he had noticed anything on the floor that morning.

He hadn't.

Foudini strikes again.

Tuesday night

 Fiona tells mommy, "Leave my door open."

Mommy decides to give it a shot. She tells Fiona to stay in her bedroom.

Five minutes later, the girl is screaming in her bedroom. She had left her room and was escorted back and locked in by her big brother, Deputy Dan.

Mommy tucks a teary Fiona back in bed, says good night and leaves with the admonishment to stay in bed.

Five minutes later, the girl skips into the living room. "I came downstairs," she chirps.

Mommy decides to employ the Super Nanny trick. What the heck? A few extra trips up the stairs would be good for a little butt and leg toning.

One trip. That's all it took that night. That was too easy, mommy thinks.

"I think she just wants us to trust her a little more," mommy tells her husband.

Wednesday morning

Fiona waltzes into mommy's bedroom at 7 a.m. Mommy naively assumes that she was Fiona's first stop that morning.

On her way down the stairs, she spots an open bag of marshmallows. She'd climbed over the baby gate to get downstairs to her beloved marshmallows in the childproofed cabinet.

Foudini strikes again.

Wednesday night

Six trips up and down the stairs returning a gangly 26 pound scofflaw back to her bed.

Ah. This is the workout mommy was looking for.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Free U: The Accidental Geometry Lesson

It has been a rather rough week for Danny. He's been pretty aggressive. In fact, he hit a boy at preschool so hard that the kid had a bruise on his arm. Friday morning, I kept him out of Parents Morning Out as a consequence. I sent Fiona and kept him and Owen home (he needed a morning nap). We told him that we just couldn't trust him to be around other kids right now. So instead, he hung out with me. I made no special effort to play with him; I just went about my housework and told him that this is what I do when they are at church on Fridays. And out came the laundry baskets. I sat on the floor started pulling out the kitchen rags. I told him to come help me fold.

They're square. I figured he could handle it.

He made a half-hearted attempt, said "help me" and then ran off to the sofa to sulk. I called him back, saying, "You asked for help. Come here so I can show you." I did not want to spend the morning with a sulky boy so I decided to try to make it fun for him.

I told him to "cut" the towel in the middle with his hand and fold it to turn a square towel into a rectangle.

So from then on, of course, towel folding had a sound effect. What do you expect from a four year old boy?

SHOOP. And fold. Voila! A rectangle.

SHOOP. And fold. Voila! Another square.

SHOOP. And fold. Voila! Another rectangle.

After a few of those, I decided to introduce diagonal folds to make triangles out of the square. We had a tidy pile of triangles and rectangles and a boy who was disappointed when all the towels were folded.

By this time, I had also introduced the concepts of diagonal, vertical and horizontal. In my head, I could see those graphs I had worked with in geometry class.

Now, I'm no math genius. (That's actually the understatement of the decade. I make my husband calculate and add tips to our restaurant tabs while he mocks me with "Math is hard." Whatever. This is the man who calls apostrophes "commas in the air.") I vaguely sensed, though, that these activities were math related. So I googled patterns and geometry just to see what would come up and found this charming worksheet. Albeit, it is third grade level math, but I bet if he looked at it long enough, he could find all the squares in the 5x5 or 25 unit square. But when I started staring at it, my mind immediately shut down and my eyes literally began to squint and actually hurt as if I'd been starting at it for a lot longer than 10 seconds (which was really all I could handle).

Something tells me that folding square kitchen rags into rectangles and triangles was a good enough and more productive accidental introduction to geometry for him.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday quick hits

Tuesday morning, I woke up at 5:30 with the baby. I had a headache. I was angry that the baby wouldn't go back to sleep and we had to go to the strawberry patch with Danny's preschool that morning.

Coffee just wasn't changing my attitude, so I turned on my Christian music station on Pandora and heard one of my favorite hymns:  

No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me.
From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.

(Yes, I realize that I put reliance on caffeine ahead of reliance on God. It happens.)

AH. I felt an enormous sense of relief. If I have no fear in death, then surely I should have no fear in taking three children to the strawberry patch on very little sleep and with a raging headache (probably from the half a bag of Skittles I ate the night before). Twenty minutes later, the baby went down for a short snoozer. Oh, yeah, God's got this.

Of course, the strawberry patch was not without its challenges. We left early because someone was disobedient and decided to run up and down the strawberry rows instead of staying with mommy. Oh, well. No day is perfect.

By the way, you will never see me wearing lipstick and leg and butt toning sneakers on a preschool field trip to the strawberry patch.
 I've found that I have the same mentality about an open box of Reese's pieces as I once did with an open bottle of wine: Might as well finish it off now that it's open.

I often wonder just how much of my life has been spent standing in the kitchen trying to twist lids on kids' sippy cups. Actually, I've spent way too much time in the maintenance and care of sippy cups in the past four years. I hate sippy cups. Deeply.

That is all.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Diary of an omniturnal mom

Why mommy can never get anything done 'round here (or why mommy's laundry NEVER gets folded)

Wednesday morning
It's raining. And the van's battery is dead.

So far, mommy has said nothing to the kids about this dead battery. She's positive, however, that they sense there is no escape for mommy this morning. She can tell already and she's still in bed with the baby. The older two are making noise in the hallway and mommy can't tell if it's squeals of delight or irritation.

Usually, on a rainy morning, she'll get them out of the house just for the temporary relief of physically restraining them in their car seats while she drinks a cold Diet Coke and eats a Luna bar. Hell, this is a good plan for most mornings, don't you think?

Mommy considers just strapping them all in the van and sitting in the driveway after breakfast.

Nah. Too weird.

After donning wrinkled clothes from a clean basket of her laundry, she dresses the baby and changes Fiona's diaper. The older two dress themselves, which is why Fiona is wearing a red and white I Love NY shirt inside out and backwards with light pink pants. Mommy is trying hard not to twitch.

Mommy fixes the kids' breakfast and sits down with her own breakfast.

"Mom, I want more apple juice," says the boy child. She swears that the children time their requests for when mommy's butt hits a seat.

And the snotty-nosed baby is crawling up her leg. And the girl child is rummaging through the fridge again.

And the requests keep pouring in.

"I want sausage." (Nevermind that boychild NEVER eats his sausage. And then gets upset when I offer it to Fiona who can't get enough sausage.)

"I want cereal with milk." (Nevermind that they rarely ever finish their cereal with milk and dribbles of milk wind up on the table.)

"I want more apple juice." Again. Seriously?? (And EVERY morning, the answer is the same. "Just one glass. Now it's time for water.")

Mean mommy rarely gets up from eating her breakfast to fill any requests. She makes sure the kids have enough food before sitting down. She's hoping that one glorious day something will click and they will realize, "Hey, mommy sits and doesn't get up until she's done eating. Maybe I should try this, too."

Is this really being too optimistic?

Mommy finally finishes her breakfast. Cold coffee, lukewarm eggs, peanut butter toast that the baby has stuck his fingers in. She started allowing him peanut butter at about 11 months old after he put his fingers in her toast and didn't die.

Time to tackle the dishwasher. She really should just wait until the baby takes a nap, but where's the challenge in that? Besides, the morning nap is no longer guaranteed. Baby stands on the dishwasher door, tries to climb in, runs off with and licks all the utensils, throws bowls on the floor. This is why mommy winds up sweeping forks and spoons off the kitchen floor by noon.

Baby goes up for a nap. Laundry comes downstairs for folding.

Two children saunter over, not to help, but to yank clothes out of the basket and declare ownership, presumably so they can fight over the items of clothing now mingling with dog hair on the carpet.

"Who wants to match socks?"

"Me," Danny says. He matches two sets and then wanders off. Meanwhile, Fiona is yanking clothes out and wiping her nose on them. She knocks over a pile of freshly folded clothes.

Mommy wonders why the kids never do this to their father. He can fold laundry, mop floors and collect trash from the whole house while they play quietly in the playroom.

Now she's mad at her husband and he's not even there. And he didn't even do anything wrong. On the contrary, he's way more productive than she is when it comes to housework.

The kids have dumped their dirty clothes in the clean laundry basket and are now running around in their underwear. And wrestling on the rug. And yelping and yodeling. And jumping on the sofa cushions strewn on the floor (despite the fact that there is a perfectly good trampoline in the TV room).

Thankfully, the baby sleeps through all this. By the time he wakes up at 11:30, mommy decides to go ahead and serve lunch. Lunch is the first step in the afternoon nap launching sequence.

Wednesday afternoon

Finally, some relief. The rain lets up. Her dad comes over to test and charge the battery while the kids run around outside in the mud. She manages to get the kids down for naps and she and her dad spend some time sweeping and mopping and cleaning.

Basically wiping the slate clean for the next round.

Deep breath ...

Sunday, May 08, 2011

AiS: Easy Peasy Mac n' Cheesy

Do your kids beg you for macaroni and cheese on a daily basis? Do you hate going to the blue box with its list of ingredients fit for a chemistry experiment rather than lunch?

Do you want a healthy macaroni and cheese recipe?

Um, wait. This recipe has chicken base (a bouillion-type product) and butter. Really, these days, who knows what "healthy" actually is.

Do you want a recipe for this kiddie crack that will save you money?

Oh, nevermind. This probably costs more, what with the mound of real cheese in it.

Okay, so it's not exactly healthy nor is it inexpensive. What can I say about this recipe that my husband developed and I've been making for the kids for a few months now?

It is easy, sort of. You do have to collect more ingredients than you would with the blue box version.

But it can be done all in one pan. No need to drain the macaroni into a colander. I always hate dragging out the colander and transferring boiling hot water from the stove to the sink with children under foot. I think of this and shudder every time I drain pasta. The only other kitchenware you'll need is a small bowl, a measuring spoon (unless you're an eyeballer like me) and a utensil to stir the macaroni.

Here's what you need: 

1 cup of elbow macaroni (I usually use whole wheat macaroni but white macaroni is what I had on hand.)
2 cups of boiling water (I start with boiling water from my Insta-hot. This literally cuts the cooking time in half.)
1/2 to 3/4 cup of cheese
1 teaspoon of chicken base (You could probably use a chicken boullion cube.)
About a tablespoon of corn starch
About a tablespoon of cold water
About a tablespoon of butter (my husband doesn't use butter. something about cholesterol. whatever.)

Bring 2 cups of water plus the tablespoon of chicken base (or boullion cube) to a steamy, rolling boil. Add the macaroni. Do not lower the heat. Keep it boiling and stir it. This will make the water reduce down so that it looks like this:

Next you make what's called a corn starch slurry -- essentially equal parts corn starch and cold water. Always mix the corn starch with cold water and then add it to the simmering water (you cannot cheat on this part ... it's the key to the whole recipe, if you ask me). This thickens the remaining water in the pan. Add butter and cheese and stir. It should look like this: 

Creamy, cheesy deliciousness. This makes enough to feed three children (under the age of 4) and mommy. If you have older, more ravenous children, you may want to double the recipe.

The way I see it, when the kids ask for mac and cheese, I don't have to say no just because there aren't any blue boxes in the house. And who would want that anyway with its soupy, gritty texture, questionable color and subpar macaroni?

Certainly not me.

Friday, May 06, 2011


This is the first time in a year that I have been completely alone for more than an hour.Owen is spending his first morning at Parent's Morning Out. I had eight weeks of Friday morning freedom between the time Fiona started PMO after her first birthday and the time Owen was born. It's a strange feeling.

I keep watching the clock and thinking that I have to go wake him from his nap to pick up the kids.

And I loaded the dishwasher without Owen trying to climb into it. I still loaded it at break neck speed like I always do to get the dishes in before the boy climbs in.

I actually went grocery shopping alone. Who knew what a pleasure that would be? I didn't even need a list (because, Lord knows, I can't remember anything when the kids are around). And even if I'd had one, there was no one there to wrestle it from my hands and chew on it.

And, now, for my final trick, I'm going to leave the house with just my purse, buckle only myself in and drive away ... all within five minutes.
Do you want sausage, Danny?
Just one, I don't want to get fat. We've been having discussions about serving sizes.

What's the matter, Danny? He ran in the house screaming.
DON'T TALK TO ME. I'M GOING TO THE COUCH. And he dove head first into the corner of the couch. That must have been some bee up his bonnet.

I'm in charge here, Fiona, Danny says. He was having an Alexander Haig moment.

Nigel, Bob, I need to talk to you, Danny tells the dogs as they are wrestling in the yard. Bossy first born, isn't he?

I need to talk to you, Nigel. That's not the pee pee tree, he tells my sister's dog who just peed on an apparently unapproved spot.

I want a snack, Danny says, pointing to the candy at the register in Home Depot.
That's not real food, I tell him. (My father used to tell me this all the time.)
Yes, it is. 
Oh, yeah? What animal or plant does that food come from?
Bears. Indeed, there was a bag of gummy bears there.

Let's play Simon Says. 
NO, let's play Charlie Says. Charlie is his cousin. So is Simon.

Oh, there's something on my toe, Danny says. He puts his toe in his mouth. It's frosting, he declares. Gross. Just gross.

I put my underpants on in the dark every day and I get them on the right way, Jim brags. Danny frequently gets his underwear on inside out and backwards. 

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Wednesday quick hits

My husband washed a clean basket of my unfolded laundry last week. I fold everyone's laundry yet dress myself from a pile of wrinkled clothes all week. Meanwhile, my kids crumple their clothes while rummaging through the drawers. Maybe I should just fold my clothes instead.
Incidentally, the husband has also washed the same pile of clothes that are supposed to go to the thrift shop at least twice already.

I've always had trouble with left and right. I frequently hold my hands up to see the "L" of my forefinger and thumb just to be sure (and then panic as I forget for a split second what a capital L looks like). So, it's always a little nerve wracking to discuss left and right with Danny. One morning during such a discussion, however, I noticed that my left hand is the one with my wedding rings. OH! I've been married for 8 years now.
If I can renew and put books on hold online, why can't I pay library fines online? I would like to avoid the walk of shame and the thinly disguised look of disgust from the librarians. I currently have more than $10 in fines for the second month in a row.
The other night I went to make shish kabobs but couldn't find any skewers. We used to have a bundle of them in the silverware drawer. I  borrowed some from our neighbors. Later that night, ,I discovered about 10 of them above various doors in the house. They've been used for emergency keys for when the kids lock us out.
By the way, while looking for skewers, I discovered that there really is nothing my husband won't screw down. He had screwed the silverware trays to the drawer. (I blame myself ... I bought him a drill for his birthday a few years ago.)

That is all.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Owen turns one

One day last week, I watched my Owen walk from the kitchen into the playroom and began to tear up thinking, Is this the last baby that I will ever watch walk away from me to explore his little world?

A year ago last night, I was lumbering around the house, getting ready for bed. My older two were at Nana and PopPop's for a planned sleepover. Owen, who we did not know was an Owen, was 16 days late. Odds were in our favor that we'd have a baby that night. In fact, my father told my mother after we left their house that I was in labor. And he was right. And I didn't even know it until about midnight. Five hours later, Owen showed up.

Owen turned one today. Setting aside his poor sleep habits, he's been my easiest baby. I'm more skilled as a mother and he's more laid back. Whether he's just naturally this way or my relative serenity affects his demeanor, I don't know.

With my other two, I wrote many, many blog entries on their development throughout their first year. Enough to literally fill a book. I used Blurb to create each of their first year baby books. With Owen, he has a handful of dedicated blog posts. I feel a little guilty about that, but maybe the fact that I've enjoyed him more than I did the other babies makes up for it. And now I feel guilty that I didn't "enjoy" my other two babies as much as I do him. Sigh. Mother guilt is a vicious circle.

I will say that my level of enjoyment of him and her and the first him has more to do with me than them.  I'm different. I'm calmer and more confident as a mother. I'm no longer in culture shock. In fact, I'm fully acclimated to the culture; so much so that five hours of sleep in a row and sweeping the floor only three times a day is actually a good day. I know that there is a light at the end of the first-year tunnel and while it is the toddlerhood train, it comes with more predictable sleep patterns, more independence from mommy, more noise, more mischief and, God help me, potty training. It also comes with a 1 minute timeout for various infractions and a closing of the all-night booby buffet.

King of the leaf pile
But let me tell you about Owen, just to make up for the gross lack of posts about him this year. A mother does hate to compare her children. Each one is special in his own way. And pointing out special attributes of one does not detract from the specialness of the others, of course. However ...

He is definitely the calmest baby we've had.

He's also the snuggliest one we've had. He puts his thumb is his mouth and melts into my body. I could just hold him almost all day, and sometimes do, actually.

He's the happiest one we've had, too. Not that the others weren't happy, of course. But he just laughs and smiles more easily than the other two. To this day, in fact, Fiona makes you earn every smile. With Owen, all I have to do is bark and he giggles; all I have to do is look at him and he smiles.

And he's very smart. Jim took one look at this kid's expression when he was a few weeks old and predicted "He's going to be smart." (He called Fiona early on for wanting to be into and do everything and Danny for being loud. He was spot on.)

Case in point ...

The other night, Jim was running bathwater and it was a hot, but not hot enough to burn. Owen put his hand under, pulled it away and cried. He did it once more, then reached over to turn the cold water faucet on before happily putting his hand back under the water. Whoa.

He's strong willed and just plain strong. Putting a diaper on him, getting him dressed or giving him medication is a full body workout for us. He fights us every time I change his diaper no matter what I give him to play with.

He's persistent; either that or he just can't take a hint. I move him away from the toilet and he darts right back for it every time. I've heard other moms have success with redirection and distraction. That has never, ever worked in this house.

He's a scrappy little guy. Owen barges into the center of the fray with Danny and Fiona. Fiona chases him as he crawls and then the two of them wrestle. Danny calls his brother Oster the Toaster and I have visions of him being a linebacker. He's not afraid to grab toys or food from them, much to their dismay.

We celebrated his birthday this weekend with a small family gathering. The weather was glorious and we ate on the screen porch, which is officially my favorite room in the house now. He downed some pizza, a lot of fruit and an ice-cream cone cupcake. Actually, he grabbed the cupcake and shoved it in his mouth like it was his job. Which, of course, it was.

Then the sugar kicked in and he ran around the living room in circles chasing a balloon. It was way past his bedtime. But I sat on the steps laughing hysterically along with my mother and thought, "Life is quite good indeed even if he is the last baby we ever have."

Check out my dad's photos of Owen's first birthday party!