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!!