Monday, December 17, 2012

The thin veil

"Sometimes we love people so much that we have to be numb to it. Because if we actually felt how much we love them, it would kill us. That doesn't make you a bad person. It just means your heart's too big." 
Fay, "Riding in Cars With Boys"

Years ago, I saw this movie and that line struck me and stuck with me. The movie is based on writer Bev D'Onofrio's memoir - teenage pregnancy and marriage, college denied, drug addicted husband, single motherhood. The line was delivered as Bev and Fay were smoking pot and discussing single parenthood while their children played in the yard perilously close to a pool.

Minutes later, Bev is pulling her 6 year old son from the pool he had just fell into. She is, of course, snapped back into reality, promising to be more attentive and responsible. 

Those lines resonate with me because I am not, by nature, an emotional person. I am not an emotional mom. When my children were babies, I did not stare at them for hours or coo and ooh over them. I don't even think I cried when they were born beyond a few tears of joy. I do not think daily about how much I love my children. I do not feel how much I love them on a daily basis. It's as if those feelings are safely sequestered behind a dark, thick curtain rendering me almost numb to them.

There are times, though, when that veil between me and the love I feel for my children becomes thin. It is then that I am closer to truly knowing and feeling how much I love my children and my family and our life. And that happened Friday when 20 six and seven year olds were shot to death.

I can't even describe what it was like this weekend watching and playing and holding my children. Like many parents, I've choked back tears and still do as I watch them and let all those tears out when everyone is sleeping. This is why I have to be numb. I couldn't let my children leave my sight if I truly felt how much I love them on a daily basis.

This weekend, we just took it easy. We played with trains and read books and had movie night and made muffins and went to the museum. And I tried to forget that 20 mothers were facing the unimaginable.

Friday, December 14, 2012


I am grateful for ...
  • a little girl who sets up a picnic for her babies and feeds them watermelon chocolate milk.
  • a little boy who pats my arm gently as we cuddle at bedtime.
  • a big boy who spends hours setting up train tracks and asks me to play games with him.
  • a husband who styles his daughter's hair complete with detangling spray, a blow dry and a braid.
And most of all, I am grateful that I and so many others can't wrap our heads around what happened today in Connecticut. It means we're all still human.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Insanity by candlelight

For the past few weeks, we've been eating dinner by candlelight. The kids have been much calmer at dinnertime. Previously, we couldn't keep them in their chairs or their food on their plates or the noise level below a dull roar.

They come to expect it now. They ask to light the candles. We have quieter conversations. I don't have to see just how messy my 2 year old is. At least two of the kids actually ask to be excused from the table and even take their plates to the kitchen.

This week, I put out the advent candles. They are situated in a lovely ceramic nativity scene. So for the past three nights, I've lit the first candle as dinner begins. Then comes the begging to light the other three candles in the Advent wreath. 

This evening, I served dinner in bowls. Apparently it was the last straw for Owen, who did not have the benefit of a nap to temper his irrationality.

He wanted a plate. So I obliged, mostly to just stop the tears. I brought back three small plates to save myself a trip because, as any seasoned mom knows, if you bring one kid a plate, you darn well better bring all three of them a plate.

Owen and Fiona begin transferring their food. Crisis averted. For now.

I then spent the next 10 minutes fielding questions from my 6 year old about why he was given a plate. He suddenly seemed confused by this strange object next to his bowl.

And then Fiona, who is eating dinner in her underwear, is suddenly on the verge of tears.

"I didn't want to eat on a plate," she wails.

So, um, is that why you took the trouble to put the food on the plate, dear? That's probably what I should have said to her. Instead, I poured her food onto the table and told her to eat it off the table.

Then I dared anyone else to complain about anything. Ever. Well, at least until after dinner.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A glossary of early childhood

There is a certain language that parents develop surrounding the care and feeding of young children. I've been collecting these little gems for years.

Happy hour - the one hour of the day when the kids are playing happily and behaving well. My girlfriends and I have determined that this is usually from 10 to 11 in the morning.

Unhappy hours - the rest of the day.

Fifth circle of hell - what most people call the witching hours of between 4 and 6 p.m.

Bedtime extenders - any request made after being tucked in for food, water, attention or "lost" loveys that are actually hiding beneath the bed sheets.

Emergency poop bath - the only solution to a poop so messy that no amount of wipes will suffice.

Poop check - an attempt to locate a foul odor by checking all bottoms.

Shut-up squares - fig newtons (they just can't make noise when these are in their little mouths.)

Trail mix - what I clean out of the baby's high chair or sweep up off the floor after every meal.

Pee Pee Lifter 2000 - what we call our steam vacuum cleaner.

Drink cart - a nursing mommy on a long car trip who contorts herself into position to keep the baby quiet.

In the poop loop - part of a group that is kept up-to-date on the bowels of another.

Drop zone - any place where we're leaving the children, usually Nana and PopPop's house, and running like hell.

Net thrift - Jim's word for the thrift shop where we pick up old video tapes and DVDs for a quarter a piece. (Yeah, we actually have a VCR.)

window art - the handprints and smears on the kitchen windows. At least it doesn't clutter the house up.

chew toy - what the baby chews on when he's teething

mommy job - any job that requires mommy's help or any job that mommy wants done quickly even though the kids can do it themselves. Mommy reserves the right put on jackets and shoes, wash faces and hands and fasten seat belts if these tasks are not done in a timely manner. And by timely manner, I mean sometime in the 10 minutes after the initial request.

mommy treat - anything that mommy is eating in the bathroom or the hall closet to avoid sharing with the kids.

appetizer course - the frozen vegetables mommy doles out while making dinner just to keep the kids quiet.

Feel free to add your own.

to be continued ... 

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Falling back in

I'm still here and it's still crazy. I got an extra hour last night so I figured now was as good a time as any to fall back into blogging.

Unfortunately, my anticipated extra hour of sleep turned into an extra hour of kid drama. And with baby daddy at work this morning, I was on my own to face the hounds at 6 a.m. starting with my oldest.

Mom, my bed is wet up near my pillow, he stands in the door and informs me.

And then came the procession of stuffed "guys" and a sleeping bag. He tossed my clothes up on the bed and situated his wide-awake, perky self on the floor, on my side, not his father's because there's a vent there and, as everyone knows, monsters live in the vents. I knew he wasn't going back to sleep. Why was he even there?? I drifted back off and woke up nose to nose with Danny when I felt his freezing cold feet on my legs.

Then I heard the baby, who is really not a baby anymore. He was growling and laughing and running around as usual. Owen appeared naked in my bedroom. Fiona hollered from the hallway, Owen peed on the floor.

Great. It's now 6:30 a.m. and I am hauling the steam vacuum from the closet. There went my extra hour.

By 7 a.m. I'm in the kitchen making pancakes, you know, since I'm already wide awake. 

The rest of the day was a roller coaster. With no clear plan, my urge to declutter and have some sense of order took over. There's something about transitions such as turning back the clocks or a seasonal change that makes me want to tackle every pile of crap in sight. Between cleaning rampages, I played two games of Go Fish, peeled a half dozen Clementines for the bottomless pit that is my 2 year old, and put together dinner in the crockpot.

The kids were wild, running, climbing, jumping, clinging, wrestling each other and hitting. At one point, I pulled the jail card on the 5 year old.

Do you know what they do to adults who hit people, Danny?
They put them in jail. 

He looked at me thoughtfully and with a glimmer in his eye and said: But what if they're doing karate? 

After regaining my composure, I pointed out that karate takes place in a studio with mirrors and a sensei, not on the playground. 

The rest of the day can be summed up like this:

Kicked kids out into the yard.
Swept kitchen floor.
Kicked kids back out into the yard.
Hid in the closet and ate their Halloween candy.
Kicked kids back outside.
Swept the kitchen floor.
Fed the kids lunch.
Yelled at kids to stop making noise. (This does not actually work, in case you're wondering.)
Dodged a 2 year old who is trying to tackle my legs.

I also listened to them whine and complain no matter what I did for them or asked them to do. I took Fiona out to run errands with me and took her to the pet store, which is her favorite place ever. When we pulled up to the store, she cried that it was not the right pet store. Danny gave me a hard time every single time I asked him to do something which makes me reluctant to ask him to do anything. I decided that this is the most thankless job in the universe, at least on a minute to minute basis. In the long run, I hear it really is worth it.
Later that evening, my best friend and her family came over for dinner. We wondered what exactly our parents did that made us scared to disobey them. I remember the few times I sassed my mom. The incidents became family legend. I'm still waiting for my 5 year old to ask "When are you going to do any work around here?" Yep, I really did ask my mother that question when she handed me a stack of folded laundry to put away.

No one took a nap today, either. The kids were literally bouncing off walls. By bedtime, the baby was so exhausted that he cried for 10 minutes straight and finally fell asleep when I laid down with him. That was my favorite part of the entire day.

Monday, September 24, 2012


With Danny at school these past few months, I've been getting to know Fiona's habits and quirks. She and her brother couldn't be more different. She is the slow, observant, focused one. Danny is fast, oblivious and unfocused. I imagine Fiona trying to catch a fly with chopsticks (think Mr. Miyagi) while Danny uses a baseball bat.

Danny chews his gum for five minutes before claiming that the "flavor is out." Fiona chews a tiny piece of gum all afternoon, saving it on her plate for each meal and snack. Fiona quietly stirs up trouble and you may never know what happened. Danny is like a fireworks show. They do miss each other, though.


They ran up and slid down the slide together like this for about a half hour one afternoon.

With Danny home on break, though, Fiona isn't getting as much attention as she's used to. The other day she sat down next to me and wailed,

Mommy, I haven't been with you. Ouch.

Fiona is a hoot these days. She's chatty and bright and social. And she says the weirdest things.

What's this on my arm? Fiona asks. 
I don't know, honey.
It might be a tick. OR it might be ketchup, she says.

Whatcha making, Fi? I snuck up on her in the back yard.
Strawberry Tinkerbell soup, she says, cackling. Should I be frightened?

Slushies on the porch

I don't like celery. I don't like chicken. I don't like any of this. Fiona is our resident food critic.  
Oh, well. No dessert.
I like it. Oh, of course, NOW you like it.

I don't want to eat anymore, mom, Fiona says.
Well, no dessert. 
Ooooh. I want to eat. I'm pretty sure I'd mentioned this no dessert thing at least 10 times.

Unless you're here to poop or pee, get out of the bathroom, I tell the kids. 
Oooooh. I didn't get to see Danny's poop and Owen flushed it, Fiona wails. It's like the daily poop exhibit.

We can't go because that lady's car is in front of us, Fiona tells me.
Um, no honey, we can't go because the Volvo won't start.  We were stranded on the side of the road and a very nice woman and her daughter stayed with us until Jim could get there.

You ruined my kiss on my cheek, mommy, Fiona wailed. I'm not even sure how I did this, but I had to give her another night-night kiss.

Also, her secret is out. She does actually like us. For months, I would kiss her good night, tell her I love her and get this:

I love you, poop. Then she would cackle. Well, a few weeks ago, I started getting "I love you, mom." She's even said it first some nights.

Speaking of poop ...

I pooped on the powder, Owen informs me. Turns out he puked on a bottle of powder, which is slight better his initial assessment.

I'm peeing, Owen informs me. Oh, good. We're getting closer to potty training. (I love how everyone in this house informs me of their bodily functions.)

A few from the "I can't believe I have to say this" file: 

Stop swinging the poopy underwear around. In the kitchen, no less.

No penis twiddling while I'm reading, I tell Owen who is simultaneously twiddling his penis and sucking his thumb. It's like the equivalent of walking and chewing gum or rubbing your tummy and patting your head, only much, much creepier. His response? He grunted at me and shoved his member back into his diaper.

Get out of the bathroom. It's not a museum. 

Don't pick your nose with that carrot.

Boy, put that thing back in your pants. You want to get arrested? Jim tells Owen. That "thing" was his penis and we were at the park.

And from Captain Oblivious ...

I'm going outside.  
OK. Don't bother [the A/C repair guy].
I don't ever bother anyone. This is funny on so many levels.

Napkin, Danny, Jim says as he passes around napkins.
No. I never get dirty. Oh, okay.

MOM. MOM. It's 2 a.m. and Danny is screaming from his room.
Yes, dear?
I can't zip my sleeping bag, he whines indignantly. (Asshole.)

MOM. MOM. I trudged up the stairs.

What is it, dear?
My blanket. I can't reach it. Guess where it was? Within his reach if he had just SAT UP. (Asshole.)

Mom, Owen has an appointment and he won't come, Fiona wails. So now I'm supposed to mediate in the land of make believe, too?

I can hear it with my special ear, Danny squealed. He heard the train coming. How come his special ear doesn't hear his mother so well?

Oh, look, there it is. I can see it with my powerful eyes, Danny exclaims upon seeing the grist mill at the river. Now I just love his confidence, but I can't help but wonder why his powerful eyes don't see the trail of clothing he drops on the floor or the "lost" toy that is right under his nose.

Have a great week. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Anatomy of an epic tantrum

My son is pretty crafty. There are some days when he just knows how to ask only questions to which the answers will be no.

Can we watch another Wild Kratts? No, you've had enough TV today.

Can we have gum? No, you've had enough. (And the last piece you chewed wound up ground into the carpet.)

Can I do computer time? No, we're about to eat dinner.

Can you get my tracks down from the attic? No, we're going to eat dinner in 10 minutes. (And I have chicken juice all over my hands and a whining 2 year old cornering me in the kitchen.) 

Can I? Can I? Can I?  (I probably should correct him and say, "May I?" or "I don't know, can you?")

I feel the most panicked and overwhelmed between 4 and 6 pm every single day. And he knows it.

It's the last two hours before Daddy gets home. I have one more kid than I do all day. I have to get dinner together or wrapped up and simultaneously deny food to ravenous children so they'll eat that dinner.

Friday afternoon was no different. His father wouldn't be home until after dinner. The younger kids were happy to be kicked out into the backyard. Not Danny. His mission was to pester me until he got a yes.

And then I served up the no that made the 5 year old snap. Danny Boy didn't just snap, though; he went bat shit crazy on me.

I gave him choices: Go outside to play or play in the playroom. 

No deal. He began to scold me for daring to tell him no.

I told him: That is inappropriate. I will not talk to you when you are disrespectful. Go to your room. 
No deal. He plopped himself atop the trash can, gritted his teeth, and clenched his fists, frantically looking for some object to take out his anger on.

A freshly picked green pepper was within his reach. So he crushed it. (Insert confused, bemused look here.)

I repeated my request. Several times. Calmly. He repeated his refusal. Several times. Loudly.

I asked if he needed me to carry him up.

NO. I don't want to go upstairs.

Oooookay. I proceeded to pick him up off the trash can. He started grabbing onto whatever he could.

Then he ran from me into the dining room. I decided to go through the hall to meet him there. He poked his head into the hall, saw me and ran the other way.

I went to the kitchen door, he poked his head in, saw me and ran. We repeated this dance a few times.

Did I mention he was screaming, "I don't want to" at the top of his lungs the entire time?

(Now let me just point out right here that the parents who say things like "My child knows better than to do that" or "I would not tolerate that" really have no idea what this kind of intensity is like. My inability to shut him down immediately does not mean that I tolerate the tantrums. My child somehow does not know better and that is not my fault.)

At this point, panic sets in. My thoughts race.

Is this really happening? I can't chase him. Hell, I can't catch him. Oh my God, I can't catch him. OH MY GOD, I can't lose this battle. I bet so-and-so's kid would never do this to his mother. I wish I had a tranquilizer dart gun. (Seriously, this thought crossed my mind.)

After thanking Lucy (the crazy lady in my head) for her input, I told her to sit down and that I would be handling this. And instead of seeing that white hot flame of anger in my head, this time, I saw something different. I saw what was actually happening. It was utterly ridiculous. I laughed as quietly as I could and found some non-crazy thoughts roaming around my head. That's when I spied his beloved Hot Wheels loop track.

I reached for the track and began to talk calmly over his screams.

"Here's what's going to happen. I'm going to take your car loop and your pillow pet and put them back in the treasure chest until you can control yourself," I told him.

Well, that certainly got his attention. Or at least it got him to the stairs where I calmly repeated the go-to-your-room mantra and he screamed his I-don't-want-to mantra some more.

Another impasse. Great. Thank God the other two play so well together. At this point, I had no idea where they were. (My guess was the backyard since I heard running water from the spigot.)

I had no idea how to get him up the stairs as he was now clinging to and hanging from the railing. So I just started walking. He followed but continued to dig in his heels, refusing to go to his room. At least he'd stopped screaming at this point.

I stepped into his room, took a good look around and said, "What else do you want to lose today?"

I reached for Dennis the monkey. He freaked and ran into his room. Finally.

After about 20 minutes of screaming and wall kicking, he came to the top of the stairs and asked if he could come down. I told him, "Only if you can tell why you're up there."

And he did. The rest of the afternoon he played with train tracks in the playroom without incident.   

Mommy, 1. Danny, 0.

Sunday, September 09, 2012


Life has been busy lately. I barely blink in the morning and suddenly I'm creeping along in the carpool line to pick up the boy at school with an impatient 2 year old screaming "GO, GO, GO" and a 3 year old moaning, "It's a looooong time, mooooooommmmmyyyyy."

They play together very well. 
There's a different feel around here during the day when Danny is at school. With two non-ADHD kids, I can stay home all morning and not lose my mind. Owen and Fiona play remarkably well together and can leave me alone for long periods. I don't even mind that most of the time they are playing with hose water in the backyard and come in muddy from head to toe. (In my world, 20 uninterrupted minutes is a long time.) When Danny's home, it's like being poked 20 times an hour by a kid who gives me no time to respond. Here's a sample conversation:

Yes, Danny.
Worms don't have eyes. I'm sure this information will come in handy eventually.

I'm also getting to know Fiona better. One thing for sure is that this little girl is determined and focused and talkative.

Honey, you're arms are not long enough to reach that, I tell Fiona who is trying to reach for the second ring on the monkey bars at the park.
That's poop, she tells me with a determined look. Five minutes later, she reached the second ring. Basically, my daughter looked at me, said the preschooler equivalent of "bullshit," and did it.

Yet she can be rather indecisive. It's maddening.

Do you want grapes? 
No. Yes. And she usually says yes just as I'm turning back toward the fridge.  

Are you going to finish that? I ask. 
I don't like it. I do like it.
Oh, okay.
I like it. I don't like it, she repeats. Sigh. I hope she gets this one under control before she starts dating.

Mom, you have a boo boo on your chin. You need a Tinker Bell Band-Aid, Fiona tells me.

And THEN my pajamas were bleeding, Fiona says. She and Owen had a head on collision in the hallway. As she said, there was blood everywhere. 

Mommy, I'm singing about vicodin, Fiona says.
Um, what, honey?
VACUUMING. I'm singing about vacuuming. Oh, good.

Even though they are easier on me than Danny, Owen and sometimes even Fiona are adding exponentially to the list of no-nos that I never thought had to be verbalized.

Owen, get off the drawer. It is not a stool. He pulls out the bottom drawer in the kitchen and stands on it to watch me cook.

Owen, don't jump in the sink. He does this after I change his diaper. The changing table is on the bathroom counter.

Owen, is there poop in your bed?
I ask him.
Yes. Change my sheets again,
he says. Lovely. I change his sheets several times a week because he can't keep his hands out of his pants and winds up sleeping with his fire hose pointing up. 

Oh my God, are you licking all the clean spoons? STOP.

Oooohh, I spilled water, Fiona says. Next thing I know ... 
No, no, Fiona, here's a rag. Don't lick the floor. (I know that I don't own a mop anymore, but seriously?)

Are you going to take a nap today? I ask Owen.
Are you not going to take a nap today? (I was trying to trick him.)   

Yes, he replied. D'oh. Outsmarted by a 2 year old.

Sit down in that cart or I swear I will glue you to the seat,
I seethed at Owen and Fiona in Target.

Mom, can you get the gum off my foot? Want to see my poop? Danny asks, all in the same breath. Wow, where do I start?

Mom, I pooped and I didn't flush it. Want to come see it?
Danny says as soon as I get home. It's curly, he continues. When will they stop summoning me to inspect their poop?

I just had underpants on and now they're gone, Fiona wails with her pants around her ankles. I have no idea how that could happen.

Do you know how to stop, Fiona? Jim asks repeatedly as she bikes down a hill at the park. She randomly uses her breaks and her shoes.
No, I don't,
she called back. Wonder of wonders, she came down the hill AND managed to round a curve without falling.

Shit, Jim says as he fixes something with his little assistant, Owen.
Owen repeats.
No, no, I said shoot, Jim replies.
Shoot, Owen repeats.

What's that?
the kids asked when Jim turned the channel to a tennis match.
That's tennis. They play it on a ping pong table, Jim tells them. And, I kid you not, they all yelled at the TV: GET OFF THE TABLE.

Danny, did you hear the words coming out of my mouth?
I ask after he'd requested one too many repeats that day.
he replies. And his father snickered. It's the beginning of man's disease. I pity his future wife.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Fiona's entire second year was marked by spectacular disasters involving, among other things, flour, pasta and poop. I had blocked a lot of it out of my memory until this morning. It dawned on me after cleaning half a dozen cracked eggs off the kitchen floor that we are now entering the third and final 2 year old's reign of disaster.

I just stared at the floor, frozen for about 30 seconds, not knowing what to do. How exactly do you clean eggs off the floor? It was not even 8 a.m. This was a pretty cruel blow.

Shut me in, mommy, Owen says as he stands inside the fridge. I've had to lock the fridge because he opens it every chance he gets.

Sometimes I forget, like this morning. This kid is an eating machine. His hands literally shake when he eats. I've been keeping an eye on him to make sure that is the only time he quivers. So far, it is. Yesterday, when I called him for dinner, he bolted into the dining room, crawled over my chair and tried to climb over the table to get to his plate. Later when he discovered the fridge locked, he took one panicked look at Jim and bolted back into the dining room to see if there was anything left on the table.

He is also into absolutely everything. It's tough to get a step ahead of this child.

Give me that. The stapler is NOT a phone, I tell Owen. He had flipped open the stapler and was holding it to his head. A staple to the head would be hard to explain in the ER.
Please get out of the salad spinner. NO, NO, don't touch the microwave, I tell Owen all in the same breath.

Owen, let's go get a new diaper, Jim says.
No, Nope, Owen replies as he waves Jim off.

And did I mention he hurts himself a lot?

He's got the belly flop down, a friend noticed as Owie repeatedly hurled himself into the pool.
Oh, yeah, he's been practicing on the driveway, Jim says.

I need chocolate, Owen wails after he pinches his finger. A few minutes earlier I had offered him a chocolate covered raisin when he hurt himself. He learns quickly.

Owen is also now sleeping in a bed. And he rarely gets out. I mean, why would he? All he needs is right there: his thumb for sucking and his penis to play with.

Do you think Owen is still in the bed? I ask Jim. It was awfully quiet up there. He had just started sleeping in a bed.

The real question is where will he be at 2 a.m., he says. Then he adds, I'm going to chain the doors.

Fiona is pretty chatty these days. She fills the vacuum that Danny leaves while he's at school. It never occurred to me just how much that kid sucks the air out of a room. She provides a running commentary from the back seat. 

That lady said it was going to thunder, mom, Fiona informs me regularly on our car trips.

And she's just so eager to talk that her sentences have a string of false starts that leave me on the edge of hysterics or of my sanity, depending on the day.

Mom, before you ... Mom, before you ... MOM, before you ... said we could go to Nana's house.

Why do keep piling everything in your closet? I ask Fiona. I'm rather exasperated that everything falls out when I open the door.
It might rain in my room, she responds. Oh, of course. That's perfectly logical.

Talk the book, mommy, Owen says. Or, in his more impatient moments, TALK. This is how he asks me to read.

I'm going to put dirt in your Diet Coke. That'll be good, Fiona claims. We were having pretend lunch while real lunch was cooling off on the table.

I CAUGHT A FISH. I CAUGHT A FISH. YES! [hand clap] MY WEEKEND HAS BEGUN! Danny says. Yes, fish are necessary to have a weekend.

Well, Jesus was sad that his friend Lazarus was dead, I say to Danny.
Yeah and he used his back-to-life wand on him.

Ugh, I'm too fat for all my clothes, I tell Jim.
Danny overheard this and suggested: You need to be naked.

Ouch. I cut myself. I'm not having a very good day in the kitchen, I say. That morning, I got a second degree burn on my hand.
Maybe your contact lenses fell out, Danny responds. 

Yesterday, Tinkerbell wore this dress so today I should wear it, Fiona informs me. Well, if it's good enough for Tinkerbell, it's good enough for you.

That's all for now.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Stress and distress

Hello readers,

With me, no news is usually bad news. So if you haven't heard from me here in a while, it's because things are  seem real crappy and hopeless. I rarely write when I'm stressed, though it's usually just what I need. In the chaos of stress, I forget the one thing that helps me most: sharing my pain and stress.

I say this a lot, but it bears repeating: somebody probably needs to know they're not alone. That somebody always includes me. That's why I share, even when it sounds like complaining or self-flagellation or navel gazing.

In the past few days, I had a close call with a wandering 3 year old. Let's just say that nothing quite prepares you as a parent for finding your daughter's dress in the hallway and your daughter nowhere in your house or yard. (She was found two doors down wearing a leotard and crocs; she later claimed she was walking to gymnastics.) This is stressful.

In the past week, our 2 year old has turned into a rabid billy goat who is constantly moving, making noise and messes and biting his siblings. This is rather distressing.

In the past few weeks, we've been introduced to such schoolish terms as behavior plan and student assistance team. I also now recognize my son's teacher's phone number on the caller ID. This is stressful.

In the past few months, I've gone from an ADHD skeptic to tearful and fearful near acceptance of my son's diagnosis. This is distressing.

The signs have been there and been building for years. The realization that he often behaves exactly as our 2 year old in certain situations. The five topics in 30 seconds conversations. The gradual backing off of friends. (And I seriously don't blame your kid for not really wanting to hang out with mine.) The inability to control his impulses to back talk and interrupt. The constant movement and noise. The rigidity and stubbornness.

Let's face it, social norms that come easily to some kids just don't occur to those with ADHD. How many five year olds have to be told that randomly blowing in people's faces is a bad idea? Or that spitting water at another person's face is never acceptable? Most five year olds have enough sensible fear of their parents to just stop arguing their point. Not my kid. He'll argue and follow even when I've walked away and stopped talking. There is no escape. 

I could frame all this information in terms of how lucky we are to be at a school that takes such a supportive approach and that he is getting the help he needs so soon. The school is "this effective, this soon," I was reminded, instead of my son's experience being "this bad, this quickly." In my better moments, I do think the former. At my most distressed, though, I am heartsick for both of us. I'm already so, so weary and afraid that I just don't have the strength to travel this road.

This road means notes sent home, phone calls and emails, meetings and therapy and having to push him more that I'm comfortable doing. He will be different and singled out and have to work harder for things that come easily to other kids. His teacher already tells us that he is "trying so hard" and that just breaks my heart. We'll have to manage the way this is all presented to him so as not bruise his delicate, developing sense of self. I'm sure we'll learn how to do this but it all seems so daunting right now.
And the feeling I can't seem to shake is that somehow, some way, I made some fatal parenting error. It's as if every mother with better behaved children has a portion of the parenting manual that we're missing. When a child goes to school, it feels like your parenting skills are on display. I rarely care what people think of how I parent; it only worries me what they assume based on my children's behavior.

Right now, based solely on his behavior, I appear to be a parent who did not teach her son any social skills, loads him up with sugar and sends him off to school. Which I don't, of course.


Friday, July 27, 2012

The first week

Four and a half years ago on my son's first birthday, I remarked in a blog post about my oddly unemotional state over that milestone. My son started kindergarten last week and not a tear was shed until at least the fifth day of school.

Part of this, I think, is that I never thought he'd actually go to school. Oh, sure, we applied to a few charter and Montessori schools where they literally pull your name from a hat to determine who gets in. We're not that lucky, we told ourselves. I mean, we rarely even win so much as $2 in the Powerball. So we just assumed we'd homeschool. Until three months ago. We got a call from a school. It was the last lottery we were waiting on. It was THE school. Child-centered, project based, integrated arts. It was the one that fit our philosophy and we felt would be best for him. And he got in as did his siblings by extension. His name was the fifth pulled.

"I feel like I just won the lottery," I told the woman from the school, as my 2 year old was screaming in the background, because, as usual, he hurt himself just as soon as the phone rang. I imagined that  the woman on the other end was mentally cringing and wondering just what had the school gotten itself into if such bedlam exists in this woman's house.

I was in such shock that I worried: Maybe I misunderstand the woman on the phone? After all, it was chaotic when she called. Maybe we're just on the waiting list? For the next week, I anxiously awaited a letter in the mail that the school told us to expect with some further instructions. I held my breath and waited. When the letter came, I breathed again and it began to slowly sink in that we'll have school children and school nights and packed lunches and carpools and field trips. (But no homework and no grades because that's not how this school rolls. Sweet!)

So, you see, I've had only three months to fret over him going off to school. I've felt neither eager to unload his sassy little self on a kindergarten teacher nor excessive trepidation about his prospects. I've not spent the past five years getting him ready for school as if it were some kind of deadline, though. We've read no books on what our child needs to know before he goes to kindergarten or how to get him ready for his new envirnoment. Sure, I've had the occasional foray down the what-if rabbit hole. A few times in my head I've had him kicked out of school for his borderline ADHD behavior hence ruining his siblings' chances to attend.  Really, with no information to back up this prediction, that voice just needed to be thanked kindly and told to go sit down. 

As the first day approached, I looked at the 10-day weather forecast. I took stock of what he'd need: backpack, lunch bag/box, towel (because, you know, it is the most massively useful thing one can have), reusable sandwich and snack bags. (This school encourages parents to send lunches in reusable containers as they are trying to cut down on trash. How awesome is that?)  

The first day of school went well. There was no drop off drama. He had his trusty map and he walked us in taking the route of his choosing. It was only a half day and only half the class was scheduled to be there that day. His only complaints was a passing mention that the day was too long. When I went to get him, several people commented that he was quite attached to his map and they dubbed him "map boy." It all sounded pretty promising.

We're settling into a routine. He gets up and dressed, eats breakfast and feeds the dog. I make his lunch and then he and I got on a short bike ride together.  That's right. At 7 a.m., he and I are biking down the street. We've gotten some what-are-those-Meehans-up-to-now looks from neighbors. It's a good way to get some of his energy out before he goes to school and spend a little one on one time with him.

By the fourth day, his first full day, he was getting out of the car himself in the carpool line and walking to his classroom alone. His teacher emailed us on Monday and Tuesday evening, but we did not get the emails until Tuesday evening. When I saw the sender and subject line, my stomach turned.

And it confirmed my worst fears. Spitting, personal space invasions, hair tousling, generally pestering others in an attempt to get their attention. Classic ADHD impulse control issues.

I won't lie. There was a lot of deep ragged breaths and self-flagellation and crying, no, sobbing.

Why can't my kid be normal? Why can't he just behave himself? What did I do wrong that my kid acts this way? What are the other mothers going to think of me? What if the kids ostracize him? What if he gets kicked out and ruins for his siblings?

There's been a lot of discouragement this week. But I've also found a lot to be grateful for.

His teacher made it clear up front that she is opposed to using medication. She also was a special education teacher for 10 years. Thank God his teacher is on the same page with us.

We've been seeing a therapist since March with Danny, before we even knew we'd be at school. He's made great progress in several areas at home. And all I had to do is sign a release form to allow the teacher and the therapist to talk. Imagine if I'd second guessed myself or given in to my cynicism about therapy and stopped going altogether. Where would we be now?

I've listened to other mothers whose kids are having their own troubles at school this week. On Wednesday, I went to pick him up alone. I stood in the front lobby and overheard another mom of a kindergartener talking about her son. Apparently, he'd had a rough few days at school, too. And the next day, another mom shared that her son had had a few rough days, also. I felt less alone and more grateful for my own problems.

I had assumed that the standard for his behavior was near perfection from day one. That leaves little room for improvement and growth for both of us, now doesn't it?

And I see the evidence of growth every day now, because I'm looking for and expecting it. Not only that, I'm growing along with him. I'm realizing that the same simple tools that I use to calm and control my actions and thoughts are just as relevant to him.

Just this morning, on our bike ride, Danny was also talking to the voices in his head. After he had yelled at me for not responding to him within a half second of his request, I told him that he needed to count to 10 before he expected someone to respond to him. I told him to be sure he has my attention,  say something and then count to 10 in his head. Then, from behind me, I hear "Oh, it's the bad voice. You go sit down. Mom, I put the bad voice in time out."

There's hope for him and me yet as long as we keep talking to the voices in our head.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

And it continues ...

"It" is the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. It's been quite a while since mommy has had consecutive days that strike fear and panic into her heart.

Mommy feels completely helpless to stop the onslaught of escapes, pilfered food and malicious woundings among siblings. Every one of them has scars from sibling inflicted wounds. Bite marks, bruises from pushes and shoves, cuts on their feet from being run over by a Big Wheel, half peeled off fingernails from door injuries. If pulled hair left marks, Fiona would be sporting wounds. Mommy feels as though she's toting a band of wounded criminals with her everywhere she goes. Mommy senses that her oldest's impending first day of school and the ridiculous July heat is affecting everyone's psyche.

Mommy's day starts at 2 a.m. when she hears Owen "reading" books in the hallway. Reading, good. 2 a.m., not so good. By 4 a.m., she had shooed him back to his room three more times. Fiona even joined him once.

But by 6:30 a.m., the really scary part began. Her husband bolts back into the bedroom and says, "Fiona's not in her bed and she's not downstairs." Mommy frantically gets dressed. She peers out the windows in her bedroom trying to spot the child. As scary as it sounds, mommy knows in the back of her head that Foudini (one of many nicknames for Fiona) probably didn't get far. Still, that doesn't stop her from imagining the worst.

Mommy can see the 6:00 news now. Preschooler catches school bus to local high school, mother charged with child endangerment.

As it turns out, she had climbed the baby gate, pulled an ottoman to the door, unlatched the chain and let herself out. When asked how long she had been outside, she gave a wicked look and said, "Five minutes." What's so frightening is all the obstacles she overcame to get herself outside. Mommy wonders how many more obstacles she'll have to build into the Foudini containment system just so she can close her eyes at night.

Next disaster involves Owen who is like a drunken billy goat on a suicide mission. He literally hurls himself into walls. It's like he has no sense of how his body works in space. He was pulling these stunts on the stairs and he fell. Backwards. Mommy is standing right behind him, watching as he falls on his head and neck.

Okay. That's over. Next up, mommy needs a shower. The kids know the drill. They stay upstairs and play while mommy takes a quick shower. Five minutes tops. How much trouble can they cause in five minutes?

Post shower, mommy finds Fiona in the hallway leading the 2 year old around with a belt around his neck. And it's not loosely around his neck, either. Mommy starts to shake inside. This is beyond horrifying.

Next mommy finds that Fiona has climbed up on the chest freezer to pilfer granola bars from the top shelf.  Later that same day, her and Owen got into a container of brownies that Nana thought she had put far out of reach. There apparently is no such thing as out of reach for Fiona.
Oh, and it gets worse. At the park, Fiona follows a group of girls walking to the bathroom. At least there is an adult with them and it happens to be a friend of mine. I spotted her across the parking lot and thought, "Okay. At least she's with an adult I know." Is it bad that mommy is equally concerned about what her acquaintances at the park must think of a woman who can't keep tabs on her own kids?

Mommy is exhausted. She locks Fiona in her room for quiet time. Don't judge. Mommy is out of options. She hopes that once the first day of school comes and goes, things will start to calm down here. She suspects that the anticipation of it has been hovering above the kids and making them crazy.

Stay tuned for photos and stories from Danny's first day of school which is tomorrow. I'll write. I promise.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mommy and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

Mommy really thought it would be a good morning. She had a plan: Blueberry picking. Church office for a 10 minute task. Library. Sam's Club. It felt like a good kid-to-adult activity ratio.

She had snacks packed, water bottles filled and kitchen cleaned up. She had library books ready to go back. On time, no less. The diaper bag was restocked and the blueberry picking buckets were in the van. The kids were dressed, shoes were on or at least in hand.

She was just about to strap Owen into his car seat when the familiar aroma of poop rises from one toddler derriere.

It must have been an omen.

After a pit stop for cash and Diet Coke, they head to the blueberry patch only to find it closed. 

Okay. Mommy can roll with this. They head to the church office.

"I have to go to the bathroom," Danny moans on the way. Of course, you do.

Mommy is a bit flustered already and begins to panic. She can't let him pee his pants; there's no change of clothes for him.  She decides to call her husband and see if they can stop by his office for a pee break on the way to the church. No dice. He's not answering the phone. They pulled up to the church office, which wasn't yet open. Mommy instructs the boy to pee on a tree. Yes, at church. She didn't think God would mind.

The kids play hide and seek in the trees and begin climbing a few of them. Danny breaks a low-hanging limb off the Magnolia tree. Mommy thought God would mind that, so she told him to leave the tree alone. He argues. He heads back toward the tree defiantly. Mommy feels the panic that rises in her chest when her son escalates his defiance. He finally relents. Meanwhile, Owen and Fiona are hanging on and climbing everything they can. Clearly, the kids are in no mood to wait around for the church office to open. And even if she could wait around, they would be too ill behaved for mommy to get a simple 10 minute task taken care of before they destroyed the church's volunteer office.

So they leave. Mommy is 2 for 2 right now. Two tasks undone.

PANIC. Deep breath. Mommy gets twitchy when so many plans fall through. How can these hoodlums not be trusted to behave for 10 minutes?

Just keep moving, she reminds herself. Next stop? The library. Mommy unloads the stroller, the bags of books and the kids. The 2 year old takes one look at the stroller and whines indignantly, "NO."

Great. The last thing mommy needs is to be chasing a 2 year old through the library. After about 10 minutes of chasing, she finally confines him kicking and screaming while they head for the checkout. She reaches into the library bag to find the card.

It's not there. Nor does she have her wallet with her. She leaves the books, trudges back to the car with three kids in tow and trudges back in to have the librarian look up her card with her driver's license.

Okay. Something finally got done. But the kids are melting faster than a Popsicle in Hell and there's still one more stop. Can't skip this one. There is no laundry detergent in the house and sure, mommy could get it at a less inconvenient store, but damned if she'll let the kids keep her from completing her mission. Really, how dare they balk at a morning full of errands when she took them the museum and swimming yesterday. The ingrates.

Mommy is officially pissed. She calls her mother, flustered and not even sure what she wants her mother to do.

They arrive at Sam's Club. Mommy can't find her card. Seriously. But she can't stop now. She just can't.

On the way home from Sam's Club, mommy calls her mother back and she agrees to come watch the little boogers for an hour. Probably to prevent mommy from eating them. 

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Lies I can't get away with much longer

My kids seem to ask questions from dawn till dusk. By midday, I'm ready to throw in the towel and tell them that I'm not taking any more questions or offering any more explanations about anything. I usually can hold out until their father gets home. Then I'm on break.  

And no question freezes me in my tracks and causes a mini panic attack like "What's in your mouth?" Here are a few of the answers that they are not buying:

I'm just chewing my tongue. 

No, it's not a piece of candy. 

Really, there's nothing in my mouth. 

I'm not eating anything. I SWEAR!

They're not buying it. Any of it.

Also, in an effort to have a clean kitchen at the end of the day, I tell them this: 

The kitchen is closed. My mother used to tell us this. I get it now. Totally. What she really meant was "The kitchen is closed for sticky fingered, crumb shedding urchins like yourself." But for mom and dad? Kitchen is open since we can now eat whatever we want without facing an army of beggars.

Other popular half-truths:

I'm not speeding. Okay. I kind of am speeding. But cops don't usually ticket for 5 miles over, now do they?

That's not a word you should use. At least not in public. Please. Who am I kidding? There are times when that word is totally warranted, like when you accidentally spill a full dustpan after the eighth sweeping of the day, right?

I have eyes in the back of my head. My oldest still believes this. He calls them my back eyes. One day, he sifted through my hair to find them. I told him he couldn't see them because they were closed at the time.

We don't eat before dinner. Translation: You don't eat before dinner. Mommy? She has a secret stash of jelly beans she sneaks while making dinner.

That song? It's about saving energy and keeping your doors locked. I told my kids this when they asked about the lyrics "Baby lock the door and turn the lights down low." I'm getting good at reinterpretting songs.

Do you mind? I'm using the bathroom. I'm not really. I'm reading. And eating a piece of chocolate to avoid the "What's in your mouth?" question.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


It's been quite hot here, with several days in a row of 100 plus degree temperatures. I can't keep the kids in their clothes and yet I still have mountains of laundry. Could someone please explain to me how this works? The hot weather also means it's potty training season.

Oh, yeah, it's outdoor peeing weather this week, Jim said last week. Owen is of age. I think that we can start training him now.

So far, he's peed in his little potty twice and pooped in the yard once. Let me explain. 

Lately, the kids have been playing well together. I have been able to trust Danny more with following and enforcing the rules (without wrestling them to the ground) instead of instigating mischief.

Just last week, I let them loose in the backyard after a little pool time so I could start dinner. I shut the gate and told them to stay in the backyard. Oh, and I let them hang out naked, or as Fiona calls it naken. No biggie. For me, there's nothing cuter and more natural than looking out the window and seeing three kids playing naked. They're so devoid of self-consciousness.

A few minutes later, Fiona comes in and says: I have some poop on my foot. 

That's mud, not poop.
I thought it was dog poop. Turns out, it was Owen poop. I peered out the window and saw Danny and Owen stooped over digging in the dirt contentedly, as if nothing had happened. I inquired about the location of the poop.

We scooped it up. It's in the wheel barrel, Fiona informs me. They have a kid-size wheel barrel. 

Fiona has surprised us lately with her knowledge of letters. I've not been able to teach her directly as much as I did with Danny. But one day, she blurted out:

P is for purple. Huh? I didn't know she knew that. And she's been writing letters. Numbers, though, are a different story. She knows them, but it sounds like she's calling audibles in a football game. 

4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 11, 4, 5, 12. And Danny flips out because she's not saying the numbers in order.

She also has lots of opinions. 

I like this song, mom, Fiona chirped from the back seat. Bryan Adams "Everything I Do" was on the radio. It's about looking into my eyes. I like looking into my eyes. Well, this is different, a kid telling me what a song is about. Danny, on the other hand, constantly asks what each song is about.

How can you breathe through your eyeballs, dad?
Well, I guess if you held your breath it might come out your eyeballs, Jim tells him. A few days later I realized that he asked that question because when I take my contacts out and wear eyeglasses, I tell him it's because my eyes need to breathe.

Let's play the quiet game, Danny says.
QUIET GAME, Owen screams. My kids suck at this game.

Danny played a game with me the other day, I tell Aunt Jackie. What game was it, Danny?
Yahtzee. Ooooh. I like gumballs. (He had spotted a gumball machine.) Yes, he really did say all of this in the same breath. Ironically, I had mentioned the game playing to show her that his attention span was improving.

And now you know the purpose of basements, Danny, his cousin Mia says as she wraps up her 5 minute dissertation.
What? Danny says with the same blank stare he'd been giving her for the past five minutes as she explained basements.
Mia, he doesn't know what purpose means, another cousin chimes in.

Don't drink the bathwater, Fiona. Your brothers probably peed in it, I tell her.
I didn't pee, Danny replies. I farted in it. Ewwwww.

I don't know what happened, I bemoan to my sister. The two of them were playing so nicely for a few minutes. They were listening to each other's elbows [with a toy stethoscope]. Next thing I know, Fiona whacks him and he tackles her to the ground. 
It's a bipolar match, she replies. Ah, yes. That explains everything.

When Nana sets her house on fire, we can come rescue her, Danny tells his sister.
Yeah, because I'm going to be a firefighter! Wait, what? Nana is going to set her house on fire??

Hey, I can put the plate on top of the pumpkin [it was actually a watermelon]. It can balance, Danny says. Five year olds havew such great ideas.

Can this plum pit grow? Danny asks. 
Sure, but I think it has to be planted somewhere warmer, like California.
Where's California? 
On the other side of the country. 
Can we go there tomorrow?

Why do we have mouths? Danny asks after a five minute series of questions about something completely unrelated. It's at this point that I want to bang my head against the wall. Hard.

Are there a lot of mosquitoes in the world? Danny asks. 

I'm closing my eyes so you can't see me, Danny says to his Nana Meehan. Right. If that worked, I'd be eating chocolate with eyes closed in front of the kids nonstop. 

Mom, I passed gas upstairs. It was a fart gas. Can you smell it? Danny says from the top of the stairs.  

Ew, did you pass gas, Danny?
No, Fiona might have done and it came all the way in here. Sure, that's plausible.

Why did Nana's [bike] tire get flat?
Maybe it got a hole in it. 
Maybe there was too much weight on it and it went down. Nana loved that explanation.

Now, you need to behave at the gym this morning, Danny. 
Because when you don't behave, it doesn't make mommy want to do nice things for you. 
You want to do bad things to us?

Got poop, Owen tells his father. Check it out. 

Look, dog, Owen says pointing out a picture of a dog to our dog Molly. I love how kids just think of the dog as just a furry human.

What is that noise, Owen? I ask him as he whines at me.
Me, he says. Smart ass.

Watch out. He charges, Jim warns someone as Owen hurtles toward them.

Owen. Patrick. Meehan. Come here, I say.
MEEHAN COMING, he replies as he charges toward me. This kid has linebacker written all over him.

Do babies climb walls, mom?
No, I reply.
Do they have suction cups on their hands and feet?
No. Where are you getting all this?
Dad said that babies have suction cups on their hands. Oh dear.

Found penis, Owen informs me when I come get him after his nap.
You found your penis, huh?
Penis down there, he replies. Sigh. The ladies are going to love this one.

Mom, let's go bike riding. We can scare them with our face paint power. They had just finished painting each other's faces with water colors.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Shhhh. Don't tell the universe.

Tonight, I blog in bed. It's been a long day. Usually I'd still be twitching after days as long as this one. The kids have been getting up at 6:30 in the morning, rendering me exhausted by 2:00 in the afternoon with at least four more hours till the relief pitcher returns.

I'm reluctant to put in writing just why I'm not still twitching. I tend to think the universe punishes me for daring to acknowledge when things seem to be maybe sort of turning a corner. For years, whenever I mentioned that one of my babies was sleeping through the night, they'd stop, sometimes for weeks at a time. And don't get me started on potty training "success" stories. One optimistic story and suddenly we're back in diapers. I've been burned. A lot. 

Danny's behavioral turnaround has been nothing short of miraculous. We don't know if it's the diet, the therapy, the supplements, the different strategies or just a sudden surge of maturity that has transformed his behavior from utterly intractable to increasingly malleable.

I find myself seized by anxiety, though, when I see a familiar pattern of behavior starting: the clenched teeth, the raised voice, the menacing look, the chin. He's getting ready to go Incredible Hulk on us or his siblings or some inanimate object and I feel panic. It's like I'm shell shocked. 

Today we had an all too familiar scene. Danny fell and caught his chin on the edge of a kids' table in the play area. He howled, he flipped the table and a few of the chairs, he insisted that we get rid of the table, just throw it in the garbage. I think he even kicked it.

Now usually I ask him what he was doing before he got hurt and try to make him see how his actions caused his fall. Naturally, he doesn't respond well to that. I end up sending him away to calm down because I just don't know how to deal with that level of intensity. I avoid that kind of prolonged intensity at all costs. But today was different. He's given us enough of a break from that intensity that I can now respond more calmly.

So I brought him in for a hug and just let him vent about that naughty table that made him fall and hurt his chin.

When he was done, I asked him if, instead of getting rid of the table, we could just put it in time out.

He agreed and we left the table to sit alone and think about it's hideous, irresponsible behavior. We then left to do errands. 

When we returned, the table and chairs were as we left them. I asked Danny if the table could come out of time out. He agreed that it could. And then ...

He put the table and chairs back the way they were.

Who is this child? And can he please stay for a while?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Just keep moving forward

The kids are finally asleep after being dosed with Melatonin. The water in the upstairs bathroom is turned off so no one can claim to be "getting a cup of water." The husband has gone up. Only the dog and I and the crickets are awake.

Earlier today I thought that if I typed quickly, maybe, just maybe I could do some blogging.The younger two were playing nicely in the backyard and the 5 year old's stream of consciousness had slowed to a trickle. It didn't last, though. They found me as soon as I sat down.

I miss blogging. I miss getting my thoughts out there. For some reason, I can only write when there's an audience, even a small one. I'm not good at talking to myself; there are too many voices in my head and I often have to tell them to just sit down and be quiet. I have a habit of hiding my struggles until I've reached an acceptable level of crazy. Because if you knew what I was really thinking a few weeks ago, you'd either back up very slowly or put me in a straight jacket. Then I remember that writing is how I process things. And lately, I've had all kinds of excuses for not writing.

Let's see ... the kids keep me busy.  In fact, I devote a lot of energy lately to creative work arounds to keep Owen from peeing on every sheet, blanket and item of clothing he owns. And we're not even potty training yet. You see, he likes his penis. A lot. He rearranges it until it is no longer safely pointed down in his diaper. My final solution is just to put him to bed buck naked because I figure unfettered access might lessen the appeal. I spend the rest of the time doing laundry and feeding Owen, who now hangs on the refrigerator door and whines "Huuuuuuunnnnnnngggggggrrrrrryyyyy." And listening to Danny's stream of consciousness and keeping Fiona from annoying the boys and the dog.

Pinterest keeps me busy and not because I'm doing all the cool projects posted by moms on uppers who likely have kids on downers because, seriously, the only way I could get my kids to do any of those creative homeschool "lessons" or do any projects myself is if the little buggers were drugged. (Mostly, I just browse and pin and sometimes do a recipe or craft that takes little to no effort.) I collapse on the couch around 9 each night and get lost in all the projects I could do if I had more energy or children who don't destroy every nice thing we own.

The weather has been gorgeous. It's been like a New York summer here; in the 80s with low humidity. We've gone blueberry picking at least once a week, biking, swimming and romping in parks. Of course, tomorrow, the gates of hell will open and by this weekend, it'll be dangerously, triple digit hot.

And then there's the growing sense that my 5 year old deserves some privacy in our current struggles. He deserves to struggle and grow in privacy and have his mother show the world his best side. He's also at an age where he senses what's going on, he hears things that we whisper or even signal, he knows what our eyes say. There's a fine line, though, between respecting his privacy and pretending that everything is just fine.

It's not. And it is. And it will be. I believe all these things, usually at the same time. 

This morning, I read a post on Momastery that reminded me of why I need to write, even if it seems I have nothing new or inspiring or original to say. She writes:

We gotta show ourselves when we’re all beat up and scarred, too. That’s what people need to see, much more than our shiny selves.

Exactly. I need to write because someone needs to hear what I have to say. That's not narcissistic; it's humbly placing my problems and fears before the world in the hopes of helping someone else who is struggling. Because we're all struggling somehow and seeing moms on uppers parading their shiny lives in front of us doesn't inspire us but tends to deepen our suffering and further our isolation. 

Too often, though, I feel chastised for seeming to dwell on the negative when I write about the utter chaos of three children so close in age, the daily grind, the worries, the heartache, the sleepless, messy existence. I feel pressure to be positive. Being positive is such a complicated concept. I don't believe being positive means seeing the good in everything. What it really means, at least to me, is that we acknowledge the imperfect, believe in a resolution even if we don't know what it is yet and just keep moving forward.

So here's what's really going on:

My son is seeing a shrink. At the age of 5. He's an angry boy with an impulsive nature. Well, he was. Things are getting better now with just a few months of therapy, which has probably helped me more than him, and some dietary adjustments.

There is the possibility that his problems are related to environment. Really, there's nothing more annoying than 3 and 2 year old siblings; in fact, if I wasn't an adult, I might just react to the frustration the same way he does.

Diet definitely is a factor for him. We've taken him off wheat and gluten, the main protein found in wheat, barley and rye. There is research to suggest a link between ADHD and celiac disease and/or gluten sensitivity. We've noticed that if he has gluten, he has trouble with self-control and focus and hyperactivity. It takes about three or four days for the effects of gluten to wear off with him. We've tested the theory off and on since late February.

We've also added a fish oil supplement to his diet; we call it his kindergarten vitamins. Fish oil has been shown to improve behavioral control and focus in children with attention issues and was suggested to me by a neighbor.

Over the past few months, though, I have felt the most incompetent and stuck that I've ever felt as a parent. Every day was a frustrating and exhausting exercise in behavior management. Every interaction was an argument, every word I spoke to him was scolding, every fun activity turned to tears and fighting within minutes, every privilege extended turned to an argument over more privileges, every argument escalated into some threatening gesture on his part or mine. I would offer choices, he would "choose" something not offered. We would tell him to stop making noises at the table and he literally could not stop himself.

In fact, one incident started with him screaming at me to get him a bandage "RIGHT NOW" after he fell from his bike and when I refused until he spoke politely to me, he threw a rock at me.

He has been diagnosed with ADHD, but I've been skeptical since we don't know how he will behave in school. However, a few weeks ago, I decided that it didn't matter whether I think he has ADHD. One morning I described a scenario to the doctor and asked my perennial "Why does he do that?"

She replied, "Because your little boy doesn't have those extra seconds other kids have before reacting."

And my heart just sank. Maybe it was because she referred to him as "your little boy" when I had been seeing him as the 3 1/2 foot freckled monster terrorizing our house. Maybe it was because she cast him as someone who is sick and needs help, not someone who is wrong and needs correcting.

Suddenly, I had that sympathy I'd been lacking. It's a start.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


It's been an entire month since I've written anything on this blog. I'm in a rut. Things aren't as funny as they used to be. After an entire month of the stomach virus ripping through our house and, um, intensive behavior modification, my brain is just numb. And I've had near constant back pain for about two weeks. Life is a bit more stressful here lately.

My oldest is about to start kindergarten. It feels like we're in a race against the calendar to get him to a point where his behavior won't mortally embarrass us or get him kicked out of school. A dozen times a day, his behavior gives me visions of forced homeschooling.  I know, I know, it seems totally unreasonable. Who says that about their own child? When you're living three inches from your face, though, it's hard to see him whack his sister without believing that he'll do the same to random schoolmates. 

The middle child is actually responsible for instigating most of the drama around here. Every time I turn around she is intentionally needling someone.

The baby, who is actually a toddler going on NFL offensive lineman, whines constantly for food, randomly shouts, growls and roars at us, and tackles me, usually when I'm making dinner.    

The decibel level around here is unbearable. I may lose my hearing soon. Please, God, let me lose my hearing soon.

Mom, does Daddy drive too fast?
No, honey.
Why do you drive too fast?
I don't. Anymore.

Is the man dying in there? Danny asks as we pass the funeral home.
No, honey, he's already dead.
Where is his body?
It's in a casket; that's a box that they put the body in.
Oh, so he's a treasure now.

Want fries? Owen asks me as he drives up on his big wheel.

Want boobyjuice, Owen tells me. When he starts using a first person pronoun, then I need to wean him.

Aaaahhhh. Boobyjuice good, he says. Yeah, I know it's creepy, but at least I'm getting some feedback.

What do you guys do after mommy and daddy go downstairs? I ask the kids during "cuddle time."
Play with my penis, Fiona cackles.

Look, mom, my boo boo doesn't hurt. See? You can touch and squish it, Fiona says.

This is curious up here, Danny says. We were at a restaurant sitting on the upper level.

Speaking of restaurants ...

We don't have to pay at Nana's restaustrant, Danny exclaims. (No, I did not misspell restaurant. That's how he says it.)

Danny, is your pull up wet? Jim asks when he finds Danny still awake and playing in his room.
Yeah, I'm a heavy sleeper, he replies. It may be time to yank the pull ups.

I don't like daddy, but I like you, Fiona tells me.
Oh, really? Why?
Well, I like daddy outside, but I like you inside. Well, that makes sense. I play with them more inside and daddy plays more with them outside.

The monsters up [in the vent] might get scissors and cut down my sign, Danny says. I made him a Do Not Enter sign to hang from his vent. Are there scissors up there, mom? I assured him there weren't.

When I'm big and jump off a chair, it will shake the whole house and the house will explode, Danny informs me. A lot of his thoughts these days end in explosions.

Fi and Danny don't wear diapers anymore, I tell Owen while changing his diaper one day.
Big boy, he replies.
Are you a big boy? 
Do you want to use the potty?
No. Oh, well. I tried.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The best lesson

I've never been big on holidays whose original purpose has been lost in a sea of maudlin Hallmark sentiment. It bears noting that the woman who campaigned for a recognized memorial day for mothers in the early 1900s was by the 1920s dismayed by its commercialization. She made her criticism and disdain for such commercialization known throughout her life. She even criticized the purchasing of greeting cards, which she deemed being too lazy to write a personal note. The woman was even arrested for disturbing the peace with her anti-commercialization protests on year.

I like this woman. She reminds me of my own mother, actually. My mother is a woman who questions the status quo at every turn and raised four children who do the same. We're a non-conforming, anti-commercialism, stubborn, intelligent bunch. Among us are an unschooling Christian yet non-denominational mom, a practicing Episcopalian who is a counselor and yoga instructor, a Buddhist-leaning music composer who lives and works in New York City and me, a stay-at-home mom, converted Catholic and recovering alcoholic. We were raised Baptist, by the way. She felt it was so important to teach us to question and think for ourselves that she did so even though it meant we were tough teenagers. Not because we were wild, but because we all definitely had a mind of our own. She's proud of all of our choices, even though they are different from hers.

However, that's not what I had intended to say about my mother this morning. That's just what came out.

I was a very self-conscious child and teenager. I was paranoid and thought everyone was talking about me and teasing me (and sometimes they were). I thought I was ugly and did not like to be around other kids. It was a monumental effort to get me to go to youth group gatherings. To say that I did not make friends easily is an understatement.

Whenever I felt scared or uneasy about social situations, she would tell me look around the room and find the one person who was standing alone. And talk to them.

To this day, I do that, wherever I am; meetings, church, the park, neighborhood gatherings. It's a simple way to get out of myself and help another person. That person that I used to think was just stuck up and too good to talk to me? I now think of that person as someone who may be having a tough day, who is self-conscious and uncomfortable in social situations and just doesn't know how to make the first move. Maybe they think no one likes them or that they are unlovable or unlikeable or unapproachable or have nothing to offer. Maybe no one has talked to them like their opinion matters.

It's really the only social skill I know and practice well. It may very well be the best social skill of all.
I'm not sure that these things are actually related. Maybe they are. Being able to think for myself has given me a level of confidence that has banished fear of people to a certain degree. 

So thanks, mom.

Friday, May 11, 2012


It's been a whirlwind around here. Try to keep up.

Danny got into a school and not just any school. This was our first choice school, a project-based, child centered environment that mirrors our values. So I've gone from being alternately committed to and resigned to homeschooling to being alternately excited and terrified about sending my first born to school. They literally drew his name out of a hat. He went to a kindergarten screening last week and it seems to have gone well. I gathered that he was asked to draw a picture of a person and he decided that he wanted to draw a car instead. He says he put the person inside the car, possibly inside the wheel. Whatever.

The stomach bug cannot seem to find its way out of our house. It's been going around in vicious circles here for about a month. Luckily, I've had it only once. Although, my husband had it most recently and spent the entire day in bed, so I'm wondering who's really the lucky one here. And the children can't seem to stop wetting their beds in one creative way or another. I've been doing an obscene amount of laundry. Owen told me the other day when the washing machine was running, Go downstairs. Loud noises. 

My little Owen is a suicidal billy goat who is still nursing but I convinced him today that almond milk was booby juice. And his language skills are fascinating. He's grasped the concept of "enough," informing me just today that I had not given him enough dip for his carrots. He has thoughts that go beyond mere observation, such as these ones:

Take it outside, mommy, Owen instructs me when he finds a bug in the house.

Get water, Owen says when he tries to sit on a hot swing at the park.

Yet, he still babbles. Loudly.

What is he saying?
Gumbo sneet bot, Danny says.

Oh. What does that mean?
Throw that stuff in the compost.

Danny is officially my new translator. In addition, the boy is a ball of physical and mental and emotional energy that, if harnessed, could probably power New York City for a year.  

Is yellow cheese made from yellow milk, mom? Danny asks.

How can I get my freckles off?

When will I get hair on my face? 

Do we have hair on our butts?

Why do girls grow up to be mommies?

How come boys don't have babies? I am so not ready for this.

Look, my watermelon is melting. Um, no, it's just dripping, dear. 

Look, I have milk bubbles on my spoon.

Look, mom, the poop went down into the gobbler, he says. The gobbler, it turns out, is the hole in the toilet bowl.

Danny, what are you doing? I ask as I watch him put his ear up to various spots in the bathroom.
I'm hearing the bathroom.

And if Danny could power New York City, my 3 year old could probably break every window in the Empire State Building with her deafening, dramatic outbursts.

I broke my celery, Fiona wails.
You mean you bit it?
Yeah. Oh, the drama never ends with this one.

MINE. MINE. MINE, Fiona screams.
Nothing is yours, you just got down here, I tell her.  Seriously, this child has a distorted view of property rights.

In addition to all the drama and noise, the children have utterly fantastic logic:

You need to calm down or go outside, I tell Danny. 
No, no, there's a carpet. I am continually amazed at my son's ability to connect two seemingly unrelated ideas as an argument in favor of his viewpoint. Reminds me of a few politicians I know, actually.

Danny, please don't yell.
No, no, I have to yell to stop Owen from yelling. Yep, that's 5 year old logic for you. Or mommy logic on a bad day.

But I need my leotard to play tic tac toe, Fiona explains. Really? I had no idea.

And then there's the burgeoning smart-assery:

I've got to go to the bathroom, Jim announces while we were out to dinner.
Well, go then, Danny replies. When the heck did he get a smart mouth?

Dad, are you a man?
You need to start fires and go camping. 

File these under things that I never thought I would say:

Danny, you don't need a tennis racket to poop. He was sitting on the toilet with a tennis racket and a ball.

Don't yell at the fruit, I tell Fiona. She couldn't stab her kiwi with her toothpick. So she yelled at it.

Have a great weekend. And don't yell at the fruit.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Diary of an omniturnal mom

A full act in every ring

It's been a while since Mommy pulled an all nighter. And all nighters with kids are drastically less fun than a college all nighter. Even all nighters that involved studying in the library were more fun than, say, changing sheets filled with vomit four times in two hours, midnight baths and wiping diarrhea off the floor. 

It seems mommy could get only a one week respite from bodily fluid crises or BFC for short, which is what mommy is now calling all poop and vomit related incidents. Three weeks straight of BFC and mommy is about to check herself into an asylum.

11:00 p.m. Mommy is just about to wrap things up for the night and hit the sack when she hears Danny screaming in his bed. Another nightmare. She sits with him for a few minutes while he settles down and then heads to bed.


Mommy hears a sputter and a cough from Fiona's room. She lifts her head, freezes and waits. Then she hears the baby crying. It's a two alarm wake up. Mommy's feet hit the floor.

Fiona's face, pillow, sheets and pajamas are covered in puke. She is staring up at mommy in a stunned and horrified silence, unable to utter a single sound. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Owen, the 2 year old, is curled up and crying in a puddle of his own pee. He had managed to take off his diaper in order to, um, access his favorite toy. Faced with two BFCs, she calls for re-enforcements.

Her husband comes lumbering down the hall. He strips the bed, puts Owens' diaper back on, makes the bed back up and tells the boy to be quiet. Naturally, boy face starts crying even more.

Well, that was helpful. So now, mommy has a crying baby in the crib and a puke-covered girl standing in the bathroom.

Mommy changes the sheets and cleans the girl up. She even leaves a puke bucket and a cup of water next to her bed.

With Fiona cleaned up and in her freshly made bed, mommy turns to Owen who is still not settled down. She gives him a new diaper, fastened extra tight, and puts footed pajamas on backwards to keep him from finding his favorite toy. (This child has actually maneuvered through zip-up pajamas put on backward to find his penis. And, of course, this is why he wakes up soaking wet almost every night.) She nurses him and moves him to the pack and play in the closet. Separating the kids is usually the best way to minimize the chaos.

She starts to head for bed, but finds Fiona in the bathroom again. This time, she got some of the puke in the toilet. There's also some on the floor, the wall, the cabinets, the curtains, the floor and in the girl's hair.

Puke in the hair is an automatic bath no matter what time it is. Mommy has now lost count of how many times she's cleaned the bathroom. She wonders if this is her punishment for bathroom cleaning neglect.

She wraps Fiona in a towel and hears her mutter something which turns out to be "Carry me." So she carries the girl back to her clean bed, tucks her in and says good night, hoping the worst is over. How much more food can a child who hardly ate that day have in her belly?

12:45 a.m. Mommy's head hits the pillow. Five minutes later, Fiona pukes again. Mommy has now changed the sheets three times in less than an hour. She shoves yet another pile of soiled clothes, towels and pajamas in the washing machine and figures, what the hell, let's just start the washing machine at midnight. Might as well get a head start, right?

1:00 a.m. The washing machine is gearing up for launch. Mommy gets out of bed and tries unsuccessfully to balance the load. Ultimately, she just gives up, shuts the machine off and goes back to bed.

2:00 a.m. She hears Fiona in the bathroom yet again. This time, it's not puke, it's poop. On the floor, on the wall, on the toilet, in her bed, on the curtains.

8:00 a.m. Mommy discovers that the overloaded washing machine didn't quite clean all the vomit or the poop. She runs the wash again.

9:00 a.m. Mommy optimistically returns to the washing machine to finds chunks clinging to the sides of  the washing machine, chunks clingy to the sheets and towels and now chunks littering the carpet in front of the machine.

She's now cleaning bits of vomit out of the machine and off the floor. No, it is no consolation that this vomit has been cleaned. Twice, actually.

1:00 p.m. Mommy scrubs every surface in the bathroom with bleach and, for good measure, sprays everything with Lysol. She's washed everything in hot water and wiped down the bed with bleach and Lysol. She dares any germs to survive.

Twelve hours and counting post-puke-a-palooza and all bodily fluid is under control. For now.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Happiest 2 year old on the block

Two years ago tonight I went to bed pregnant, 16 days overdue and not in labor. About seven hours later, I was holding this guy.

I like to remember the days that we first met each of them, the days that we marveled at how much they just looked like the name we'd chosen months earlier, the days I spent inhaling the intoxicating scent of their newborn heads.

It helps to remember them as babies when they're in the throes of toddlerhood. On those days when they hurl themselves about like drunken billy goats and shriek like hyenas, I can remember how sweet it was to read a book with a two-day old asleep on my chest. 

He was our surprise baby; from getting pregnant with him to his gender to his size. Fiona was 6 months old when I got pregnant with Owen, who we didn't know would be an Owen. He was three full pounds larger than his older brother was at birth. Even now, he's enormous. People frequently ask me if my kids are triplets.  

Two years later, he's a happy, animated, very large kid.

And dirty. Constantly dirty.

Owen has a sense of humor at the tender age of two. A few nights ago, he was looking for his shoes. He put a basket over his head and said, "Not in here." His current hobbies include pushing around cars and his siblings as well as running full speed into walls, people and the dog. Essentially, he enjoys tackling us whenever he can.

And I'm happy to report that he is finally sleeping through the night, though he's not quite done nursing. In fact, yesterday he punched me in the chin when I refused to nurse him. This is going to be interesting.

Happy birthday, Owen!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The straight poop

I was going to do an Overheard column last week. However, since we've had some sort of stomach bug tearing through the house for the past two weeks there has been precious little else talked about. And it really isn't funny. At all.

The following phrases have been on a continuous loop around here:

Did you poop?

Do you need to poop?

My belly hurts. (Fiona)

Poop hurts. Bottom hurts. (Owen)

Mommmmmmmyyyyy. Poop. (Owen)

Got poop. (Owen)

To which, Jim responds: What are you telling me for? Your mother is right over there. (Thanks, man.)

(Did I mention that I changed eight, yes EIGHT, poopy diapers one day? That's just obscene.)  

Ohhhh. Not again. (Danny)

Okay. Don't move. I need to clean this up.


Wash your hands. Please.

WAIT. Don't flush it. I need to see it. (Really, I've been inspecting poop regularly.)

The classic B.R.A.T. (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) diet didn't banish or slow it. And I was not about to try the 24-hour liquid diet on three kids who would likely try to gnaw my leg off, even if I did offer them an endless buffet of popsicles. Every meal and snack had to be carefully vetted. My mind is numb from analyzing what my kids should and should not eat. It's like I'm some kind of poop chemist.

By the end of this whole ordeal, I was afraid to feed my children anything for fear of what would come out the other end. No one ever tells you about this stuff in the parenting books.

That is all.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Give us this day

I've long struggled with how to introduce Jesus to my children in ways that would not seem manipulative. As a teenager, I began to feel manipulated by how Jesus was presented to me. I've never been one to feel that going to church was absolutely necessary for salvation or favor in God's eyes. Staying away from church for as long as I have has actually helped me to think more clearly about God and what that concept means to me.

I've wondered, though, how exactly to convey the depth of my faith to a child who has not yet had the depth of experience that I've had.

A few weeks ago, the older kids came across a set of rosary beads. They both thought it was a really cool necklace. I told them they were rosary beads. Naturally, the next question was "What are rosary beads?"

I explained that they were special beads that people use to say prayers and think about Jesus -- very simplistic, I know. So from there, I introduced them to The Lord's Prayer. Danny repeated the lines after me. I stopped every few lines to talk about words such as trespass and temptation.

Give us this day our daily bread, I told them, means that we are asking God to give us what we need.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, I explained, means that Jesus forgives us our sins and, in return, expects us to forgive others.

A trespass is another word for sin, I told him.

What's sin? he asked.

It's when you do something that you know is wrong, I said.

And as if on cue, he reaches out and grabs a ball from his sister's hand.

That was the wrong thing to do, I told him. And he gave it back to her.

Next we discussed temptation. And as I'm explaining what it means to be tempted, he begins to sneak his hand toward the ball in Fiona's hands while eying me.

You're tempted to take that ball even though you know it's wrong, aren't you? I asked.

He admitted that he was.

So, without really trying and without feeling like I manipulated my children, I conveyed the three of the most important things that I pray to God for: give me what I need spiritually and physically, forgive me and help me behave.

We've also been reading a daily devotional book during what Danny has come to call "blanket time." Basically, it's our morning devotional time. We read our devotion, talk about it and do a prayer. Danny is pretty good about repeating the prayers after me, but one morning he said, "Wait, I want to do the prayer." And he started, "Dear God, I want to talk to you."

And I was stunned and humbled.

I've been telling him that prayer is just a conversation with God and that he can talk to Him whenever he feels scared or unsure of what to do next. I didn't think it actually would sink in. I mean, why would I think that it would sink in? This is the kid who still STILL leaves the door open when he goes inside or outside.

Next up? The rules. I found a children's book about the Ten Commandments at my favorite thrift shop. I began reading it to Danny and Fiona. I figured that I should start with love, forgiveness and conversation with God before moving on to the rules.