Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The throne of solitude.

It seems the only acceptable place to lock yourself away from your children is in the bathroom.  And naturally, as it much easier to excuse yourself to the bathroom, than, say, to the garage for a quick smoke (I personally don't smoke, but I might just pick around through a tool box for a bit to use up some time), you tend to take a lot of bathroom breaks.  Especially on "those" days.  If you haven't caught on by now, I'm not talking about anything to do with frequent urination, but rather the need of a human being to have some time to oneself.  Time for quietness, reflection, a break for the senses, and time away from the noise of the house, the yard, the people to just enjoy taking a breath and hearing it come back out.  The bathroom is the only remaining place where this can happen.  You are guaranteed at least one trip to bathroom per day (I hope), and so you relish this idea of a moment of solitude, to sing Beastie Boys to yourself, maybe put on some mascara, or perhaps you'll just close your eyes for a quick fiver.   A moment presents itself - the children are occupied, you have had a few cups of coffee - time to punch out for spell in the porcelain oasis.  Yes, let the break begin.  With luck, you may have a whole five minutes before they figure out where you are.  Just as sigh of relief exits your wearied lips (all that hollerin' takes a toll on you) there they are.  Four fingers.  Under the door.  They retreat.  You wait, to see if you can return to your solitude, and then a plastic spoon and a marker cap come sliding into the cabinet.  You sigh, wishing so terribly you could ignore it, but you know a marker cap in the bathroom is a sure sign of a marker without a cap somewhere in the house.  And the spoon?  Eh.  You think, whatever they have done is done and will be cleaned up either now or later, forget it, give yourself two more minutes.  You close your eyes to forget about the contraband under the door and then, a knock.  And another.  And fourteen more.  "Mom? Are you in there?  What are you doing?  Mom?"  Head hangs low.  "I'm going to the bathroom.  I'll be right out."  A pause, perhaps they are satisfied and you can have this last minute to yourself.  No.  The child has simply left only to return with the other children, informing them that you are indeed in the bathroom, and will soon be emerging.  They knock.  And call for you.  "Are you done?"  You are pretty sure you can see the shadow of at least one head trying to peek under the door.  You surrender, and emerge, and although your respite was brief, you do feel a bit refreshed.  You decide you will just pay them back with knocking and questioning at the bathroom door when they are teenagers trying to get away and save their sanity.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

O Christmas Tree

Every year, my husband anticipates the arrival of Christmas decorating with the eagerness of my anticipation for bedtime.  He enjoys it so much, I think he likes Thanksgiving just because he can get the Christmas decorations out after dinner.  It's great, and the kids love it, too.  One tradition he really wants to carry from his own childhood is decorating the tree together.  "Jingle Bells" plays in the background, while I pour glasses of egg nog for everyone, and the girls watch with delight as their father unrolls four thousand strings of lights across the living room floor.  We ooh and ah and reminisce about each ornament as the children take turns hanging them gently on the tree, careful not to drop them.  The tree is enormous, but the thousands of lights we have manage to drape every branch, and, what's that?  I think I just saw a snowflake fall!  No?  Sounds too Hallmark to be true?  Well, you're right.  It starts out picturesque, but the egg nog was the first mistake - the lids are inevitably taken off, spilling puddles of nog throughout the house.  And yes, there are thousands of lights, and the children are mesmerized - so much so that they want to plug them all in...themselves.  The ornaments last a second or two before three are broken (glass, of course), one has been repurposed as jewelry, and the rest are confiscated back to the box.  The dog has found some candy canes, and is generously sharing with the baby, while the blonde re-unpacks the ornaments to set up her own ornament shop, which the brunette knows she must sabotage.  I am freaking out, prying sticky years old candy canes away, vacuuming up broken ornament glass, and desperately trying to get egg nog out of the couch cushions (that is not a smell I want to come across two weeks from now).  To me, decorating time is a bust.  The girls are clearly not old enough to be handling ornaments, helping string lights, or drinking egg nog (too far?).  That's it!  Shut it down!  I look to my husband, hoping to get the mutual "abort mission" look that we so often share, but he is not at all in the same state I am in.  He is smiling, singing, drinking his egg nog cheerfully, calling the girls over to hang up ornaments and showing them the lights, which really do drape every branch so nicely.  The girls offer placement suggestions, he tenderly lifts them up to hang it themselves, and kisses them on the way down.  They are all beaming and cheery and thoroughly enjoying decorating together.  My husband turns of the music, gets the star for the top of the tree, and sings "O Christmas Tree" as the girls, and I now, sit in wonder, not so much at the tree, but at my husband.  While I was busy trying to manage the task, he was able to just enjoy the moment.  All that was important to him was doing this small tradition as a family - it didn't matter that there was egg nog spilled (at this point, everything in our house has some kind of smell anyways), or that only the top half of the tree had ornaments on it (have to keep them out of reach, you know).  He was just glad to be decorating, and to have the girls there helping.  Hallmark worthy?  Maybe not, but it sure brought a sentimental tear to my eye.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The diaper cycle.

Babies wear diapers.  In case you hadn't noticed.  And in the beginning, they wear a lot of diapers, on account of all the pooping.  When your first baby comes along, you buy very nice cushy diapers for your sweet little angel's delicate hind quarters, but soon enough, you discover that these sweet little biscuits can do some serious damage, and frequently.  So, since diapers are pricey and you have realized you are changing baby's diapers far more often than you had thought (like a dozen a day!), you switch to the cheaper brand to compensate for the rate of usage.  Besides, the baby poops in it and you throw it away - why spend more than you have to?  Gradually, because baby is now eating some solid foods, the pooping slows to a comfortable four to five diapers a day.  Much more manageable, both in the finance department and in in the amount of time spend wiping up body fluids side of things.  This is great!  You can anticipate that baby will need a change in the morning, poop before lunch, change after nap, poop before dinner (because babies always poop before a meal to make room, right?), and a change before bed.  An excellent diaper routine, and you can pretty accurately predict how many diapers you need and how often you need to stock up.  It's wonderful.  Predictability is hard to come by in child rearing, but for a few, all too short months, the diaper situation is nice and easy.  And then one day, baby asks to go potty.  Well, some kids might.  My oldest had to be begged to use the toilet, but we'll run with baby wants to potty, since it helps my story, and in truth, this is how my littlest started her "toilet journey".  Anyways, baby wants to go potty.  Ok!  Here it is, the next milestone, potty training!  And baby is so eager!  Yes, baby, let's go potty!  The tiny toilet comes out, baby's diaper comes off, she sits, she giggles, she chatters with you about sitting on the potty, she is generally cute, especially because she is just tiny and sitting on the toilet.  Precious.  Baby most likely does not actually make use of the toilet, but that's ok!  She sat there!  She liked it!  Of course, the diaper she had been wearing is a little wet, so it gets tossed and baby gets a fresh diaper.  You cheer, you dance, it was a good toilet experience.  Then, an hour later, baby wants to use the toilet again.  Yes!  Potty time!  Diaper off, baby sits, baby giggles, no actual pottying is done, baby wants down.  The diaper is slightly wet, ever so slightly wet, but you can't put a wet diaper back onto baby, so you get a new one.  Over the next few days, as baby proves to be eager enough to want to go potty several times throughout the day, you come to realize that the diaper rotation has been radically thrown off course.  You are going through dozens of diapers!  It's newborn diaper usage all over again, only this time around, the diapers are barely soiled!  Of course you know it is wasteful to throw away a diaper that has mere drops of baby tinkle on it, but when you try to put it back on baby's darling behind, you feel the universe staring at you, judging you, "did you REALLY just put a dirty diaper back on your baby?".  You can't do it.  And you can't deny baby a trip to the toilet, either.  She asks for the third time in an hour, and you really want to say no, because you can tell her diaper might be a little wet.  You don't want to have to throw away a diaper with at least one more hour left of good wear time, and you are pretty sure she won't really go on the toilet anyways, but you have to take her or she'll fear the toilet and will never be potty trained!  Plus, she cries when you suggest she wait a little while!  She knows you are denying her a basic right to toilet!  It's irrational!  It's annoying!  You can't stand yourself!  And forget training pants - those cost twice as much as diapers.  Underwear?  Maybe, but then you'd be doing a lot of floor scrubbing, and sorry, but my whole house is carpeted - it is not time for underwear.  And so here you are, stuck in the last and most frustrating turn of the diaper cycle, where the diapers are not being used fully, but are certainly being used up.  All you can say is, at least we buy the cheap diapers.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The vandals.

It seems like anytime there is an illustration of children being naughty, four out of five times it will depict said naughty child drawing on the wall.  The child has maliciously scribbled all over the hallways, thus prompting the mother to deliver a stern spanking and a bucket of sudsy water for the child to erase his or her terrible offense.  Whether or not this is true of most households, I don't know, but it is true of ours.  Of course they know that drawing on the walls is not permitted, and yet, I find myself filling up the proverbial sudsy bucket more frequently than I would like to.  You see, the blonde has an affinity for writing and illustrating.  She draws wonderful pictures of herself and her sisters going down curly slides, picking flowers from a meadow, and often she'll add a few "words" to describe the scene at hand.  It is glorious.  Especially because I was the same way.  I loved to draw and write little stories, so naturally, I see her interest and both relate to and appreciate and encourage it.  However, she also has an affinity for secrecy.  And vandalism.  Recently, as I was preparing a fabulous meal for my family, I went to open the pantry door and noticed a peculiar marking on the door.  Upon closer inspection, I found it to be a tiny, pencil drawn heart and the letter "A".  Seeing as the blonde is the only child in our house who knows how to maneuver a pencil delicately enough to draw a microscopic picture, I approached her about it.  "Did you write a little 'A' and a heart on the pantry door?"  She contemplates, perhaps trying to remember, "Yes."  I make the disappointed mother face, but not so much to emotionally wound her and gently remind "Well, do you know that we are not supposed to write on anything except for coloring paper?"  She appears remorseful, and replies "Yes, I'm sorry."  This is going well.  I tell the blonde that since she has done something naughty, she must take responsibility and clean it up, and so she scrubs without complaint, and the tiny scribble is erased.  I feel a bit of satisfaction over the success of this disciplinary interaction.  Well done!  As I continue cooking and going about the house, I notice another tiny mark.  And another, and another.  Only these are in pink marker, and slightly more elaborate than the "A" and heart on the pantry door.  There are actual tiny people, and names, and other shapes on every door in the house.  Granted, they are small drawings, but tiny things have a tendency to get bigger when left unaddressed.  I call the blonde, and coyly ask if she had happened to draw any other little pictures similar to the one on the pantry door.  She silently shakes her head yes, and proceeds to point them out to me, including a few I had missed along baseboards and under counter tops (when was all of this happening?).  Slightly agitated at the prolific nature of her secret taggings, I again remind the blonde that drawing and writing must only be done on appropriate surfaces, such as paper and only paper.  She again scrubs without a fight, and the house is restored to original graffiti-free splendor.  Over the next few weeks, I periodically come across a fresh offense, and reprimand the blonde accordingly, this time elaborating that the rules are the same as they had been the first time she got in trouble for drawing on the walls.  As irritating as it is, I am glad that it is only tiny marks and scribbles, and that it cleans fairly easily.  But of course, it is never that easy.  The blonde asks me today, "Is it ok to draw a smiley face on the lamp shade?"  Um, what?  "No it's not ok.  Did you already do it?"  She smiles, and stands awkwardly with her hand "resting" on the lamp shade.  Out comes the sudsy bucket.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Catch phrase

As a parent, one of the best perks of being the primary language teacher in your child's formative years is that you can make them say really funny things.  Even funnier, is that they usually don't even know what they are saying, but you are laughing, so they continue to say it.  Soon, they say it on their own, knowing it will elicit rounds of laughter from all the world.  Now, I'm not talking about making your baby shout profanities (although, when discovered accidentally on their own, can be amusing, but one must use vast amounts of self control to not laugh and encourage swearing as a habit); I'm thinking more along the lines of "shake and bake, baby" or "oh Phillip, I think I farted".  For instance, when the blonde was a baby and started talking, my husband and I went crazy with the funny baby catchphrase routine.  We'd think of something hilarious, make the blonde say it in her tiny baby voice, it would be even more hilarious than we had ever hoped for, and we'd inevitably call our friends and make them listen to her saying it on the phone.  "Did you hear?  She said 'how you doin'!"  Maybe only slightly amusing for them, but for us, our baby was a comic natural.  Soon enough, she caught on and became choosy with her act, and settled on one phrase - "I want my baby back baby back baby back ribs."  Admittedly, it's not the most hilarious thing a baby could say, but the blonde thought it was funny, and who can argue with a baby cracking herself up?  As her language developed, so did her sense of humor, and soon the blonde started throwing out variations of the catch phrase to maintain a fresh act.  By the time the brunette was learning to talk, it had morphed into "I want my bigga baby back," which was both weird and a little funny.  Both girls would shout it back and forth, falling into hysterical laughter over how comically genius they were, and as a duo, even better.  We, too, thought they were pretty funny, but then again we also brought them forth into this world, so obviously everything they do is amazing.  The phrase would show up quite frequently, and would continue to change, eventually becoming "I wanna bigga back baby."  Um, yes, weird.  Recently, a lip-popping "poo" has somehow been tacked onto the end, so now all the girls, even the baby, sit in the back of the car chanting "I wanna bigga back baby *poo*", followed by rolling laughter and red faces.  And of course, their dad and I think it's hilarious and make them say it whenever we see anyone who may or may not be up for some homespun comedy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lovey dovey

Many children have a special little toy or blanket that they are particularly attached to, and while all of my girls were pacifier kids, none of the older two were very attached to any one of their millions of soft fluffy comforting things.  The baby, however, has the lovey.  The lovey is a small, square, brown blanket with a plush owl's head.  It is not one of the little blankets with the satin edges; it is just brown and soft, and big enough to cover the baby's face when she's getting sleepy.  While these features may be enough to snuggle any other child into a dreaming stupor, they were useless to the baby without the tag. There is a small tag in one corner, just like a t-shirt tag, and this was what made the lovey special, magical, even.  In her itty bitty days, I noticed the baby held onto my shirt when she slept, and as it impossible (as much as I'd have loved for it to be otherwise) to accomplish much of anything while holding a sleeping baby, I thought I'd give her something else to hold onto - enter the lovey.  It had been a gift to one of the other girls in their baby days, and as it was clean and within reach, this was what I gave the baby to hold onto.  Gradually, she began to look for and expect the lovey come sleepy time, and as it made laying her down for naps SOOOO much easier, I didn't fight it.  Lots of babies have special blankets, and now so did mine.  Over time, the baby began to explore the lovey - looking at it's head, rubbing it on her cheeks, putting it in her mouth -and it was on one of these occasions that the baby found the tag.  She rubbed it between her fingers, sucked on it a little, and then... jabbed it in her eye.  And liked it.  At first I thought it was kind of funny, like she was doing it on accident and couldn't get it to do what she really wanted, but I soon came to realize that being stuffed in her eyeball (eyelids open, people!) was exactly what she wanted the lovey's tag to be doing.  It was weird, but by now, she loved the lovey and it came everywhere, and was washed often.  Anytime the baby started getting tired, she'd search out the lovey, plop down somewhere, and rub the tag all over her eye, humming softly on her pacifier (they became a unit, team pacer-lovey).  I got used to it, as creepy as it was to see an infant intentionally impaling herself in the eye with a slobbery blanket tag (it frequently pulled double duty as eye jabber and substitute pacifier), but what parent can deny their child their most treasured possession?  As she got a bit older and started saying a few little words, she even began to generously offer the lovey tag for you to poke your own eye with by smashing it on your face saying "eye, eye, eye?".  Very sweet, but I'll pass.  Now, the baby is 18 months old, and I have to say, I have done an excellent job caring for the lovey.  It is washed regularly, has never been left at anyone's house, and is always nearby come bedtime.  The baby brings it everywhere, and it has never been lost.  Until last week.  Upon returning from a quick trip for toilet paper, I realize the lovey is not accounted for.  I check the car seats, check the sidewalk, check under the car, check in the car door, storage cubbies, trunk, glove compartment, stroller (which wasn't even used), and find no lovey.  A bit of panic wells up, as nap time is in the very near future, and I have made the mistake of putting the lovey in the washing machine too close to naptime and it does not go well.  No lovey generally means no nap.  The store is just across the street, so I call first to see if anyone has turned in a nasty brown rag that is very special to my daughter, and have no luck, so I decide to just go back and look myself.  I cruise the parking lot scanning the spaces for a brown lump under one of the cars, no doubt looking like some scary stalker lady to the shoppers who are oblivious to my real distress.  No lovey.  Park the car, go inside, up and down every aisle, behind registers, in the bathroom, customer service, no dice.  Go home, double check every place that has already been torn apart in search of the lovey and come up both empty handed, and now super panicked as I remember that we leave in two days to fly back to Denver.  This is not looking good.  How will I survive a plane ride (by myself with the kids) without the lovey to comfort and quiet the baby?  A new sense of urgency wells up and I turn the whole house and car upside down looking for that stupid dirty owl thing!  Call the store!  No lovey!  Call a few other places I may or may not have been to in the last few days!  No lovey!  Panic!  Go to the store and buy a sort of similar but not really NEW lovey!  This will have to do.  We leave in two days.  I try my best to make the new lovey seem as exciting and soft and wonderful as I can, and the baby buys it - until she is tired, and then it is just another thing that is not the real lovey.  She even calls for the lovey and looks for it (my heart is cracking and little chips are falling out here).  She cries, and I do too, a little, but eventually, she falls asleep.  For the next two days before we leave I am on a continuous hunt for the lovey, and before I know it, travel day has arrived, and I have to give up on finding the lovey in time.  Of course, the baby screams on the plane and sleeps terribly while we are away, but then, finally, a little respite comes on the flight home when she actually snuggles the new lovey and falls asleep.  I sigh to myself, happy that she is ok with the new lovey, but also a little sad inside that the real lovey, a piece of her little babyhood, is gone.  She carried it everywhere - to bed, to church, across the country when we moved - and I lose it on a trip to buy toilet paper at the store across the street.  A tiny part of me is actually mourning over the loss of the lovey.  After our trip, we do the routine unpacking and laundry, and as we are out of all food except for saltines and pickles, I head across the street for some grocery shopping.  As we are about to leave the store, we pass customer service and I think to myself that I might as well ask if a little brown owl blanket has been turned in.  It has been a week and a half by now, but I figure this will be my last effort, and then I'll forget about the lovey.  The lady at the counter sad frowns, as I am sure she has her own children with smelly objects of affection, and disappears into the back.  I sigh, thinking "oh, well, I guess that's it", when she emerges with a soft, brown, owl blanket.  The baby recognizes the lovey and reaches for it right away, and I swear tiny hearts were coming out of her eyes.  She snuggles in, finds the tag, and ever so lovingly, jabs it right in her eye.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Have a seat.

My daily routine is pretty much exactly that.  Daily.  Routine.  Our family does pretty much the same thing every day, which, I am told, is good for kids.  They should have consistency; know who they are going to be with, know what to expect from each day, thus allowing them to live without fear of emotional upset.  Well, we have taken this to heart, so much so, in fact, that the girls have developed their own special breakfast routine, and as consistency is the backbone to stability, they are careful not to pass this particular routine up on a day to day basis.  It happens every morning, without fail, in the exact same way.  And try as I may to disrupt or redirect it, the girls are holding fast to this routine that they so desperately need to ensure their stability.  It begins, I'm sure, from the moment they wake up.  While they may not be actively engaged in this routine at this moment, I know at least one of them is already thinking about it in her tiny little groggy morning head.  We do they normal morning things - go potty, get dressed, put pajamas away - and then, as I call for the children to gather at the table for our normal morning meal of hot waffles, scrambled eggs and fresh squeezed orange juice (or cold cereal and the rest of any open juice boxes left in the fridge, but that's not the point), the spectacle begins.  There are five chairs at our table, as there are five people in our home.  One has a booster seat strapped to it, so this chair is perpetually dibsed by the baby.  The brunette has tried on occasion to oust the baby from her rightful place in the booster seat, but she usual ends up getting stuck and conceding.  So now, we are left with four chairs remaining, an ample amount of fine seating for two children to choose from.  This, however, is not the case.  There is one chair with a clear view of the television, and unbeknownst to me, it also has magical powers and is made of gilded fairy wings and can fly.  And this is the chair of choice.  It must be said, that we do not watch TV while we eat.  Rarely, it will be on during a snack, but not ever during meals, so it surely must be the mystical qualities of this chair that make so desired by my children.  The brunette wastes no time in the mornings; she is often awake first, dresses herself, and even has already gotten a jump on the Barbie bucket before the rest of us have managed to drag ourselves out of bed.  The blonde, however, requires maximum assistance in the morning, and the brunette is fully aware of this.  As soon as the blonde rounds the hallway corner, slightly disoriented and still a little asleep, the brunette, in waiting, leaps into the magical chair.  The blonde, roused now by the glare of the fluorescent kitchen light sees her sister sitting the chair of choice and howls "NO(OOOO)!  I wanted to sit there!" as she collapses in anguish to the floor.  As a fair minded mother, I tell her "Blonde, your sister was there first, maybe tomorrow if you move a little quicker you can sit there."  Now, this happens every morning, so you'd think I'd just stop trying, but I say it anyways, just so I don't feel like I haven't used an opportunity to teach fairness.  "But I wanted to sit there!  She always sits there!  I never get to sit there!  I wanted it first!" cry cry cry.  The brunette bides her time quietly, soaking in her sister's misery.  I remind the blonde that we have such and such today, so please just sit somewhere so we can eat breakfast.  The blonde crawls, heaving herself to the table, and manages to get herself into the chair beside the chosen one.  Big sniffles, muttering under her breath, general melodramatics.  "Brunette, " she says beseechingly, "I really wanted to sit there."  The brunette ignores the plea and busies herself with the baby.  "MOM!" the blonde cries out, "I really wanted to sit there!"  I, in the interest of upholding my previous statement, and also because I don't really like this much whining before my coffee is ready, reiterate to the blonde that her sister was there first, it's just a chair, deal with it.  More howling, fading to whimpers and a quivering lip.  Then, the climax and simultaneous finale to the routine, the brunette turns to her sister in her time of desperation and cheerfully says "you can sit here if you want."  The blonde meekly thanks the sister, and they trade seats.  Every morning.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Let's talk about listening skills.  Listening skills are crucial for...well, probably anything.  You have to listen to your boss at work so you know what job needs to be done, you have to listen to your teacher at school so you know what is expected in the classroom, you have to listen to the weather report to know if it is safe for you to stand in your yard with a flagpole.  Basically, being able to listen to people is important for gaining understanding of what you should or should not be doing, whether for your safety, or for productivity.  My problem is that my children have yet to acquire this skill set.  Frankly, I'm not even sure if they have mastered hearing, let alone listening.  A glimpse, if you will.  A trip to the store is in order.  I say (calmly in a regular voice) "We are getting ready to leave, please put your shoes on."  Simple instruction, simple task.  I was audible, I was clear, the statement was obviously directed to the children, as I was both standing in front of and looking right at them.  And yet, no response.  They continue to put Barbie's shoes on and off, rather then their own.  I take it in, and adjust, this time squatting closely, and speaking louder (not shouting, just commanding) "Blonde and Brunette (I use names so there is no confusion as to who I am talking to), we will be leaving the house soon, please put your shoes on."  I even try to help out by placing the shoes in the line of play, so that on the off chance my stern voice was still not loud enough, they may see the shoes and get the hint.  I wait, they pause, see the shoes, and cleverly twist their bodies so the shoes are hidden from sight without having had actually acknowledged their being there.  Hmm, I am now beginning to feel the bubbling of frustration creeping up in my neck, that kink that shifts your face from patient mommy look to stiff, but not quite scary look.  New tactic, I remove the toys from the immediate area so there may be no distraction, turn their faces with my hands (nicely!) so that even if they are not looking at me, they can still at least see me, and say again, this time through loosely clenched teeth "Blonde.  Brunette.  Shoes.  Feet.  Now.  Please."  Of course I still say please.  "Ok."  Yes!  They put their shoes on, albeit leisurely, but at least they are completing the task at hand.  The blonde, now aware we are going somewhere, asks me "Where are we going?"  I reply (in a regular, clear voice) "Just to the grocery store for some milk and stuff for dinner."  Easy reply, clear voice, uncomplicated information.  "Huh?" she says.  "The grocery store for some milk and stuff."  I streamline, as well as up the volume to a louder, but reasonably indoor voice.  "Huh?"  Are you kidding?  You asked a question, you should listen for the answer, I just told you twice.  The kink.  "The grocery store."  There.  "Huh?"  What!?  Now I just skip over trying to collect myself and respond appropriately and say "GROCERY STORE" in the voice you use to talk to either a 95 year old or a Japanese tourist.  I even nod my head a little and make hand motions to allude to pushing a grocery cart.  Satisfied?  "Oh. Ok."  We get in the car, everyone is buckled, make it to the store and get what we need.  My husband calls while we are here, and he asks if I will pick up some ice cream for later. (Here I need to explain that my husband and I like fancy ice cream, and we like it by ourselves after the kids are in bed.  It is delicious and unwasted on slurping hooligans who only eat two bites and leave the rest to melt.  Don't worry, they still get ice cream, just not fancy ice cream.)  I I discreetly reply to him in hushed tones that I am with the kids and if they see me go down the ice cream aisle to the fancy ice cream case they will freak out.  I even back away from the cart a bit and park it in front of some coloring books so they will surely not be paying attention to what I am saying.  He understands, and we agree it will be retrieved by him at a later time (judge me if you want for being this sneaky, but I do NOT want to share Ben and Jerry's, and neither would you if you saw how my kids eat ice cream), and I hang up.  We get in line, load the conveyor belt and the blonde says "Mom, you forgot to get the fancy ice cream that Dad called to ask you for."  Well, I guess her actual hearing is fine, after all.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The happiest place in the world

Last week our family wrapped up a seven day vacation in Disney World with my husband's family.  Now, I love a vacation, but as anyone with children, well, let me rephrase that, as any mother knows, a vacation with small children is no easy feat.  There is the packing - an outfit for each day, plus extras for accidents, spills, and all the other unforeseen yet somehow unavoidable messes children tend to get themselves into.  Then there are the pool accessories, which alone use up a good half of the suitcase (inflatable anythings NEVER fold up as small as they came in the package), and the myriad of toiletries and diapering items.  If you can manage to get all of this into one suitcase (ha, good luck), you are still left with the backpack/diaper bag, which gets filled to the brim with snacks and sippy cups, spare pacifiers (which will be lost on the second day anyways), and as many wipes as you can shove into one of those travel cases and still keep it mostly closed.  Oh, and of course, the stroller(s).  A lot of stuff, but with some packing finesse (and a huge sigh of relief that we get to drive all this junk in our car instead of trying to check it and claim it at the airport like we had thought back in Colorado - bonus for moving to Florida!) you get it and most of the kids in the car and on the road.  Wait, where's the baby?  Just kidding, but you should know that, because who actually forgets their baby?  Right?  Anyways, you make it to the hotel, get the key, dump the junk in the room, do the potty rounds (you always do the potty rounds before you leave a place with a clean potty), gather the backpack junk, spray sunscreen flames into the kids' faces (noting that next time you will spray it in your hands first and then rub it on), load the stroller and head to the parks.  Awesome!  We made it!  The castle!  The balloons!  A princess!  Happy music!  Happy children!  Yes, let's get in line to ride our first ride!  In line!  It's moving!  "Mom, I have to go potty."  Hmm, we did the potty round before we got here, but it's the first day, and they were probably just excited to get here, so you exit the line, locate a bathroom, do the bathroom thing, jump back in line.  On the ride!  So much fun!  Girls love it!  Exit the ride, head towards the next attraction, and the other child pipes up "I have to go potty."  You gently remind the child that the next time she sees you taking her sister to the bathroom, she should ask to come too so you don't have to go back twice.  Child nods, back to the bathroom (you have already mentally noted it's location and proximity to attractions for future visits) and back to the rest of the family.  Little do you know, this bathroom dance has set the tone for the rest of your vacation.  Any time you get in line for anything, someone will need to go, so you try to stay ahead of it by asking if there is a need any time you pass a bathroom, but of course, no one needs to go until the bathroom is four miles behind you.  You try to stay positive, thinking you'd much rather make a few trips to the bathroom than change clothes because of accidents, but soon, it is getting ridiculous.  The bathroom trips are showing up before and after every attraction, and at least four times during meals.  Like, take a bite, take a kid to the bathroom, come back, take a bite, take the same or another kid to the bathroom, come back, take another bite, and so on.  You have found exit paths out of half of the rides, and know where every single toilet in every single park is located, as well as which ones have a short sink for kids because "that is so cool!  A sink my size!", which is cool, as it cuts out the balancing-your-child-on-your-knee-to-reach-soap-and-wash-hands dance.  The husband offers to take over a trip or two, but you know he does not like bringing the girls into the men's restroom ("men are gross, I can't take our daughters in there!") so instead you decide to push through knowing this will give you great leverage over many battles to come ("remember how often I had to take all the girls to the bathroom?").  By the fourth day, you are starting to feel like you are on a tour of Disney bathroom extravaganza, and contemplate "forgetting" the water bottles in hopes of eliminating a bathroom stop or five, but no, it is hot outside and you are a good mom, so you fill up the water bottles and review bathroom locations for the park of the day.  You have accepted it.  It will be happening.  Frequently.  On the upside, you have not had to use any of the spare clothes, and frequent hand washing may not be such a bad thing, given you have seen at least eight children with their fingers in their noses (one of which was your own) and a few questionable sticky bits on ride railings.  Not so bad.  The vacation continues smoothly, bathroom breaks and all, and everyone has a good time.  Before you know it, the last day has come and all of the junk you brought, plus all of the new junk you have acquired, miraculously fits back into the car and you are on your way back home.  You ask the kids if they had a good time - "Yes!  I liked the princesses!  I liked the rides!  I liked the ice cream!  It was so fun!"  Good, you think to yourself, a successful family vacation leaving everyone with happy memories.  "And mom, I liked the little sinks in the bathrooms, too!"  Disney never disappoints.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stop me if you've heard this one...

You are sitting somewhere waiting for something (as is usually how we seem to spend most of our time) and the children are out of control and causing an uproar (which, although we deny it, is how they usually seem to spend most of their time).  The usual tricks to wrangle and occupy them have failed, and at your wits end, you have an idea: "Knock knock" you say.  They look at you.  "What?"  "I say 'knock knock', you say 'who's there'.  Knock knock."  "Who's there" "Dwayne" "Who's Dwayne?" "No, you say 'Dwayne who'"  "Oh, Dwayne who" "Dwayne the bathtub, I'm drowning!"  Pause.  Crickets chirping.  They wait for more, but suddenly, the blonde gets it.  Her eyes widen, gasp, laughing hysterically, like Fran Drescher out of breath laughing.  Yes!  Score mom!  The brunette sees the blonde laughing, and whether or not she got the joke, she too lets out uproarious laughter, albeit a little forced, but laughing nonetheless.  The baby sees the two sisters and not wanting to be left out of a good laugh, joins in, looking at them, looking at me, looking back at them to make sure we're all still laughing, and we are.  "Tell us another one!"  And so you dish out the regular basic knock knocks - "orange you glad I din't say banana" and the like.  A smashing success!  The children are gathered around you listening attentively, you are the coolest and funniest person EVER, and even if they are laughing a little obnoxiously by now, they are keeping their hands to themselves - bonus.   But now, a turn.  You have run out of knock knock jokes, and they want more, so you take the next step in child entertainment, which is to teach the craft so they can entertain themselves.  The blonde understands the format, and does an excellent funny voice for the Dwayne joke, and even takes some creative liberties.  "Knock knock" "Who's there" "Chair" "Chair who" "Chair you're sitting in a chair!"  Followed by peals of laughter from all the sisters, particularly the joke teller herself.  Hmm, not quite...well, whatever, she thinks it's funny.  Even better, the brunette takes a stab, "Knock knock" "Who's there" "I'm drowning!" Hysterical laughter.  Ok, maybe this one needs to be corrected, or at least not told in public.  They love knock knock jokes so much that they tell them to their grandparents on the phone, and one even mails them a knock knock joke book, from which you will read each and very one, and hear them misquoted over and over, to the delight of all of the girls.  The baby even knows when to start laughing, and goes so far as to squat down while the joke is being told so she can jump up at the punchline laughing.  And now, even though their technique is questionable, and the constant stream of "knock knock" occasionally seems annoying, the effect is just what that of a good knock knock joke should be - a bunch of laughing little kids.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Put up your dukes.

The girls fight over just about everything any other sisters would fight over - shoes, toys, the usual - but there is one thing they fight about that just blows my mind.  Not so much what they are fighting about, but the depth and frequency of these arguments is just unreal.  I'm not joking - they are fighting over things that are not real.  Allow me to enlighten you.  A cartoon comes on, say Strawberry Shortcake.  Right away, before the theme song even starts, the blonde will shout out "I'm Strawberry Shortcake!"  The brunette, rage building in her little sparkle nail polished fists, shouts back "No!  I'M Strawberry Shortcake!  You are the blueberry girl!", and the gloves come off.  They yell at each other, disputing the other's right to claim imaginary beingness or whatever this would be, and start circling.  Shouting, crying, yelling.  If the argument is unresolved verbally, which is always the case, they move to round two - blows.  Apparently, besides shouting it out, the only other way to claim which cartoon friend you get to "be" is to touch them on the TV.  Yes.  So now, each girl simultaneously realizes that round two has commenced (was there a bell?) and both children lunge at the TV, pushing each other out of the way to keep their hand on the character whose persona they wish to assume.  Kicking, biting, karate, the whole bit.  "No!  I'm touching Strawberry Shortcake, I'm her!"  "No, your hand is on Lemon girl!  I am Strawberry Shortcake!"  It continues like this for a while, and normally when the girls fight and it gets physical I'll step in, but I just can't believe they are fighting over which imaginary character they will be, so I watch confused and let it unfold.  It just doesn't make any sense to me, can't they both be Strawberry Shortcake?  And what does "being" Strawberry Shortcake even mean?  We don't have any costumes to match these characters, so it's not an outfit they are fighting over, and as far as I knew, they were just going to sit and watch the show - will there be a reenactment later that I didn't know about?  I am stumped.  As I consider all possibilities for what the root of this intense fighting could really be, negotiations have begun.  "Ok, fine, you can be Strawberry Shortcake, but I get to be Plum Pudding and the kitty."  "Fine, but I get the Strawberry car, too."  "Alright, but you have to let me borrow it to drive to the cafe."  "Ok."  Both girls wipe the blood off of their faces (not really, this is just for dramatic effect, of course no one is really bleeding) and go back to the couch, sit next to each other and watch the rest of the show.  That's it.  They don't do anything that would indicate that one of them is "being" any of the characters, they just sit there and enjoy the show.  Um, what just happened? 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Build them up right.

When I was a kid, my brothers and I built epic forts.  Like, spanning the house, using every piece of furniture, eating lunch in it and begging my parents to let us sleep inside.  Awesome.  So, as my memories of fort building are so totally rad, I figure I'd share this joy with my girls.  I begin simple.  Two chairs, one blanket, easy to crawl in and out of, easy to fix when the baby pulls it down (to the horror of the big girls).  Nice!  Everyone likes it, we have popcorn with at least our heads inside, and it is cool for a good couple of hours, which in child-attention time, is like three years.  Since this first positive fort experience, they have shown up every couple of weeks as a nice every-one-is-freaking-out-hurry-lets-make-a-fort solution for playtime.  Only now, the blonde has begun to get involved in the construction, which is nice for her to be able to do it without my help, but also creates a problem.  If she builds it, obviously, no one else can come in.  Of course this is an open invitation for the brunette to start throwing things on top of it in an effort to bring it down, which usually succeeds, as the blonde has yet to master the delicate art of fort stability.  The blonde screams, the baby thinks it is funny and climbs atop the wreckage, the brunette runs aways from the blows of the enraged architect.  Typically, I like to "let them work it out", which really just means I don't feel like arguing with emotionally explosive children over a fort, but if it gets violent, I'll put down the crossword puzzles and step in.  "That was not very nice to tear down your sister's fort.  Big sister, it would be nice if you would share the fort.  Say sorry and play nicely".  So, the fort goes back up, they play nicely for a while, and then the brunette (a natural force of destruction) decides the fort would fare better as a hammock.  The blonde agrees and the challenge of figuring out how to lay on top of the blankets without it falling down begins.  I know they might be able to figure it out, but it is not likely (remember, the blonde is only in the amateur stage of fort building skill), so again, I intervene, suggesting bringing pillows underneath to make it a fun place to read books, reminding them that trying to sit on top of the fort will probably make it fall down and get someone hurt.  Well, they like the pillow idea, so I turn my attention elsewhere, thinking they are peacefully sharing books and being excellent children in the coolest fort any mom ever let her kids play in.  Then - BAM! AHHHHH! - apparently, they misinterpreted my suggestion for pillows, and have instead used them as an intended landing pad for when they jump over the side of the fort to try to lay on top.  Although I admire the prospect of safety precautions, it was poorly executed, and I had already explained that forts are for going under, not being on top of.  Naturally, I threaten to take down the fort if it is not used properly.  The brunette recovers from any injuries she may have sustained from the failed hammock, and appropriate fort play resumes.  Only seconds later, another crash and toppled chairs prove that my warning was ignored and the tempting call of the fun to be had in a hammock has overpowered them.  The fort comes down.  (I have to follow through on threats otherwise they will surely mutiny and I will lose my powers.)  This leads to general fit throwing and whining, as is expected, but there is a curve ball, a reaction not yet seen in our house.  The blonde yells at me that I cannot take down her fort and I am a mean mom (yawn, I've heard it before) and then she SPANKS ME.  Straight up lays one across my backside.  Not cool.  Isolation time out, a stern "you are not allowed to spank your parents!" and the brunette is left standing in disbelief at the show of blatant disrespect she has just witnessed.  (Or she's wondering where she put Jasmine Barbie's other shoe.)  I collect myself, and go see the blonde for what I call the "debriefing".  As I am explaining that children are not allowed to spank their moms, I see a stray booger sliding out of her nose, and I know she needs a tissue, but I also know if I cut short the lesson I am trying to impart to get a tissue, then the lesson may be lost.  And then, before I have another second to weigh getting a tissue or finishing the "talk", she just sucks it up.  And not back into her nose.  Now I am laughing and gagging at the same time and the lesson is lost anyways.  Meanwhile, the brunette has reconstructed the fort (kind of) and is waiting for her sister with a pile of books underneath.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bedtime stories

A while back, my husband bought a copy of The Wizard of Oz and wanted to read it to the kids as a bedtime story strung out over a couple of weeks.  The oldest was just about four, then two, and the baby, who went to bed before the other girls and missed the story (not like she really MISSED the story, she's a baby, come on).  The blonde, although wiggly throughout, semmed to really enjoy it, and understood what was going on, remembered the character's names, and even when we watched the movie after the book was finished, she noticed many of the differences between the two.  The brunette was also wiggly throughout, and that's about it.  She was mostly quiet, though, so I think she liked that we were all in their room together listening to a story.  All in all it was a nice thing - we all participated in listening, it was something we could all talk about together, and it was just fun, even though the kids are still little.  Well, I decided we should do it again, so at the library as I perused the short novels, I found a classic - Black Beauty.  I had read it when I was a kid and remembered I had enjoyed it, so I thought, well lets give it a try.  Ok, now I know those of you who have read the book and remember not just that you enjoyed (if you did), but also what it was actually about, are probably saying "Really?  Black Beauty?  Isn't there some pretty heavy content in it for a four and two year old?"  The answer is yes.  There is.  A lot.  Right away.  Mother of the year over here neglected to read the back and just thought "Oooh, horsies!".  The book made it home, I got the girls all pumped up for our new book to read together about a girl and her special horse, they looked at the cover, were so excited, and come bedtime, everyone was ready.  The first chapter was ok - the blonde was listening attentively, the brunette squirmed on her bed, but asked the occasional question about what the horse was doing, the baby played quietly, and then...chapter two.  In three pages, a rabbit got torn apart by hunting dogs, a horse got shot and boy broke his neck and died.  You would think I would have been able to read ahead a bit and filter some of this, but I am a terrible reader and was shocked to hear these terrible things streaming out of my mouth and into the girls' little brains, and you can bet the brunette had stopped wiggling and was suddenly focused right on that poor dead imaginary rabbit.  I tried to stop myself, but I had to know what happened next, and we all know if you start reading aloud, it's hard to stop reading aloud, so the whole family got to hear all about young Gordon's funeral.  Fortunately, my husband shut me down before any one started crying, myself included.  I sat for minute, waiting for uncomfortable questions about hunting, shooting horses, or dying of a broken neck, and then..."Thanks mom, I really like that book, I can't wait to read it again tomorrow!" says the blonde.  "Um, yes, I'm glad you liked it."  Was she paying attention?  Did she hear what just happened?  And then I think, this is the girl who carries dead lizards around and judging by the way she cleans and examines a chicken bone will never be a vegetarian, so yes, she probably did hear, and probably does really like it.  Not in a morbid way, but in an interested in the ways of the the mortal world and totally not grossed out kind of way.  But what about the brunette?  Maybe she didn't really pay attention...I don't know, she didn't really say anything.  Now, I am wondering if I should continue to read it with everyone, or just magically replace it with My Little Ponies.  I guess we'll find out when I hear in the morning what everyone dreamed about.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pillow Talk

So, the Fourth of July weekend is coming up, and you know what that means...mattress sales.  Which is actually great timing because I find myself in need of mattresses.  The two big girls have been in those little toddler beds since they were old enough to fall out and be fine ("Ok sweetie, the new baby will be here soon, and I know you just got walking worked out, but mommy needs the crib, so you get a big girl bed!").  The blonde was recently jumping on one, and of course I holler "don't jump on the bed, you'll break it!"  and to both my pleasure and current dismay, it actually broke.  I say pleasure because this one incident has been the backbone to many of my threats concerning things getting broken due to improper use, such as the bed, and has been so succussful as a deterrent against bad behavior, it has been more than a little abused ("Don't just throw your shoe on the floor, you'll break it!  Remember the bed?!")  Anyways, the girls may have learned a lesson, but the bed is still broken.  Now, we face the big girl bed dilemma.  Do we get the blonde a big bed because she's older and is the one who has been sleeping on a broken bed for longer than any responsible parent would admit to?  Or do we get both of the big girls new beds to avoid any throwdowns on the brunette's part?  This is where I am, when suddenly, it occurs to me that we have a double bed frame in storage, and I propose to my husband that we just buy one mattress and the girls can share a bed!  Money saved!  Room spared!  And it's cute!  Plus, I have always thought the pioneers were cool, and as I recall from my Little House on the Prairie days, Laura and Mary shared a bed, and they loved it!  That, I think, is more than enough to justify the motion for sharing a bed - if the pioneers did it, our kids can do it.  And, I'm sure this explains my husband's reluctance, it only brings me one step closer to the fantasy Amish-with-cable life I have always imagined for my family - home grown food, fresh eggs, homemade adorable clothes for the girls, the kids sharing a big bed with a quilt I made yesterday thrown neatly over the top, so they can rest their little angel heads while I catch up on Teen Mom as I finish churning the butter...perfection.  Nevermind that we live ten miles away from a Nascar racetrack.  But, of course as if on cue, right as I'm getting to the fresh butter, the blonde screams from her room that her sister is trying to get in her bed and THUNK "I had to push her out!"  Okaaay....maybe not. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Blue skies and blue hair.

In two days, we are flying back to visit our family and friends in Colorado.  And by "we", I mean "me and the girls".  Needless to say, I am having a bit of anxiety about our pending travels - I have never flown alone, and I have never flown alone with three children four and under, one of whom will be sitting snuggly on my lap.  This is where all the childless travelers roll their eyes and think to themselves "if I have to sit by a crying baby for a four hour flight or if any of those kids kick my seat, I'm going to lose it!", and simultaneously, all the parents are thinking "I hope they serve drinks in coach."  Well, no, they don't serve drinks in coach, and I'm not so bad a parent that I'd travel inebriated just to ease the stress of hauling Cinderella backpacks and hoping I remembered to charge the portable DVD player before we left.  However, I have to say to the childless travelers, I'm with ya.  If I have to sit with a crying baby for a four hour flight or if any of those kids kick the seat, I'm going to lose it - I've already had at least three nightmares about forgetting juice boxes and my kids taking names because of it ("No, please don't open the emergency hatch!  I'll find you some juice!  Please!").  I really don't want to end up being THAT LADY on the plane with the kids out of control - and I know for a fact I've seen THAT LADY before, and while now I totally feel bad for her, at the time it was like "come on, just give it a cookie and make it be quiet".  I understand that not everyone thinks my kids are as adorable and brilliant and hilarious as I do, so in general, I try to encourage quiet knock knock jokes and hand dances rather than full on costumed numbers in aisle 7.  The miracle is that as a result, despite their screaming bloody throw-downs at home, my girls have started to notice that old people like well behaved kids in public, and so now they feed off of "what sweet girls you are, are these your sisters?" from old ladies, and so wherever we go, it's like they scan the premises, lock on the blue hairs, and emanate angelic-ness in hopes of someone coming over to gush over their fancy outfits and big blue eyes.  So, in hopes of avoiding any meltdowns or babies stuck under seats like the trip to Mexico of 2008 (now that was a long flight), I have decided to just pray my heart out that our flight happens to be filled with a retirement community trip from Florida to visit Black Hawk.  Yes,  please fill every seat with a geriatric angel who has either lost enough hearing that they won't notice any bottom-of-the-raisin-box screaming, or someone who misses their own grandchildren so much that even kicking children are adorable since they have bows in their hair. And please let my children notice all the silvery waves across the aisles so that they in turn may put on their best "This is my sister, and we're holding hands" show.   As for the drinks, a Coke will do.

Friday, June 3, 2011

And so it is...

In short, I married my high school sweetheart when we were in college, and had our first daughter before our first anniversary.  Being married was new enough, and now we had the responsibilty of being parents tossed in before we could even buy ourselves a beer.  And we sure needed one sometimes.  But God must have thought we were managing pretty well, because when our first was ten months old, we found out we were pregant again.  (Apparently you CAN get pregnant while nursing!)  And again, when our second daughter was ten months old - SURPRISE! (Apparently you can also forget that you can get pregnant while nursing.)  So now, five years, three daughters, and ten years worth of growing up crammed into our lives, we are bonafide grown-ups.  So much for traveling the world and stumbling upon myriads of unique life experiences.  My consolation is this - we will travel the world after out kids move out, and we will not only still be "young", we will know better than to stay in hostels and fork up the money for a nice hotel and fine dining...it will be awesome.  In the mean time, I am finding that while seemingly ordinary, this suburban lifestyle has afforded me plenty of "unique life experiences".  How many people can say they caught a child's poop in their hands to avoid having to wash the sheets again?  My husband can!  And while he probably doesn't brag about it at work, I think he's awesome for it.  I hate washing sheets, and he knew it (he's so dreamy!).  Now especially I am given an opportunity for experience - relocation through work has moved our family from Colorado to Florida.  We have left behind our family and friends for alligators and Confederate flags.  Well, I've only seen one (of each), but they were big, so it counts as at least three.  So, here I am, sweating myself a bra with Wow Wow Wubzy dutifully entertaining my children so I can sneak those chocolate covered pretzels out of the back of the fridge and eat them without anyone noticing.  Judge me if you will, but this only happens after four o'clock.  Before then, I'm all about leaving the TV off, eating healthy, being socially and environmentally responible, and all that jazz, but I got to say, come four, the remote and a bag of Cheetos just naturally find their way to my hands.  Don't hate.  So there you have it - not the course I had imagined, but is it ever?