Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Free U: The Preschool Closet

It's that time of year again. Kids are going back to school and I'm fielding questions about who among my children are in some sort of preschool program.

Even Danny has questions. His friends are all starting back to preschool next week. This morning, I watched my neighbors daughter while she took her other girl to her preschool open house at the very same preschool Danny attended last year. I tried not to talk too much about where they were going lest he start asking questions again.

Honestly, I've dreaded the questions from him more than those from others. He's asked to go to school and I've wondered if I'm doing the right thing by keeping him out. It's not that our experience was not good last year; we just don't have the desire to invest the money and time in preschool when we'll likely homeschool for at least the foreseeable future.

Anyhow, the past few days, I've had a tough time getting him to stay outside and play. It's been absolutely gorgeous outside. It's like the hurricane over the weekend just cleared the air and it's all fresh and bright again. And all he wants to do is stay inside and paint or color or do crafts. You know, preschool stuff.

Drives me nuts. 

Danny has a distinct learning pattern, though. He goes through a very physical phase where he's full of energy, taking risks and mastering physical tasks such as climbing, swimming or basketball.  Then he switches gears and is suddenly more interested in fine motor or mental tasks such as writing, painting or working with letters.

Sometimes I'm a bit slow to realize when he has switched gears. I really should know better by now than to go against this kid's instincts. I should have figured it out a few days ago when he showed me a figure he had drawn. All on his own. For the first time, actually. It's on my refrigerator.

This afternoon, he was rattling off every excuse in the book to get back inside: I'm sweating; I'm itchy; I'm hot. I relented, eventually.  And later found him in our hall pantry closet doing this:

He was in his underwear making "words" with letter magnets on the freezer. Now, I know that these are not words that you would find in the dictionary. But I am of the mind that any effort to string letters together into words is a beneficial activity for a young mind. He's learning how different letters sound together. We sounded a few out. He thought "gronk" was hilarious. We added even more magnetic letters. I pointed out that "C" and "H" together made the "ch" sound and I added them to the "a" and the "s" to make a word that was familiar to him: his cousin Chas' name. Then I noticed that he put the "S" together with two "E"s and an "R." I added an "S" to the end and helped him sound it out.

"SEARS," he shouted. "They have an elevator there." He went in the elevator with his dad a few weeks ago at Sears. Apparently, it was like some sort of amusement ride for him. 

I told him that he was having preschool in the closet. He thought that was just grand. He asked me to close the door so the kids couldn't get in. This whole exchange, by the way, lasted less than 10 minutes, maybe even less than 5 minutes.

Later at dinner, Jim asked me quizzically about preschool in the closet. It was then I realized that if anyone ever asks my son if he goes to preschool, he is going to proudly tell them that he has preschool in the closet.

Oh dear. 

Now that is going to be a lot tougher to explain than homeschooling. 

Friday, August 26, 2011


I've been a little lax on this column lately. The kids are just as funny as ever. I just can't seem to remember or keep track of what they're saying. Fiona is still obsessed with everyone's poop. Danny is still obsessed with NASCAR and rockets. At this point, I blame Owen for my blogging laxity. I spend most of my time trying to keep him from killing himself or mauling his siblings. He's been challenging gravity a lot lately, too. And losing.

Last night, he tripped over his own feet and has a pretty large goose egg on his forehead. He likes to run right up to high ledges at the playground and lean forward, giggling maniacally, while mommy (or daddy) come running. When he wants to get out of his high chair or his car seat, he tells me "Go, go, go." I've gotten really good at dressing a moving target. Maybe I'll put that on my resume.

Anyhow ...
Why is it recycling, mom? Danny asks about a bottle I gave him to put in the bin.
So they can break it down and use it for something else.
YEAH, like a rocket! Of course, dear.

Where's your shirt, Danny? 
I don't need a shirt. I'm using my blanket as a cape. Oh, well, then. Carry on.

She's a bitch, Danny said of the witch on The Wizard of Oz.
No, no, Danny. She's a witch, Nana replied.
Hey, that rhymes. Witch and bitch. They rhyme. Oh dear. On the bright side, he's recognizing rhyming words, so that's good, right?

He was going too fast, I commented to Danny while driving.
Yeah, he might be a NASCAR.

You were being obnoxious, Danny tells me. My crime? He slid off the swing as I pulled his legs to give him a push on the swing. He has such a wonderful vocabulary.

Keep your heads to yourself, Jim told the kids who were headbutting each at the table.

Fi Fi said there was water in this cup but there's not. She was being obnoxious, Danny reported.

Here, you can sweep this up, Fiona says as she drops a nugget into the pile of dirt I was sweeping up.
What is it? I ask.
It might be poop or something, she says, shrugging her shoulders. This is actually her go-to answer for every mystery these days.

They're actually playing together, Jim points out incredulously one evening as Danny and FiFi played quietly.
Don't make eye contact with them, I advised him. It's like waking a sleeping giant.

No more apple juice. You may have water, Fiona.
Five minutes later, the fridge door is open.
Fiona, I said no more apple juice.
I'm getting lemonade, mommy, she says innocently yet with a little twinkle in her eye.

No, you cannot have my popsicle or my blood, niece Mia informs the mosquitoes in our backyard.

Enjoy your weekend. Stay out of the wind.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Diary of an Omniturnal Mom

Please just stay the F#$% asleep!

Apparently, the baby enjoys being around Omniturnal Mom. He hasn't slept consistently well in quite some time. The following has, unfortunately, been a typical day around here lately.

Midnight Sunday

The baby is up for the second time in an hour. She nurses him and puts him back down, sighing heavily and cursing internally.  She rolls up a towel and shoves it up against the door so she can't hear him hem and haw in his crib.  

Mommy drifts back off to sleep.

1 a.m.

Mommy is jarred awake by the sounds of muffled crying. She feels a bit guilty for a split second that she shoved a towel under the door. It's not like she's ever been comfortable completely ignoring a crying child in the middle of the night. Why the heck does she even go through this charade, pretending that this will be the night she lets him scream his little head off? She knows deep down that she won't. And she kind of hates herself for that.

She's now doing something she hasn't done in about two months. She's cursing. Out loud and trying to pretend she's not cursing at the baby. You know, just cursing. At the ceiling, where God lives. Yeah, that's it.

On the inside, she's thinking: Why won't this mother fuck stay asleep? What a little asshole.  Did I inadvertently give him Diet Coke or something? Seems possible given how exhausted mommy is these days.

She changes his diaper. Tells him that he must MUST go back to sleep. Dear God in heaven, just stay the fuck asleep, she whimpers. Mommy doesn't seem to have trouble putting babies to bed, just getting them to stay that way is a major problem. She doesn't really need the "Go the Fuck to Sleep" book. She needs to write the "Stay the Fuck Asleep" book.

A dose of, um, medication at 1 a.m. and he's back in his crib.

3:45 a.m. Fiona cries. "My bed is wet."

She is refusing to wear pull ups but has wet the bed two nights in a row. Mommy is out of fresh sheets for her bed, so she just sets up the child's sleeping bag on the floor.

5:45 a.m. The baby is wide awake. After sleeping almost five hours. WTF? Mommy thinks. Apparently, Benadryl isn't working these days. She tries to soothe him back to sleep. He goes down for another hour.

6:45 a.m. Mommy is in the kitchen. She hates being in the kitchen before 7 a.m. It just feels cold and weird.

8:00 a.m. The older two have trickled downstairs, dressed, ready to play, eat and fight. They have a new toy to fight over today, too. A new-to-us train table picked up for free from a neighbor. Danny is already squawking at the younger two.   

8:15 a.m.  Mommy is ready to get them out of the house. She's plotting a Sam's Club run.

10:30 a.m. Home from Sam's Club. Now what? Play dough, fighting over trains, sweeping the floors incessantly. Too hot to go outside.

Hm? she thinks. Is it too early to start lunch?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The last first hair cut

First haircuts are often more traumatic for the mom than the baby. We have a video of Danny's first haircut with me standing off to the side wincing as my baby boy's wisps of hair fell to the floor. Jim was but a novice with the clippers at the time and the child looked like a cancer patient recovering from chemo. I was not pleased. 

My husband has been itching to give the baby a haircut. Every other day, he's said, "You need a haircut,  boy."

And, each time, I've cried, "Nooooooo. Not yet." You see, he's still my baby. He'll likely be my last one.

Thursday, we took a road trip to see my sister and her family. They'd never met my baby. He was born while they were living in Japan.

After watching him trot around for a few hours, Jax said to me, "You know that he has a mullet, don't you?"

"Yeah," I said. "But I just wanted you to see him for the first time unspoiled."

When I got home from our trip, I informed my husband that he could cut the baby's hair.

He was a little too happy about it. Today turned out to be the day, though.

You're gonna do what to my hair?

Get off!
Owen ... meet the clippers.
By this point, mommy was wincing in the background.

 I'm going to have to wean him soon. I don't think I can nurse a child with a mohawk.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The mothering is the mission

I read something today that infuriated me. And I had to stop and wonder why. Then I began writing in my head and had a very strong urge and some downtime today to actually write at the computer. I've long thought that I just shouldn't write exactly what I think when I'm angry. Too often, I practice restraint of tongue and pen to a fault.

I'm trying something different today. 

I read a piece titled "Myopically Mothering My Own as Mission?" Now, I feel like this author could be a very nice woman. And what she says has some merit. However, the very headline sparked a hot flame of anger as I quickly realized that this was to be yet another criticism of mothers. But this time couched in how God wants you to mother your children.

Oh boy.

She writes that whether or not mothering our children is “missional” depends on how we’re defining it. To her, "missional" means getting outside of ourselves to move toward others. She described her own privileged family and others like it as a private insular existence that is apparently at odds with that definition.

I disagree with her. A lot.

I think that being a mother is a very special mission. All of it. The 3 a.m. feedings, the cleaning of messes, the wiping of noses, tears and bottoms. And I think that this private insular existence is God's original classroom design whereby children are taught in the most secure, stable and loving environment how to treat others. God gave me a very specific job to do right now. It happens to involve being near constantly available to three small children. It is a mission of self-forgetting. Our children are others and they exist to make my husband and I more tolerant, compassionate people. And the ripple effect that all of this has cannot be underestimated or downplayed.

This so-called myopic work is not keeping me from doing God's work. It is God's work. If you want to get all scriptural about it, there is just as much a mandate for parental responsibilities as there is to care for, advocate for and love the poor, powerless, sick and your enemies. And, as a parent, I will tell you that your children will be all of these things on any given day.

She doesn't elaborate on what exactly she believes is wrong with how some women mother their children and live their Christian lives. She does, however, give a few examples of mothers who are doing what she believes is missional work. A few women are teaching their children ways to change the world, one woman through a global campaign to help the poor. All these things are noble and can make you feel really good about what you're doing for God's kingdom on earth.

Honestly, though, at this stage of my life, so-called mission work winds up being just another thing to feel guilty about not doing. And, frankly, I'm exhausted. It is more than a little insulting to be told that being absorbed with caring for my own young children in a very needy stage of their lives is myopic.

They are no less deserving of love, compassion and resources than any other child of God. Yes, we are more privileged than some. Yes, we are grateful. Yes, we share what we have materially. But more importantly we share what we have spiritually in the acts of kindness and compassion and patience and tolerance that are much, much harder to give routinely than time and energy and material wealth that we give to strangers.

My mother refused to get over involved in church programs when we were growing up. Doing anything at the expense of our family's sacred space was out of the question. She knew, as I do know, that the most important work she did for God at that stage of her life was for her family.

You could almost bet on the bad behavior and popularity of my peers based on how often their families were at the church. There really is a reason for the preacher's kid stereotype. As a friend of mine told me over and over again, if you're not making it at home, you're not making it.

It's easy and more immediately gratifying to give your time, energy and money to an organized cause. It is much harder to continue to give those same things to children when the fruits of that labor are slow in coming.

It is easy to feel compassion for those who are sick or poor. It's difficult to practice compassion with a 2-year-old hellbent on puncturing your eardrums with her shrieks.

It is easy to donate and deliver items to the poor. It is much harder to share your breakfast morning after morning with the children when all you want is something, anything, to yourself.  

By focusing inward and upward, I see more clearly what God's will for me is. As a Christian, my commitment is to make his will my mission. Right now, that mission is reflected in the six little eyes that stare back at me from the breakfast table every morning.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My kids are weirdos

Why? you ask. Read on.

1. They scream when I turn on the vacuum cleaner. Yes, I know. Most kids hate vacuum cleaners. It's not a scream of terror, though. It's playful screaming laughter. It's almost as if they are delighted that something is louder than them and they are determined to have a loud-off with it. It's some kind of bizarre competition.

2. They have a similar reaction to thunder. Kids are supposed to be scared of thunder, right? Not my kids. They scream back at it.

3. We love to do puzzles with the kids. We often find large floor puzzles at the thrift shop for a buck or so. When we're done putting the puzzles together, we stand back and admire our work. And then they jump on it as if it were a trampoline. Every time.

4. My one-year-old's favorite thing on the planet right now is toilet paper. He has a Pavlovian response when he hears the bathroom door open. He shrieks and bolts down the hall. He will knock his sister over and bully his way into the bathroom, usually while I'm in there, to get a few squares of toilet paper. I can barely hold him back. Then he will do one of three things: put it in his mouth, wipe the floor with it or put it in the toilet.

5. My one-year-old also headbutts himself in the mirror. Repeatedly. And laughs hysterically each time.

6. My daughter invites people to come see her poop as if she has just downloaded rubies and pearls into the toilet. She also suspects that her brother Owen's poop is something to behold. Whenever it's time for a diaper change, she follows us upstairs, gets her little stool and watches the whole process, asking to see Owen's poop.

7. Whenever my four-year-old son trips on, steps on or bumps into anything, he insists that we must get rid of the offending object. Bumped into the cabinet door? It's got to go. Trip over a rug? Let's get rid of it. Step on toy? Get rid of it. Run into the wall? Get rid of the whole house. (I'm not even kidding. He has informed us that we have to get rid of our house.)  

8. My older son uses his pillow case as a sleeping bag. I'm still trying to decide if this is ingenious or just weird.

That is all.

Friday, August 12, 2011


It is truly the dog days of August. Mommy is dog tired and the kids are dogging my every move, asking question after question or, in the baby's case, tackling my legs if I'm not paying enough attention to him.

Need proof that Mommy has finally lost it? Here you go:

Stop asking me questions, Danny. 
That's a question. Just talk to me. You know plenty of things to talk about. Right now, we're not having a conversation. I'm just telling you things. You're not contributing anything to this conversation. Got that, kid?

Oh, Danny, please stop talking to me, I whimpered one day while we were on our way to Nana's house to drop all three off.
No, you have to talk to me, mom. 
It's okay. We're approaching the drop zone, Jim said to me.

I think my biggest mistake this past week was just not having much of a plan. And lots of our friends were at the beach. And it was a million degrees. Again. It wasn't a total wash, though. In all our sponteneity, and by that I mean, mommy's desperation, we did come upon friends at our favorite park. They told us about another park with a lake and a boardwalk and animal feeding opportunities. So we wound up at Lake Lynn in Raleigh one day this week.

But the week has really been a blur of sweeping the floor a lot and gathering laundry that would spring up like mushrooms all over the house. Probably because of this:

My pants are wet. 
Did you pee your pants again?
Why are they wet?
My penis wet
Why is your penis wet? I regretted asking the second I said it.

I don't know. It's different, he shrugs.  

Tell Danny that Daddy was a NASCAR driver tonight, Jim tells Nana. We went on a date that didn't involve Chammp's or Starbuck's. We ate at and rode go-carts at Frankie's Fun Park last Friday. It's the first date we've had in a while that didn't feel like a weekend pass from prison.

I want my sister to be quiet, Danny wails.
Danny, honey, you are the only one making noise right now.

A light fixture, not a DVD.
Come see my poop, daddy, Fiona says.
I get to see your poop? Nice, Jim replies. Glad I'm not the only one invited into her poop loop.

Hey, why are there DVDs on the ceiling? Danny asks of our new light fixtures.

There's macaroni and cheese in my undies.

No, Owie, don't touch that, Jim says. Oh, wait, it's just a doorknob. Go ahead. No is an automatic response around here.

What are those white things under the road?
Do you mean the white marks on the road?
Those are dividing lines to tell cars to stay in their lanes.
No, I'm a NASCAR. I can't stay in my lane. Well, he has a point.

Incidentally, this week his NASCAR is going to help the police catch bad guys and it's also going to be his getaway car.

How many more years of this do we have? Jim asks.
I don't know, I reply wearily.
How old is the youngest NASCAR driver on the circuit? Seriously, people, how old? Anyone know?

I like you, Fiona said as she greeted Nurse Wanda at the doctor's office. Nurse Wanda was just tickled, especially since she's usually the one giving shots.

You're a stupendous book, Danny shouts at his father while they're playing in the pool. I'm not sure where he came up with that "insult." But Jim suggested to me later that he would, indeed, make a stupendous book and that I ought to get to writing it.

You're not even saying words. Why do just make noises? Jim asked Danny who was hooting at the table again.
It's what I do, he replied.

I tried it and I didn't like it. It was a disaster, Danny says of my dinner one night.

Danny, you have laundry to put away.
My sister can do it.

I thirsty, Fiona says.
Go get your water bottle on the table, I reply. I am NOT their personal assistant, dammit.
She then bends down to drink the dog's water and looks at me with that wicked twinkle in her eye. 
Hey, HEY, HEY. Don't drink the dog's water. 

You might be going too speedy, mom. I got a speeding ticket a few weeks ago with the kids in the car. He's not letting me forget. I think his father told him to keep an eye on me.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Respecting a child's fears

Danny was in vacation bible school one week last month. He went last summer, too. It didn't go so well. This year, he's much more engaged and directable. Both times, it helped immensely that his best buddy and neighbor goes with him. Last year, he even rode with them to the church a few times.

On a Monday morning, our neighbor showed up to collect Danny, who happily trotted off.

Ahhhhh. I felt a wave of relief at how easy that was. Minutes later, he was back.

I got nervous, he told me.

My formerly fearless little guy had decided that his neighbor's car is scary and he'll have no part of riding in it. None whatsoever.


Driving three kids across town during one of the hottest weeks of the year and all that entails -- corralling kids and shoes and gear, the seat belt rodeo, the risk of premature napping -- made my life a bit inconvenient.

Of course, I don't like pushing him into doing something he's not comfortable with.  It's a fine line that I tread here. Too much pushing can lead to resistance. Not enough nudging and I could end up played like a violin. (I do like violin music. I just don't like being the violin.)

I tried to help him talk about his fears. I told him that sometimes the only way to get over your fear is to just be brave and do it. I let him know that it's okay to be afraid and nervous. I asked him what he thinks would help him not be nervous. He said he didn't know. On his first day of VBS, I told him to stick with his buddy and remember that he was there to have fun. That seemed to help.

I also told him that sometimes mommy gets scared. When he asked why, I actually couldn't think of a single thing that I'm scared off; at least not anything that I could share with a 4 year old. (It's not easy to explain the sheer terror I feel over accidentally getting pregnant again.)

On the long van ride to VBS one morning, Danny started asking about elevators. His dad had taken him and Owen on the elevator at Sears that past weekend. He just thought that was fantastic.

And it's something that his mother never, EVER in a million years would do with him.
You know why? Because I'm freaking terrified of elevators. I told him this, in so many words, when he asked me to go on an elevator ride with him.

He told me that I just needed to do it and asked me why I was scared.

What if the doors don't open and we get stuck? I told him.

Well, we just have to shot [sic] at the doors, he tells me.

Then it hit me.

As an adult, I have the ability and the authority to avoid situations that scare me or make me nervous. No one tells me what to do or where to go. Kids don't always have that luxury.

But they should. As often as they need it, they absolutely should.

I can't imagine someone telling me that I have to take an elevator every time I go to the mall. I avoid elevators at the mall by not taking strollers or only going to stores on the first level should I need to take a stroller. I save my fears up for the times when I have to take an elevator to, say, the 15th floor. See? I make my own life inconvenient to avoid my fears. Why should I deny that right to a child who is powerless in so many areas of his life?

The day after he and I had this conversation, I made the grave error of trying to physically force my gangly 33 pound 4 year old into a car seat in his neighbor's car and strap him in. It didn't work. And he didn't go back to VBS for the rest of the week. (I'm finding that he's not really a VBS/preschool/group activity kind of kid, but that's a whole other blog posts right there.)

I later apologized to him and told him that sometimes mom's make mistakes. He didn't exactly forgive me. I don't think he understands that concept yet. But he did tell me that I did the wrong thing.

I agree.

It's likely that my son will get over his fear in time and a lot quicker if I let him work out his fears instead of forcing him into a situation.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

AiS: Rice. With Stuff in It.

I love my crockpot.  I can leave dinner unattended without fear of burning my house down. Minding dinner is tricky during the witching hour with three kiddos.

But it does still makes me nervous.

What I fear most is trying a new recipe and finding out at 5 p.m. that it didn't quite pan out. I know, I know. I could start it earlier, but I just like living on the edge. And if I fail, we get to go out to eat. Which means cleaner floors and no after-dinner cleanup.

So there's that.

For me, rice with stuff in it is the ultimate comfort food. Cooking the rice ahead of time, though, makes this a less than convenient dish. I hate cooking it on the stovetop. I often forget it is there in all the hubbub around here. So when I figured out how to use my 1.5 quart crock to make rice, my life got easier. And tastier. Oil the sides, put the rice, water and any seasonings in and set it on high for 2 to 3 hours. (You have to use long grain rice, though. The short grain stuff turns to mush.) This little discovery means I don't have to have a rice steamer and I can make large batches to use later without babysitting rice on the stovetop. (HINT: Brown rice freezes much better than white rice. And it's better for you.)

I tried a new recipe the other day that wasn't necessarily a crockpot recipe. But I was determined to make it one. The recipe was in an old brochure full of recipes that I got from Hood Cottage Cheese years ago. I fully intended to make these recipes at the time, but like most of my life about 15 years ago, it was full of good intentions and little action.

Here's the recipe:

2 cups of cottage cheese
1 egg
3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
4 ounces of feta cheese
10 ounces of frozen spinach
1/2 cup of chopped mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, chopped
A sprig of fresh dill, chopped or 1 teaspoon of dried dill
1/2 cup of chopped red onion (optional)
2 cups of water
1 cup of rice

Oil the crockpot first. I used butter. Stir together the first four ingredients. Stir in the rest. Then put it on high for 2 to 3 hours. I peeked and tasted every hour to see how far along the rice was.

I liked it. The feta gave it a nice, sharp taste. And I loved the texture of the mushrooms. The husband ate it and liked it but said that I should try barley instead next time. The kids didn't like it. Danny told me it was a disaster. Fi Fi barely ate it. The baby spit it out (but he does that with everything these days, so who knows if he liked it). They ate bread and butter with carrot sticks instead.

I didn't make the kids eat it. We had ice cream sundaes on the porch later to round out their dinner.

I'm not sure that I would make it again, but now that I know I can cook an entire rice casserole in the crockpot, well, this changes everything. Next up? My no-canned soup rice, broccoli and tuna casserole in the crockpot. Everyone, even the dog, likes this one.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Free U: The Identical Identifier

It's hard to shake the feeling that my son isn't learning what he's supposed to. Whatever that means. Every once in a while, I get nervous that he's reluctant to write letters or draw or that he knows all his letter sounds but won't put them together to sound out a word. It's hard, he tells me about reading and writing. I fear that he'll be behind his peers, that he won't read until he's much older, that he'll struggle to write and read, that he won't learn math easily or at all. And then I remember that life and learning are not a race and that learning should not be measured and inspected.

Learning just happens despite my efforts or lack thereof.

Lately, my 4 year old son randomly uses a word in conversation or mutters it under his breath. Then he asks what it means. Who says you have to know how to read to learn vocabulary words? I guarantee you that this kid is learning quite a bit of vocabulary words on the installment plan. (Vocabulary is such a school word, don't you think?)

The word of the week for him has been "identical."

One evening last week, my husband and I sat in the yard while the kids played. Danny wanted to know the meaning of identical. We told him. He brought out two trikes that are nearly identical, except for the color scheme.

"These bikes are identical," he claimed.

Jim asked him to find the similarities between the two bikes. He pointed out that the handlebars were both red. Danny then pointed out that the pedals were the same color: yellow. We talked about how some parts of the bike were identical and others were not.

Jim then spotted a yellow golf ball. We have probably half a dozen of these around the yard. My husband has turned the yard into a par 3. He told Danny to find a ball in the yard that was identical to the yellow golf ball.

And he was off for the physical education portion of that night's "lesson." He picked up a stick and began scouring the yard. Jim called it his identical identifier. (We're finding the key to keeping him engaged is to keep him physically moving. This is why we suspect a classroom would be a disaster for him. Who says you need to sit still to learn anything?)

Our dinner conversations have also turned to the identical properties of various items on and around the table. Cups are identical in color, but not size. Other cups are identical in size and shape, but not color. The dining room chairs are identical, but not the same color wood as the train table. I always hesitate to turn every conversation into something "educational." But the difference here, I think, is that he initiated the discussions. We did not craft lessons for the purpose of teaching him what identical means. He figured it out all on his own.

I know I say it often, but it bears repeating: This is spontaneous learning at its best. And I hesitate to even call it learning. He was just having fun in the backyard with his family, having a scavenger hunt for a yellow golf ball identical to the one his father gave him. He merely noticed with delight that he and his father had the same color cup and that he and his sister had the same size cup.

I envision all kinds of worksheets and mindless matching games being used to teach kids what identical means. In fact, I think that I can recall matching questions on standardized tests. This is not to say that these activities can't be fun. I did love a good game of Memory when I was a kid. Still do. It's just a lot less fun when you're being forced to play.

Friday, August 05, 2011


My  little man has been fascinated lately with doing things, such as walking to a neighbor's house or using a public bathroom, without me. He's been needing some time away from the little kids: Owen the Destroyer and Fiona the Annoyer. The poor kid can't build a train track without interference. Luckily, we have a 4 year old boy who lives right next door. It's an absolute God send.

So Danny will come over to play tomorrow morning, I say to my neighbor as I arrange a playdate. 
Danny looks up at me, pats my leg and says: I'll go by myself. You don't need to come, mom.

I've been sending him over to ring their doorbell some afternoons to ask if his friend can come out and play. The experience holds some important lessons for him: ringing the doorbell only once, speaking to adults politely, taking no or not now for answer. Yesterday morning, I opened the side door, gave him some fruit snacks to take with him and sent him off. As I watched him leave, I marveled at how I trusted him to complete the entire interaction of going over to someone else's house to play without me. It's especially odd that I trust him so much given that we still have episodes like this one in our house: 
GET ME MY PULLUP, a naked Danny screams at me.
That is a rather unfortunate way for a boy with a bare behind to behave, I said as calmly as I could.
Can you please get me a pullup? he says.

And Owen is still obsessed with shoes. And he's adding new sounds and words to his arsenal every day. Car sounds and monkey noises and rock and roll screams (taught him by his big brother). I can barely hear myself think. I got this out of him the other night after much snuggling and prompting:

Night night mama.  AWWWWW. It would've been much sweeter had he stayed asleep all night, of course.

As for Fiona, I've been invited back into the poop loop, unfortunately.

Watch me poop, mommy.

Come see my poop, mommy. Do I have to? I'm eating breakfast.

I think the poor girl desperately needs positive attention. I spend most days keeping her from annoying her brothers. It's not pretty.

Watch out, Fifi, the utility truck is going to run over your baby doll. Guess who said this? If you answered Danny, you'd be wrong. It was Jim helping facilitate cleanup time.

There's scrambled eggs in her eye, mom. Yep, that's a pretty typical breakfast around here. 

I'm going to get your clothes, mom, Fiona says when she marches into my room most mornings. She now picks out my clothes for me. And I get to tell her no. BWAHAHAHA.

I'm going to go the grocery store and do a robbery for you. What's a robbery, mom? Oh dear. I'm sure there will be a NASCAR involved in this one. The answer to every problem that comes up around her involves his NASCAR. This week his NASCAR has skates and can go underwater like a submarine.

Why do you want this on? I ask Danny who wants me to button his blazer that he has brilliantly paired with camouflage shorts.
I want to be comfortable. I'm going to do work.
You're not going to be comfortable in a blazer on a 100 degree day, kid.

Well, you kids call him Dad, I explained to Danny who was calling his father Jim.
I call him Jim now.

Mom, what does this say? Danny asks from across the room while I'm making breakfast. He wanted to know what the words on the bottom of a Matchbox car said.
I can't see that from across the room with my back turned, honey.
No, no, you have back eyes. I told him this once as a mommy-sees-all threat. Apparently it stuck.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Diary of an Omniturnal Mom

Dispatch from 100 degree hell

Disclaimer: This was last Thursday. Things are better this week. Slightly. But it's still a million degrees outside.

Omniturnal mom took a long break. The baby started sleeping through the night. It happened one magical June night. He just slept 10 hours in a row. Mommy could hardly believe it happened without nights of crying. We moved his "room" permanently to the closet and took down the crib which he hadn't been sleeping in anyway. It works. If he can't see me, he doesn't squawk, or, if he does, we're better able to ignore him since he's not looking right at us. 

Now he's back to getting up around 10:30 p.m. and 4:00 a.m., which, of course, is much better than getting up at midnight, 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. But it's not as good as 8 to 6, now is it?

Couple his recent nightwaking habit with weeks on end of 100 degree temperatures and kids who are bouncing off the walls and, well, mom is once again up. All the effing time.

The first few weeks of 100 degree hell were okay since we had access to a pool that hadn't reached bathwater temperatures and the distraction of grandparents in town. Grandparents and suitable pool water gone, and there's only so much mom can do to entertain the kids for days on end.

Last Thursday started at 4 a.m. and went downhill from there.

4:00 a.m. Baby squawks. Mommy goes to nurse him. She's on autopilot.

5:30 a.m. Mommy hears Daddy talking to Fiona before he leaves for work. She hopes it's a dream.

6 a.m. Mommy hears voices.  And dresser drawers closing. It apparently is no dream. Danny and Fiona are up and dressing themselves, which mommy would love so much more if it were 8 a.m. She prays that the baby doesn't wake up. At least with the older two she can count on maybe 20 minutes of amicable playing before a skirmish breaks out that  sounds like a pteradactyl and a rabid gorilla fighting.

6:30 a.m. The baby wakes up. He's too happy and alert to render him semi-unconscious with booby juice. She brings him to bed with her to give herself a few more horizontal minutes before releasing him into the wild.

7:00 a.m. The standard breakfast is served. Eggs, scrambled for the older two, hard boiled for mommy and the baby. Heat and serve sausage. Mini muffins.

The baby's eating habits are beginning to disgust mommy. He smashes his muffin with his palm, crumbles his egg yolk all over the table and bench, eats most of his sausage and only spits out one half this morning. He's in the cud-chewing phase. The only thing getting mommy through this stage is the knowledge that this WILL be in the last time she goes through this stage with a child.

Mommy tells the kids that they are going to leave her alone while she chats with her sister online. She gets away with it for a whole 20 minutes. The gods are apparently smiling on her this morning.

7:40 a.m. Danny and Fiona are now fighting like cats and dogs. She decides to let the kids work out their differences. Danny starts tattling. Mommy says ...

"I'm not the one who hurt you. you need to talk to the person who hurt you."

He walks away.

7:45 a.m. "We worked it out," Danny says. Fiona is screaming in the next room. Um, yeah, sure sounds like it, kid.

8:30 a.m. Strapped in the van. On the way to get money and go to the blueberry path. Oh, and to get a Diet Coke.

"Don't forget the Diet Coke, mom," Danny says. Not likely, kid.

The blueberry patch is closed. Really. They apparently ran out of blueberries. Danny's idea?

"I'm going to get in my NASCAR and dump blueberries on those bushes."


9:00 a.m. Piney Woods Park for an hour. Then home when Owen starts to look tired. Maybe he'll nap. Or maybe mommy should keep him up until after lunch. There's a real risk that he'll think his morning nap is his nap for the day.

10:00 a.m. Back home. Mommy gets the pool set up. The kids go get their bathing suits on. The only rule is don't touch the hose while Mommy is filling the pool. One rule. ONE RULE. Can they follow it? Of course not. Danny puts his hand on the hose the second mommy says not to. Fiona follows suit. Time out until the pool is full.

She really hopes the neighbors didn't hear her yelling, "What part of NO and STOP don't you understand??"

The baby? He's happily playing in the pool as it fills and mostly ignoring the hose.

10:45 a.m. It's been a reasonably fun half hour of pool time. By this time, though, the kids have started hassling her for a bit of her Luna Bar (despite having been given fruit snacks) and her water (despite each of them having their own water bottles). They truly believe that mommy gets her water from some superior source.

11:00 a.m. Danny splashes her right after she tells him to stop.  Time out. It starts when he's quiet. Except that it doesn't start because he never is.  He just won't stop talking and hooting and snickering and asking questions. Mommy has completely run out of options. She hauls them all in for an early lunch.

12:00 The baby is poopy and just can't stay awake any longer. She puts him down to sleep and then gathers the trash from upstairs. She goes out back to put it in the trash can with the stern admonition to NOT lock the door. So what do they do?

You got it.

The little snots locked the door.

Crazy mommy is standing on the porch telling the kids to unlock the door. Danny's response? I didn't do it, mom. Fiona's response? Wide eyes. It's 100 degrees outside. And mommy's blood is boiling.

At least her neighbors are gone by now and she can yell at the kids without fear of embarrassment.

1:00 p.m. Older kids are calm and in their rooms. Mommy settles in to do some editing work. She falls asleep by 2.

3:30 p.m. She hears the familiar sound of a dresser drawer shutting. The baby's up. And she smells dinner in the crockpot.

Come to find out, dinner is actually burned. She burned dinner. In the crockpot. There would be no going out to eat tonight. They've already had one dinner out this week when mommy forgot that she had no tacos and not enough tortillas for taco night.

After a quick recovery, putting a bunch of leftovers together in a casserole (quinoa, shredded chicken, sauteed chard and tomatoes topped with feta and mozzarella balls) and getting it in the oven, she gets the kids in the pool.

And waits.

If their father doesn't get home soon, he's going to find his wife passed out on the deck chairs.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

AiS: Quinoa ... who knew?

Last week was one of those week where I just completely lost my mojo in the kitchen. The ridiculous heat conspired with a one-year-old who wouldn't sleep to make mommy a complete mess in the one area where she's usually pretty on top of things.

I burned cookies. Twice. From my own very special recipe that has taken me years to perfect. (I'll share it later.)

I didn't have tacos or tortillas in the house for taco night. Really, people, it comes once a week. How hard is it to plan for that?

And I decided to try out a recipe with a new-to-me ingredient: quinoa. Luckily, I made some the week before and had leftovers in the fridge. Really, I had no idea that 1 dry cup of quinoa would yield something like 10 cups of the cooked stuff. (Not really, but it was quite a bit more than I expected.) You'll see why this was so lucky in a minute.

I put a cup or so in the crockpot with broth and added a few other ingredients. I don't even remember what. I set it on low for a few hours. No problem? Problem. It burned. I found out about it at 4 p.m. And going out to eat was not an option. I'd already used that card on taco night which, by design, coincides with kids' night at Moe's Southwest Burritos.

I scoured the fridge and came up with this:

The remaining quinoa (about a cup and half) pressed into an oiled casserole dish topped with:
sauteed chopped chard and diced tomatoes
shredded chicken from a whole chicken that I crocked (is that even a verb? it is now.) 
some mozzarella cheese balls and feta cheese

Bake in a 350 degree oven until cheese goes blub-blub. (That actually is a culinary term. Chef Husband uses it all the time.)

And lo and behold, it was pretty darn good. Kitchen goddess status returned. Next time, though, I'll put  sliced raw tomatoes on top of the chard for a little more juice and skip the chicken. I think the chicken made it a bit dry. I added meat only because my husband looks at me funny when there's no meat with dinner. You could use couscous instead of quinoa, because I know most people don't have quinoa sitting in their fridge. Couscous cooks up in five minutes. And everyone has couscous in their pantry, right? (No? Go get some. Did I mention that it cooks in five minutes?)

So you see, it may seem impressive that I pulled off a back-up dinner in less than an hour, but let's not forget that I burned dinner in the easiest-to-use kitchen appliance on the planet. Next time, I may not be so lucky to have so many decent leftovers in the fridge.