Friday, January 27, 2012


Good morning. I actually have the morning to myself. I decided not to spend it grocery shopping or doing things for other people. Okay, well, maybe I did a little something for other people. I promised the kids I'd have lemonade and their favorite, grapple (grape & apple) juice, for them by the time they came home from PMO. I'm such a sucker.

We've all been sick the past week or so. The baby isn't sleeping well and I'm the great enabler who nurses him every time he wakes up. The oldest is trying to kick the pull up habit so our nights are filled with crying, wet children once again. Princess Fiona sleeps through the whole thing. She's my favorite right now. She turns 3 on Tuesday!! (Stay tuned ... I'll likely post something profound and wonderful in the coming week about her.) 

I told Danny that I would wake him up and take him to the bathroom before I went to bed.  The first night without pull ups he sat at the top of the stairs shortly after bedtime, holding himself and crying:

You didn't wake me up. 
Well, you weren't asleep, I replied, puzzled.Wait, do you need to go to the bathroom right now?
Then go! (Did he really think he couldn't go to the bathroom after bedtime??)

And this is the kid who wants to learn Spanish. We have one book with Spanish words in it. (I know, I'm a horrible mom. Only ONE bilingual book in the house? Shoot me.) He's memorized and uses a few of the words, leche and zapatos being his favorites.

Mom, can I have some leche in my zapatos? Cute.  I know have the Oxford Dictionary online's Spanish English dictionary bookmarked and whenever he asks what a word is, we look it up and listen to the pronunciation. Homeschooling has never been so easy.
Buckle my seatbelt. My hands are full, Danny says. Um, excuse me? 
Look, kid, I'm not here to randomly do things for you that you can do for yourself. You got that Napoleon?

STOP SCREAMING, Danny screams at his sister.
When you tell someone to stop screaming, you shouldn't scream, Danny, I tell him. Do you get it?
I'll take the blank stare as a no.

I get a higher number when I jump on it, Danny says. Guess what "it" is? The scale.  

Did you just go through the walls [to get through the maze]? 
Yeah, because I'm heavy. I knock down walls, he replies. Well, that's cool, I guess.

What did that guy do?
[That driver] made a risky move and almost had an accident.
He's a bad guy.
No, honey, he just wasn't being too smart.
His brain wasn't working.

And he continued ...
Someone should call his mommy.
Oh, and what would his mommy do?
Scream. Which is something his mommy never, ever does. Ahem.
That's actually a good idea. Whenever you go before a judge, he should ask for your mother's phone number, Jim says. And we will all be so thrilled to be getting calls from judge's for the rest of our lives, won't we?

Just ask her for it and wait for an answer, I tell Danny.
FiFi, can I have that?
No. Oh, boy. I didn't tell him what to do if she says no.
She said No, Mom. 
Well, honey, try again later.
I don't want to do answers, he wailed. Life is so hard when you're sister is 3. 

Look, I tell Jim, I organized Owen's drawer so I can see all the shirts. 
You know what you're job is, he calls to Owen. Grrrrrrrr.

We miss Bob, don't we? Danny and I were talking about Bob one day.
No, no, I can fly up to the sky because that's where heaven might be.

This food is good and healthy for my belly button, Fiona says.

Good night. I love you, I tell Fiona.
Thanks. Boy do I feel sorry for her future boyfriends.

DiDi, wake up, Owen says to his sister. Awww.

I'm going to Krogert, Fiona says. I just love mispronounced words.

You doing good? Danny asks into a banana that he was pretending was a phone. Hey, why you not there? Well, for starters, you're talking into a banana.

Have a great weekend. I'll try not to be a stranger here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Real mom tip #3: Cleaning a bathroom

I'm always intrigued (that's my nice word for, um, well, you get the idea) by those mommy bloggers who give tips on how to find time to clean your house with the kids around. I once saw a list of how to clean your whole house in one month doing just a few chores a day. I mean, surely, the little buggers will stop pestering you and sowing destruction for 30 minutes while you do your few chores a day. I can't even get my kids to leave me alone when I turn on the TV and the fact that I appear busy doing something non-kid related just activates their intense, immediate need for that vitally important piece of lint that fell behind the sofa.

And the ones I really ponder hard are those titled "How to Keep Your House Clean." Keep your house clean? None of these posts start with "Don't have kids" as the first step in keeping a clean house, which, of course, is what you should do if you want a clean house.

For years, I've thought that the kids had to be completely out of the house or comatose in their beds for me to clean anything around here. Imagine my surprise when one night I had a sudden inspiration and burst of energy. One kid out with his dad, I plunked the younger two in the tub and looked around at the kids' bathroom. And sighed. Three feet and below on the walls and cabinets, everything was coated in grimy fingerprints and footprints (yes, footprints on the wall. no, I have no idea how.) It always amazes me how dirty our bathrooms get when they are the only rooms in the house with TWO faucets and lots of soap.

So I grabbed a container of bleach wipes and started wiping down everything in sight while the kids happily ignored me. While I wiped floors, walls, cabinets and counters, they were quietly pouring water from one container to another. I swear, they could do this for an hour. Some afternoons I just put them in the tub and let them play while I read a book in the bathroom. (That's a bonus tip for you. You're welcome.)

I also lock myself in the downstairs bathroom and clean it while they pound on the door. I'm not saying that I like this arrangement, but it is one way I can get a few minutes without the 21 month old hulk mauling me.

And when I'm finished I breathe in that clean smell and admire the room before they get out of the tub or I open the bathroom door.  Other than the kitchen, this is the only room in the house I have a system for cleaning.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


It's been a good week here. I've finally, after five years of parenting, gotten the hang of scheduling a day. In my defense, the first five years have been unpredictable with at least one diapered, preverbal, nocturnal kiddo in the mix. And until now, I've not really understood how to do this without feeling like I was manipulating the kids. Our days have been going something like this: breakfast, chores, story/devotional time, playtime/errands, lunch, more chores, nap for Owen, table time for the older kids and then a story and quiet time.

(Oh, a quick tip. I found a customizable chore chart application online. You can create your own chore chart with days of the week and whatever chores you want them to do and even put a picture on it for the kids to color. Check it out.)

Table time has been a big hit with Danny and Fiona. We do school-type work, crafts or sensory play such as rice, play dough or magnetic chips and wands. The past few days I've been working with Danny on handwriting. He likes to use an alphabet stencil that I have and do letter tracing. Today, though, for the first time in a week, we didn't do table time. There was a closet that needed to be cleaned. Badly. However, around 1:30, the two of them spontaneously gathered up notebooks and pencils and began writing and drawing. Danny even continued this activity during his quiet time.

That's a little spooky, but I'll take it. Anything to give Danny a little focus and direction. Five year olds are full of energy and bright ideas, apparently. At least once a day, I hear this:  

I can do that ... because I'm five.

Are you trying to lick your chest? Yes. Yes, he is. Because he's five.

Um, Aunt Josee, Danny's eating dirt. Of course, he is. We told her that it's because he's five.

Why did you throw the bat? Were you angry?
No. I needed to get it out of my hand. So, of course, throwing it and hitting his brother in the head was the logical solution.

Hey, I can make mashed potatoes with the new Kitchen Aid, I tell Jim. Danny overheard us and offered his two cents.
Or you can use the can crusher. Five year olds are just brilliant.

Just stop doing anything that you think is a good idea, I told Danny after three consecutive poor choices.

You can get up when you stop asking questions. 
I've stopped asking questions now. Sigh. That wasn't technically a question. Outsmarted by a 5 year old.

And he's also experimenting with lying or just telling stories.

Danny, did you make this mess? 
No, the monster did it. 
Danny, I know you're not telling me the truth. 

He still insisted that the monster did it. This went on for a few days until I realized that I didn't need to be right on this one. So I changed tactics.

Danny, did you make this mess. 
No, the monster did it. 
Well, you are the monster's personal assistant, so you're going to clean it up. 

The kids are kind of getting along. While I'm still in bed, I hear Danny and Fiona playing together rather well. I just love listening to them play in the morning. Of course, by the end of the day, cooperative play turns conspiratorial:

Why are you guys all holding hands? Jim asks as the three of them wander through the dining room with Fiona in the lead. Aw, man, something bad is going to happen. FiFi's leading them somewhere.

American woomba, Danny sings. I told him it was American Woman, but he insisted on woomba.

Danny, stop, turn around and look at me.
I don't like that word, he whimpered. He was referring to the word stop. I'm actually stunned that he is so articulate.

You guys need a rest today. You're not feeling well.
I'm not sick, Danny says. 
You told me you were sick when we were at Josh's house.
My underwear might have been too tight.

Owen hasn't been sleeping too well. We've been waiting to see what breakthrough awaits us.

NO. NO. NO. NO, Owen shouts at Jim.
Oh, no, Jim said. That's what he's been working on. Verbalizing defiance.   

Read this book, Owen says as he brings me book after book. Pretty soon I have a pile of books on my lap. And then he leaves.

Leave the table, Fiona. You're just causing trouble now instead of eating.
Trouble, Owen repeated. Trouble, trouble, trouble, he continued, pointing at Fiona.

Speaking of trouble ...

What the heck was she doing up there? I ask Jim after he went up to check on Fiona. We heard babbling.
Talking to herself in the mirror.

Do you know what she was doing up there?
Um, no. I was actually afraid to guess.
Danny's fast asleep and she's up on his bed with the radio cranked up. 

I want another kiss ... on the bum, Fiona says. Wait, did she just ask me to kiss her butt?

Have a great weekend.

Friday, January 06, 2012

The family dinner myth

My husband and I have decided not to invite the kids to dinner anymore.

Okay, people. Calm down. I didn't say we wouldn't feed them. We will; just not when the adults are eating. Eating with adults is now considered a privilege in this house.

Lately, dinner has become loud and contentious with a lot of bizarre misbehavior. They do things that haven't specifically been barred, but you'd think a 5 year old wouldn't stick his fingers in the whipped cream bowl or the 3 year old wouldn't put her fork in her milk. We find ourselves squelching every variation of a non-word noise that my son makes. We don't expect much from the youngest. We know that he's just a miniature billy goat at this point. Somehow, this is not what I had in mind when I made dinner together a priority around here.

I remember dinnertime being a fun, family time when I was a kid. My dad would do impressions and make us all laugh so hard that milk came out of our noses or someone threw up (usually me). Someone would pray, usually my dad and it was usually a low mumble leaving us wondering when it was okay to eat. My dad would say, "Time to slop the hogs" and my mother would feign offense at his reference either to us as hogs or her food as slop (most likely the latter). My baby brother would scarf down food while my other brother ate all of one item before moving on to another which earned him the nickname Mr. Single Threaded. And at least once a week, my dad would kick over the milk bottle that he'd placed on the floor next to his chair. The only argument I remember at the table was the classic,  self-incriminating "He had his eyes open when we were praying."

I don't remember what family dinnertime was like in the early years, when we were all the ages my kids are now. Recreating any of my childhood memories with my own children before they are at least the age I was in that particular memory gets me into trouble. And that may be why trying to recreate the family dinner experience of my childhood has become a frustrating exercise in barnyard management.

Here's what it looked like in my barn, I mean, home around 5:30:

Daddy gets home, hustles the kids into the bathroom to wash hands and gets them to the table while I plate up food that will just get thrown about the table and barely eaten. 

Danny whoops and hoots at the table, but sometimes tries to engage his father in conversation about his or his dad's day. Fiona is on a continuous whine loop. If I give her a fork, she wants a spoon. She makes one frustrated attempt after another to eat spaghetti with a spoon and then begs me to feed her spaghetti. With the spoon. When I refuse, she tries to get in on Danny's and Jim's conversation. And then the chorus of "I'm going to beat you" begins. Fiona makes this claim but doesn't eat a thing. Danny gets his undies in a bind over it and wolfs down most of his food. Owen is the only who eats unprompted, until he decides to throw his plate and cup. There are warning signs and usually one of the adults removes the plate in time.

By this time, I usually have heartburn-induced chest pains and am taking slow, deep breaths while holding my chest and wondering if I'm about to die. I am also bitterly debating with myself whether making dinner every night is even worth the effort. See, I'm a person who like to cook and likes to feed people. And this is what I have to work with. It's depressing.

The most common phrases heard around our table?

I'm going to beat you. (from the kids, not the adults.)

Stop him. He's getting ready to throw.


SIT DOWN.  (Seriously, people, when do children learn to sit down like normal human beings? My 8 and 10 year old nieces were here this past weekend and couldn't sit still in their chairs. I apparently have at least 10 more years of this.)

When the adults try to talk to each other, one or all of them start making random noises that would probably drown out the fire alarm. 

So much for dinner conversation and manners.

Monday night was the first night that I didn't call the kids to dinner. I just plated up some food for them and when the hungriest one of the bunch wandered into the kitchen, I fed him. It was Owen, of course, and he came in whining, "Hungry." The others followed later. I didn't even ask them if they'd washed their hands. There was the usual shenanigans, but I did a minimum of policing. The best part was that it wasn't disturbing my dinner, which I had later with my husband in the dining room. Danny wandered in while we were eating and wanted to talk to us. We let him.

After a few nights of Jim and I eating in the dining room while the kids ate in the kitchen, we all somehow wound up eating together at the kitchen table. Closer quarters, less shenanigans and more food actually eaten.

It's a shift in focus. Instead of mealtime being about feeding and family time, it's just about feeding them. I spend all day with them and by dinner time, I don't need more family time. I need to talk to my husband and I don't want to wait until the kids are asleep.  Sounds harsh, I know, but it's true. I need to eat while sitting down instead of carrying my food around with me. I need to eat without a child on my lap.

If we didn't make this change, by the time they're old enough to hold conversations and behave like human beings, we wouldn't be on speaking terms. Sometimes I just need to take a break from my ideals and hit the reset button.

Sunday, January 01, 2012


I'm always fascinated by how radically the landscape changes in a year with small children, especially when the most annoying phases seem like they will never end. And yet, changes big and small can happen without fanfare and almost overnight.

The baby sleeps through most nights now. The two older ones come down for breakfast fully dressed. I'm out of the poop loop for the older two. Heck, I rarely have to wipe anymore. And I don't even remember when this happened.

Last year at this time, I was probably wondering when my four year old would stop wetting his pants.  Now I can't remember the last time he did. 
My little girl was barely talking and just getting the hang of potty training. Now she gets up at night to go to the bathroom and I wish she would just stop talking so much.

My youngest was just getting up to speed with crawling. Walking seemed so far away, yet I can't even remember him crawling. And to think that next year at this time, potty training may be a reality.

I took a break from blogging over the holidays. Sometimes I just need to stop talking and analyzing and thinking. But I still listen and laugh because if I didn't, well, I just would take myself too seriously. So enjoy the banter.

The poo ring is at least two hours old, Jim declares as he's changing Owen's diaper. I'm going to need to call in a forensic poopologist. 

What? It's not me, dude, Jim tells Owen who's crying over a poopy diaper change. If you'd just poop in the potty, this wouldn't be a problem for you.

Hi guys, Owen says as he sits next to Danny and Fiona on the curb.  The two of them were actually in time out. He's such a kid brother. 

Why don't adults have guys? Danny asks as he clutches a new stuffed animal. He calls his family of stuffed animals his guys.

My nose is running, Fiona whines.
And what do you do when your nose is running? I ask. I'm trying to get her to stop telling me and just go get a damn tissue from the bathroom. 
Pick your nose, Danny pipes up.

So where do you live, Danny? Santa asked him.
North America. I'm actually kind of glad he didn't recite his address, which he can now rattle off, to a stranger.

I match with the mirror, Fiona declares.

What is it? Danny asks.
It's ham. You eat it. It's yummy. Fi has a career in marketing ahead of her.

More conversations with Danny and Fi:

What do you want to be when you grow up? Danny asks.

Mom, Danny says breathlessly, I went poop and it came out straight and not sploosh, so I didn't have to wipe. Oh joy, my 5 year old has discovered hygiene shortcuts.

Stop banging on the ottoman [with the sharp edge of a toy hammer], I tell Fiona.
I'm trying to make a window. Of course you are.

No. You spit that honey out, Danny yells about a pretend plate of honey Fiona handed him. Apparently, she had taken a pretend bite of his pretend honey. Maybe he was pretending to be angry?

I wanted to beat Fiona, Danny wails. You spit that [food] out, Fi. Oh, please don't.

When our house burns down, we can live with Nana, Fiona says. When?

Santa won't come unless you're asleep on Christmas Eve, guys. You have to be sleeping in your beds, I tell them.
I don't like Santa, Fiona replied with a furrowed brow.

No, the kids are still up. Come back later, Jim tells "Santa," who had just rung the doorbell. The kids scooted right up to bed.

Don't touch me until you tell me where you got that water from, I tell Fiona. She had just returned from the bathroom and her hair was wet. Yes, I was worried that she had put her head in the toilet. It's happened here before.

There's something wrong with this [fridge door water dispenser], Danny says. He does it again and water comes splashing over his cup.
Take the lid off, Danny, I reply.

I did it. I rode the dog. Then I fell off, Danny tells me excitedly. It was such an exciting event for him that he continued: I couldn't ride Bob. I was three then. Now I can.

Happy New Year!